Arian had barely registered the kenku behind the door when Xarius loosed a firebolt, singing a few of the creature’s feathers. But the next few moments passed in a blur – the ravenfolk’s runespear thrust out in two quick attacks and Torgin fell in a bloody, hairy heap in front of the door. Then, with a mocking CRAW, the jailor slammed the door in their stunned faces.


“No!” cried Eamon. “Have the gods no mercy?”


“Shall we run for Starkfeather again?” asked Greeba in the sudden quiet, punctuated only by a gurgle from Torgin. But an enraged Thibault attempted in vain to shove the door open. Eamon, his eyes slightly teary, kicked at the door, but was unable to budge it even in his grief at Torgin’s death.


They all took a turn at it, but the door held, the kenku periodically mocking them behind it.


Thibault took a deep breath. They had to try something else. They were getting nowhere. “Jailor! you are surrounded and trapped here. We will come in and kill you if you don't comply. If you do, we'll spare your life, won’t torture you and give you money instead for saving our time. What say you?” But his voice squeaked at the last and the kenku merely laughed at them from behind the door. Caw caw caw.


They renewed their efforts – kicking the door, flinging firebolts at it. Arian held a spell ready for as soon as it opened, her fingers twitching with the effort to hold it back. And finally – FINALLY – the door cracked open. The kenku immediately stabbed through with his spear, but three spells fell upon him at the same time. His feathers charred under the rain of spells, but he still stood. He pushed his way out to jab his spear at Wisteria, as her spell had hit him the hardest, but Thibault’s flail caught him as he passed by and he missed the cleric.


Frustrated, the creature did something, Arian wasn’t sure what, but she had the sense of being beat around the head with ghostly feathers. They stung her eyes until she couldn’t see more than a bit of light. Beside her, she heard Eamon cry out. “Hast god forsaken me? For I have lost Torgin and now my sight!”


Arian grasped her staff. “Anyone,” she cried out, “tell me which o’clock he is!”


“Eleven, on the hour!” answered Wisteria.


Arian struck out with her staff, hoping to connect with the kenku, but hit only air. Meanwhile, Gorlock cast something with a whoosh and it hit it’s mark.  The kenku cried out, but now his caw was not nearly so mocking.


Xarius flung magic missiles at the jailor, hitting him with every one.


“You die for that!” cawed the kenku, and stabbed at the sorcerer with his runespear, but the fight had taken its toll on him and he only caught the edge of Xarius’ robe.


“No, let me send you on your way,” said Wisteria. “Do you hear the bells tolling for you?” The sound of a dolorous bell rang out, but the kenku shook off the spell, feathers flying.


“My God has not abandoned me! My sight has been returned by no other than my god himself!” Eamon cried out. “And may god have mercy on you, because I won’t!” The monk struck out with furious anger and the kenku collapsed with one final desperate “CAAWWWW!”


Arian could hear footsteps in the tree above them. They all could. They had to get out. If just one kenku had held them off this long and killed one of them, what would happen when more came?


“Let’s get the prisoner!” said Greeba, pointing at the keys that hung on the wall. Thibault grabbed them and began trying doors.


“We must get Torgin to Starkfeather!” cried Eamon.  “Now!”


Greeba, seeing that Thibault had the keys, nodded at Eamon. She grabbed Torgin’s bloody body and ran alongside Eamon down the way they had come.


“Noble man, where are you? Which door? Talk if you want to be saved!” Thibault tried to keep his voice down, but he was growing desperate as the noises above them seemed closer now.


“Here, sir!” came a voice. Finally! Thibault rushed to that door and got it open to find a man sitting in a pit full of viscous sap. The sight made him pause but a moment, then he pulled out a rope and flung an end to the man. The nobleman grabbed hold and Thibault hauled him out. He came loose with a pop.


“Chadwick Veter's the name...the Duke sent you?” The man seemed remarkably calm, considering the state of him.


“Thibault, hurry!” called Arian. She had readied a spell but she had no confidence to hold off a pack of ravenfolk on her own.


Thibault pushed the nobleman ahead of him. “I'll explain later, Chadwick! Let's go!” They all ran.

Outside, Eamon and Greeba had found Starkfeather. The old woman had not hobbled far. By the time the others joined them, she had already revived Torgin, though she seemed a bit sore at having had to use up the last of her store of diamonds to do so.


“Took me years to scrape together those diamonds...” she groused.


“We will come back to clear this nest of evil, and pay you back, Wise Raven!” said Greeba.


“I was murderered most fowl,” muttered Torgin in his beard, patting his pockets like he was looking for a lost bacon sarnie.


Arian looked at him with disbelief. How did he keep his sense of humour when he sat there covered in blood and gore? She shook her head. She would never understand dwarves. She turned, wanting to see if Wisteria had noticed, but saw that the cleric was not there. Oh no!




Inside the tree, Wisteria had paused when her cloak caught on something. A kenku, ahead of the rest, stabbed at her with his spear, but Wisteria merely grinned at him and ran all the faster. She burst out of the tree and caught up to the others and they all ran, ran as fast as they could go, leaving the kenku cawing in frustration behind them.


After a bit of discussion, they headed back to the Cumin Inn. Starkfeather came with them, sure that Kreeack would kill her if she stayed behind and was caught and equally interested in being repaid for her services.


In fact, as soon as Tyvin Hess offered the reward money, she laid claim to it. They could hardly argue, considering, though they tried. And they were too busy training to worry overmuch about the money; if they were going to go back and clean out The Midnight Tree, they needed to try some new tactics or new spells.


After a tenday of preparation, they were ready to go. They hoped.