Returning to Bet Kasel in victory over Azak Naggetrek and the Krangi force along the Banader River, the Party had informed King Eresar II of the mission’s outcome and their intention to travel to Cosdol for the commission of a device to use against the Aspect of Torment. The device’s intended creator, one-time foe Ervaln Norforn “The Architect”, accepted both the assignment and the gold of the mastermind behind the “Torment Trap”… Stoat.
With their work in the Brandobian nation thus completed, the Aspects and their allies had reappeared in the capital of Ek’Kasel, this time to discover the arrival chamber to be the destination of refugees fleeing the in-city fighting in the Koraki capital of Korem. Hoping to turn the tide of the dual-wars, the Group convinced Eresar to dispatch a counter-attack to aid his neighboring kingom, while the Party plotted a new course for itself, one that would take them to the town hall of the occupied settlement of Salido where a minor problem was unearthed in the hunt for Krangi leadership…
Godday, Sixth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Still within the upper-level chamber of the Salido town hall, the Party worked with haste to block as many of the points of entry as possible, utilizing furniture and other readily available materials to barricade windows and create a handful of defensible positions. Though the streets and alleys below remained largely quiet, the situation was doomed to unravel before long, meaning the fury of battle would soon be upon them once more.
As his companions prepared for the fighting to come, Stoat volunteered to scout the building’s perimeter, hoping to locate the command station that the Group had originally sought. He stated his intention to return in thirty minutes time and crept out a rear window that was quickly blocked behind him. His path through the side streets was a careful one, with numerous patrols and posted guards avoided. The Halfling had nearly finished his sweep when an approaching rider caught his eye.
The rider bore the symbol of “The Widowmakers”, Norga-Krangrel’s Army of the West, and was adorned in the uniform of a military officer. Though his name was unknown to the Aspect of Resolve, the Halfling knew his face immediately. Despite the passage of years since his family had been slain by Krangi soldiers, Stoat knew their killer’s every feature – and watched carefully as he now addressed passing troops and received their salute.
Almost hypnotically, Stoat stalked the mounted officer, shadowing his steps and drawing ever closer. The commitment to his thirty minute timeline faded away as he noted the presence of a tiny lock of braided blonde hair on the hobgoblin’s belt, a particular style of braid that the Halfling had seen his twin sister Obri wear many times in his youth. Although he had never moved his sister’s corpse that horrible day long ago, Stoat knew now that if he had, he would have found her braid gone – taken as a trophy by the one who had also taken her life.
Back in the town hall building, the rest of the Party worried as the time of Stoat’s anticipated return came and went. Moments passed slowly, each more anxious and tense than the last. Having no way of communicating with their wayward scout, the Group soon decided to dispatch another to seek him out, a task that fell to the wizard Azravan. Capable of both flight and invisibility, the newest member was the best choice and took to the sky cautiously.
From his overhead vantage point, Azravan could find no sign of his comrade, but easily spotted a column of seven heavy catapults being maneuvered toward the town hall. It appeared that word of their assault had indeed gotten out, and that the Krangi now intended to expedite the matter of their removal. If the other Party members had no advance warning of the humanoid’s plan, they could all perish as the building collapsed on top of them.
The wizard raced back to the town hall and reentered to discover that his allies had also uncovered the mechanized threat, and were creating a battle plan as quickly as they were able. In the end, a direct approach was decided upon, and the Party readied itself to act. As the volley of boulders struck the building, a large opening was created on the structure’s upper floor, effectively bypassing the Group’s originally planned defensive positions.
Azravan returned to the sky as Maldus exited the building under cover of a freshly cast invisibility and stood near the now-open entrance. Rarnok and Alamir traded augmentation magic in hurried fashion as a squad of enemy troops rushed toward the building, presumably in belief that someone was about to attempt an escape through the open door. Debris from the siege weapon attack landed both inside and outside of the building and gave the Aspect of Life an idea.
Across the field, Stoat launched his own projectiles, firing upon his family’s killer and diving through a nearby window. The officer rushed toward the Aspect of Resolve, leaving his second to oversee the attack on the town hall. Another blast followed, this time that of Azravan’s fireball landing atop one catapult and crew. A cacophony of agonized cries and battle orders filled the air, and from the farthest reaches of the town troops scrambled to respond.
Still being invisible, Maldus called on his magic to shape the stone of the building’s rubble, creating a raised lip a few yards from the hall’s entrance. The onrushing soldiers, unaware of the altered earthworks, continued their advance – discovering the ledge as the first rank of hobgoblins crashed to the ground. Alamir and Rarnok acted next, hustling out of the building and pushing past the stunned Krangi. The pair of Aspects dashed to the nearest catapult, bringing their weapons to bear.
Maldus moved next, heading toward his fellow Aspects while Azravan circled the town hall and the enemy squad with a searing hot wall of fire. Advancing enemy riders also found themselves assaulted by flame as the flying wizard leveled his Staff of Fire in their direction. Meanwhile, Stoat continued against the enemy officer, attacking from stealth and taunting him with tales from the past. Dokari did her part for the orb bearer as well, terrorizing the officer with screams and her apparent invulnerability.
Ever the disciplined soldiers, the opposition recuperated from the initial surprise, assembling a squad of combat casters who took up casting against the Aspects of Time and Valor. A massive eruption of flame consumed the pair of heroes as a full dozen fireball spells struck in unison – bringing Alamir near the doorstep of death, and down to one knee. Rarnok, having avoided the attacks completely thanks to his Aspect abilities, hid the wounded cleric in invisibility and hastened toward the awe-struck enemy spellcasters with glee.
The unit of hobgoblin sorcerers scattered as the fearsome Gnome rushed their position and slew the closest caster with flurry of devastating strikes. Alamir took the opportunity to use his clerical magic, mending his much-charred flesh and moving clear of his last known location. Elsewhere, Stoat and Dokari sought to bring the officer to madness while Azravan continued maintaining a perimeter with deadly fire.
Recovered enough to continue fighting, the Aspect of Valor followed Time, moving into the structures shielding the retreating enemy spellcasters – where his blade quickly brought down another at the cost of his invisibility. Maldus promptly joined him, further healing the enlarged Aspect of the burns that ailed him. Stoat meanwhile finally brought his torture session to an end, finishing the killer of his family with a last arrow to the neck. The Aspect of Resolve reclaimed the lock of braided hair, and disappeared into the shadows.
A voice came then, that of an aide of King Eresar II, by way of a Sending spell. The message spoke of the Dragon Rider and his monstrous mount attacking the capital with a force of Krangi soldiers. Maldus relayed the news to the Group, and quickly ordered a withdraw to Bet Kasel. With Daresh and the strike team of combat casters reinforcing Korem against the hobgoblins there, the Kasite capital stood in a precarious position – one that might soon see the realization of the Nightmater’s second “sign”…