Last session ended with another mid-adventure cliff-hanger. That seems like a good pattern for us.
We had located the longship we were sent to find (sunk/beached/scuttled), and located the captain (dead/drained). We had accounted for 30 of the original 30 crew: 9 zombies at the wreck, and 21 lovingly arrayed corpses drained of their blood lined up in a field. We'd determine that, yes indeed, the crop circle was a magic ritual and that "three individuals" were responsible for this tragedy.
But since then Reuben and Mal had both levelled, so with better skills we went back the next day to re-examine.
Back up at the clearing Reuben made another attempt at divination to try to figure out what had happened, and this time had an amazing vision of the past. He saw the "three individuals" create a powerful magic circle and use a powerful magic ritual to summon demons from beyond this world and then pact with them, powering the spell or the pact with blood from the victims, and using the blood of the 21 victims to True Change the demons into the exact forms of the dead crew. The vision ended, but not after leaving Reuben with the distinct impression that all of this took time. A lot of time. We had a pretty good idea where to go next. Hopefully we would be "in the nick of time".
Back to our boat, rowing upriver like mad, back to the lake, locate the signal tower, light the fire, signal the nearest island, wait for pickup. Then we learn that, amazingly, the "missing crew" had been picked up just days before and were on their way back to Laketown to see the Margrave. We had to intercept them! We had to stop them! We got the captain of the longship picking us up to give us the direct flight home instead of dropping us off to wait for the next transfer. His crew rowed through the night to get us there, but as we arrived at the docks we learned that we were close behind the "missing crew" and that they had left to walk up to the castle to report to the Margrave. We ran.
We didn't detour to report anywhere else. Direct to the throne room. As we entered, the Margrave was holding a court reception for the "missing crew". Reuben unveiled the plot, screaming about spies and assassins. I tried to make a better explanation for the crowd, using my puissant linguistic and public speaking skills, just as Matt the Knife spotted one of the "missing crew" and let loose with one of his flying poisoned daggers. Which almost missed. But the effect was just the same: a battle royale.
Three lead demons were almost to the Margrave as this began, but their surprise attack had been superceded by Reuben crashing the party. Now we were in for a fight with 21 demons of various types. But on our side at least were some helpers: Guards, civilians, other nobles, and the Margrave.
Reuben rushed to the Margrave to summon a demon of his own to protect him. I sprinted to the Margrave to help protect him as best as I could. Matt and Elise became a firebase in the middle of the room laying down a hail of lethal shooting and thinning the demon herd. Winterlion was initially a little distracted, perhaps titillated, by a guard, but made good use of his sword against demons. Demilo rushed up to attack the demons attacking the Margrave's guards, and I lost sight of what effect he was having on the combat.
The three demons attacking the Margrave and his guards were exceedingly tough. In the aftermath, we determined that there must have been at least 3 varieties of demons and the lead 3 were either a more advanced type or a very tough "named" type of demon. They fought like Trolls, in my estimation.
I buffed the Margrave with a Blur, helping him in his single combat with the chief demon, and then flashed out with a forked firebolt which only lightly scorched the demons. The spell was great, the bolts were awesome, but the demons have especially tough defenses. Perhaps Fire Law was the wrong tool to use against them. I held back, preparing to influence the melee by magically blocking or deflecting attacks from my allies, when suddenly one of the guards had been eviscerated into a fine mist of blood and organ tissue. Steeling myself for another round of bloodletting like what I suffered at the hands of the Fellbeast, I was ready when the same demon charged at me to defend myself with a Bladeturn and knocked his attack harmlessly aside. That gave me the moment of opportunity to sieze the Margrave by the armpits and fly away from the melee.
After flying the Margrave to safety outside of the throne room, I returned to discover that at least one of the demons had chased me up the hall to try to catch me and had been intercepted in the middle of the room. Reuben, or his demon, or perhaps the guards fighting alongside Reuben, had dispatched another demon and several of the local nobles were fighting a third. This last demon was battling Elise, Matt, Winterlion, and the guard which had so seductively distracted Winterlion earlier.
I observed the melee while preparing a spell, and then consumed the demon in a pillar of fire which left it as a pile of ash on the floor and everyone else unscathed. I believe that I had previously weakened this demon with an earlier forked firebolt.
In an intermission after the battle, we regrouped and re-armed at the Margrave's expense. Superior quality weapons were at our access should we need them and several of our number exchanged pieces of gear for High Steel equivilants. Though they had none for me in their armory, I was able to use my existing rapier as a model for the Margrave's smiths to fashion me a replacement out of High Steel. After about two weeks we left and returned promptly to the shipwreck and clearing where we left off our search and exploration.
Back at the clearing, not much else was available to be learned. The bodies of the crew had been burned to ash, or had vanished to ash. Something like that. We're not sure. Hypothesis: the True Change on the demons was linked to the bodies. When the demons died the bodies were consumed. Guessing: we could have burned or destroyed the bodies when we were here earlier and either unmasked the demons (likely) or banished them (unlikely).
We went to the fort hill. Not much of a fort. Just a hill, flat on top with a rim ringed with a dirt-and-rock hill. Magicking the rocks discovered that some of the stone on the hill had been worked thousands of years ago, suggesting that this hill has been used as a watch/guard hill for a very long time. Or that there was once in ancient history a watchtower here which was completely rubbled and that we're looking at fragments of the original rubble.
That night: Demilo saw a light out in the distance over by the wreck about a mile away.
Next day: Search over by the wreck, nothing learned. Searching the longship again, we determined that the hull was holed from the outside by a strike at about the waterline. The bow was pointed downstream, the hull was holed from the port, and the longship subsequently beached aground on the port forequarter in several feet of water near the bank of the river listing dangerously to port and filling with water nearly to the deck. We could divine no further clues, although Mal's divination of the future suggested that we were safe here for another 12 hours. That turned out to be extremely accurate.
That night: Reuben saw a flare shoot up into the air, fired near the foot of the cliff. We awoke and rallied. Freddy went off under my control to investigate, and was promptly Ice Bolted. Rectum, damn near killed um! Turns out this was just a distraction for someone else to use to set fire to our boat.
So here we sit, a couple days downriver without a boat. Burned up with most of our supplies and all of the heavier gear that we wouldn't want to carry with us on foot anyways.
New plan: find those rat bastards and make a canoe out of their skins.