Reunited with Hilg… again, the Party uncovered the existence of an imposter Hilg who had posed as the Group’s Half-Orc during the recent Battle of Ldamven, a discovery verified in a late night meeting with the Truthseeker paladin Grandon Minguld. Meanwhile, word of a massive orcish invasion of the kingdom’s northern and eastern lands reached the capital by way of numerous ships carrying refugees – an event revealing the earlier incursions around Ldamven as a ploy to draw soldiers away from the human fort at Nurden.
Scrying-based “viewings” of locations along the coast found the village/town of Cunvden to be the southernmost settlement under direct viewable attack; and following a war council meeting with His Highness Prince Sevlen, the Agents set sail aboard “Bouri’s Dragon” as part of a military force aimed at repelling the invaders. From their landing site at Lnonven the Group moved north, making ready to again battle The Fang. With any luck, they would arrive in time to save Captain Birorn and his men.
Homeday, Twenty-sixth of Replanting, 1044 Y.K.
Making camp after spending the remainder of the day in travel, the Party encircled itself with Hilg’s spike stones spell and set watches armed with the magical Sphere of Awakening. Their close proximity to the besieged village/town meant a high likelihood of enemy patrols, or friendly targets moving to or from battle. The first watch went to Rarnok, who again devoted time to instructing his projected pupil in the arts of sorcery – more specifically, read magic.
The second watch was taken by Alamir, who – unable to see beyond the range of the camp’s small fire – found himself the victim of an aerial ambush, as a trio of javelins flew into view from the darkness. Struck by two of the deadly projectiles, the cleric of Brovadol had just enough time to activate his Sphere as orcs charged into the camp from the pitch black.
The toll exacted by the perimeter defense of spike stones left the creatures wounded and hobbling, but still capable and willing to fight. The remainder of the Group emerged from their resting places, entering the fray or being engaged with great haste. As the rough lines of battle formed, Hilg capitalized on the grouping, placing a number of the attackers within the confines of a powerful ice storm spell. Rarnok too inhibited his enemies en masse, casting slow on the evil orcs.
Now easily able to outmaneuver the enemies in their slowed state, Maldus moved to Alamir, laying his hands upon the fellow cleric and healing his wounds. Those orcs not affected by slow, located on the northern side of the camp, battled Rarnok and Hilg – who did their best to keep Cosdrelita out of harms way. Being, as always, a non-combatant, Roth remained in the wagon’s cargo space, concealing himself as best he could while allowing Stoat to also use the area for cover.
With the enemy progressively controlled, the Party shifted from a mode of survival to one of attack, as enhancement spells strengthened the Group and their superior speed allowed them to outflank their foes. A now-fully augmented Rarnok battled in tandem with Alamir, utilizing his gaze attack, sending one orc fleeing back over the spike stones in terror. The remaining orcs, unable to escape due to their reduced movement capabilities, were soon felled – ending the battle as a victory for both the Agents, and Cosdol.
Godday, Twenty-seventh of Replanting, 1044 Y.K.
Approaching the boundaries of Cunvden by the early afternoon, the Group moved cautiously as dense fog from the Voldor Bay rolled inland, limiting their view. The clomping of boots and hooves soon broke the relative quiet of nature, prompting the Party to move to the roadside and await the identity of the oncoming assembly. Human voices followed, and the forward elements of a refugee column emerged from the mist, greeting the Agents once both sides were revealed.
Maldus, Alamir and Hilg tended to what wounded they could, using wand charges and minor spells while listening to the update provided by the column’s soldier escorts. Captain Birorn was, to the escorts’ knowledge, still alive and had been dug-in on the south end of the village/town with his troops when last they had seen him. The brief encounter ended shortly thereafter, as the two sides continued in their opposing directions.
Coming at last to Cunvden itself, the Agents stayed on guard as mounted scouts and combat elements maneuvered through the thick fog. A mixed squad of soldiers and city watchmen directed the Party north to the first intersection before moving east to reposition themselves along another battle line. The human command post, located exactly where described, proved intact and the Agents soon stood with Captain Birorn and his top lieutenants.
His spirit unbroken, the Captain greeted the Party, and jokingly apologized for not having the Group’s stored horses on hand to give them. He explained that the fog cover had effectively stalled the overall battle, enabling the outnumbered defense forces to evade the Broken Fang patrols and reduce the fighting to skirmishes and hit-and-run strikes on the enemy flanks. Besides being confined to the southern edges of the town limits, the defenders remained in reasonably good shape.
It was then that the meeting was interrupted as a returning scout entered quickly and offered a report of strange news. His exploration of the western streets had revealed a market square containing a host of the enemy, slain – evidently by each other. Thinking perhaps that the apparent alliance between the Iron Skulls and the Broken Fang was crumbling, or possibly never strong, the Party offered to examine the site, and followed the scout back to the location in question.
As reported, the square contained numerous orc bodies, many of which seemingly having been killed by the warriors next to them. A speak with dead scroll used by Maldus offered cryptic clues from one of the slain, as the deceased orc spoke of “beasts in the dark” and “cracks in the sky”. The discovery of a barely living Fang fighter further in the rampaged market gave the Group a second opportunity at answers, this time at the point of a sword.
The interrogation of the orc created more questions than it answered, as the humanoid spoke of cracks of blackness filling the air and encompassing the raiding party in darkness. Unable to see, the warriors came under attack from something within the cloud, and in their efforts to fight back, had suffered many casualties to friendly fire. Who or what was within the cloud remained a mystery, as did its origin. With no sign of the phenomenon visible, the Party opted to return, leaving the dying invader to his fate.
Hastening back toward Captain Birorn’s position, the Agents forced a stop when Maldus spotted suspicious movement in a nearby window. A subsequent search found the culprit to be a crack of inky blackness located on a rear wall. Spreading on one end while collapsing on the other, the line moved along the wall as if slithering, and upon closer inspection, revealed a strange darkened room nearly mirroring the present one, on the other side.
With evidence of the “cracks” uncovered, the Party exited the building and made their way back to the command post. Unsure of what to make of the report, Birorn consented to the Group’s desire to scout the town hall, last known to be occupied by the enemy. Their arrival found the place situated similarly to the western market roads, with slain orcs littering the ground. One notable difference was present however, a large black orb floating in the building’s center.
Shifting in similar fashion to a candle flame in a light breeze, the orb floated at around chest height; a silent, lingering witness to whatever had transpired. Rarnok moved to examine the sphere closely, peering deeply into its blackness. In a manner like adjusting to sudden darkness, the gnome’s eyes at first saw nothing, soon beginning to see more clearly. The orb was as a window, opening into another room, exactly like the current one, but empty.
The discovery of live human prisoners locked in a back room ceased the sorcerer’s orb-gazing, as the Party brought the liberated men forth to try for answers. Having been locked away from the scene of the strange sphere, however, the prisoners were unable to be of any assistance. After a long moment of thought, a theory emerged that the orb might be a portal, perhaps having allowed someone or something to come through and attack the unprepared orcs.
Seeing the option as a possibility, experimentation began, as the Group shoved an expired enemy into the blackened sphere. The resulting explosion injured the Party slightly, and revealed them to be within the darkened room seen ‘inside’ the orb before. Outside this new location’s door, an eerily similar town stood largely in ruin, a massive ebony citadel in its center with incorporeal undead moving about the sky. Their suspicions of a portal confirmed, the Agents exited the darkened realm quickly, as the window between worlds began to fluctuate and close.
Once again in their own world, the Party immediately found itself under attack, as an entity of coalesced tendril-like shadow exited the portal behind them. An incorporeal creature, the monster proved difficult to strike, but not impossible, and chilled the air around itself – dealing additional damage in the form of cold with its shadowy strikes. Outside, another battle could be heard, as presumably members of the two fighting sides had stumbled across one another.
Slowly but steadily the Agents wore the creature down, cornering it away from vulnerable members of the team and outlasting it with powerful heals. With the beast slain, the Group was finally able to move outside. The scene before them however, was not what they expected. Humans and orcs indeed fought in the street, but not fully against one another. The two forces had abandoned fighting one another and instead battled for their own survival, surrounded by a vast host of undead.
Centered in the unliving army, a Female Entity moved about, commanding the damned and encouraging them in an almost motherly fashion. Having seen this creature before, Stoat recognized it immediately. The undead lady of his vision in Duke Ilthan’s home in Cosolen was real, and was unleashed upon the living. As if sensing his thoughts, the creature turned to the Party, seeming surprised, but happy to find Stoat there.
Calling out to the halfling, the undead queen laughed to herself. “I didn’t expect to find you here. NOW DIE!”. Screaming out against the Group, the being unleashed a powerful wave of black magic, slaying the Agents and Cosdrelita en masse. As the spirits of the fallen Party drifted away, the sounds of the battle faded into darkness.
Awakening, the Group found itself in the Throne Room of the magnificent Eternal Palace. Home of the many gods and the final resting place of souls departed from Tellene. Instinctively, they took their place before the Throne of the Creator and stood alongside the myriad lost souls waiting to be claimed. A figure approached then, a woman of angelic features who introduced herself as Alanthiess. Was she the one to claim them? If so, to which deity was her allegiance?