Human dragon shaman 3rd level, elf Thief 3rd level, gnome Bard2/Beguiler1. The Bard has a ring of healing
, so they've got minimal, but existent, healing capabilities.
My group decided to cross the bridge, rather than the ford, and ended up on the "wrong" side of the river to combat the gobbos. During the bridge crossing, the bat-riders attacked the party. They quickly dispatched the gobbos, but the bats were hungry for demihuman flesh, so I had one of the bats stick around. It successfully grappled the elf thief, lifted him, and carried him part way up the river (nothing like an elven Happy Meal to satisfy that dire bat hunger!).
The elf managed to not only Escape Artist his way out of the grapple, but Tumbled up into the saddle (in a very Legolas move--his Dex is literally inhuman
at 20). He then found an exceptionally high tree and rolled a natural 20 off the saddle and into the top branches of the tree. A few hair-raising Climb checks later, he scrambled down the tree and met up with the others, who'd seen him get carried off and ran toward where he dropped out of the bat's saddle.
I calculated that there is roughly 1850 yards from the bridge to W-5 on the Wilderness map, which is a little more than a mile. PHB indicates it takes 1 hour to cross 2 miles, so if they stuck to clear ground it'd take them 30 minutes to get the the waterfall. As they walked along the bank, I attempted to spook them with bat-riders circling, vulturelike, overhead.
I swapped the raider's ambush (W-3) to the eastern bank of the Saedre, a little closer to the Spires. I was rolling pretty hot, and they weren't, so the raiders ended up knocking out the elf. They snagged some of his hair. They hit the gnome a few times, and I had her roll a Reflex to avoid one of them grabbing a handful of her hair (which she failed, and they made). Meanwhile, the leader was duking it out with the dragon shaman. The shaman pulverized the raider leader into a bloody mash.
I had a few random encounters (they encountered the Scouts and they saw a skull impaled on a spear with still-wet blood). After all this hostility, they decided they needed to heal...so where did they make camp? The forest of The Wilds, of course...
Knowing that Azubal was there, but also knowing they would get creamed by him (and they hadn't seen any of the clues that he was a vamp yet, and it was night when he was at full strength) I was merciful--they rolled a random encounter of a bat swarm. Thinking quickly, I figured the swarm was under Az's control, and would report to Az the party's size, relative strength, etc.
Heh heh...the bats nearly killed 'em, as once again I started rollin' hot with max damage. It was a tough fight, as the elf kept being nauseated by the swarm and just taking damage, and the swarm kept adjusting it's location to follow the shaman and bard. Finally, the dragon shaman activated his energy field aura (he's of copper type, so it was an acid field) and the swarm started dissipating quickly.
So now the party is back at Wildsgate, healing, resting, and with a new respect for the Wilds that the Wildsgaters have been warning them against.
...and Azubal waits--patient and deadly in his stony cave--preparing to feast on fresh blood....