Seeking a status update on the gateway blueprints from Argenon Remel, the Circle was surprised to learn that Maldus’ boyhood friend and ally Daresh would need to be quarantined, the result of previously unknown brainwashing originating from Remel’s time as the Aspect of Torment. The resulting trip to Cosolen revealed the advanced-age passing of long term Group ally Forberon, and led to the summons of Aldus Randorian and Brendolm Minel.
Despite the emotional setbacks, the Party was forced to soldier on, tasking Azravan and Brendolm with isolating Daresh, and Aldus with stewardship over Olelita and Mindoleen. The rest of the Circle began the hunt for the Nightmaster Hercuul “the Crow”, a mission that began with a visit to Folikar Pateris of the Golden Alliance and later placed the disguised Party in the bowels of the Krangi-occupied keep in Korem; battling to save followers of Bleslelna from becoming sacrifices…
Katarday, Seventeenth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Appearing inside the once-lost temple of Brovadol for the second time in as many minutes, Rarnok deposited the next group of liberated Assembly of Light members and shouted for Guardian Strond to go fetch Azravan straight away. The Servant of the Swift Sword hastened off and returned with the Exarch wizard promptly, then devoted his attention to the needs of the newly arrived guests. The Party’s present situation was relayed quickly, and a detailed description of the location given.
Azravan nodded his acknowledgement and then disappeared from the room with a teleport spell, leaving Rarnok to complete his task before rejoining the Group. The Exarch gnome pressed the liberated humans, asking for anything they might have previously seen in relation to the Nightmaster. If the Party were heading the wrong direction in their search, he needed to know before going back – and before the Group was mired too deeply in enemy territory to get out cleanly.
For their part, the rescued clerics had not seen the Nightmaster, and could offer no clues as to his whereabouts. They did however, possess other information of note, and Rarnok listened carefully as additional details regarding the resurgent human forces under General Alere Garnak found his ears. The clerics spoke of the Temple of Armed Conflict, the church dedicated to Vlad, the Old Man, god of war – and whose holy seat stood within Korem, captured simultaneously with the city…
As both head cleric of the Order of the Pike and senior military adviser to General Garnak, Field Marshall Tagikil had spent the nearly two weeks since the city’s fall massing champions of the faith under his banner. His call to crusade had rallied holy warriors from temples across Korak, as well as from Ek’Kasel and P’Bapar. In addition, with the orcish invasion in Cosdol all but defeated, E’dos Kalanasi II, Archduke of P’Bapar had dispatched aid in the form of soldiers and mercenaries.
Other parties had also dedicated themselves to the reclamation of Korem and the restoration of Korak as the buffer state between Norga-Krangrel and the rest of the Young Kingdoms. From Ek’Kasel’s King Eresar II and the Kalamaran legion which had aided in the defeat of the hobgoblins at Bet Kasel; to the dwarven kingdom in the Legasa Peaks, who had sent troops alongside their treaty-based annual supply of armorers and weaponsmiths.
The occupying army of Norga-Krangrel within Korem now faced enemies on three sides, a coalition of both religious and secular forces unimpeded by the differences of nationality, religion or race. A force, the clerics insisted, for the greater good, of light. Rarnok and his companions had saved them from death at the hands of not just hobgoblins, but hobgoblins of the Church of Endless Night. As members of the Assembly of Light, they would happily fight as part of such a coalition…
Meanwhile, Azravan materialized beside his fellow Exarchs in the dungeons of the captured keep, informing them that Rarnok would return shortly. The Group gave search to the side rooms bypassed in the fighting, narrow corridors that required Passwall magics to permit the magically Enlarged Alamir access. Vials of poison leftover from the hobgoblin guardians found their way into Stoat’s backpack, while potions of healing were dispersed amongst the group.
Beyond the scene of the battle, the heavy steel door closed behind the retreating reinforcements had been locked and bolted, a predicament remedied by Azravan’s Knock spell. Arrows from entrenched defenders failed to penetrate Alamir’s heavy armor, and the Enlarged Exarch raced into renewed conflict, circling the barricade shielding the crossbow wielders, Civilizer in hand. Their demise however, came not from sword, but arrow, as Stoat gave death flight on the string of his bow.
Invisibly, Azravan moved into the room, using Dominate Monster to compel the surrender of an enemy on the chamber’s southern side. The hobgoblin dropped its sword on the ground, clearing the way for Maldus to enter. The cleric of Selandi quoted the holy scripture of Every Cloud as he staved off injury and death from his friends, soon focusing his evangelical effort on one enemy in particular. To this foe he offered reprieve from attack, if they would but listen and consider his words.
The humanoid held a readied stance, but turned an ear as Maldus continued. On the room’s far end, Azravan placed a blistering Wall of Fire, cutting off additional enemies and sending those closest scattering away to nurse fresh burns. The last of the immediately hostile defenders fell just as Stoat announced the sound of boot falls from the rear. As predicted, the upper levels had been notified of a struggle in the dungeon, and had sent a response.
Azravan rushed to the door, barring it with a powerful Prismatic Wall. In front of this spell, he used his illusionary magics, placing the image of the open doorway as a lure to the incoming combatants. He ushered all in the chamber to be silent, and listened as the footsteps came closer, and closer still. A surprised gasp followed by a howl of pain elicited a wide grin from the callous caster, who assured his allies that the hobgoblins would be held fast for the time being.
Amidst the sounds of argument in the Krangi tongue making their way through the Prismatic Wall, Azravan questioned his dominated target. The humanoid stated the Nightmaster to be deeper within the dungeon, making final preparations and overseeing sacrifices brought before him. The angry halfing moved sharply to his Wall of Fire, speaking the words of a Cloudkill spell. The resulting yellowish green fog bank slowly rolled through the wall, and out of sight.
In the mean time, Maldus pressed his protectee to assist Alamir bursting open a locked side chamber. The room contained divine foci and items obviously stripped from the bodies of previously killed or sacrificed persons. Much of the material was devoted to the Order of Light, a grim reminder of the death ordered by The Dark One before he would “bless” the world with his splendor. The Party searched for potentially useful items, then gathered to formulate their new plan…