Requesting additional aid from their patron deities following the discovery of Pit Friends and other greater Baatezu from the Nine Hells of Baator at the end point of the “devil portal”, the Aspect Party and their newest ally Azravan stood before a grand assembly in the halls of the Celestial Council within the Eternal Palace to be remade as The Circle of Exarchs. Intended to both counter the threat of the outer planes and bring “balance” to the present conflict, the Group’s second alteration had been proposed by The Riftmaster, who elected to recreate the Party’s junior member personally.
Bolstered by their augmented capabilities, the Circle entered into dialogue with the commanders of the approaching Kalamaran legion, coordinating a joint attack on the Hobgoblin forces of Norga-Krangrel following the Group’s closure of the portal to the Nine Hells. With the agreement in place, the Party re-entered the realm of the Baatezu, slaughtering the trio of Pit Fiend guardians with equal parts ease and flourish. No longer reinforced by a steady supply of devils, the Krangi would have to face the combined Human forces on their own…
Fireday, Eleventh of Harvest, 1044 Y.K.
Making their move in the deepest part of night, the Kalamaran advance force did as ordered and engaged the invading hobgoblins. With their target possessing a fixed, defended position, vastly superior numbers and the ability to see in even the blackest of conditions, the legionnaires assaulted in what was quite possibly the least surprising “surprise attack” one could conceive, rushing into a veritable army of fully prepared and waiting executioners.
By itself, the attack was little more than a suicide pact amongst irrational or more probably insane soldiers, men blinded to the reality of the situation by some sense of superiority or fanaticism. Indeed, of this battle only one thing could be said with certainty, the Kalamaran advance force would be annihilated and the losses they would inflict on the Krangi would be minimal at best. At least, such was the belief the humanoids were intended to have…
The first volley of catapult fire from Bet Kasel’s forward battlements slammed into the hobgoblin position just as the humanoids met the advancing legionnaires face to face. Ballista bolts followed, their impact intensified by a hail storm of arrows from the bowstrings of archers along the city’s wall. A staccato of deafening blasts accompanied the bright flashes and explosive power of fireball and lightning bolt spells hurled from Kasite sorcerers. In seconds, the outcome of the ill-fated attack had changed dramatically.
As the Krangi scrambled to react to the sudden shift in the battle’s momentum, the horn blasts of the Kalamarans’ main force sounded in the night, unveiling the full scope of the plan set into motion by a small advance unit of legionnaires. Instead of a miniscule fight involving their southern perimeter defenses, the whole of the hobgoblin host would enter into this contest, trapped as they now were between the walls of the Kasite capital and the shields of the Kalamaran legion.
The distance between the two armies closed quickly, as the humanoids assembled their battalions and marched to meet the new attackers head on. Command staff and reserve units continued the fight against Bet Kasel, reinforced by elements too engaged to march, previously positioned siege engines and a swarm of Knights of the Black Pit. After numerous days of fighting, the table was finally set for the true battle for the Kasite capital.
Having assisted in the planning of the joint effort now unfolding outside the city’s walls, the Circle of Exarchs charged forth from the opening gate, leading platoons of Ek’Kasel’s soldiers to punch through the enemy lines and enable the extraction of the advance force of legionnaires who so valiantly placed themselves in mortal danger on the city’s behalf. Though given no importance at that exact moment, the question as to why the Emperor of Kalamar would so willingly send men to fight and die for King Eresar II remained unanswered.
Pincered between two coordinated forces and facing down beings with capabilities far beyond normal men, the Krangi seemed remarkably calm, the desperation of their situation evidently lost on them. Had they transitioned from the invaders and would be conquerors to the suicidal fanatics blinded by their own inner feelings of superiority? or was something else at play here? Shouts started then, spoken in the hobgoblin tongue, but understood by Maldus thanks to his Tongues spell. “The trap is set! The time is now!”
All throughout the humanoid army, clerics of the Church of Endless Night shouted the line, rallying the nearly encircled hobgoblins to renewed commitment. Maldus cried out as well, warning his companions and the men who fought alongside them of the unseen danger. Unseen, until that moment. Phasing onto the material plane from the shadow or perhaps astral, an immense donkey headed devil appeared amidst the Kasite soldiers, three times as tall as any man, and as wide as a small building. The behemoth scooped up a nearby trooper with its clawed hand, and decapitated him with its powerful maw.
Across the battlefield, the black furred monsters appeared, some twenty or more in all. Numerous men found themselves crushed under the weight of the hulking devils, or beheaded by the sharp teeth and powerful jaws of the monstrosities. The beasts were clearly Baatezu in nature, and must have come through the Nine Hells portal after the first Pit Fiend battle, but prior to its closing. As the last of the mountainous menaces entered the fray, one final Baatezu appeared.
Nearly as tall as the previous creatures, but looking more closely related to the Pit Fiends seen inside the portal, the newly arrived devil was the color of rusted metal, with large horns, leathery wings and a wicked trident that radiated dark magic. As he coalesced from the nothingness around him, the fiend spread his wings, and slew nearly a full squad of soldiers with a single swing of his weapon. Whatever this devil was, it was clearly one of the organizers of this “trap”.
Endeavoring to save as many lives as possible, Maldus caged the nearest devil with a Blade Barrier spell, sending adjacent troops diving away from the whirling wall of sharp metal. Azravan took to the air, conjuring a Cloud Kill onto the penned up monster. Alamir and Rarnok aided the Kasite soldiers, lending their blades to the cause and issuing orders to steer men clear of the devils. Stoat meanwhile turned his bow on another Baatezu, drawing the creature’s ire.
The Exarch of the Shining One maintained his arrowed attack, maneuvering about various battlefield obstacles and drawing his target clear of friendly fighters. Once sufficiently away from nearby soldiers, Maldus surrounded the mule-headed beast with a Wall of Thought spell. With the two nearest devils contained, the Exarch of Selandi then turned his magic against a large contingent of enemies, shaking the ground with a violent Earthquake spell.
As the powerful magic faded and the land ceased its rumbling, the first trapped beast escaped from its containment, bursting clear through the Blade Barrier and persevering through the damage. Alamir raced to meet the monster, protecting the troops around him from harm. The The Valiant’s Exarch battled bravely against the mammoth devil, dodging blows and inflicting wounds with The Civilizer. All appeared well, until the beast lurched downward with its maw and connected with a powerful bite, removing Alamir’s head.
Still airborne, Azravan continued using his magic to decimate the enemy troops, snaking Lighting Bolts through entire ranks of the Krangi line and freeing up ally units to maneuver and withdraw. The Halfling Exarch was also able to spot the Trident Fiend across the field, who had noticed the powerful magics being wielded by the Party and was moving toward them with a third donkey devil at his side. Azravan shouted warning to his fellows, who hastened to dispatch their current targets.
Maldus meanwhile, expended a portion of his daily magic, calling upon his Exarch power to return Alamir to life with a mighty True Resurrection. Normally a ritual taking several minutes to complete, the Exarch of the Lord of Silver Linings was able to complete the magic in seconds, bringing the ardent Artur back into the fight – to the amazement of onlooking combatants. The re-headed Exarch vowed to recover his helm from the belly of the beast, and raised his sword once more.
Though durable, and in possession of unnatural self-healing, the devils were not invulnerable, and the first pair were steadily brought down. Rarnok’s enchanted weapon found its mark, cutting through the thick hide after transmuting itself to better rend the creature’s flesh. Stoat too avoided the mitigation of the monsters, his Exarch abilities having gifted him with an innate understanding of the beasts’ physiology and weak points. To counter the beasts self-healing, Alamir dragged the pair of behemoths’ corpses into the Blade Barrier, Cloud Kill prison still present.
The winged fiend arrived them, receiving an arrow from Stoat as he neared the Group’s position. Angered, the towering devil charged the offending Halfling from the sky, slashing him with the great Trident. Injured, but not slain, Stoat tumbled past the devil, avoiding a second strike. Alamir and Rarnok attacked the fiend, who cast a magical net onto the retreating Stoat. Being immune to such magic however, the small-sized Exarch shrugged the net off and stepped clear.
Becoming enraged, the devil charged his intended target again, delivering another slash into Stoat’s slender frame. Alamir, forced to turn his attention from the fiend and his trident, instead met the rust colored devil’s companion, another black furred colossus. Given his earlier experience in both defeating and being defeated by this breed of beast, the Exarch cleric of Brovadol minded the lessons learned, bringing the creature down with Serun’s Blade and the assistance of a Spiritual Weapon spell from Maldus.
Elsewhere, Stoat continued to evade his attacker, staying just ahead of the deadly trident being swung and thrust in his direction. Rarnok studied his adversary with care, observing the highly resistant nature of the fiend and lack of effectiveness of spells from Maldus and Azravan. He waited only an instant more before moving to strike, stepping outside the realm of normal time. Being effectively frozen in place, the foul creature had no warning of the blow about to be delivered. To its senses, the devil moved with the utmost speed and precision.
Inside that instant, in the space between seconds, the fiend was slain, though its death would not be apparent to the others for a moment more, until its head fell cleanly from its shoulders, mid attack and mid war cry. Though the immediate danger to the Party passed with the death of their current foe, numerous black furred creatures remained spread across the fighting. Bet Kasel still stood at the threshold of demise, and powerful enemies still moved against their interests in other parts of the Young Kingdoms…