Having survived the “to the death” challenge issued by Tugazh and bested both the last of Sulgaruk Vaktohg’s hobgoblins and their horned devil ally, the Aspects had searched the surrounding area and located the prisoner Andnon, who was guarded by one Rolmak of the Knights of the Black Pit. The humanoid responded well to religious debate, agreeing to disclose new details concerning the dual-invasion of Korak and Ek’Kasel; and their relation to The Dark One.
Rolmak then revealed that the Godspawn son of Mravroshkha-Khielshor himself walked the face of Tellene and stood at the head of the invasion force, spreading the will of his father. As for the invasions themselves, the capitals of both nations were within the Krangi grasp, and would soon bring to reality visions gifted many months ago to Herkuul “The Crow”, the Nightmaster of the Church of Endless Night. With the situation in Korak later verified after a hasty teleportation trip, the Party would move next to examine the situation in Ek’Kasel…
Katarday, Third of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Traveling from General Garnak’s keep in Korem to Ek’Kasel in the blink of an eye, the Party arrived to the residence of Suramer Pamasna, Koraki diplomat to King Eresar II’s court in Bet Kasel. Their letters of introduction from General Garnak, and commission papers from Prince Sevlen of Cosdol proved their status easily enough, and quickly earned the Group his aid in gaining an audience with the King – who stood in council with his senior military advisers.
En route to the castle, a familiar voice found Maldus’ ear; that of the Reanaarian wizard Sedeel – last seen departing P’Bapar for Cosdol with her servant Urohn, the spellcaster Balamir, and Folemir Gola and his Dark Blades mercenary company. A simple message delivered through Sending, Sedeel informed the Aspect cleric that Gola had withdrawn the Dark Blades from his service after learning of events in Korak. Presumably he sought to return to P’Bapar to seek a new employer before the pass could be closed by the fast approaching winter months.
Her message further stated affairs in Cosdol to be improving, with the pledged Eldoran troops nearing the border and the orcs by this point driven back toward the Krond Heights. With the Party’s hired force effectively eradicated after the withdraw of the Dark Blades, Sedeel herself – and by extention Urohn – was free to assist in other tasks; an announcement prompting the Aspect of Life to bid her come to Bet Kasel with all haste.
Arrival to the King’s castle came next, with the Party permitted access on the word of Diplomat Pamasna and inspection of their supplied credentials. As the Group entered, a strange tapestry caught Maldus’ eye, that of a lordly woman wearing a blood-soaked crown standing with hundreds of hanged people behind her. It was a jarring image for the cleric of Selandi, but such distractions would have to wait, the invasion demanded his focus at the present.
The situation – as displayed by the council’s maps – was indeed a dire one, with the forces of Norga-Krangrel nearly surrounding the capital from a distance. In all likelihood, the resulting “noose” would be steadily tightened, until Bet Kasel fell or its citizens starved in the streets. For his part, Eresar II admitted that he had long expected a large hobgoblin attack, but this invasion had exceeded his predictions, and the appearance of an enemy general atop a massive black dragon had been something no one planned for.
Descriptions of the dragon rider produced no positive identification, but convinced the Group that they had been right about the Aspect of Malice leading the attack in Ek’Kasel. Even if the rider weren’t Malice, he and his mount needed to be removed from the confrontation; not to mention the black dragon’s blood component of the rituals the Party hoped to use to restore the Dark Aspects to their former heroic selves. If they were fortunate, they could kill two birds with one stone by striking down the rider.
Now fully briefed on the situation, the Aspects requested the King select a target for the Group to focus their efforts on. Their unique talents and powerful magics were at his disposal, and if he could but provide a knowledgeable guide to the countryside, they could move about even faster than the dragon rider, and thus gain key maneuverability over the enemy’s commander. To this end, Eresar II assigned a talented wizard to the Group, the Halfling Azravan. Finally, he designated the Banader River region as a vital lifeline that needed to be held.
The meeting concluded shortly thereafter, leaving the Party to make their plans and move against what would surely be a strong enemy presence. As a primary trade route for the Young Kingdoms – and a link between Korak’s capital of Korem and Ek’Kasel’s capital of Bet Kasel, the Banader River was bound to be crawling with Krangi troops, attempting to maintain an iron grip on the key waterway. As the Party departed the castle and searched for lodgings, Sedeel approached them, having transported herself and Urohn to the city by way of magic.
Fireday, Fourth of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Devoting the early morning to planning and final preparations for their trip, the Party exited the capital before midday, using Azravan’s intimate local knowledge to teleport roughly a mile from where recent sightings of enemy units had been reported. Stoat scouted ahead as the Group moved along the river’s edge, soon hearing the clomping of boots and steering of watercraft. A convoy of supply barges and shore-positioned Krangi troops moved unknowing, toward the Party.
The Group reacted quickly, concealing themselves and allowing the supply line to bypass them undisturbed. While they could certainly disrupt or even eliminate the column, the blowing of a single alarm horn, or the escape of a single enemy could jeopardize the overall mission. If, as was rumored, the Sun Slayer Azak Naggetrek led the northern advance against Bet Kasel, his death or capture was of paramount importance; infinitely more than eliminating supplies bound for foot soldiers.
Once clear of the column, the Group decided further caution was needed. Azravan offered an invisibility-cloaked aerial survey of the upcoming terrain, a wise move that gained immediate approval. The Golden Halfling returned a short time later, describing a large base-camp possessing hundreds of additional troops, and a grand pavilion tent. Of everything he had seen from the sky, it seemed the most probable candidate for Naggetrek’s location.
Having seen the area, Azravan used his teleportation magic, successfully placing the Party – made invisible moments before – within the main tent and within sight of the occupants. As hoped for, the leadership of the camp was inside, with a ranking Knight of the Black Pit leading a meeting of subordinate clerics, military officers and an assortment of devils. With prior information indicating Naggetrek’s frequent contact with devils and other summoned outsiders, the safe assumption was that the primary target had been located.
The hireling Sedeel acted first, removing herself from the cover of invisibility with a casting of Chain Lightning at the table’s occupants. Her servant Urohn took up position in front of her, still magically hidden from view. The enemy responded with by barricading the tent’s exit and sounding an alarm. One of a pair of horned devils rose from the meeting and struck the exposed wizard with his spiked chain, stunning her with foul demonic power.
With the fight now underway, the Party entered the fray. Rarnok summoned a deadly Cloud Kill spell on enemy troops while Azravan took to the air, flying, invisibly overtop of the Krangi forces and pummeling them with area of effect spells. Alamir took up sword against the host of devils, receiving the oncoming swarm of barbed fiends enthusiastically. Maldus remained in his invisible state, using his Aspect healing pulse and ranged heals to aid his friends.
As the battle commenced, Stoat struck the first death blow, using his Belt of Battle to unleash a flight of arrows into the chest of the enemy leader Azak Naggetrek. In a matter of seconds, the towering Hobgoblin had gone from menacing threat, to fallen foe – a veritable assassination by the Aspect of Resolve. Being thus removed from his invisibility effect, the Halfling infiltrator braced himself for the fury of the enemy’s response… only to find he was again invisible – courtesy of a second casting of the magic by his companions.
Enemies fell quickly before the assault of the Aspects and their allies, save for the pair of horned devils who had muscled their way into the melee’s center. Even with their prior experience fighting such a creature at the challenge battle near Almven, the Group struggled to wound the beasts – who were heavily resistant to magic and possessed hide of the toughest caliber. Alamir took the worst beating of the Party, being chained and impaled at various times by all of the cluster of devils surrounding him.
Between casts of healing spells, Maldus made a startling discovery, as he spotted a number of enemy soldiers picking up the felled Sun Slayer to extract him from the area – presumably to receive a resurrection or reincarnation at another location. He shouted to the rest of the Group, who took steps to prevent the escape of the deceased leader. Azravan used his disintegration spell, reducing the corpse to dust in the hands of the enemy troops.
In response, the soldiers grabbed handfuls of their slain leader, evidently knowing that a portion of his remains would be needed to restore him to life. They attempted to flee the area, doing their best to spread themselves to avoid area attacks. The effort was not to be however, as the Party quickly blocked them in, using Blade Barrier, Wall of Thought and other barrier-style spells to prevent the minions flight.
As Stoat and Azravan picked off the now-trapped soldiers, Alamir and Rarnok squared off against the horned devils. The previous encounter had prepared the pair of Aspects, who were this day immune to the fear effects now known to emanate from the wicked monsters. Additionally, Rarnok had readied himself for such an encounter, utilizing new equipment to bypass the unholy durability of the fiends. Meanwhile, Sedeel and Urohn maintained the room’s security, taking out stragglers and keeping the Party safe from any new arrivals.
Despite the devils’ power, the potency of the Aspect Party could not be stopped. Calling out to Brovadol, the Aspect of Valor charged the final beast, cutting it nearly in two with Serun’s Blade. The strike left the creature in critical condition, and it was quickly finished off in the moments that followed. With the few seconds available to them, the Group collected what they could, taking maps, equipment and a handful of Naggetrek’s ashen remains before teleporting away from a new horde of fresh opponents…