The Fortress of Zhon

The Adventure Continues

Our Heroes are Tested

The Adventure Continues

The Path From the Pool

The group ceased their revelry in the rejuvenating waters of the Lightbringer’s baptismal font and continued West, gathering up some health potions along the way. At first they encountered only ruins yet, beyond this there seemed to be several lights glowing in the distance. Readying themselves for battle you chose to defend a narrow path between to large ruins. Davlin moved into tactical position while Cade scouted the enemy ranks. Goblins, more of these damned creatures seemed to lurk about than usual. Yet, with Taklinn at the helm, you leapt into battle.

Their encampment proved little challenge even as they surrounded you on all sides. You managed to cut down their leader and show no quarter to what remained. Something began to gnaw at the back of your mind, however. Are you truly crusaders who bring with them the Light and all of it’s glory and purity? Or, are you mere marauders who massacre what may only seem evil?

The group seemed more concerned about what lay just over the next horizon than the implications of their actions and pressed further West. There seemed to be some commotion out that way and you found several ruins and heard what sounded like distant battle. Yet, the ruins caught your eye, if only because of the notes left by the mad acolyte.

Drinn the Digger

Within a large ruined tower you encountered Drinn, the insane archaeologist who had stumbled upon possibly one of the greatest discoveries in the forgotten fortress. You approached him cautiously. Even as you extended your hand peace, your companions flanked and surrounded the lone man. He seemed harmless enough, yet, he continued muttering what seemed like phrases and talking to himself:
“….iit burns………touch….it burns……it..the it….THE” he said with a fevered tone. “Do you need help, my friend?” Taklinn called trying to assess the situation. " ….help..?" Drinn seemed more confused than anything, yet, Taklinn continued talking to him. The smell of burning flesh was pungent in the air. “You seem troubled. We may be able to assist you. Stop the burning.” “You cannot stop.” Drinn laughed, his voice high and cracking. " Can you show me what you have there?" Drinn seemed to be holding something large against his chest as he rocked back and forth on the ground. " …it came to me…The…the others..fled when it came to me…." “How inconsiderate of them! Can I see it?” Taklinn edged closer to Drinn while signaling to Rahm, Davlin and Cade to find other areas to approach Drinn.

In the distance the sounds of battle were beginning to fade, yet, remained unmistakably clear. " …it is mine…." “Oh of course! I don’t want what is yours. I am a servant of Light – I don’t wish to commit thievery. You’ve merely piqued my curiosity. Perhaps if I new what it was, I could stop it from hurting you.” " It was….IS his…." “Whose?… Taros?” Taklinn said with some trepidation. The cultists’ handiwork still hung fresh in his mind. " …it’s mine now…but he longs for it….he is near Taros has no power here!!! NO POWER" " Praise the Light! We don’t care much for Taros either. May I come inside?" Taklinn said with a sigh of relief. But, he still didn’t fully understand what was happening here, he began to move closer inside of the tower. “…it is mine….” " I don’t want it. I am Brother Taklinn, sevant of the Light, and you are?" " I serve none but him..he has called for me now…we will be one now…..I and it…." Drinn slowly began to slump over, his body emanating bright light. "Who is “he”, friend?" said Taklinn. “Can I know him too?” “it is done…..” and with that Drinn’s flesh began to flake off in asg as the his body became a bright beacon, filling the room with blinding light. “I… guess not.” Taklinn said edging closer to what seemed to be a dead Drinn.

New Light

Yet, as his ashes fell piled on the ground, the light from the item he was holding close to his body began to fill the chamber to the point of causing blinding pain. A shock wave erupted from the item knocking down Cade and Taklinn. In the area where Drinn was there lay an intricately detailed staff that arced electricity form multiple points. It cast a dull glow on the ground and looked to be made of solid gold. Taklinn approached and grabbed the staff and was immediately met by pain as electricity arced from the staff and through his body. Though in minor shock from the experience, Taklinn recognized it as the Scepter of Gwynn, though of it’s history or nature he could recall very little save that is designed only to harm the unworthy. Rahm and Davlinn attempted to touch and were both shocked while doing so. Taklinn Shrugged and strapped it to his pack. There seemed to be some commotion to the South, it looked like there might be some sort of small settlement there.

Not all is as it seems

Cade took point on scouting out the settlement area. If you could call it that. It seemed like there was only a tall, run down tower and two houses in dire need of repair. Yet, as Cade approached he heard the distinct sounds of two people arguing. An enraged man and a helpless woman were in the midst of a very heated discussion.

“You lying bitch! I’ll have your head if you don’t speak the truth! Enough men have died today on your account” the man shouted angrily. “Please! I don’t know what you’re referring to!” The woman sounded utterly distressed. Cade, trying to rush to the woman’s rescue began trying to break down the nearest house’s door, thinking the arguing had to be coming from there. Taklinn hurried to his side. As they forced the door open they discovered the house to be entirely empty. The argument seemed to be echoing to them from somewhere further South.

" I will wipe that lying grin right off of your whore mouth. By all the glory of the Warbringer, I swear it!" the man was surely of the Order of The Warbringer. But, even knights know courtesy. Perhaps this brute had grown a thirst for bloodshed. “Please m’lord!” the woman seemed to be sobbing now. “Save your begging for the afterlife. Mercy is not my domain. Justice…justice will prevail here.” the Warbringer said. Utter disgust seemed to edge every word as he spoke to the woman.

Quickly, Taklinn dispatched Davlin to quell the trouble and end any man who might hurt a woman. Davlin turned the corner and the sight he saw struck him dead in the chest. Between to large piles of mutilated bodies stood a knight in golden armor wearing the raiment of the Warbringer. In one hand he clutched a cruel, scythe looking weapon. In the other he gripped a woman by her hair. Both were spattered in blood and gore. The woman seemed in dire straits, balling and pleading with the knight.

Oddly, the knight seemed relieved at Davlin’s sight. “Good sir elf…” he began. “Thank the gods!” Taklinn strolled around the corner completely nonplussed. “Hello friends, what’s the news? Lovely day, eh?” he said, a halfhearted smile on his lips. “Soon…it shall be.” the knight said, his voice grim and determined. “How much for the woman’s life?” Taklinn asked, his hands slowly moving to his hammers. “…never enough.” the knight replied. The knight raised his cruel weapon high, as if to bring it down on the woman at his feet. Swiftly, with a deft hand, he brought the blade through the air with a sigh. The woman’s neck opened in a spray of blood. She collapsed to the ground, motionless. The only sounds were the slight gurgling noises she made as life ebbed from her body.

The Battle is Met

With a silent battlecry, Taklinn met this act with holy fire. The fight raged for a time, the knight was no trifle. Through it all he denounced their actions, “Fools! Don’t you see? I’ve saved her! I’ve saved us all!” Whether he spoke with the madness still fresh from the slaughter he had been a party to or blood lust none of you could say. Still, with steady resolve, you managed to batter at his thick armor and bring him to his knees. “May the light never see your folly!” “You are the fool! The Light sees all!” Taklinn cried defiantly. " May the light judge your sins" the knight said, steadying himself for further combat. Yet, as the fight progressed, he seemed to be holding back. Paladins, even ones as dishonorable as this, normally attack with the holy magic given to them when they take their oaths. Yet, this knight only relied on steel.

“Should we retreat?” Cade asked sensing that something was not entirely right with this paladin. Taklinn, slowly coming to the realization that he may have jumped in over his head, began to calm down and approach the situation with a bit more diplomacy, “The Light forgives foolishly, friend! May we do the same?” The knight spoke more with the sounds of exhaustion than fury, “Now you wish to speak?! You, who would desecrate my brothers?” he said motioning to the pile of crusader’s whose bodies had been burned to ash by the holy fire of Taklinn’s spell.

“What did you expect? You acted without mercy, without honor!” Taklinn said, his voice etched with anger, “And flames are a better fate than what would have otherwise become them here in this dark place.” “Honor. Mercy.” the knight said quietly. “I suppose those concepts would come easy to one like you. One who sees this world in perfect black and white. But, you have not hunted creatures such as this witch. You haven’t had to make the hard choices. This world is gray my friend! I pray that you live long enough to learn that one day.” “Perhaps you should consult the Light more and your blood-thirsty Warbringer less.” Taklinn said, a little lost at what exactly to say. “I know the thirst for revenge. I know it well. But it will gain you nothing. Did her blood bring your brothers back from the pale?!” with that both the knight and cleric seemed at an impasse.

Cade pulled his blades from their sheathes and made his way to the knight with grim determination, “I have heard enough of this garbage, armored-swine!” “Come then, naive children, come and see what honor buys you!” With that the battle was joined once again. Both sides felt a renewed frenzy to bring the other to their knees. Cade had the upper hand and pierced the knight’s thick armor. He fell to the ground, blood pouring from multiple openings, “Fools….she will come for you…..she thirsts for your blood…run children….run while you can….”

Fallen and Risen

Taklinn knelt beside the knight, praying with him and invoking the light. “I sure hope he wasn’t a good guy…” Cade said wiping the blood from his rapier. From nearby the body pile, a figure began to emerge, casting off the charred flesh and burned clothing of the dead. Hysterical, cackling laughter started in low and echoed high throughout the settlement. A voice, ruined and husky voice spoke from the figure, “Fools!” it called, “You should have heeded the paladin’s warnings!”

Though drastically changed, none could mistake it for belonging to any other but the woman who had just been slaughtered by the knight. She had emerged from the pile a ruined shambling monstrosity with eerie speed and a cold gaze. Flesh hung loosely from her bones and open wounds covered her malformed body. She lurched toward Cade at a surprising pace. She grasped him causing a great deal of damage and draining the life from his body. The fight was vicious, the woman had arisen as a wight and was quicker than she appeared and more than eager to steal life from your souls.

Taklinn, through either realizing his mistake or desiring more bodies on the field revived the knight. He surveyed what was happening and leapt to battle the undead monstrosity attempting to turn her with holy spells. She drained Rahm and continued fighting on, malice in her eyes. Yet, with the combined efforts of the companions and the knight, she fell at last. The knight, breathing heavy with the effort of fighting the risen undead said, “I told you…damned fools.” Rahm, also reeling from exhaustion could barely form a sentence explaining he was going to lie down for a bit in the house.

A Chance for Talk

Despite apparent distrust on both sides, you and the knight made a pact of truce as you tossed the woman’s body into the burning flames in hope that her spirit might finally be at peace. The house you had barged into earlier appeared suitable for a moment’s respite. There, the knight known as Lautrec told his story.

A Knight’s Tale

Lautrec was a knight of the Warbginger’s Holy Order. He and his companions were on an advanced scouting mission. Apparently the Warbgringer’s expedition had landed on the rocky cliff face far to the North in a region known as the Tomb of Giants. Though it appeared abandoned it offered little in the way of sustenance. Many scouting parties were sent out. Lautrec admitted that few were expected to return with good news or at all.

He and his companions had pressed further into the souuthern region than any before them. The thought that they might be close to somewhere hospitable kept them going, for they still had yet to come to a fresh source of water. The day they found the mountain range of Zhon marked the same day as when they discovered fresh water and the horrors that awaited them on this continent.

In the evening a small group of women sheepishly approached them. The women were covered in dried blood with bits of gore hanging in their hair. They looked as if they had seen horrors beyond count. One of them, who introduced herself as Sheila, spoke for the group.

She said that there village had been brutally put to the torch. Some mad noble woman had decided that everyone in the town would burn for a cruel god of some sorts. The name Taros was on all of the women’s lips. The noblewoman then rounded up the survivors and took them to some dark fortress to the North. Sheila said they were bound for sacrifice to this strange cult. The woman apparently escaped by the skin of their teeth and only after having watched their friends, neighbors, kith and kin tortured and mutilated.

Lautrec said that his men were stirred to action. Though they numbered only a dozen they would bring this noblewoman and her cult followers to justice. In retrospect Lautrec remarked at how odd it all seemed now. None of the women bore any sort of mark or wound from their escape and for having been captive for as long as they were they still seemed very well fed. But, most of all, every woman carried an odd amulet that bore an image of an eye. They also mentioned a weapon that might be used to battle the noblewoman, but how could she know a thing like that?

Lautrec and his men marched through the evening, yet, the closer they got to the fortress the harder it began to tell time. The sun, it would seem, would not rise on such a doomed place and thus remained in total darkness. One by one Lautrec’s men disappeared into the forest. Quietly, quickly something was killing them, or worse, gathering them. He and what remained paid little heed. They chalked it up to the evil that surrounded the fortress and the cruel noblewoman who could only be responsible for it all.

At the very feet of the walls of Zhon, the women begged to take camp. They feared what might be on the other side and pleaded with Lautrec and his men to take rest outside the walls. Rest did not come easy nor last for very long. Lautrec awoke to find that only he and his three best men were all that remained of their company. Them, and the woman Sheila.

The others had been taken in the night and their tracks lead clearly through a secret passage in the walls of Zhon. Lautrec had his suspicions about the Sheila but they pressed on. It was only when they were in the settlement did the trap finally spring. There Lautrec bore witness to his men being slaughtered and mutilated like common pigs to these cackling she-demons. In his fury he cut three of them down. His men joined him in battle and they fought the witches, their cultist followers and any who would stand against them. In the end though, only Lautrec remained, he and Sheila. It was there and then that you found him.

Trouble Arises

After hearing his tale you gave him your condolences, little else you could do for him. Lautrec came to the conclusion that fighting with you might bring some good back into his life. Losing his men had broken him down, trusting sheila had nearly driven him mad. He warned against staying in this place too long, but concluded one grave was as good as another.

You barred the door and rested for the evening, regaining your vitality and pondering on what your next move might be. When you awoke things were slightly different than you had planned.

Shamblers and Lurkers

A large collection of moaning and shuffling sounds came from outside of your cozy companion cottage. Somehow, during your slumber, a horde of undead had risen and was roaming about the ruined settlement. Were the remnants of the people who lived her so long ago or the corpses of the recently slain brought to life by some devilry? It mattered little, there were dozens of them and only five of you.

As Cade surveyed the area for threats Taklinn burst out into yard with Lautrec quickly at his heal the two fanned out and began to turn the undead. Their combined power outright slew 10 of the shamblers and sent the rest scattering to the winds. Taklinn found a new appreication for Lautrec, even if he still despised the man’s ethics. Yet, these actions would not go unnoticed. For, though they had managed to clear a path of escape, the enormous horde was also now aware of everyone’s presence. Quickly you stole into the night, Davlin managed to cut down several on your flight from the settlement, yet, more appeared from the shadows.

Rahm took to the North trying to find the best route of escape while the remainder of the group formed a plan to seek refuge within the large stone tower in the center of the settlement. Rounding the corners of the base of the tower, backtracking to find the entrance, Davlin continued to pelt the horde with arrows as you desperately sought a door. Rahm fell back to the group’s escape route discovering the North held nothing of interest but a vast gorge.

Cade eventually found the entrance to the tower and with a swift hand, and swifter feet, began the ascent to the top of the tower with the rest of the group in hot pursuit. Lautrec and Davlin held watch at the door and funneled the horde through the entrance, cutting them down one at a time. At the top of the tower the group realized there was little chance of escape so they joined with Davlin and Lautrec. Brave and efficient, though their tactics might have been, it soon dawned on all that they would run low on arrows and spells before the horde would be dwindled to a more manageable number.

Thinking quickly on his feet, Rahm dove into the horde and drove them back from the entrance. Taklinn covered him with an eruptive orb of fire. With a swift hand Rahm shut and barred the entrance and the group quickly retreated back up the stairs. There only hope now might be to rappel from the highest point and continue their flight from the settlement.

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Lord_Ozric Lord_Ozric

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