The party disguise themselves as Donnagin and the guards and ride hell for leather towards the tower, abandon the horses once they're out of sight, sneak unseen through the woods towards the path to the clearing, come out of the woods disguised as themselves looking puzzled, and start asking people if they know why Donnagin headed out of there so quickly.
Day 16 – Sam starts crafting a belt of strength
Creel sacrifices a big pile o' stuff to his god in thanks for making his mace more good-people-killingy.
Day 17 – Sam continues crafting a belt of strength
Fitch is gently persuaded not to talk to anyone. He spies on the fort, finding it to be closed up and guarded.
Day 18 – the villans infiltrate the tower to kill the mage (disguised as generic guards)
“Hold fast to courage, faith and fellowship and this tower shall never fall.” says the inscription on the statue of Markadian I, the Victor, which they pass on their way. (“Not fast enough” mutters Fitch)
Guards outside the mage's door notice these “guards” are not members of the garrison, but they are quickly silenced and cut down. Fitch leaps over one acrobatically and murders him from behind, the other is cut clean in half with a mighty swing of Adelea's sword.
Fitch unlocks the door to the mage's room while the silence lasts. The party buffs up and charges in. Tacitus is caught by surprise but somehow gets a wild slap in as Adelea runs past. Her ear is slightly stingy. She looks hard at him and says “you shouldn't have done that”.
Sam casts boredom but Tacitus's will is too strong.
The mage screams “help me, help me! Crush the intruders!”
An ice golem smashes through the door into the room and tries to smash Creel! This is a disquieting turn of events. Further disquieting to the party are muffled shouts that suggest guards above and below have heard sounds of a struggle and are coming to investigate.
Creel caves in the mage's skull with Gada Topang.
Sam gives a hurried but informative speech about the ice golem then zaps it with a scorching ray! Her first ever offensive spell is highly effective.
The golem takes heavy damage, then a tiny bit of extra damage from Fitch, shattering into a storm of icy fragments. Creel and Adelea take damage from this but successfully weather the ice storm.
Guards from the floors above and below come running, finding a locked door and two dead guards covered in ice shards (thrown by Creel just as Sam locked the door). A muffled voice shouts “stay back! I must get this experiment under control!”
The guards hammer on the door as the party, featherfalled, steps out of the window, floats down like particularly murderous gossamer, and then gleefully sneaks out via the tunnel, leaving a dead mage and a shattered golem in a locked room.
Day 19 – Stew day!
They successfully persuade Mama Guiseppe to include mushrooms in the stew, and successfully bluff her that “Susan” is an expert forager and the mushrooms are thus entirely safe. “Ruprecht”, their idiot brother, helps to stir (and slips arsenic into the stew when Mama Guiseppe is distracted).
This goes perfectly. Over the next 24 hours the combined effects of arsenic and mushrooms kills 12 men and sickens 30 more so badly they are utterly unfit for duty.
Sam has finished the belt. Fitch's arms are still like noodles – but stronger noodles!
They sneak in once again by the tunnel, this time with Grumblejack in tow, murder their way up the tower, and set fire to the arrow store.
Then they murder their way up the keep to Havelyn's room. Forewarned, he has buffed up and is a fairly terrifying opponent, especially after casting smite evil on Adelea. He also has more willpower than the famous Wilful Willy McWillpower, Wily Wazir of Will Saves, and shrugs off Sam's boredom spell with little effort. Adelea does savage amounts of damage to him, and he misses with his two power attacks in round one, but he connects twice in the next round and leaves her bleeding out on the floor.
Luckily Grumblejack smashes him to death with a mighty blow of his club, and Adelea is soon stablised and returned to health. As soon as she touches Havelyn's +1 Champion's Plate the shining steel darkens to black, with baroque engravings of evil deeds. She discovers, despite being considerably shorter than Havelyn and indeed a different sex, that this suit of +1 dastard's plate now fits her perfectly.
The entire leadership cadre of Tower Balentyne is now dead (or sent away in disgrace) and many of the guards and dead or poisoned. The few demoralised and leaderless grunts left stand little chance against the purposeful and relatively skilled villains, who have the advantage of their circlets letting them get the drop on confused defenders.
They slaughter their way to the gatehouse, and none can stand against them. They disable the war machines and murder holes, winch up the gate and let down the drawbridge, fortifying themselves against any attempt to take the gatehouse back. The invading army of bugbears, summoned by the signal rocket, encounter very little resistance – although some are killed by the lantern archons, which the party never encountered, and some find it quite time consuming and annoying to kill a bunch of acolytes who are healing each other.
Balentyne has fallen. The villains have achieved the impossible. The bugbears pour through the watchtower and slaughter the inhabitants of Aldencross. Soon they will march on the Southlands.
The party crack the seal they were given previously, and Tiadora soon appears and leads them to a waiting boat.
From a promontory, you can see the great bugbear horde
camped south of the Watch Wall. Balentyne yet burns behind you. Tiadora remarks, “I have seen no evidence of any army gathering to meet the horde. It seems Zadaria
has also succeeded at her mission and has assassinated the
commanders. Truly, a great achievement.
“Making matters worse for poor Talingarde, small bands
of creatures unaligned with Sakkarot approach the breach,
eager to take advantage of the chaos. How could these
beasts know already about this break in the Watch Wall?
Someone must have told them. Probably best to leave. This
region is about to become very dangerous.
“Still, this will not be enough. Balentyne may be broken but Talingarde is yet strong. Soon word will reach the south. The Heartland and the great cities of the Cambrian
Bay will marshal their armies. They will meet Sakkarot on
the feld and it will be far too close to a fair fight. We must
do something about that. “Come, my lords, your ship awaits. Try not to burn this
Lords. She called you lords. And lords you are. Lords
of death and destruction. Lords of evil. Do you remember Branderscar? Do you remember being held down and branded like animals? How far you have come and how
long yet the journey before you. Tiadora is right. This is only your first steps along the way of the wicked.