The party rested and then set out to take up the mission of collecting the Panoply for Dr. Krane in exchange for the draconically labelled magic dagger ‘Brightflame’ and obsolving their considerable debt for destroying the Dr.’s prime exhibit. Part of the challenge was that the same offer was made to the company of the Black Banner, and they had a head start. With map in hand, Elmer led the way on the hunt to find the Druid Willowroot and gather the Panoply he guards.
They entered the great Arthfell Forest. Lemmywinks warned them that bears were probably out here and she was a city halfling. Elmer rolled his eyes and took up the lead, guiding them with the map. Not far into their journey Elmer located a dead rabbit, slain by an arrow then flayed and left behind … but why? He collected the rabbit. It was going to waste here. The country fighter continued onward trying to prep the rabbit for dinner as he went. He absently avoided the trap but little Lemmy was not so lucky. The rope snared her ankle and flung her into the air to dangle from a tree. The wolf drawn by the smell of rabbit blood showed up just in time as Elmer chopped the rope with his axe dumping Lemmy to the ground (she shouldn’t have called him stupid). The halfling magus fought from the prone position with her staff-sling while Elmer swung his axe, Balinda tossed drops of acid and Gwaiyu attempted to bite the rabid animal. Together they put down the wolf but the fight went on for some time. To finish a bad situation Elmer dropped the rabbit and the meat was ruined! At least Lemmywinks spotted a discarded scroll case from her prone view. Inside was an arcane scroll (comprehend languages).
They arrived at the ‘X’ on the map and found a ritual site at the Druid’s grove. A dying wolf wrapped in a tangle of living vines surrounded two stone monoliths and a stone altar all with writing Lemmy told them was in elvish. They could not see the writing clearly because of the young assassin vine. When Elmer got too close it grabbed him and dragged him into its folds. Gwaiyu moved to help, again trying to bite. Elmer made a baby cartwheel and escaped the vines but the oni-blooded cleric was then pulled into its grip. Sling bullets, acid and Elmer’s axe tore into the vine. It was not a weak creature and no one knew enough about it to be able to tell if they were hurting it. It’s coils tightened and Gwaiyu basically gave up in its hold, surrendering to his God and swooning. When Gwaiyu fell unconscious Elmer pulled him from the vines and narrowly avoided being grabbed himself. During the struggle Lemmy noticed a tree branch that hung over the alter. She suspected she could get a better look at the writing from that vantage point so she climbed the tree like a monkey. During her climb the others killed the vine. The halfling’s instincts proved solid and she not only read all the writings but spotted two objects hidden in the tops of the monoliths – a silver ring ( which she slipped on her finger – finders keepers) and a breastplate that turned out to be one of the special items (the Breastplate of Sacred Fire). After vaguely deciphering the riddles inscribed on the stones they made a plan to find the rest of the scattered Panoply. Unfortunately, Lemmy’s Vantage point also identified something else, tracks heading in all four directions, the directions of the scattered items. The Black Banner had been here first. A decision was made. Balinda would stay and watch over the unconscious priest while Elmer and Lemmywinks collected the items as quickly as they could.
The pair headed for the nearest riddle direction hoping they might be able to find an item and handle the divided member of the Black Banner. They found a cave with two sets of footprints coming and going. Afraid the item might still be inside they entered the cave with Lemmy lighting up Elmer’s shield with a light spell. Too bad the velvet-lined coffer inside was empty and the black bear living there was not happy about the bright disturbance. Lemmywinks knew there’d be bears! This bear was very angry and bit Elmer. They agreed the animal was too much for them so they beat a hasty retreat. Luckily the bear did not give much of a chase. Doing their best to follow the direction of the Banner member’s footprints they headed for the next item.
They reached a pool and easily spotted the Black Banner mage, Pudge, hiding in the reeds. They thought to sneak up on him while pretending not to see him but he shot Elmer with a magic missile warning them to stay away, so Lemmywinks dropped him with a sling bullet to the forehead. They made sure the man was not dead but looted him and left him in the reeds. When they searched the pool a nixie poked her head out of the water. She seemed disappointed in her charmed guardian and mentioned the elven cleric of Urgathoa fleeing. They tried to befriend her but Elmer’s poor manners and Lemmywinks lies of being part fey only annoyed her. If they wanted the druid’s Bottle she wanted a magic item in exchange. At first she wanted the silver ring Lemmy secretly claimed. She wanted magic for magic and was uninterested in any paper items. They found a potion, spellbook and a magic bolt from Pudge’s body. Elmer drank the potion before she could request it, hoping it was some sort of healing but it only caused his body to turn blurry. The screaming bolt was traded and the Vial of Pure Water was acquired. Now they had two of the Panoply.
They raced for the third item, finding a huge hollowed out tree with a scroll case banging against it in the wind some 30 feet up. Not wanting to chance climbing so high and having her magic not quite reach, Lemmy convinced Elmer to let her sit on his shoulders so she could try to weaken the straps holding it up there with her ray of frost magic. There were several missed shots and barely scraping blows plus plenty of noise but the stacked pair managed to dislodge the scroll tube. The noise they made drew the attention of something living in the tree. Elmer could hear it scraping and moving and kept urging the halfling to hurry! As the bone tube hit the ground a man-sized beetle crawled into sight. Elmer ran to the tube with Lemmywinks on his shoulders. The halfling tried to do a fancy dismounting move but failed so she basically slid down the country boy’s body awkwardly instead and grabbed the tube. Elmer fled into tree cover with little life left and the beetle tried to bite Lemmy but missed. Too bad she did not move so fast on little halfling legs. She fled and the beetle turned, blasting her with its acid butt spray. She avoided the worst of it so she wasn’t melted alive but was still singed badly. They did acquire the Codex of the Firmament though – win!
Feeling weak and tired they crawled back to regroup with Balinda. They hoped she could identify the magic they collected including the ring, scroll and the bottle of liquid.
They found Balinda hiding in the bushes with Gwaiyu’s body. She did in fact identify the ring as a swimming ring and the liquid in the bottle as two doses of healing potion which they quickly scarfed. Elmer recovered with one while Gwaiyu was awakened with the other. The cleric then channeled to heal everyone up to a respectable level of health. It felt good to have the cleric up again. They held three items and the Black Banner had one. Next they moved as a group to find the last item.
Following the riddle clues yet again they navigated their way to a dilapidated Inn long overgrown with foliage. Inside they spotted a gruesome scene with several skeletons in their death throes from a battle long past. A magical ghostly fire burned in the hearth and Balinda detected another magical source buried under one of the skeletal corpses, the only human-sized one amongst goblin, centaur and satyr skeletons. Elmer moved to collect the hidden magic with Gwaiyu staying just inside the doorway as backup. The ladies waited outside. Luko, Balinda’s Sparrow familiar called a warning and they turned to see the remaining trio of Black Banner members creeping up on them from the bushes. When Elmer claimed the Spirit-Staff of Narven a creature of roots and thorns spilled from the wall of the Inn. Balinda identified it as a wooden protector, a creature created from Druidic magic to guard a location. It’s viny appendages twisted together to form a spear which it used to plunge through Elmer. The fighter cried out, hurt badly. Gwaiyu moved to support him against the protector.
Outside another struggle was underway. Grelm fired arrows at Lemmywinks and Balinda while the goblin, Knu, moved in under shadow cover wielding the Wand of Earth’s Ire. Nirashi the cleric of Urgathoa cast a spell identified as magic weapon on her scythe as she advanced spitting curses. Lemmy nailed Grelm with a solid sling bullet hit. Balinda raised a wall of earth and foliage separating the Inn from the Black Banner. The illusion fooled everyone including poor Lemmywinks who was outside its protection in the forest. When the Black Banner trio advanced Lemmy knocked Grelm out with a flash of colored lights, revenge for punching and kicking her! Gnu tried to put her to sleep but she resisted his magic. When they heard the men inside the Inn screaming for retreat, Balinda forfeited maintaining her wall in exchange for her own color spray at the evil cleric, dropping her unconscious, too. The goblin vanished into hiding.
Elmer and Gwaiyu worked in tandem to distract the wooden protector and flee with the staff. Gwaiyu’s slow movement (he was wearing the Breastplate of Sacred Fire) left him standing in the doorway. The protector stabbed him while fleeing leaving him staggered. The tiefling cleric opted to channel and heal everyone . It was a sacrificial gesture of goodness but his God was watching over him and aiding, the protector missed him this time. As Elmer and Gwaiyu fled the Inn the protector followed. Balinda used her staff to beat on the unconscious Grelm. Gnu the goblin surprised Balinda, blasting her with a sheet of fire from the wand. The illusionist was badly burned. Lemmywinks took that opportunity nail the goblin with a slingstone, laying him flat. With The Black Banner down, they focused their efforts on the protector who seemed set on recovering the sacred Panoply. Elmer dropped with another vicious spear strike. Gwaiyu used his healing magic to wake the fighter as Lemmy and Balinda peppered the protector. Elmer, while weak, hit the creature with the sacred staff and landed some serious axe blows to the protector. When Nirashi stood, the party groaned. They knew those color spray spells would be wearing off. The elven cleric of Urgathoa channeled negative energy knocking out Elmer again and hurting everyone. She laughed and told them to surrender everything to her or die. The party dropped the protector but they could see its body knitting itself back together. Another negative energy channel sent pain through everyone. Lemmy had seen enough. She took aim and popped the dark cleric spinning her to the ground. With all enemies down the magus, cleric and illusionist focused their efforts on the healing plant creature, destroying it utterly. They checked, looted and stabilized the Banner members, dragging them back inside the Inn and leaving them there. With Panoply in tow and Elmer recovered to a staggered position they limped their way back to The Traveler’s Stop Inn.
Dr. Krane was happy to see his goals reached. He dropped the criminal charges releasing them from debt. The sheriff kept his word, awarding them the dagger, Brightflame, and sending them on their way. The party celebrated their wins, spent the night for free then beat a hasty retreat from this nightmare stopover in the middle of nowhere, more experienced and a few coins richer.
Gwaiyu and Balinda each earned 900xp
Elmer and Lemmywinks each earned 1535xp