Into the Stoat's Den
Note: this summary begins in media res. During the section of combat skipped, there was lots of fighting and one group of bandits covered their retreat by starting a fire in the warehouse, consuming barrels of whiskey in a line across the floor.
[Tuesday, late afternoon]
Lenora sized up the wreckage around them between deep breaths as she stepped back towards the horrid noises in the galley. The bandits and thugs had no leadership to speak of, and had fallen back in disarray almost as soon as the fight started. Lt Grennec and Sgt Melia chose a good fighting position and fought fiercely, but had been outflanked by Shard. Lenora's team had been outflanked, too – twice – but Terciel had spun on his heel and dropped the flankers before they could drive a wedge between the two halves of the group. Darg had stayed close and kept them patched up when it got hairy, and now came Lenora's favorite part of battle: cleanup. Shard was slipping from crate to crate with his crossbow out, and the few bandits left in this room had no idea he was there… he had this locked down; time to help the others. She nudged Darg and they jogged back towards the stairs, weapons at the ready, and found the source of the horrid noise: it was Rache.
She was standing there, hands out in a gesture of… peace? And making the most horrid noises Lenora had ever heard. But the ogre appeared to be listening, and then growl-howl-grunting some sort of reply. It sounded like a conversation between two rabid bears being crushed in a landslide, but it was definitely conversation. Rache pursed her lips, looked over her shoulder, and said "Thea, everyone, wait. He's… he's going to stop fighting."
There was some smoke coming from the training room, and just as things started to quiet down, the door that the sentry had been guarding opened up. A voice called out "hey, did you kill them a-" and then Tarin stumbled into the light, mouth working open and shut like a trout. Dagog's club was hanging limp at his side, and they were trying to talk to it, and… Tarin cursed loudly and profusely and set out at a dead run towards the kitchen. He hollered to the remaining survivors to get the warehouse door open and slipped out towards the kitchen like a weasel on fire.
Everyone bolted for the door after him pretty much in the same instant. The tales of his previous escapes had a galvanizing effect on Bree, who leaped through the door heedless of the danger. Thea came after him with her axe out; Lenora waded in with her flail at the ready. Rache gurgled something hideous and throat-mangling at Dagog, and he roared and shouldered his club, stomping into the room behind the faster, smaller combatants. Pinned against one wall of the kitchen, Tarin stomped on insteps, gouged eyes, and kicked shins to get an opening. Stumbling over a painful blow to the shoulder from Thea's axe, he staggered to the south wall of the kitchen, hopped up on a pair of small crates, and grabbed a crane hanging from a long iron rail bolted to the ceiling. "The door, get the door," he hollered, and two of his thugs headed that way to try to make an escape of it. Dagog swung his greatclub, throwing timbers and wreckage from the dining table everywhere, and knocking the only other brigand down in a daze. Bree made a scooping gesture and then a strange pinching motion, and splinters assembled themselves into a fist, tightly gripping the rail next to the crane. For good measure, she flung a hissing mote of energy through the air, trying to blast apart the wheels and bearings holding it together.
Terciel looked into the kitchen and flinched when he saw the table smashed to splinters. He looked over his left shoulder and saw the top of a stack of crates through the tiny slit window, then looked back at Tarin getting ready to take the crane-rail-express into that very same room. How convenient! Terciel stepped through space and appeared atop the crates, pulled a pair of arrows out, and went after the two bandits, one who had already begun opening the long barn door, and the other coming up behind Shard. A kill! ...and a miss. Rats. He reached for more arrows blindly, keeping his eyes on Shard. The tiefling slithered in close, slicing the spooked villain's throat as he gaped around looking for the archer. Terciel noticed Rache flanking around the stairway – with Terciel on the high ground and Rache in his way, Tarin would not be leaving through that exit – and so he hollered to Shard: "The door, get the door!" Shard pulled the warehouse door back closed and began working on the chains and locks. Rache's last words to Dagog had been quite convincing – he tugged and strained trying to pull the iron crane rail off the ceiling.
Tarin's crane awkwardly trundled through the room, and he yanked his knees up dodging blasts of radiant light ("damned dwarf!"), sizzling black energy ("she's pretty ka-HEY!") and thick great-axe blades whistling past ("Yeeeesh!"). The splinters fell away over his hands,the crane made an unpleasant groaning noise, and Tarin the Stoat left the room far more slowly than he'd intended to. His only remaining companion counted the party's weapons, saw Tarin retreating, and did some quick mental arithmetic before leaping after Tarin to secure a ride on his legs. He missed and flopped awkwardly on the ground next to the flaming whiskey barrels.
Lenora shouted "cut him off!" and Thea put her head down and charged, hurtling past Tarin with her axe out, throwing herself off the ledge and setting herself directly in his path. She spun on her heel to see him slowly rumbling along the track, dropped her axe, and tried to leap up and grab his ankles to slow him down. He pulled away just in time, and Thea landed face-to-face with Steve, who had also been trying to grab Tarin's legs. An opportunity to curry favor with the boss! Steve swooped in and picked up Thea's opportunistic greataxe,took a big heavy swing, and buried the head in her scale armor. He westled with it for a moment, got it loose, and raised it to defend himself. Thea sized him up calmly and pulled out her backup axe,switched up her grip to be sure of the weight, and took him apart – the forehand swing took his wrists off, she snatched her own axe out of the air (letting the hands drop away on their own) and took his head and legs off with the backswings.
Tarin continued to roll further down the line, hands stinging from the repeated blasts of magical energy throwing steel shavings into his knuckles… this crane was not going to last much longer. Shard waited in the shadows behind the crates; Lenora and Darg headed for the ledge to give chase; Terciel pulled the arrow back to his cheek, then he turned his head and whispered a word to the bowstring. He sighted down the arrow again, relaxed, and let a pair of arrows sail towards Tarin. The first whistled past, but the second hit him in the shoulder with a thunderclap, and as Thea glanced up to get a bearing on him, she saw him tumbling head over heels. Tarin barely landed on his feet and staggered into a half-assed fighting stance. "Ten shares of treasure," he offered, "I'll take three and you can each have one. I owe you that much for getting rid of my buyers before they got to be a pain in the ass!"
Shard and Lenora moved in to surround him in a pincer movement. In a panic, he jabbed his fingers into Lenora's eyes and spun to sweep Shard's legs out from under him. Ordinarily this would be a great opportunity to bury the knife and finish someone, but Tarin had become quite a savvy businessman recently, and he knew that 7 minus 2 still left him Way Outnumbered with no nearby doorway. He fled.
Thea looked across the room, up at Terciel, and over the flames at Rache and decided her best bet was to cut off his escape – or anything else she could get her axe into. She sailed over the whiskey barrels, turned the corner, and waited for Tarin in the narrow space between the crates and the wall. Bree looked around at the chaos, shouted "I love you guys!" and leaped over the flames herself to join the fray.
Everything began to collapse into chaos – Shard stood up and took a shot at Tarin as Lenora weaved blindly across his line of fire. Terciel clambered across the crates to get to a better position and ended up firing two arrows nearly straight down at Tarin, both plunging deep into his flesh. He staggered back, coughing blood, and offered fifteen shares of the treasure – two to each party member and one for himself. Thea edged closer and swung her axe – another vicious hit, and he reeled, begging them to let him take his letters and flee before his employer found him out. Shard closed in and struck him in the neck, plunging the dagger deep before he could sweeten his offer any further, and the party set about the unglamorous work of cleanup.
Putting out the whiskey-barrel fires was simple enough for a pair of tieflings; extinguishing the fire in the training room was a little harder. Rache kept Dagog placated and had something resembling a conversation with him, at which point the party set about tallying up the spoils in the warehouse. The most interesting items were Tarin's papers, which seemed to indicate that not everything was quite what it had seemed. The party set about discussing what to do with the warehouse, the loot, the piles of iron, and the spare ogre.
Tarin "the Stoat." Rest in Pieces.