Wrath of the Righteous

The shadow of ruin

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The group rested in the library for the night. Soon the scholars turned to discussing rumors. Among them were these:

“The Eagle Watch and a few other crusading groups survived the attack, and have set up a fortified camp at Defender’s Heart.”

“The demon plague has come to Kenabres. We’ll all be dead of it within a week! "

Tane heard their talk and asked “Demon plague? What do you mean? Are humanoids changing or otherwise
acting differently? Who do you know that’s been affected? How has
that person changed? Stiff drinks can cure hysteria, you should have
one after you answer all my questions. What have been happening in
the city for the past few days?”

The whale oil soaked librarian that mentioned ‘demon plague’ responded, “We are being punished for our rebellion. The city is undone—look around! Have you not eyes to see demons and the possessed ransacking our once great city? What do you think possessed the mad paladin to burn us alive—surely a man in control of his own faculties would not do such a thing! Since the great flash and all was shaking and torn apart, powerful magics reverberated throughout the city and great winged demons were seen turning above the city casting great shadows. When the shaking and crashing din subsided it was replaced with nothing but the cries of the dying and the never ending laughter and mocking of the demons themselves—spreading the demon plague wherever they went. Perhaps even you are infected…” She then broke down sobbing quietly.

Bendak asked what the Eagle Watch and Defender’s Heart were. The Eagle Watch were a group of Andoran knights who hunted corruption in the ranks of the crusaders. Defender’s Heart was the largest tavern in Kenebraes, catering to crusaders and mercenaries.

The next morning, the survivors began moving out to the next closest target, the cultist safehouse at Nyserian Manor. Arava the wizard chose to stay behind with the librarians. Nyserian Manor was found to be nothing but a crater. Despite Bendak’s extremely thorough search, the group found nothing. Nearby, the group heard two figures moving around in a shop and breaking things. The paladin approached and called out to them. The wrecker demons within responded violently.

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The wrecker demons had been trashing a clothier’s shop in their need to compensate for their ugliness by destroying beauty. Wase approached and drew his sword as Tane greased the floor, dropping a demon to the floor. Hook leapt in through a window, loudly trilling at the chance to kill demons. The standing demon was momentarily overcome by Gith’s psychic powers and took a swing at the other with a chair. The demons then quickly looked their assailants over to see which was the most charismatic, in order to ruin them first. They decided it was the demonic knight, narrowly beating the velociraptor. If she could care about such things, Hook would have been just happy to be nominated. Tane began helping as Wase held off the demons. A demon fell to the raptor’s claws, but Wase took the brunt of the attacks and was struggling against the survivor. Bendak made it to the fight though, and magically bolstered Wase, keeping him alive long enough to decapitate the last wrecker demon.

After the chaos had ended, the survivors heard quiet whispers nearby from a closed off back room. After some coaxing, the owner of the shop and his wife emerged. They were extremely thankful to the group for saving their lives and offered to let them take their choice of outfits from the surviving stock. Before leaving, Bendak conjured up water to refill their supply and Tane magically repaired a wedding dress out of kindness. While there, the group picked up a rumor that the local Salen river had been poisoned.

Next up was Querm’s mansion. Bizarrely, his home was nearly untouched by the cataclysm. Querm did not appreciate his suspiciously good fortune at all, as his household servants and guards had all fled, taking his valuables with them. Querm’s hidden treasure and panic room was fine, however. He was true to his word, and paid the group 2000 gold coins before locking himself in to wait out the disaster. None were really upset about continuing without him. Gith object read and Swoop flew around to inspect the damage, but found nothing important. Tane suspected that the house had been spared because Querm’s mistreated servants had fled immediately, thus leaving nobody in the estate to kill. Still, Gith peed on Querm’s nicest carpet before leaving.

At this point, Anevia insisted that the group go and check if her wife was still alive. On the way, Swoop was circling above and saw three knights forcefully dragging a woman to an altar of the good deity Sarenrae. He told Bendak, who repeated it to the group. They rushed off to the rescue. As they approached, one knight told the captive that her sacrifice would aid the cause of good. Wase turned the corner, sword in hand, and demanded to know how that could be. He also added that the city could use some good in this dark time. The crusaders prepared for battle and drew swords at him. Gith summoned his skeletal ancestor before sneaking up on a knight and calling out “Boo!”. The fallen warrior was gripped by mentally pushed terror and fled as fast as he could manage through the rubble. The battle had begun, and Wase, the skeleton, Hook, and Bendak entered the battle. Bendak hesitated a moment, and his legs warped into a more reptilian form to spring through the rubble. Tane greased a knight, tripping him up. Wase began dueling another knight as Gith and the skeleton left one dying in the dust by their hostage. As Wase fought, he looked into his opponent’s souls and was surprised to see that evil had not truly gripped them yet.

In the meantime, the fleeing crusader dodged raptor claws and a sudden stormcloud for a moment, but was soon brought to his knees by the dinosaur as Bendak joined against Wase’s opponent. Wase called out that the knights weren’t evil, so Bendak called off Hook and aimed a disabling scythe blow at his own target. To his own horror, he swung too hard and bisected him. The remaining knight continued to fight in his madness, cutting the raptor. A lethal arrow from Gith put a stop to that. Wase rushed to the fallen knight by the hostage and used his powers to save his life, hoping to redeem him. Sadly, the knight was too far gone. Gripping his sword, he took a desperate slash at the hostage, nearly slaying her in one blow. Fortunately Gith reacted immediately. The skeleton crushed the knight’s skull open against the ground as Gith gave the hostage a lifesaving potion. Reviving, she introduced herself as Klara.

Klara lead the survivors to her family’s hiding place a very short distance away, containing her mother and crippled father. They were furious with the paladin, but accommodating to the others. The druid refilled their water supply as they related the rumors they had heard. They had heard reports that multiple cults were active in the city and that both a terrible witch and the heroic Mendevian army were on their way to Kenebraes.

Just before reaching her house, Anevia told the others her wife was a half-orc paladin named Irabeth. They lived in a small house. Anevia would have preferred larger, but Irabeth insisted on donating most of their money to the less fortunate. On arrival, the house seemed abandoned. Gith did not read anything from the door, but Tane saw a momentary flash of magic that he identified as an alarm spell. Bendak asked her, and Anevia confirmed that wasn’t normal before rushing in. The survivors began carefully exploring the home. Suddenly, Anevia was attacked by a fiendish pony. It was quickly killed by the raptor and skeleton. The survivors looked for the presumable summoner, but found nothing before a second pony rushed out, only to be killed again. Bendak ordered the raptor to hunt down the summoner, who burst from invisibility as soon as the dinosaur sniffed the air. He was an armored half-orc sorcerer.

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The half-orc screamed that he would leave Anevia’s corpse on the bed for Irabeth to find before her death and impaled her on his wicked spear, leaving her bleeding out on the floor of her home. He tried to finish her, but was overwhelmed by her friends, cornered against a wall, and slaughtered. After Anevia was revived with a potion found in her house. Further searching found a note from Irabeth, saying that she had gone to Defender’s Heart to lead the other holy warriors. In retrospect, it seemed kind of obvious. It also said that the password was Silverstrong. Anevia also identified the half-orc as Vagorg. He was a criminal who had been captured by Irabeth a year ago and had spent the interim plotting his vengance. The survivors rested in Anevia’s home overnight and then went on to Defender’s Heart.

After a triggerhappy guard almost landed a crossbow bolt in someone, the group made it in with the password. Anevia reunited with Irabeth, who later interviewed the others. She said that the wardstone barrier was at its weakest point ever and attacks were occurring all along the border. On the bright side, the barrier was still up. For their part, the survivors told her everything that had happened since they fell, leaving nothing out. Irabeth was happy to hear of the mongrelman alliance, though she called them by a politer name. She said that she considered the Ivory Labyrinth the greatest threat among the cultists and asked the group to finish hunting down their remaining two safehouses from the note. In exchange she gave free food and board. Gith also got her to send a rescue mission for Klara and her family. It was done, though a few crusaders fell in the act. The party bought a couple of wands, including a wand of healing, and moved out to the closer safehouse.

On the way, they came across a horrible sight. With corpses scattered about, four peasants with ill-fitting armor and weapons were being forced to fight to the death for a pair of quasit demons.

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The demons tried to fly away, turn invisible, and escape to kill again. A giant spider summoned by Bendak stopped them with webs, cutting off their escape. Despite the demons trying their best to scare off the group, they were destroyed as the peasants fled. Even Tane got in on it, killing one with a wand of magic missiles.

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The light of day

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The survivors continued on their way through the dungeon. They passed through a dining room stained with blood. Gith sensed that a mongrelman had been sacrificed there by an invading human cultist. Shortly thereafter the group was ambushed in a primitive bedroom by the cultist, a woman named Hosilla, and her tiefling minion.

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Wase tried to greet them and took a blow from a spectral unholy battle axe that Hosilla summoned. Her rudeness was punished by blows from Gith and his skeleton. Tane, Bendak, and hook rushed in after them. After Gith managed to psychically force the tiefling cultist to momentarily attack Hosilla, Wase struck her down with a well placed blow. The remaining cultist flew into enraged grief, but was soon overwhelmed by the survivors and slain.

The paladin looked into the cultist’s souls as they faded away and saw the evil within. A note and a lockbox were found among the cultist’s possessions. The group assembled to read the note.

“Hosilla-

You will remain, for the time being, in Kenabres. But know this- the city’s days are numbered. Seek a place of safety- the underground den of your mongrel lackeys should suffice to keep you safe from the devastation to come. I shall assume command of Drezen shortly, and once Vorlesh has finished with the wardstone and Kenabres is no longer of interest to us, you are to return to my side.

Excellent news regarding the salvage of Yuriel’s sword from the museum as well- bring it with you, for I believe this weapon could be quite useful one we corrupt it.

Before you leave for Drezen, stop by the three safe houses (Nyserian Manor, Topaz Solutions, and the Tower of Estrod- the passphrase remains “I’ve new materials for the archive” for now) and ensure that no evidence remains behind.

May Lord Deskari and Lord Baphomet watch over you.

~ S.V."

Querm seemed momentarily shocked, but quickly returned to normal, Anevia wanted to report the discovery to the authorities, and Arava wanted to investigate the tower. Bendak checked with the native citizens and verified that all the locations mentioned in the note were in Kenebraes. The others focused on the lockbox. Gith opened it up and detected that the sword inside was in fact Radiance, the weapon of the crusader martyr Yuriel. At the moment, it seemed inert and a shadow of its old self. However, Wase picked up the sword and it flared back to life, reviving in the paladin’s grasp. Perhaps it would recover even more power in time.

The group continued their exploration. Wase opened a door and took a painful bite from the pale cave lizard hiding in the meat storage inside.

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Bendak was unable to talk it down, so the rest of the team rushed and subdued the lizard. Due to the saurian shaman’s presence the lizard was spared. It would be able to walk away when it awoke several hours later.

The next battle was in a room full of taxidermy. Two human cultists made Wase kneel and drop his weapon with a Command spell. Fortunately, they were unable to finish him off before falling to the conjured grease and vengeful weapons of Wase’s friends.

Next, a rope ladder led them into a wide, dark pool. As the first of the group entered the water, a pair of gars attacked.

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One of the fish bit Gith hard and began pulling him under. The elf cried out in pain, having never been hurt that much before. Thinking hard, Gith commanded the fish to let go and bite its mate. He was then lifted out by Bendak’s cloud as the fish were killed off. Gith’s skeleton was told to explore the bottom of the pool, and it found a trap door leading up to an abandoned stash of thief’s gold. Gith went in to get it and was caught in a spiked pit. The others rescued him and the gold was got. Around this time, Bendak gave Wase his wooden shield as an upgrade.

On the way out of the tunnels now, the group slew a pack of powerful dire rats and the last of the traitor mongrelmen. The exit was a stone maze. As the group picked up the pace at the promise of finally seeing the surface again, a pair of childsized demons sprung from hiding.

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The demons cackled and rushed to claw at the paladin as they filled the room with a stinking cloud. The mortals began to gag and struggle to fight through the awful stench. At the scent of demons like the ones who slaughtered her hatchlings, Hook quivered with rage. Snarling, it bit and clawed at a demon’s back. Unfortunately, the demon’s supernatural hide saved it from taking any more than minor cuts. Oh well. One dretch summoned another into the battle. Tane tried to frighten the demons away with a magical scroll, but the demons resisted. After a terrible fight, the survivors finally left them in the dirt and made it to the surface.

The city they emerged into was barely a comfort. Kenebraes lay in ruin under a smoke choked sky and the echoing laughter of demons. It had been three days since the attack. The group gathered together to determine where to go next. Gith happened to object read Anevia and discovered she used to be a man. Horgus demanded to go straight home to his manor, Arava wanted to check on his colleagues at Blackwing Library, and Anevia needed to see if her wife was still alive. Since the library was closest, the group decided to go there first over Horgus’s protests. Gith began watching him closely. The survivors patched up their wounds as best they could and headed out. They arrived to see that the library had been reduced to rubble. Arava was broken with grief. Bendak tried awkwardly to console him, but all his knowledge of dinosaurs and jungle survival had nothing to deal with this.

A voice was heard inside barking out orders to stack books. The group stalked closer for a better look. Inside was the cavalier of Iomedae Chaleb Sazomal.

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Despite the noble symbol on his shield, he had tied up three scholars in a ring of books and was forcing another, a woman named Fenna, to gather more around the prisoners. She wept, but was being forced to comply at swordpoint. Wase detected Evil. The floor was covered in rubble and fallen books, which slowed the knight down. The raptor deftly hopped through the books and prepared to spring upon the defected crusader as Bendak summoned a little stormcloud over him. A lighting bolt jolted Chaleb, who tossed a flaming Tindertwig into the books. The flames quickly surrounded the trapped scholars and threatened to burn them alive. The one forced to stack the books took her chance. Calling out an apology to the raptor, she fired off a burst of flames from her hands at Chaleb. The raptor hissed and dodged as Chaleb took the heat. Tane stepped in with a blast of water at the fire, putting it out and sending books bouncing off the dark knight and dinosaur. Chaleb tried to escape, but the thundercloud caught up and struck him again, knocking him unconscious and ending the battle.

Chaleb was tied up and revived for questioning. He lied about his actions, but the psychic got through fairly quickly to determine that he was trying to kill off survivors of the attack in hopes of winning favor with the demons to save himself. The group argued for a while over whether or not to spare his life. Wase in particular struggled with his code that day. Ultimately, the decision was made to spare him for now…and leave him to the ones he had held prisoner. Exploring the library turned up some dried dead worms. Bendak tried to identify them, but they were no species he had ever seen. A psychic vision of Gith and interviewing the scholars found that they were the castoffs of the being who destroyed the library. During the attack a Worm That Walks had targeted them in particular. With spells and enslaved demons, he tore down the library and seemed to search the rubble for something. A Worm That Walks is an evil mage who’s malign spirit possessed the worms that devoured his body after death and returned, forming the worms into a semblance of their old body. Arava collected himself enough to be functional again, and revealed that the library was actually the main headquarters of the Riftwardens. They were the heroic secret society that he and Tane’s parents belonged to. With the library’s destruction, he was the last of their order.

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From the ashes

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The survivors rested in the dwarf god’s temple and prepared to continue exploring the rubble-strewn tunnels. Gith was studying the dragon scales he had collected, and found them to have various magical abilites. The scales were then distributed among the combat-ready survivors. After weapons, spells and gear were all ready, they advanced into the darkness. The combat incapable survivors hung back to allow the others to clear the way. A chamber along the way contained old statuary of saddened crusaders. Gith and Arava recognized the artwork as originating from the First Crusade, 91 years ago. As the group passed through, two squidlike darkmantles attacked from the ceiling.

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The darkmantles landed on Wase and Tane, wrapping crushing tentacles about their heads. After a brief scuffle, the subterranean predators were slain. After that was dealt with, Bendak’s pterodactyl heard a spell being cast down the hall. Tane listened closely and identified the sound as a Blur spell. Attempting to call on his newfound powers directly, Gith summoned his skeletal relative again. The survivors went down the tunnel and turned a corner into a cavern. They saw a ramshackle campsite and a maddened dwarf.

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The skeleton charged and clawed at the empty air. Hook stalked in sniffing for the dwarf. The dwarf suddenly appeared behind the skeleton and attacked. The paladin and druid charged, but their weapons were dodged and parried by the dwarf. The display of skill did not last long, and the mad dwarf soon fell to raptor claws. The team heard excited chatter from the room with the statues and rushed back to see what the commotion was. Avara was looking at the statues and considered them evidence one of his conspiracy theories. He believed the tunnels had been created by the mutant children of the First Crusade. The mutants had appeared as a result of their parents rushing into the Worldwound without care for the fiendish energies there. The grotesque, but otherwise harmless children had been taken as evidence of corruption and persecuted, escaping to catacombs under the city. At least, so goes the theory. No proof had ever surfaced. Gith continued listening to Avara as the others looted the room. A small statuette was found, and a brooch that Gith psychically sensed was important. Before the survivors moved on, Wase said a prayer for the dwarf.

The next discovery on the path through the undercity was a massive open chamber. A tower had been built here, but it had fallen in the quakes caused by the battle above. Several figures moved around underneath. The tiefling knight approached, and was met by creatures that made even him look normal.

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The Mongrelman mutants introduced themselves in common. The male called himself Lann, and the female was Dyra. Dyra’s face was too wracked by tumors to speak, so Lann spoke for both. They were trying to dig out a friend of theirs who had been buried by rubble. The survivors immediately moved in to save the mutant. Gith quickly made a plan that would allow the rubble to be moved without causing further damage, and then Wase moved the rocks with assistance from everyone else. The mutant under the rock was named Crel, and the trio were very grateful for the rescue. They offered to lead the survivors home. Haggard and lost, they gratefully accepted. Most of them anyway. Querm immediately began muttering about how you just can’t trust commoners, especially pitling freaks, and how the others had doomed the survivors to a knife in the back. Arava however was overjoyed to see the proof of his theory and immediately began pestering them with intrusive and unintentionally racist questions. Wase healed the pitling freaks as Gith talked his friend into dropping the questions for now and explained the disaster to the mutants.

On the way to the mongrelman town, the path was cut off by a 30ft deep chasm. The survivors considered how to get the wounded across. Bendak’s dragon scale allowed the creation of little clouds that could slowly lift things, and this was used for Bendak, his pets, Anexia, and Arava. The others used ropes, at least after Wase tried to bravely jump across and hurt himself in the process.

Next, the mongrel trio warned, there was a horrible and deadly plant monster that they call The Spore Coffer. The survivors gathered their strength for an epic battle and charged in. They found only a very dead plant and two human corpses. Wase stepped up carefully and found that while they looked like Iomedaen crusaders, their gear was slightly wrong and they carried symbols of the demon lord Baphomet. As this likely marked them as traitors to the cause of the crusade, Arava was happy to have another theory confirmed while Anexia was outraged. Arava wanted to drag the bodies along as evidence, and some others reluctantly indulged him.

Finally, after so long with monsters, psychopaths, and incessant barking cave spiders disturbed by the collapse, the group reached the underground town of Neathholm. In a dark way, it looked almost welcoming. Crude homes surrounded a lake. The surface-dwellers were quickly brought to meet the leader, Chief Sull.

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As Lann introduced the group, Querm finally burst. He demanded accomodations, hurled insults at the chief, and began causing a lot of trouble. Before the mutants lost patience with him, the entire group stood together to stare him down. Querm decided to be quiet then. The chief listened closely to the stories of what had happened above, and revealed that the mongrelmen wanted to aid the crusade. He promised to bring up troops from the Darklands even farther underground if the newcomers would prove themselves. He wanted the group to defeat a faction of mongrelman traitors nearby. Fortunately, the traitors were camped out in the same tunnels the group needed to exit. The survivors of course agreed. Gith noticed that the brooch he had collected seemed to be calling to him and got it out. On seeing it, Chief Sull slowly raised from his throne (A task made difficult by his considerable girth and deformities) and requested it. The brooch was his son’s. Gith offered to use his powers to find out what had happened, and Sull accepted. Gith saw that the chief’s son had fallen to the beasts of the tunnels. The chief grieved to hear of his son’s death, but was grateful for the closure.

The survivors were allowed to rest and do business in Neathholm. Bendak traded in his sickle and shield for a scythe with a blade forged to kill the demonic and new armor. Bendak also casually asked if the mongrelman had suit of studded leather sized and fitted appropriately for Hook. To his surprise, they did. Apparently a particularly unusual mongrelman had once worn it. Tane also took care of selling gear and making sure everyone was equipped as well as possible.

The next day, the group headed out to fight the mutant traitors. Arava, Anexia, and Querm followed, but stayed out of combat. They soon found the entrance to the enemy territory. Swoop the pterodactyl offered to go ahead and quietly scout, but Wase decided to try sneaking in. The first guards, stationed behind a choke point of barricades, immediately spotted him and sounded an alarm.

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The paladin tried to peacefully greet them, but knew from their raised weapons that they would not listen. Longsword raised, he charged into battle. Gith ran in and called his skeleton before ducking behind a barricade. He was then used as an impromptu springboard by the raptor to get atop the barricade. The raptor delivered a minor bite to one of the guards. It turned and raised its club just before being eviscerated by Bendak’s scythe. Two more mutants entered and charged the skeleton. In possibly the most unlikely tag team ever seen in the undercity, the paladin and skeleton worked together to score a kill. Tane jabbed and waved his staff at a mongrelman, who turned from the melee to scoff at the useless attack. A sharp pain in the gut promptly reminded him of the battle as he looked down from the distraction to see the raptor dragging his innards out and away from their rightful place as the world went dark. Despite the awful sight, Tane was at least pleased his trick worked. The skeleton finished off the remaining mongrelman as it chose death before surrender.

Several doors were available beyond the outer guard post. With his growing mastery, Gith compelled a door to open on its own. Behind it was what seemed like a living room. A table sat with various papers, figurines and footstuffs scattered about atop it. Suddenly, a woman with spider legs emerging from her body at random struck from hiding.

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She quickly proved herself the most dangerous enemy the survivors had faced thus far. Her skills and armor made her very difficult to hurt as she wounded Wase and Gith. Tane tried his distracting trick again. It nearly worked, but the spider woman was a bit faster than the previous victim, taking only a glancing slash from the raptor. Gith filled with righteous anger, and channeled into his mace. Gith then slew the woman in a single mighty blow. In her gear was another symbol of Baphomet. A sloping pit and a hole with a rope ladder were nearby. Choosing the slope, Wase lead the way and almost fell before Gith threw him a rope. Wase slid down the tunnel, and landed in right in a strange monster. An amoeba the size of a child latched on to his leg and began burning through his armor.

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The raptor began to charge as Gith readied a firebomb. Gith quickly demanded the dinosaur clear the blast range. Bendak called her back and threw a dart from a hidden sheath in his sleeve, wounding the ooze. Wase shook it off, but it continued to advance up the slope. Finally, it was brought down by the skeleton and melted away. The increasingly desperate team searched the pit for anything useful, not finding anything. Bendak cleaned the acid of the dart and reloaded it.

Next was the rope pit. Wase and the pterodactyl lead the way, Swoop clutching the unused bomb in his talons. At the bottom was another guard post, much like the previous one. Swoop threw the bomb as Wase charged and it sailed toward the enemy. Unfortunately, it missed and exploded harmlessly against the wall. Bendak was next down the rope as the raptor dug into his side to hang on. Bendak was very grateful for the mongrelman armor he had purchased. As Tane, Gith, and the skeleton made it down, the situation suddenly became much more dire. Wase was rendered unconscious and bleeding out as two more guards entered. Ben’s dart and the raptor downed one of the four guards, but unfortunately blocked the skeleton until Hook moved. Gith also opened fire with his bow and Tane conjured grease to make one of the guards slip. Even Swoop got in on the fight, pecking at victims. The dinosaurs crawled atop and killed Tane’s victim as the skeleton killed off the others.

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Book of the Fifth Crusade
Chapter 1

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It was a bright and sunny day in the crusader city of Kenebraes. Kenebraes had long stood vigilant against the demonic hordes crawling forth from the abyss known as the Worldwound in the fallen land of Sarkoris. A grand fortress called the Kite holds Kenebraes’ Wardstone.The Wardstones, so long as they are maintained, form a boundary that prevents the demons from running rampant over the world. It was Arodus(August) the 16th, the day of the Armasse festival. Here, the chivalric celebration is a welcome relief from the grinding loss and horror of the war. Today, a crowd stood by the facade of the city’s greatest cathedral, St. Clydwell’s, waiting for the opening ceremony to begin.

One among them, the human sorcerer called Tane, decided to try making conversation. “Hello, I…um…” Tane looked down to his fox familiar. Sadly, the fox’s charisma was all tied up in soft fur and nothing was left to start a conversation with strangers. As such, Tane just stood there awkwardly. A man wearing the skull of some predatory animal hesitantly turned to reply. A bipedal serpent the size of a dog hunched cautiously by his leg as a bat-lizard perched atop his head. “Hello.” In a tone not quite a question he added: “You are here for the knight’s ceremony as well.”The bat-lizard chirped curiously down at the fox as the serpent twitched its head to and fro, regarding the crowd with suspicion. Tane replied “Yes, I am here for the knight’s ceremony. A friend of mine was supposed to have a role this year, but… now he cannot. Tell me, how is it that you have two familiars? Does their cold-bloodedness allow the bond to use less arcane energy and this let you divide the flow among multiple animals?” An older elf carrying strange implements interjected as the masked man considered the question. “Actually, I believe they are two separate bonds. The larger creature, a Velociraptor, if I remember my zoological studies, is a reward for our druidic friend’s service to nature, and not a familiar at all. He must have learned some ritual to acquire the other one. A Rhamphorynchus, I think.” The elf may have continued if not for that a demonlike tiefling, who had by some twist of fate become a holy knight-paladin in the service of the noble church of Iomedae, nudged him as the ceremony began.

Lord Hulrun, ruler of Kenebraes, took the stand. He cleared his throat, but just as he was about to speak, a bright light shone from the west, as if the sun were rising from the wrong direction. Hulrun’s shadow fell huge and distorted across the cathedral’s facade. A moment later, the sound of a thunderous explosion ripped through the air and earth, along with a violent tremor.

To the west, the Kite had vanished. In its place, a brilliant plume of red fire, lightning, and smoke erupted into the heavens. A moment later, a powerful roar accompanied a welcome sight rising from the crowd-Kenabres’s greatest guardian, the ancient silver dragon Terendelev, who had until that moment been attending the opening ceremony disguised as a human.

Above, another form appeared, as nightmarish as the dragon was breathtaking. A humanoid shape three times the size of any man, with skin coated in fire and lightning, gripped a flaming sword and whip. The creature’s identity was immediately obvious: Khorramzadeh, the Storm King of the Worldwound, had come to Kenabres.

As the ground shook and disgorged demons into the streets, the dragon and the balor lord clashed above. The fight was over in a few harrowing moments, as the demon cut deep into Terendelev’s body, swooping down to strike the dragon and arresting her charge. A few more blows, and the titanic duo spiraled downward toward the crowd.

The sight of the dragon smashing into the facade of the Cathedral of St. Clydwell is one no witness would ever forget. At that moment, a titanic demon erupted at the far end of the plaza, reducing several buildings to ruins as it smashed into the world.

The rift it created shot across the plaza, angling away into darkness. Many were unable to escape. Even as they fell, the dragon noticed their plight. Though she saw death standing over her, she seized her final chance to save a few more souls. After she uttered a few arcane words and stretched out a bleeding talon, they felt her magic take hold of them, slowing their plummet into the darkness as if they were feathers falling into a pit. Yet the fall remained as inexorable, and as they drifted downward into the depths, the last thing they saw was the Storm King standing before the ancient silver dragon, his sword lashing out and cleaving full through her neck. As her severed head fell, the rift above slammed shut, and the light of the world above was gone.

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The survivors awoke in a cavern of smoke, rubble and pain. The four aforementioned were there and three others. The druid picked himself up and immediately began pulling rubble off his stunned creatures and helping them recover. The elf and the tiefling took stock of the situation and saw the other survivors as Tane recovered. His fox staggered over and he picked it up. Everyone had hazy memories and shell shock, and slowly recovered. There was also an elven wizard bleeding from the eyes, a human woman with a broken leg, and a mostly uninjured human nobleman who’s pomposity remained intact. There was also many corpses of those who had perished in the attack. On the far end of the cavern, a giant black widow twitched around, apparently feeding on the dead. The paladin checked on the wizard, finding that his eyes had been burnt out by taking a tendril of the balor’s whip to the eyes. He helped the wizard by stopping the bleeding and fashioning a makeshift blindfold. As he worked, the nobleman attempted to order him about with no real understanding of what to do. The nobleman got quiet when told about the spider. A makeshift leg splint and crutch was fashioned for the woman and introductions were quickly passed around. The masked man was Bendak (He also introduced his raptor as Hook and the pterodactyl as Swoop, named for obvious reasons), the paladin’s name was Wase, the elf was Gith-Fa-Rha-Ha, the wizard was Arava, the woman with the broken leg was Anevia, and the useless noble was Hogus Querm.

The group decided to deal with the spider. The group questioned each other to see who had combat skills. Anevia would have liked a good scrap, but her ruined leg kept her out. Arava’s blindness also kept him from helping beyond simple bolstering magic. Querm was of course willing to supervise. Wase was already on the front line with his shield and sword, while Bendak readied a sickle and his raptor. Tane had pacifistic beliefs that prevented him from injuring others, but not from aiding allies. Gith-Fa-Rha-Ha repeatedly tried to dissuade the others from the madness of disturbing a giant spider, but reluctantly took up his bow. The only reply he got was Bendak boasting he had seen animals back home with feet bigger than the spider. The group approached and noticed something strange. The movement was not coming from the spider itself, but from something inside. Two giant maggots emerged from the spider carcass and rushed Wase.

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Wase battled the grubs with righteous anger and fiendish wrath combined. Bendak and the raptor charged and received faces full of partially digested spider for their trouble. Gith took a shot, and then stayed well back. In a moment the paladin slew both grubs one after the other. One took a postmortem shredding from a raptor that apparently did not appreciate being vomited upon. The group gathered together and began making plans. Gith began writing about the rubble and psychic significance of things. Querm was intrigued and made obvious attempts not to show it. Wase took charge of the survivors, though Querm insisted otherwise. Arava seemed like a soldier. When he realized Gith was a fellow elf, he began asking him questions about his combat experience and tactics that Gith replied to with his own odd questions about the history of the magical items Arava had. Gith was an occultist, a student of hidden knowledge. The caverns seemed to be mostly subterranean areas that had been underneath Kenebraes all along and exposed during the Storm King’s attack. A nearby tunnel was open, so the party decided to explore. Some of Terendelev’s scales had fallen into the cavern and Gith gathered them up. A while down the tunnel, a side passage opened up into some fallen wreckage. Gith stepped away from the group to see what he could learn and was attacked by two 3ft long cockroaches.

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Throwing up his hands in panic and unknowingly summoning some power he didn’t know he had, he drew forth some of the bones of one of his ancestors that he had been carrying around. In a moment, they grew and knitted together into a complete skeleton that clawed at the roaches. Tane aided by shoving one of the roaches away with a blast of summoned water as the raptor and paladin raced over. The raptor brought down an insect with a talon to the brain and a reptilian snarl. Bendak made it into the fight as Wase sliced several of the remaining roaches’ spiked, clawing legs off. The raptor leapt over the party to try to get in on the kill, but missed its chance to Bendak.

After the battle, Gith and Querm recognized the skeleton as the remains of Githarahe, a deceased relative of Gith of some repute in Kenebraes. Undead are violent, evil creatures but this one seemed helpful at least. Bendak asked the paladin if he would tolerate the skeleton’s existence. Wase thought carefully and said that he knew of no rule compelling him to destroy it. A strange position for a paladin to take, but Wase had never been much for the details of his religious studies. The party continued down the tunnel. Ten minutes after being summoned, Githarahe returned to his original state. While walking past some rocks, the raptor bristled. Bendak called her over, then followed the raptor closely after ordering it to hunt down the disturbance. It sniffed over the rocks and zeroed in on a crack when a pale cave viper slithered out, territorial and angry.

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Bendak immediately called the raptor back and began cautiously approaching the snake, making strange hissing and clicking sounds. The snake slowly backed down from a strike, uncoiled and reentered its den. Bendak turned to his companions and noticed their surprise. He explained that he was a saurian shaman, a friend and guardian of all the dinosaurs and other reptiles of the world, provided with the skills and magic needed to facilitate his duties. He did not however, have absolute power over them, and advised leaving quickly before the viper became impatient and returned to deliver a venomous bite.

Next the party found a huge, secret chamber awash with green light. A very practical looking stone temple dominated the view. A tiny pool of glowing water was just outside. A loud buzzing above called out the presence of a seven-foot fly, the adult version of the grubs seen before. “A Diptera Gigantus!” called out Gith, not so loud as to attract its attention. “I thought it was a giant rotfly, is it not?” replied Bendak. Gith and Wase prepared bows to deal with the threat. Gith drew his bow and unintentionally channeled his powers again, launching a suddenly huge arrow and nearly pinning the fly to the ceiling. Wase then put it out of its misery.

Wase approached the temple and looked at the insignia but was unable to identify it. With carefully chosen words he managed to get Querm to help, having picked up on that the noble was at least knowledgeable about some things. Querm proudly announced that it was a temple to Torag, the benevolent but relentless god of dwarves. Bendak used a spell to test the water, and found that it was blessed holy water. It was gathered up in a few bottles. Anevia said that her leg was hurting too much to continue and asked for rest. Querm suggested that she was slowing the group down and should be left behind. They quickly degenerated into a shouting match, Anevia accusing Querm of abandoning his faith and Querm accusing her of fraternizing with thieves. Tane and Bendak tried ineffectually to stop the argument, Tane with reason and Bendak by snapping at them to shut up and mutterings about survivalism. Wase salvaged the situation with the force of personality paladins are known for, convincing the two to drop the argument for now.

Gith saw that the temple had been abandoned for some time, but whoever had constructed it down in the tunnels had obviously built it to last. The combat capable survivors carefully entered the temple to see if it could serve as a campsite. Inside was a dwarven man kneeling on the floor. Wase sensed evil and Gith decided to preemptively fire arrows. The figure turned to reveal his undead face and attacked, barely injured by the arrows. It could have been much worse, but Tane knocked him on his back by conjuring a puddle of grease under his feet. The party surrounded him and tore into the undead, but nobody could really hurt it as it slashed its diseased claws about seeking purchase in living flesh. Wase called on his divine powers and managed to punch through his defenses. The undead dwarf survived this, only to be finished off by an otherwise minor blow from Bendak a moment later. The party rested and reconsecrated the temple overnight. They felt the act granted them Torag’s favor, a welcome comfort in the horrific situation.

Note:Gith-Fa-Rha-Ha would like to protest the shortening of his name to Gith. It is offensive.

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