The Celebration of the Red Moon, part II
As the party rouses from its power-nap they are greeted by an unexpected companion. The Wizard has arrived! His trip was uneventful, as he spent all of invisible. When asked what drew him away from the safety of his study room in their Keep back in Edersarr, he says, “I felt a great disturbance in the ether, as if thousands of books had suddenly been erased.”
The Druid hides behind a table while the Ranger fills the Wizard in. Next is the inevitable kidnapping of a Redshirt for questioning. Much effort is spent in determining who, exactly, is in charge of the whole situation. The sad truth turns out that it is apparently the demons running the show. How low Varsoulou has fallen; it is not even a nation now, just a ranch for extra-planar monsters.
Happier news is that the ceremony has been scaled back, implying it will be summoning a smaller demon than previously anticipated, presumably to replace the Vrock the party slew. Some discussion is had over whether or not to let the ceremony complete, so as to bag another demon and its tael; but as that path requires that hundreds of commoners be sacrificed it is eventually discarded.
They have to choose between three approaches to get into the ceremony, the better to disrupt it:
- Dress as peasants
- Impersonate officers of the Red Shirts
- Arrive early and hide
They swagger up to the gate two hours before midnight and simply assert authority. Given the dysfunctional state of the Redshirt’s organization, this works splendidly. When the Bard loudly announces that the celebration has been moved to another night, the Redshirts simply walk off the job and head for a tavern. The Druid begins ushering peasants out while the rest of the party heads for the main Keep.
As they approach the building, a Redshirt comes out and demands to know what’s going on.
“Moved to another day,” repeats the Bard.
“Who told you that?” the Redshirt says. “I literally just talked to a Boss and he didn’t say anything about it.”
“Well, it’s what we were told. And our armor is better than yours, so clearly, we outrank you.”
This argument is hard to refute. “Come inside and let’s sort this out,” the Redshirt says, and goes back into the building. Most of the party follows, with only the Wizard balking at the doorway and staying outside (and the Druid, who is busy setting fire to the wooden altar in the middle of the courtyard).
Once again the Wizard’s intelligence is rewarded, when he is the only one not viciously clawed by hidden demons popping out of the shadows. The Bard is immediately rendered unconscious, though the other party members are a bit luckier. General combat ensues and it is discovered that the Ranger’s bow has been awakened to its true nature, mysteriously transforming into a +2 Holy bow overnight (probably as a consequence of fighting so many demons in such a selfless manner with no thought to profit or personal gain). The change is dramatic, as the Ranger rapidly decimates the Babau with a flurry of arrows, actually exceeding the Barbarian for damage output for the first time ever.
A group of Redshirts appears at the bottom of the stairwell and unleash a volley of debilitating rays of weakness, to no effect whatsoever. They are immediately obliterated by the Wizard’s fireball, as he steps into the room to protect the party’s marital prowess. The Cleric manages to heal the Bard just in time for the ceiling above the Bard to collapse and drop a Vrock on his head.
The Vriock screeches, stunningly loud, but the Druid-bear has now joined the battle and easily shrugs off the effect. The Barbarian slips out of the monster’s telekinetic grasp, the Ranger eliminates its image protections, and so its next action is to simply fly back up through the ceiling. The party chases it up the tottering stairs, sans Druid-bear, who knows the flaming wood can’t support his weight. He is rewarded when the demon swoops down again, evading the party, and flies out the front door.
The Druid-bear gives chase, but stops at the doorway when he realizes it is flanked by more Babau. They engage in combat and two more Babau run up from the field to help. The rest of the party looks out over the field of battle from balconies on the second floor.
The Ranger, Cleric, and Wizard have effective ranged attacks to reach the demon in the courtyard, especially when the Wizard blinds the creature and robs it of its own ranged attack. In response, the Babau leave off fighting long enough to magically aid their master, while the Ranger suddenly flies high up into the air above the building in the telekinetic grasp of a second demon! But the Wizard counters this new threat by casting Feather Fall on the Ranger, who continues to use his bow to good effect.
Despite multiple magical defenses, the demons are no match for the party. The Babau on the ground are quickly dispatched by the Druid-bear and the Barbarian, while the flying Vrocks are smashed by Spiritual Hammers, Magic Missiles, and holy arrows.
The aftermath is profitable; the amount of tael the creatures had saved in anticipation of luring over a bigger demon is staggering. In addition, the party has gained the broken remnants of an entire country, which turns out to be a prize they didn’t actually want. They have no desire to live in the desert and rule over a (technically) evil society; the number of Varsouloueans who could successfully emigrate and assimilate to Edersarr is low; and the party cannot in good conscience simply murder the common folk for the tael in their heads.
But neither can they walk away and abandon those commoners – and their tael – to whatever wandering monster happens by next. In addition to the moral lapse of duty, this would result in just another super-powered foe they would have to defeat when it inevitably turned its hungry gaze on their own kingdom.
Reluctantly they agree to a remarkable plan: the party will, from its own purse, promote a pair of clerics from the Varsoulouen population to the fifth rank, on the proviso that men or women of good (i.e. Blue) character can be found. This gives the community a chance to survive, as this rank of cleric can both cure plagues and provide the blessings that are necessary to make the desert bloom. Actually, one cleric could do this; the second is to revive the cinnamon fields. The party will draw a share of the profits only from the spice trade; in addition, they undertake to protect the fledgling nation until it can protect itself (i.e., until it can promote one of those clerics to the 9th rank). Now they cast their gaze eastward, wondering what threats slumber out there, waiting only for the news of the collapse of organized defense before swooping in to feed on a helpless populace.