Red sighs, leaning against one of the few railings that remained on his tower. Another boring day on watch duty. Of course, they’re all boring days, save for the one when those fools tried to fight their way through the zombies. At the time he had been struck with terror by the mysterious weapon the gnome had used to take out one of the other guards, but thinking about it in retrospect Red couldn’t help but smirk to himself. That group had turned tail and fled, no match for the might of the Stag Lord and his excellent crew.
Suddenly, the roar of hooves- horses in full charge- disturbs him from his self-congratulatory day-dreaming.
“Holy shit!” Red shouts, “We’re being attacked!”
As always, Falgrim is cool and composed. He shouts down an order to Crab and Dirty Jeb to close the gate. The pair begin to close the mighty wooden doors but are shocked when two steeds thunder in through the shrinking gap. Before Dirty Jeb has a chance to register any of what’s just happened he finds himself deafened by a boom and struck from behind. Crab sees that his colleague has inexplicably been hit by a ricocheting… bomb? From a gleefully giggling kobold? Who’s mounted with another of his kind on the back of an armored war horse? With a knight? The situation is too surreal too be believed, and that’s even before he sees that the other horse is driven by an elven woman whose dark hair moves about her seemingly on its own accord, like a fearsome tentacled beast.
Crab is able to mutter, “Oh, fu-” before the words are kicked out of his mouth by a well placed hoof to the face. Bill, the ably trained warhorse knocks the man unconscious, but Melvin knows that the fight has only just begun. This will require all of his strength, but also all of his diplomatic skills. If he can convince the kobolds to lend a hand then surely he can challenge one of the Stag Lord’s men to turn on the vile bandit lord!
As he schemes, Zot, Miracelli, and two more of their kobold friends find themselves trapped on the other side of the gate, separated from the rest of their party.
Rather than attempt to climb the gate, as Miraceli does, Zot decides he hasn’t done anything insane and/or awesome in the last few days, so he urges Mr. Pilkington into a full run and then a mighty leap. At the apex of Pilkies’ jump Zot launches himself from the saddle and grabs hold of the top of the gate with his small but strong hands. The kobold who had been riding with Zot falls backward off Pilkies then sits up, rubbing his head in confusion.
Meanwhile, inside the fort, more bandits are visible within what appear to be some rather shoddy and smelly living quarters. An obese and clearly asthmatic man huffs as he runs toward the commotion at the gate, but doesn’t make it far. Stinktooth the kobold has more dynamite in his bag and is as eager to use it as his opponent, Fat Norry, is eager to get back to eating his pie. Of course that pie winds up going unfinished. With a squeal of glee Stinktooth lights and hurls the dynamite at Fat Norry.
“Yaaaay! Big boom kill big man!” Stinktooth shouts as Fat Norry falls to the ground.
Another man, Jex, is just visible within the living quarters. Melvin spurs Bill to charge at Jex, but Bill does more than that. After charging Bill kicks the bandit in the face, knocking him unconscious.
A middle-aged man with well-kept facial hair leans out of a doorway in the rear of the compound. Clearly one of the Stag Lords three lieutenants, he barks orders at more bandits behind him. These new additions to the fight aim their crossbows at Melvin but with poor results. One misses entirely and the other’s arrow glances harmlessly off of Melvin’s horned helmet.
The ever nimble Zot leaps from his precarious position on the gate to the guard tower occupied by Falgrim. The impassive bearded man drops his crossbow and unsheathes his sword, but Zot is too quick for Falgrim’s blow and rolls out of the way.
Back at the gate, Dirty Jeb has also unsheathed his sword and slashed Gar-Gar across the chest. Though the damage is clearly severe, Gar-Gar insists that, “It not hurt so much,” and continues to fight. Red takes aim at the little kobold but his nerves are still rattled from the initial shock of the attack and he misses his target.
Ravena raises two of her long, thin fingers, mutters something under her breath and dazes Dirty Jeb. His momentary confusion is enough to allow two of the kobolds to open the gate, letting the rest of the party in.
Dirty Jeb, already dazed, is given no chance to recover, as Miracelli and Gar-Gar both stab him.
Back in the filthy living quarters a young bandit with long, black hair smirks to himself. He reaches to his left, giving Ravena and Melvin a look that clearly says, “You are so fucked now.” With a rough grinding sound a metal grate opens, releasing Beaky, the owlbear.
“Well that explains the smell,” Ravena mutters.
With Beaky uncaged the raven-haired man, Dovan, runs toward an adjacent dilapidated room.
At this point each of our heroes is fighting on a different front. Stinktooth glances around, trying to determine what to do. He asks his idol, Melvin, who instructs him to do reconnaissance in the crumbling room Dovan had just run into.
Zot is knocked from the watchtower. Once he regains his breath he dusts himself off and enters the doorway behind Stinktooth. The ceiling above the pair shudders with footsteps that threaten to break the fragile wood. Two other kobolds join them in time to see a grotesque, ogre-like man descend the staircase. This is Auchs, who is both stronger and dumber than any of the stones that litter the floor of the room.
The first one to take a swing at Auchs is Sub-sup. The kobold damages the thick skin slightly, but Auchs raises his massive club and crushes Sub-sup into a bloody, squishy puddle of lizard-man.
“What you doing?” Auchs asks as one of Zot’s bullets strikes his flesh.
“It’s a game!” Zot replies, “It’s called ‘catch the shiny metal pellet!’ You’re winning!”
Auchs is clearly baffled, but he wouldn’t describe it that way because those words are far too big for him. Instead his external hard-drive, Dovan, processes them for him.
“Seriously, Auchs,” Dovan says, rubbing his forehead, “Just kill everything.”
Amidst all this confusion, a voice booms out from the room in the back of the compound. This can only be the Stag Lord himself. His rage terrifies his own recruits, who go running around the side of the building so as not to incur the Lord’s wrath. Now, one man stands between the fearsome but unseen voice and our heroes. It’s Akiros, the man who had ordered the two bandits with crossbows to attack Melvin before. Akiros fires his own bow at Melvin but misses.
“Come now,” Melvin shouts, “Renounce the Stag Lord and join us!”
Akiros looks confused for a moment but shakes his head as if dismissing an undesired thought then fires on Melvin again.
Meanwhile, the melee continues in the rest of the compound. Auchs kills another kobold, this time the noble Digger, with his club. Red and Falgrim rain arrows down upon those beneath them. The owlbear inches closer to Ravena. Amidst all this the Stag Lord finally shows himself. He emerges from the building behind Akiros. His scarred, tattooed body is less alarming his head. They had always known that he seemed to have the head of a stag, but upon closer inspection it’s obvious that the skull and antlers are a helm being worn by a man.
“What are you doing here?” The Stag Lord demands.
“Putting an end to your evil!” Melvin replies.
The Stag Lord grunts, unimpressed, and plants an arrow in Ravena’s shoulder. She falters, but does not fall.
Click-clack has no such luck. In a charge against Auchs the kobold stumbles and loses hold of his own spear, which Auchs stabs him with. Gar-gar avenges his friend with a spear in Auchs’ side, but that’s not enough to bring the brute down.
While Auchs wails on the kobolds his “brain”, Dovan, feels the sting of Miracelli’s rapier.
“Is that…?” Dovan asks with a smirk, “Poison? Wait, I know you!”
“No you don’t!” Miracelli responds, attacking him again.
“There are only so many pretty ladies in the poisoner’s guild,” Dovan says as he rubs a foul smelling cloth on his own blade. “Tis a pity.”
Miracelli has no interest in roguish reunions. Whoever Dovan is matters not when he’s on the receiving end of her sword. The two begin to dual in earnest, and through Miracelli is able to match him blow-for-blow his sword punctures her defenses and sends her reeling. For a moment she seemed close to death, but Stinktooth reached into his bag and found a jar of some kind of cream, which he slathered on the half-elf. She immediately felt better and was able to continue fighting the strange dark-haired man.
Back in the living quarters Ravena and Melvin continue to be assailed by the owlbear. Bill, despite his failing health, is able to kick Beaky in the face. Melvin finishes the job, slaying the beast, but as he does the Stag Lord charges.
“Join us!” Melvin shouts to Akiros, “End this man’s terror!”
Ravena tells Melvin he’s daft to try, but Akiros furrows his brow as if genuinely considering desertion. Finally, he raises his bow, taking aim at Melvin… but then slowly, consciously, shifts his aim to the right.
Akiros shoots the Stag Lord squarely in the back.
The Stag Lord wails, as much from the betrayal as the pain. He whirls around and takes aim at his former lieutenant, but the arrow merely grazes Akiros, whose mind is clearly made up: he will help our heroes take down his former boss, whatever the cost.
The Stag Lord runs for the dilapidated room where Zot has just brought Auchs down. The Stag Lord charges up the stairs, followed closely by Melvin.
Meanwhile, another bandit has taken aim at Ravena. His arrow strikes true and she crumbles to the ground, unconscious, hemorrhaging and at the brink of death. Her friends have just used the last of their healing potions and things look hopeless, not just for the half-elf but for the group as a whole. Without her healing spells the injured bunch may not be able to fight through the remaining bandits and ultimately kill the Stag Lord. They knew there was a risk of fatalities when they embarked upon this quest. Already kobold blood soaks the ground, but Ravena will be the first of the original group to ascend to the realm of The Lady of Graves, Pharasma. Images of the goddess swirl through her mind, accompanied by images of the life she had lived and the coaxing voice of her patron.
Slowly, another voice comes to her. A male voice, telling her to awake. A potion burns its way down her unwilling throat, causing her to cough. As she sputters up blood she feels someone lifting her head. She opens her eyes to see Akiros, whose potion seems to have healed her more than any potion could be expected to.
“My hero…” She mutters.
“Milady.” He replies.
But there’s no time for her to reflect on it any further. The fight has moved upstairs to where the Stag Lord is making his final stand in a tower with a few of his trusty bandits. Zot pulls out his grappling hook and uses it to climb right into the thick of things. Gar-gar kills Sillias, but Zot’s fight goes less well. As Miracelli struggles to climb the rope up to the battle, Zot is knocked unconscious on the edge of the roof. Ravena knows that she’ll never reach the gnome in time, but as her rage flares her hair grows, reaching twice its normal length to touch Zot and bring him back from the darkness.
Falgrim is knocked unconscious and tumbles off the roof and onto the ground.
The bandits make their last stand, assailed by Miracelli, Melvin, Zot, Ravena, Akiros, and the two surviving kobolds, Gar-gar and Stinktooth. Even the Stag Lord himself is no match for their combined strength. After being shot, stabbed, and hit with spells he collapses. Filled with rage, Akiros stabs the Stag Lord’s body one more time- the bandit king will not be recovering.
Soaked in blood and panting from the exertion, the group exchanges looks. They’ve really done it. The Stag Lord is no more.
“I wonder what’s under his helmet,” Miracelli muses.
“I don’t care! I want it!” Zot replies.
“It’s probably full of evil magic.” Miracelli replies, “Don’t even think about it.”
Melvin is already lifting the helm off. Underneath is a bloated, scarred, hideous face. Akiros spits on it, for good measure.
Zot grabs the helm and places it on his head. Though it’s way too big, it suddenly seems to fit him just right. Though Miracelli is still telling him to take it off because who knows what kind of magic is within, Zot feels that the helm is not evil. It’s embued with the power of Aristil.
Miracelli begins to engage in her favorite hobby, looting, while the others collect themselves. It’s late and the suggestion is made that they camp within the compound overnight.
“Probably not wise,” Akiros tells them, “There remain a few loose ends. There’s a old man in the basement who is best left alone until tomorrow. I recommend that we camp outside these walls.”
And so they do. A fire is struck and wounds are rinsed.
“Why did you help us?” Ravena asks Akiros, “I mean, other than the fact that Melvin’s very convincing.”
“Actually,” Akiros replies, “I had grown disillusioned with the organization- if you can even call it that.” He recounts how he had come to be one of the Stag Lord’s most trusted lieutenants. Once, long before he had begun wandering the Stolen Lands, he had been a paladin who had the misfortune of falling in love with a married woman. Things went sour and she accused him of raping her. In a fit of anger he killed his former lover and was forced to go on the run.
“That’s um, kind of horrible…” Ravena begins, but Zot cuts her off.
“Hey, guess what?” The gnome asks.
“What?” The others reply warily.
“WE ARE BITCHIN’ AWESOME IS WHAT!”