It was with a hunters focus we approached the location Cassandra had give to the Elves of the Radiant Muse. The fact that she came seeking us in the day meant that time was not on our side. It was unspoken, but we felt this could be our one chance to save Jemmrand.
The large guild house on the edge of the merchant district nearest the Elves was more fort than home with a main gate 15’ across and parapets overlooking the grounds outside and inside the walls. Most of the stone structure was greatly overgrown but still stood strong.
Cautiously approaching we saw signs a small band of man sized booted humanoids had based this way a few times. The freshest set were a day or two old. This was confirmed once we made our way into the courtyard, as we found several bodies, a group of the Shard Knights by their tattered tabards. The dead warriors lay decomposing slowly in a few inches of ice and snow. From the layer of frost on their bodies they had been here for a couple of days. Perhaps making some last stand here.
I am halfway to the door when it opens, and the Harpy that snatched up Jemmrand comes out. Smirk on her evil face. We demand she return our companion to which she merely laughs. We asked what it wanted and again we were met with a knowing look and enjoyment at our apparent ignorance. We are just about to move in and ask more forcefully when another larger figure moved through the open door.
The sheer size gives us pause as even hunched this old crone stood nearly 9’ tall. She says the rodent man is not Varassa to give. That it was on her command that the harpy took our companion. The perfect bait to lure us here so the Sins of our Past could be paid in blood. She admits that it was she that track us for so long, bringing many ancient babbles from mud of her island. That one such trinket is what ensnared the Palomar, while another allowed her to watch the parties every move. So easy it was for she to take out, not one but two of the Alliance without they knowing who attacked them. The delight of that has faded and it was now time for she to see them dead so she can devourer their entrails and add their heads to her staff.
Khaine having heard enough begins to charge but is fired upon by the Ketch as they step out of the overgrowth along the parapets and then he, Grune and Almeran are attacked by Ketch stepping out of the green behind them. Before the rest of us can act a sense of foul magic is felt and the dead begin to raise around us. I whisper under my breathe in anger, Its a Trap!
The Harpy takes to the air as arrows fly and din of battle begins. I tell Moonshadow to evade combat, as the stench of the undead is not something she is trained to combat yet. I try to head my own advice as arrows wiz by. A couple drawing blood upon me. Grune is work his divine gifts to keep the party standing and combat the undead. Khaine focuses his blade on any enemy combatant that gets to close to Grune or Almeran. The latter sending explosive balls of fire at the archers on the walls. Seeing the undead begin handled I climb the walls to further harrie the Ketch archers as they have all taken to shooting our levitating mystic. All the while the giant hag watches the violence with sadistic enjoyment.
The Alliance is not so easily ensnared and within moments we have defeated our enemies and causing the harpy to retreat inside the house. The large crone had vanished moments before as one of Almeran’s spell interacted with the her causing her image to dissipate. Laughter to erupting from inside guild house. We paused a moment until we heard a scream from Cassandra. Then voice of the crone beckoned us in with a cackle of glee. Clearly another trap we still felt it rude not oblige the invitation.
Inside the common room of the guild hall we saw the witch up on the landing above. She was human size and sitting at a table with Cassandra. Hag blood on her lips and was chewing something. She gestured as she talked with a piece of bloody meat in her hand. The pale look on Cassandra’s face as wells as how her arm was tied to the table told us what the cannibal was chewing on. Then strips of flesh where being flayed from her and consumed right there.
Finally it dawns on us. The scarification, the speech pattern, the shaved teeth. We didnt know her because we never saw her. She was the spiritual leader of the Red Fang cannibals. Depraved tribesmen that we slaughtered to a man and send what women and children might have been there fleeing from their camp. Which we then took as our own.
With a bloody grin the witch calls out and two four armed Red Orcs step out ho their hiding and engage the party. These scimitar wielding “Death Dealers” were elite fighters of the Red Orcs. With the aid of magic potions there were incredibly quick, and their training made them very tactical but their pride made them foolish. The sought to take out our biggest weapon, Khaine, and demoralize us. Moving right past me to swarm him in blows. In truth it was by Grunes sharing Khaines pain that my old friend remained standing. Although it was nearly too much even shared for Grune who was also combating the two Shadows that had detached from the wall to attack.
Still Khaine knocked one of the Death Dealer down to the ground and nearly end him within moments of this battle beginning. It was only by Malikandia magics that the downed orc was able to regain his feet. Blows that should have rung true from Khaine were somehow bewitched by the old hag. Her annoying cackles continuing to sing out as our blade masters precision falters. It was clear to see how the Death Dealers could earn their names. Once engaged in combat they would rain blade swings upon their foe from multiple angles. The pair of them easily equaled the swings of 6 men.
Although the hour seemed to darken, the resolve of the Alliance never did. I showed these Death Dealers I too can rain swings in a fight ended one of them. Grune, with a heroic effort was able to dispatch one of the Shadows that attacked him and Almeran giving our mystic a chance to summon a divine being of light. This turned the tied and witch’s magic began to weaken as her rage and frustration grew. A terminal problem for her. For all her plotting and planning, she underestimated the strength of arm and will of The Alliance. We broke her trap and defeated her force of Ketch archers, raised corpses of Shard Knights, foul Shadows and Red Orc Death Dealers. With only that Harpy Varassa escaping with minor injuries.
Still, while we were able to save Casandra the last laugh belonged to the old crone. The witch’s dying curse was that Jemmrand would live long enough to know the The Alliance would never find him and that The Palomar would forever be lost to the world.
I pray to the slicing wind that her words prove false, but only time will tell.