Sunday, September 4, 2016

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 8: Defender's Heart

After the group rescued the young woman named Kayla from the group of misguided Crusaders who had meant to sacrifice her, Jiro caught a glimpse of a ghostly figure dressed in the traditional armor style of Minkai. Bohgong recognized this figure as Jiro's many-times great-grandfather, wearer of the Phoenix Armor. Jiro wondered if his ancestor had come to help him or his brother. He realized that the spirit's presence meant the party would face more battle.

The group had taken one of the misguided Crusaders prisoner when the rest fled. Runa tried to convince this man, Geoff by name, of the wrong of his beliefs by reciting the doctrine of his goddess Sarenrae to him, but though her words did seem to sway him somewhat, he was not entirely convinced. He had not been one of the leaders of the Crusader band, and he still held convictions that agreed with those leaders. Finally Runa and Jiro asked him if he would be willing to accompany them to Defender's Heart to talk with the leadership of the city's defenders there. This he agreed to do.

By this point Anevia was getting anxious to get to Defender's Heart and Zosta suggested they get underway, as the well-known inn lay a good distance from the part of Old Kenabres where they currently found themselves. They set off once more, soon coming upon a large area of complete ruin in which not even the walls of destroyed buildings still stood. The earth had been gouged deep and streams of what appeared to be lava flowed in several places. As they looked on this sight in dismay, they observed several creatures circling in the air above the devastation. Aegron climbed up onto the roof of an intact structure at the edge of the destroyed area to get a better look at the flying things, and reported that they appeared to be vultures. Just as he passed this information to his companions on the ground, the vultures flew toward them and swooped in to attack, revealing as they did so that they were much larger than ordinary vultures.

Runa immediately called upon Iomedae to bless the entire group to fortify them against the large vultures. Geoff rushed forward toward one of the vultures that had landed by Zosta, and the creature lashed out with its powerful beak and severed his leg, leaving him bleeding profusely on the ground. One of the four vultures had not yet alit on the ground, and Anevia fired her bow at it. After striking at the bird before her, Zosta shouted out to her companions that it appeared to be a fiendish creature that was immune to the special properties of her cold iron knuckles. The vulture above Anevia snapped at her and she collapsed, critically wounded.

Jiro had moved forward to face the third vulture and it now bit him badly. Uncle fled into the building and hid. Aegron took out his greataxe and struck the bird that Anevia's arrows had hit, and his blow was so powerful that it fell dead. But there were still three vultures remaining and their bites were vicious. Runa, Zosta and Jiro were all bitten again, and Jiro was very unsteady on his feet. Asami hurled her splintered spear at the vulture attacking Jiro, but the vulture did not appear to be much injured.

Zosta swung her fists with all the power she could muster and knocked out the vulture nearest her. Asami stepped forward to lay the flat of her wooden sword on Jiro's shoulder and green energy flowed down the blade to surround him with an armor of illusory vines and bark, giving him extra protection against the fiendish vultures. Jiro then used a hex to heal Zosta and summoned up a disc of stone to shield himself. Despite this, when the vulture attacked him again he fell. Runa used her fervor to heal him enough that he could get back on his feet.

Aegron leaped down from the roof and landed badly, falling on his back, but a moment later he leaped to his feet and attacked a vulture. Zosta continued to attack the vulture she had knocked out. Asami threw another spear, but missed the vulture she was aiming for. Jiro used his hex to heal himself. At that moment Uncle came racing back out of the building and leaped onto the vulture that had last bitten Jiro, slapping and pummeling its head. The small monkey wasn't strong enough to do any harm to it, but his actions clearly distracted the creature.

Zosta struck her vulture once more and it went limp. It had become apparent that the vultures would concentrate their attacks on the person who was most seriously injured. That person was now Runa. One of the remaining vultures struck her in the leg and she backed away from it to read a scroll of bear's endurance.

Aegron's axe took the life of another vulture. Uncle leaped off the vulture he had been straddling and at first appeared to be dead, but a moment later he realized that playing dead in the presence of the vultures was not the best idea and sprang back to his feet. A moment later Zosta punched the last vulture and it too died. Free of combat, the group members realized that Anevia was moments from death and Jiro quickly healed her.

Once Anevia was no longer in danger of dying, Jiro healed the injuries of the rest of the group. He realized as he tended to them that it was likely their wounds might be infected. While he did this Runa said a prayer for Geoff the fallen Crusader, who had bled out before anyone could reach him. His body was moved inside the building and covered with loose stones to form a cairn. When everyone had recovered enough to continue their journey they decided to go and investigate whatever the vultures had been circling before they attacked. Aegron identified the best path down into the depression that had been dug out of the ground by some unknown force. They found only some unidentifiable humanoid remains lying next to one of the 'lava streams.' Getting closer to the lava revealed that it was not natural lava; Kenabres did not stand near any volcano, and the lava seemed unusually slimy, though it was still just as hot as ordinary lava. Asami checked the area for magical auras but found none.

Skirting around the other lava streams, the party made their way across the rest of the damaged area to reach intact streets and buildings on the other side. There were people in the streets, and as Jiro insisted on telling everyone where they were headed and offering healing to any who were injured, the group soon accumulated a collection of followers. They observed symbols on the doors of the houses they passed, which they soon recognized indicated the number of people who had died inside each structure.

When the enlarged group encountered first a howler demon and next a group of tieflings engaged in looting, the crowd of ordinary citizens set upon them and punished them. After the looters were overpowered, the citizens offered the adventurers some of the things they had taken from the tieflings, including two vials of alchemist's fire, three flasks of holy water, three magical crossbow bolts, an elixir of vision, a potion of barkskin, and 55 gold pieces.

Some of the local people following the party left them along the way as they found family members or returned to their homes, while others joined. By the time they reached the Defender's Heart Inn, the group had increased in size to more than a dozen people. At the Heart they found the local guards, the Eagle's Watch, in residence. The guards called for them to halt, but as soon as they recognized Anevia and were given the password that Irabeth had left for her, the group were welcomed inside the fortress-like stone structure. There they were greeted by Irabeth, along with a one-armed man who was introduced as Kimroth Otai, owner of Defender's Heart. Anevia and Irabeth were of course overjoyed to see one another safe and happily embraced.

When Anevia and Irabeth separated after their private moment, Kimroth revealed that Irabeth was now leader of the Eagle's Watch. Irabeth explained that what Kayla had told the party was correct: Kenabres' Wardstone had been destroyed, and as a result the remaining Wardstones had been severely weakened. The Watch had found a note that mentioned Minago, a name the party members recognized, which was addressed to someone named Fakson and also mentioned the name Vorlesh, a Nahendrian crystal, and someone referred to as 'our Lord's daughter'. Recalling that it was someone called Minago who had slain Yaniel, the former owner of Radiance, Runa showed Radiance to Irabeth.

After the group told her about the cultist safehouses they had learned of during their time underground, Irabeth announced that she would authorize a reward of a thousand gold pieces if they would search these locations. She also reassured Zosta that her parents and Cennami were alive and were engaged in clearing the warehouse district of dangers. Kimroth called for a runner to take a message to them to let them know that Zosta and her companions were safe. As the companions began to tell the story of what had happened to them when the demons attacked, Jiro and Asami revealed why they had been sent all the way from Minkai and Jinin to the Worldwound. Irabeth then called for the room to be cleared of everyone but herself, Kimroth, Anevia, and the five comrades.

Once the civilians had gone, Jiro told the tale of his half-brother Katsuro Yoshida and how he had been angered when the illegitimate son Jiro was chosen to go to the West to combat the oni. He also explained how he had seen that his brother had willingly accepted possession by one of the Nine Oni Lords. Kimroth knew little of the oni and didn't see how they were any different than the demons that had attacked the city, but Irabeth appeared to know a bit more about them and was greatly concerned when she learned that the oni might be allying themselves with the demons to enter the Material Plane from the Worldwound.

As the conversation continued, Irabeth mentioned that Quednys, leader of the Riftwardens, had survived the attack and should be told of this. Asami revealed that her parents had been members of the Riftwardens, as well as telling Irabeth that they had visited Blackwing Ruin and that Aravashniel had survived the fall underground and was now at Blackwing. Another messenger was sent to make contact, and was given the password that Aravashniel had given to the party. The party members asked if any healing was available to remove the filth fever several of them, including Anevia, had contracted from the fiendish vultures, and that was arranged.

Runa then decided that as Irabeth was the most senior representative of the church of Iomedae, she should present Radiance to Irabeth. As she handed over the sword, it glowed slightly in response to the paladin's touch.

Irabeth swore Aegron, Asami, Jiro, Runa, and Zosta in as Crusaders. As a reward for returning Radiance, she gave them each permission to choose any magic item they desired of a value less than or equal to 1,000 gold pieces. Jiro also used some funds they had acquired previously through selling items to the Mongrelfolk to purchase another wand of cure light wounds, as the wand they had was almost empty of charges.

Loot:
Alchemist's fire - 2
Holy water - 3
+1 flaming bolts - 3
elixir of vision
potion of barkskin
55 gold pieces

Next: Episode 9, Seeking the Ivory Labyrinth

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