When last we left our intrepid adventurers, it was a surprise to no one that Orchid - a founding member of the adventuring company and Hildy's beloved former employer - was "The Hag" that had been tormenting the Keep's residents for nigh on three months.
The group stood atop the Keep's gatehouse and steeled themselves as The Hag Formerly Known as Orchid rapidly approached on her flying broom, cackling maniacally enough to put Magaret Hamilton to shame. They had prepared as well as they could for the imminent attack, and all able-bodied men and women were manning the Keep's defenses, as the Curate and Brother Zogustus stood guard in the Chapel over those residents who were unable to fight.
On the grounds around the outer walls of the Keep, figures moved in the moonlight: the Hag's animated minions - skeletons, zombies, ghouls, and wights - rushing forward to smash against the worn battlements like a silent wave of shadowy death.
As the PCs readied themselves for the coming onslaught (fighters readied their swords, clerics prayed to their gods, and magic users prepped their spells), The Hag flew close, pointed a finger at Brother Zogtavius, and spewed a bilious curse. A sickly green ray extended from her finger and touched his breast. He clutched his chest and blanched, then fell dead to the earthen inner courtyard below!
At this point, I don't know what the reaction of the characters was, but that of the players was decidedly one of disbelief. "He's dead? Dead dead?" They'd lost many PCs and NPCs in this campaign, but none that had reached more than second level. I don't think they expected me to let one of these established characters die so abruptly. But, hey, I told them when we started the campaign that I wasn't going to pull any punches as Dungeon Master.
"Yep," was my answer. "'Dead' dead. Now what will you do?"
After a few moments of disbelief, confusion, and panic, it was decided that one of the PCs would run to fetch Brother Zogustus to see what he could do for his fallen master-clone, while the other PC and their NPCs would lay down a ton of hurt on Hag Formerly Known as Orchid for what she'd just done to their favorite zealot. (It should be pointed out that it was a little unnerving how quickly everybody forgot that The Hag was really poor, possessed Orchid once first blood was drawn!)
Then, as if to add insult to injury to the panicked defenders of the Keep, a roar sounded out from the skies above - followed by a rain of acid the laid low many of the men at arms. The PCs were still reeling from the loss of their spiritual leader when a black dragon descended from the moonlit skies above...
[To be continued...]
. . . . .