A Path of Burdens
Over the top!
The towers roundabout steps and observation platform provided little ease of escape for you as you flew from the undead horde. You weighted your options carefully. Several plans were suggested though none seemed particularly desireable. Taklinn mentioned charging at them full force; a bold but ultimately futile end. He seemed to think that facing the enemy head on would be better than trying to circumvent the problem. Lautrec mentioned that perhaps the tower might be brought down upon your enemies, the seemingly dilapidated structure might prove the most effective weapon against the vast horde. Taklinn outright rejected the notion and further ignored any comment made by Lautrec, the minor respect he had for the knight seemed to evaporate with the sound of his voice.
Cade ultimately provided the best option and the means to accomplish it. The party would rappel down the side of the tower with Cade taking point and providing a well rigged climbing route as he had a climber’s kit with him. As he began to put on the climbing shoes and mentally prepping for the task ahead, and epiphany struck him; Cade barely knows how to use this equipment. The party then began to argue slightly as to who should take the lead position, the path down wasn’t particularly difficult, but required that the lead climber rig up a piton path to ensure the safety of the rest of the climbers. It was Davlin who came forward and took the mantle of responsibility. His background as a forest guide lent greatly to his ability in rappelling down the side of the tower. Having lead many strangers through the wilderness in Maw had given him ample practice in navigating these sorts of dangers.
With a nimble foot and fast hands, Davlin rappelled safely to the ground with a strong support system in place for any who would follow. Carefully, he surveyed the area at the bottom of the tower for any present dangers and signaled that the remainder of the party should join him. Taklinn was next over the side of the observation platform. Dropping too quickly onto the angled slope of the tower’s roof caused him to quickly stumble over his own feet. He slid to to the roof’s edge and fumbled desperately, trying to gain a foothold, but his fingers fell short of the edge and he fell off, landing with a loud thud next to Davlin. Rahm came down next, swiftly and with little trouble. He and Davlinn continued to survey the area for any potential trouble. Lautrec came down next, sliding the last five feet to the ground, his heavy armor, though very protective, was difficult to maneuver in. Finally, Cade took up the rear making sure to disassemble the climbing rig so that his kit could be reused. Upon pulling out a stubborn piton, Cade lost his balance on the roof and fell backward off the tower landing with a painful sounding thud next to Taklinn. The two smallest members of the party groaned as they stood up and quickly quaffed a health potion before beginning their tactical retreat.
The swimming pool
The initial plan seemed to be to head back to the entrance of the fortress and try to move northward into the fortification. Taklinn proposed heading back to the healing font to get some rest and garner some morale. The fountain, however, proved to be tainted by the corruption that lingered within the fortress. Frustrated and exhausted by your prolonged battles, you took a short rest at the giant bonfire near the gates. T
he carnage still littered the nearby area. Despite Taklinn’s early efforts to cleanse the festering grounds, a sense of unease permeated the air and hung upon you like a thick a fog.
You rested, though your mind was wracked with the things you had witnessed in this place. You had been here only a short while yet Zhon was testing your resolve. It was hard not to feel as though you had been lost at sea for some time and you started to look at your companions in a darker fashion. You pushed these thoughts to the back of your mind and pressed forward. Taklinn taking command once again suggested the Northward route, as cobble path would surely lead to somewhere.
Cade and Rahm took point while Lautrec, Taklinn and Davlinn hung in the rearguard. Rahm headed East, toward a rocky hill, as you moved up the cobblestone path while Cade moved further North, discovering a bridge that spanned a vast gorge. Taking great care with his approach, Cade began to creon the bridge. Though his vision was obscured by the darkness he was able to see a large amount of undead guarding the bridge arrayed in a fighting position that spanned the bridge itself. Cade and Rahm quickly retreated back to the rest of the group’s position to discuss their options. On the trip back, though Rahm maintained a stealthy pressence a flight of arrows flew through the air and pierced his armor.
Retreating back to the cover of the rearguard position, you discussed what might be done. It seemed like there was no option but to push forward through this undead legion. Taklinn expressed a need for caution when approaching the bridge but LAutrec was having none of it. He strode boldly from the cover of the ruins and made his charge against the legion. Cade flanked out to the West to try a more tactical approach. Rahm struck East to see is there also might be a way to circumvent this problem while Davlin Taklinn brought up the rear.
Battle on the Bridge
Lautrec continued his headlong charge undaunted by the arrows that bounced harmlessly off of his armor. He came to grips with the enemy even as they manged to pierce the plates in his armor with javelins. Checked in his charge by the Javelin that pierced his armor, Lautrec lacked the defense necessary to stop the hail of arrows that ultimately brought him low. Lautrec lay on the bridge slowly bleeding out by more than a dozen arrow wounds.
Seeing your ally brought down so quickly made you rethink your tactics and you tried to develop the best way to deal with the menace in your path. Taklinn, undaunted by a legion of undead warriors through his fireball into the ranks. The explosion rattled their teeth and armor, yet, most were unscathed. Having depleted his most powerful spell to little effect, it dawned on Taklinn that this might not be the best way to approach a legion. He silently cursed Lautrec for leaping into the fray. Perhaps there might be a better solution?
Bartering with Bones
With no capacity for a flanking maneuver, and being confronted with a two rank deep legion commanded by two orc centurions and supported by two compliments of goblin rangers, you felt the party had little chance to cross the bridge alive.
Using guile and cunning, Cade had closed with the undead legion without their knowledge. Peering out from the corner of the bridge guardrails, he could easily see how desperate the situation had become. Lautrec lay bleeding on the ground, his chest riddled with arrows and javelins. As he struggled to breath, Cade took stock of his options. A notion came into his head and he quickly shimmied up the bridge posts. With a smooth, surefooted run he made his way to the Orc Centurions.
Caring little for safety, and no longer concerned with stealth, he violently shook a bag of coins at the menacing foes, grinning ear to ear. Though, as he approached with his plan slowly forming in his mind he realized that he had neglected one very important piece of information: he doesn’t speak Orcish. Still, undeterred, Cade continued trying to get their attention.
The Orc centurions growled in a strange language at Cade. At their Utterance Rahm’s ears perked up, and he began translating this peculiar bartering among enemies. “Cade, he is asking if we would buy their honor.” Rahm shouted, trying not to get pierced by a legion’s sword. “And I think if we play this right, we could succeed. His friend is weary, though.”
" If it keeps us from dying on this bridge, I am OK with it." Cade shouted back at Rahm, trying to hold the attention of the centurions. “What would you have me relay to him?” Rahm asked, tension edging his words. “What’s happening up there?!” Taklinn, having been kept out of the loop by his rear position, was now approaching the scene and assessing this very strange event.
“Don’t send any more fire this way just yet.” Cade said, shooing his mentor. Taklinn felt hurt at the Halfling’s words muttering, to himself, “not even a little?”
Rahm began rapidly translating, attempting his best at diplomacy. The Centurions, more curious and greedy than anything else, began to listen to their proposition. The Orcs were in disagreement with each other, not fully being capable of deciding whether they should just simply kill the ones with gold or abandon their post for a Halfling’s purse.
While the orcs argued among themselves, Taklinn realized that there may be a way past this, after all. He revived Lautrec, much to his chagrin, and from his pack he pulled the Scepter of Gwynn. Holding it aloft, he moved towards the undead horde with a grim look in his eyes. Rahm, sensing the change in their attitude towards their enemies took on a new tone.
The Legion immediately responded, snapping to attention and making way for the holders of the scepter. Cade, his plans shot to ruin, placed his purse back on his belt and climbed down from the bridge guardrails. You continued past your enemies, sticking close by each other with the scepter never fully out of your sight.
As you made your way past the ranks of vile creatures that yearned to taste your blood, you felt a sense of relief as anxiety passed into almost hope. Yet, even this was to be short lived.
You felt the air around you beat in a furious pattern as sweat dripped from your brow. Char and ash stirred in the wind as sulphur and brimstone filled your nostrils. An immense shape thundered to the ground and erupted in a furious roar as fire dripped from it’s fanged maw.
The dragon paused it’s rage only for a moment as the horde cowered and prostrated themselves to the beast. The eyes of the dragon, nonplussed, glowed with a bright ember. In a flash the entire horde evaporated into piles of ash, their screams still freshly echoing off the canyon’s walls. It then turned it’s attention to you and the curious item you held in your hands.
A Deal is a Deal
You spoke with the dragon at length. Rahm, somehow, seeming able to communicate with the beast in its own tongue. You tried your hand at bartering for safe passage, but, the dragon was a different sort of trick. Able to see through your threats and find any bribery utterly pointless, it seemed to continue bartering with you if only to disprove your arguments and laugh at your naive mortal concepts.
Lautrec, a true paladin of war, held little favor in discourse with a creature hellbent on destruction. The notion of having to talk with this foul beast drove him to the point of rage and with a mighty warcry he leapt into battle, his two Khopeshs raised high. Despite Taklinn’s insistence that there must be a way around the dragon, beyond dying in attempt to kill, Lautrec was determined to see evil vanquished.
His Khopeshs sang as he cut through the air and into a part of the dragon’s flesh. Without warning and with a speed that froze you in your feet, the dragon picked up Lautrec and crushed him in its claws before devouring the knight whole. It’s belly shook with thunderous laughter, a response to the knight’s courageous attack.
As your desperately tried to keep your bowels from evacuating into your pants, you noticed a distant figure approaching the beast from the opposite side. Whether it was friend or foe you could not say, though perhaps this new challenger might prove diversion enough for you to escape unnoticed.
The dragon would not be swayed though. You held the scepter of Gwynn, a mighty prize in any hoard. Taklinn began inciting the dragon’s wrath, despite Cade’s warning, and the dragon began rearing up for what would surely be your last moments alive. Yet, from the back of the bridge, the armored figure began charging to your location.
The armored figure violently slammed into the rear of the dragon, causing it to lose it’s footing. Seizing the opportunity, the man shifted his weight, and with great effort shoved the beast to the edge of the bridge.
Inspired by this show of might you quickly rushed to his aide, throwing everything you had at the beast. Taklinn called upon the Lightbringer and summoned the divine blades of his ancestors to taste the dragons flesh, while Cade nimble ducked and slid from one side of the beast to the other, dragging his blades across the dragon’s hide. Rahm took to the front, battering the beast with a flurry of tremendous blows while Davlin took steady aim and filled the air with his arrows.
Together you slew the great servant of Calinda, and with a final shove from Tarkus, the unkown knight, the beast slid off into oblivion.
You attempted to thank this man for his deeds, but Tarkus simply shrugged, gave his name and continued back the way he came. You followed him trying to ask as many questions as possible. His only response was a simple shrug or grunt.
Eventually, you came to a great portcullis that lead into the actual fortress. The gate seemed rusted shut and any attempt you made seemed for naught. As you began discussing the finer points of infiltrating a fortress, Tarkus sat aside his shield and sword. He gripped the bars of the gate, and with a grunt of effort, ripped it up from it’s ancient resting place. You moved through the gates and into the courtyard.
It took some convincing, but, Tarkus came with you and there you were met by your long lost friends.
Reunion and Sacrifice
You were elated to see Heike and Gavinn alive and well again, yet the horrors at which they had suffered left you shivering with fear. Barely escaping with their lives, the two told tales of what had transpired below.
They also brought with them Dahlia, who had fallen to the manifested evils of Heike’s memories. Blessing her body, and consecrating the ground in which she was laid to rest, Taklinn felt there was little else he could do, clearly seeing the anguish within Tarkus and Poosh. The two friends then stood back to back. An eternal vigil on the grave of the one they had sworn to defend.
Gavinn turned to you, “Now, things will start to get hard. Stay close, little lambs, The Fortress has only just opened to you.”