As the sounds of battle faded, the party took a moment to recover and assess the situation. A groan from nearby attracted their attention. Just outside the room the Wardstone fragment had been imprisoned in, a strange figure lay where he had been thrown back by the blast. He too had a fading glow of power. It was a winged ape clutching a bow. The flying monkey picked himself up and introduced himself with a strong Galtan accent. He was the renowned local vigilante known only as the Poonisher.
The Poonisher, secretly also the wingless monkey mime named Francois Bastille, explained that he had been attempting to catch up and aid the party, but had only arrived just in time to be struck by the blastwave. As he seemed now to be bound up in the same strange destiny as the others who had absorbed the wardstone’s power, he went along as the party returned to camp to plan their next move. The situation in Kenebraes was grim, but there was finally hope. Only about half of Kenebraes’s original population of twelve thousand remained in the city. The party practiced and learned about the nature of their new mythic power.
Wase’s new abilities were martial, greatly adding to his skills with the blade. Bendak’s share was more defensive, which should serve him well as a guardian of dinosaurs and their ilk. Tane’s inborn magic was augmented, which he used to enhance the magical treasures he made, becoming a very quick and skilled craftsman. His fox aided him in crafting, an impressive feat for a being with no thumbs. The Poonisher’s new abilities leaned towards cunning and archery. Gith’s skills were more unclear. He retreated to the library with Arava to study and attempt to understand what had happened. Unfortunately, this left him unable to continue traveling with the group for the time. Since he would not need his skeletal minion for some time, he left his gear with the party. Wase took the strength enhancing belt. Because it had been crafted to make the skeleton sometimes look like an elf, Wase now looked like an elf in battle.
The other people who had accompanied them to the gray garrison and been present for the blast had not received any of the power, for some mysterious reason. Hook, Swoop, and Tane’s fox familiar also got nothing despite their close connection to their masters. The night after the Gray Garrison attack, the party and the Poonisher all received the same dream. Iomedae, the goddess of paladins, appeared to them as a scarred but beautiful woman in plate armor and kissed each of them on the brow before vanishing. Her divine blessing left everyone a little stronger.
It may be a good time here to explain the Poonisher’s history. His race had once lived in the land of Sarkoris before the Worldwound blighted that land. They were enslaved and taken far away by a wicked witch. The witch in question used them as minions in her armies for generations. After her death, Francois made the long trip back to his homeland only to find it ruined by demons. On the way he realized that many now feared flying monkeys due to the things they had done in their unwilling service to the witch. Thus he began hiding his wings to pass as another sort of more benign monkey man called a vanaras. Wanting vengance on the demons that destroyed his home, he took on the name of the Poonisher in Kenebraes. He also began wearing a grisly necklace of a mummified elf hand and the ears of those the Poonisher slew.
Five days went by after the liberation of Kenebraes. Tane used this time to craft several items, including an amulet that Bendak had requested to channel Holy power into Hook’s natural attacks so she would no longer be hindered by their unnatural hides.
Though his endless hours of study, Tane realized how closely dinosaurs resemble dragons. Hook, in particular, had a reddish hide that he felt was more than just reminiscent of evil red dragons. Feeling that this meant it was, if not already evil, certainly and by all studied accounts on the verge of being evil, he took special steps. As all know, evil creatures are temporarily crippled if they attempt to wield a Holy weapon. In the team spirit of making sure that Hook never has to endure such a fate, Tane took special steps.
With the assistance of one of the Clerics of Sarenrae, goddess of redemption, Tane imbued the amulet with powers that force the reptile’s very being to emulate Sarenrae’s Sacred Animal of the Dove. Tane is well satisfied that the otherworldly protection that the downy white feathers offer Hook will prevent the velociraptor from ever being harmed by the amulet. Bendak was surprised by the change but not overly concerned since other breeds of raptor naturally possess similar feathers. Hook adjusted well enough to her new plumage.
The party also cured Arava of his blindness. He was grateful to receive his sight back. At the end of the five days, the party heard rumors that Queen Galfrey, ruler of Mendev, was coming to Kenebraes to see them. Shortly thereafter she arrived. Runners who preceded her allowed the party to choose where they would meet. After some debate the party agreed that Defender’s Heart would be the most appropriate place. The paladins prepared Defender’s Heart as well as they could for the Queen’s arrival. Galfrey met with the party and thanked them for saving the lives of all those crusaders who had massed along the border.
She then gave them a new mission. A marilith commander named Zuhra Aponavicius had recently moved her troops out of the city of Drezen within the Worldwound in response to the fall of the barrier, leaving it open to be retaken by a small force of crusaders. The reason this goal matters is because that city contained a relic called the Sword of Valor. The “Sword” was actually a banner once carried by Iomedae herself. It had been lost due to an antipaladin’s treachery, but once had been a great boon to morale in the crusade. It was also rumored to have protective abilities. The rumors were backed up by the fact that the city it was in had fallen just after it was lost after long standing against the demons. Queen Galfrey promised to provide a force of 100 knights if the party agreed to lead them. They all agreed, although Gith remained behind. The Poonisher would have to fill his role. Bendak in particular was keen to keep the war on the eastern front, since his jungle was only a few miles from the now unprotected western edge of the Worldwound.
Before leaving, the party made some final preparations. Bendak added some decorative tropical feathers and carvings to his mask in preparation for having Tane give it magical powers. Wase also purchased a set of full plate armor.
Irabeth and Arava were both invited to join on the march, and both agreed. Arava would provide magical aid to the troops, and Irabeth would be the field commander. Queen Galfrey also provided three specialists of her own. They were an expert on guerilla warfare named Aron, a cleric named Sosiel, and a bard named Nurah. The Poonisher also joined the army again as Francois Bastille the monkey mime. Bendak could conjure enough water to feed the troops, but other supplies would need to be brought along from Kenebraes or acquired on the way. After the preparations were complete, the force now calling themselves the Knights of Kenebraes set out marching into the lands surrounding the Worldwound.
The first thing they encountered on the way was an abandoned farming village. They spent a day searching and found some food and supplies. Sadly, they found no evidence of any survivors. An upcoming tower fort at Vilareth Ford should have provided a good point to stop and rest early in the journey. Before the party arrived, their scouts came running with a warning. The fort had fallen to an army of tiefling cultists. Its noble defenders hung gutted from the sides of the tower. The Poonisher and Swoop scouted out the area from the skies while made invisible by Tane to prepare an ambush. The Knights got into position, and Bendak transformed into a towering allosaurus.
The ambush worked perfectly. The tiefling army was swiftly crushed. The party themselves identified the commander of the cultists. It was a brimorak demon named Umastil. It looked like a three foot tall black furred humanoid goat wreathed in flames and wielding a sword of flames.
When the party approached, it spit a jet of boiling blood at them and tried to fly away. The small demon was then snatched in Bendak’s jaws and pulled back, to be finished off by a perfect arrow to the throat by the Poonisher, who took flight above the army. That arrow was then followed by several supplementary shots to the torso. The day had been won without a single death amoung the Knights of Kenebraes. Wase buried the bodies hung from the tower. Aron suggested looting the battlefield for supplies. Although some of the paladins present were offended at robbing corpses for their equipment, the party agreed with his plan and the looting gathered a few supplies to sustain the army. The Poonisher took the opportunity to add Umastil’s ear to his necklace. Some prisoners were found who had survived the attack on the tower. The party sent the battered troops home after getting a description of Keeper’s Canyon, which was next on their journey.
The Knights continued to march northward to Drezen. Something seemed off about the description of Keeper’s Canyon as they approached. Scouts reported two armies that would need to be simultaneously defeated in order to pass. One was more tieflings like the group that was so easily destroyed before. The other was tiny demons that were soon discovered to be dretches. Another ambush was set and launched. This ambush was far less successful. The tieflings did little against the Knights but the dretch horde proved a much greater obstacle. Roughly half the Knights fell before the little demons routed after a long and grueling battle. The tieflings began to collapse, but their leader held them together. It was an incubus named Exorias. An incubus is essentially the weaker male version of the seductive female succubi.
Exorias opened the battle by casting a spell of Crushing Despair. Those who failed to resist were impaired by grief and self doubt. He then flew out of the allosaur-druid’s reach. He was about to cast echantments, but the Poonisher swooped in and shot him in the throat so he couldn’t voice any compelling words. Wase fired a crossbow bolt and Tane cast a spell. Exorias dodged the shot and resisted the spell. He then divebombed the Poonisher in midair, punching him hard in the gut. The Poonisher gagged as he doubled over from the blow. Just as the fight seemed to be going in Exorias’s favor a crucial error became evident. By striking the Poonisher, he had lowered himself to Bendak’s reach. Bendak immediately pounced and clawed the demon. Exorias tried to teleport away, but failed to cast the spell while also maintaining his defensive flight. Desperate, he tried to fly away and lost his leg to Bendak’s jaws. The blood loss of an arrow to the throat and a missing leg finally got to him and he plummeted to the ground. An echoing final thump signaled the end of the battle. The Poonisher approached the broken incubus and shot him in the head just to be sure. He also claimed another ear when Wase wasn’t looking.
Despite the damage the Knights had taken, they continued on. Finally, they entered the strange and horrible terrain of the Worldwound itself. Above their heads shone wrong stars and around them rained such things as crystal locusts and eyeballs. As they marched on, a former paladin in their ranks began openly claiming that their task was hopeless and discouraging the troops. Wase decided to personally meet with him and try to convince him otherwise. With the commanding presence that his mythic power gave him, he just managed to give Arles a bit of hope even despite the horrors all around them. Francois’s mime performance however did not help.