A World Asunder

Chapter 16- "I hate snakes"

When you reach the site of the attack, you find Cochran’s body still there. There are two large fang marks in his shoulder and you can see varicose veins extending from the wounds. One of his arms is gone and the shoulder it was attached to appears to be hyperextended.

Search checks

Dc12: You find one small spot of blood on the ground 10 feet away from Cochran. Next to it you see bits of chainmail and a broken arrow shaft.

Dc15: A small blood trail leads from the spot near Cochran down the road where you came from and ends 30 feet later. A small bandage wrapping is found at the end.

Dc16: You notice a broken branch on the northern side of the road and an assortment of small boot-prints.

Dc14: Behind the blood spatter, you notice a winding indent in the road. It looks like someone had dragged a body along it in a zig-zag pattern with considerable speed. (+2 bonus to track)

Track Dc 18

The trail leads you to an overgrown stone structure that digs into the hillside. Two serpent sculptures flank the entrance, a large stone door with no visible handle.

(“Knock” spell will open the door automatically. Dc 14 search check will reveal that a fang on one of the serpent statues is on a hinge)

The stone door rolls to the side revealing a pitch dark room of unknown size (sunrods will fully illuminate).

Once illuminated, you can see that the room is 40 feet wide by 60 feet long. There are bloodstains on the stone floor of varying ages, some appear to be months or years old. There is a row of benches on either side of the room. There is set of wooden double doors on the opposite side of the room with a small padlock.

(spot check, opposed to +3 hide)

(If spot check passed) You notice a pair of feet in riding boots crouching behind the benches on the left.

(If spot check passed) You also notice the tip of a high-bound jet-black ponytail poking out from behind the benches on the right.

(If spot check failed) A humanoid figure with glistening skin and snake-like features emerges from behind the benches and attacks you with a longbow.

Combat, 2 serpentkin cultists

(If enfys is with players) Enfys puts away her sword and says: “Well, that was unnecessary. I’m ready to be done with this place. Let’s get Niles and piss off”

The door swings open revealing some sort of ritual chamber. Large symbols are drawn on the walls in blood and chalk while candles flicker in a circle. Niles is in the center, chained to an alter and barely conscious. They’re bleeding slowly but steadily from the wrists and they have signs of torture on their chest.

A reptilian creature emerges from the shadows. It has black scales dulled down with white ash and a scaly crest on it’s head is died red with blood. It’s shape is that of a snake with a pair of muscular humanoid arms. Above the shoulders of these arms is a snake’s head on a thick neck. It is positioned upright at about the height of an orc, but it could conceivably stand much taller It speaks with a raspy voice and an accent you don’t recognize: “Your attempts at interruption are meaningless. The ash lord’s forces will soon overtake what remains. Those foolish enough to resist their own salvation will perish in the flames of his conquest.”

the creature pulls out a long spear and a shield and says: “Come then, face me and I will spill your blood in the name of the ash lord.”

Combat with Yuan-Ti

The abomination collapses into a bleeding heap, riddled with injuries.

Niles begins to stir: “Can someone come over here and help me out please.”

Niles rubs the chafe-marks on their wrists and says: “Ugh. I hate snakes. Oh, sorry.” Niles salutes and says “Scout-recruit Robyn Niles, pleased to meet you, though I wish there had been ale involved rather than imminent death and Cultists.”

(If enfys is there)
Enfys looks over the corpse of the abomination and says: “We’ve seen their like before, although the serpentkin have not been seen in their number. They’re scourge Worshippers calling themselves the Ashen Order. They believe the Scourge is a Culling of sorts that will wipe away those they consider unworthy. Usually, the stick to Heptusian slums and slaving routes. This is the first we’ve seen them so far north.”

Niles says: “Let’s check the room, there might be something we can use.”

(If Enfys is not there)
Niles grabs a plackard off the wall. It’s painted with the image of a drop of blood wreathed in fire. “The others will want to see this. I think it’s one of their symbols. We should search the room for anything valuable”

A brief search reveals a chest at the foot of the altar that Niles was chained to. The chest contains a variety of precious gems (dc 12 appraise reveals that the gems are worth 10,000gp total).

After a brief rest, Niles says they are able to walk. It is dusk by the time you get to the camp.

As you walk into war tent, Myran glares at you and says: “While you were off playing rescue, A Kaptalis secret guard team showed up on a capture mission. We took injuries and they took five of our people, including Declan. This is why I said we need to keep moving. We just traded five comrades for one.”

Enfys retorts: “Yes, but they’re still alive. Niles would be dead right now if we hadn’t done that. Besides, I saw the cartwheel tracks on the way over. They were heading down the road to Gildenport. Which means we can go after them.”

Niles informs you that the original planned route to Gildenport is too dangerous to take civilians on and offers to guide you on a game trail through the woods that will circumvent a guarded bridge and what they refer to as “the sketchiest cave in Irythan”

Niles’ route is difficult, but not dangerous. By sundown, you can see the lights of Gildenport on the horizon.

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Chapter 15- "We don't leave people behind"

Reilly mounts up and says: “I’ve given these people directions on where to meet us at camp. A large group like this will attract attention if we all leave together, so the new volunteers will trickle out bit by bit. I want to get a briefing on Gorch’thul when we get to camp. I’ve diverted a few guards, but we can’t leave without being spotted, I recommend full gallop so we’re gone and over the Fask border before they can muster a pursuit force.”

Milo volunteers to stay behind.

Your horses wail and begin to sprint through the city streets. As you pass through the gate, a few guards shout and shoot arrows at you, to no avail. Declan makes a rude hand gesture and says something about the guard’s mother that you can’t quite make out over the shouting and hoofbeats. Myran and Enfys snicker.

You reach camp around mid-day. Milo follows an hour later with the first group of volunteers. Reilly encourages you to take a nap and offers to take the first watch.

You wake up feeling rejuvinated and look around to see the 200-some volunteers setting up tents and starting campfires.

Reilly hands you each a leg of roast rabbit and says: “I’ve done that roster you asked for.” She hands you a sheet of parchment and continues “We have 190 volunteers total. 20 of them are combat-trained. 40 are construction workers, 5 have medical training, 10 are hunters who were in town to trade, 25 are farmers, 20 are crafters and the last 80 are general laborers with varying basic skills. About 5 of those hunters are qualified in guerrilla combat. I took the liberty of appointing a stable-master and sending the hunters out on scouting and food gathering missions. The combat specialists are working on establishing a training routine for new recruits, but it will be a few months before we can make soldiers of anyone. Harxen also stopped by. He’s out with a pair of hunters right now, but he should be back shortly.”

You realize it’s now morning and that you’ve been asleep since noon yesterday. Reilly tells you that there’s a meeting starting in a half hour in the war-tent.

You walk through the tent flap and see a setup almost identical to the back-room of the hawk’s talon. Reilly is talking with Myran about the status of the slave rebellion in Heptus. Enfys is collecting her winnings from the bet she made with Milo on the night of the attack. Declan is still half asleep, slumped over the war-table with a cup of hot tea in his hand. Everyone finishes up their conversations as you enter and they look over the war-table.

Myran says “Ah, looks like we’re all here. I take it you slept well?” Milo elbows Declan in the ribs to wake him up. Myran continues: “We have some updated information on Gorch’thul”.

Milo speaks up “I reached out to my contact there, a kitchen-worker in the more well-guarded section. He’s gone dark. No reply to any of my messages. When I got nothing from him, I sent a hawk to a contact in the docks at Gildenport, in Kaptal. Usually, he’ll know when a prison ship leaves for Gorch’thul. He says no ship has come from or left for Gorch’thul in nearly a month. This is extremely irregular. Ships normally come twice a week to re-supply and swap staff. I checked with dockworkers in Fask as well as other Kaptalis ports. Nothing. If they’ve stopped completely, it means the situation has changed. It could mean the Arkali have reached it or it could mean they’ve locked it down to avoid that. It could mean something else entirely. Either way, we won’t know until we’re close enough to get a look.”

Enfys chimes in: “And there’s no way to do that without a Kaptalis ship. Any ideas? Preferably ones that won’t get us killed, but I’m not picky. The waters around Gorch’thul are intense. Kaptalis and only Kaptalis ships are equipped with steam drives to keep them afloat in that stormy area. The problem is they’re unlocked by number combination and impossible to pick.”

Milo grins: “Way ahead of you, Arrowhawk. I know of a cargo-runner captain who spends his nights at a brothel in Gildenport. He’s been rude to a couple of the women who work there and said women have offered to help us arrange for him to fall off his carriage on the way home. We can work out details when we get to the city. Harxen should be back soon, he was securing a path to Gildenport."

As if on cue, Harxen walks into the tent, wounded and bleeding from his right side, just under the ribcage. “I’ll make it,” He says “Arrow went clean through, missed my liver. We were on our way back from the cleanest scout I’ve ever been on when we came under attack. Dammit! I should have seen it coming, it was the perfect place for an ambush.”

What hit you? “I don’t know what the seventh hell it was. One moment we were walking and the next I had an arrow-hole in my side. It must have been poisoned because by the time I nocked and arrow, I had gone blind. I heard some kind of dragging sound from behind me and then I took a blunt object to the head and got knocked out. When I came to, Cochran was dead and Niles was gone. I could have tracked them, but I’m in no shape to fight, so I came back as soon as I could.”

Harxen writes down some directions on a sheet of paper before limping to the infimary tent with Reilly supporting him. The note says “About three miles east along the path. I left the body as I found it so you could hopefully learn something from it. Track these fuckers down. I want Niles back in one piece if at all possible. They’re still young and they’ve got huge potential.”

Myran finishes reading the note and says: “Ordinarily, I’d be loading my crossbow and checking my staff for a rescue mission, but we have other things to consider. There are in excess of two-hundred people here with us and if a Fask patrol happens by the 20 soldiers we have will be piss poor protection. I don’t want to risk everyone else here, especially if there’s a chance Niles may be dead already.”

Enfys chimes in “I’m not wild on the notion of leaving people unprotected in hostile territory, but the chances of Fask sending a patrol this way when they’re busy dealing with the Arkali invasion are quite slim. The most they’d send on patrol is a squad and that’s something Reilly could handle on her own.”

Myran retorts “You don’t know that for sure, Enfys!”

“Dammit Myran, we don’t leave people behind!”

The argument devolves from there. Clearly they aren’t going to agree for a while. Milo and Declan put their hands up in a “We’re staying out of this” gesture. It seems the decision rests with you.

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Chapter 14 - "From the Ashes"

With the city re-claimed, those who stayed behind in the second terrace come down to assist in search and rescue. A few remaining Arkali are scattered through the city, but the guard makes short work of them. Enfys says “We should go back to the Hawk’s Talon. Milo will want to know if we’re alright.”

When you arrive, you note that the door has been smashed open and smoke is billowing from the inside. Enfys goes wide-eyed, readies her bow to fire and kickes the door down.

Inside, you see Milo and Declan sitting on the counter smoking a pipe and sharing a keg. About 10 Arkali soldiers are lying on the floor in various states of dismemberment.

Declan blows a smoke ring and says “Well it’s about fucking time you showed up. We’re almost out of ale”

Milo looks behind you and says “Hey! How about a pint for the valiant lass who led the attack?”

Reilly replies: “No thanks, Milo. I’m here on business. I need to have a word with all of you.”

Reilly hands you a scroll of paper. It says in Weslyth: “Sergeant Reilly McTeague. You are hereby ordered by the lord-general of the city guard to arrest Veillos Amakiir and all known associates for the crime of murder of a city guard officer and complicity in a murder and seize all property including the organization’s front known as the ’Hawk’s Talon’”

Reilly breaks the guard emblem off her shield and says “That’s not an order I intend to follow. My career as guard-sergeant ends here with my last act being the salvation of the city.” She smiles a dry smirk “I suppose there are worse ways to end a career. I wish to join the Paragons of Orthalyn. I would be honored if you would have me.”

Reilly slings her shield over her back and says “Good. Now, listen. If I don’t have you in chains in 20 minutes, the lord general will send a party to investigate and then we both go down. There are a small group of guards loyal to me who can get us out of the city, but we have to leave now. They’ll meet us at dragon’s fall square, can I assume you remember the place?”

“Good. I’ll meet you there. I need to go make a bullshit report to stall the pursuit. I took the liberty of having some friends carve up the corpse and load it onto your horses. Oh, right. I also got you horses. Look, I’ll meet you at the square. If I’m not there in an hour, assume I’ve been captured.”

People you pass by wave and shake your hands and offer you small tokens as you walk by. By the time you get to the square, you are loaded up on food, drink and warm clothing.

Myran is waiting for you, there are around 200 people at the square waiting with backpacks and duffel bags. Enfys says: “Pelor’s mercy, Reilly said it was a small group”.

Reilly emerges from the crowd and says with a grin “I said it was a small group of guards. I didn’t say anything about volunteer citizens.”

And so the travellers from the south rose from the ashes of war as heroes. With a small host of volunteers, they would go on to become a force for freedom across the six nations of Irythan. Having established a reputation as inspiring figures willing to stand up to the powerful and overcome impossible odds, the Paragons of Orthalyn set about the work of building their forces and seeking out lost knowledge in the hope of pushing back the invading Arkali forces and reclaiming the world from the Scourge. Their actions will come to bring hope to people crushed under the weight of empires and strife and restore life to a world torn asunder

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Chapter 13- "The city is ours"

Combat with Ogres

The last ogre releases a cry of pain and lashes out in a futile last gasp before faceplanting in the pavement.

You look up from the fight and see the Cavalry units mopping up the final groups of Arkali. The knight who handed you the horn from earlier is among the dead. Reilly rides over to you and says: “His name was Jael O’ferra. He was one of the best Cavalry commanders in the guard. I saw him make a suicide run to clear an escape for a group of soldiers who were surrounded by arkali halberdiers. He died a hero. Let’s finish the job so his daughter can enjoy the fruits of his sacrifice. The cavaliers are almost done here. You go on ahead and gather up the infantry for the final push. We’ll catch up in a bit.”

You reach the massing infantry just north of the market square. The Arkali have fallen back to the bottom of the ramp, out of range of the ballistae on the gate. The soldiers cheer as you approach and lower spears over and between the first line of shields. Archers nock arrows and prepare to draw for a volley. They await your order to strike. The Cavalry units are still two minutes away. Enfys says: “Here we are, the final push. You should say something to the troops.”

The ranks of the Caer’Daugh guard shout: “For our homes, For the world!” and race toward the Arkali lines in a wedge formation, with archers concentrating fire on the center columns of Arkali soldiers. The tip of the wedge crashes into the Arkali horde. Soldiers behind the Weslyth shield line jab pikes into arkali soldiers while others assist in the push. The wedge drives itself between arkali columns and begins to divide the arkali horde in two while soldiers on the sides of the Caer’Daugh force raize shields to create a massive spear to pierce the Arkali ranks..

Sergeant McTeague orders a cavalry charge in pincer formation. The cavalry units charge into the Arkali horde from both sides, gouging the ranks with pole-arms and trampling with hoofbeat. The Arkali are surrounded on all sides by cavalry and archers and with a Weslyth heavy infantry unit inside their ranks. They begin to fight in a berzerk rage, throwing themselves on the guard without regard for survival. The Arkali tactic has switched from conquest to maximizing casualties.

Surrounded as they are by forces high on adrenaline and victory, their reckless tactics fall flat as their lines collapse and they are swept into defeat by sword, arrow and pike and trampled down by boot and hoof while the fires of the burning city die down.

Sergeant McTeague approaches the last surviving arkali, grabs it by it’s blood red hair and jams a dagger into it’s throat.

She throws the limp body of the Arkali solder into the cobblestone street and says “The city is ours.” They raise their fists and cheer as the sun rises over the snow-capped western peaks.

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Chapter 12: "The Heroes of Caer'Daugh"

By the time you have finished discussing the plan with Sergeant McTeague, the soldiers who have volunteered for the mission have already lined up into squads and armed themselves for an assault. The cavalry units have mounted up with full barding and lances and seven horses stand by for you, Enfys and Reilly. A group of about 50 volunteers per pincer have loaded up with as much medical supplies, water and ammunition as they can carry. Priests of Correlon and Pelor are giving final benedictions before joining the relief squads.

Reilly plants the dragons head on a pike and leads the soldiers to the second terrace square. She sticks the pike in the ground and says: “It is beasts like this that have served as harbingers of the scourge since it began over seven centuries ago. It’s ilk were responsible for the fall of old Fask and the Termali mages of Lyranos. It was slain in a feat of courage by the newest sons and daughters of Weslyth, the heroes of Caer’Daugh. But this victory will belong to all of you. When the scourge began the Arkali hordes took down empires one by one, but the free states of Weslyth held standing to the end. We claim victory tonight and darker nights to come not by the strength of our armies, but by the adamant will of our people. We survive because we refuse to die. We win because we will not allow ourselves to be defeated. We will reclaim our city because we will not let it be taken from us. Soldiers of Caer’Daugh, People of Weslyth, Children of Orthalyn. Why do you stand?”

The crowd cheers back “We refuse to fall!”

Reilly mounts up and shouts: “All souls forward. For your friends. For all of us!”

The soldiers begin a march forward to the gate and then split off into defensive and pincer units. Reilly waves you a salute before merging out of sight among her soldiers.

On the way to the west gate, the soldiers begin drumming their shields and singing a battle song. “Up with halberd. Out with spear. On we go, friends without fear. Fiach McHugh has given the word. Follow me up to Carlow!” the song continues and enfys joins in. The soldiers continue singing until they reach the west gate. A guard at the top rampart reports that the Arkali forces on the ramp are moving into attack positions and that the time to strike is now.

The guard opens the gate and the soldiers line up and wait for your order to attack.

The shield line cheers and begins a coordinated charge to the arkali front lines. Arrows fly in a volley over your head from behind you and hit the Arkali horde with a satisfying thud. As the shield line closes, the soldiers in the rear lines throw spears into the fray ahead of the shield bearers. The Caer’Daugh guard and the Arkali hordes collide with the sound of steel on steel and then the crack of breaking bones. Arkali archers begin firing arrows into the weslyth lines while the front line of Arkali soldiers continues to take a toll on the shield line. Both sides exchange casualties for about 20 minutes before the Arkali (and you) hear the call for flanking units to retreat to the square and defend the catapult.

The Caer’Daugh guard continues to inflict casualties on the Arkali as they retreat down the ramp. When the Arkali forces reach the bottom of the ramp, they scatter into the streets to avoid a cavalry charge and Weslyth infantry move to pursue. By that time, the Arkali forces number less than 100 and the Caer’Daugh infantry numbers just over 300. The cavalry units are full strength and massing up for an attack on the market commons while the infantry begins marching toward the staging area for the final attack.

The cavalry group lowers lances into attack position and fixes shield. One of the knights at the front hands you a horn and says “Give one long blast to order the charge. My comrades are itching to skewer some of these blood-caps.”

The horn echoes loudly through the streets and the riders spur their horses into a charge. The horses wail snort as they dash toward the Arkali shield line. The cavaliers smash into the arkali lines and break through the shield wall. Weslyth lances pierce arkali shield, chest and skull alike with the momentum from the cavalry charge. Arkali swordsmen and pike-bearers are pounded to the cobblestone street by hoofbeat and war-mace.

Over the din of battle, you see an opening in the arkali lines guarding the trebuchet. The Ogre crew is almost done winching it for another shot. Enfys draws her bow and says: “They’re almost ready to fire. I don’t want to chance them getting it right this time. Our cavalry has the Horde occupied. I say we should go now and start putting holes in those big ugly brutes.”

Your mounts rush you through the gap and you dismount on the other side. Your feet splash down in small puddles of the blood of Arkali raiders and the ones they have killed.

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Chapter 11- "Get that thing the hell off my troops!"

The sergeant you met earlier during the evacuation runs up to you with a squad of guards flanking her. Her sword and her tabard are soaked with Arkali blood and she has a flesh wound on her left shoulder.

She takes off her dented helmet and drops it on the ground. She says, panting: “Sergeant Reilly McTeague, acting commander of the first terrace garrison. The evacuation is done. Some people are still in the first terrace, but are sheltered in place and can hold out for a few hours. We have some time to regroup and plan to re-take the terrace. Can you still fight?”

She sheathes her blade and says: “Come with me, then. You held that gate for much longer than I would have expected and you’re the closest we have to experts on the Arkali. We’re heading to the arsenal district to prepare a counter-assault.”

You move up the ramp to the arsenal district. Below, you can see Arkali forces re-grouping and preparing to push up the ramps and staircases to the second terrace. Some of them are carting in large planks and stones.

The arsenal district is like a massive field hospital. Wounded guards and civilians are being treated by healers and the dead are being arranged for identification. Scouts are handing reports to Sergeant McTeague before moving on to to rally straggling soldiers and any civilians who can fight. After a 10 minute hustled walk, you come to the Arsenal. It is a massive three-story structure about 200 feet wide and 150 feet deep with arrow slits lining the top two floors. The roof is lined with Ballistae every 10 feet and has two heavy catapults on each corner. The gates are reinforced mahogany with swinging blades ready to deploy in front of them. It is the most defensible position you have ever seen.

Reilly knocks on the door. A slot opens briefly and a guard asks for a password. Reilly says “Caer’Daugh stands” and the guard replies “As it will forever”. The door opens and Reilly ushers you inside.

Soldiers inside the Arsenal are assembling into squads and gathering ammunition and arms. Squads that have taken casualties are joining together to get up to full strength. Civilian fighters are organizing themselves into bands to take back their homes. Some people in squads are injured and still refusing to sit out. As you pass them, you hear them murmuring about how the dragon was killed. Some of the rumors are more true than others, but it’s clear you made an impression.

On the far side of the assembly area, there is a war table with a group of colonels surrounding it and arguing over plans.

Reilly asks you to wait behind and refill on ammo. She walks to the war table, salutes and begins talking. A general points at the table and replies with words you can’t hear. Reilly gets irritated and starts jamming her finger on the table. The General points toward the door. Reilly jams a dagger into the table and walks back to you.

She says: “The cowards don’t want to re-take the district. They want to fortify our position and wait for reinforcements from Bastion. I tried to tell them that there are still people down there, but they’re scared shitless and it’s not their families barricaded inside taverns. See if you can talk some sense into them. I’ll see if I can find some volunteers in case they don’t go for it. I know there are at least some guards who worked the first terrace who would be willing to risk anything to take their homes back.”

The colonels have ceased arguing about plans of defense and started arguing on whether or not they should court martial Reilly. They stop when they see you approach and one of them, an older bald man with sliver chin-scratch and full plate armor that has never seen battle, says:

“I would guess you’re here to try to talk us into committing forces to re-taking the first terrace. The answer is no. We cannot spare the men and even with that dragon gone, an attempt at taking an Arkali horde head on is doomed to failure. The Guard has their orders, hold at the arsenal district and wait for reinforcements from Bastion.”

A muffled smash is heard outside. A scout comes through the door and Shouts: “Trebuchet! Market Commons! It’s firing at our lines.” The colonel who was rude to you earlier slaps the scout and says: “Make sense, grunt! Not even Kaptalis steam throwers have that kind of range.”

The scout regains his composure and says: “Sorry, sir. The Trebuchet is massive. It’s crewed by two ogres. They’re still finding the range, but as soon as they’ve aimed it, our lines will collapse.”

The colonal apologizes for slapping the scout and turns to you with desperation in his eyes: “Be honest with me,” he says, “Can you disable that trebuchet?”

“Good, then I’ll make you a deal. I cannot order any soldiers to move on the district, but if you take it out I will guarantee that any soldier who volunteers for the attack will receive an immediate honorable discharge. It will still be up to you to find those volunteers. Do we have an accord?”

“Excellent. Now get that thing the hell off my troops and you’d best not leave without choosing a commander and a battle-plan for your little suicide mission.”

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Chapter 10 -"Kill that fucking dragon!"

The Arkali swarm past the fleeing soldiers and jump the barricades. Townsfolk flee for their lives, those who lag behind fall to arkali spearpoints. Some of the braver civillians and some of the remaining guards have armed themselves and are attempting to cover the evacuation.

A human woman in a seargent’s uniform shouts: “Where the hell is Captain Soveliss? Get to the arsenal district. We’ll make our stand there. Protect the citizens, man the ballistae and catapults!” She drives her sword into a charging Arkali footsoldier. “And would somebody please go kill that fucking dragon? We can’t form a defense line if it keeps slaughtering us whenever we cluster!”

As you pass the Hawk’s talon, you can see Declan aiming a Ballista from the roof while Milo reloads. Enfys begins to move toward the front door, but Declan bellows down “Don’t worry about us. We can hold out here. Go Find Myran. She’s at the east terrace square and she’s got a plan to deal with that dragon. If we kill that thing, we may just have a chance.”

The path to the east terrace square is a bloodbath. The Arkali have cut a swath of carnage through the streets leading to the base of the ramp. There are too many bodies both burned and bled dry to count. You can see a mother cradling the charred corpse of her child even as she bleeds out from her leg. A cleric is wandering around in a daze, holding his intestines inside as he tends to the wounded. You see a young girl attempting to put her father’s brain back inside his head. The remaining guards are focusing on securing shelter for survivors while the Arkali rush to the barricades protecting the second terrace of the city.

You come to the Square and see Myran and a small host of guards fighting off a group of 3 Arkali footsoldiers and a Striker.

brief combat, players get surprise round

Myran gives the final gasping Arkali a quick snap of the neck and says: “Follow me. We need to goad that Dragon into coming after us. We’ll never catch up to it if it just keeps going after citizens. If we can get to the Trebuchet at Corellon’s tower and get it firing, the dragon will attack to ensure the Arkali infantry is able to take the city. Are you with me?”

Enfys looks at Myran and says: “Corellon’s tower is a bad place to fight a dragon, but I don’t have any better ideas.” Then she asks you if you can come up with anything.

combat with dragon

The dragon lets out a final screeching roar as it tries to fly off. It gains about 50 feet in altitude before it spirals down to earth. It impacts with the sound of crunching bone and lets out a final wimper before breathing it’s last.

The guards look to you and cheer while the city burns and the evacuation of the Market district continues with renewed hope of survival and maybe even victory over the arkali hordes still spilling into the streets.

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Chapter 9- "You can't let this city fall"

Enfys lets out a small chuckle and says “sorry, that was rude. I forgot you come from old Orthalyn. Arkali naval assaults are nothing new. Every now and then, they’ll load up an army onto ships and send it on an invasion. Those armies never reach the shore. The Bastion navy always sinks the ships and any Arkali that manage to swim ashore are hunted down by the Inquisition. Sometimes they do damage, but the invasions always fail by that route. Although I hate to think about what would happen if they were to land that kind of force.”

Myran chimes in: “Either way, our objectives won’t change unless they’re at our doorstep. We should keep moving back to Caer’Dagh.”

Retanna packs you some nuts and jerky and hands each of you a loaf of bread for the trail.

Harxen puts on his long-coat and leads you down a game-trail to a rudimentary rope bridge across the elvenblood river (dc 15 balance check to cross, dc 15 reflex save to regain balance, swim check in case of fall).

After the river, the trail is uneventful. By day’s end, you reach Caer’Dagh. Harxen thanks you for the pleasure of your company and parts ways back into the woods. Walking the streets of the market district, you notice the city is more lively than it was when you left. More people are out in the markets shopping and betting on fistfights outside the taverns. Workers are loading crates off and on horse-drawn carts. Children are playing hide and seek in the alleyways. Enfys takes a deep breath of air, lights a cigarette and says “Ornaia’s bow, I love this city. Anyway, I think we should go to the Hawk’s Talon to plan our next move. We’ve got a lot to prepare.”

You continue walking and you come to the familiar smell of hot mutton roast and freshly poured ale. Enfys opens the door with a slight creak of the hinges. Milo is standing behind the bar, drying a pitcher with a cream-colored rag and talking to a man seated on a stool eating a roasted potato. He flings the rag over his shoulder and says to the man “They’re back with all limbs intact. You owe me 150 plat.”

The man gives Milo a gold pouch and grumbles on his way out the door. Enfys slips him a rude gesture involving two fingers and her tongue. Myran fails miserably to suppress a snicker.

Enfys orders a round of beers and says: “Idiot should have known it was bad odds to bet against us.”

Milo grins: “Actually, he gave 25 to one after he found out you were going up against a fask incursion regiment. I guess I forgot to tell him you had explosives. Anyway, I take it you want to use the back room again?” Enfys nods and Milo hands her a key and gestures to the door behind the bar. Enfys opens it and leads you inside.

Inside the room is what looks like a war-table. It has a map of Irythan and several smaller grid sheets for planning attacks. A set of strategist’s figures is scattered on the table and the walls are lined with more detailed maps. A bulletin board on the far wall has various posts on goings-on throughout the six nations.

Declan hobbles into the room on a crutch behind you. He props himself up against the wall, pops the cork of a whiskey bottle and takes a large swig. Myran looks at him with disapproval. Declan shrugs and says: “What, my leg hurts. I’d be clumsy and stupid with the pain anyway. At least being clumsy and stupid with alcohol is more fun. Now, lets get down to business.”

Myran rolls her eyes and puts a few marks on the map. She turns to you and says: “Remember what I said before we left Caer’Dagh about you being from old Orthalyn? It had to do with newfound hope for the future and bringing empires crashing down? Good. Because we need to set about using that power. I’ve seen you in action. You’re natural leaders and damn good tacticians. But here’s what I have to know: How the hell do you coordinate like that? When you fight, you seem to know each-other’s moves before you even draw weapons. I’ve only seen arkali fight like that and there is a distinct lack of crimson on your scalps. Do you have any idea?”

Myran shrugs and is about to respond, but a bell begins to ring from outside. Milo barges in and says: “I hate to interrupt your planning session, but the whole god damn city is under attack. No idea who yet, but I got 50 plat that says Fask.”

Enfys draws her bow and says: “I’ll take that bet, Milo.” She nocks an arrow, turns to you and says: “Fight or Flight, we need to get out there and find out what we’re up against.”

Outside the Hawk’s Talon is a mob scene, panicking crowds are running back and forth trying to find loved ones. Some people are rushing around with pails of water or arming themselves. You can hear fires raging nearby and smell a pungent combination of blood and smoke.

Myran points south and says: “The attack is coming from there. My guess is it’s big. I’ll stay here with the rest of our crew and try to rally an evacuation of civilians. Enfys, you take our new friends and try to help with the defense.”

You start hustling down the street toward the sound of clashing steel and the light of a raging inferno of a city on fire. You come around a bend in the street to see a line of city guards with tower shields attempting to hold off an Arkali horde. A half-elf guard captain on a nearby platform is loosing orders and arrows with equal frequency. He takes a pause and says: “I need every man, woman and child able to wield arms to report to me and assist in the defense.” Enfys suggests going to him to help.

The guard captain looks you over briefly and says “Soveliss Anders, captain of the south gate. Damn good to see you. You’re shockingly well armed for this city. Are you mercenaries? If so, we can work out payment later.”

Enfys looks at you and says: “This is our chance to prove ourselves. I say tell him who we are.”

Soveliss looses another arrow and says: “Shit, all I care about is whether you can kill Arkali. We need to relieve pressure from that shield line. Get up here and help me put arrows in these blood-caps!”

1 round of combat, no map

Your projectiles thud into the Arkali forces, knocking several of them flat. As you nock and re-load, you hear a screaming roar from over the battlements. Looking up you see a large, blood-red dragon whose scales gradient-fade to an ashen-gray at the extremities and fins. A gout of crimson fire spews from it’s maw and hits Captain Soveliss head on, mortally wounding him. With a last breath, he says: “Listen to me. You can’t let this city fall. Don’t let my soldiers give up hope. Rally the forces of the guard and push back the Arkali. And for Correlon’s sake, kill that fucking dragon before it burns this city to a cinder.”

The dragon flies off toward the hilltop citadel, spitting fire and fanning the flames of the burning buildings with it’s wingbeats. The guards hear the roar of the dragon and see their commander slumped dead and hanging off the pedastel and begin to panic. Their line collapses and they scatter away while hundreds of Arkali rush past them and begin to flood the streets.

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Chapter 8- "Favor for a Favor"

Enfys swipes the keys from the very thoroughly slain general and begins unlocking the chained paragons. After everyone is unlocked, she and Myran set about treating the wounded and over-extended. You see the one Enfys referred to as Declan refusing treatment until everyone else has been treated.

Finally, Enfys begins treating Declan for a laceration on his left shoulder and blunt trauma on his rib-cage. Declan says to Enfys: “Okay, remind me. How many times have you saved my hide now. I’ve lost count.”

Enfys holds up four fingers in one hand while palpating his ribcage with the other “Now stop talking until I check you for broken ribs. I know you may not care if one of them punctures a lung, but I’ve got limited healing magic and I’d rather not make it five times just yet.”

Declan cracks a smile and says “Don’t be like that. Then we’d be even. By the way, I have a renewed empathy for that sore spot on your left shoulder. Fuckers marked me this morning.”

Enfys replies: “Yeah, branding sucks a mind-flayers left nut. As for being even, the Arkali business in Norallis doesn’t count and the rescue from that mining company in Heptus was Myran’s idea.”

Enfys gestures to you and says: “Declan, these are the new kids. Lorraine’s a damn good sorceress and makes the devils asshole of explosives. Brill is an unscourged orc and I wouldn’t recommend drinking with him if you like your liver. Cade is a cheeky little shit who can backstab with the best of them, though I’d keep an eye on your wallet around him. Irythan is deadly with a bow or a sword and I would not recommend challenging him from horseback or as a necromancer.”

Declan looks you over and says: “I though they’d be prettier. Never mind, can’t be too picky. Fate of the world and all that.”

Freefeather swoops down from the sky and whispers in harxen’s ear. Harxen swears in Sylvan and says “Freefeather just got back from a sky-scout. Apparently a legion of Fask troops is heading this way. They heard the explosions. The destroyed bridge will delay them long enough for us to get away, but I’m afraid we’ll have to go back to Weslyth. I know a shortcut through the woods that will get us to another bridge so we can cross this gorge, but we have to move now. I know we still need to liberate that prison, but we’re in no shape to do it right now. I know a place we can stay for the night before heading back tomorrow.”

Harxen cuts a path through the brush and leads you and your friends down it. Declan covers the rear with a stolen musket. You travel through the brush for about two hours and an hour after dark, you come to a ridge overlooking a small lake surrounded by campfires and torchlit criss-crossing paths. Harxen drops pack and says “Orthanlynis Teth’lorax.”

A small cadre of druids emerges from the treeline. Most appear in their early 40’s, but there are a few who look older. The eldest looking is an elven woman appearing to be in her mid 60’s. She has gray hair and emerald green eyes that seem to flap in the wind rather than twinkle in the torch-light. She wears a short, green robe over hide armor and carries a sickle.

“Hello, fellow children of Orthalyn. My name is Retanna Shialis and I am the elder of this circle. Come with me and I’ll get you set up with shelter. We can’t offer much, but you’re open to our hospitality.”

Trees from both the top and bottom of the ridge move their branches to form a ladder to the bottom. Retanna begins to climb down and beckons you to follow. At the bottom, you see a small camp set up in the trees. Hammocks hang from the limbs and you see druids and rangers sharing meals and playing regicide on platforms erected on the branches and around the trunks. Some are having sex in the forest canopy and others are skinny-dipping in the brook. Animals move freely about chasing each-other. Even the trees appear to be moving about by their own will. You have never seen so much life in one place.

Retanna invites you to a campfire where the brook meets the lake and ladles each of you a bowl of stew. “So,” she says, “I would guess by the cuts and bruises you sport and the gunpowder on your hands that you had something to do with the Fask caravan being attacked. I take it you’re heading back to Weslyth to re-group, correct?”

Retanna clears your empty bowls and sets them in the brook. “Get some rest,” she says “Sleeping in these hammocks will heal your wounds. I’d recommend leaving at dawn.”

Retanna walks to a tree and clambers up the branches as though she was walking up the trunk. You bundle up in your hammocks and feel the day’s adventures catching up with you.

As you sleep, you have another dream. You’re on a Bastion dreadnought over open water. The air is uncomfortably warm and extremely humid. You and your comrades are wearing bastion naval armor and those around you are calling you by names you don’t recognize. You hear a man from the crow’s nest yell “Starboard side! Red sails, three ships inbound.” You look Starboard and see three arkali corvettes with the sails dyed rust-red. Arkali boarding parties are crowding the bow of each ship rattling shields and brandishing axes.

The captain of your ship gives the order to load all cannons and ram the center ship. Your auxiliary sails unfurl and the helmsman changes wind direction by magic. Your ship hits the Arkali corvette head-on and jolts to a stop, flinging you onto the deck. Your captain orders a counter-boarding and your other shipmates lift you to your feet and hand you weapons. Among the cannon-fire with the other two ships, you leap onto the ship you just rammed. You hear leathery wingbeats from the sky loud enough to drown out the bedlam and cannon-fire around you.

“We need help over here!” You spring up, thinking it was another Bastion sailor. After a moment, you realize that you’re no longer dreaming.

“Get down here! He’s not breathing” (heal check dc 12, can take 10)

You find an elf laying supine on the ground. He has no pulse and you see extensive injuries consistent with a fall. The druid who called for you says he was unconscious, but alive when he got here. She says he was brought back here by a scouting party so he could be healed and she had sent for a healer when he stopped breathing. She says healing magic doesn’t work unless the recipient is breathing.

You begin compressions on his chest and enfys casts mage hand to push air into his lungs. After a minute and a half, he begins breathing again and you can feel a pulse. Retanna steps in and casts cure critical wounds. The elf regains consciousness.

Chris can now take control of his character

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Chapter 7- "Let's go kick their asses"

After nearly a day’s hike, you reach the ambush site. The caravan has not come by yet but Harxen tells you it’s about a half-hour away. Enfys suggests setting up whatever you need as soon as possible.

You set up the ambush and wait for the convoy to arrive. 10 minutes later, you hear hoofs tramping and cart wheels rolling, soon followed by marching footsteps and muttering voices.

Enfys whispers a short prayer and says to you: “We’ve got six people to their 15. They’ve got guns and heavy cavalry and they’re some of the most elite soldiers Fask has to offer. Let’s go kick their asses”

begin round by round combat

After the fight, Harxen returns. “I’m sorry” he says “I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I owe you an explanation. I used to be in the Faskian army, the elite guard, just like the ones you got done killing. I want nothing to do with that life anymore. The shit I’ve seen, the shit (sigh) what I’ve done is something no one should be able to just walk away from. Those men you killed deserved to die, but I knew them as friends once.”

Harxen approaches a man with his abdomen torn open and his left ear torn off by shrapnel. The man is still breathing, choking on his own blood. Harxen kneels down, says goodbye and slits the man’s throat

Harxen says: “He was an evil man who committed acts of genocide. He was killed in the process of his final one. His name was Tarker, his favorite drink was whiskey and cider, he loved his family and homeland and his death was completely justified. He was evil, but he was part of humanity. Never forget that. When we begin to see our enemies as less than human, we become enemies of ourselves.”

He gets up, sheathes his blade and continues: “When Milo set up our meeting, did he tell you why I requested to meet in person?”

“I requested this meeting because I wanted to see her for myself” He points at Enfys and begins speaking to her directly. “Do you remember me, Enfys?”

Enfys goes wide-eyed, draws her bow and points it at Harxen with an arrow ready to fly.
“You BASTARD!” she says “You killed my brother. You burned my home. I should drop you where you stand.”

Harxen takes a deep breath and says “My life is yours to take, I’ve done just as much as the men in this caravan. I ask you to listen first. I don’t seek to prolong my life, I seek redemption for what I’ve done. I seek to bring the genocidal iron rule of the Fask Empire crashing down on men like me. Nothing can change what I’ve done, I only seek to do a monumentally good thing before I die. Enfys, you were the reason I left the army. I grew up in fask learning from birth that elves were savages who sought to bring civilization down and replace our homes with dark woodlands. I was told what we were doing was for the good of the empire, that it would save my family from a painful death. Who was I to question the entire basis of my life? Then I saw you. You were a child, scared beyond anything I could imagine. Most of the elves I killed would ask me to spare their lives or promise me some form of damnation for my crimes. But you just looked at me and asked ‘why do I have to sleep?’. It took me completely by surprise, you had been seeing it all around you your whole life and you still didn’t understand the concept of death. You didn’t escape by some miracle. You escaped because I let you go. Enfys, saving you was the first good thing I ever did. My only request is that you let it not be the last. Let me help you, then take my life.”

Enfys has tears streaming down her cheeks and dripping onto her jacket. Her aiming hand is shaking. She forces a smile and says “I can’t possibly decide. I sure as hell don’t trust you, but I do believe everyone deserves a chance at redemption.” She turns to you and says “Any suggestions?”

Enfys slings her bow over her back and says “Now that that’s done with, we’ve got a prison to burn.”

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