After slaying the Stag Lord in his sleep and the handy defeat of his lieutenants, the party had only the basement dweller to contend with. It was difficult to tell who the captives loathed more: the party of vicious adventurers or the lurking man-hag below. In the process of an intimidating inquisition for more information, Stehlen uncovered which of the brigands was Felgrim Sneeg — the wanted criminal whose bounty was an attractive choice from a collection of masterworked weaponry.
Auchs, as dumb as one, was selected by sly Phuralq to be the first to enter the underground lair in a ploy to draw out the old man for an ambush. His acid burns were painful enough that with the threat of more, he was convinced to seek healing below. The stupid oaf might have spared himself later miseries if he had only had the wits to not mention the little game.
With Phuralq’s plan foiled, the old gnarl withdrew further into the dank darkness under the monastery fortress, grumbling magics under his breath.
Tolixan snatched Auchs back and pushed him out of the way, charging below to catch the old man before he might escape, followed closely by the rest of the party with Akiros above to watch his recently ex-comrades. It was scarcely a moment before Trajan and Phuralq heard a muffled grunt and a thud from above, which attracted Trajan back to the surface to investigate. The others were much too occupied by then.
Nugrah had used magic to submerge himself into the earth of the basement walls, preparing an ambush of his own. When he lunged out, it was in the company of an ant the size of a man! The old man himself had taken the shape of an imposing, furred ball of muscle and teeth clinging to the ceiling and scuttling back and forth while screaming more magical chants.
The assault was so swift and severe that Tolixan was stabbed badly by the unnatural insect’s sting and the party could do little more than react as the wolverine dived toward a new wall.
The melee was intense in the sweaty, claustrophobic space, giving Byzalte little chance to use his bow and little room for Stehlen’s spells. Phuralq found the old man’s crazed and willful mind too difficult to assault directly. Enlarged by Stehlen’s spell, Tolixan managed to reach the ceiling to snatch Nugrah’s tail and wrestle with him before he could complete another spell of summoning. The monstrous ant was already proving a match for the party.
Even Byzalte’s greataxe could not be wielded effectively enough in the cramped quarters to find good purchase on the insect’s carapace and Tolixan was quite occupied in a deadly grapple with a frenzied wolverine. Stehlen’s aerial servant likewise found it difficult to do more than impede the ant’s onslaught, and Phuralq could do little but keep himself safe (which he did with shrewd fervor).
Seeing that Tolixan’s temporarily great size afforded him the advantage, it was Phuralq who instructed Tolixan to pin the writhing man-nee-animal so that Byzalte’s axe could find its neck. It was only moments before the old man’s crusty corpse lay still, his summoned ant soldier vanishing with the fading magics that had called it.
Trajan only then appeared at the steps dusting his sleeves and looking pleased. Auchs had smitten Akiros unconscious and made a break for freedom when Trajan managed to chase the oaf down with spellbolts.
The basement was being used as a damp storage space for the bandits’ lucre, including stashes of trade goods, jewelry, coin and sundry. Coin was easily divided, but the rest of the loot they would need to return for with wagons. There was limited capacity to transport unwanted prisoners, however, and Stehlen’s fiendish codex ever thirsted…
Only the ex-paladin rager, the tubby lummox and the petty career criminal were selected to make the journey back north to Oleg’s. A stray troll and ogre encountered along the way stood little chance of more than slowing the party’s march, but did betray the fact of the Stag Lord’s allies from the south.
Phuralq took the evidence as a matter of course for no one rises to even the modest peaks of influence which the Stag Lord had occupied without aid. Unraveling the tatters of the Stolen Lands’ patchwork of politics would be a task requiring patience to ensure absolute completion. And the party had little desire to leave any alive who might oppose their ambitions.