One final night time encounter with Giant Bats was quickly dispatched. While the rest of the party were murdering innocents flying mammals, the Bladedancer made a new friend, by charming one of the creatures. Christened “Charmy” the beast wasn’t much use as the bladedancer couldn’t actually communicate with it. However, it did follow the party from the edge of the Wyre Forest to the Castellan’s Keep and was spotted roosting in one of the trees in the Outer Bailey.
On the approach to the keep itself, two old acquaintances were encountered leading a mule with a strange package across its back. Only a couple of the party recognised the former owners of the Hommlet Mercantile, but the remaining gnolls recognised the SoB’s that had gone through the warband like a dose of salts. The encounter quickly degenerated and the ensuing combat aroused the interest of the beastmen guards (a mix of orc heavy infantry and goblin beast riders) as well as the captain of the guard. After the melee, where judicious use of Choking Grip disabled the enemy fighter, several of the party were badly injured and the bard had been mortally wounded and lost a hand. The bodies of the miscreants, as well as that of Lareth the Beautiful (for it was he strapped to the back of the mule), were dumped unceremoniously into the moat.
Once inside the party fulfilled their legal obligations, having been fined for committing an affray on the grounds of the Keep, and then sought an audience with the Castellan himself. The discussion was somewhat one-sided as only the Castellan knew the details of the message sent from Hommlet, but eventually a two-part deal was struck. In exchange for Chainspire Fortress, the Castellan would render all the aid he could. However, the spellsword had suggested that together, the party and the Castellan could rule South Cheshire as father and son. In order to seal this bargain the bard would fight the Keep’s tame pit-slave. In exchange for converting to the worship of Asmodeus, all his mortal injuries would be healed and by proving himself a worthy fighter the Castellan would judge the deal to take everything for themselves as a worthwhile one.
Through the night, an awful lot of plotting and planning took place in an effort to forestall the fight, ensure a massive advantage for the bard, or just kill the pit-slave. The pit-slave proved to be a Thrassian gladiator from the old days of the Tropilium Empire. In the end, the spellsword cast and maintained Choking Grip for as long as he could before the party was discovered. Pretending to be drunk and simply baiting and taunting the lizardmen, the party got away with their subterfuge.
In the morning, a company of orcs made a makeshift arena with their shields and under the watchful eye of the Castellan, his closest advisers and a couple of dozen arbalest-armed guards, the contest began. It turned out to be massively one sided. Even with the reduction from the Choking Grip, the pit-slave’s talents for maiming and killing were immense. The bard’s net and thrown spear both missed and, even in close, the fight was a foregone conclusion. Raking the bard’s chest four times with vicious claws, the gladiator bit through the bard’s spine and left him paralysed and bleeding to death in the dirt of the Keep’s courtyard.
As the party left to complete their diplomatic mission and return the Castellan’s decision to the hobgoblins at Hommlet, they are joined by a fresh-faced and idealistic paladin of Asmodeus, the Chaotic patron of Tyranny and Power.