A dozen people all around the carriage fell asleep, but one of the bodyguards was still awake. As the guard shouted for the watch, Kevlamin, Flex, and Gladys piled on him and subdued him. Then they used the carriage to transport their prisoner outside the city walls, driving through the outskirts on the south side of the Old City.
It was, amazingly enough, at this exact moment that Clair and Jack were returning in defeat to the city. Jack was the one who spotted Kevlamin and Flex driving a carriage up ahead. To make them stop, Jack fired an arrow into the carriage. Once the two groups were united they swapped stories. As they did so, their mark came around inside the carriage with Gladys. However, the woman who woke up in the carriage was not Ahlissa at all, but her sister Athea. Ahlissa had not come to the shops that day, sending her very similar-looking sister to run errands in her stead. Further, Athea, as she had the plan explained to her by some sheepishly embarrassed adventurers, told them that Alden Folber was not a friend of Richard Saville.
The situation sounded fishier all the time, but they decided to confront Alden and demand an explanation while Jack escorted Athea back into the city proper. The rendezvous point was the Old Menhirs on the east edge of the outskirts of the city. Alden was there with another gentleman, a man with the rainments of a cleric, and three armed and armored men-at-arms. Clair took the lead in confronting Alden on their suspicions, but Alden assured them that Athea was simply out of town a lot and was unaware that he and Richard had struck up a friendship in her absence. His plan could still work if The Crazy Adventurers were willing to undertake a riskier option of liberating Ahlissa from her family home in the High Quarter that night and he offered to up their payment to 300 gp to compensate them better, but they wanted nothing more to do with the plan.
At this point, Alden announced that he could not let them leave with how much they knew and signaled for four crossbowmen to come out of hiding. A battle was joined. Gladys, thinking it folly and seeking to flee to a place of concealment, was shot down with a crossbow bolt just as she reached the nearest stone. Ruben engaged a man-at-arm for a bit, but also saw the writing on the wall and attempted to flee only to be shot down and land on top of Gladys. Clair had attacked the gentleman posing as Richard Saville, disrupting a spell he was casting at her, and she killed him. But the men-at-arms quickly took her down after that.
Kevlamin was concentrating on Alden, who was also a spellcaster. Alden's spell required touch, which Kevlamin dodged, and after that Alden relied on a dagger. Kevlamin had his mastiff, Fang, with him and the two of them were causing Alden some moderate injuries. Alden seemed to have some magical protection from being hit as often as he should be and Kevlamin badly wanted whatever item on his person was providing that. Fang could have used it first, though, as he remaining men-at-arms killed Fang first before engaging Kevlamin. Kevlamin stood alone, refusing to flee or surrender, sure that if he just could take down Alden that the others would give up. It might have worked could Kevlamin have held out from all the damage he was taking, but it was not meant to be. One final sword thrust ended the life of Kevlamin Serpenthelm.
But this was not the end of The Crazy Adventures. By sheer luck, the others had been knocked unconscious, but not killed. And Allanon Damon had followed them, curious to see what this was all about. He drove off Alden's gang with a fireball and lightning bolt, saw Clair, Flex, and Gladys to safety, and summoned the authorities to the scene. All this was explained to them by Jack, who had all this told to him by Allanon. Jack told them about how he had returned the “princess” home to a hero's welcome. Of course, Athea was not royalty and, in fact, she had only agreed not to press charges of kidnapping and murder against Jack since he had returned her safely, but everyone liked Jack's story better and did not dispute it.
Clair, Flex, and Gladys were in an abandoned home in the Slum Quarter that Jack had found for them. It would be several days before any of them felt as good as new, particularly Clair. Clair was angry with Alden for both his deception and her near-death experience and took it out on the first strangers she could. That opportunity came on their first day of rest, when all three of them were alone and still seriously injured. Three savage-looking warriors burst through the door, announcing that they planned to squat on this abandoned property and any previous squatters could take a hike. Clair answered with a sword thrust up through the lead man's chin that killed him. The other two fled.
Meanwhile, Jack had been hanging out in gambling dens, making quiet inquiries about nearby adventure opportunities. With a 2 gp bribe, he heard of a wizard's tower in the Old Orchard Grove, to the southeast of the Plain of Greyhawk, that had blown up recently. Other magic-users knew of the happening, but the adventuring class at large had likely not heard of this yet. Jack also recruited a new member for the company and hired a guide to lead them there – a ranger from the Snow Monsters adventuring company named Gregor.
Three days later, on the 11th of Wealsun, The Crazy Adventurers agreed to Jack's plan. Jack's plan was this – they would head to the Old Orchard Grove, but going through the hills where the shadow and the monster that had attacked the company before was (or both at once, if they turned out to be the same monster) so Gregor could look for its tracks. Sure enough, Gregor did find tracks and, after a few hours pursuit, the tracks lead to a material creature more like what Clair and Flex had fought before – only looking even ghastlier this time. Claire and Flex charged their old foe, but this time when it struck Clair, it drained half the life energy out of her.
TO BE CONTINUED
Flex – 1,389
Clair – 1,010
Gladys – 751
Jack - 204/204/203
Groovy Christmases Past: 1974
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