The surviving wererat underling squealed to its master “You said they would be defenseless!” The master angrily hissed back, “We have been tricked! Fight on!” As the battle continued, the rat horde pressed in with greater savagery. Sir Eric was nearly buried under the weight of the frenzied rats before Lady Kiri arrived with her shining fey blade. Other knights joined them and dispersed the swarm. Elsewhere, Delba, surrounded on all sides, called on the magic of the Scimitar of Feather and Bone, disappearing in a cloud of ethereal crow feathers. Within the magical darkness, the monstrous rats soon found themselves to be the hunted. Helo, skipping between the planes via his fey heritage, hacked into the master wererat, while Pieter calmly shot down rat after rat, and fired an alchemically prepared arrow at the master, spraying him with acid. The monster savagely stabbed Pele, who fell bleeding, and then fled into the cloud of feathers.
Terrafina arrived, part of the vanguard of reinforcements from the main keep. Threading her way through the battle, she ministered to the injured and dying, saving the lives of Sir Balon, Lady Gwynn, and finally Sir Kyburn. Kyburn’s wounds were festering from the diseases carried by the vermin, and he was feverish and delirious. Leaning close, the dwarf cleric felt a chill when she heard him whisper “it wasn’t supposed to be this way.”
Lady Kiri led a mass charge by the rallied knights, cutting a swath through the hordes surrounding the rest of the party, and Pieter quickly dispatched the remaining halfling wererats. Helo cut his way through the rats attempting to drag away Pele, while her kobald companion managed to return her to conciousness. Climbing unsteadily to her feet, she hurled a blast of fire into the cloud of darkness, killing several of the creatures that had taken refuge there.
All eyes turned to the cloud of darkness, where Sir Delba struggled with the master wererat. There was an abbreviated scream, and the bloodied, scorched head of the master wererat rolled out into the light. The feathers evaporated, and Delba was revealed, flicking the blood from his scimitar. The last wererat underling dropped his sword with a clatter and fell to his knees at Delba’s feet, begging for mercy. Grim Pieter drew one of his silver headed arrows and rushed at the ratman, plunging the arrow into his shoulder. He screamed as the arrowhead burned in his flesh. Pieter scowled. “He won’t heal his wounds now. Do what you want.”
When Kiri went to check on the wounded, a disturbed Terrafina warned her of Sir Kyburn’s fevered ramblings. Suspicious of the knight, who was begining to regain conciousness, Kiri harshly questioned him, but he denied any knowledge or involvement in the attack. Sensing duplicity, Kiri roughly hog-tied the protesting knight. His brother and sister knights of the Fifteen gathered around, murmuring, and Terrafina explained their suspicions. Shock turned to outrage, and Sir Balon and Sir Eric took charge, marching Kyburn off to the dungeon, while he shouted his innocence all the way.
Meanwhile, Baron Ironblade had finally arrived with his guards, having armed himself and fought a pitched battle elsewhere within the walls. After honoring the party’s heroism, he inspected the prisoner. The prisoner called out that he was Ort, a servant from the stables, and that he had been kidnapped and forcibly turned into a wererat. He begged again for mercy. Baron Ironblade put his fate in Sir Delba’s hands. Kiri stepped in, asking permission to question Ort. She learned that Ort had been abducted by the master wererat five days earlier and turned into a were creature at that time. The master had manipulated Ort, telling him that he was now an irredeemable monster, who could never go back. Filled with fear and self-loathing, Ort had obediently aided the master in kidnapping and turning several halflings, before preparing the attack. He shared what little he knew, including that the master had privately met with an unknown ally, who had assured him that the knights would be unable to defend themselves when the rats attacked, and that the rats would have control of the keep afterwards. He expressed remorse, and said that he did not wish to die now, but did not know what he had to live for. He put his life in the hands of his captors.
Sensing the truth in his words, Kiri advocated for lenience, so that perhaps her order could break Ort’s curse, and he could be made to make amends for his crimes. Grudgingly, Delba placed Ort in Kiri’s care, with the warning that if he made one false step, it would be his last. Pieter agreed, and said that he would be watching as well.
Later that evening, Pele and Pieter both fell ill from the diseases the rats carried. Father Higgins was able to successfully treat Pieter’s illness, while Terrafina prevented Pele’s condition from worsening. The next morning a depressing report was presented to the baron. Many recruits had been burned, injured, or killed in the panicked stampede that occurred when fires broke out in the military camp outside the town. The fires had consumed nearly a third of the army’s food supplies, and with the heavy raids that had occurred in the last few months, there was little enough food remaining in Evergreen Vale already. The food would have to be replaced from outside the Vale. Baron Ironblade determined to send the party to Enigma keep with a caravan, thousands of gold pieces, and a strong armed escort, to purchase more food. The army would march on without them.