Wrath of the Righteous

Drezen invaded

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As the party approached Drezen, Hook suddenly collapsed with a ragged hiss. Bendak rushed over to treat her. Somehow, the combined exposure to the Abyssal energies of the Worldwound and the druid’s mythic power had mutated the raptor. Fortunately, Hook’s change was nothing terrible. Hook grew to six feet tall and 300 pounds. The feathers Tane’s amulet had given rooted in permanently irregardless of the amulet’s continued presence. Hook would significantly more deadly at her new size, after a few days of bumping into things and bullying the party familiars of course.

The Knights of Kenebraes prepared for the liberation of Drezen. To the suprise of some, Anevia arrived in the camp with her leg fully healed. Irabeth explained that Anevia had been following in secret to provide rescue or warn Kenebraes if the quest should come to disaster. She had kept her presence hidden to protect her plan from being betrayed, whether by treason or coercion. Now though, she would use her roguish skills to help coordinate scouts heading into Drezen. The army was nervous about the upcoming battles, despite the mime who kept mysteriously showing up among the troops.

After planning and selecting targets, the invasion began. The first blow was struck against two armies of cultists, one tiefling and one human. Basing their tactics on experience with Wase’s capabilities, Arava used well-placed spells to confuse the enemy and turn their own spellcasting against them. During the ensuing chaos the paladin army struck for law. The tieflings were annihilated without a single death on the side of the Knights. Ironically, their lack of magic meant that the humans put up a bit of a better fight. Their dirty tricks delayed the end, but determined Smiting soon finished the cultists off. The army took plunder and began to dare to hope for victory. The next opponent was a ghoul horde at the graveyard. In another situation that might be a terrible threat, but the paladin army simply smashed through them.

In the graveyard, one crypt the size of a small house seemed especially foreboding. Poonisher flew around it. He saw there was only one door leading out. The crypt seemed to emanate darkness and evil. Tane declared that it was obviously permanent Unhallow and Darkness spells cast on the area. The party began to move in. Nobody seriously considered actually using the door. Bendak became a raptor and prepared to warp the stone of the wall and create a tunnel entrance. At the same time. Tane handed out spells to ward off evil and speed the party’s movements. Nobody reached the crypt before the inevitable fight began. A withered, ghostly hand emerged from the ground and wrapped around Wase’s ankle. The rest of the creature emerged, a winged and translucent corpse.

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Tane called it a berbalang, an undead with the power to split its body and soul. It ripped into Wase, draining his life away. With some contributions from the others, Hook and Poo dissipated with claws and arrows. Wase struggled to stay on his feet, the berbalang having stolen nearly all of his life force away. Tane knew that the only way to end this battle would be to track down and destroy the berbalang’s physical body. The party used a scroll of restoration to cure Wase’s damage. It was the only one they had. Bendak opened a small rounded tunnel through the wall. A stale stink emerged from within. Raptor-Bendak and Hook entered and began sniffing around for the berbalang like reptilian bloodhounds.

Poonisher and Tane followed just after. Wase then rushed through like the wind. Despite his armor, he ran as fast as a warhorse. He had been developing his mythic powers in that manner. Due to his speed, he glimpsed a figure darting out through the front door and shutting it behind them. He zoomed to the door and sounded the alarm. At the door he heard the sound of wings taking flight. The raptors darted out through the hole and saw the berbalang reluctantly flying away. They followed on foot, hissing and challenging the undead. Poonisher exited the hole and began shooting it. He made sure to go for the throat of course. Tane gave Wase the ability to fly as Bendak switched shape to a pteranodon. The fliers charged and took swings at the berbalang.

Tane then cast another spell and overwhelmed the berbalang’s mind with feelings of its own earthly responsibilities and moral significance. These thoughts carried literal weight and forced the berbalang to land. Wase charged and struck a mighty blow. The monster then assaulted his mind, but his heroic willpower stopped it. Up in the sky, Bendak changed forms again. Seconds later, the berbalang vanished as Allosaurus-Bendak landed atop it. After the dust shockwave and new crater had settled, Bendak gave a pained roar of victory.

Wase reconsecrated the crypt and the army rested for the night. During the night, some knight’s steeds spooked and fled. These horses had seen many battles in the crusades. For them to be afraid was taken as a bad omen and dampened the army’s spirit, despite Poonisher attempting to convince them that the opinions of equines should not be taken so seriously.

The next target chosen was Paradise Hill. Once a storage area, it had now become a prison for captured crusaders. The army had to cross a certain bridge over a dry riverbank to reach it efficiently. The cultists guarding the bridge had some huge aurochs bulls chained to the supports. Their leader was an especially repulsive tiefling with a hunched back who waited to sound the alarm.

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A direct attack would spook the bulls and destroy the bridge. Bendak turned into a common lizard and spoke to the abused aurochs, promising them relief and convincing them to refrain from destroying the bridge. After that the party took up positions for a surprise attack. Poonisher swooped out and shot the leader in the neck. The arrow only grazed his jugular, and the tiefling stayed standing. Before he could do anything nefarious, the lizard druid chirped a few magical words and finished him off with a 40-foot geyser that exploded from under the cult leader’s feet. Without him, the other cultists swiftly fell. The aurochs were freed. They were taken into the Knight’s forces after being healed and fed. This victory restored the troop’s spirits.

Paradise Hill was guarded by an army of goatlike Schir spite demons.

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The paladins charged in with swords shining in the sunlight. The schir were more powerful than the other troops that the army had faced before. The Knights had trouble hurting them and the demons began pushing them back. Then, all across the field, holy symbols of righteous gods were raised. Holy power energized the forces of good and so they held strong. Gradually the tide turned. What could have been another of countless demonic victories in these crusades became a rout. Paradise hill fell and its prisoners were freed. The 200 crusaders there more than tripled the Knight’s troop count. On the horizon, three booming roars echoed in anger.

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Bug fixing and a patch

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The crunch of the errant and unlucky beetle echoing through the fleshy tunneland was quickly replaced by the buzzing of thousands of wings. Swarms of demon-locust vescavors flooded in, babbling madly.

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Weapons were useless against the swarm and the gibbering momentarily made Tane and Wase act crazy. Bendak and Poonisher were nauseated by the bugs crawling over them and biting. Bendak-as-raptor and Hook-the-actual raptor ran back toward the entrance so Bendak so the druid could get a chance to think clearly for spells. The vescavaors began to chew on the party’s gear. In his muddled state, Tane threw a punch at Wase as the vescavors ate his robe. Wase then lit up his sword with divine fire and began to slash away at the swarm. Poo got out of the swarm and threw a bottle of alchemical fire at them, but the vescavors were immune to flame. Wase recovered his senses and cast spells to create powerful walls of wind to cage the swarming monsters.

After the vescavors were contained, Bendak returned with a small summoned ice elemental, Wase slashed with his flaming sword, and Poonisher threw some poo. Everyone contributed, but the battle was truly won by Tane when he wrapped himself in a cloak of winds and marched into the swarm. The bugs could do nothing to harm the sorcerer as his winds slammed them all around. Soon the swarm was twitching and stunned on the ground. After a minute of persistent stomping, the vescavors had been exterminated.

A thrumming sound made the party feel they needed to move on quickly. Poonisher felt mentally drawn towards a certain tunnel, so the party went down that one as the vigilante healed them with a wand. They were lead to a pulsing purple rift to the Abyss in the meaty wall. As they looked on, a strange blob smacked into the back of Wase’s helm and stuck fast. It burned him with acid and released erotic pheromones. Stray vescavors began climbing up Wase to reach the blob. Tane then hugged Wase, thus blowing the bugs away with his wind cloak. Bendak summoned a crocodile as all looked for the source of the blob. Swoop and Poonisher saw the corner it had come from and so Bendak and the beasts charged. Their claws ripped through air and found no purchase.

Wase began healing himself of the acid burns. He noticed Hook look over her shoulder just before he was torn by the teeth and claws of the vescavor queen.

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The queen gibbered and sowed madness among the party. Poonisher, Tane and the beasts were confused and struggled to fight through the mental haze. Wase was nearly killed and left bleeding and unconscious by the queen’s attacks. However, every time the queen struck the paladin down, Bendak revived him to attack again. This drew heavily on Bendak’s powers and Wase’s endurance, but it was enough. The others recovered from the confusion. Tane summoned a thrashing headless serpent to batter the queen and Poonisher took some shots at her throat. Finally the crocodile pulled her down for Raptor-Bendak and Hook, who shredded her between them.

The party decided to rest in Tane’s rope trick portal again. They still needed to close the rift to clear the swarms so the army could pass. Poonisher braved going outside alone to invisibly explain to the army why the party would be late. While resting, the party had great difficulty cleaning the blob off Wase. I believe they succeeded eventually though. That would be a truly strange souvenir of war.

The party went back to the rift and brainstormed ideas on how to close it. Something was obviously trying to come through. Wase began to pray to see what Iomedae wanted him to do. He heard the goddess shout a warning as a huge arm burst out of the rift. A vulturelike vrock demon emerged and hid itself in seven mirror images.

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Poonisher immediately dispersed two images with arrows. Bendak then claimed three more. Tane created a magic circle to protect the party. Wase then went in to smite evil and claimed the last of the images, leaving the demon exposed. Similarly to the queen, Wase was then repeatedly downed and revived, but endured through the twin divine channels of Iomedae’s blessing and Bendak channeling power for the dinosaurs. Ultimately the vrock fell like so many others, gagging on throat arrows. Poonisher claimed its ear.

The party then returned to trying to seal the rift. Ultimately they just had Bendak warp the stone to physically bury it. Hopefully it would not bother anyone ever again. The group then returned to the army to continue the march. At the mouth of a dry riverbed, they finally saw the city in the distance.

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Hilltop, part two
Entering the hive

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Wounded and drained, the party spent the night in the extradimensional space that Tane had created. Meanwhile, the Knights of Kenebraes started to wonder what had happened to them. The party slowly healed and recovered spells. Occasionally someone would peek out of the hole to see that the demons still awaited battle as soon as the party emerged. The party finally decided to strike. Bendak summoned a raptor as Tane carried out beneficial spells. Tane made everyone faster and warded them against evil. Poonisher he made invisible and Wase he made a giant, standing ten feet tall. The paladin was first to step out of the hole and vanished outside.

One by one the party exited the hole. Each fell into a spiked pit that the winged fiend had placed just underneath them. The party began climbing out. Poonisher of course simply flew out. Bendak fell in the pit human, but then transformed into an allosaurus. A pack of ghouls on the rooftop threw stones in the pit and fled. Remaining to face the party was the winged fiend, a half-demon/half-human inquisitor named Nulkineth and his two nabasu gluttony demon minions.

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Bendak clambered out of the pit, and the summoned raptor climbed out atop him. Hook was unable to escape at the moment. Tane quickly climbed atop Bendak, noting that the party should acquire a saddle eventually. The sorcerer cast Glitterdust and Poonisher shot at their throats. Wase drew steel and attacked the demons. The fight started to go badly for our heroes when a nabasu paralyzed Tane and Poonisher with dark magic. The monkey plummented to earth. Tane slid off Bendak when the druid pounced on a demon that tried to fly away. A nabasu’s gaze gave Tane, Poonisher and the raptors terrible feelings of starvation. Nulkineth then used his unholy powers to Smite Wase and beat him unconscious. Only the dinosaurs remained standing. Bendak dipped his tail into the pit to retrieve Hook and revived Wase with a Cure spell. Wase then healed himself a bit more and rose up. Bendak used his mythic powers to protect Wase from Nulkineth’s attempt to finish the job and gave him an opening for a telling blow against the half-demon.

After much chaos and battle, the demons began to flee. I believe one nabasu had already been slain. Bendak shifted from an allosaurus into a pteranodon to serve as a mount for Wase. However, Tane gave Wase the ability to fly on his own and summoned a dire bat from heaven. The celestial bat chased down and killed Nulkineth as Poonisher shot arrows after them. Wase charged through the air alone after the last surviving demon. The demon’s turned and beat him within an inch of his life. The party focused their attacks though, and the demon began preparing to teleport away. The party tried their best, but Wase was only able to slice off a leg before the demon vanished. The ghouls were then casually mopped up.

Wase felt the need to reconsecrate the chapel. It took a full 24 hours, and Poo reported back to the army during this time. After the task was complete, Radiance grew a bit more powerful. After that the holy army moved on. The party made it to within three miles of Drezen and then encountered a major obstacle. A gorge split the land and was swarming with oversized abyssal bugs. Aron, the scout the party had brought along, said that the army couldn’t fight their way through. However, he suspected that there might be a queen. If the party could slay the queen, they might able to get past the swarms.

Poonisher scouted ahead and found a hole that lead into the lair. The walls felt organic and were coated with some sort of mucus. The party carefully descended into the pit with the cloud and flight. Bendak turned into a raptor. Wase felt something invisible poke his butt. He checked his pants but found no evidence of what could have done it. He tried detecting evil and sensed an omnipresent darkness that made any specific detection impossible. The party began creeping through the tunnels. Demonic grubs squirmed over the floor. To avoid an attack, the party needed to stay absolutely quiet. After several tense minutes, a beetle carapace crunched under Hook’s foot. The hive stirred to life as the party drew weapons.

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The fight at the hilltop

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The Knights of Kenebraes temporarily halted their advance into the Worldwound to recover from the brutal battle against the dretches. Being a horde of paladins meant that healing was plentiful, but that could do no good for those already lost. The party and their army decided to continue on at reduced strength. Using his Mythic powers, Tane spent some time keeping a healing wand charged with arcane energies, a feat beyond nearly any other mage.

As they worked their way through the twisted canyons, an old stone chapel was spotted atop a hill. Poonisher and Swoop did a few flybys and found that it seemed to be unoccupied. Although it would be impractical to send the whole army up, the party scaled to the top of the hill with a combination of flight and Bendak’s cloud scale. They then landed upon the rooftop. Immediately after they arrived, four gargoyles attacked.

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The gargoyles attacked and Poonisher let loose arrows for their throats. A gargoyle swooped forward and shoved Wase, sending him falling thirty feet to the ground. The paladin slammed into the ground, which gave and crushed underneath him. Under a thin layer of dust, the ground was ankle deep with bones. Another gargoyle threw the raptor off after Wase while the third attacked Tane. Bendak caught the gargoyles bite with his haft of his scythe, but the claws found their mark. Tane then stepped back off the building and used a spell to float down like a feather.

Meanwhile, Poonisher swept down and snatched the raptor off the ground. He carefully patted the angry, wounded dinosaur on the head to calm it. Hook accepted the ride, but made her irritation clear with a talon pointedly placed against his gut. The Poonisher flew over the chapel and dropped Hook on top of an gargoyle still trying to remove an arrow from its throat. The dinosaur then finished the wounded monster off.

Wase rose to feet in the bone field and cast protection from evil upon himself. All three remaining gargoyles converged on Bendak, harrying and slashing the druid from all sides and gravely woulding him. Poonisher picked up Tane, who then summoned pits under two gargoyles. The monsters fell in, briefly removing them from the conflict. On the ground six ghouls rushed out of the chapel and attacked Wase. They were then joined by a pair of babau demons.

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A babau created a cloak of darkness over Wase as another dispelled his protection spell. Poonisher dropped Tane off behind the raptor and shot an arrow into a demon’s throat. Tane stepped up to heal Bendak with the wand. Dark and necromantic energies emanated from the chapel as two ghoul clerics entered the battle. The gargoyles flew out of the pit, but one then fell back in because it tried to hover over the pit and failed somehow. Despite the darkness and their superior numbers, the ghouls were still outmatched by the paladin. Wase began carving steadily away at them.

With his path cleared, Bendak managed to stagger away from the gargoyles and take to the sky as a pteranodon. Hook began battling the gargoyles. Though the raptor would normally have been outmatched, the holy amulet and pit Tane had provided turned the battle slowly in her favor. Speaking of Tane, he went to the edge of the roof to conjure harmless and permanent flames on Wase’s codpiece. The light of the magic fire allowed Wase to see through the darkness.

The demons and the undead moved in on Wase as his sword and Poonisher’s arrows tore into them. The most wounded gargoyle used its last moment to kamikaze Wase, battering but not dropping him. The undead clerics left the chapel. One channeled necromantic energy as the other slashed Poonisher with a spiritual weapon. Poonisher’s flight must have been disrupted by the blow as he then fell from the sky.

Bendak began screeching out spells from the air. He charged the air with lightning and summoned a small raptor which pounced on a cleric. After an initial storm of claws and fangs, the cleric magically paralyzed it. His success was short lived however as Poonisher ventilated his throat an instant later. Wase slew a demon, although his rapidly accumulating injuries had left him nearly dead. Bendak summoned a crocodile that chomped down around a cleric’s waist. Tane then blasted Glitterdust against the cleric and the demon. The crocodile’s deathroll then ended that battle in a spray of limbs, viscera and glitter. All this time, Hook had been battling the three gargoyles. Two were now hacked apart, and the last one ran to fight the paladin instead after Bendak struck it with lightning. Hook stood where she was, flexing claws and trilling in confused triumph. Poonisher then took aim at the last demon. One shot to the throat followed by three to the face ended its life.

The wounded gargoyle and the ineffectual ghouls were then quickly massacred. The party stood exhausted but victorious about the chapel as the echoes of battle faded. Tane sensed more danger incoming. Unable to stand against it in their haggard state, the party decided to hide. Tane cast a hole in the air at the end of a rope which they all climbed into. Bendak resumed his human form to fit. Shortly after they all hid a humanoid, winged demon appeared at the chapel in a flash of smoke. He looked around before disappearing again. The party then decided the tiny extradimensional room would be a good enough place to rest.

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Into the wound
The Poonisher arrives

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mythic

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The party and their allies took a half hour break from their assault on the fallen garrison to clean and reconsecrate a shrine to Iomedae. They felt a sense of divine approval as the final touches were applied and the shrine stood clean again. Bendak heard a door slam nearby and sent his dinosaurs to track down the cause. They found a scent trail leading from one door to another. The party attempted to get through to follow the noisemaker, but the lock had been sabotaged and fused shut. The party thus decided to go try the other door instead. That lead to a room with a ruined tapestry map of the crusader nation of Mendev, and among other loot a magical sword in a case. Gith’s object reading revealed that it had a surprising origin. It had once been Irabeth’s father’s sword. She had sold it to pay for the magic that had changed Anevia into a woman, and from there it wound up in the hands of a traitor named Kandro Nyserian.

A letter found in the case explained further. It was written by a man named Othirubo, and addressed to a Lord Staunton. When Nyserian tried to bargin with the cultists by offering the sword, Othirubo had him killed for not turning it over sooner and gave his corpse as a suit to one of the worm guards outside. He ended the letter saying “I suspect the blade will take to your brother’s touch nicely!” Irabeth was outraged at the way her sword had been used and took it back. It suited her well.

After that, Bendak’s eyes took on a reptilian look as he spoke with Hook, who said that the scent of the noisemaker was very strong here. The party went back to the sealed door and slowly bashed it down. There was a room with stairs leading up to a balcony behind it, and four dretch demons that awaited the invaders. The party charged and among them was Gith’s reanimated wrecker demon. He had taken to calling it Skeeter. On the balcony, four cultists with crossbows joined in the battle. A massive and chaotic melee began. Bombs began to rain in from an unseen source. One of Gith’s minions, the skeletal cultist, was destroyed. The source of the bombs appeared. It was Othirubo, a tiefling alchemist. Hook hissed in recognition of his scent at the doors.

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Tane quickly greased the floor and tripped him. He used a smoke bomb to cover an escape. The party hacked their way through the minions on the stairs as Hook scrabbled up the railing. They eventually triumphed and emerged at the top of the stair in a large room. Four more cultists opened fire and were cut down. The raptor tracked Othirubo around a corner into a small room where he threw firebombs from behind a table as several scythe wielding cultists attacked. A mongrelman nearly lost her life to one of the bombs, and Bendak was also nearly killed by a single luckly blow by a cultist when he turned to help. Eventually, the overwhelming goodly mob slew the wicked bomber and his allies and saved their wounded. The party healed with the wand purchased earlier and looted. Valuable documents were found here, and their capture would wound the Worldwound’s forces. The party felt that strange sense of divine approval again.

The party then opened another door and found a horrifying sight. Multiple fallen paladins of Iomedae had been reanimated as zombies. They stood disemboweled and staring into a large basin of water that had been reddened by their blood and entrails. The ruined knights attacked the party and were mercifully put down. The desecrated pool had once been a holy place that priests could use for divination. The party removed the tainted waters and refilled it with purer water. It became active again and showed the party a vision. It showed the wardstone fragment in a cage, and then receded to show it guarded by a woman in vicious looking armor and wielding a scythe. Before her was a fiendish minotaur. Again they felt that same approval after fixing the pool.

The group continued to advance onward and upward. Several more monsters fell before them. There was a pair of strange elk-bird perytons, a goat demon, and giant flies with human hands. The party learned from all these battles, and gained skill. Gith used his increased control to animate another wrecker demon to accompany Skeeter. Despite his discomfort with all these “redemption seeking” undead, Wase resolved to read scriptures to them later in the hopes of aiding their progress. The party made it to the minotaur seen in their vision.

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A mighty blow by Wase crippled the minotaur, and it was defeated. As the party prepared themselves for the final battle, Gith looked down at the fallen minotaur and was disappointed to see that its bones were too large for him to animate.

The last door was smashed down, and the wardstone fragment was sighted. Jeslyn, the leader of the cultists, stood against the party.

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Jeslyn fought bravely, but was soon overwhelmed. Despite her efforts to stop the party and to touch the fragment for some nefarious purpose, Tane made it to the fragment with the rod and struck it. The wardstone shattered. It exploded in a blast of golden light and the sound of an angelic choir. Hundreds of razor-sharp shards of stone
spray outward, destroying the cage the fragment was inside and slicing Jeslyn apart-the explosion miraculously avoided harming the party and all their allies.

An unexpected side effect of the wardstone’s destruction occured. If the holy energies stored in all of the wardstones was the waters of a vast lake formed by a dam, then the fragment just destroyed was the plug in that dam holding the waters back. Rather than simply diffusing the wardstone’s border as the Eagle Watch theorized (and thus removing the border from possible corruption), all of the energies of the wardstones along the border rushed out of the " hole" caused by the final destruction of the last and largest fragment of the Kenabres stone. The energy of all of these simultaneously draining artifacts infuses Wase, Bendak, Tane,and Gith with incredible power, causing them to glow with golden light. They stood stunned as the power rushed into them. Irabeth tried unsuccessfully to rouse them. This event did not go unnoticed. All along the border, other wardstones flashed with golden light as well, momentarily supercharging their effects. Thousands of demons were destroyed by the flash of light, and many more were wounded. The attacks along the borders suddenly ceased, and the surviving demons fled back into the depths of the Worldwound, thus they did not witness the wardstones fade into total inertness.

The party began to see visions of major events from the wardstone’s history. First they saw the first wardstone being erected in the Kite in Kenabres in 4639 AR, in a ritual involving the aid of the Hand of the Inheritor-the herald of Iomedae: a golden, winged angel with a halo of small swords around his head. This event happened soon after the Second Crusade began. Second they saw a 20-year-old Hulrun leading the burning of dozens of supposed " witches" in the courtyard of the Kite before the wardstone in the year 4665 AR. This event launched the Second Crusade. Third, they saw Khorramzadeh the Storm King leading a brazen attack on Kenabres. The Storm King managed to strike a resounding blow with his sword against the wardstone, which suffered only the tiniest of cracks as the balor’s sword shattered. Khorramzadeh was then attacked and forced to flee when the silver dragon Terendelev nearly killed him-this event launched the Fourth Crusade. Forth, they saw Irabeth chasing a burly dwarven man- Staunton Vhane (leader of the Hammers of Heaven mercenary group) into the courtyard containing the wardstone one year ago. Both paladins were heavily wounded, and as Staunton backed against the wardstone, smoke rose and he screamed in pain. He ducked to avoid one of Irabeth’s blows, then managed to smash her knee with his hammer, dropping her to the ground. Staunton seemed ready to deliver a death blow, but the sound of approaching soldiers forced him instead to back away and summon a fiendish giant wasp that he swiftly mounted and then flew away to the north, abandoning Kenabres. Fifth, they saw Minagho, a beautiful demonic woman with a long thin tail, clawed hands, and curling horns protruding from where her eyes should be.

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She placed the wardstone fragment in this room and Jeslyn used a wish granted by Minagho to create the cage around it before Minagho teleported away. Finally, they saw an event that shall now never happen:A demonic winged woman using a deep purple Nahyndrian crystal the size of a human’s head to corrupt the fragment, causing the entire border to flash with nauseating mauve fire that devastates the border cities and transforms countless crusaders into half-fiend slaves of the Worldwound.

The woman who would have corrupted the crusaders, Areelu Vorlesh, then appeared before them. She said that the party’s actions here would only delay their kind’s extinction. She then reached out with suffocating magic that would slay any normal mortals. Irabeth, the dinosaurs, and the mongrelmen began to choke. However, the glowing party members were no longer normal mortals. Finding that she couldn’t use her magic, Areelu opened a rift and six babau demons tumbled into the room as more demons of all sorts approached. The glowing energy then lashed out, closing the rift and destroying Areelu’s image. The spell vanished and those it affected dropped coughing and gagging to the ground. Six babaus would normally have slaughtered the party, but the energy still within them turned it into a shocking stomp as the party butchered the demons. This would later be known as a major point. Tane, Gith, Wase and Bendak were now Mythic.

View
Wrath of the Relatively Righteous.

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The team arrived at the closest cult hideout, a potion shop called Topaz Solutions. It was named for its owner, Aigon Topaz. Inside were six men with knives. They introduced themselves as the Ash Ravens, a “assistant force” to the local police. They wanted help escaping from Kenebraes. The group had some debate amongst themselves and questioned the group. Bendak tried greeting using the “I have new materials for the archives” passphrase from the cultist letter, but was met with silence. Ultimately the survivors aided them in leaving, despite doubts as to their honesty. They were almost certainly a simple gang of looters. It would be a touch hypocritical for adventurers to persecute such a group however. Wase began to suspect this at the last as they disappeared at the edge of the city and tried to stop and question them. The Ash Ravens quickly left with a flurry of interrupting, yet polite goodbyes.

The survivors then went back to Topaz Solutions to investigate some more. Wase believed he had seen a hidden trapdoor there. He proved to be correct. The hatch lead down a creaking staircase into a musty dirt basement. They went in to see that it was obviously dedicated to Baphomet. The demon lord’s unholy visage decorated a wall and a small clockwork statue of a demon woman with six arms bearing swords and the lower body of a snake. Gith identified it as a marilith demon as Tane detected a faint aura of conjuration magic. Gith psychically opened the chest as the paladin approached. When Wase was close enough, the clockwork demon swung its arms and slashed a trigger that released an invisible gas into the room that stung and burned. Everyone retreated as Bendak warded the skeleton against burning. The skeleton was sent back in to get the presumable treasure that the trap was guarding. It ignored the gas, but suddenly a mushroomlike creature appeared and charged.

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The monster bit the skeleton in half, destroying it. The rest of team rushed down through the painful gas to avenge the skeleton’s “death”. The monster crumbled under their focused fire and Wase scored the fatal blow. Thankfully, Gith clarified that he would be able to restore his lost ally soon. The team retreated again and decided this time to wait out the gas. After it faded, Gith picked up the skeleton’s lost gear as Wase checked the treasure chest. It contained five holy symbols of Iomedae, with a note saying “We don’t need these anymore, but figured if you survived our surprise, it would be just plain rude to leave behind an empty chest for your troubles!” Wase picked up the symbols, and fought off the contact poison spread over them. Tane appraised the statue as being worth 250 gold pieces, so the group took it to sell later.

One safehouse remained, the Tower of Estrod. Those among the group who were local to the city remembered it as a public library before the disaster. Gith restored his skeleton, and Tane offered it a magic belt to increase its strength. Oddly, as it put on the belt it flickered briefly back to its appearance in life as Gith’s ancestor Githarahe for an instant. Outside the Tower stood two cultists of Baphomet. The team got in with the passphrase. Once inside, they were given sack lunches and bedrolls. The cultists told the group to make themselves at home after talking to their leader, Faxon. As they crossed the former library, Gith counted the visible bedrolls. He saw about twenty total and the supplies to house about that many cultists. Six bedrolls appeared to be currently occupied. Faxon resided in an office at the bottom of a narrow stair. The undercover demonslayers went down and saw Faxon working on some papers. He was a tiefling like Wase, but seemed not to have made any effort to resist his dark impulses. A small red scorpion sat on his shoulder.

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Faxon looked up and complimented Wase on his “stolen” paladin armor and asked how many paladins the group had killed. Without hesitation, Bendak claimed seven. The group talked briefly with Faxon, as their impromptu undercover mission started to break down. Faxon told them to go upstairs and wait for further marching orders. The group continued to stay in the room, awkwardly pushing for more information. Faxon became suspicious and ordered all but Gith to leave. The group remained obstinate, so Faxon cast a Charm spell on Gith and readied his mace. Wase returned his attack while charging his sword with holy might. Bendak and the raptor also rushed in. Gith tried to break up the fight, thinking all present were his friends. He used his skeleton to block off Hook. The two tieflings dueled, and Faxon struck Wase blind. A moment later Wase used his holy blessings to remove the blindness and struck down Faxon as he cried out for help. The six cultists upstairs were heard as they rushed down the stairs. Tane saw his chance and greased the stairs as Bendak began a summoning spell. The cultists charged, slipped on the grease and fell to an ignominious death as meals for a frog the size of a man. The others contributed to tenderizing the meat of course.

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The frog snapped up the scorpion and uttered a satisfied croak before vanishing. The team looted the tower. A chest with notes was found. It included a note to Faxon from his apparent superior. It read as follows:

“Faxon-

You did well to report your superior’s mishandling of funds, and I trust you will continue to serve as loyally in the weeks to come. You need not command the Kenabres Templars for long, for the city is about to die- I only wish I could be there to take part in its murder, for I have fond memories of my Red Morning Massacre. No matter, I suppose, for your mortal kin will all fall soon enough- as I said, Kenabres’s days are short. Vorlesh has already left to meet with our Lord’s daughter in the Abyss to secure a Nahyndrian crystal of the proper purity, and once she has what she needs, she’ll arrive in Kenabres to finish the job and turn the wardstones fully to our use. You will know when she succeeds, I suspect! Praise Lord Baphomet!

Minagho"

The chest also had lists of information related to the attack. It indicated that the fall of Kenebraes had been planned for years. Among the information was lists of cult members. Although much of the intel was now redundant, it did include the names of members in other cities.

Among the treasure of the tower, one item caused discord among the group. It was a brass image of a minotaur’s face, that was sacred to the Baphomet cult. Wase and Bendak wanted to destroy it for being an evil and unnatural thing, while Tane and Gith wanted to save it to sell. They estimated its worth at about 2000 gold. Tane tried to prevent Wase from destroying it by arguing that it was treasure and thus fair game for anyone to claim. Bendak then immediately claimed it and handed it over for destruction, which Wase eagerly carried out. Hopefully the matter would end there.

The team went back to Defender’s Heart to report victory. Irabeth thanked them and paid 2000 gold for their efforts. Irabeth introduced the party to an old man named Quednys Orlun, founder of Blackwing Library. Tane recognized him and told him about the survivors at the library. A rescue mission was sent after them as Quednys sat and explained the situation.

“As horrific as recent events have been, we’ve come to realize that they are, in fact, merely a prelude. The razing of the Kite, the destruction of our wardstone, Terendelev’s murder, and the assault on the city were nothing more than opening gambits. The Worldwound is on the march, in a much more concentrated assault then we have seen since the fall of Drezen. It’s fair to say that the Lord of Locust Host is finally making his move. The end of the hundred-year-war is upon us, and it falls to us to ensure our victory.

“While the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth were scattered, those who serve the Lord of the Locust Host himself remain concentrated in Old Kenabres. What we’ve heard from within the barricade they’ve erected is ominous. The cultists are waiting for something, and based on our information and what you’ve managed to recover thus far, it sounds like the vile witch Areelu Vorlesh will soon be coming to Kenabres. And it appears that we’ve determined what she intends to do.

“When the wardstone was destroyed by the Storm King, it exploded and destroyed the Kite. The network along the border failed, but did not fade completely. Quednys and I believe it is because a significant portion of our wardstone still exists, and the cultists have taken it to the old Grey Garrison fort in Old Kenabres. From what we’ve learned, they’re hoping to engineer a way to somehow reverse the field generated by the wardstones essentially, to use our own greatest defense as a devastating weapon.

“The attack on Kenabres had a predictable result: causing the crusade to gather at its border to defend it. Some wonder why the demons haven’t attacked in stronger numbers. I believe that Areelu was counting on us massing along the border, and that if she can corrupt the wardstone field, she can strike a devastating blow against us all. In effect, we have lined up for the slaughter.

“Vorlesh is surely seeking some object of great Abyssal power, likely the Nahyndrian crystal mentioned in the missive you recovered, and with it she intends to turn the source of our hope into an unimaginable nightmare. We cannot hope to evacuate everyone from the border- I doubt they would give up the defensive line even if they knew what the enemy had planned. But we can still stop this from happening- we just need to have someone infiltrate the Gray Garrison, locate the wardstone fragment, and destroy it with a Rod of Cancellation. If you are still willing to serve the cause of good, I would ask you to carry out the infiltration as our crusaders mount a distraction. What say you?"

The survivors agreed. Irabeth joined their party as well for the attack. As the crusaders and the party prepared for battle, some welcome vistors arrived. Arava dropped off some magical items, the first mongrelman troops from Neathholm sent rangers to aid the party. Even Querm sent aid, donating much wealth to the cause. This boosted the troops morale.

The next day, the attack was launched. About twelve cultists patrolled around the building, aided by six howler beasts. The howlers were like demonic big cats with ebony quills. Along with those, two naked, obese men guarded the front gate. They looked like the desecrated corpses of important Kenebraes citizens. One of them was Lord Hulrun, the leader of Kenebraes himself. The crusaders charged, pulling away all but the two obese guards. The party charged under a hail of mongrelman arrows and attacked the two guards. They released bursts of evil energy that hurt Tane and Hook. Together the two paladins cut one open, exposing a massive worm inside. The other corpse burst open, as its worm escaped into the ground.

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Everyone waited, tensely waiting for it to strike again. Wase opened the door of the Garrison and saw a ruined frieze of crusaders battling demons. The worm emerged and bit down hard on his foot before being slaughtered. The party and their small army of allies stormed the fortress. It was absolute chaos. Room by room, they battled cultists aplenty and two wrecker demons. The skeleton flickered back and forth between its living self and its skeletal form. During the battle, Gith extended his powers to animate the skeletons of a wrecker demon and a tiefling cultist. Wase finally noticed after the battles had ceased for a moment. It looked like the undead would be destroyed, but Gith claimed that he hadn’t made them. He argued that they were helping despite the evil in them the paladins could sense and puppeted them asking for redemption. Bendak was fooled, and managed to persuade the paladins to stand down with some grumbling.

Tane decided then to explain what was going on with Gith’s ancestor and his belt.

“In order to better assist our party as a whole; for we are a party, one that is burdened with the most important task of ridding this land of a high evil; I crafted this Belt of Giant Strength. My early research into battle tactics and discussions with my mentor have lead me to understand that such a boon is best placed on that person who is already the greatest front-line fighter of our group.

“From when we first met and had our first encounter in the caverns below the city, Gith’s risen ancestor, Githarahe, has proven to be such a person. His attacks have been the strongest and he has rarely demonstrated the need to use any of our precious healing potions or spells. As such, the belt was crafted for him.

“Due to Wase’s Lawful Good nature, as perfectly demonstrated by his constant chaotic behavior and seeming willingness to offer parlay to those performing both unlawful and un-good tasks, and further proven by his recent decisions to; escort looters to safety, destroy valuable items that could finance our holy task, and outright attack efforts by our party member’s attempts at combating the greater evil, I felt it best to try to add some minor alterations to the belt.

“Since Wase seems to want to attack anything that he thinks is evil at every inopportune time, the belt covers Githarahe’s bones with flesh whenever he enters combat. Unfortunately, this effect seems to be momentarily disrupted whenever Githarahe actually hits an enemy. We can only hope that… certain… members of our party do not have illogical reactions to such minor transformations and will, instead, stick to the task at hand to actually put down this demonic invasion instead of lashing out like a two-year-old at every perceived discomfort.

“In the effort to destroy this greater evil, and for the best of the party, and for as long as he continues to prove himself our greatest champion, may Githarahe wear this belt well.”

View
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.

View
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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