21-22 Gozran, 44 NC
Poppy describes Leitus ar’Shamrael’Vin as a brilliant Elven scholar, over five thousand years old – making him one of the oldest living creatures on the continent. He was in the expedition that discovered the Waygate and became obsessed with the race that built it and the threat of the Kisharans. He began hoarding warpstone and developing inventions using its power. Proximity to that much warpstone for that long is likely a major contributor to his madness. That Gideon Nell was his servant was news, and no one is sure why Gideon was operating in Riverton on Leitus’ behalf fourteen years ago when Jacob Dain’s crew led by Peruppi Dentkettle arrived in town looking for a lost Society officer named William Melvar.
Poppy encouraged the party to eat their fiber and get some rest, as they expected to be arriving at Leitus’ lair the next morning.
That night, Kagdir awoke in a strange room, unable to move. The unearthly noise that seemed to propel the ship was much louder, and he found himself seated on a bench in a small, stuffy room. Benches lined both sides of the room and on them were seated a number of naked, emaciated people with iron helms completely encasing their heads. Some were slumped over in sleep and some where chained to a bar that ran down the center of the chamber.
Poppy sat across from Kagdir and told him the tale of how she had collected Kisharan Stranglers who had gone mad during The Breaking and had harnessed their abilities to power her ship, but they were beginning to “wear out” and she was looking for more sources of power. She then informed Kagdir of her disappointment that he was so disrespectful of her in front of her crew, and warned that it wouldn’t be tolerated again. Kagdir was rendered unconscious once more.
The next morning, the ship was sailing through a valley, with the sheer peaks of the Southern Masaan range above them. The party gathered as the ship slowed and rose to a ledge where an entrance to an underground compound was hidden. Poppy ordered the ships Bubblesneezer cannons to fire on the workers there, and after the carnage was complete, disembarked with the party. Poppy informed them she was going in the back way, and the party should create a distraction, then disappeared around the ledge.
The party engaged a mix of barely-armed peasants and professional guardsmen inside the first chamber. Upon slaying some of the peasants, small demons would occasionally emerge.
The fight continues…
Poppy told us about Leitus, that she had stolen something from him and blown up his lab, or something like that. It was hard to tell whether it was true or not, but I was at least pretty certain that she had some previous knowledge of him. Not that I would dare express any doubt about her story, of course; she was, after all, extremely powerful, and completely insane. Not a good combination, but she wasn’t actively trying to kill us, and she was supposedly on our side, so I did not see much point in protesting. Not that it would have helped any if I did; she had proven that already.
We were headed south, towards the mountains, on a steady course. It seemed Poppy knew exactly where she was going. Not that we could do anything about our direction anyway, so when she strongly suggested we get some rest, I decided it would be a waste of time not to grab some sleep.
As we were woken up the next morning to the word that we were getting close, the ship was slowing down and ascending. Its target was a ledge with an entrance to what I assumed was Leitus’ stronghold. There were several people outside; most did not look like soldiers or warriors, but rather like workers, doing their chores.
A Bubblesneezer cannon is a terrible weapon. It devastated the group of people on the ledge with an efficiency I would call obscene. Granted, they were trapped on a rather small ledge with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Still, the cannons have the potential to change the nature of warfare. Infantry against such weapons will be a lost cause, I think. The same goes for the cavalry.
Oh, someone will try. It will be tested several times, and in most cases, it is very likely that the officer ordering that charge will remain safely behind, leaving the dying to us grunts. Then, later, some poet who’s never seen a battlefield will write some epic poem about it, about the heroics of the soldiers charging the cannons, never mind that honour and glory couldn’t be further from the minds of said soldiers.
When the order to charge comes, you don’t stop and argue, you don’t question the orders, you just do as you’re told, hoping that you’ll be one of the lucky ones to walk away relatively unharmed after the whole thing is over. It tends to be the officers who are caught up with the idea of eternal life through honour and glory. We further down the ranks just want to survive.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, sacrifices are necessary, I get that. But sometimes, soldiers are ordered to die simply because it is convenient, or because some puffed-up noble and officer has inflated ideas of his own worth and brains. And sometimes, they die because of badly phrased orders, or misunderstandings.
But I digress.
The people on the ledge died because they worked for the wrong guy. For all we knew, they could have been forced into it, being there through no choice of their own. But dead is dead; whether it is splattered across a battleground or in a bed killed by a slow wasting disease, you’re still dead. Me, I know which one I prefer.
Once the people on the ledge had been reduced to just blood and meat and bones, a lot of them not even recognisable as people, we debarked. We went up to the doors and yanked them open, and the fighting began.
Most of the ones we met at the beginning were almost unarmed. Mind you, a peasant with a pitchfork might kill you just as dead as a professional solder with a sword. Still, it felt more like a slaughter and less like a battle. Except when, from time to time, a small demon popped out when a person died. I am not sure whether it should have made me feel better or worse about killing the people attacking us; on one hand, they were possibly controlled by a demon and might not have a choice in attacking us. On the other hand, they were hosting demons, and we might have been doing them a service. Yeah, I know, it is an attempt to justify the slaughter. Still.