The party spends the night in Lowerton, and sets out early the next morning. They walk a few hours west of Gatetown, leaving the city just barely in sight, and piece together a plan to traverse the Great Ridge. Cham casts a Solipsism spell, creating a huge magical set of illusionary stairs that wind all the way to the top of the Ridge. He informs the party that the stairs will be real for whoever has faith and truly believes the stairs exist. The party members each take turns testing their strength of belief, but to Cham’s disappointment all of them fail to tread the stairs. With only the cleric able to climb the stairs, the rest of the group uses a combination of the Boots of Levitation, and a Potion of Flying to magically reach the Ma’Rook Plateau above.
Though they are very distant from the city, the party is apparently spotted, and two demons fly out of Gatetown and attack the party. They are eyewings – dark, hairy creatures that sport bulbous bodies with one large eye and leathery bat-like wings. Cham casts a powerful Protection from Evil spell that spreads across the entire group, making a magical barrier the demons cannot cross. Unfortunately, the eyewings are content to rain huge acidic tears down on the party from above that explode on impact. Swashy and Barlongren pull out their bows, and Myx unleashes a Magic Missile spell. One of the demons quickly drops from the sky, and the other goes speeding back towards the city. Before it gets out of range, Cham picks off the fleeing demon with a well-placed sling stone.
The party proceeds back across the plains of the Ma’Rook Plateau and approaches Gatetown. They wait outside the walls until night falls, hiding in a copse of trees about a hundred yards out from the city gates, which stand ominously closed. Observing from a distance, the party sees a number of winged demons, which Cham vaguely recalls as ‘spinagons’, patrolling the skies of the city, occasionally diving down into the streets. The demons sometimes alight on the towering city walls, but they seem much more intent on what’s going on inside the city than outside of it. This gives the party hope that there are survivors inside the city, as the demons seem to be scouring the streets for them.
Swashy applies some Dust of Disappearance to turn invisible and dons the Gauntlets of Swimming and Climbing. The rogue regretfully takes Tortette out of her pack and hands the baby tortle over to Myx, who promises to watch over Swashy’s charge with the utmost care. The swashbuckler approaches the city unseen, and carefully climbs the city walls. As she nears the top of the walls, a spinagon lands on one of the ramparts just above her, but the thief is able to silently creep along the wall to avoid the demon.
She makes it over the ramparts and onto the top of the wall, where she has a view of the city below. She can see more demons wandering the streets of the city, but she sees little signs of other life. A window breaks in a building near the wall, and Swashy sees someone struggling to climb out of the window, but they are dragged back inside. Shortly thereafter, she sees a human woman in the arms of a number of dretches, a common lesser demon, dragged out of the building and through the streets of the city, though the rogue does not know where the demons are taking her.
The swashbuckler silently approaches the gatehouse standing next to the city’s gates. A dretch stands guard outside the entrance, and Swashy silently sneaks up and assassinates the demon. The strike is so well-placed that her Nine Lives Stealer activates and sucks the life right out of the demon. The rogue grunts in frustration at the wasted usage of the sabre’s power. Swashy tries the door to the gatehouse, but finds it locked. Her lockpicking skills fail her as she fiddles helplessly with the door. Suddenly, the door opens and two dretches gasp in surprise at their dead comrade.
Swashy tumbles by the demons to get inside the gatehouse and begin searching for the mechanism to open the gates. The dretches feel her push by and realize there is an invisible intruder. One turns to chase after her while the other steps out onto the city walls, waving and shouting to the winged demons in the skies above. With more demons closing in, Swashy abandons stealth and begins running through the gatehouse. A winged demon, a spinagon, joins the hunt, and with the spinagon and one of the dretches on her tail she rushes down a set of stairs and finds a heavy, pronged wheel that appears to open the gates.
The swashbuckler throws down a card from her Deck of Illusions and a medusa appears. The dretch turns the corner and locks eyes with the illusionary medusa. The lesser demon freezes in place, believing it has been turned to stone. Swashy cranks the wheel and outside the gatehouse, one of the heavy wooden gates swings open. The rest of the party breaks from the tree line and sprints towards the open gate. Inside the gatehouse, the spinagon arrives as the wheel finishes turning. The winged demon is not fooled by the illusionary medusa and it rushes down the stairs, slashing with its claws at the spot where Swashy just stood in front of the gate mechanism.
Outside the party is spotted by a number of spinagons patrolling the city walls and a few of the beasts fly out to attack the party. Barlongren flies into a battle rage, and the group is able to quickly fight off the demons and continue towards the city gates. Back inside the gatehouse, the winged demon realizes the invisible intruder has escaped its grasp, and, rather than hunt for the unseen assailant, the spinagon turns and cranks the wheel, shutting the gates just as Barlongren, Cham, and Myx arrive at the city walls.
Swashy takes the opportunity to backstab the distracted demon, and after a few more blows the spinagon lies dead on the stone floor. Outside, Barlongren, Cham, and Myx desperately push at the heavy gates that have just closed in front of them. They marvel in disbelief at their own strength as Swashy cranks the heavy wheel inside the gate house again and the gates swing open. The trio rushes into the city to find a pack of demons headed straight for them. A number of dretches run alongside several lemures – at least ten demons in all.
Fortunately, the lesser demons are no match for the hardened adventurers in combat, but the party is dismayed to find the dretches explode in a poisonous gas cloud when killed, and the lemures do not stay dead. The oozing puddles of flesh regenerate instantly no matter how much they are hacked apart. Cham pulls out a small supply of holy water and finds that it suppresses the demons’ regenerative powers. Swashy rains down arrows from the gatehouse, while Barlongren tears into the demons in a whirlwind of rage. Myx unleashes a sizzling lightning bolt, and soon the pack of demons is defeated.
However, several more dretches arrive, this time led by two slaad, strange, demonic frog-like creatures. The slaad belt out a magical, skull-rattling croak that reverberates through every inch of the party’s bodies. The magical sound seems to send their bodies into a shaking seizure, leaving them paralyzed. Cham is the only one able to shake off this effect, and he continues bravely fighting against the tide of demons. Two spinagons arrive and pick up the paralyzed Barlongren and Myx, flying them away to somewhere in the city, while the remaining demons encircle Cham, tearing away at him with their claws. Swashy still remains invisible from the Dust of Disappearance, and she goes unnoticed by the demons below while she is paralyzed in the gatehouse.
Fortunately, Cham is the most well-armored member of the party, and between his magical shield and his thick suit of plate armor, the cleric is able to fend off the demons’ attacks for quite a while. Eventually one of the slaad breaks through his defenses with its claws, and Cham is horrified to see the white, leathery shell of an egg seep into the wound and disappear from sight. The cleric continues to fend off attacks as he pulls out one of the two remaining fruits from the tree of life the party acquired in the Ben Duragh. Enough time has passed that the party members can benefit from its effects again, and Cham desperately downs the magical fruit. He sees the egg that had seeped into his skin earlier emerge from his wound as it is forced from his body. The egg turns black and shrivels up as it falls to the ground. Unfortunately, this is the only effect the fruit has, and the cleric’s numerous wounds are not healed.
The odds look pretty slim for Cham’s survival, and the cleric makes a last desperate lunge to rush to a doorway in a nearby building. He makes his last stand there, able to force the demons to at least only come at him two at a time. The two slaad eagerly step forward and continue tearing away at the priest. Cham tries to cast a healing spell on himself, but the demons’ attacks disrupt his attempts. With his last ounce of strength he tries one more time to call on Pharsma’s power to heal his numerous grievous wounds.
Back in the gatehouse, the effect of the slaad’s magical croak eventually wears off, and Swashy regains control of her body. Seeing the dire situation Cham is in, the rogue rushes out of the gatehouse towards the melee. Still invisible, the swashbuckler creeps forward the last several feet to position herself behind Cham’s attackers. The slaad are intently focused on bringing down the heavily armored cleric, and they never have a chance to notice the invisible thief sneaking up behind them.
Swashy delivers a devastating backstab attack and brings down one of the slaad. This creates an opening just in time for Cham’s last attempt to cast a healing spell, which finally succeeds. Rejuvenated, the cleric stands side by side with the swashbuckler as they finally take down the last remaining slaad. They begin hacking into the weak-willed dretches with reckless abandon, and it takes only moments for the lesser demons to break and flee before the onslaught.
He is unable to see his companion, but Cham knows she’s there, and the cleric thanks Swashy for coming to his aid. The building they made their last stand in looks ransacked and abandoned, and there appears to be no one living left inside. With the cries of demons continuing in the distance, they’re not sure it’s the best place to stay. What’s worse, during the fight the other slaad was able to deliver a claw attack on Cham which implanted a new demonic egg into his body. The priest shudders to think what will come of it.
Meanwhile, Barlongren and Myx are flown through the city by the two winged demons a short distance, before they touch down outside a thick, stone-walled building. The two are rushed inside, still paralyzed, and a number of dretches hurriedly strip them of their belongings and slap a pair of manacles on each of them. Everything they own is tossed in a far corner of the room, and the two are shoved into a cell.
The building appears to be some kind of jailhouse, as there are a number of cells on the ground floor. The cells are all packed near to bursting with huddled human forms. The prisoners look dirty and barely cared for, if at all. Their eyes all carry a stark look of horrific disbelief.
The paralyzing effect of the slaad’s croak wears off just as the bars of the cell slam shut. Barlongren comes to in a rage, and his enormous corded muscles burst as he snaps the chain on his manacles with his bare hands. The winged demon that delivered the barbarian to the cell chuckles at the display, saying in broken common, “Nice, but you still die.” The spinagon then heads out of the building, leaving a few dretches to watch over the prisoners. Myx somehow finds a weak spot in the chain on her manacles and shockingly manages to break her own bonds.
Barlongren is not satisfied with just breaking his manacles, and he grips the bars of the prison in his hands. The barbarian is gifted with unique strength, but even he can’t get the bars to budge. Nonetheless, his display seems to concern one of the dretches who waddles forward to flap a clawed hand at Barlongren, muttering and gesturing for the barbarian to step back from the bars.
Barlongren turns his anger towards the dretch, who has stepped much too close to the cell. The barbarian lashes out with a muscled arm, slamming his fist straight into the face of the surprised demon. The dretch’s head caves in under Barlongren’s immense strength, and as it dies the demon’s body explodes in an acidic cloud. The other prisoners cower away from the eruption, while the remaining dretches in the jailhouse warily back away from the barbarian as well. Despite the display, Barlongren, along with Myx, is still left stranded in the prison cell, unable to escape. With nothing left to direct his fury at, Barlongren is left to only glare angrily at his captors.