Sunday, March 19, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 11: We Must Destroy the Stone

March 19, 2017

Having received a reward of 4,000 gold pieces from Irabeth for their investigations into the two Ivory Labyrinth safehouses, the new Eagle's Watch team decided to sell some of the items they had acquired and divvy up the remainder among the group members. Runa found a priest who could make the broken phylactery whole and decided to wear it herself. She also claimed a couple of scrolls, while Jiro took the others. Asami sought a curative potion as she had been so badly wounded in the tower, and her comrades agreed that she should have a protective cloak in addition to the potion. Once she received her share of the coin, she used some of it to purchase a wand that would fire tiny unerringly accurate missiles of force at her chosen target.

While the group were taking care of this business, they heard some tales of a terrifying demon that had been seen about the city. The description of the demon sounded familiar to them, and they soon realized that it was not an enemy but an ally, the demon known as Rhino who had helped to train them in demon-fighting techniques under the supervision of Cennami. Zosta was especially eager to disabuse the city folk of their fear of Rhino after he had given her the gift of the magical punching gauntlets.

Irabeth had told the party that they should talk with Quednys Orland, leader of the Riftwardens, and they decided to do this after their trip to the next safehouse, Nyserian Manor. They made their way through one of the most damaged parts of Kenabres to reach the manor, which had completely collapsed into a heap of rubble. It was difficult to tell if the manor, like the other safehouses, had a subterranean level. They encountered a local resident who told them that she had seen a surprisingly large number of people fleeing from the manor during the demonic attack, and that they had all been wearing unusual robes. The group members recognized the description of the robes as those of Baphomet's cultists. The woman also knew that the manor had a basement, but as far as she knew it had no side entrance or other access. The basement now appeared to be completely filled with the fallen remains of the manor.

While they were talking with the woman she made a reference to someone named Kandro. Jiro and Runa recognized the name as that of the man who had purchased a sword stolen from Irabeth. He was also the master of Nyserian Manor. Our of gratitude for the information the woman had provided, Jiro healed her minor injuries. The group then decided that removing all the rubble from the manor's basement to search for more evidence was more work than they were willing to commit to, and they returned to Defender's Heart.

At Defender's Heart, Irabeth took them to meet Quednys. They discovered that he was unaware that Blackwing hadn't been completely destroyed or that Aravashnial had survived the attack on the city. He was pleased to learn both pieces of information. Afterward he and Irabeth told the group that they feared the attack had merely been a prelude to something far worse. They suspected that the demons were plotting to turn the power of the Wardstones back on the mortal world, releasing the demonic forces to invade through the Worldwound. The cultists had taken refuge in the Gray Garrison after the attack, and Quednys believed they held a fragment of a destroyed Wardstone there. He and Irabeth believed that this fragment must be destroyed to prevent the demons from using it to gain control over the other stones. They wanted the new Crusaders to help them attack the Gray Garrison and seek out the fragment. Quednys presented Asami with a forked rod that held a green stone between its two prongs, which he said would nullify the stone's remaining power.

Irabeth explained that the other Crusaders would attack other cult locations in an attempt to draw the defenders out of the Gray Garrison and deny them reinforcements, while Irabeth would go with the group to seek the stone. She admitted that they might not be successful in entering the garrison on their first try, as it was well fortified. But she had some aid to help them in their attack: six mongrelfolk had come from below ground to lend their aid, and they were all accomplished archers. Despite her still broken leg, Irabeth's wife Anevia would lead her old squad in one of the decoy attacks.  Kendys then sent a messenger to Blackwing.

Before the messenger could go far, he returned in the company of a second courier who had been sent by Aravashnial. The second messenger carried a magical pack full of equipment, including another wand like the one Asami had just purchased but more powerful, several strong healing potions, a group of cold iron arrows, a chime that could open any door or gate, a wand that would cancel magical darkness, a cold iron greataxe, and a cold iron longsword. Asami took the two wands and one of the potions, Aegron took the greataxe, Runa the sword, Jiro the chime, and the remaining potions were given to the mongrelfolk along with the arrows. Irabeth explained that the decoy attacks would begin once the party attacking the garrison were in place. At that point, the group set out for the Gray Garrison.

Most of the buildings around the Gray Garrison had been reduced to rubble, but there were a few partial walls nearby. As soon as the group neared the garrison, the gates opened and a group of cultists emerged, preceded by what appeared to be two bloated, naked men. As the attackers came closer they saw that the two naked men resembled Kandro, lord of Nyserian Manor, and Lord Hulruun, former leader of Kenabres. Zosta suddenly remembered a type of demon called a vermlek that would wear the flesh of the dead. Clearly both Kandro and Hulruun were dead. The two vermleks ordered the cultists to attack, and the cultists responded by casting spells on themselves, which Asami recognized as protection against the energy of good.The attackers all moved toward the garrison's defenders except Asami, who hung back to use long-range magic.

Asami was the first to act after the cultists cast their spells. She used her more powerful wand to send three missiles of force at one of the vermleks. To her disappointment the missiles seemed to have little effect on the disgusting creature. One vermlek cast a spell at Aegron and Zosta, who were both near to it, inflicting wounds without any weapon. Aegron and Zosta attacked in return and observed that the vermleks' stolen skin closed over the injuries they suffered.

Jiro summoned up a wakizashi of force to attack one of the cultists. Asami decided that the human cultists were better targets than the demons, and sent three missiles at three cultists. Runa called on the power of Iomedae to bless her companions, while Zosa tapped her new gauntlets together and exlaimed "Little Sister!" to ignite their flames.

One of the demons struck at Aegron with the scythe it wielded and dealt him a grievous blow, nearly severing his hand. That injury, combined with the wounds the demon had already magically inflicted on him and the attacks of nearby cultists, left Aegron too weak to stand. After he collapsed, Irabeth rushed to his side to defend him and extended Iomedae's healing mercy to keep him from death. Runa then cast a spell that caused a burst of radiant light to engulf the demons and several cultists. The demons withstood the magic, but two cultists were left blind.

While the companions and Irabeth faced the demons, the mongrelfolk archers picked off cultist after cultist. Jiro's floating weapon was suddenly wrested from his control and moved to strike one of the demons, at the same time transforming from a wakizashi to a tetsubo. At the same time, Asami noticed several force missiles coming from the top of a broken wall nearby. She glimpsed a furry white paw holding a stick taking cover behind the wall, and realized that her newly-acquired wand was missing. She didn't take time to think of how curious it was that a monkey could use a wand. Instead she took Telendrev's silver scale from her pouch and applied it to her wooden sword, aligning the sword so that it could inflict damage with the power of good.

While Asami was engaged in this, the vermlek that had attacked Aegron had dropped its human guise, revealing its true form as a worm-like creature that lacked limbs to grasp the scythe. Irabeth then stepped up to it and with one blow of her sword nearly sliced it in two. The second vermlek began to recite the words of a spell, which Runa recognized as one to summon another creature. She called out a warning to her companions. Asami moved closer to where the remaining vermlek stood and hurled her splintered spear at it. Despite the fact that Irabeth and several cultists were between her and the demon, Asami's spear hit it, and she was rewarded with the satisfaction of seeing that it had wasted the spell it was casting. Two dretches had started to materialize nearby but after her spear hit they faded away. Zosta then turned her powerful blows on the vermlek and it joined its comrade in death. The remaining cultists were slain by the mongrelfolk archers, with the exception of the two blind men, who were encouraged to attack each other by one of the mongrelfolk mimicking the vermlek's voice.

Next: Episode 12, Into the Cultists' Lair

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, episode 10: The Tower of Estrod

The group of new Eagle's Watch members had suffered a good deal in their efforts to investigate the first of the the three Ivory Labyrinth safehouses they had discovered. Their first concern was to heal as much of their injuries as they could. Jiro used his magic to cure the wounds that Asami and Kirara had incurred. Afterward they ascended to the alchemist's shop and exited into the square.

There they found that the neighbors who had gone to bury the weaponmaker Logan beside the grave of his son had returned. When they told the local shopkeepers what they had found beneath Topaz Solutions, the neighbors were so grateful that they prepared a feast to serve to the five comrades. Jiro was disappointed that the people doing they cooking would not allow him to help.

After they had eaten there was music and dancing. While this small celebration was going on, a messenger came from Defender's Heart and delivered a message to Runa. She called her companions over to hear what it said, which attracted the attention of the local residents. Everyone fell silent while they waited to hear the contents of the message. When Runa opened it, she realized it was actually addressed to Aegronius and immediately handed it to him. Aegronius decided that he had nothing to hide and read the message aloud.

The message came from Irabeth, telling him that his friend Darla, who the companions had left at Horgus Gwerm's residence, had been seriously injured and was now being cared for at Defender's Heart. This news dampened the mood a bit, and the companions decided to return to Defender's Heart to find out more about Darla's condition.

When they arrived at the new headquarters of the Eagle Watch, they were met by Irabeth, who told them that while Darla was too badly injured to give much information she had described an attack at Gwerm's house. Darla had suffered an injury to her eye, one arm, and had lost part of one leg. She had also been afflicted by some poison that seemed to be demonic in origin. She had managed to tell them that some sort of demon had attacked her, which by its description resembled a babau, but it was impossible that a lone unarmed person could have escaped a babau, and Darla had clearly put up a fierce fight as evidenced by the injuries to her knuckles. She had also managed to scrape off some skin from her assailant, which had been examined and did seem to come from something like a babau yet different.

The group chose to remain at the inn for the night rather than continue on to the next safehouse location. That night Zosta received a parcel containing a leather sack which emitted a metallic clink when she lifted it. When she put her hand into the sack she couldn't reach the items inside and the sack seemed much larger inside that its exterior appeared. She upended the sack and a pair of gauntlets fell out. They could be worn as brass knuckles, but along the sides parallel with the edges of the wearer's palms were blades, so that the wearer could choose to slash her opponent rather than punch. Inscribed on the knuckles were the words "Little Sister". When Zosta read these words aloud the gauntlets were sheathed in flames, to her delight. She also realized that the gauntlets were made of cold iron. With the gauntlets was a note. Zosta opened it and recognized the scrawled handwriting as that of Rhino, the demon who had converted to the side of good and helped train her and her companions in methods to fight other demons. The note was brief, stating only that it was good Zosta was well, that her parents were also well, and that Rhino would see her soon. She realized that Rhino must have made the gauntlets himself.

The next morning Zosta showed the gauntlets to Asami, who told her that she would be able to invoke the flames for a short time thrice each day. In the meantime, Aegronius learned that Darla was awake and no longer feverish. He went at once to see her. Darla told him that Garvin, the mercenary who had agreed to protect Horgus Gwerm's mansion, had suddenly transformed into a demonic creature and seemed to go mad with frenzy. She thought that Gwerm had escaped, but she had only managed to do so by climbing out a window that the Garvin-demon couldn't fit through. Her description of Garvin's transformation contained elements of both a dretch and a babau, leading to the conclusion that he had become some sort of hybrid.

Aegronius joined his companions at breakfast and told them what he had learned from Darla. The tale of the demon hybrid and Garvin's transformation left them all confused. How could a hybrid of dretch and babau exist? Had Garvin been a demon all along or had he somehow been possessed?

Once they had completed their morning repast the five comrades decided to continue investigating the Ivory Labyrinth's safehouses. Their next target was the Tower of Estrod, which had served the city of Kenabres as a library and research laboratory. As they left Defender's Heart behind, they saw the body of a looter hanging from a gibbet. Irabeth had told them that the Eagle's Watch was bringing in an executioner, as looting and helping the demon cultists were crimes deemed punishable by death.

The Tower of Estrod had once been a five-story structure, but the demons' attack on the city had destroyed the upper three floors and left them as a pile of rubble next to the circular tower. The companions had found a pass phrase in the documents they had acquired. They decided to bluff their way into the tower by pretending to be cult members. Jiro spoke the phrase, "I have new materials for the archive" in a surprisingly gruff voice, and they were admitted by an armored guard who was not trying at all to hide his affiliation with the cult of Baphomet.

Once inside the tower they could see that it had been even more badly damaged than was visible from outside. Sky could be seen through the broken second floor overhead. The guard who admitted them was at first somewhat dismissive, telling them not to disturb his commander, Faxon. Then Aegronius noticed something hiding up above, and Runa intimidated the guard into telling them that it was Faxon's familiar. He was so cowed that he seemed to think Runa was higher ranking in the cult than himself and he told her the group should go downstairs and report to Faxon. Jiro's monkey clambered up a pillar, while the rest crossed a walkway flanked by two rubble-filled pits and passed a stack of crates before reaching the staircase.

At the bottom of the stair they saw a room bisected by a wall, which held a set of double doors that were presently closed. In the part of the underground chamber that they could see were only more crates and a table that was evidently being used as a desk. Just as they arrived, the double doors opened, giving them a brief glimpse into a mostly empty chamber, though Aegronius saw a white bed with a dark stain at its center. A tiefling man stepped out from the other room and shut the doors behind him with the click of a lock.

The tiefling then told the group to turn over any loot they had acquired and give him a report. Zosta tried to size him up. He appeared to be doing the same to her, and by his expression he judged that Runa and Asami were the greatest danger to him. To stall for time the party members began reaching into their packs. Aegronius tried to lure the tiefling closer by showing him the magical ranseur he had recently obtained, but the tiefling only told him to put it on the crates. Then Runa took out her sword, pretending to show it to him as loot, and sliced at the tiefling.

The tiefling immediately cast a spell, which Asami recognized as a curse, and reached out to touch Zosta. Asami was relieved when Zosta appeared unaffected by the curse. Then a small winged creature landed on a crate and breathed out a blast of flame that engulfed all of the comrades. Asami flung a splintered spear at the tiefling. Zosta directed several fierce blows at the small creature, which she recognized as a fire mephit, and though she couldn't harm it with the flames from her new gauntlets it took only a few strikes to slay the creature. An instant later two cultists came running down the stairs. Jiro used a wand to summon a katana of force to combat them.

The tieflng had been startled by Asami's unusual spell, and cast another spell of his own which she knew could draw the life force from the victim and transfer it to the caster, He stepped forward and before she could react he touched her, sucking away almost all of her life energy and leaving her so weak that she toppled to the floor. Runa at once channeled divine energy that healed Asami just enough to bring her back from the brink of death. Zosta raced up the stairs, dodging past the two cultists and vaulted to the floor beside the fallen Asami, grabbing her limp body and dragging her toward the desk in the corner of the room.

While Jiro engaged the first of the two guards, Runa, Aegronius, and Zosta fought the tiefling. Jiro summoned fire to his hands. The tiefling cast another spell, which Asami was able to recognize by its verbal components even though she couldn't see him from her vantage on the ground. She identified the spell as one that would render the victim permanently blind. He tried to touch Zosta but she again resisted his magic. A moment later the mephit revealed that it was not dead when it shot a ray of fire at the group surrounding its master. It missed its aim, though, and the flames hit the tiefling, though his demonic heritage had made him immune to some of the burns caused by the mephit's flames. Asami then raised herself up enough to lift her wooden sword and sent an unerring missile of magical force at the tiefling.. Aegronius had abandoned his ranseur and drawn his sword, and he now stabbed the tiefling deeply, causing his foe to fall unconscious to the floor.

Jiro was still fighting the two cultists with his katana of force and his flames. The mephit tried to heat Runa's armor but failed and then flew away. Asami took the opportunity to drink a curative potion. Zosta charged up the stairs again to attack the second cultist and kicked him down the staircase. He was dead when he came to rest at the bottom. His comrade tried to flee but Jiro and Runa both attacked him and he joined his fallen mate.

When the cultists were all overcome, Jiro used a wand and his own healing energy to restore Asami. He then searched the two guards and the tiefling, gathering up all their possessions. The tiefling carried two keys. He also had booby trapped himself by carrying a scorpion, which stung Jiro but not seriously. One of the keys proved to open the double doors. These opened into a room that had little in it beyond a chest and a bed. A brazen head of a minotaur hung on the wall. Asami determined that the brazen head was magical, as were some of the contents of the chest. The stain that Aegronius had seen on the bed proved to be blood. As there was no one in the bedroom, the five companions realized that the tiefling must have been Faxon. He was not quite dead, so the companions decided to bind and gag him and take him back to Irabeth for questioning.

Asami detected divination magic emanating from the brazen head, which made her anxious that Faxon's masters might be scrying on the tower. But the magic did not seem strong enough to be a scrying spell. Runa threw the coverlet from the bed over the minotaur head. The second key taken from Faxon opened the chest, which held a wand, a pair of magical bracers, an enchanted cloak, a large amount of coins, five silver holy symbols of Iomedae, several swords, and a broken phylactery. Asami was unable to identify what spell the wand held, but Runa discovered that it could grant the blessings of the gods to a weapon. Asami determined that the phylactery had been magical before it was broken and would also have granted divine blessings to the wearer.

There were also some papers and a note within the chest, which provided some information the Eagle Watch would find very useful in combating the cultists. The note was addressed to Faxon and appeared to have been written before the attack on Kenabres, as it congratulated him on his new position and told him that Kenabres would fall soon, as well as mentioning some other names that the comrades had heard before, such as Vorlesh and Minago, who had signed the note.

Runa tried to learn more about the brazen head but was unsuccessful. Jiro felt that it would provide blessings to cult members. The group members then decided to destroy it rather than take it back to Defender's Heart. After they smashed it to bits they left the underground rooms, for the other crates contained nothing but poor-quality foodstuffs. Bohgong locked the outer doors from inside and then climbed over the wall to meet them.

Back at Defender's Heart, they were given a shared reward of 2,000 gold pieces for having captured Faxon. The other items they had taken from the cultists they were allowed to keep or sell as they chose.

Loot:
2 potions of cure light wounds
2 scrolls of cause fear
2 scrolls of comprehend languages
2 masterwork chain shirts
2 bottles of unholy water
wand of cure moderate wounds, 9 charges (Jiro)
12 +1 crossbow bolts
bracers of armor +1
cloak of resistance +1
masterwork longsword
2 masterwork scimitars
5 silver holy symbols of Iomedae
2,310 copper pieces
759 silver pieces
122 gold pieces
11 platinum pieces


Next: Episode 11, We Must Destroy the Stone