17 Gozran, 44 NC
The session begins with a cutscene:
Let’s set the stage….
It’s noon. At least, you think it’s probably noon.
You’ve been fighting almost constantly since just after dawn. You’re all drenched in blood and gore and mud. Beyond exhausted. Numb.
Kagdir is just finishing up tying up Darrow’s squire. Snot is sitting in the middle of the street reloading his pistols. Matten has fallen to his knees, clutching the wound in his side that Sanorin couldn’t quite heal. Nimue is attempting to wave his hands away to get a look at it. Dan is holding his hand idly over a spot that got hit pretty hard in the battle, a curiously pensive look on his face. Gnat is pissing himself, assuming that Kagdir’s going to kill him. Syl is attempting to keep an eye out for any danger. Jacob is leaning against a hitching post and gnawing on a chunk of mutton he stashed in his pockets from breakfast.
Sanorin is having a little bit of a psychotic break. He’s kneeling beside Darrow, pressing his hands to the worst of the wounds. He’s muttering, “please don’t die, please don’t die” over and over again. It’s hard to tell if what he’s doing is doing any good.
The sound comes on slowly, and when you realize what it is, it’s too late. Out of the smoke comes the head of a column of soldiers, double-timing it, likely retreating from the main gates. There are hundreds of them, and their lead elements see you and charge.
Syl notices them first. “Shit! KAGDIR! We need to move!”
Everyone except Sanorin struggles to their feet. Kagdir drags Darrow’s squire and flings himself into a nearby door, which stubbornly fails to open. “Everyone tighten up, we’ll let them back us into that alley, our only hope is to hold a choke point!”
Syl tries to grab Sanorin by the collar, but he shrugs her off, finally seeing the danger. He stands up slowly.
“They have to stop.”
“Sanorin we have to move!”
A breeze kicks up. A breeze from a warm summer night, full of the smell of the woods and summer storms.
When people in the world use magic, it’s always…forced. You’ve become accustomed to the sound of Jacob opening his mouth and unspeakable words that rend the nature of reality coming out, and when Dan does his thing, sunbeams just shoot from his fingertips without any fanfare at all, but Sanorin? The world just seems to do what he wants. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
He stands there, bloody hands hanging limply at his side, facing down an entire company of scared and angry soldiers trying to retreat to safety.
“You have to stop,” he continues quietly.
Then there’s the sound of cicadas. Getting louder. Louder than the charging soldiers. The wind blows harder, like the squall line of a summer storm. And fireflies…blowing past you…yellow…blues….greens…a galaxy of tiny blinking lights blowing past in the wind and through the ranks of the soldiers.
The entire column of soldiers stumbles to a halt, looking around in confusion. And then, as if they were made of the finest powder, they blow away in the wind. Within seconds, where once over five hundred soldiers stood, there is only a few fleeting flickers of fireflies.
The balmy wind gives way to the late winter chill and the smell of smoke, black powder, and blood.
The party stands stunned for a few moments, while Sanorin is nearly catatonic in shock. Eventually, they recover. Kagdir finds a unit of Volkov’s soldiers a block away and instructs them to carry the unconscious Darrow out of the city and behind friendly lines.
Matten and Nimue question Darrow’s squire, named Kev. He informs the party that the front wall of Westergarde Keep had been sabotaged by sappers and has collapsed, leaving the keep wide open. He tells them that Jacob Mengst is being held along with “Mengst’s old librarian” in the South tower of the keep, while Tyr’s private chambers are in the North.
The party heads towards the keep, noting that the shelling from the bay has ceased, as well as the sound of the magic being flung around near the docks. They discover a small unit of soldiers guarding an opening in the wall of the keep, sedate Sanorin, and assault the position.
During the battle, Sanorin has a vision of Shara Tev, encouraging him to wake up, snap out of it, and help.
After defeating the soldiers, the party enters the great hall of the keep. At the head of the table sits an attractive woman in her late fifties, having apparently stabbed herself in the heart – in all likelihood Helena Tyr, the Duchess of Westergarde. There’s also a trophy case containing an Etu’Sauri sword.
Vladimir, Diego, Delayne Muerdetta, and a severely-wounded Sir Gavin of the Knights Leopold arrive just a few moments later. Vlad stumbles over to Helena’s body, snarling at the party not to touch her, and falls at her feet muttering “I was coming for you, you should’ve waited…”
Matten takes hold of the Etu’Sauri blade and finds part of his consciousness in a courtroom and he in the defendent’s box. An elf in ancient clothes sits at the judge’s bench, and an older human man in standing on the floor. There are eight people scattered in the audience benches, several elves and two humans. The older man, the Etu’Sauri master known as Lucas, looks at Matten in recognition. “You’re Matten Ra’ask, ain’tcha?” Matten nods. The judge exclaims, “he was trained by The Widow.” Lucas scoffs at the judge and says, “pshaw, he’ll do just fine.” He then tells Matten that the blade will be confusing at first and he needs to let go until he gets to a safe place.
Eventually, Vlad looks up and calls for Gavin, but Diego informs him that Gavin has died of his wounds. Vlad instructs the party and Delayne to go to the South tower and secure Mengst while he and Diego head up the North tower to find Tyr.
The party encounters no resistance up the South tower until they find a hallway piled high with the corpses of Tyr’s private guard. Beyond them is the Troll Slayer Trogg from Sir Gregory’s party, mortally wounded. He appears to have held the hallway singlehandedly. He calls Kagdir over and says, “You tell them…tell them my name was Fior Gorrinson…and you tell them that I died defending my Emperor….” He grins wildly and cackles before expiring.
Nimue leads the party through the door at the end of the hall and discovers Kironius Mengst’s chronicler, Ralben, wielding some form of power, and behind him, Jacob Mengst. Delayne pushes past and calls out, “I am the fire in the night,” to which Mengst responds, “I am the shield on the wall.” The sense of power leaves the room, and Ralben, recognizing Delayne Muerdetta, gets an update from the party.
While they’re trying to decide how best to secure Mengst, the youth grabs a longsword from a corpse and marches off, saying he’s on his way to kill Tyr and everyone else is welcome to join him.
The party chases Mengst through the keep and up the North tower. They eventually arrive at Tyr’s private rooms just in time to see Vlad and Diego burst through the door to his chambers.
Inside, they find two people naked in bed, Stephen Tyr is dead, seemingly from poison, and he’s being held by a beautiful woman, seemingly about to share the same fate. She is Isabella Vasquez, Diego’s sister and arguably the woman who influenced the entire civil war. The party notes a plain ring with a smoky white gem set out promenantly on a drawing table nearby.
“He was going to put on the ring, Diego…” she says, sleepily, “I couldn’t let him do that. I couldn’t allow it. I couldn’t go that far. I didn’t mean for this…” she begins to fade, then looks up sharply at Diego. “You’re not my brother…” she says curiously before finally succumbing to the poison.
Vladimir looks at Diego suspiciously, and then Diego gives an exasperated sigh. A split appears down Diego’s skin, and his entire form sloughs off like a sack, revealing a man in simple clothes beneath. Syl and Sanorin both scream in horror, as Gideon Nell gives them a wink, then turns to the ring.
With a roar, Vlad tackles him and they both go out the sixth-floor tower window.
Sir Gregory was still alive. Barely. We got him stabilised, and found a team to get him back to our camp, as a prisoner.
Matten was hurt as well, but did not seem to be willing to return to the camp. But then, it seemed clear he was after something more here, possibly some Etu’Sari relic. I was trying to get a look at his wound, to see how bad it was, when a large group of soldiers came running; most likely they were fleeing back towards the keep. A large group as in several companies. I’d estimate somewhere between four and five hundred soldiers.
And Sanorin, our halfling, was there, between us and them, trying to save Sir Gregory, it seemed. He looked at the soldiers, mumbled something about them having to stop, please stop, and then… something happened.
Magic is strange. This one was one of the stranger ones. It was like sunshine and butterflies and wind in trees, and then it grows stronger, becomes a summer storm, and then, the men were gone. All of them. That little, timid halfling who really doesn’t like to kill had just destroyed several companies of frightened soldiers.
I wondered if Volkov had been aware of his potential, if that was why he had sent Sanoran and Syl with us. Only later did it occur to me that we could, and possibly should, have sent them with the group taking Sir Gregory back to the camp.
We did not, though. Instead we pushed on, towards the keep. The entrance was guarded, and these guys seemed like more elite guards; we did not think they would easily surrender. We laid a quick plan, having Syl sniping from a nearby building, Jacob starting out with some magic attack, and the rest of us trying to take down the guards the best we could.
Plans usually do not survive the first moments of a battle, but this time, everything went smoothly. We took down most of them fairly quickly, and the few survivors decided to flee. We let them; they posed no threat to us, and there had been enough blood shed that day already.
We entered the keep, and came into a great hall. There was a table there, and at the head of the table, there was a woman, the Duchess of Westergarde, Helena Tyr. It seemed she had taken her own life.
And then, right behind us, came a handful of men we had seen earlier; Vlad, Diego and a couple of others. Vlad headed over to the dead woman, growling at us to stay away from her. It was pretty obvious that there had been something going on between the two of them.
Matten, meanwhile, had clearly found what he was looking for. He was eying a glass case with an Etu’Sari sword. Jacob was looking at the case to find out whether or not it was trapped, when Matten decided it was taking too long, and simply broke the glass. He grabbed the sword and sheated it.
Vlad told us to go to the south tower to look for Mengst together with Delayne Muertta, while he and Diego would go north to look for Tyr.
The only people we met as we worked our way towards Mengst was frightenend servants, and we left them alone. And then we started coming across bodies. A lot of bodies. And there, the cause of it, was the Dwarven Trollslayer we had met once before. He was dying, and it seemed that he had held the corridor all by himself, keeping the soldiers from reaching Mengst.
The Dwarf had probably saved Mengst’s life. As we entered the room behind him, we found Mengst together with an old mage, Ralben, the old Mengst’s chronicler. He clearly recognised Delayne, and the tension in the room eased. As we explained what had happened, Jacob Mengst grabbed a sword and marched off, saying something about killing Tyr.
We followed, of course; our job was to keep him safe. We met no resistance on our way, and arrived just in time to see Vlad and Diego break through the door to Tyr’s chambers. Inside, we found one dead body and one dying woman. Tyr had clearly been poisoned by the woman, who was herself dying from the poison as well.
The woman was Isabella Vasquez. She told Diego that Tyr was about to put on the ring, and she could not allow that. And then she said “You’re not my brother…” It was the last thing she said. And Diego? He was smiling, and then his skin tore and someone else was standing there instead.
I heard Syl and Sanorin scream as the man grinned at them and turned towards the ring that was set out on the table near us. We have all heard the stories, of course, and I suspected that it would be very bad should this man get his hands on the ring. But before I had the time to do anything, Vlad roared, and plunged into the man, and both of them went out the window.