I am happy to report that we have successfully broken the back of the bandits. The Stag Lord will never again menace Oleg and Svetlana nor any other peaceful settler in this region.
The assault began in an unsettling manner. When we tried to cross some of the open ground between the woods and the fortress we were confronted by hands reaching up out of the ground. It seems likely that the restless dead haunt the grounds. Today I mean to investigate the matter more fully so that the poor souls can be put to rest.
We backed up to the treeline and Ce Me No took a new vector of approach. He masterfully snuck in over the wall (a full 15’ high – Poe may need some help learning to judge vertical distance). Once inside he set the owlbear loose, goading it into attacking some of the guards and damaging the main gate of the palisade. He continued sniping at it with alchemical fire, but it became clear the gate would not come crashing down from the inside. We charged in with Jeremiah and I at the front. We managed to batter it down and then joined the bandits in battle.
Along with the rank and file members we encountered several other of the Stag Lord’s lieutenants. One mouthy one with a rapier was called Dovann by the others, and I singled him out for personal attention after we put down the owlbear. The experience ended for him in much the way one might expect. The somewhat simple-minded bandit who acted as the owlbear’s keeper fell at Ce Me No’s hands. As far as I can tell, his name was Ox.
We also came upon a turncoat in the Stag Lord’s ranks. After baring his sword against his compatriots and helping us clear the courtyard of the fortress, he introduced himself as Akiros. He further helped us by directing us to the Stag Lord’s sanctum in the cellar, and warning us about the creepy healer who protects him. I am not sure I fully trust Akiros. Yes, he helped us, both in the first battle and the one that followed, and yes, he seems genuine in wanting to leave the Stag Lord’s service. But a turncoat requires some doubt in the first place, and his life story has done little to soothe those concerns.
Apparently he began life training to be a paladin, and fell in love with a young woman. He claims that he didn’t know she was married, but in any case the whole thing came to an ugly head in his local temple of Erastil. The young woman brought her husband along to publicly accuse him of raping her. At that point he lost control of himself and slew both her and her husband in a fit of rage. He then fled the temple, and apparently has been wandering since then. He somehow came into the Stag Lord’s service as well, which is another issue where his character is concerned. All in all, I think it might be best to consult Jhod on the matter. Jhod is truly contrite about his past transgressions and is working to atone for them. If Akiros is of a similar ilk, well and good. But if he is not, then we are talking about making common cause with an unrepentant fallen paladin, murderer, turncoat, bandit, adulterer and possibly even rapist besides. This is an issue that needs to be worked out sooner rather than later, as otherwise I see no reason why his head should not join Happs’ on Oleg’s walls. I would just as soon not suffer the simultaneously lethal and untrustworthy to wander about the region.
We headed downstairs to find the Stag Lord. He and his ally had concealed themselves, but the size of the cellar soon brought us into conflict with them. Ce Me No, Jeremiah and I set upon the Stag Lord while Morrigan, Tōgg and Alvoy descended upon the healer. The Stag Lord opened up with his bow, but we were able to close in and force him to switch to his sword. He was indeed powerful, as he was able to break out of my grasp once. But the second clinch proved more lasting, and Ce Me No and I took him apart piece by piece as I pinned him. Jeremiah was frustrated by the experience, as even grappled the Stag Lord proved an elusive foe against his strikes.
The healer proved a more elusive foe – in addition to being the Stag Lord’s father. He seemed to be a druid like Nishi, using his powers to meld into the stone and summon allies in the form of a swarm of spiders, and then using other magic to cling to the ceiling out of range of our swords. But Falayna is wise and powerful, and I was able to draw upon her power to leap high into the air to drag him off the ceiling and down to the ground. I have heard that druids can change shape in ways that makes them very slippery, and I was primed for such a contest. But in the end the magical attacks of my fellows had softened the healer enough that a single round of blows was enough to put him down.
We found a rather massive trove of treasures in the fortress, including the arms and armor of the Stag Lord himself. Today I think we shall set about trying to clean up the fortress, both of its undead taint and of the more general mess the bandits have left. The fortress could well prove very useful for us in the future, assuming we can repair it in the same way that Jhod is seeking to restore Erastil’s temple. Once finished, we should also transport the body of the Stag Lord back to the site of Davik Nettles’ murder, in the hopes that he will find some measure of peace.
In that same vein, there also remain the restless spirits of the undead legion to the north. It would be well to put them to rest. And that gigantic serpent to the north is still out there as well… But for a brief moment this morning, it is enough to know that we have struck a great blow for good and justice in the region.