The Fortress of Zhon
Ruins upon ruins…
The trail from the charred husk of Stronghold lead to a vast fortress that seemed to be birthed from the very stone it was set against. Long forgotten, The Fortress of Zhon loomed out of the woods like a cyclopean monolith from a bygone era. Gavinn was somewhat remiss to tell you too many details of the fortress. Yet even he could not lead you in without disclosing some of its past and why it lay so abandoned now.
Centuries ago it was constructed, carved and crafted through magic and masonry from the mountain on which it sat. Zhon was to be a beacon of hope and a demonstration of power. Those who landed on Creon’s South East coast could not make any headway inland without passing beneath its notice. Yet, this proved its ultimate downfall as the Cult of Taros washed up on these shores so many years ago. It was here the cultists established their influence and eventually lay claim to the rest of the Creon as well.
You decided that making camp was your best course of action, as no one was too keen to explore the ruins at night. Yet, your evening would not prove to be peaceful…
Heike’s Called To Action
Heike awakens from his restless slumber to hear a faint cry in the distance. Springing into action he immediately journeys off into the darkness. What he finds surprises him at first. A lone elf girl stood in a field ringed with trees and a light fog. Again and again she called, “Tarkus! Tarkus!” though whether it was a language or a name Heike could not tell.
From out of the darkness Gavinn emerged to Heike’s side. He advised caution, though the Elf maiden (Elves age at a much slower rate than other mortal races) appeared to be more distressed than anything else. Slowly, the fog banks around the edge of the forests grew thicker despite a slight breeze. From behind you heard a rough voice growl what could only be orders into Heike’s ears. Gavinn too had his arms raised high, though he was able to converse with the voice in the same language. Eventually Heike was allowed to turn around as Gavinn began making introductions in the common tongue.
The voice belonged to a tall and well muscled half-orc covered in animal skins and warpaint. His bow never wavered as he pointed the arrows inches from Heike’s face. After some talk it was concluded that neither Heike nor Gavinn posed any true threat. Poosh, however, wasn’t particularly keen to take on any more in his party. He referred to Tarkus, his leader, with reverence and devotion and motioned that you should follow him to Dahlia, the distressed Elven maiden.
Dalhia seemed to recognize Heike and Gavinn at once and leveled her blade with Heike’s throat, muttering curses for him and Cade Thorngage. Poosh advised caution and with Gavinn’s help was able to talk her down and the four of them made way for camp.
Heike met Lyle, the group’s cleric and de facto leader in place of Tarkus. Lyle seemed agreeable enough though some exchanges between Gavinn and Lyle about what transgressed beneath the walls of Anor Londo left Heike wondering if these people could truly be trusted. Poosh left on a scouting mission while the group relaxed in front of the fire, tension seeming to calm at the moment.
Dalhia seemed inconsolable and out of sorts yet the group maintained its quiet serenity. Heike pondered on the scenes he had just witnessed. Out of the darkness Poosh rushed back to camp, he had found Tarkus’ trail and lead down to a rope bridge, though beyond that he dared not go for it fell beneath the walls of Zhon.
Without warning, debate or even a second though Dalhia was on her feet and running in the direction Poosh had come from. The group quickly assembled to chase after her, though the path would be quite treacherous…
The Depths of Zhon
Before Heike could even get within earshot Dahlia had disappeared through the fog that amassed thickly on a rope bridge whose final destination none could truly say. Lyle and Poosh rushed after her, leaving only Heike and Gavinn to ponder their fates. It seemed any who ventured into the fog quickly vanished from sight and sound.
Bravely, Gavinn lead the way urging Heike on to the rickety rope bridge. The pair crossed slowly, as the old bridge swayed. A gust of wind blew out of the canyon and caused further trouble for the hapless adventurers. The bridge tossed in the wind so violently that Gavinn was tossed over the side. With his grip slowly he fading he turned to Heike and shouted, “Fly you fool…” With that he fell into the fog.
Heike continued on his trek and eventually made it to the other side of the gorge. He gathered his courage and marched onward. He found himself on a cliff face that lead to an ancient temple that seemed to be molded from the mountain side. Tall columns lead to a ceiling beyond view. Within were obscene carvings and depictions of slaughter and mutilation. Above it all was the ever watchful eye.
Heike took a few furtive steps into the temple, he remembered these symbols and the promises of danger they held. From within came the loud cry of a woman. “Dahlia!” thought Heike and pressed forward. Immediately he was met with a gruesome scene of flesh and blood littering the entrance hall. Undaunted, he made his way through the temple.
The temple proved to be a maze of horrors. Finally, in one of the lower antechambers Heike found Dahlia, alone and covered in wounds. She seemed shocked at something she had found deeper within the temple and begged Heike not to go further. Eventually, after some convincing and a few health potions, the two made their way into the temple. Corridors lead to traps, flying death worms and giant flesh golems. The icing on the cake though was the room of illusory treasure chests. Beaten and bloody the pair finally stumbled upon Poosh tied to a column surrounded by traps and spike walls. Dahlia managed to free him and carried his limp body out of the trapped room singlehandedly. The joy she felt at being reunited with Poosh would prove to be short lived as the slithering stomping horrors of the deep began to chase after them. They raced up some narrow stairs and thought their misery was at an end, but, it would not prove to be so.
Waiting at the top of the stairs near the exit to this wretched temple stood a single figure. A large whisp of darkness floated about and eventually morphed into an apparition of Heike’s former master. Without thought, the trio leapt into battle. The shadow broke down into apparitions of Heike’s parents and then again into his smith master. The trio found themselves surrounded and overwhelmed by progressively smaller pieces of Heike’s memories.
Heike was the first to fall, overwhelmed by his past memories, he struggled to maintain consciousness as they surrounded him and attempted to steal his soul. Dahlia was next, though she fought to the last, Heike’s tortured memories proved too much for her as well. They surrounded her unconscious body and managed to eat her soul. Heike proved his resilience and managed to fight, even from the depths of unconsciousness, and staved off death through sheer tenacity. Poosh fought valiantly as well, though his arrows failed to hit many of their marks, it was enough to distract the memories long enough for Gavinn to arrive. Poosh soon fell regardless however Gavinn managed to drive the remaining memories back into shadow.
Meanwhile, Back At The Gates…
As Gavinn headed off after Heike, you were left to your own devices. Though relative calm in your camp was disrupted by the sounds of distant screams. You rushed through woods to the very gates of Zhon. There you were met by a gruesome sight, mounds of mutilated bodies were piled high at the very doorstep to the fortress and a great seal of the Eye of Taros, written in blood, lay on the ground. Taklinn immediately began purifying the ground, for none were brave enough to pass over the accursed eye. Once the seal was broken the party broke through the gates and into the courtyard.
Atrocity met atrocity as seemingly endless bodies were piled high in a great sacrifice of fire. A cackling acolyte of Taros began conjuring the fallen to his aid and the party was met with a small army of undead. They were dispatched easily enough but, they left no clues on their bodies. It seemed as if Lady Calinda had gathered her followers and some stray villagers to this place if only to purify it with the blood of innocents and fire.
The group began exploring the hollowed ruins of Zhon, but met little luck until Rahm stumbled upon a building that looked freshly refurbished. After pressing your way through the locked doors you were met with another acolyte and his slain brother. One of the walls even opened up to reveal a mound of oozing flesh and eyes. After cutting down the horrors you scoured the place for souvenirs and clues. You found only the journal of the acolyte, it detailed the horrors they had committed at this place and detailed his slow descent into fevered madness, there was little left for you to find.
You left the house and continued West. The journal mentioned something being uncovered there that filled its writer with dread. On the journey you discovered a graveyard, upon entering a host of zombies rose from their graves, yet, after careful maneuvering and direction from Cade the group was able to make short work of the horde. The young halfling was beginning to prove himself a reliable commander.
Further West you pressed and there you found a holy font of rejuvenation. You all stripped down and dove right in.
And this, my little lambs, brings us up to date…