The party returned to the hospitality of the Druid after their fight with the werewolves. After a hearty meal, the party informed the Druid of their assault on the ruins he’d told them of. The “alien altar” he was concerned about they had not seen, but they’d slain a dozen or so werewolves, a few wererats, and a lone warrior. After resting (Lune was still quite poorly off), they would return to finish the job. The Druid, Annan, said they could sleep without fear in his home, as the werewolves dared not go against the power of The Mother, which was strong in this place.
An hour or so before dawn, the party’s sentries (they kept their watches despite the Druid’s words) saw the Druid rise up and head out of his home with but a glance at those still awake. Iban followed him quietly, stopping only long enough to cast invisibility on himself. The Druid headed north around the outside of the great circular hedge of thornbrush that apparently demarked the boundaries of his sacred grove. He continued for a half mile or more, seemingly being somewhat cautious. At this point, a pair of werewolves suddenly howled and leapt from the darkness at the Druid. He fought them off with several spells and his scimitar, but made no effort to stand and fight, instead returning rapidly south. Iban, not wishing to get caught alone, quickly climbed a tree as the pursuit passed. He then blew his horn to alert the rest of the party to danger (the wolves clearly heard the horn, but were focused on pursuit of the Druid they could see). Once past, Iban slipped down and followed a fast as he could coming across one wolf dead from a lightning blast and one from sword wounds.
The party was now alert and gathered together, checking outside to see what was going on. Drogo, slipped out and made his way north along the thorn hedge to scout. Shortly thereafter, a man appeared and claimed the party was in danger and told them to follow him to safety. However, Sir Rowan could sense he was evil, and did not hesitate to attack. The man turned and fled, though Havok stopped him cold in his tracks with a hold person spell. Drogo, hearing the commotion, returned to the party. Meanwhile, from the other large building in this small settlement, a number of lesser druids and servants appeared, who the party ordered to join with them to form a defensive line anchored on the hedge, facing north. This seemed problematic to some, and the party suggested withdrawing into the grove, but one of the lesser druids said to do so would be inappropriate. But, they soon heard the noise of more howling to the south, and the same druid suddenly decided the grove was the place to retreat; the opening was close by. The Druid arrived as they were moving inside and joined them, soon followed by Iban. Two forces of werewolves had come, one north and one south, of unknown size.
The Druid assured the party that this place was well warded, though he took the time to speak to several birds who he sent out, apparently for reinforcements. He also blew a high-pitched, slender horn of silver, likely for the same reason (he might be summoning reinforcements but it was unlikely any would arrive any time soon. the party feared). Then, he spoke some words and the hedge opening slowly grew together, forming a solid wall of thorny hedge 20′ high with no easy way in. The group now followed a spiral path that led them to the very center of the grove, where they found a huge oak tree towering over an open space in the center of which was a dark pool of water. This was the heart of the sacred grove, Annan told them. And here he would stand. There was at one point some talk of the Druid opening the hedge elsewhere so the group could escape, but when he and his folk said they would defend to the last here, the party opted to remain and aid them.
Soon, the glow of fires appeared over the edge, as the werewolves apparently began to burn the druid’s small settlement, and as they began a bonfire to the south and one west in an effort to burn through the hedge. There were occasional howls of pain, which the Druid explained by saying that the hedge would defend itself for a time, mindlessly, but with some effect. He also caused the spiral path to vanish, reducing movement through the grove. Drogo and Parker took the opportunity to climb the great oak, from which they had a partial view of proceedings to the south. Iban levitated even higher for a better view. After a time, those up higher began to fire silver and magic arrows, some poisoned, to hinder the feeding of the fire, while the party armed the servants with magic daggers to be effective against the werewolves. The wererat prisoner came around and was questioned by Rowan, augmented by a philter of persuasion in the interests of timeliness. There were two dozen or more werewolves, it said, along with a half dozen of his kind as well as the Prophet of the Outer Darkness who wielded the Finger of the Scion, whatever that was. He was served by a lesser priest. The whole group was apparently a crazed cult, bent of death and destruction, and were happy to sacrifice themselves to avenge themselves against the party. Havok gave him a brief chance to convert to the worship of Hashrak, but when the wererat told him that “the outer darkness will consume your god” he simply slew him.
The long battle had begun (and like most such, I’m hard pressed to catch the entire sequence of events, so I will forget stuff – feel free to Reply All to add in any details you might think are pertinent that I miss). The worst part of the battle occurred early on, when the mass of persons in the center of the grove were suddenly engulfed in a huge fireball, cast by a previously invisible, flying mage-werewolf. The blast instantly killed all of the servants, a visiting fighter, and three of four lesser Druids. The party fared somewhat better, but only the three up in the tree or air were unscathed (and Lune, who managed to dodge by rolling into the water — or some such). Now visible, he drew fire from the three up above though he managed to escape back to his forces, still alive. The bonfires were burning bright and eating into the hedge in two places.
As those above fired into the werewolves where they could, a strange black shaped passed over the hedge and through the grove, causing a ripple as animals (apparently) fled from it. The shadowy figure crashed into the party (now spread out to prevent a second fireball attack). Havok could not turn it and required aid from Aldeberon and others to finally slay it. Apparently, the dark prophet was using whatever powers he possessed to send dark creatures to attack in order to disrupt the defenders and work on getting his main forces in. At one point, he taunted the defenders, saying they would be “consumed by the Outer Darkness” and would be “unnamed, as if they never were.” Periodically, flaming wood would be thrown over the hedge, but it never caused a fire.
As the large fires burned through the hedge, the werewolves turned to trying to clear paths through the burning debris, throwing some water and using poles to make a path. Although hampered by arrow fire, they did not desist so, in the south, Iban cast pyrotechnics to cause a enormous cloud of burning smoke to erupt. This effectively blocked the southern entrance for a time. Meanwhile, he, Aldeberon, Rowan, Havok and the surviving assistant druid rushed to block the western breach. Havok read a scroll of protection from werewolves as they did so, and just as the lead force of the wolves passed into the sacred grove. The werewolves were easily pushed back, as they could be hit by the fighters but could do nothing in return. Someone in the shadows beyond did hit the party with clerical spells, but to no effect except for one unknown beam that struck Iban and wracked him with intense pains for several minutes. The defenders pushed outside, scattering the werewolves into the light woods to the west and north. Somewhere around this time, however, the party was struck by a thrown, golden globe form a werewolf that exploded into a second fireball. This one seriously wounded most of this group; they decided to hold their ground for now and not advance just yet. The lesser druid, who had produced some strange whip out of nowhere and blasted one werewolf with a bolt of lightning, was knocked unconscious. Iban turned to firing arrows at the nearby figure lurking in the shadows he thought was a spellcaster, preventing any further mischief from that quarter.
Meanwhile, the smoke cloud had prevented the werewolves from penetrating the hedge ring, but did nothing to stop a second creature of blackness from passing inward. This one was far more powerful than the last and required all of those left inside (Aldeberon, the Druid, Drogo, Parker, and even the weakened Lune) to finally defeat it. It was a close thing, as the Druid was sore hurt from the first fireball, Lune was too weak to truly fight effectively, and the archers in the tree were still spending much of their time keeping watch and harassing the enemy with arrows. Drogo did come down behind it and slew it with a most impressive backstab in the end.
Havok and company pushed out further now, knowing that the smoke to the south was going to give out soon and that the enemy would drive in from that point regardless of what they did here. Also, the magical protection was waning and would soon be lost. So, they pushed south hoping to come up behind the other force, and while the earlier group of werewolves was scattered and disorganized. However, a few blocked their way and proved to be quite tough, though they could not harm the party. One turned out to be their chieftain. The first werewolf fell quickly, but the chieftain, seeing his doom before him, opted to not surrender or retreat; instead, he gave the party a fanatical look and took a gold globe from a necklace and threw it at his own feet, causing a third fiery explosion that engulfed those fighting him and causing a FOURTH fireball from a secondary explosion. Though himself blown to pieces, he failed to kill any of the party. However, Havok went down unconscious and Rowan was badly hurt; Iban fared a little better thanks to his ring of fire resistance. Unable to advance effectively in this state, they held their ground.
Inside the circle, a noxious green cloud of gas appeared just inside the southern opening and began to drift north towards the sacred pool and oak, with a force of werewolves following in behind it. Parker took a potion of flying and flew south to scout and fire magic arrows to harass and attrite this force before they could reach the center of the grove. However, the enemy mage saw her and shot her with magic missiles, knocking her unconscious and near death. Aldeberon called to Drogo to take his potion to rescue her, as the Druid ordered birds to try to drag her floating body back (Drogo ended up binding her wounds in the air and he drew no fire form the enemy mage, who was apparently depleted of useful spells). Annan the Druid dispelled the stinking cloud but this only made the werewolves come quicker. Aldeberon and the Druid formed more or less the entirety of the last defense of the grove and fought shoulder to shoulder as the Werewolves rush to take the center at last. As they fought, the Druid’s last trick was played and a nearby tree erupted into motion, attacking the Werewolves with great strength. It slew three in rapid succession, which likely saved Aldeberon and the Druid who were largely on their own at this point given the extensive casualties.
Iban had taken the head of the chief wolf and was loudly threatening all the survivors, but he had no need. They had expended their power to finally reach the center of the grove, but had been defeated at last, though at great cost. The Druid seemed stunned at the carnage, with nearly all of his folk dead (the only other survivor badly wounded). His grove had been breached and blasphemed against, but the center had not been touched. The party was only a little better off, with most everyone badly hurt and, perhaps worse, their cartload of loot left behind in the Druid’s home which was now a pile of glowing embers. They’d prevailed, but at a high cost.
– Experience: 1150 XP each
– Probably the longest single battle I’ve ever played in 35+ years of D&D (5 hours!)
– I need to give some thought as to the fate of your loot…