Fury of the Lost One

Flying West and Fighting Freaks

Upon sunrise the next day, attempts to track the two surviving mercenaries from the previous night’s battle proved futile. At the very least, it seemed the the banshrae’s fey nature allowed it to easily move through nature without being detected, apparently also assisting the swordmaster.

Double-checking their maps, the party concluded that at their current pace and on their current course it would take them roughly two and a half weeks of marching to reach their border, and an indeterminate amount of time that was probably no more than two weeks to reach one of their objectives, the Undead location being the closest one. Seeking alternative modes of transportation, Akarn tapped into his connection with the spirits and summoned forth a flight of giant eagle spirits to carry the party.

Flying over several burned out villages and towns as they traveled, the party noticed something disturbing about areas that had been attacked by the Undead: there were no Desian corpses. The Orcs had done rather standard burn-and-pillage jobs, while the lizardfolk left piles of bones from their meals, but of those who had fought or been hunted down by the walking corpses there was no sign. And since there had been no reports of turned Desians at Three Bridges, that left them wondering: if the missing Desians had been made into undead, then where were they? Aside from that disturbing though the day was calm, and after flying almost from dawn until dusk the party calculated that they’d shaved three days worth of marching off of their trip.

With Mary-Lou trancing, Laesath on watch, Akarn transforming into a tree, and Cole Glamour Blading himself so that he could both sleep and stay on watch at the same time, the group had no trouble hearing what sounded like approaching cavalry, of a sort. Trying to set up an ambush, the party were surprised to see what at first seemed like drakkoths – a type of reptilian/draconic centauroid creature – stampeded into their camp. But once the reptiles came closer the freakish truth was revealed: the four-legged part of the creatures were apparently from normal drakkoths, but the humanoid portion were just as apparently Lizardfolk, the same odd hybrid types that had been encountered before. Worse, the lizardrakkoths were not seamless; signs of a crude grafting were easy to see, hinting at some sort of vile experiment.

In the opening moments Cole managed to successfully ambush the four lizardrakkoths, and Akarn’s sudden transformation from majestic tree to enraged wolf also took the reptiles by surprise. The two lizarddrakkoth ambushers proved weak fare; one of them was down within seconds of the fight’s start, flanked by Akarn and Laesath and then slain by Bigg, and the other did not last all that much longer. The rager and venomshot lizardrakkoths proved more troublesome. All of the creatures could spit venom, and the venomshot’s arrows seemed made to to enhance the effects of that venom. The rager was simply a fierce opponent, tough and skilled with a battleaxe. The creatures eventually came to settle on striking at Mary-Lou once the rager managed to break away from Cole and attack the eladrin wizard, who had been knocked prone by a panicked ambusher. Although Laesath took the venomshot’s head off in payment for it’s last shot at Mary-Lou, and the wizard herself did no small amount of damage tossing ice and fire around, she spent most of the latter part of the battle fading in and out of consciousness due to venom and battleaxe wounds, with Akarn struggling to keep her alive.

Still, once the rager was on its own the group was able to pile onto it and hack it to pieces, Laesath literally disarming it before Bigg struck the final blow. That left the party wondering over something they’d noticed earlier: some of the lizarddrakkoths had been wounded in another fight, and the rager had the blade and several inches of the shaft from a standard-issue Desian glaive stabbed into it’s flank. Who had the creatures been fighting before stumbling across the party’s camp?

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The Interim Part 2, and the Start of the March . . .
Last days in Desia, and the start of the mission . . .

Bigg had been spending most of his free time practicing his fighting techniques at a Desian barracks in the second tier of the city, and he had decided to spend one last time sparring with the soldiers there. To his surprise, the delegation from New Arkhosia was already there, and not nearly as surprised to see him in turn.

Their leader made a request of Bigg: a duel against two of his group, to judge the strength of the Desian dragonborn. Not one to turn down a fight, Bigg agreed to fight the red-skinned dragonborn warrior and the green-skinned cleric.

What followed was a rout if ever there was one. Although the New Arkhosians were obviously no slouches at combat, Bigg dominated the field. At times it seemed that his opponents’ blows weren’t even hurting him. When the pair had been battered into unconsciousness, the delegation seem shocked as the local Desians cheered for Bigg, although their leader seemed more thoughtful than surprised. As a gift, Bigg was given the armor and weapons of the dragonborn he’d defeated, with no hard feelings from the losers.

Their business in Desia done, the group set out on their mission, crossing the Mabinog River and beginning the march across Western Desia towards the Wilds. On their third night they stumbled across a camp of Steel Souls Company mercenaries, apparently survivors of the Battle of the Three Bridges who had been left behind when their Company fled the battle. The mercenaries were arguing amongst themselves, some wishing to further harass the Desians but others wishing to travel south to Malton, where it seemed the rest of their fellows were gathering.

The party attacked the mercenary camp and killed most of the stragglers, including a troglodyte and a werewolf, but a human swordmaster and a banshrae of no small ability managed to slip beyond their grasp and vanish into the darkness of night and the cover of the tall grass.

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The Interim
Team spends their last week in the city . . .

The plan to win the Horde War was outlined the morning after the Battle at Castle Desia. While High Commander Rison and the platoon-sized strike force would act as a vanguard for the Second Army in the clean-up operations in Western Desia, the strike teams would be dispatched on their own. Five of the five-man teams would be sent South to shore up the Desia-Malton border in case of Maltonian aggression; the last thing Desia needed was the Legions invading at a time like this. The other fifteen teams, including the Knight Lieutenants, would be sent West. Their mission would be to travel to the headquarters of the Undead and Lizardfolk and disrupt their operations, permanently if possible. As originally planned, they would leave Desia City in one week, using the deployment of the Second Army as cover.

Given a week to set their affairs in order, the team split up across the city, each making their own preparations for the mission that would likely see them gone from civilization for months.

Akarn set about building a druid’s grove in a nearby forest, creating a scrying pool and several wards to keep it safe. When attempting to create an altar, he was approached by what he soon identified as an Angel of Melora. Communication was strained; Akarn worshipped the primal spirits of the world, and had no reason to trust a messager of the gods. The language barrier was also present. The Angel tried to strike a bargain with Akarn, promising to provide an altar of living wood if the druid would help to clear the Temple of Melora in Western Desia of what it described as an ‘aberrant infestation’. After much thought, Akarn rejected the offer, not wanting to enter into a deal with what he viewed as a foreign power. If he did clear the Temple, it’d be of his own volition. The Angel, apparently disappointed by this, nevertheless bowed to Akarn’s desires and left him. The druid did, with significant effort, manage to forge his living altar with the help of several minor primal spirits.

Cole, true to his nature, hit the taverns. Eventually he made his way to The Giant’s Mug, an establishment Cole found delightful for the Goliath bartender and the games of chance. He soon struck up a conversation with a half-elf who was a self-described mercenary. However, after several games of chance Cole had lost all his money to the half-elf, who then gave the ‘Captain’ an offer. The mercenary told Cole he had been hired to kill someone, and that if Cole helped he could have most of his money back. Curious (and thinking of jumping the half-elf anyways), Cole agreed to follow the man. Upon reaching an alley the half-elf attempted to stab Cole in the back using his rapier, but the swashbuckler avoided it and began dueling his attacker. Several moments later, a githyanki appeared at the other end of the alley, blocking Cole in. Cole used Glimmer Blade to face both opponents at once, and despite being hard-pressed came out the winner. He broke the half-elf’s rapier, leaving the killer with only a dagger, and largely kept the gith at bay. Finally, the half-elf was killed and the githyanki fled. Searching the corpse of the wannabe assassin, Cole recovered his money with more to spare and uncovered evidence that the man was a member of the Steel Souls Company.

Mary-Lou turned to her studies in earnest for really the first time since the War had begun. She began her week by studying the Supernal language, making progress in that effort while realizing just how staggering the tongue of the gods could be. She also researched the art of metamagic, both through reading ancient texts provided her by the Desian Mages and the Church of Ioun and by conferring with fellow weilders of the arcane arts. Finally, to her great surprise, hile walking around the city she was accosted by what initially appeared to be a sentient ball of magical energy. However, when it caught up to her it revealed itself to be a small familiar. Apparently Mary-Lou’s magic had grown such that she had attracted the familiar’s attention, and it could not help but wish to join her in her travels.

Laesath made his way to the Temple of the Raven Queen, to confer with his goddess and do some soul-searching after his encounter with the baelnorn. He was surprised to find a familiar face: Lord Mortimer, paladin of the Raven Queen and his old master. The paladin was glad to see his pupil once more, but was disturbed by the events that had occurred in Desia while he was away in the Shadowfell. Upon being told of the bronze chain symbol that the undead had begun displaying, Mortimer told Laesath that he had seen such symbols before: on undead wandering through the Shadowfell city of Gloomwrought. Mortimer suspected that Laesath might have to travel there, and believed that the cleric was woefully unprepared for the dangers of his Lady’s realm. The paladin proposed to help retrain Laesath as an avenger of the Raven Queen if his pupil could best him in a duel; if Laesath could avoid ‘the Lady’s blessing’, as Mortimer called it, then he would prove himself capable of learning the powers of an avenger. After an extended fight, with both combatants worn out, Mortimer conceded that Laesath was the victor, and began his training anew.

Meanwhile, Bigg was seen moving through the city on business of his own . . .

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Defend the King!
The Battle at Castle Desia Continues . . .

Healing the wounds inflicted upon them by the mercenary knights of the Steel Souls Company, the party continued their rush through Castle Desia, aiming to reach the top floor where the King resided. Upon reaching the 8th floor, however, the came upon a frantic Lord Deimos. The nobleman pleaded for protection, telling the group that the last of his personal guard were holding off a group of undead. Rushing to aid them, the party came up upon the last surviving guardsman holding his own against a zombie myrmidon – only for a vampire spawn to suddenly tackle the guardsman and send them both plummeting to their deaths out a window. The party faced down the two zombie myrmidons, only to be ambushed – more vampire spawn dropping from the ceiling, and a vampire assassin phasing through the floor. The spawn were, for the most part, easily dealt with, although several proved very tenacious. It took some time for the party to realize that the myrmidons could only be permanently slain by fire or radiant light – Bigg ‘killed’ the same myrmidon at least twice within twelve seconds. The vampire assassin proved the most dangerous, nimbly moving among the group and slashing at them with his kukris to great effect before being finally brought down by Laesath. Only after the assassin fell did the group note that each undead had born the same bronze chains – either as a tatoo or as some part of their dress – as the Shadar-Kai which had ambushed them at the beginning of the fight.

Adam Oakgrove, leading his men and a scattering of other Desian soldiers, came up behind the party, securing Lord Deimos along the way. The Knight Lieutenants led Adam’s force on a final mad dash to the top floor. Along the way they witnessed an attempt by a mercenary to teleport onto the ninth floor, only to be anihilated by the Castle’s wards. The wards, stronger towards the top floor, had at least been focusing most of the attackers to enter the Castle in the lower levels, protecting the King and his family but causing the running battle the heroes had faced.

Upon entering the throne room the group discovered a massive brawl. On one side were the undead and the mercenaries. On the other were Desian soldiers and the King’s Own, led by Ike Rison, General Krueger, and Lord Rison. Upon seeing his team, Ike quickly took command of Adam’s force and sent the party ahead to the King’s chambers.

Upon entering the chambers the group discovered three dead members of the King’s own and more than thirty slain vampire spawn and mercenaries. They arrived just in time to see the final mercenary be slain by Queen Alexandra, who was defending King Lloyd and her two children. However, shortly after informing the Royal Family that they would be protected, a transportation spell made of pure shadow entered the room, seemingly bypassing the wards with ease. When the shadows seeped back into the floor The Baelnorn was revealed, along with a vampire troll and a battle wight. The foul creature expressed equal glee at the prospect of killing the Royal Family and the Knight Lieutenants, gladly forgoing the chance to strike the nobles when the party challenged him. Alexandra and Lloyd rushed to get their children to another room; Alexandra’s intent to assist the group was thwarted when they were ambushed by more vampire assassins, leaving the party on their own.

The fight was a long and difficult one. The party as a whole was seared and dazed by radiant energy, Mary-Lou was mentally dominated and forced to fire upon her comrades, and Laesath was laid low, his mind assaulted by visions of his childhood friend being slaughtered. The wight and the troll moved in, draining the life from the group with their swords and their teeth. Cole, firing with the Spellthrower built for him by Corrigan Firesteel, managed to buy the group time enough to get back on their feet. Akarn managed to pick up the slack from Laesath, keeping the group from being wiped out with his healing abilities. Laesath struggled back from the brink of defeat to strike back at the Baelnorn and boosted his comrades’ abilities with divine power. Mary-Lou shook off the domination and resumed her usual ‘scorched enemy’ policy. And Bigg, as always, was there to make the final and devestating strike. The troll and the wight fell, and despite a long showing the Baelnorn too was defeated. But he did not carry his phylactery with him, and faded into nothingness with a mocking laugh and a warning: “I and my Emperor will destroy you yet! You have won nothing!”

With the Battle at Castle Desia all but finished, an impropmtu meeting of the heroes, military officers, nobles, and the King was held in the blood-soaked throne room. Observing the piles of dead within his own home, even an invader lying dead on his throne, the King made a declaration that he was tired of being on the defensive. The LongArm Division was to be given its first mission: hunt down and destroy the enemy leaders.

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Knights and Assassins
A Celebration and an Invasion

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 . . .

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The Battle of the Three Bridges
Blood Flows Alongside the Mabinog River

A continuation of the Battle of the Three Bridges from the previous session, a pivotal battle of the Horde War

Having assasinated the Foulspawn leaders of the Hordes and wreaked havoc throughout the enemy camp, our heroes withdrew to the safe side of the Mabinog River to report to Commander Ike Rison. Ike paid them for their services and for the information they recovered and provided them with a tent to stay for the rest of the night, as both sides finally settled down a few hours before dawn.

As the sun rose the Desians were pleasantly surprised to see that the Orcs had left the western bank, having fallen for the mercenary team’s subterfuge and deserted their Undead allies. Lookouts reported that it seemed as if the orcs had fought their way out, losing another 1,000 soldiers.

But as the seventh hour of the second day of the battle drew near, the undead began to cross in force via makeshift rafts. Despite the use of siege equipment and archery to attack the undead as they crossed, the battle wights of the enemy force began landing on the Eastern bank and marching towards the Desians. Laesath, Mary-Lou, Akarn, Bigg, and Cole were all mustering with the rest of Ike’s mercenary teams when the undead launched a sudden assault with horde ghouls, tearing a gap in the Desian line of defense. With great haste Ike ordered the men and women under his command to charge into the gap.

Our heroes quickly engaged the horde ghouls, who were still covered in the blood of the company they had killed. The five mercenaries were outnumbered by more than 2 to 1. However, unlike the Desian troopers the mercenaries were not surprised, and quickly slaughtered the first wave to come at them. But right behind the horde ghouls was a squad of foulspawn, the survivors of the Desian attempt to kill them: a hulk, two berzerkers, two manglers, and two grues. The foulspawn were unablet, however, to bypass the mercenaries and were quickly felled.

No sooner had the last aberrant creature slumped to the ground then more ghouls and the first of the battle wights engage the group. The ghouls lasted just as long as their fellows in the first wave, but the ability of the wights to drain life force to sustain themselves proved vexing to the group. However, skilled fighting and healthy doses of radiant light from Laesath proved invaluable in slaying them. But at last a recognizably intelligent undead, a minotaur death knight, led more battle wights and several minotaur skeletons in the next attempt to punch throught the defense.

The skeletons proved little more than distractions, although the wights continued to be dangerous foes. But the death knight’s Unholy Flames proved devestatingly powerful, and it was not long before Akarn was laid low by the black fire. Laesath and Bigg promptly targeted the death knight and slew it, and Akarn was healed and pressed back into the fight.

Reforming themselves, the team heard horns blowing, and not Desian ones. The mercenaries who had been assisting the Hordes made their appearance, charging for the team. The hostile mercenaries were finally flying their colors, allowing the team to identify them as the Steel Souls Company. Leading the charge were several battle-hardened soldiers, some archers, and pikemen riding large lizards. Bigg promptly charged the middle of the enemy line, prompting the entire attack to stall as the line folded up to encircle the threatening dragonborn. Bigg was soon down, but he gravely wounded many of his opponents and drew the Steel Souls into a position to be shredded by Mary-Lou’s and Cole’s long ranged spells. With some quick healing the dragonborn was back on his feet and fighting again. Ike, now promoted to High Commander, managed to fight his way over to the team and joined them, as they were in the hottest spot of the Desian line.

The next wave of the mercenaries was clearly meant to charge through a gap made by the first wave, but the first wave had not gained a single inch of ground for the invaders. The Steel Souls were clearly intimidated, backed up by the fact that the team was outnumbered 3 to 1 by this second wave and began slaughtering them with impunity. Several veterans serving with the hostile mercenary, and a gunslinger and a drow sergeant did their fair share of damage, but most of the second wave were not even allowed to swing their weapons. Seeing their companions slaughtered, the Steel Souls withdrew from the battlefield through a combination of swift feet and teleportation spells, although the presence of bladelings among the ranks of the Company was confirmed before the withdrawal was complete.

All six combatants were shocked when they were next hit by Lizardfolk. The Lizardfolk had been smashed in the first day’s fighting and had fled West as fast as their legs could carry them, but these lizardfolk continued to have some fight in them, and brought support in the shape of venom-eye basilisks. Among the group was also a greenscale mystic, the first normal lizardfolk spotted since the War began. Despite the presence of the mystic and the basilisks, the team made short work of the lizardfolk. Interrogating the mystic before he was finished revealed the name of the lizardfolk – the Dragonblood Tribe – and that their lord would finish them.

Without a warning, Megdar, an adult black dragon, swooped down on the battlefield. Killing a platoon of Desians in passing, he promptly turned around and landed to attack the men and woman that had killed his followers. The Desian army, finally breaking and running after this latest development, were stopped in their tracks as the five mercenaries and their commander charged the dragon. Using a cloud of sheer darkness to shield himself and tossing acid breath every way he could Megdar proved a dangerous challenge. However, Akarn was able to maintain himself in an advantageous position during the entire fight, either standing on the dragon himself of sneaking around beneath him. Cole also spent some time leaping atop the dragon, although the use of glimmer blade technique also allowed him to pelt the dragon with spells. Mary-Lou rained down magical destruction, while Laesath kept his companions alive. Bigg, as was his wont, settled for simply hitting the dragon with his axe.

To the Desians on the outside, the fight appeared as a roiling cloud of darkness into which the dragon, Ike, Akarn, Cole, and Big finished, with flashes of fire and other magic searing the darkness now and then. Laesath, Mary-Lou, and what seemed to observers as another Cole stood outside the cloud, flinging magical attacks within. Finally, however, Megdar was finished with a broken neck courtesy of Bigby’s Icy Grasp, and the cloud of darkness faded away.

Even as Megdar died, the last of the Undead and the few score Lizardfolk who had returned to the fighting were crushed by the regular troopers. Roughly 21,000 corpses now lay on the ground and in the river after the two days of fighting, although only a quarter of them were Desians. After five hours of fighting, as the sun was at its highest point in the sky, the cries of victory sounded out across the battlefield.

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The Story Until Now . . .

Almost three months ago, Desia’s western border was overrun by hostile forces of varied type and in numbers overwhelming. Unable to immediately rally their army in sufficient numbers, the Desians sent out the call for mercenaries willing to defend the nation for a good price. As battles raged over sundered towns, besieged outposts, and crucial bridges, one particular group of these mercenaries began to rise above their brethren as a team that Desia can depend on in the darkest of hours. A lecherous human cleric of the Raven Queen, a capitalist eladrin wizard, a towering dragonborn fighter, a half-elf Captain without a ship, and an elven rogue with a death wish have fought together (and sometimes fought amongst themselves) to turn the tide of the war. But right now, with thousands dead on the field of battle and an undead horde with reptilian allies bearing down on them, their very survival depends on their skill . . .

For Previous Adventures, See the Following:

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