With the Battle of the Three Bridges won, the team was given leave by High Commander Rison to return to the city, although Laesath and Akarn remained behind to conduct services for the dead and rituals to prevent any contamination of the land. Cole retrieved his Spellthrower from Corrigan Firesteel and toured the local taverns, Bigg returned to report to his family, and Mary-Lou spent her time cleaning up and reading books. For a week the group got something they hadn’t known for quite some time: rest. Still, towards the end of the week they were ordered by Ike to report to a military office in the second tier of the city: they needed to be fitted for their uniform, as they would be receiving their promised reward in an elaborate ceremony.
The next day the team found themselves spruced up in custom made uniforms, each sporting the light blue and silver colors of Desia and yet each violating the normal dress code in some way. They also realized that the unit armband for their uniform was unique, a silver gauntlet on a light blue field, a unit sigil that they did not recognize. The reason for the customized uniforms and the unique symbol was soon made clear: the disbanded Desin Mercenary Corp would be replaced by the official Desian LongArm Division, an elite offensive counterpart to the primarily defensive Desian Rangers. Former mercenaries like the team, along with crack troopers from the regular forces, would serve under Rison as a force to reach out and eliminate threats to Desia wherever they may be. And, to establish the team as the premier force, they were given a high accolade: promotion to the rank of Knight Lieutenant by the direct hand of King Lloyd Tarmenel, the added honorary title giving them increased standing and authority.
Adding to the crowd’s pleasure was an announcement by the King: the Second Army of Desia, fresh from a victory near Antlaya, would be dispatched to begin liberating the areas of the nation overrun during the War.
At a banquet in Castle Desia celebrating the victory, each of the team members’ split up to do their own things. Akarn kept to himself, masquerading as his own animal companion in Wild Shape form. Cole set out on a mission; several nobles had appeared displeased by the King’s decision to knight them, and the scoundrel was determined to put them in their place. He confronted Lord Karuse, one of the wealthiest nobles in Desia, and managed to force the man into retreat by arguing for the necessity of the new Division. Bigg confronted a group of foreing dragonborn who claimed to be from New Arkhosia, apparently investigating the stories of Bigg’s exploits. Laesath attempted to wield a number of pick-up lines, but had the misfortune of falling for Queen Alexandra’s favorite trick: use her rough appearance to pass as a normal mercenary, instead of the Royal lady she is now. Laesath’s luck further took a dive when Mary-Lou slipped him a potion that had him coming on to a marble column for some time. Akarn was just starting to use Wild Shape to further play with the cleric when a servant announced that things were winding down and that he would escort them to their rooms for the night.
They were only halfway there when the torches sputtered out, and before they could react Mary-Lou was nearly eviscerated by cloaked assassins wielding exotic-looking greatswords who appeared out of thin air. As the team struggled to react, the assassins turned invisible again, providing a decent challenge. However, the group managed to find and kill the five individuals before they could strike at the wizard again, while the servant ran off screaming.
A quick examination of the bodies revealed them to by shadar-kai, natives of the Shadowfell, with one interesting caveat: they were undead, an overwhelming taboo for the Raven Queen-worshipping shadar-kai. Also, they all displayed a tatoo of a bronze chain around their skulls. Before further examination could occur, sounds of fighting throughout the castle and the death scream of the servant caught their attention, and the group rushed onwards to find a group of Steel Soul mercenaries standing over the servant’s corpse. So began a battle through the castle, a running fight past and through mercenaries, Desian soldiers, and screaming nobles. Steel Soul magic users, glaive wielders, soldiers with magic war picks, and bladeling warriors and stood in the team’s way as they continued to fight up to the king’s floor at the top. Akarn observed that the enemies were teleporting into the castle. Noting the castle’s supposed defences against magical invasion, Cole proposed that the attack might be an inside job, immediately suspicious of Karuse. All the team members went right on earning their knighthood, although it should be noted that Bigg was very much in touch with his draconic heritage this night.
Upon reaching the sixth level of the castle the group came face to face with three mercenary knights, the crack troops of the Steel Soul Company. The three knights proved frighteningly adept at fighting the five knight lieutenants of Desia, although the addition of a halfing assassin ambushing Mary-Lou from behind did not help matters. However, Cole turned to fight the halfing and the others managed to pin down and kill the knights, although the close quarters hampered their efforts. Finally stepping over the corpses of their latest fallen foes, the team continued their ascent through the castle . . .