While Cromweld shuts himself in his caravan, wallowing in xenophobic despair, the rest of the group decides it’s time to strike back against the wolves. They gather in the war tent and start planning.
According to Ignace’ reports, the werewolves territories lie too far away to launch an assault in one day. They decide to establish a new base of operation closer to their target, and keep scouting from there.
The PC’s travel along the edge of the woods, and set up camp halfway between Deadgoblin and the werewolf territory. They have taken Ignace with them, as well as five of the original Purple Dragons. They start cutting trees to set up a quick and dirty palisade around the camp.
Shortly after they arrive, a cloaked figure walks up to the group, accompanied by a huge black dog. It is Aran Beyron, a druid from the Hullack. He says he came to Deadgoblin to aid with the Tilverton plague, but reports of the werewolves’ activities compelled him to help. Not eager to turn away an ally, the party welcomes the stranger.
Horst and Ignace scout ahead of the camp. A few hours away they see two long poles rise from the ground, with the skin of a small humanoid spread out between them. On the hide is painted a red circle, and Ignace concludes it must be a territorial marker.
They report back to base, and the group decides to venture into the forest the next morning. They set up a guard rotation and go to bed, while Aran goes into the forest to sleep.
The next day it starts raining, and they trek into the forest looking for wolves. They pass the marker and encounter a few lone hunters, but they all die or flee before any information can be extracted. After a few hours of searching, they encounter three orcs sitting around a fire, and a wolf by one of their legs. The orcs leap for their weapons, but the fight is over before any of them can fight back. The wolf flees into the bushes, and the PCs run after it. They chase the beast through the woods until it disappears at the foot of a small hill.
After examining the hillside, they find a cave entrance in the undergrowth. It is too small for a human to stand upright, so they send Horst and Cromweld in to look. The halflings examine the cave, and Horsts keen ears tell him there are goblins in a corridor to the left. He also hears the faint tapping of rain ahead (natural 20 on his Listen check), and they deduce the cave must have an exit further up on the hill.
Not keen on fighting goblins on their own, the halflings leave the cave and report back to the group. They discuss plans of action. If the goblin caves lead to the hills, the werewolves must have a base of operations further up. Terjon casts detect magic, and senses a transmutive aura on top of a flat in the hillside. Unfortunately, the aura is way too far up to see anything. The hillside is too steep for the armored soldiers to climb, so they start circling the hill to find safer path up.
On the northeast side of the caves, the hillside evens with the forest floor, and Ignace and Horst help the rest climb the slope. The terrain evens on top of a flat plain in the hillside, but the slope continues up to the top, and they decide to climb it all the way.
The top of the hill is still below the tree border, but the group can see smoke rising from a nearby clearing. They send Horst and Ignace to scout ahead. In the clearing they can see a few huts and tents, and a giant construction of twigs and branches, separating into two arms reaching upwards. The wolves have hanged offerings of meat and skin from the idol, and between the arms it is topped with the skull of a great stag, giving it a vaguely humanoid appearance. Orcs walk around it scattering powdered silver on the ground, and they can see a bald headed orc dressed in skins and branches, anointing the earth in unholy water. The ground is strewn with the corpses of various humanoids.
The group decides to launch an ambush immediately, perhaps stopping the ritual and eliminating the leader before the wolves can fight back. They charge into the clearing in time to see the priest desecrate the ground and awakening the corpses.
They chop down a few orcs before Aran casts entangle and roots the priest and the undead to the ground. The orcs turn to wolves and charge the PCs while the corpses thrash against the roots holding them down.
Horst crushes some dead heads, Log stabs the priest in the lungs, and Cromweld sets the meat covered wicker man on fire. Terjon reinforce the group with spells while the purple dragons swap blows with the werewolves. A wolf tears out the throat of one of the soldiers, and another manage to escape, but soon the cormyreans are the only ones standing. The wicker man falls to the ground and hurls cinders in all directions as it gets smashed on the ground.
Terjon casts gentle repose on Bran, the fallen soldier. The fight has taken its toll on the group, and they decide to camp out on the hilltop for the night. They get comfortable in the huts while Arans dog Garm stands guard.
They awake in the middle of the night by the sound of barking. Outside the tents they see three gnolls holding Garm back with wooden spears, while a fourth yells at them in a strange language.
The gnolls leap at the PCs, giving Garm the chance to pull one of them to the ground by its ankle. The PCs butcher three of the gnolls, but a fourth turns into a wolf and runs for the bushes. After a short chase they lose it between the trees. Aran calls down a few lightning bolts it the wolf’s direction, and after searching the undergrowth for a few minutes they find the beast’s charred corpse.
They don their armor, strap on their packs, and two of the surviving soldiers put Bran’s corpse on an improvised stretcher.
The group marches through the woods in the direction of whatever the werewolf was fleeing towards. Suddenly, the ground gives way and they can see down a thirty foot dive onto the flat area they ignored on their way up. A narrow path winds its way down between the rocks along the hillside.
The area below is sparsely grown, and contains half a dozen clay huts and lean-tos. A larger hut is set into the side of the cliff, with a huge figure standing guard outside it. It looks like an enormous humanoid made of orc, gnoll and ogre flesh, sewn together with strips of leather. It stands perfectly still, rain running down its snout and soaking its scattered patches of fur.
The group sneaks one at a time down the path, trying to hide from the creature. They position themselves in the bushes next to the huts, and the more keen eared of them hear snoring coming from inside.
Storm clouds gather above the hill as Aran calls lightning down on one of the huts. A loud yelp erupts from inside, and a huge frothing wolf leaps from the burning wreckage.
The flesh construct turns around and enters its hut. A few seconds later, a hawk flies out of the hut, with the construct stampeding after it.
Gnolls start running out of the huts and lean-tos, while the construct charges down the hillside. Cromweld burns the gnolls while the rest of the group waves their swords around, and Aran starts calling forth large bears from beneath the earth to join the battle.
The hawk circles the battlefield and lets out a cry, calling bolts of lightning down on the PCs. Aran answers in kind, and electricity crackles around the bird as it loses its balance mid flight.
Most of the gnolls are down when the construct crash into the PCs. Horst jumps up on a lean-to and looks the creature straight in the eyes, before almost breaking his hand in half against its jaws.
Cromweld suddenly remembers an interesting fact about golems, and hurls a fire evocation at it to slow it down. The golem’s movement becomes sluggish and uncoordinated, and Horst manage to avoid its blows well enough to stay alive.
The bears maul the remaining gnolls, while the group swarms the golem. Aran hurls his last lightning bolt at the hawk, which turns to flee. He takes the shape of an eagle and pursues it.
The hawk lands and takes the shape of a gnoll, running through the forest with Aran on its heels. All of a sudden Aran feels an uncontrollable anger build up inside him, and at the same time the gnoll turns around and snarls. Consumed with rage the gnoll leaps at him, but Aran batters its skull open with his staff.
Meanwhile, the group has almost made the golem fall apart. It very nearly rips Horst in half before Terjon can heal him. Burning from Cromwelds firebombs, its head dangling sideways and patches of skin hanging loose, the PCs can see a framework of stone and wood showing where the golems flesh has been ripped open. With a loud crack the golems granite spine breaks, and it crumples to a smoldering heap.
DMs note: Notice how elegantly my players circumvented the entire cavern, leading to my combat encounters being fought in reverse order. Please don’t accuse me of railroading again.
DM other note: That first wolf in the gnoll camp was actually a boss NPC, with barbarian levels and a flaming sword and everything. A good damage roll and a poor will save turned him into just another wolf before he could even get out of bed. Serves me right for letting the druid exploit the weather.