Call of Sprite Blessed

Part 10: Coronation 2.0

The gang arrives back at the Prancing Pony in surprisingly good shape considering the stabbings, burnings and poisonings they’ve been through.

Vash, Argonath and Jenner try to determine the type of poison on the arrow Jenner was shot with. They determine that the poison is Druid’s Blood, a famous and widely used poison. Whether or not it’s actually Druid’s Blood remains to be seen.

They report their findings to the Elven embassy and the elves assure them that their ship is being made.

Word of Corsa’s fall has finally reached Tibaltia and Vash believes his Halfling friend may be with the news-bringers. Kiara eventually finds the place she believes him to be, a tavern called the Half-Empty Flagon, which is full of Corsa refugees.

The gang goes and Vash finds his friend. The Halfling is the son of one of the largest shipping companies in Tibaltia. He and Vash made friends in the army, both outcasts.

As the two catch up, the others sit down to a game of cards. Things are going well until the dealer gets angry that Kiara is cheating better than he is. The ensuing barfight is a rousing good time and the gang gives the lowlifes a thorough thrashing before escaping mostly unscathed.

Later on, the gang learns that there is to be a new coronation ceremony, to prove that the royal family is alive and bears no lasting damage from the attack. Vash gets a very, very bad feeling about it.

They set about planning how to stop the coronation. Destroying the palace is out of the question. Sneaking into the palace and slitting the king and prince’s throats is risky. Sneaking into the church and stealing the exotic weapons stored there is even more risky.

They decide to take their information to the church. After all, if Galen and Gareth are practicing dark magic, the church is sure not to approve.

Martin puts on a new disguise and acts his way into the head priest’s office. he hands over the ritualistic writing and the priest assures Martin the coronation will not go as planned.

Not convinced, the gang gears up and sneaks into the palace. They plan to take a shot at the priest, who they believe wants the throne for himself. They take positions around the coronation chamber.

Richard finds Argonath, Kiara and Jenner as they wait in the secret passage next to the gallery. As they try to extract him, they need him alive for the treaty after all, he refuses and strides out into the chamber as the ceremony begins.

Vash senses magic in the coronation chamber. And it’s not the good kind. The celestial symbols on the main platform with the royalty are corrupted by something evil. More fiendish symbols are on the balcony above the door.

The priest comes down the aisle with the Crown of Corsa. Richard starts to run.

Argonath takes a shot at the priest. Jenner shoots at Queen Beatrice as she steps onto the symbols. Both arrows stop in midair in front of their targets.

Richard stands on the summoning circle and for a moment is replaced by a demon. Beatrice changes form and becomes a woman in shining white with silver hair. She is Magistra incarnate.

Galen is crowned, presumably under Beatrice/Magistra’s control. The gang flees except for Martin who was a part of the ceremony.

Something very powerful and very evil has just taken a very big step into this world.

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Part 9: The Red Wedding Ball

Returning to the Prancing Pony for another planning and strategy session, the party must now determine how they are to proceed with attending the ball. Vash manages to get admitted to the kitchen staff as a cook, and his excellent dishes cause a small bit of upset on the part of the head cook, who’s creations appear to be becoming eclipsed by Vash’s. Martin will maintain his alias as a noble from the south, while Kiara poses as his daughter and Jenner as his personal body guard. Argonath will enter as part of the elven embassy, because it is not seen as proper for servants to enter the ball. Jenner is therefore able to enter openly with his weapons, while Kiara and Argonath sneak daggers and darts under their garments. Martin’s weapons, of course, are his magic, which cannot be openly seen until he casts it, and thus cannot be confiscated at the door. Vash elects to take no weapons in with him, hoping to remain an anonymous observer.

All goes according to plan and the party enters the ball without anyone realizing their true identities. After engaging in small talk and a few rounds of dancing, Jenner makes contact with Prince Richard, who suggests that they check out the marvelous gallery on the third floor of the ballroom. Jenner messages Martin via magic, and the two of them maintain a connection while he, along with Argonath who observes Jenner break his cover as Kiara’s companion from his vantage point in one of the sitting areas across the room where the elven embassy is gathered, heads to the gallery.

Meanwhile Kiara, who Jenner was supposed to be accompanying, finds herself in a rather sticky situation with a young noble who is clearly interested in more than just a social visit with her. She is forced to break her cover to avoid being taken advantage of, and Argonath, having realized her vulnerability, seeks and finds her shortly thereafter and escorts her to the gallery as well.

In the gallery they find many paintings, but are particularly drawn to an odd one of the king who was assassinated twenty years ago. Something about it just doesn’t seem quite right. It’s as if they eyes are watching them. While they are investigating it, the stone doors between the gallery and the ballroom close and the party momentarily appears trapped until the mysterious painting open to reveal Prince Richard and a secret passageway to the palace interior. Richard reveals that he was dethroned for acting too interested in his father and brother’s mysterious activities. He reveals a few of the bits and pieces that he managed to uncover before his dethronement, but the party is already aware of these and then some. Richard then escorts them through the passageways to an alternative secret entrance to the second floor of the ballroom. Unfortunately, the party was about to take a very ugly turn.

Down in the kitchens, Vash bears witness to several assassins who, posing as servants, have managed to infiltrate the palace. They kill several of the servants before heading upstairs, but are clearly not interested in Vash himself beyond incapacitating him as he gets in their way with a butcher knife. He recovers and pursues them upstairs but they are too quick and he arrives in the gardens just as the door closes for the presentation of the crown prince, and he is forced to deal with two guards who are of opposing opinions about whether to let him go or not. Playing both ends against the middle, Vash manages to get away from them and into the ballroom, where the attack has begun in full. The newly crowned Prince Gareth takes a crossbow bolt for his father as everyone but the party flees the room. Martin also flees in order to maintain his alias, and a powerful mage who turns out to be the mysterious Benneth also remains, though his spells threaten to undo the part as well as he is apparently unable to tell the difference between them and the assassins. The party survives and manages to escape, as do half of the assassins. The other half are killed, mostly by Benneth’s spells albeit with a little help from the party.

They make their way back to the inn, nursing their wounds, to discuss the unexpected turn of events the night has brought them. While they clearly have something of an ally in Richard, the fate of the new crown prince is unknown, and thus they do not know how much power their new ally will have. If Garith was killed, then Richard is the only option left for crown prince and he will then be able to resume brokering the deal with the elven embassy. If Gareth survived, however, Richard may be in danger of being blamed, and the price on the party’s head will certainly not have remained the same. Whether it has gone up or down, however, depends on whether or not their attempts to help were noticed. One thing is certain though, that they will have many awkward questions to answer should they be identified, and so they decide to report their findings to the elven embassy but otherwise lay low until things calm down.

Exhausted from their affairs this night, they finally turn in.

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Part 8: Infiltration, Investigation, and Intrigue

As it turns out, the elven ambassador, who happens to also be the daughter of the queen of the elves, has been in the midst of negotiations with the Tibaltan government to treat for military aid against the void threat. However, Prince Richard, who was brokering the deal for them, has recently been dethroned as crown prince and all but disowned by the royal family. The princess wants to know the meaning of this turn of events and the reasons behind it, and so she recruits the party via Argonath and Martin’s visit to infiltrate the palace and speak to Prince Richard about the matter. It is, however, crucial that the elven embassy’s involvement in the matter remain a secret for now. For Martin’s part, he, under the guise of his newly created alias of Septimus Maximus the Third, a minor noble from the south, negotiates for an ironwood ship. This is primarily to keep up his ruse as a noble emissary but also will be a huge asset to the party once it is completed, allowing them to travel more quickly and with less fear of molestation. Argonath also must maintain his ruse as body servant to Septimus because he is a vital piece in the negotiations with the elven embassy, but his elvishness would attract too much of the wrong sort of attention were it to be openly displayed.

Back at the Prancing Pony, the party begins planning their strategy for contacting the prince and gathering the information they need to help the embassy and ultimately the struggle against the void. It is decided that Martin and Argonath will maintain their aliases and use them to enter the palace to petition the king for more aid against the pirate threat to the south. Once inside, they can move openly about the palace with relative ease and would thus be able to speak with Prince Richard directly. Meanwhile, Kiara negotiates with the thieves guild to gain her and Jenner secret access to the palace where they can, hopefully, remain undetected and gather what information Martin and Argonath cannot. It is determined that Vash’s demonic features would be too difficult to hide, and so he will stay behind to avoid attracting more of the attention the party seeks to avoid.

Putting their plan into action, Argonath and Martin successfully play their roles and gain open access to the palace. Before they can freely wander about, they must have an audience with the king, for it is under this pretense that they are there at all. The king is polite, but notably frustrated at the ongoing petitions for aid from the south. He denies them such aid, claiming that he has already sent what he believes to be more than enough money to get the job done, and all but accuses Septimus of personally lining his pockets with what was sent. He clearly does not take the pirate threat seriously.

Kiara and Jenner also gain access to the palace, and manage to remain mostly undetected for the entirety of their stay. They manage to obtain documents from the king’s personal study confirming that he has been involved with preparations for a dark summoning ritual which he hopes will grant him more power by binding a great demon to himself. The odds of his success at this, however, are unfortunately very small, and the far greater danger is in that the demon will enter this plane unbound and be free to wreak much destruction until and unless he can be banished. They also overhear a rather peculiar discussion between the new crown prince, Garith, and a mysterious man by the name of Benneth, about some sort of plan referring to a “he” which is in the way. They are not able to stay and hear much of it, however, because they are soon detected and must make their escape via repelling off of a balcony. Thankfully, they are not identified as anything other than intruders; their faces and other personal identifiers remain secret and so they can still maintain relative freedom to move about the city in the open.

Martin and Argonath also are successful in contacting Prince Richard. The prince is well aware that he is being watched, however, and requests that they attend an upcoming ball where they might be able to slip away for a few moments and speak with him more freely.

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Part 7: Regrouping and Rearming

After the group arrives in Tibaltia, Martin is taken away by the church. During the interrogation, he tells them the entire truth about Grant and their mission. He manages to get the gang off the hook. Before they can be freed, however, the others escape from prison and run into the catacombs.

A priest leads Martin into the catacomb and they track the movements of the other party. As the priest threatens to turn them in, Martin attacks and kills him. The sorcerer escapes into the city, now wanted along with the rest of his friends.

Martin wanders the Shallow Wharf and eventually finds the famous Prancing Pony. With a few platinum coins and some information, he secures a month-long stay at the inn.

At the Asari hideout, the gang takes a look around. The base is a mess. It looks like a huge battle took place. The place is stripped of nearly all valuables and the furniture is in shambles.

The only thing intact is the library, a massive collection of shelves that lines the perimeter of the large main room. The books are secured behind warded glass and only accessible by a rickety scaffold.

The base is stewarded by a ghost in the crystal chandelier named Altia. The group wakes Altia up when they put the Asari pendants from Corsa into the slots around the main table.

Altia agrees to help them and shows them around the main room of the Asari base.

While exploring the off rooms, Kiara finds a bed that looks out of place. Somebody has recently stayed in the hideout.

The group decides to leave via a zap gate to the Shallow Wharf outside of the city. The gate leads them into the Prancing Pony’s basement.

They find Martin in the hotel and after some negotiations with zap-gate guards and Madame Lebon, the Pony’s owner, the party is allowed to stay.

Kiara finds the person who was staying in the Asari base, a boy named Cecil who was one of Hamand’s apprentices a few years ahead of Kiara. He helps them with the Asari codes to prevent any more standoffs in places they visit.

The group takes the opportunity to spend the money they gained while adventuring (and looting what was left of Corsa.)

Kiara buys armor, having gone the whole adventure without it. Jenner upgrades his own and gets his war trophies remade. Vash buys a new spear and considers getting it enchanted. Argonath gets a bow enchanted and has it put away to be paid for later.

As they wait for their gear to arrive, the team takes a look around the city.

Jenner reads the Asari books on Blademastery. He visits the Blademaster’s Guild and passes the initial test, but declines to join. Vash studies the death of the king and does further research in the library. Kiara tries to find the Thieve’s Guild. Argonath and Martin try to contact the Elven Embassy to report on the status of the Glade.

At the embassy, they receive a new mission…

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Part 6: Mithril's Gauntlet

Having narrowly escaped from prison and uncertain of the fate and disposition of Cirio, the party finds themselves trapped in a puzzle consisting of four colored pathways, bowls, spheres, and gems. Guided by a mysterious riddle which refers o the maze only as “Mithril’s End”, the party must obtain four colored gems. A sapphire is found on the tail of a giant scorpion amidst spiders, where fire proved a most useful aid despite the near deaths of Kiara, Vash, and Argonath. A yellow diamond is found behind a concealed door triggered by a cord and a successful demonstration of bladder control. Argonath proved most inept at this. Beneath a stone bull they find an emerald, and upon snatching it the bull releases a puff of smoke from his nostrils, petrifying Vash. During the chaos and confusion immediately following this, Kiara is forced to rescue herself and Vash with the use of her dagger, which teleports them into a small, sealed room with a zap gate which would eventually prove to be their salvation. And a ruby is found in a stone room following a boulder which cascades down the hallway and into a stone basin designed for it.

Adjusting her technique, Kiara perfectly escapes from the room with Vash, still paralyzed, and reappears in the boulder room where Argonath and Vash have just obtained the final gem. Jenner then pours blessed water obtained from the church catacombs above to cure Vash of his petrification, though the process is excruciating for him because of his demonic heritage.

Each of the gems fits perfectly into a sphere of the same color, and each sphere upon receiving the appropriate gem, fits into a bowl, also of the same color. Upon placement of the final sphere, a door opens in the distance and many metallic-looking skeletons are released. Rather than fight the skeletons, the party opts for stealth, and succeeds in making its way to the room with the stone bull, where a door is now open revealing the room with the zap gate previously encountered by Kiara and Vash.

The door, however, will not open when chains of the bull are cut, thus releasing the magical energy imbued into each of them by the placement of the four spheres. The bull comes to life, revealing itself to be a dreaded gorgon, and a fight ensues during which Vash is almost killed again. Eventually the Party tricks the bull into smashing down the stone door protecting the zap gate, Having now found themselves unable to damage this creature, the party, one at a time, escapes through the now open zap gate and finds themselves finally in apparent safety in a room with a half dozen zap gates, with a map on the wall denoting the corresponding location, if not the circumstances and surroundings, of them all.

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Part 5
Out of the Frying Pan and into the Sewer

The group arrives in Tibaltia, the capitol of the realm. Tibaltia is the largest city i the world and is the religious, economic, political, magical, and military capitol of everything.

The group gets immediately acquainted with the might of the religious institutions as they teleport in to the center of the largest church in the city. They are arrested immediately.

one by one the group is interrogated until, at last it is Cyrio’s turn. Instead of the normal gruff greeting he is approached and met as a low ranking officer and asked to make report. they unlock his cuffs before escorting him out, leaving the party to wonder what has become of him, and to assume he has turned turncoat. Cyrio convinces the guards that he is on a special mission for the crown and avoids being put in jail. As he is led away, the others are tested for magic and thrown into cells.- It does not look good for three of the four remaining party members: Vash the half-demon, Jenner the ex-Shade, and Argonath the elf who might have angered one of the five goddesses.

As they wait in jail, expecting to be summarily executed, Kiara discovers that her dagger is back in her pocket. She teleports out of her cell and frees the others. They recover their gear from an evidence locker that happens to be open.

The guards are alerted and the group escapes into the city’s sewers.

The four find themselves in a catacomb. The walls of the first room are lined with white robes, some of which are missing. They venture into the maze-like tomb and find an extensive burial chamber. Another room is filled with row after row of books, telling of all the people entombed in the halls. Vash looks up the assassination of the king and learns the facts surrounding the horrific death of the previous ruler.

Another room is full of a mysterious, but invigorating, water. Argonath and Kiara go for a swim while Jenner and Vash refrain.

In the next room, they find dozens of coffins and two guardians of the catacombs. The defenders, two leaked ghosts, attack immediately. Jenner, who stole one of the white cloaks, avoids being attacked. Argonath and Kiara take the brunt of the attack but avoid being seriously hurt because of their swim in the healing water.

After defeating the ghosts, the group finds a way to unlock a door they’d found earlier. The room contains a number of artifacts: a silver lance that looks suspiciously like the one described in the king’s death, an ivory bow and a gold chalice. All of them are locked behind strong magic wards so the group is forced to leave them behind and continue on.

As they continue they leave three discoveries unexplored. A spiral Staircase that descends into shadowy depths, the famed Crypt of Ages, and a room sealed by stone doors with no handles.

They find a way out of the catacombs of the church of the five, traveling down a drainage basin several hundred feet. The path leads them to a door with the Asari sign. The door opens and they enter a large maze that promises an exit.

At the heart of the maze is a room with four colored spheres. Each color corresponds to a section of the maze.

The maze is filled with danger, as the group find out when a boulder rolls down a dead end after them. After avoiding the boulder, they find themselves in a room full of spiders. One of the spiders has a blue gem necklace which looks like a key to the maze. .

The spider fight goes out of hand quickly. Argonath offers to burn the spiders and their webs away. Jenner and Vash are already inside the spider nest when the elf suggests fire. Jenner tries to escape and is immobilized by a spider’s spit. Kiara rescues him, leaving Vash and Argonath to face the spiders alone. As fire begins to consume the nest, Jenner manages to kill the largest spider and grab the necklace. Vash is poisoned and paralyzed. Argonath, believing the Tiefling to be dead, leaves him as the spider’s nest burns faster. Vash is rescued and the group takes a moment to bind their wounds before continuing with the maze.

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Part 4: Return to Corsa

Finally safe and sound in the mage’s college, the party sets to gathering their thoughts and resources and deciding what to do next. Kiara learns more of Hammond’s death from Derek, who has survived the fall of Corsa and made his own way to the college as well. During the conversations that follow, she also learns of a mysterious organization known as the Asari, to which both Hammond and Derek both belong(ed). Upon learning that two asari agent books have been passed to Kiara along with the ability to open them, Derek declares that Kiara had all but been made a member of the Asari by virtue of having two of their unique artifacts passed to her by one of their members. She is also reprimanded for lending one of the books to Vash, who is interested in it simply because it is written in the infernal language, which only he of the party can read. Derek takes it easy on her, however, because of her youth and lack of knowledge of the Asari.

Kiara is also reunited with her father and one of her brothers; she learns from her father that her other brother has gone off the deep end and ingratiated himself with a group of bandits in the area, provoking an argument and ultimately disownership by their father.

Meanwhile Argonath seeks out knowledge of herbs and natural remedies with intent of adding to the party’s survival chances. He is only able to gain minimal knowledge, but manages to procure two health potions for future use.

Jenner ingratiates himself with the soldiers that survived Corsa’s demise and, perhaps most important of all, intrigue develops between Cirio(Martin) and Commander Gareth, who tasks him with retrieving a mysterious crown from the palace treasury in Corsa, rumored to be infused with a powerful sprite which endows the bearer of the crown with the ability to rule as a king if he is judged worthy of it.

Each member of the party has different motivations and reservations about the quest, but in the end they all agree to accept the task and set out for Corsa. Upon their arrival, however, they are arrested by a large group of bandits and taken to meet their leader, one of two brothers who have been making a name for themselves in the area in recent times. Kiara’s brother is also revealed to be among this party, but she is dismayed that he has become a part of the bandit brothers’ honor guard, and as part of the ritual to induct him into this when in uniform he is stripped of his character and personality as well as the ability to speak. He is left only with the ability to serve as commanded and gives no sign that he even recognizes his sister.

During the night, the party is able to escape and makes their way to the palace and down into the treasury, whereupon they are faced by a fearsome flesh golem. All of their conventional weapons appear to have no effect on this creature, but among the treasure Argonath finds a mysterious greatsword. Unable to wield it, Argonath passes the sword to Jenner, who immediately encounters the spren inhabiting it. The spren bonds with him and he is able, with a little help from the rest of the party, to defeat the golem.

Whilst looting the treasure room, the party also finds, along with the crown, an ornate jeweled necklace and a vial of a mysterious oily red liquid. Taking a break to nurse their wounds, each member of the party tries on the crown and finds it so immensely heavy that they are forced to the ground. Having tended their wounds, our young heroes begin to make their way out of the treasury to whatever fate awaits them beyond…

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Part 5: Escape from Corsa

Having successfully secured the crown, the party now finds themselves in a palace surrounded by bandits. After a short rest and some deliberation, they decide to try the front door in the hope of sneaking out unnoticed, similar to how they came in.

On the way out of the treasure room, however, they are waylaid by the goddess Magestra, the patron deity of lords and ladies, who is incensed that commoners would dare loot the palace treasury. During the conversation with her, it is revealed that Cirio is not the wizard’s true name, but that he was called Martin from birth. The story behind this, however, is not yet known since the parties focus is on escape. Argonath reveals his skepticism about the wisdom of following any sort of religion, for the elves consider themselves to above the petty squabbles of gods and men, instead tending to their sacred duty of tending and keeping the glades and protecting the world from the void. His insolence is not taken lightly by Matricia, but after swearing an oath of fealty to Matricia, she allows them to leave.

Unfortunately, their troubles were only beginning, for the bandit brothers have realized not only that they have escaped custody but also that there is only one place they could have gone, namely into the palace, and have set up an ambush for them in the courtyard before the front door, by which the party intended to make their escape. True to her character, Kiara, upon seeing the bandits waiting for them, snags the crown from Cirio and runs back into the palace the way they came. The party, of course, follows suit, both to keep her from getting into trouble again as well as everybody alive.

The bandits give chase and catch up to the party on a spiral staircase leading up to the royal chambers and those of the late king’s closest advisors and most trusted subjects. The brother’s honor guard also gives chase, though the brothers themselves are thankfully nowhere in sight.

The fight that ensues is very intense and bloody, but also involves some rather spectacular stunts on the part of Argonath, who swings a chandelier into a cluster of bandits on the stairway, instantly killing three of them (including one of the honor guard). Unfortunately, this stunt very nearly has in following them in death. Thankfully Kiara saves him with the final dose of the health potion he gave her earlier.

Having defeated the pursuing bandits, the party takes stock of the injuries sustained during the fight and determines that they are not cut out to take on the brothers, to say nothing of the horde of bandits beyond. However, they are now on the second floor very close to the steward’s chambers wherein lies a zap gate that may just prove to be their only means of escape.

Cirio is not yet intimately familiar with how to reconfigure zap gates to take them wherever they want to go, and so the random toss of the dice makes the gate take them to the church outside. Still within the city walls and surrounded by bandits, the party decides to rest for a bit and tend to their wounds, for the bandits are outside the church and do not know of their presence inside. Whilst in the church, the party finds the garments of a priest of Magestra’s sister, Matricia , the goddess of laity. Giving no credence to religion, Argonath unwisely dons the garments. Although there is no immediate sign of divine reaction, it is nevertheless uncertain whether or not this act has angered Magestra given their recent oath to her, for she is constantly at odds with her sister.

Cirio takes the first watch, and has a significant conversation with his sprite concerning the grief in his life. His past is still something of a mystery, but it begins to unravel here.

Jenner takes the second watch in which he has a conversation/argument with the sprite bound to his sword. The sprite, named Gla’felin, has given him no end of grief over using his old weapons, with which he is proficient. He is not, however, proficient with the great sword, but having lost the argument with Gla’felin, is left to no other recourse than to accept the change about to take place in him and begin learning the ropes of wielding a great sword.

The final watch is Argonath’s, and he uses the first part of it to practice tree-song on his staff, which has not yet shown any signs of its magical properties beyond the initial reaction when he received it from his beloved master. The staff seems to respond to his song, but given his lack of experience with expressing himself, produces no lasting reaction. During the final hour of his watch, he is joined by Kiara, and the bond between them grows a little as she practices with her dagger. Amidst the practicing, she is startled by a fit of childish laughter emanating from the dagger. Argonath does not perceive this laughter however, even when holding the dagger himself. The laughter repeats itself twice, and on the third time she is momentarily teleported to the desert, where, from the top of a large sand dune, she catches a glimpse of a distant caravan traveling along the road, before she is teleported back to the church. Argonath did perceive her momentary disappearance, but is just as puzzled as she is about it, and only marginally less worried about it. Given the situation and the lack of additional information, they put the mystery on hold as the party awakens and joins them.

After a little more deliberation, the party decides that their odds of escaping the city on foot are not much better from the church than from the palace, and so Martin tries the zap gate again. Finally, the party is teleported out of the city, and now finds themselves 800 miles away in the capital city of Tibaltia

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Adventure Log 3

Part 3: Too Late
(See also: The Fall of Corsa)

The team leaves Weathermark Hill. Having temporarily fixed the Glade, they need to get back to Corsa to make their report. The city is just visible in the distance and the magic wards appear to be gone. That means one of two things: the city has won or it has fallen.

There’s a small debate as to the group’s direction. Kiara suggests that they go to her home, a longer journey but one where they might be able to get supplies and horses. Cyrio suggests they go back to the zap-gate they took to the Glade, which would take them directly to the city, assuming they can get it working again.

They decide on the zap-gate and the team travels back to the tree with the gate. The zap-gate is damaged but Cyrio manages to get it working again. Thanks to his skill with magic, he is able to program its destination. The wizard decides on the most direct way back and sets the zap-gate to take them directly to the steward’s quarters in Corsa’s palace.

Not knowing what to expect, the team readies their weapons and steps through the gate. Nothing could have prepared them for what’s on the other side.

The steward’s chamber is littered with bodies. Dozens of Paladins lay dead all over the room. The steward himself is dead, with his hand on the zap-gate’s control. Whatever attacked them made its way to the tallest tower in the palace, cut through a platoon of Corsa’s finest fighters, and killed the steward before he could even activate his escape route.

The rest of the palace is full of the dead. The defenders fought for every step of the palace but obviously it was not enough. Nobody is alive.

Vash, Cyrio, and Kiara are desperate to find their friends who were left in the city. They proceed to the first floor and the palace’s other zap-gate.

The carnage here is even worse than the steward’s chamber. Scores of soldiers and civilians are strewn about. All were clearly trying to access the zap-gate but didn’t make it in time.

Amid the dead, they find General Antilleous. Whatever killed him appeared to have melted a hole in his armor and ripped his heart out. Many other soldiers have similar wounds.

Cyrio receives a vision from his Sprite:

Platoons of soldiers, alive, are hustling civilians through the gate. The general is standing with a sword in his hand, giving orders. As the last of the civilians go through, the Paladins begin to retreat. Cyrio’s friend Grant, missing part of his arm, is taken through the gate to apparent safety.

Void Sprites pour from the zap-gate and hit the defenders from behind. Antilleous is one of the first to die as, taken off guard, the soldiers are slaughtered.

As the vision fades, several Sprites appear and attack. The group easily fights them off and continues into the palace’s courtyard.

The sight is familiar; hundreds of bodies litter the space. The gates are blown open and hang charred and useless. Cyrio receives another vision:

Paladins fight in the courtyard and Grant is among them. An Orc cuts off Grant’s arm and several of his comrades lead him away from the fight. Soon after he leaves, Sprites stream out of the palace and sweep through the remaining defenders.

The streets are quiet. Silent. Nothing moves except for a few tattered flags and smoke rising from the ruins of the city.

The team makes its way through the streets, stepping over bodies and rubble.

Their first stop is the Church of the Five (because hospitals are always safe in apocalyptic events, right?). Vash’s friend, a hobbit who received a demon-cursed wound, is nowhere to be found.

Cyrio gets another vision and shares it with Vash:

Orcs rampage through the church, killing everyone as the priestesses try to evacuate the wounded. A new figure appears, a shadowy, hooded person with a glowing red sword. He approaches the hobbit and the priestess trying to help him. The figure kills the woman, looks at the hobbit, and lets him go.

Puzzled and worried, the team continues to Hamand’s house. Cyrio shares his next vision with Kiara:

Hamand hurries to set his house in order and prepare for battle. He seals books and other magical items in a warded closet. He picks up a picture of Kiara and breaks into tears. After composing himself, he draws his sword and leaves.

Kiara and Cyrio open the closet by deactivating the wards with the symbol they saw Hamand draw. Kiara finds several books, written in a language she can’t read. She keeps them for later and they move on.

They go to the stables, hoping to find Vash’s friend and some horses to escape the city. They find the horses and another vision.

Hamand and Malik meet in the stable. They converse for a moment before Malik leaves. As Hamand saddles a horse, the shadow-figure from the church appears. Hamand attempts to flee but it blocks his escape. He fights, and fights well, but his blades are of no use against the creature. After tiring, the figure stabs him with his red-hot swords. Hamand disappears without a trace.

Unable to calm the horses and fearing an encounter with the shadow-man, the group leaves and heads for the closest gate out of the city.

The gate has been blasted to pieces and the charred and mutilated remains of many Paladins lies around the burned buildings.

Cyrio gets a final vision:

_A company of Paladins, over a hundred men, stands in formation facing the gate. The doors are suddenly blown open, spraying burning wood fragments over everyone. The Voidfather, the skeletal dragon seen at the start of the attack, marches into the city, followed by an army of Orcs. The dragon blazes, literally, through the ranks of soldiers and the Orcs finish off the survivors.

Master Pelgrade stands in the middle of them, blasting Orcs with magic. The dragon flies off and another figure, similar to the shadow-man charges. As it and Pelgrade meet, the master warlock explodes in a cloud of flame, incinerating the attacking figure and dozens of Orcs. More Orcs quickly take their place and swarm into the city._

In the small pile of ashes that was Pelgrade, the team finds a medallion. They don’t have time to examine it, however, as a horde of spectral Orcs appears. They fight, and fight hard. Outnumbered 4:1 and having used most of their magic on the Sprites in the palace, the team struggles to maintain cohesion.

Cyrio uses a blast of thunder to destroy several of the Void Orcs, but since his friends were in danger of friendly fire, the wizard is left unprotected and gets surrounded.

Vash and Argonath fight together and kill many of the Orcs. They attempt to stick together but are separated. Vash gets swarmed and Argonath is backed against a wall.

Jenner tries to take on a few and end up facing six enemies by himself. Kiara comes to his rescue, killing one and giving him an opportunity to duck away. He retreats, leading his small pack of Orcs away from the fight. While leading them, he knocks over a burned, rickety building, killing one and cutting off the others for a moment.

Kiara weaves her way through the battle, killing Orcs as they fight the others. Her luck eventually runs out and the enemies get a few lucky hits on her. She tries to teleport out of the battle with her special dagger and find herself directly in front of an Orc that just freed itself from the house Jenner knocked over.

For a moment it looks like they’re going to be overrun. Cyrio is the first to go down, having expended all of his magic. Kiara is next and is left helpless and separated from the group as an Orc beats her down. Vash, having been hit dozens of times, struggles to remain standing.

Jenner stops Vash from being killed and the two fight off the rest of the Orcs swarming Argonath, then help Cyrio back to his feet. They rescue Kiara from the last Orc and find themselves once again alone.

Most of the team is barely clinging to life or consciousness. Carrying Kiara, they stumble into the closest building that’s not about to collapse.

They’ve fought off almost a full platoon of Void-Orcs. If they managed to do that, how many more must there have been if they could overrun all of Corsa?

The team, haunted by what they’ve seen and dreading the horrors that are sure to come, rests for a moment in the middle of the dead city.

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Adventure Log 2

Part 2: Dark Forest, Dark Forces

Having arrived in the Glade near Weathermark Hill, the team spends the night and prepares to move to the hill in the morning. It proves to be a very long night.

Kiara wakes to voices in the forest. Somebody is calling her. Her mother? She gets up and runs after the voice.

Vash, on watch, tries to follow her but can’t keep up with her in. The other members of the group wake up and follow as best they can.

Kiara reaches a cave where the voice seems to be coming from. She enters. The walls and floor are draped with vines. Her mother’s voice beckons her farther in. She reaches the end and finds what appears to be her mother.

It’s not her long-lost mother. The figure in front of her morphs into a monster, a demon made of vines. The cave’s vines come alive and wrap around Kiara, trapping her.

Vash becomes lost and wanders the forest in Kiara’s general direction. Somebody he recognizes appears in the trees above him. It’s his god, a minor deity whom Vash has been seeking for years. He assures Vash that he’s been heard and that the Tiefling will be hearing from him soon. Before he leaves, the deity gives him a parting gift, a burning handprint as a reminder and a portion of his power, which can be used when needed.

Argonath, Cyrio, and Jenner try to find Vash and Kiara but get lost. It soon becomes apparent that their being lost is not due entirely to lack of a map. Something is very off in the forest.

They stumble upon what appears to be their camp. Just as they’re convinced that they’ve been going in circles, each man sees a doppelganger of himself in the tents. They fight and the clones disappear without much resistance. The campsite fades from existence, revealing only the forest.

Knowing that something is messing with them with illusion magic, the three redouble their efforts to find their missing friends.

The vine-lady wished to possess Kiara. The girl does not want the same thing. She manages to free herself with her special dagger, a parting gift from Hamand when they were leaving Corsa. It’s then that she makes an interesting discovery.

The dagger can teleport her. As she slashes at the vines restraining her, she finds herself transported to the ground directly behind the vine-figure. Kiara runs, fighting as the vines try to hold her back. She almost makes it to the cave entrance when the vines reform into a figure in front of her.

Vash arrives at that moment and slashes the vines away, dispelling whoever had possessed them for the moment.

The other three arrive at about the same time and the party is reunited. After giving Kiara a brief talking-to, they spend the rest of the night in peace.

The following morning the group goes to Weathermark Hill. The tallest hill and tallest trees in the Glade are visible for miles around and it’s not hard to find it.

But, like many things from last night, the hill is not what it appears to be. As the group gets closer, they see that the grove of trees is just an illusion. Something has altered the five tallest trees and set up a wall around them.

The wall is ironwood, impenetrable by weapons.

Kiara uses her teleporting dagger and travels to the other side but the others are left outside the wall. Argonath uses his tree-singing ability to drop a tree onto the wall, allowing the group to climb over the wall and rappel down.

The five trees inside the wall are in bad shape. They hardly resemble trees anymore; something has stripped them of their leaves and needles and twisted the branches into platforms.

Argonath prepares to sing the trees back to health when trouble appears. Spindly men made of sticks and hunched, spiky creatures that can shoot their quills appear from the trees.

Argonath climbs the first tree as the rest of the group fights the enemies off.

At the tallest platform of the tree, embedded in the trunk, is a pulsing red crystal. It’s large enough that it requires two hands to hold and it radiates magical energy.

Jenner follows the elf up the tree and sees the crystal and, against his will, he can’t look away from it. Argonath smashes the crystal with his staff and a wave of magic ripples through the world and crashes into Jenner. An evil voice echoes through his head as something takes control of his limbs.

Argonath sings to the damaged tree, using his powers to begin the repair process. The shards of crystal disappear and the tree starts to resume its natural form.

Jenner momentarily gains control of the presence that possesses him and attempts an emergency self-exorcism. He jams a silver-inlaid arrowhead, a memento of a past battle, into his arm. The presence in him decreases and he’s able to expel it before it makes him turn on his friends.

Vash and Kiara battle the minions on the ground as Cyrio climbs another tree and destroys another crystal. As the crystal shatters, a swirl of leaves picks itself up from some unseen wind. In front of Cyrio, the leaves take the form of a woman. It grabs for him. It takes all of the wizard’s willpower to resist the influence.

Repelled from Cyrio, the figure disappears and reforms on the ground between Kiara and Vash. Jenner and Argonath join the fight but nothing they do seems to harm the swirling body of leaves.

The party makes a split second decision and decides to split. Vash, Jenner, and Cyrio fight on the ground as Argonath and Kiara run to destroy the rest of the crystals.

Argonath climbs another tree and smashes its crystal. The leaf-woman appears behind him and, distracted from the fight and the tree-singing, the elf gets possessed.

One the ground, Cyrio becomes possessed next. He and Argonath turn on the other members of the party and, finding none to fight, turn on each other.

Vash runs to cover Kiara as she encounters the spiked monsters on top of her tree. Jenner reluctantly climbs the last tree.

The leaf-woman turns her attention to the last of the crystals. With her attention and corporeal forms split in so many places, Argonath is able to break free of her hold.

Kiara falls prey to possession as she’s about to break the second-last crystal. She recognizes the voice in her head as the same demon from last night.

Jenner approaches the last crystal. The demon appears behind him but, with the silver arrowhead still in his arm plus another coin jammed in the wound for good measure, easily resists her attempts to take control of him. He smashes his crystal and runs to help Cyrio and Argonath.

Vash, with a possessed Kiara advancing on him, swings his sword into the final crystal. It explodes with a blast of magic that throws him and Kiara off of the platform.

With a shriek, the demon disappears and the leaf-figures collapse.

Kiara regains control of herself, forty feet in the air and falling. She grabs Vash, takes her magic dagger and grinds it against the tree on their way down. Immediately they’re both teleported away.

The two land on top of Cyrio, who’s just been relived of his possession.

With the fight over, the group binds their wounds and Argonath finishes singing to the trees. They show improvement as their branches curl back into their proper shapes and needles begin to appear on the twigs.

Despite the elf’s abilities, he knows that the Weathermark Hill has been damaged beyond repair. A battalion of tree-singers couldn’t restore the Glade to its former health.

The news does not bode well. Without the power of the Glade as a magic ward, The Void will have a much easier time getting into this world.

That concern will have to be addressed later. Corsa is still under attack and demands their attention.

The group takes a rest long enough for their wounds to stop bleeding and for Argonath to patch the magic rift as best he can. But it’s only a temporary measure. The Glade, and the world, will never be the same.

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