"Our heroes had gathered arms and comrades and through their actions they gathered a force from the ashes of the ruined city. They marched forward to the imposing keep where the future of Kenabres lay…"
- Memoirs of the Great Sage and Eminent Alchemist Willie Nelson
The party found a group of people arguing heatedly about something as they approached the table. Surrounding this small desk, they were pleased to see Anevia, Aravashnial, Irabeth and Lann of Neathholm as well as an older man leaning over the desk from a chair. Irabeth greeted them warmly and congratulated them on freeing the people from the Purifier's control and introduced them to the old man, whose name was Quednys Orlun.
Quednys Orlun had hawkish features and a scarred face, a grim determination set behind his face and eyes. Quednys and Aravashnial seemed startled by the presence of Mythos but did not say anything to him and Quednys quickly introduced himself as the leader of the Riftwardens in the city. Quednys thanked them for their efforts and invited them to sit down to join their war council and added "You will be vital to our plans in the coming battle…"
Silenced deafened the room as the weight of those words sunk in, which was broken by the clearing of Irabeth's throat. She gazed around the room and started to speak:
"We're grateful for what you did for those people at the amphitheater. We haven't been able to get scouts close enough to the area to even know what was going on and the stories I've heard from the survivors is harrowing…
However, we have bigger problems. I've been going over the materials you recovered earlier and we think we may have some answers. One of the notes you recovered from the Tower of Estrod mentioned the Templars and I suspect this is in reference to the group known as the "Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth". Others thought I was just an alarmist she stares at Quednys for a moment while saying this but I've been gathering evidence about this group for years.
"They have spies everywhere," she says, "and have apparently been among us for decades. Only recently has proof of their presence been manifesting. I personally managed to root out one of their more powerful members the leader of a group called the Hammers of Heaven. We all thought of Staunton Vhane as a model crusader, but as far as I was able to discern, he's been working for the demons for decades. There's even evidence he may have been the one to betray Drezen 75 years ago. They knighted me for that discovery, but I'm still not sure why, since he slipped through my fingers and is out there still, causing who knows how much more damage … "
"I don't think anyone could have expected an attack on this scale, but I know that these Templars must have been involved. Given the amount of cultist activity in the city, I think this is a sure bet."
Quednys broke in with a calm, but strained voice:
"We've also heard of these Nahyndrian crystals mentioned in that same note. We weren't sure what purpose they served but we surmise that these crystals could be used to warp the wardstone's somehow. Unfortunately, our intelligence suggests that the demons are working toward that very goal right here in the city!
Our wardstone was damaged by Khorrazedeh, whom I think you met up close Aravashnial touches the scars where his eyes once were and the party shifts uncomfortably years ago and we thought the wardstone impregnable until this moment. Even now, the shield that protects us from the denizens of the Abyss is still up albeit in a weakened state. The problem we have now is two-fold: we don't know how they plan to use the remnants of our exploded wardstone, and we don't know why it hasn't been removed from the vicinity of the Kite…
Our only option, in my opinion and the others at this table… is to attack and secure whatever fragment is left.
Irabeth continues on after Quednys finishes:
"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."
Quednys looks at the party and nods:
"This is where you come in. points at the rest of the party and removes a rod made of some unknown material capped with a gemstone from the back of his chair This is a rod of cancellation and it's lucky I discovered it in one of the caches the Riftwardens have all over the city. We believe that if the rod were to touch the wardstone fragment, it's power would be drained and the shield that protects our world from the Abyss would remain weakened but intact.
Mythos interrupts at this: "Would it not be better to take back the wardstone fragment and not make the wall any weaker?"
Quednys replies: "We have neither the manpower nor the ability to prevent something like this attack right now. We have no idea when Queen Galfrey can gather her forces to help us. No, we need to destroy the wardstone fragment before the demons use it for something else. It's going to happen and it's going to happen here. The demons could be attacking another border town, but we doubt it. It is something I don't think is possible in the short term, for the Kenabres stone has suffered numerous attacks over the past several years that made this final destruction possible."
A grim smile creeps across Irabeth's face…
"Almost," she adds wryly, "as if the demons have been planning for this day from the start."
Quednys nods at Irabeth and continues:
"So, there it is. Thanks to your efforts our force is large enough to mount an offensive on the garrison where they are storing the wardstone fragment. The plan is to attack the north side of the keep in force to draw the bulk of the force away from the south entrance. Commander Lann will take his soldiers and clear a way from you all to make your way inside with this rod and destroy the last chance the demons will have to affect the border shield. It's likely a death sentence for us all, but I don't see any other way around it."
The party sat in stunned silence as the words drifted in the air. Bardas vowed his support along with Balin and Daven an instant later. Glim glibly supported this plan as well with his typical casual air and Mytho reluctantly agreed to be a part of this attack. Everyone in the room looked strain but Irabeth and Quednys relaxed visibly with the party agreeing to the plan.
Irabeth spoke again, his fists tightly clenched:
"I can't let you do this alone, I'm going in there with you. Before you object, I have talked with my commanders and we believe that my knowledge of the keep (albeit foggy within the depths of my memory) and my sword arm would be better ensuring the completion of the mission rather than directing our troops. With Anevia remaining behind to rally the Eagle Watch, I feel it is entirely necessary for me to go along.
My commanders told me that they will need three days to complete their preparations and we will need to attack at night to hide our numbers. Use this time wisely, my friends…"
Before the party could object, the matter was settled. The quartermaster brought them back to their rooms and the entire inn erupted in a bustle of activity downstairs. Weary from the past few days, this is the first time that everyone had time to prepare and reflect.
Bardas spent the time working out the dents and scrapes on his armor, shield and helm working at night for reasons only he has shared. Balin spent the time resting and drinking his fill and cheering the lads gearing for war. Glim spent his time resting and baking blueberry muffins for the soliders, cheering them up with nostalgia and home cooking. Daven spent his time creating more bolts for his crossbow and training the Eagle Watch commanders different tactics he has learned in preparation for joining the city guard. Mytho spent the time in his room talking (to whom, the party was unsure) and spent the rest of the three days trying to learn as much from Aravashnial as possible.
Three days passed without incident and the night of the attack came swiftly. Refreshed by aid and succor, the party set off with an army of 5,000 grimly set about the business of saving their city. Before reaching the edges of the ruins that bordered the intact gray keep in front of the destroyed ruins of the Kite, the party passed the area where it had all began. Terendelev's body was gone and curiously the bodies if the fallen were completely removed as well. The party did not dwell on such matters as they continued their march, but they noted it for later.
Night descended upon the city as the armies gathered at the edges of the ruins. To the north, the sound of battle horns and men screaming shattered the silence of the night as the main bulk of the army set about distracting the denizens of the keep. Lann, Irabeth, the party, and a company of a 100 men charged across the field to make their way into the south entrance.
The party and company made their way swiftly across the field, but were suddenly stopped dead in their tracks as a massive creature erupted from the earth and challenged their way forward. Lann's personal guard circled the beast and attacked it's thick hide, but their swords just melted in their hands as metal touched the creature. Irabeth saw this danger and tried to distract the beast long enough for Lann's guard to retreat, but the creature tore down several men before Irabeth got its attention.
Glim, seeing a ballista unintended nearby, ran to try and ready the siege engine for firing but it took a collective effort from the party to aim and load the siege engine. Mytho managed to guess at the trigger mechanism and launched a log at high speed directly into the heart of the beast and it fell over with a massive thud.
Not willing to believe their luck, Irabeth and the party continued their charge across the blasted field to the entranceway. Lann stayed behind to help his men fight, wishing the party luck as they passed him. The party reached the causeway of the south entrance to the keep and were greeted by a familiar face. Lord Hulrun stared at them from dead eyes, the man that had been announcing the start of the Armasse festival and the former leader of the city, while his body rippled and bulged unnaturally and groans emitted from his sloth-like mouth. Irabeth saw a second person with similar features that she immediately recognized as Kandro Nyserian, the owner of the ruined mansion that the party had found earlier.
Irabeth approached Kandro but was taken aback as the man's clothes erupted with flabby flesh and hairy patches and started toward her. The Kandro-thing and Hulrun-thing both fought against the party's swords and eventually their true nature was revealed as both creatures were exploded from within spraying guts and gore across the party's clothing and armor. Worms or worm-like creatures remained and were quickly squished under Glim and Bardas' boot.
Irabeth remarked, "Kandro Nyserian was one of the city's nobles. I wasn't sure if he was involved with this business, but it appears he must have been…and has earned his reward. He had something of mine that I will probably never see again…"
Irabeth did not elaborate and the party broke their way inside. They ventured inside carefully attempting to be as quiet as possible with Mytho and Glim taking point to try to avoid and potential patrols. Mytho donned his coat that bore the Deskari symbol hoping anyone that came along would see him as another cultist. A patrol stumbled upon Mytho as he made his way into one of the keep's hallways and attempted to detain him when he flubbed the statement he had been practicing, but the party was able to intervene as another fight broke out.
The party made quick work of the patrol, but not before one of the guards roared his battle cry which echoed down the halls of the stone keep. Stealth no long being an option, the session ended with the party deciding what to do next as a footsteps sound from the west and large, thudding footsteps followed by grunts echo from the east…