The Siege of Beldon
The heroes listen passively to General Belthausar Gaspar review the battle plans for the coming siege. The loss of their friend Jafar is still fresh in their minds and for Tyrwin, the sudden appearance of his old ally Theodore is shocking to the core. The smell of burning corpses and the assembly of the siege engines below Beacon Hill's tower remind them of the horrors from yesterday and the battle yet to come.
The General call their attention back to the battle plan sharply. He and the elite guard of the army will form a detachment that will focus on the section of Beldon's walls closest to the old temple of Sandor which scouts say Cross is now inhabiting. If they can take the wall and eventually bring it down it will allow the cavalry from the Grand Order of the Lion to ride in and start sweeping the streets. The remaining two-thirds of the army will attack other sections of the wall to divide the ghouls and distract from the strike on Cross.
Their attack on the walls began at dawn. The army's catapults were positioned mostly on the the decoy fronts so as not to draw undo attention to the General and his elites. Only one catapult would be positioned to support his line. The heroes would march with the General's elite and their duty would lie in taking the top of the walls and the ghoul-nobility directing the defense there.
Giants' long claimed by ghoul-bite, manned the defenses here along with ghouls and zombies. These hulking monsters hurled themselves over the wall and crashed into the stalwart lines of the army. General Gaspar and his men did not break, they held fast and even managed to down one of the creatures quickly. The other slaughtered its way through twenty men before being broken by Boggle, Wedge and Lil' Twist. Tyrwin called on the miracles of Sandor to carry him to the wall and lay down a ladder for his allies to use and then threw himself headlong into the ghoul tide.
The rest of the heroes managed to scramble up the walls and join him while the elite detachment before weathered the hail of rocks, arrows and anything else the ghouls could throw. Once on the walls they spread out, cutting down the Ghoul Nobility wherever they found them. The three ogre-brothers climbed their way up as well after killing the Ghoul Giant below and cleared off a section of wall on their own. After several minutes of deadly combat a boulder from the army's catapult landed true and shattered a section of the wall, clearing the way for the army and the riders of the Grand Order of the Lion.
The heroes circled back up as the army spilled into the city. They asked Artemesia to try and sneak them deeper into the city and to eventually to Cross. She surveyed the area and found a few options. They could of course take the main road directly there and fight their way through the battle lines. The side street east of the battle looked desolate and empty. She also spotted a small group of survivors waving to her from a nearby house offering safety. She ultimately decided that meeting with the survivors was the right plan. As they left for the survivors the elites were swarmed by Cross' massive bat-like mount, the Night Hunter, and a flock of winged ogre-sized ghouls.
The survivors were being led by a woman named Perdita who explained that her and about a dozen survivors have been here since Cross first arrived. They've been doing their best to stay hidden but she saw what the heroes did and wanted to offer them safety. They start inquiring about ways to get to the old temple safely and Perdita tells them of the sewers but warns against it. Tyrwin and Gero are strongly against it. Meanwhile, Jasmine Auloro heads upstairs to deal with some of the injured. Instead she finds them devoured by a massive ghoul-born monstrosity that quickly turns to attack her now. She and the rest of the heroes head upstairs to quickly deal with the creature. They then thank Perdita and eventually jump into the sewers.
Moving through the sewers is difficult. The water here has frozen over and the narrow size of the tunnels makes it very difficult to get through. Only one person can be in front at a time. Slowly, they make their way through, all the while hearing noises in the dark side passages. While they travel Sandig and Rewyn spot movement. Two children in a side tunnel fleeing from a a pack of ghouls and begging for help. Both of them quickly break off to help while the others try to stop them and keep on the path.
When the two heroes reach the end of the tunnel they find the two children there, pressed against the wall about to be pounced on. And then, the young girl and boy snicker and smile. The ghouls turn toward the two heroes and over twenty more spill out of the side tunnels rushing them. Sandig says a quick prayer to his goddess, Tatayne The Breath of Life and wades in while screaming for Rewyn to warn the others of this trap. Jasmine is one of the first to reach Sandig and she immediately recognizes the two children as her cousins Fizel and Minu, the last of her family still on the loose. They're belting Sandig with Acid Arrows, Rays of Exhaustion and anything else they can while laughing hysterically the entire time.
Artemesia eventually makes her way in and immediately executes Fizel with an arrow through the heart. They then begin to clear away the ghouls slowly freeing Sandig from the pile. Minu, injured, begs for her life and to be sparred, hoping Jasmine will take pity on her. Artemesia makes the decision easy and fires an arrow through Minu's head before Jasmine has to think about it. They return to the tunnels and fight their way through ghoul-infected resistance in the form of wolves and an owl bear. A ghoul noble with the creatures flees rather than face destruction at the hands of the heroes.
They emerge some time later near the ruined temple. Back toward the wall they can see the elites suffering under the punishing assault of the Night Hunter and flying ghouls, the Lion Knights riding through the streets cutting down whatever they cross paths with and the rest of the army surging against the western wall and its defenders. They turn their attention into the temple and see Cross along with several of the Auloro acolytes. The servant necromancers are chanting, undertaking a ritual who's purpose is to slowly unbind the massive amounts of necromantic energy trapped within the old Lich-King's relics (Scepter of the Black Sun, Zharkaddos' Blood, Zharkhaddos' Hand and the Crown of the Lich-King.) She can tell they're trying to funnel the freed energy into the Leylines and further pollute them. Should something like that come to pass it would break open the already atrophied magical conduits and flood Tairos with entropic energy.
Yet, not all is as it seems. Jasmine's spirit sight allows her to see into the ether and she can see that energy being freed from the relics is not seeping into the leylines as Cross intended. There's something else here, something drawn by the massive amounts of necromantic energy flooding the city. A shade of something old, tattered and starved. It feeds on the magic here taking shape, trying to collect itself and manifest in the mortal realm. She believes it's the spirit of Zharkhaddos, the Lich King or what's left of him. And he's here gathering strength from the sundered items as the ritual continues. She knows they have little time and tells the others.
Tyrwin heads into the temple to speak with his old friend Theodore to see if he can bring him back to his senses. Cross again confronts his friend's point of view. He reminds Tyrwin that he's had two centuries to try and find some kind of hope in this world, some reason to fight, but there is none. He begs him to let him finish the ritual and kill Tairos once and for all. Artemesia starts the fight, firing arrow and slaying one of the four acolytes immediately. The others rush the temple and attack.
Tyrwin is paralyzed by one of the acolytes and Cross tells him he's going to have to watch while he kills his friends. The man brings Sandig within inches of death with a casting of Vampiric Touch and chills many of the heroes to the bone with a Cone of Cold. Most of them manage to take some cover but Gero is flash frozen, killed where he stands and his scarecrow construct shattered. The Acolytes cast Enervation spells weakening everyone they can while the surviving heroes kill off the weaker wizards when possible.
After the last Acolyte is dropped the ritual halts and the feeding entity that Jasmine watches in the ether rages, seething at the sudden loss of energy to consume. Cross' concentration turns to the failed ritual and in that moment Tyrwin breaks free of the paralysis. The others coordinate their attacks and eventually take Cross down. Artemesia slays him with a final arrow to the chest. Jasmine begins collecting the relics up but in that moment Cross' wounds start to seal quickly proving his cursed immortality true. He hurls the heroes back with a wave of force and presses his assault. Waves of force rip up stone, snow and debris forcing all of them. Artemesia again manages a shot into Cross' heart that kills him. Jasmine consecrates his body and the corpse immediately desiccates before their eyes turning into little more than dust in the winter winds.
The heroes look outside to see the hoards of ghouls revert to their bestial nature, what remains of the elites manage to break through and join with the Lions and the rest of the army to start purging the streets of the undead. Jasmine looks back to see the last embers of the feeding spirit flake away into the ether.
Heroes granted level 10
Zharkhaddos' relics captured
The last of the Auloro's dealt with
The last of the Auloro's dealt with
With the relics captured the heroes believed they were too dangerous to keep together. Just as they originally were, they decide to scatter them and go their separate ways.
Tyrwin decides to join with the Grand Order of the Lion and try to teach them what old Balmoral truly was. He takes with him the Crown of Zharkhaddos and rides off alone, despite Rewyn's claim that he was one of his closest friends. Tyrwin says he never felt that close to any of them or anything in this time.
Jasmine and Rewyn decide to travel south with Jafar's remains and her captured family. She intends on bringing them to Baradrad to face justice and to bring honor back to the Auloro name. She also plans on asking for clemency for her sister Ghulshan. She takes with her the Zharkaddos' Scepter.
Artemesia returns to The Seward Estate alone. She has the Blood of Zharkhaddos with her and intends on using the orcs already taking refuge there as a mercenary force to protect the relic.
Sandig takes the Hand of Zharkhaddos with him. He tells the Temple of Tatayne that he can no longer attend to them in Ghal Pelor. Chooses to leave on his own, telling no one where he and the relic are going.
A black wind blows across Beldon. It's filled with ash, snow and smoke. Ghal Pelor's army quit the field of battle hours ago, after the last gnashing mouth was killed or fled into the wild. If any of the ghoul nobility survived they're lost in the snowfields outside. The creature known only as the Night Hunter launched itself into the early morning sky rather than face down the Lion Knights and the rest of the army. Now, the sunlight dips below the horizon, the last of its light bleeding across the ruins.
Another sound joins with the wind. First, the clatter of wood striking wood, then, boot steps in fresh snow.
"I can work with this" A man's voice says quietly to no one in particular as he drops the scarecrow's head back into the snow-covered debris where the rest of its body lay. He kneels beside it, completely still, in a moment of quiet contemplation, his eyes looking out over the old temple and the bodies of the dead Auloro Acolytes, the crumbling homes and bloody patches of snow that dot the streets. He holds his hands tightly together in a pensive gesture with his fingers pressed against his lips. The face shows only one emotion, the same one he's worn for centuries now. Exhaustion.
He stands and starts a slow, purposeless pace down the main street. His long black coat billows in the biting winds but he's beyond their touch. He has been for a very long time now. Behind him, the snow shifts, wood slaps back together piece after piece and a thing is thrust into sentience with a horrible, inhuman and agonized scream. It writhes and wails in the snow, consumed by fear, drowning in it.
The man continues on, into the black wind, into the coming night and winter storms. Today isn't the first time he failed to grant Tairos its mercy. It's not the first time he's died. He's given up on foolishly hoping it will be the last.
Today isn't the first time he's had to start over.