Earlier this evening, we played another session of Labyrinth Lord. The party had been told, quite a few sessions ago, that their High Priestess had a task for them, when they were ready, but that it would only be given to the cleric character, who was currently in a chapel in another village, corrupting the locals. The party did a few subquests and spent some time traveling on their own accord and eventually, this evening, decided to go get the cleric so they can attempt this quest.
When they arrive at the sleepy lakeside village of Lyorel, they triggered one of my little subquests, unexpectedly for them. They witness their cleric being dragged out of his chapel by his hair and being rendered unconscious with a blow to the back of the head, then thrown onto the back of a cart. Soldiers spill out of the chapel, bearing the white dragon symbol of the Druids of the West. The Druids are the party's nemesis; they seek to end the dark religion that the party is trying to spread in the world of Summit and so are in direct opposition to their long term goals.
The party form a line just before the battle begins, attempting to prevent the kidnapping. The ensuing battle is pretty much a massacre of the Druids of the West's men, with some amusing moments like when their captain threw his longsword up in the air and accidentally caught the wrong end!
The party make short work of their opponents and, after a few trips to shops to sell some ill begotten gear (that the watch turned a blind eye to being collected), they give chase. Their trail leads them to a copse and within this copse is a clearing within which the followers of the Druids are gathered. Gathered around their cleric. Who is on a pyre, about to burnt alive as a heretic. Cue battle!
This battle went very, very differently from the previous one. The party were up against seven soldiers, a powerful barbarian, their mysterious leader and a massive four armed beast he was keeping on a leash. This powerful creature was the worse thing the party have ever faced - 8 Hit dice and 4 attacks - but for some reason the players thought they could send one character in to fight it and it would be enough. Well, it didn't work, it literally beat the life out of their Gnoll shapeshifter, who in a quirk of fate after being resurrected before had no personality at all, had some amusing final words.. something along the lines of 'well, that was expected!'
The soldiers also had good luck with picking off a few of the other first level characters and the party were in disarray. They had a crazy idea of putting gunpowder on a sack and convincing one of their characters to run into battle holding it - that it would bring good luck - which he actually fell for but was soon cut down. A flaming arrow was sent his way but missed and after that, the party was too split up and the thief was in trouble without much help but somehow managed to hold his own and kill two soldiers, face to face, toe to toe. This was partly because we play using my continunous initiative house rules which let fast characters act more times than slower ones (see link).
The main battle begins, the cleric is the upturned figure at the far side, next to the four armed aberration.
The mighty dwarf was knocked about by the barbarian til the unarmoured two handed sword wielding mountain of muscle fell, overwhelmed. The strongest character, a fighter, literally pulled the cleric out of the flames taking massive damage in the process. After this, she charged at the four armed beast but was slain. The four armed aberration was looking like it would take a few more characters apart when some fumbling took it out of action for a few rounds - just enough time for the surviving party members to finally bring the monster down.
That left the leader of the enemy as the only one alive, probably because he'd managed to stay uninvolved while his troops and pet fought, but was forced joined the battle and started wearing the dwarf down with attack after attack. The cleric was revived, and wielding the mystical Hammer of Dawn, joined the fight. Surrounded on all sides, the leader danced out of the way of blow after blow, seemingly invulnerable, slowly whittling the heroes down - until the thief arrived and stuck two daggers into his back which proved fatal. Finally - the battle was won!
But at what cost? Four characters were killed in this epic fight, fully half the party (three first level and one second). This was the first run in that they have had with the Druids of the West - an enemy that has proven to be highly dangerous and quite surprising. But, on the plus side... their cleric is safe and did not get burned alive and, of course, the plans of the Druids have been thwarted!