Wrath of the Righteous

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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