Slowly the local wildlife decided we were not a threat, and the night-time sounds of nature returned to the area. We mounted up, and Dovin lead the way towards the summer residence. As he lead, we asked questions about the side, and likely guard complement of the property.
It became quickly obvious that he not only didn’t know, but hadn’t actually been to this property before.
A stealthy approach then. Scout out the property, form a plan, carry it out. Easy.
Arn was to sneak in with Echo. Whilst I’d been diving in treasure yesterday, Arn had spent the evening with a couple of the Druids from the infirmary. They had carried out some kind of healing ritual, and he was no longer blind. Whilst it seemed to be causing some minor issues with double vision, Arn seemed happier than I’d ever seen him. I don’t recall ever seeing him smile, but he was even cracking jokes.
He cast something briefly, and the ‘stealthy’ sounds of us cracking through the dry leaves on the forest floor deadened. Grinning he turned to scout ahead. He was to report back on the residence, and with that information we could plan our infiltration properly.
Arn took one step, stiffened, and collapsed to the floor. Behind me, I heard the sound of someone else dropping. Looking back, Tia also sprawled upon the floor. Drax checked them over, and confirmed that whilst everything seemed normal, they were unconscious. Dovin tried a healing spell, but nothing took hold.
Echo had been nudging at Arn with his head, and instead stepped onto Arn’s chest, and sat down.
We needed to carry out the mission, and two unconscious party members didn’t change that, so I turned to the snow leopard and asked “Echo, we need to rescue the princess, can you guard them both while we do?” Echo, being a giant cat, didn’t answer. I assumed that meant yes, and we headed off into the darkness.
There is an art to sneaking up on an unsuspecting target. I’m not so bad at it myself, and I’ve been witness to some absolute masters. One thing they ultimately avoid doing, to a man, is to make sure they aren’t surrounded by three party members wearing platemail.
It was obvious after about three steps that the sneaky approach wasn’t going to work. We needed a different way to scout the area, and with limited resource available, Maeb offered to scout. But I’d need to turn her into something a little less obvious. After some brainstorming, we decided a small owl would do the job, and I polymorphed her into one. She took off silently, and returned a few minutes later.
The house was guarded by 8-10 soldiers, with two large dwarven figures standing guard inside.
8-10 soldiers were manageable. Dovin wanted no bloodshed if possible, so we needed to either sneak in or talk our way in. We’d already worked out what happened when sneaking, so talking it was.
No matter how good I am at talking, it’d be very difficult to explain why an 8 foot Goliath was with us, so Drax temporarily needed to be smaller. Another polymorph spell, and mouse-Drax rested in my pocket.
I slipped the ring on that let me alter my form, and picked an armoured form similar to that of the guards I could see near the property. Maeb cast something similar, and took on human form. Dovin stood staring at us before remembering the mission, and the three of us made a beeline for the main entrance.
We bantered as I imagine soldiers must as we approached, and the guards called a warning as we got close.
“We’ve a message for the Captain, direct from the Councillor!”
I was pushing it assuming that the Captain answered directly to the Councillor, but if they were up to something nefarious with the Princess I can’t imagine the entirety of the army being involved.
“What’s your business?” They called back.
“Look, I think you’ll understand that I can’t just tell you the message. What with it being orders directly from the Councillor concerning the young lady.”
The two guards discussed this quietly between themselves, and Dovin shuffled nervously behind me. I wasn’t nervous though, I had the confidence of a Bard with a mini-cleric in his pocket.
One of the guards turned back towards the house, and called to someone out of sight. “Evans, could you inform the Captain that theres a messenger at the gate for him?”!
We stood waiting for a response for a few minutes, and after the first minute I decided to put on my ‘impatient’ face. Being pissed off always helps sell deception.
With little fanfare the absent guard returned with another, though this man stood slightly straighter, with slightly better quality armour. It struck me then that none wore what I’d describe as uniform or colours.
It was a little late to worry about whether we were dealing with Mercenaries or not, as the Captain stepped up in front of us. “I’m told you have a message for me?”
I glanced to either side at his soldiers, then back at him “I’m not sure that you want to hear this out here? I’m sure you know the nature of this message?” then I paused, leaving that in the air. He stood staring at me for a good 30 seconds, then sighed.
“Fine, you, messenger, follow me. The other two must stay out here.” And he turned on his heel and walked back inside. I quickly followed, trying to formulate a plan with us separated, worst case scenario I pop Drax back to his full size, and we subdue the captain.
He lead us through the building, into a small well furnished study, he took a seat and I sat opposite.
This would be where my brain was racing fastest. Just how much rubbish could I think up on the fly…
“I trust you paid attention to who was stood at the back with me out there? You’ll have spotted the armour, and designs upon it?”
“The Order have approached Anis about the Princess. They’re concerned that she’s hidden away, and want evidence that she’s alive. They’ve sent him to double check. I’m your prior warning. You need to make her look well, so he can see her, and report back.”
“Make her look well? Her health continues to deteriorate.”
“Well, perhaps one of your medics can… I don’t know… Use makeup or something?”
It was at this point that something changed in his eyes. I’d obviously said the wrong thing.
“Who did you say sent you again?”
I reached into my pocket and took mini-Drax out. Things were about to get wiggly.
Weaving my fingers through the familiar arcane patterns subtly, I answered.
“My commander, on the orders of Councillor Anis, asked me to deliver this message.” Then finalising the spell… “I need you to bring my colleagues here, and take us all to the Princess, and I need there to be no fuss.”
With longer to plan, I guess my suggestion could have been more complex, but I knew what was about to happen.
My concentration on the spell caused the spell I’d cast on Drax to fail, and with a soft Bamf sound, he returned to his normal self. The Captain had a moment of panic cross his face, and then the nature of my spell settled in. He nodded, and called in a guard.
The guard stepped into the doorway, and freaked. He was halfway through drawing his sword when the Captain spoke. “No, no, put that away, we don’t want any fuss.”
“but… but… “
“No fuss Soldier, that’s the order. Please go and fetch this mans comrades, and bring them to us. No fuss please.”
The guard resheathed his sword, and took off to fetch Maeb and Dovin.
A few minutes later they joined us. I prompted the Captain to take us to the Princess, and he led us to another small room. Guarded by two more soldiers. Both of which also freaked at the sight of Drax.
The Captain once against had them stand down. “No Fuss Gentlemen, they’re here to see the Princess.”
He showed us inside, and Dovin ran to the Princesses side. He spent a good minute examining her and trying to wake her. Drax and Maeb stepped up to assist. As they pulled back the cover to examine her, it became obvious what the issue was. Blackened diseased roots encircled her arms, curling around her hands and intertwining themselves with the bed.
On the nightstand next to the bed sat a small beaker filled with bubbling viscous liquid. Drax picked it up and sniffed it, recoiling at its acrid smell.
I took the potion and cast identify on it. Images of five figures carrying out a ritual to produce it filled my head. It carried the blight in its genes, and was more than just a potion or disease. Someone had been feeding it to the Princess. I poured fire from my hands into it, destroying it utterly.
I turned to face the Captain, who was obviously struggling with the commands he’d been issued with.
“There, you’ve seen her. Now you must leave.”
Time was running out, and we needed to get out of here without a fuss.
“Dovin, I think the only person that can save her from this blight is the Forest Warden. We should take her to him!” I struggled not to wink, or use air quotes, and hoped that he’d understand my deception.
“But you said he was dead?”
God, humans are so stupid sometimes.
“No, I said the old one was dead. The new one can help!”
“But you said I…”
I was winking at him by now, and needed to shut him up fast.
“Dovin. We really need to take her to the Forest Warden.”
He stood blankly staring at me. So I stepped past, and started to untangle to roots from the bed. I got one hand free before the Captain stepped up to stop me.
“I need you to stop that. I can’t have any fuss here!”
From outside came a voice, “Captain? Is everything ok?”
“Yes, everythings fine in here, we don’t want any fuss!”
Both Maeb and Dovin stepped up to untangle the roots around the other hand.
The Captain became agitated and turned to the door to call the guards.
I cast a spell to hold him in place, and Drax stepped outside to address the guards. Both of which jumped at seeing him. Behind me, Dovin and Maeb started smashing the bed frame to free the Princess.
In the hallway, both guards drew their weapons, and Drax tried to freeze them both to the spot. He succeed for one, and the other stepped towards him. Maeb slipped out behind him, and spectral roots flowed from the ground, surrounding and restraining the guard. Dovin grabbed the princess, and we fled for the door.
As we hit the main hall, it seemed more sensible to use the side exit, rather than the main, more well guarded, entrance. Glancing over as we ran for the door, I spotted a beautiful set of armour. Maeb spotted it at the same time. “Grab that Maeb! I’ve a feeling it’ll be useful!” Maeb took another look at it, back at me, and carried on running.
As we cleared the doorway I saw Drax had taken over carry duty from Dovin. I held out my arms, took the Princess from him, and Polymorphed him into a Triceratops. God I love dinosaurs. Perfect for every occasion.
Mounting our new steed, I reached down to pull Dovin up. He blanched, and instead turned into a small own, and flew on ahead. TriceraDrax took off at a lumber, trumpeting as he did. The Guards ahead of us screamed, and threw themselves into cover. 5 minutes later, we were lumbering through the forest with no sounds of pursuit.
We reached our campsite with no incident, and after lowering the princess back to Dovin I dismounted and dropped the spell on Drax. Arn and Tia still slept, guarded by a slightly twitchy Echo.
Now we just need to work out what to do with the Princess whilst we go get Dovin Ordained.