We started with most of the party at the top of a flight of stairs past the ogre village, near the bottom of a flight of 'stairs' that lead through a hall of statues to a bunch of giants that Noggin warned they should not under any circumstances attempt to fight because they were HUGE.
But that was fine, because a wight who looked awfully like the dead ranger was coming up the first set of stairs, and the plan was to fight him. Shalalu led off with an exchange of arrows which really didn't go well for her, but Elysie charged in to punch, and spell support from June and Ash were close behind.
Kaito, due to terrible timing, was outside the entire cave checking on the original dead body to see if disrupting the necromantic storm ritual might have freed his soul. It hadn't.
Thanks to some truly terrible luck on the part of the wight, they managed to take him down without him being able to hit anyone with his melee attacks, which would have drained levels. But the fight wasn't over yet! The red-haired cultist had been hiding at the bottom of the stairs sniping with spells, and now she was brazenly walking past the party as she tried to escape! And somehow, she was immune to all their attacks! How could this be?
DUH. She was using a project image spell, just like the last time they'd fought her. SIGH. Various people tried to work out where her actual body was, and Kaito (who'd returned in time to miss the fight against the wight) thought he heard that she was up the dangerous set of stairs, so he rushed that way with arms outstretched, trying to give her a hug -- but no luck. He did succeed in waking the giants, who threw a giant boulder at him. Ow.
The stone giants were camoflauged against the stone walls, and their lair was fairly dark, but Elysie spotted one of them and rushed in to attack. June helped her with a massive acid-element fireball, and the red-haired cult leader's image cried out in pain -- she'd been in the area of the fireball!
Knowing which direction she was in, Shalalu and Kaito held up a blanket and ran to break line-of-effect, which ended the spell. Unfortunately, this revealed that she was standing right next to the king of the giants, and had a bunch of mirror images to make it only slightly easier to hurt her than if she was invisible.
While the priest from the village (who'd been healing the party from the giants' boulders, the wight's arrows, and a fireball the king cast) and Phoof called for the party to back off -- all they needed was the ranger's undead body, and they had it now! -- Kaito and Elysie charged up to fight the cult leader anyway. They weren't letting her get away again!
Elyssie punched her, and managed to stun her for a round with a stunning fist! The king of the giants tried to beat down her and Kaito with his giant hammer, but they both endured. Just as the cult leader was recovering from her stun and was about to teleport away, Elyssie stunned her again! She never managed to recover from *that* stun.
Note that something like 90% of the damage to her was from Elyssie's punching -- all of which was also reflected back onto her from a cheaty spell the leader had running. Kaito never managed to pick the correct image, and for the most part even missed the images entirely, so his main contribution to the fight was getting targeted by the King Giant enough to let Elyssie stay in the fight despite the reflected damage.
Once she was down, surely it was time to retreat? Well... there was this Giant King who threw massive boulders and no one could really take another hit from him, so the only hope was to swarm him and hope to take him down quickly. They didn't quite manage that, but between the priest's continued healing and the swarm tactics distracting some of his attacks to mostly-unhurt targets, they did manage to outlast him and take him out eventually.
Then it was time for LOOT DRAMA.
Part 1: Shalalu and Kaito both wanted the wight's icy-burst longbow. Other people in the party wanted to sell it (or in Ash's case, keep it as a trophy) because it was *really expensive*. Fortunately, it turned out that it had something like a 500lb draw and neither of them could actually use it... and Phoof pointed out that it belonged to the Ranger whose dead body they were taking to the Nymph for resurrection. Maybe he'd want it back?
Part 2: The priest wanted a 'donation to his temple' in return for his services. The initial reaction was "HELL NO" and he almost stomped off in anger before people talked it over and most of them (except Ash) agreed that he had done a lot during the fight and maybe he should get a share. Not a *large* share because he wasn't really one of them, but still... Ash's argument was that this entire mission was basically a favor for his town and that he should be paying them. He seemed willing to accept payment in the form of them spending a day or two worshipping at his church and getting preached at.
Party infighting averted for the moment, they turned to leave the cave.
Kaito: "How long will those Black Tentacles you cast keep the village penned up?"
June: "Like... a minute? They were probably gone before we started fighting the wight."
Entire Village of Ogres: "Hi there!"
Ash: "Phoof! I choose you!"
Phoof: "What? I don't know what to say..."
Kaito: "Do you want me to try intimidation instead?"
Phoof diplomacied at the ogres, which turned out to be really easy because killing the Giant King had freed them from their bondage. Ash and Altei wanted to somehow work this into recruiting the ogres as their private army ("Actually, you're our slaves now.") but no one really made a serious attempt to do that, and the two groups basically agreed to leave the area peacefully.
They did tell the party why they'd been enslaved -- it was to make weapons for an attack on Sandpoint, involving a bunch of troops of unknown type and a dragon, which was probably still going to happen because yet another Cult Leader was behind it -- the Sihedron Cult was led by 'The Seven' after all, and they'd only taken down two or maybe three if the guy from the mill counted, but he probably didn't.
After that, it was just tying up some loose ends. A detachment of soldiers from Magnimar was there to reinforce the fort, and they'd brought some prison labor with them to help rebuild it. From the way they were described, the party was maybe supposed to care about the prisoners? But with all the major threats in the area under control, it didn't seem like an unreasonable use of prison labor.
They returned to the haunted swamp with the ranger's body, and the head of the wight, and somehow by combining the two, the corrupted ghost dryad was able to reincarnate him... as a giant bear. Who spoke bear. Then she passed on to the afterlife, separating herself from her love eternally. Maybe she hadn't thought her cunning plan all the way through.
Phoof turned into a bear herself to talk with the ranger, and he told her that he was planning to stay and guard the swamp in the dryad's stead, to make up for his failure.
Ash: "So he won't be wanting his bow back, then?"
Kaito: "Apparently not."
Unfortunately for the party treasury, Phoof and Altei decided that the bow belonged to the Black Arrow Rangers as a whole and snuck off to give it to the (two) remaining rangers at the fort. Ash was... not happy.
Ash: "You're dead to me."
Kaito: "Is there anyone in the party who isn't dead to you at this point?"
Ash: "...June's okay."
June: "We're fireball buddies."
Ash: "Same hat!"
At any rate, it was FINALLY time to head back to Magnimar, and from there to Sandpoint, hopefully in time to fight off the dragon that was otherwise going to raze it to the ground in search of... whatever the cult thought was buried there.
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