Last we heard from our doughty adventurers, they had just spotted the Moathouse through the creepers and hanging vines, when they were savagely attacked by giant ravenour frogs. The outcome of said battle, other than bumps and bruises, was that most of the horses and ponies bolted. The rogues nag in particular became mired in quicksand just off the path and it took everyone’s help to pull the steed free. The rest of the horse were rounded up in due course, except for poor Derp the Dwarf and his old pony. The beast took off and the last they saw of Derp he was chasing his pony over the hills and all the way back to town. Poor guy, he is going to miss out on his share of the 2,000 copper piece treasure hoard.
The party tied up their mounts in the area cleared by the frog ambush and continued on through the last few hundred yards of swamp on foot. They wondered why such a place would be called a moathouse, and reflected on what history they could recall – the temple of elemental evil started as a simple shrine, no more than a pile of rocks and bones. It grew to become a hidden enclave of evil, and kept growing as it attracted more and more evil humanoids under its spell. Its goal was to enslave the countryside, and to that end it began building defensive keeps in ever expanding concentric rings around the temple. Like moats, the ring of forts defended the temple, and the Moathouse was one such. Rather than to project strength, these fortresses were built to remain hidden, and used for raiding retreat. Thus they found the small stone moated castle, slowly sinking into the mire.
It was thrown down some thirty years ago, when the poor folk of the surrounding lands threw off their yolk of oppression, slavery, and butchery and laid seige, after the victorious Imperial armies had destroyed the temple and moved on. It has lain in ruins ever since, but the tracks and rumors lead the party to believe the moathouse is where the robbers and kidnappers are hiding out. AS they reach the old moat, they see that the drawbridge is down, and broken, with a few rotting planks thrown across to bridge the gap. On the other side, the two massive doors of the castle wall are slightly ajar. One has a hole through the middle of it from a battering ram, the other is tilted on one hinge.
The rogue Kirasowa the Conniving is the first to test the strength of the planks, and he makes it across safely and with only a quiet creaking of the planks. He can hear nothing, but as he peers through the doors into the courtyard of the keep, he sees that it is ruined and was burned, and the upper stories have all fallen in., Gaping doors lead into the darkened of the grand hall across the yard. Then he notices two heads of guards posted among the rubble of the upper stories.
Each of the party members sneaks through the doors and into the courtyard where they can’t be seen, and somehow they all succeed, even the dwarf cleric, who refuses at first to leave his pony, until the beast balks at crossing the planks of the broken drawbridge. Eventually they make it into the shadowy interior of the ruined grand hall, and see that the place was once regal but it has been sacked, ransacked, and sacked again. They knew the two bandits were above them, and so they quietly poked around the room, finding nothing that wasn’t bent, broken, blackened, or destroyed, before the rogue slipped off down one of the side hallways. He went past the closed doors towards the end of the hall where an archway led into yet another chamber, but listening closely, he heard the faintest rattling sound – a snikka-sniklka-snikka sound. He thought it might be a prisoner rattling his chains and strode forward into the utter darkness of the chamber.
The two dwarves with their infravision also came forward while Cady hung back, ready to light a torch. Will the Brony (a dwarven term meaning “brother to ponies” or ponydwarf, like horseman for humans.) he stepped forward and saw the heat signature of a great curving body on the floor just as a huge snake head rose up out of the rubble to lunge at the rogue for disturbing its lair. The fangs tore into the rogues flesh, and he felt himself injected with a poison. His face flushed, then went white as a sheet as his body fought off the poison. Kurasowa turned to the side, trew up ha little, and was as good as new.
The party quickly surrounded the huge snake, which continued to lunge first at one, then another, but never again managed to score a hit as it was silently hacked to pieces. There was nothing else of interest in the chamber, so they retreated back towards the grand hall, checking the doors as they went. THe irst one contained nothing of interest, and the second one seemed to be covered in wall hangings of fine quality. Again the roge and fighter entered the chamber together, this time to pull down the rich tapestries. As they tugged however, the colth shredded in their hands and began fluttering to the floor. Soon an explosion of activity blainded them an confused the as swirling shapes began slamming into them from all side.
As Cady pulled her longsword out of its sheath the rogue shouted, wait! its bats! And so it was, they watched as hundreds of bats funneled out of the room from some hidden crack or crevice. A dark cloud of bats rose above the moathouse into the noonday sun, temprorarily shading the ruins like a passing cloud. The party felt their secrecy might be compromised.
Indeed, the next few seconds saw Cady again lighting a torch, while the two sentries climbed down and into the chamber from holes in the collapsed upper floor. One of them went to an unexplored door in the corner and shouted “Oy! We got company!” while the other bandit sentry threw his javelin at the strobe light outline of the wizard lit p by Cady’s flint and steel. The javelin tore threw his cloak and drew a line of blood along his shoulder. He quickly retreated into the shadows of the corridor, and he spent the rest of the battle casting blinding ray into the eyes of the bandits. The other wizard also crouched in the shadows, wisely throwing one silvery missile after another into the heavily armored bandit leader.
5 more bandits emerged through the door, Two women had longswords, and one of the women was the young bar wench – one of the abductees they had come to rescue. She ran to engage the rogue, and after questioning why she would fight for these bandits, she admitted she was second cousin to Mama Lynchfield, wife of D Lynchfield, who was the nominal leader of the Lynchfield gang. Kurasowa vowed to subdue rather than slay her, but soon a lucky hit sent his rapier sliding straight into her heart, killing her instantly.
Meanwhile the dwarf cleric Brony Will was fighting with Mama Lynchfield, who was calling for a cease fire, and even suggested they might join the band. Will struck her one massive blow to the side of the head which knocked her unconscious for the rest of the battle.
The warrior maid Cady was slugging it out one on one with old man Lynchfield, who proved to be an implacable foe, ad hard to hit with his chain and shield. It was only with the aid of the wizards who shot him p with thei missiles, then hit him with a blinding ray, that allowed Cady to finally cut him down. As he fell he called upon the gods to curse those who defeated the Lynchfield gang. Cady was already pulling off his suit of chainmail.
After the battle, they argued with the woman, Mama Lynchfield, whom they had captured. She wanted to be let go, o ofered swift justice then and there, but the party questioned her and learned that those they abducted were given to soldiers of the Dark Priest who dwelt in the dungeon beneath the moathouse. The people they captured were taken to the stairwell, w=here minions of the dark priest would drag them down to an unknown fate. The two farmers had already been given over that morning.
When they got back to town, they explained the situation to Rufus and Burne the wizard, and the two were not surprised to learn the infamous Lynchfield mob were behind the robbery and kidnappings. The news about the Dark Priest was interesting, and further interrogation led to Mama Lynchfield admitting that the two who worked at the Trading post – Rannos and Gremag, were passing information to the Dark Priest through her gang.