Our cast of characters…
Dracon, human initiate of Obad Hai & Beastmaster of the Wegwier;
Kalik, halfling initiate of Avoreen;
Kendradell, female half-elf bard & initiate of Lydia;
Marcus, half-elf initiate of Heironeous;
Milik, halfling sorcerer;
Murray, human wizard;
Nikolai, Suloise human initiate of Lendor;
Tarqualan, high elf mystic (Vesve Forest);
and introducing: Naazi, chenxa (centaur) warrior of Tenh.
We began the evening where we left off three weeks before, staring at the aftermath of a battle between the party and a war party of hobgoblin archers supporting two ogres and a mountain giant on the trail leading to a lost temple of Tharizdun in the lower Clatspurs. The only distinctive feature all of their attackers held in common were brass rings set with large black stones, that each wore upon their right hands. In addition to the numerous slain enemies, they have found an unexpected ally in a mysterious centaur warrior who set into the archers soon after they opened up on the party from ambush.
Naazi soon introduces himself, and explains that like Tarqualan, he too is seeking the masked warriors the party has been trailing for so long, and asks to join them in their quest. Thus reinforced, the group continues on their way, still following the map produced by the strange skull their former companion Sabian fled with.
That night, as the party sleeps, Marcus and Kalik both have disturbing dreams. Kalik sees himself standing in the great reception hall where their erstwhile companion Lucien was entombed, facing the young knight’s ghost. Though speechless, the ghost makes strange gestures towards the ceiling, indicating some round or spherical object that seems of great importance to him.
Marcus, on the other hand, receives a vision from Heironeous, in which he sees his brother, Flavius, arguing with what he presumes to be the leader of the masked warriors. Though at the beginning of the argument Flavius wears a similar mask, he tears it off in anger and hurls it at the feet of the armored knight. As the knights surrounding him draw weapons in what can only be shock and anger, Flavius makes a wide gesture with his hand, and the assembled warriors seem to diminish and fade from view. Though a perception of scale is difficult in the strange, flickering radiance the scene takes place in, Flavius seems larger and stronger than Marcus remembers him, and he receives the distinct impression that his brother is casting at least one more shadow than he ought….
The next morning both Marcus and Kalik share their experiences with the others, but none are sure exactly what to make of the visions. Those who knew Lucien the longest, however, do remember him asking that if he were to fall in battle, that his body was to be burned, and his ashes then exposed to the light of day…
Several hours further along the trail the map indicated, the group was ambushed again, this time by another, smaller troop of hobgoblin archers, and almost a dozen goblins mounted on worgs. Though smaller in number, this group of archers had magic to aid them, spells that multiplied the arrows fired with each shot, and with such aid quickly felled not only Murray but Kendradell’s mountain lion and nearly Dracon’s wolf familiar, as well. While Marcus charged his mount up-slope to engage one group of archers, Nikolai unleashed a temporal spirit on another, while Kalik engaged the final one. About the time the party’s quick response eliminated the hobgoblins, the goblin cavalry unleashed their own volley of arrows and began their assault, but were quickly cut down. One rider tried to escape the ambush-tumed-rout, but was quickly ridden down by the swifter warhorses of the party and slain. On his body was found several rough sketches of Marcus, Milik, Kalik, and Dracon…. and as before, all of their attackers share the brass rings the prior group wore.
Later that afternoon, the trail led the party into a high valley between two peaks, where the ruins of a small keep could be seen approximately a kilometer away. Movement could be seen atop the sole remaining tower of the keep (fumbled ambush roll on the NPC’s part) so the party made their own preparations for meeting the inhabitants of the ruin….
Dracon cast spells upon Kalik that both made his figure indistinct and that allowed him to fly, while Marcus had Tarqualan give him the power of flight, alone. As Kalik came in low towards the ruin, Marcus elected to come in high “out of the sun”, thus to surprise whoever lay in wait there. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the ruin, even though they fumbled their roll to ambush the party, could clearly see Marcus’ initial take-off, and their leader struck at the high-flying initiate of Heironeous with a powerful Dispel Magic as he began his descent….
Robbed of his power of flight high above the tower he sought to storm, Marcus called upon his god for deliverance…. and went unheard. The allied spirit bound to his ax had more luck in that regard, however, and Marcus came to a gentle landing there upon the parapet. He was soon surrounded by a trio of orcs garbed in red chain-mail, carrying shields that bore the device of a sword piercing a human (?) skull; their leader, whom Kalik quickly came up behind, bore a similar device, though his had a silver and scarlet circle surrounding the sword-and-skull device.
The rest of the group, seeing Marcus’ abrupt fall-and-recovery, began charging towards the ruin. As the battle raged on the rooftop, Marcus held his own against three opponents while Kalik fought desperately against what was obviously the orc in charge there. By the time the rest of the group finally arrived, Kalik had been forced to withdraw from combat with the leader (who obviously welcomed fighting Marcus, who had since slain his three lieutenants) and engaged the reinforcements who were just arriving atop the tower…
Once the rest of the group reached the ruined keep, they began a general ascent of the stairs (except for Murray and Dracon) seeking to aid their companions on the roof. As Milik (who for some reason was in the lead at this point) rounded the second landing, he narrowly avoided the kick of what had to be the largest, strongest orc any of them had ever seen. Wrapped entirely in black studded leather, his only other adornment, aside from the aforementioned boots were a set of wickedly studded fighting gloves, which he obviously wanted to use on whoever dared to face him.
Outside, Dracon cast flight on himself, while Murray angled for a view of the foe Marcus was engaged with; unfortunately, there was none left to notice when the magical missiles he conjured rebounded from their intended target and struck him full on, knocking him unconscious (again)…
As Milik began scuttling down the stairs between the legs of his companions, Naazi began trying to force his way upwards; Nikolai, who was next on the large orc’s list of victims half dodged, half fell off the stairs and Kendradell and her cat simply jumped… it began to look for awhile that no matter how fast Milik back-pedaled, he was
still first in line….
Meanwhile, on the roof, Marcus began using more and more of his god’s divine magics in his battle with the orcish leader, who finally, in an act of desperation, disarmed Marcus of his shield, though too late to do him any good, as Marcus’ next attack practically disemboweled him.
As Dracon arrived on the rooftop to relieve Kalik, who had three opponents that were slowly wearing him down, two turned their attentions to the barbarian, leaving Kalik only one opponent to face, whom he soon managed to defeat. Though the orcs managed to wound him, Dracon managed to bring them down soon after, leaving the rooftop in the hands of the party….
Meanwhile, two floors below, Naazi and the pugilist orc came to blows as Milik hurled spells against the orc, many of which seemed to have little effect. In the end, however, the orc in question lay at their feet, dead. The ruin (such as it was) was completely theirs.
As we wound up the evening, Tarqualan detected fading spells on the swords, armor and shields of the orcish warriors (since identified as followers of the orcish war-god Ilneval) as well as upon the armor, boots, and cestus of the large orc (likely a follower of Bahgtru, Murray suggested). Kalik, though, seemed quite depressed at his lack of success against what was likely a full priest of Ilneval, even though Marcus continued to assure his companion that he had never witnessed such stalwart bravery in a hobniz before…
And so ends yet another evening…