Back in Bet Kasel following word of the Dragon Rider’s attack, the Party of Aspects had located King Eresar II and been informed of the trio of threats that imperiled the city. These being: the force of hobgoblin soldiers from Norga-Krangrel’s army, the Dragon Rider and his “faithful steed”, and a steady supply of devils arriving via a portal somewhere on the city’s west end. Of these dangers, the gargantuan black dragon had seemed the most urgent, leading the Group to confront the suspected minion of Malice on the greens inside the walls of the Kasite capital.
The resulting square off had proven the massive beast to be more powerful than initially anticipated, but not beyond the reach of old magic channeled through the fingers of the halfling wizard Azravan. Despite having not had the chance to battle the Dragon Rider himself, the Group’s victory over his mount and minion had, for the moment at least, made the besieged city that much safer. Bet Kasel’s defenders would now be able to focus their efforts without fear of death from above…
Godday, Sixth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Amidst the palpable panic that remained in light of the Hobgoblin attack, the Party moved westward, seeking King Eresar II once more. They found him still on the west end, he and his king’s guard having swept the side streets and discovered the devil portal to be outside of the city somewhere. They spoke to him of their victory over the fearsome dragon, and of the disappearance of the Dragon Rider. With his permission, they would now take time to recuperate and rest.
Granted leave with appreciation for their valor, the Party exerted the last of their day’s teleportation magic, returning to the familiar streets of Cosolen, far from the dual-invasion they had spent nearly the last week in constant opposition of. Their recent deeds in the small town of Almven seemed a distant memory, despite the passage of only a handful of days. Even the luster of the “Miracle Reincarnations” on the lumber yard workmen had long since been lost.
As was their duty, the Group traveled to the Prince’s Palace, intent on delivering news from beyond the Legasa Peaks and even P’Bapar. In their weary state, they had little patience for the Eldoran peacekeeping force, bigoted human men from Cosdol’s southern neighbor who had finally arrived during the Party’s latest trek away from home. With the war against the invading orcs largely over, the arrival of these unpleasant soldiers was tardy at best, considering Prince Sevlen had been in Eldor to procure their aid almost seven weeks prior.
Prince Sevlen was discovered to feel largely the same, but did not wish to cause renewed friction with the Eldoran monarchy – the oldest such institution on the face of Tellene. For their part, the emissaries of Eldor seemed excited at the arrival of the foreign troops, a fact that caused worry throughout the Party. Silently, the Prince and his agents agreed that the foreign peacekeepers could easily become an occupying force, and needed to return to their home sooner rather than later.
With the meeting concluded, the Group saw to other matters before turning in for the night. Alamir sent word for the remaining material components for the Aspect ritual to be gathered before using Sending magic to check in with Guardian Strond at the temple of Brovadol. Things were well, and as far as the fellow Swift Sword could tell, the Aspect of Undeath remained confined inside the Inner Sanctum. The daily scrying on tracker Holcrel revealed him to be exploring a cave that the dark Aspect had previously inhabited.
Maldus also utilized Sending magic, attempting to contact Daresh and the Kasite counter-attack force in Korem. His lifelong friend did not reply, indicating that the wizard was incapable of doing so, on another plane of existance, or worse, dead. A scrying by Dokari revealed the man to be gravely injured, but being tended to. In hopes of a good outcome for his friend, Maldus visited the Church of Everlasting Hope, tithing and praying alongside another of his friends, Telerai.
Veshday, Seventh of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Planning a return to Bet Kasel in the afternoon, the Party devoted the morning hours to resupplying and personal business. Maldus and Stoat visited temples to their respective faiths, finally capable of affording powerful True Resurrections for their departed loved ones – each innocents taken by violence. A special ceremony conducted by Soother Vrasthaldol returned Olelita Randorian, wife of Maldus, to the world of the living, a happy occasion that was quickly made more so by the appearance of their daughter Mindoleen, teleported to Cosolen via the dedicated charm on her father’s Bracelet of Friends.
Elsewhere, guided in by the cleric Dendrala Minel, cousin to his former teammate Brendolm, Stoat’s True Resurrection ritual was carried out by none other than the Artiste Danasan of Napalido, restoring his twin sister Obri Faircap to life. The pair shared a tearful reunion, and though it remained to be seen on that day, the affair was, with any luck, the beginning of a transformation; one that would allow Stoat to be rid of his grief and sorrow, and to once again become Kepec Faircap. In the meantime, he still had work to do, and housed his sister on the grounds of the Academy after speaking with Headmaster Volren.
With the rituals completed, the Party’s determination returned, and their hearts steeled against those who would do the world, and the people they loved upon it, harm. Maldus used another of his dedicated charms, transporting his wayward friend, the wounded wizard Daresh to him. In a flash of white light, the Dejy man was healed of his injuries, his broken body restored to perfection in an instant by the Aspect of Life.
Maldus charged his friend with the protection of his family, a task the awe-struck wizard accepted with the utmost devotion. When asked of the results of his prior research, Daresh was pained to admit a level of failure. The vast libraries he visited had little to offer in the way of information on the dark Aspects. The best he had been able to find was a purchase order for building construction on a second home for Argenon Remel. Evidently the “eccentric warlock” had desired seclusion high in the mountains, and built a residence there.
Thanking Daresh for what information he could uncover, the Party moved to the antiquities shop of Forberon, where the magical augmentations to Maldus’ heavy Mace were scheduled to be completed. The broker handed the item over and informed the Group that the mask previously ordered by Arkus would be in the following day as expected. Rarnok stated his intention to retrieve the item and exited the shop.
As the Party readied for their return trip to Bet Kasel, a voice found Alamir’s ear, that of Sedeel. The mercenary wizard had been dispatched less than two days ago, and already there was news. This would surely be very good, or very bad. Her news however was a mixture of the two. Potentially good in the short term, likely bad in the long term. She spoke of the discovery of troops from Kalamar, an “elite legion” already nearing Ek’Kasel. It appeared the Emperor to the east intended to use the invasion in some way, perhaps to regain territory in the Young Kingdoms.
Diaday, Eighth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Having arrived to the Bet Kasel castle of King Eresar II the previous afternoon, the Party had spent the previous night in the King’s company, learning of the events that transpired in their absence. The reports indicated that the hobgoblins had received reinforcements from Salido, and that the siege engines – though damaged by the Group’s battle – had made the trip. Worse still, the portal allowing devils to join the humanoids was still open – located outside the city to the west.
Eresar II issued assurances that the Krangi could be dealt with, but that the devil portal might be beyond the capability of his soldiers. To that end, he requested the Party seek out the gate and close it, being both powerful in their own right and more knowledgeable of such things. Maldus consented on the Group’s behalf and in short order dispatched Azravan to conduct aerial reconnaissance of the western front, in search of the portal.
Located a short time later, the Halfling described the devil portal, confirming the suspicion held by the other Group members, that the portal was the result of a portal stone, similar to the one first seen back in Cunvden and functioning exactly like the ones gifted to them by Inferno back in the Voldorwoods. Without a keeper, the portal stones functioned only for a matter of moments. If however, someone were to uphold the link, it could be maintained far longer, perhaps indefinitely. The one tending the portal from the other side needed to be eliminated to close it.
The Group exited the castle then, casting various temporary enhancements and flying toward the portal location. A horde of lesser devils guarded the opening, but could not react fast enough to prevent the Party from entering. Inside, as feared, the portal led to the dreaded Nine Hells of Baator. Being on the outer planes, this realm was alien to the material plane, and contained all manner of horrific entities, including those that were maintaining the opening now…a trio of Pit Fiends!
The fiends reacted quickly to the Party’s arrival, attacking almost as soon as the Group crossed. Stoat zipped away from the entry point, diving behind a large rock and taking cover. Meanwhile, Alamir stood against the nearest devil, taking several brutal strikes from the fiend. Azravan took to the air, invisibly flying out of reach of the creatures. Casting with caution, Maldus used his power to heal the wounded Aspect of Valor. Rarnok, well versed in lore regarding these beasts reached his conclusion immediately, the Party had to leave.
Calling for a retreat, the Aspect of Time brokered no interruption as he touched the targets of his spell. The devils had been ready for an attack on their portal, and had guarded it well. Even as Aspects, the Group could not do battle with the whole of the Nine Hells. This threat was beyond even them, and needed to be addressed quickly if their mission was to be a success. Upon hearing his explanation, the others agreed, and the Party of Aspects plane shifted to the Eternal Palace, to seek guidance from their patron Deities.
The lovely Alanthiess greeted the heroes once more, and spoke with the gods on behalf of the Group. A meeting soon formed in the grand chambers of the Celestial Council, with representatives of various other gods or the Deities themselves present. It was obvious that the issue had grown in the divine circles, likely with worshippers from other faiths now jeopardized by the widening conflict. Alamir broke the relative silence of numerous smaller discussions, calling for action in the face of this new threat.
Differing sides spoke their respective arguments, some urging caution while others shouted for blood. In time, even The Dark One himself was in attendance, glorious in his divinity, yet utterly corrupt in his mannerisms. In the end, it was a neutral party that brokered an agreement. Listening all the while, The Riftmaster finally spoke. The forces of dark were numbered five, with four dark Aspects and one Godspawn. The forces of light, originally numbered at five light Aspects, had been reduced to four, and certainly a Godspawn was worth two Aspects.
To preserve the balance, The Riftmaster would enter “the contest”, and forbade any others from joining. As a counter to the threat of the outer planes, additional augmentation to the forces of light were agreed upon. The Party of Aspects and their ally Azravan were to become the “Circle of Exarchs”. Once done, the stage would be set for the endgame, with the survival of the sun, and perhaps the whole of the material plane, at stake…