The Vecna cultist was wounded, but he had a head start. The party knew it would take all of their skills to face the challenge of tracking him down before he escaped. Striking off towards an obvious trail, the party was soon dismayed to find the trail evaporating into the woods.
T’Kar’s knowledge of nature enabled him to halt the group before they stumbled into a patch of witchbind. Did the cultist go this way? Keeping on, with G’yest keeping a perceptive eye out for tracks, Noor stumbled upon a circle of defiled earth, where the foul spellcaster had sucked essence from nature to heal himself. Torinn pondered the religion of Vecna and misremembered something about Vecna cultists lighting signal fires on hilltops as they fled from enemies (though it didn’t sound that dumb to the party in the heat of the moment, so cut them some slack). Tio concluded that he wasn’t trying to hide his tracks, which let the party breathe easier (though that turned out to be wrong, too). Running along a ridge to avoid some possible dead-end trails, the party realized that he was heading south…toward Andok, the city of the dead. (Quite strange, since wasn’t Andok the home of Orcus-cultists, who hate Vecna-cultists? And that’s where they were bringing Tio?)
Finally the party neared Andok and again marvelled at the warding rune circles surrounding the cave entrance. Their quarry was just ahead, being careful to skirt the runes. Charging to attack, the party was surprised as flaming-headed monsters rose from the hills behind them, and other horrible undead things shambled out to surround them. An ambush!
A terrific battle ensued, as the undead used their own rotting entrails as weapons and ensnared various party members, pulling them closer with their poopy whips. The flaming-skull monsters hurled fireballs down on the party and radiated terrible heat. Torrinn caught fire and could not seem to put it out for eons. Thankfully Tio had some fire of zhis own to wield.
As the moment of victory was upon the party, the sound of crashing came from the woods. Huge undead humanoids came stumbling out of the woods, along with a mortal wizard-looking guy commanding them and some other assorted horrors. More fiery-skulled things could be seen in the hills.
And so the party retreated, crossing the runic circle for protection (T’Kar searing the foes with a well-placed fireball as he scooted to safety). Tio winced as the radiant power of the runes punished zhim for zhis daemonic heritage. But perhaps it would keep them safe from the undead…
And yet one party member had not retreated—had, in fact, advanced. Torrinn, determined to fell a huge beast, leapt into the fray despite shouts of, “Get back here, you idiot!” Confidently, he said, “I got it” and very nearly annihilated a giant undead with a blast of divine power. But then their clubs went to work, and he went down under their furious pounding. Stumbling to his feet, he barely made it to the safety of the circle.
“Stop this at once!” shouted the wizard, bringing his undead allies in line. He then engaged in a conversation with the group, asking them reasonably to turn over Tio. You see, zhis blood would power a ritual that would seriously fuck the Orcus-cultists inside Andok up. A sort of infernal feedback.
The party pushed back, refusing to turn over their new friend. The wizard—who ignored Tio, calling zhim a non-person—persisted in his reasonable arguments. He revealed that Tio had once been a cultists of Vecna and had stolen valuable secrets when zhe left the cult. Tio denied it and, since zhe was so far a faithful ally and the other guy was STANDING ARM IN ARM WITH THE GROSSEST UNDEAD MONSTERS OF ALL TIME, the party believed zhim.
“We’ll wait you out!” promised the wizard. “You can try,” the party told him, and retreated into Andok, caught between a hellish rock and a Tartarean hard place.