Irabeth says, "There are still large swaths of the city unknown to us. Nobody's been to the far northwest, nor outside the city walls to the outlying farms or the quarry to the east."
The old man, Quednys, says, "While a lot of people are doubtless dead, there must be more holdouts. Defender's Heart isn't the only fortified structure in the city; the crusades have made certain that fortifications are common. Folks with half a brain will take shelter in the strongest remaining buildings. Places that were razed in the initial assault, like the cathedral, are now less likely to hold survivors than strong, stout buildings like smithies and stone-foundation barracks and guard checkpoints."
Irabeth continues, "Unfortunately, we've been gathering more intelligence from guard patrols and from the people you've all been rescuing. I think there's something bigger going on..."
“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 more concentrated assault than we’ve seen since the fall of Drezen. It’s fair to say the Lord of the Locust Host is finally making his move. The end of this hundred-year-war is upon us, and it falls to us to ensure 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 own information and what you’ve managed to recover so 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. I believe this is because a significant portion of our wardstone still exists, and that the cultists have taken it to the old garrison 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 the 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’ve 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 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.”
Azura (the bard, not the DM) sits next to Luci and says, "Well, we have multiple problems, then. We need to find out what the landscape of the city is like in the other districts - there's no telling where else cultists have taken root. But it sounds like we have to do something about the wardstone. Maybe that wizard you saved - Aravashnial? - knows about it, if he was a Riftwarden."
Arloric immediately flinches and glares at the mention of Areelu Vorlesh.
"Areelu Vorlesh? Sarkoris' Bane, coming here?!"
He listens soberly to the rest of the situation, and nods grimly, clutching the scale of Terendelev tightly.
"Then our course is clear. We need to get to the wardstone and deny that *itch her victory. We don't have much time."
"Then let's go." Uriel says, already rising from the table. So much for rest. Time to send these cultists to meet their Abyssal masters personally.
"And at the same time we can't all just up andf chare into the Grey Garrison leaving any other survivors to the mercy of those demons roaming the city. We still need to try to ensure that after they're stopped, there's something left that was worth saving." Darya says fiercely.
|Sario Ulum Taliesin|
Iomenna listens intently to the
info dump situation as Irabeth tells it, her arms crossed as she leans back in her seat. After thinking for a moment, she sits up and addresses Irabeth, "Supposing we are able to get into the garrison and secure the remnant of the Wardstone--can we not use it somehow to restore some part of the barrier rather than destroying it altogether? It seems like that would be one way for us to support the Crusaders on the borders to seal out any further Abyssal influence entering the city, and then we can set about purging the cultists that are inside already."
"Nay," Arloric replies. "The paladins have the right of it. The demons are making their final push, and if Vorlesh has magic that can turn our greatest shield into a sword against us, then we can no longer rely on it. She is an older and more terrifying mage than you or even Aravashnial could hope to be, the woman who first tore the veil and Wounded the World, and she has made it clear they mean for this crusade to be the last. The time of the Wardstones is over, the West has failed, the predators are done circling us. There is only one plan: fight or die."
Quednys says, "With the Riftwardens destroyed, nobody I know has the magical training necessary to perform such a feat on the wardstone. I fear that our tall friend here has the right of it: We have little time to stop it from being turned into a dreadful weapon by demonic forces. Had we months to spare, perhaps a team of magicians could devise some solution, but we have neither the time nor the magic. We must find a way to storm Old Kenabres and destroy the wardstone remnants."
Irabeth says, "But we can't just leave everyone here undefended. And the rest of the city is still under siege. I wish we had a map..."
Anevia tosses a roll of parchment onto the table. People quickly clear plates and bowls and she sketches out a map of Kenabres.
"We are here," she says, pointing with a knife at Defender's Heart in the northeast (#5). "Old Kenabres is over on the west, behind walls and guards and cultists. No wonder the nobles didn't want to let us in! The Eagle Knights had already been investigating several of them for cultic ties. It seems that more than we expected were involved in this business with demons."
Quednys points to the old library and says, "What happened to Blackwing Library?" (Those of you who took Aravashnial can answer that question.)
"Hmm... also, there's the Tower of Estrod," Quednys adds. "It was a research laboratory owned by the city, financed to provide magical assistance in the Crusades. Estrod himself died two years ago, but maybe there's something left."
"You mean that tall gray tower in the southeast corner of New Kenabres?" says Irabeth. "The top was smashed off that. I think the bottom's still intact, though."
Anevia points out another small building some distance south of you, but still in the same quarter - about halfway along the wall just inside of the section where Defender's Heart is located. "Our home - mine and Irabeth's - is here. Hon...?"
Irabeth says, "I stashed a few things there before I left, in case you came back home looking for me. Nothing critical, but might be useful."
The acolyte who's been helping around Defender's Heart (I need to give this person a name) chimes in, saying, "And we still haven't sent anyone to see what happened to the cathedral. I know it was destroyed in the fighting, but did anyone else survive? Are there any priests left at all?"
Irabeth says, "So we have our work cut out for us. We have to stop the demons from using the wardstone as a weapon, and that means getting into Old Kenabres and the Gray Garrison. But there are plenty of other problems around the city." She turns to Iomenna. "What's next, commander?"
For this portion of the adventure you guys can reform your groups to your preference. You can stay in Defender's Heart (things will happen here), join the group going to Old Kenabres, or pursue some other lead of your choice. Once we conclude the first book of the AP we should be able to split again and continue the rebuilding of Kenabres on one side and the push against the demon army on the other.
The summary of what had happened and what was being planned for the wardstone had Luci worried. Not to mention the implication that the forces of the Abyss were a lot more well-organised than expected. One of the biggest things that most people in Kenabres learnt was that the biggest fault with the demons was that they were too random and chaotic for the high level strategy required for overthrowing a nation's military force (at least enough to gain a proper foothold beyond the wardstones). But this plan to turn the wardstones into a weapon...
"At least we have a better explanation for the noble quarter closing themselves up than them just being insular pricks. I mean; that one's not really much of a stretch, but I still prefer the idea that not all of them are selfish bastards." She could've continued the ramble with a remark on a few nobles' daughters being much more amenable, but figured a remark about her love-life wasn't appropriate.
"Good to know. And even prickly will be a better reception than we received before." Darya mutters. "If there are any survivors at the cathedral, they're likely running out of food by now, though if there are clerics among the survivors that may not be a problem."
Iomenna pauses to consider her options. She knows that the push against the demons' forces is the most important task before them, but the past several days had really reinforced the notion that there had to be something left to save for that desperate hope to have any meaning. And even deciding between all the different ways to support the survivors of the Defenders Heart was practically impossible.
After thinking a while longer, Iomenna finally stands and gives her judgment, "It seems like we're going to have to go our separate ways once again, my friends. We cannot abandon the task of stopping Vorlesh's plan, but neither can we leave the Defenders Heart unprotected. I think we should assemble teams for each goal--one team to go to the Garrison to stop Vorlesh, and one team to remain here, perhaps making sorties into the city as we have been doing to collect resources, make contact with other survivors, and the like. As far as that goes, our resources here are beginning to stretch fairly thin, so I don't think we should go out with the goal of bringing more survivors here. Instead, I think we should shore up one of our major weaknesses: our lack of arcane magics. I think the team that stays to defend the Heart should make a trip to the Tower of Estrod. We may find some mages there who can help us, or we might just find some arcane resources. Either way, it would add more power to our forces."
|Sario Ulum Taliesin|
Aberus says to Quednys, "The library was heavily damaged. The main hall still stands and the books are more or less intact, but the tower appeared to have been blown apart from within and the surrounding buildings were destroyed as well. There is at least one Riftwarden left: an elven wizard named Aravashnial. He was trapped down below the city with us. He requested that we stop by the library on the way here, and we found more cultists inside. They were attempting to set the library on fire ... along with its librarians.
"We intervened and everyone there is safe. Or was, when we left them, though they should still be. Those doors are formidable and they won't make the same mistake of opening them to let just anyone in. Aravashnial chose to stay with them and help clean up and start rebuilding. He actually mentioned you by name, sir. He hoped that you had survived. And obviously you have."
He shifts uncomfortably before continuing. "You should know that he was blinded in the attack. Meaning, he lost his eyes. Short of a spell that can regenerate them, he will not see again."
This is all I can manage for a post today. Feel free to put me in whichever groups needs me the most.
Forgot to mention, Defender's Heart is surrounded by grassy hillside, and the horses in the stable are all dead, so Red Branch has plenty to eat here.
Irabeth says, "All right, I'll keep Defender's Heart safe while the groups range out to see what they can find."
Quednys shudders when Aberus explains what happened to Aravashnial. "Damn. We need to find a powerful priest more than ever. Aravashnial may be the last Riftwarden, now. It's probably not safe for him and the librarians to remain there, if the destruction is that complete. We should see about relocating them here." He looks down at the table sadly. "I built that library with my own efforts... what a loss."
So, do you want to swap party compositions at all, or remain in your prior groups and split up for the two tasks?
Uriel, having returned to his seat, nods. "I will join the task force headed for the Grey Garrison. I have prepared all my life for combat like this, it would be a waste to go anywhere else."
Arloric nods at Quednys.
"Crocris talked about the loss of the Living Library the same way. One of the greatest achievements of Golarion's druids, burned and rotted away. Take heart, though. We were able to save a large number of the collection. All is not lost," he says with a small smile.
Then it breaks into a big grin as Uriel volunteers for the Grey Garrison with him.
"That golden sword you found underneath the city will slay many demons! Wait a minute, wasn't it shorter when we found it?" he says, blinking in surprise.
LOL for shapeshifting weapons! ;)
Merlin listens intently to the conversation. The young soldier looks at each person.
I am a soldier trained, but I am becoming more. I believe that I still need time to fully understand and hopefully master these gifts. I shall continue here.
"You know, I had almost forgotten the sword." Uriel says, thoughtfully. "It's magical, Telerin was able to discern that much, but as I recall we could not plumb the full depths of its enchantments." the copper-haired aasimar says, before retrieving the sword. "Anyone want to examine it?"
Iomenna returns Darya's smile. "Thank you, Darya. You know how much it has meant to me to have you at my side all this time." She turns to face the rest of the group, "As for where we go, I yearn to take the fight to the demons, especially as you go there to fight, Cousin Arloric. But I feel that my duties still lie here. As anyone here can attest, there has been no shortage of opportunity to fight against evil. So, I think I shall remain here."
"...if you need me, I will go with you." Alexa finally speaks up, having been remarkably quiet in the din around her. "As much as I'd like to look after Miles, I understand if my duty calls me elsewhere."
Arloric gives Dorne a sympathetic look.
"We certainly could use your sharp eyes and sharp punch as well...but you only just got your brother back, so if you feel your place is protecting him, then that is your place. Though I daresay, I think these folks will do a good job of protecting Miles too."
I don't know where Alexa is sitting in relation to Arloric, otherwise he'd give her a hug too.
|Sario Ulum Taliesin|
As you turn your attention once more to the golden sword (who makes a weapon out of gold? it's soft and heavy), Irabeth says, "It can't be. That was lost! Months ago! It was stolen! We had it on display in the Gray Garrison, when it was stolen... we presume by cultists." Then she frowns slightly. "...but it won't help, I'm afraid. Its powers are gone, since its chosen owner died."
I don't think anyone can hit the Spellcraft DC of 30.
"That is Radiance," says Irabeth, "or at least it was. It died on the day that Yaniel did. Yaniel was a paladin, a crusader who bore that sword into the Worldwound. She came back alive, with survivors that she'd rescued, but she was assassinated. The sword went dark and remained in a case on display since then, until it was stolen."
Yet those of you who can detect magic can still sense a spark in it, a glimmer of hope...
Brows furrowing, Uriel takes the blade up again, looking at it with new eyes. ”It is a fine blade. And Arloric is right. Wasn’t it a longsword when we found it? It’s as if it somehow...knows me, and that I wield a bastard sword. How could that be?” stepping to a clear area, he takes a few experimental swings, testing the sword’s balance.
As Uriel picks up the sword a slow golden gleam arches through the flat of the blade. With two swings it is longer, somehow, like it grew an inch or two with each spinning arc.
Radiance is currently bastard sword sized. Anyone who was carrying it before knows that it was longsword sized before Uriel picked it up.
Luci stared at the sword. She was passingly familiar with Yaniel's legend - she recalled the broad strokes at least but hadn't read a rendition of it since she was a kid - so she knew the sword had power. Flat-out changing shape, however, was something she didn't recall seeing and prompted a rather succinct reaction.
|Sario Ulum Taliesin|
Arloric's face lights up.
"Perhaps the sword's power awakened in Uriel's hand because it recognized a worthy successor to Yaniel in him! You should continue using it, Uriel! Perhaps gaining even greater glory with it in hand will make it more powerful!"
He's clearly excited at the sight of a magic sword like that of the heroes of old.
"Changing to a bastard sword would definitely be a sign of Ragathiel's favor." Darya says smiling proudly in her spiritual brother's direction.
Iomenna sits in awe of the sword. "Incredible! What I wouldn't do to have more of that on our side! I'm glad you wield it though, Uriel. Especially if you are to take it to the fight with the demons."
Aberus listens to the discussion about the golden sword with interest. His memory is hazy, but he, too, recalls that it was shaped differently when they first picked it up.
He furrows his brow and asks Irabeth, "What is known about it, other than it's former owner? It's ... interesting? Concerning? ... that someone would steal it. I assume they knew what they had, and weren't looting it for the gold."
Irabeth replies, "Not too much... Yaniel had a falling-out with the leadership of the Crusade, so she took Radiance and went into the Worldwound alone. She came back two years later, completely unexpected. Radiance was a powerful weapon - legendary - but when she was killed it lost all luster. Perhaps it is finally starting to reawaken - maybe because of the great danger we are in, or perhaps because of the touch of someone who can wield it to good effect."
I think we're ready to split up again, one group to the Gray Garrison, the other group to the Tower of Estrod. Chime in with your group assignment. (If everyone decides to go to the Gray Garrison together, so be it.)
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Important Note: While the AP has you gaining mythic power after dealing with the Gray Garrison story, I have made allowances and you will all become mythic characters appropriately at the same time. Your choice of team will not keep you from going mythic or gaining levels or getting rad loot at the right time. :)
Aberus nods in response to Irabeth, looks thoughtful for a second, and then says, "It stands to reason the demonic leadership knows these legends, too. Probably from personal experience." He smirks, then continues. "I imagine they are well aware of its potential. I like simple explanations. They probably stole it just to keep it out of our hands, to deny it from us a weapon against them ... just in case what seems to be happening would, in fact, happen."
He stares at the sword. "I guess this would qualify as 'good news'. Which has been in short supply recently.
"I'll join my friends in the assault on the garrison."