The memories of the feasting have blurred into an unpleasant aftertaste, composed three parts bad banjo-playing to one part overindulgence, as we pack our kit in a lighter load and set out over the trail suggested by Fano. We intend to march north, inspect what can be seen of the isle, and circle back.
The path puts us on a north-west course and Martel is happy with this as he wants to circle west. After checking the northern lip of the plateau – disappointing and revealing only a few miles of cloudy peaks – we head south. Red finds a tributary to the stream and we follow this brook to a forest. Red’s guess is that this is the larger of the forests around the main river. Martel wants to go in and lacking a better idea we agree.
We walk under tall canopy, easily pushing through light undergrowth, to what must be near the center of the forest. A vast tree dominates it. Red and ½-Jack have a feeling we are being watched, but we see no-one.
“This is a really big tree. Isn’t it great?” – Carrick
“Hug it. You know you want to.” – ½-Jack the Neutral rogue
“Find an appropriate knothole and show it how you really feel” – Br Gaunt the Lawful Good cleric of Tempus
“Maybe someone can climb this huge tree and have a look around” – Red
“Hmm, I’m the best climber I suppose” – Martel, dubiously, staying well away from Carrick’s knothole range
Martel addresses the trunk and can find no way to get purchase. Mocking sniggers can be heard from the direction of ½-Jack, though to be sure he’s still recovering from the witty sallies levelled at Carrick. Slightly red-faced Martel pulls out a rope and attempts to haul himself up.
Thump! That is the sound of a paladin’s pride hitting the ground.
Now very red-faced, Martel strips off his pack, weaponry and scale armor and straps on proper climbing gear. He tries again, properly this time.
Twoing! Now Martel has the opportunity of seeing the tree from upside down, as he dangles at about Halfling height. ½-Jack can’t take the opportunity to treat him like a child’s swing, because he’s doubled up with laughter. Martel gives up and packs his gear up.
“I see a face in the tree!” – Carrick
“It’s a Treant. Martel’s woken him up tickling his roots like that” – Br Gaunt
“He couldn’t leaf well alone” – Carrick
“We’re rooted now” – Gaunt
Many puns later, Carrick learns from Karib the Treant that the lost city is not in this area – it’s back in the crater. We thank him and assure him we won’t chop trees for fires.
We walk west, check the view from the lip – the same sort of disappointment as on the north lip – and walk south to the river, and camp there.
We are up early with the chill dew, and warm ourselves over a toasty fire of deadfall firewood. Carrying the remainder as bundles we cross the forest spur of the river, and hike over the crater crest and back down to the village Mantru.
Martel seeks a meeting with the village ancient and priest, one Loomat, a devotee of the sun-god (known as Oloron locally). He gifts the firewood, and explains our desire to explore the lake area for ancient ruins.
Loomat proves more interested in our goals than Fano was, and has a quiet word to the chief. Fano now explains the real situation. It seems that out in the mist-shrouded lake, where it cannot be seen, there is an island… a taboo island. And on this taboo island, renegades dwell, and raid the people of Mantru, head-hunting and stealing their children.
Martel assures the chief and priest that the Hammer of Justice and the Flaming Blade of Law will crush the renegades!
We borrow two canoes, practice with them until we are reasonably confident, and using ½-Jack’s compass to keep our course straight, we paddle across. Looming up out of the mist – the island! Strange rocks jut up, seemingly carven but with features near-obliterated by time. Then we see that the near face of the island has been carved into a temple front. Massy columns support the solid rock architrave. Beneath its stereobate, which is pierced by three stepped ascents, crude wooden docks have been fashioned. Two canoes are already moored there. We slide in quietly, and quietly unload and re-don our armor.
½-Jack scouts up the steps to the stylobate and makes his way through the intercolumniation to an outer naos, where a large marble foot and ankle are all that remains of a huge statue. Behind the statue’s plinth a tunnel pierces the dressed cliff. It’s damp from the humidity, but not overgrown.
We assemble outside the tall oblong of the tunnel while ½-Jack scouts within. Returning, he reports that the tunnel has part-collapsed, leaving a one-man gap. He suspects that beyond the gap, hostile ears have picked up our approach!
Preparations for our assault are made: Martel calls Tyr’s Blessing and Divine Favor, and Carrick casts Mage Armor and brings up an illusion of a villager guide, who will walk ahead of Martel. He will be followed by Gaunt, then Carrick with an enchanted arrow, while ½-Jack and Red will provide support.
Martel, heavy crossbow at the ready, steps carefully between the crumbled masonry and looks into a torchlit inner megaron. Huge as it is, an almost obscenely huge carven face covers the far wall, its gaping mouth an inner tunnel. To either side of our entrance, broad shallow steps lead up to mid-wall walkways that run clear round to the opposite face. Almost immediately, waiting renegades stab the illusion with slimed spears, and the battle commences!
Round 1: Martel fires his crossbow at the nearest, who does not fall dead. The paladin steps into the megaron. From behind him Carrick fires an arrow loaded with Sleep, aiming it a short way in front of Martel. The wounded renegade, his opposite at the entrance, and one other fall asleep: that’s cleared the way for now! Gaunt and ½-Jack swiftly file in past Carrick and Martel and kill the nearest two fallen renegades. Red has delayed waiting for something, but he misses his shot as a new, strongly-built renegade charges in from Martel’s left flank and stabs at Gaunt with a mighty, red-tipped spear, missing.
Round 2: The scattered torches around the megaron pick out several other renegades and more arriving along the walkway. A heavy rope dangles from somewhere up the center of the megaron, and children are being shepherded away from the nasty invaders and urged to climb.
Martel steps up to support Gaunt and shoots the powerful renegade , who ignores the bolt and spears Gaunt [10 dropping to 8, but poison to take effect]. Other renegades pour in – at a glance at least ten can be seen! Carrick yanks out his focus orb and heaves a Sleep spell across the megaron at one likely cluster; only one renegade drops. Gaunt brandishes his sword on high and smashes it down on the wounded hero’s skull, felling him. The nearest renegades groan at their champion’s fall but show no sign of fear. Behind Martel and Gaunt, ½-Jack turns right and hurries up the steps to the walkway, stopping crouched beside an arched tunnel of mysterious terror, dagger drawn. Red, who has been delaying and waiting on eventualities, catches up with the paladin and shoots a renegade that looked likely to charge Gaunt .
Round 3: Martel swings back and shoots the same man  and continues to slowly withdraw to the entrance tunnel while reloading. The renegades hesitantly advance: they seem to be trying to make sure the children get clear. A huge chiefly renegade emerges from the tunnel of mysterious terror, a masked priestess just behind him. He bellows orders, swings a club wildly at the Halfling, and ½-Jack’s dagger slides off his stout bone-reinforced hide armor! The priestess throws up her hand and a red ray strikes Red, eliciting a scream of pain  but the Elf drops his bow, draws a scimitar and charges up the steps! Red lunges at the war-chief, taking a slice off his arm . ½-Jack hides behind the Elf.
Below, one of the renegades wakes a sleeping comrade, and more appear along the left-hand walkway, and from the far tunnel. Carrick sound-bursts a knot of them: four drop writhing in mortal agony! Two others stagger, clearly hurt. Gaunt pulls back to link back up with Martel, healing himself as much as he can, and cursing in pain: he suspects the spear was poisoned!
Round 4: Martel targets the nearest wounded renegade, the bolt killing him, and calls on the remainder – still around a dozen – to surrender. A couple of renegades step over the growing pile of bodies near Martel and rush the paladin and cleric, but their spears glance harmlessly off shields. Up on the chiefly walkway the war-chief misses Red and the priestess does nothing – or at least nothing visible. Red draws his second scimitar and it cuts deep into the war-chief’s throat: he staggers, blood spurting; Red stabs him with the other scimitar, and the war-chief falls! [20 between crit and regular hit] ½-Jack immediately leaps the body and stabs the priestess .
Carrick swings his bow up into action, slaying one of the pair his sound-burst hurt. Gaunt, somewhat healed, wounds one of the renegades pressing in on him. He calls on Tempus for a further surge [war-priest], but misses.
Round 5: Martel drops his crossbow, draws his Warhammer, and downs the renegade Gaunt wounded. Three more press in: that’s four renegades trying to down the armored duo. Martel’s defensive abilities stand him in good stead but Gaunt is wounded again and again poison burns through him [fails on Con save with 11]. He calls up a reserve spell to neutralize the poison.
There are few renegades behind those four, and perhaps sensing the battle is not going well, the priestess flees. Carrick sees her running along the walkway and sends Magic Missile bolts into her . Red, deciding he is better attacking the warriors, leaps down athletically and takes the head off one of those advancing mid-megaron. ½-Jack however gives chase to the priestess, and casts a dagger at her, missing.
Round 6: Martel slays one of the four attackers. Two renegades stab at Gaunt, who takes a light wound. Around three other renegades guard the rope, ready to climb. The priestess leaps down from the walkway, and runs towards the far tunnel mouth. But she’s immediately struck by a well-aimed arrow shot by Carrick, and falls choking out her life-blood on the clammy stone.
Back at the megaron entrance, Red rushes back and attacks the rear of the renegade supermen, having immediate success: he kills one outright. ½-Jack runs back down the stair and joins the fight as well. Gaunt, seeing that the pressure is off him, heals himself again.
Round 7: Martel swings but the renegade’s spears are enough to keep them away from a lethal blow. Ignoring Red and the Halfling, the other renegade spears Gaunt again . Carrick sneers in traditional mage fashion “Watch this – it will amuse!” and casts Sleep on two renegades climbing the rope. They fall and duly wake up again. More pragmatically, Red steps sideways and wounds the two renegades facing Martel. ½-Jack seconds him, killing the nearest to Gaunt. Gaunt now has only one unwounded renegade to deal with and kills him with a lethal thrust of his sword. The cleric advances, calls on Tempus, swings at the last renegade and it’s a big miss. Maybe Tempus doesn’t like his clerics to say rude things about Elves?
Round 8: Martel steps and swings in one motion and the last renegade in front of him is broken and dead and the paladin steps on through, this time telling the last four standing that their chance to surrender has lapsed. Two renegades swarm up the rope, while the other two attack Martel, both easily evaded. Carrick advances in support and throws a Sleep, but only one climber falls. Red, scimitars dripping gore, runs to join the fun and kills one of the renegades who had been hurt by falling, earlier. ½-Jack runs up to near range and hurls a dagger at the final rope-climber, hurting him enough to make him fall again. He passes out. Gaunt summons his spirit-sword and makes it cut the rope, presumably to save Martel from making a dick of himself again. The fight is now over, the only doubt being whether Martel kills the final standing renegade.
The end of the fight sees two prisoners taken. “We need information, so we will certainly not kill them,” Martel states.
“Blood for the blood god,” Gaunt retorts.
It’s going to be an interesting discussion.