The party tried to rest up after their fishing trip to the sunken casino. They gave the giant fish to a local restaurant to prepare as a feast for the town, and were planning on deciding where to go next afterwards. But while hanging around as sneaky foxes and stealing some of the tastier bits of the discarded fish guts, the kitsune in the party heard a local fisherman complaining that two of his friends had gone up the river to fish and hadn't returned, and he wanted help finding them.
No one in the town would help look because they all considered going up the river suicidal since no one ever came back -- what the heck had those two been thinking? The party was suicidal enough to take a quick look, though, although they weren't going to go far before resting since June was still hurt and Val's spells were all set up for underwater adventures, not traipsing around in the woods. There was a bridge a few miles upstream that seemed like a good landmark as how far to go before stopping. Phoof could talk to trees, so she could ask about the fishermen.
When they got there, though, some of them heard a faint howling, like a pack of wolves on the hunt. Phoof and Noggin's valet crossed the bridge to try to hear what was going on better, and a few others (Altei, Kaito, June, Elsie) followed to protect them while the rest of them stayed on the bridge wondering why they were all being so stupid.
In the forest on the far side, Phoof and Altei found an injured firepaint cougar trapped in a bear trap, and started working to free it since it seemed tame -- maybe one of the missing rangers' companions? While they were doing that, a pack of hunting dogs appeared, howling for blood!
Elsie ran up to fight them, although June caught most of them in a web spell so she didn't have to fight all of them at once. Some of them broke free of the web and circled around to the beach, which Kaito was still guarding, and he charged to intercept them, only to spot a massive, deformed ogre screaming and whining about the party attacking his dogs.
It turns out, Shalalu really hates ogres, and Kaito wasn't especially fond of 'hunters' setting packs of dogs on them. It tried to run away, and Kaito paced it trying to intimidate it into talking, mostly unsuccessfully.
"Mammy will be so mad if I tell!"
Then Altei leapt out of nowhere and killed it, and after looting its magic spear and belt of strength, he led them back to Phoof who was already following the cougar deeper into the woods.
The cougar led them to a little hidden farm, with a barn and a cabin and a neglected cornfield, guarded by another deformed ogre. The two kitsune (as foxes) and Altei decided to sneak in and scout. They got around to the barn -- which didn't have a back door, to their surprise -- and tried to peek through cracks in the walls, but mostly just saw spiderwebs.
Ash: "That's it. We're burning it down."
Altei: "What if there's prisoners inside?"
Kaito: "If we burn her stepfather alive, Shalalu will kill us."
Clearing away the webs near the crack with a prestidigitation spell so that they could look further in revealed that, yes, the entire barn was full of webs, and there was a giant spider-ogre... but there were also some cages and shackles, so the notion of prisoners being kept there was unfortunately too realistic to actually set the barn on fire, although it took some debate (and Phoof joining them to ask what was taking so long) before they agreed on that.
Meanwhile, however, Noggin had gotten out of his box and flew up to the ogre on guard.
Noggin: "Hello there good sir!"
Ogre: "Ahh! Intruders! Intruders! Mammy!"
The ogre also stabbed him and despite being an admantium skull, it almost managed to shatter him, so he flew off back to his valet, who had a wand of mending. Elsie and Shalalu ran in to attack the ogre, soon joined by Altei and Kaito from behind.
Then the barn doors opened, and out rushed three more ogres, who started beating on Kaito and Elsie. June, seeing the party swarmed, turned back around (he'd been following Noggin, like he always did by default) to try to help... but it turned out the new ogres were weak, and thanks to Phoof's buffs (haste and inspire courage) the melee fighting types were able to slaughter them all almost instantaneously.
So, time to face down this spider-ogre.
...which was sort of an anticlimax. Kaito threw open the doors to the barn's inner sanctum (why did a barn have a back room?) and the Spider-Ogre rushed to attack! He dodged its first blow, stabbed it in return, followed by Ash and Elsie and then a scorching ray from June that hit it JUST right to explode its head.
Unfortunately, exploding its head set the barn on fire, and there were prisoners in the back! Altei and Kaito made their way through the webs and started opening locks (in Kaito's case, by chopping them in half with his admantium rapier), but even after the people were free, how were they going to drag them out through all the burning webs?
The answer, of course, was to summon Elsie to punch through the back wall. She loved punching through walls.
So they rescued the three rangers -- one of whom was, in fact, the cougar's companion, and another was Shalalu's stepfather -- and decided to take a look at the house.
The first look involved Kaito stepping on the porch and triggering a trap which tried to slice him into pieces with spinning saw blades. This led to a new plan -- they'd take the rangers back to town, have a fish feast, and then come back to the spooky little cabin in the woods in the morning.
So that's basically what they did. Ash and Elsie sat vigil over the rangers while they rested after the priest saw to their wounds, and were able to get a little more of the story from them -- they'd been out on patrol, only to get back to find their fort overrun by 'ogre-kin'. Trying to retake it had not worked, and they'd run off into the woods to try to escape, but had been hunted down and captured. They didn't know anything about the cult, supposedly... although one of them had a seven-pointed star tatoo that Ash carefully did not ask about.
The next day, around noon (to give Kaito and a few others time to work through their hangovers) they headed back to the cabin. The cabin was FULL of traps -- the sawblades on the porch, a pit trap underneath a bearskin rug, scythes rigged to sweep down when you walked through certain doors -- but they were more careful this time and managed to avoid most of them. Then Elsie (who'd run off on her own again) opened a door and...
And we stopped there, because it was getting late in the day to start another combat.