Victorious over the enemy Aspects, the Party laid to rest their fallen comrade Hilg and constructed what answers they could from the rattled mind of Gonjeyla Sarazi before journeying to the city of Crandolen in search of further information regarding the restoration rituals to redeem the fallen heroes under The Blacksoul’s command. The trip had also seen the completion of Serun’s Blade, and brought the Group’s attention to the Krangi invasion of the buffer state of Korak.
The resulting “teleportation trail” blazed the heroes from the markets in Crandolen to P’Bapar and finally to the Koraki capital of Korem, where they quickly offered assistance and made their way to the front lines. The trip to the front took the Group south, to the border keep at Katebapido, where the expected Hobgoblin troops had taken control of a portion of the buffer zone, assisted by dark magic and summoned demons…
Homeday, Twelfth of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Situated somewhat precariously at a midpoint in the Krangi offensive, the Party hastily gathered intelligence from the remaining Koraki soldiers. Their objective, a lost cause prior to the Group’s arrival, had initially been to determine the direction of troop movements on the part of the hobgoblins, with a focus on ascertaining likely targets of attack – as well as to assess the potential for hostile action against the neighboring Kingdom of Ek’Kasel.
The brief discourse provided no plan to maintain the position and ended with the troops escorting the captured humanoids out of the keep. For the moment at least, it seemed that Korak had conceded this portion of the buffer zone to the invaders. Being only a small band without means to hold the line against a literal army of foes, the Party would be forced to leave as well, and made ready to do so – delaying only a few moments to collect what useful items were presently available.
As he hurried through the room, Alamir glanced up to find a weapon trained on him… the deadly shortbow of Stoat. The Halfling had surreptitiously knocked the arrow of Darnel, the Great Huntress – gifted to the Party by Hilg’s patron deity during their first trip to the Eternal Palace – and released it without a word said, plunging the divine instrument deep into Alamir’s chest. The awe-struck Aspect of Valor doubled over in pain, as Stoat slipped into the shadows and out of view.
Sensing something wrong, Rarnok turned his view to Alamir, only to find the cleric of Brovadol slashing into him with The Civilizer, Serun’s Blade. The gnome could scarcely believe his eyes, and told himself that such had to be a falsehood, even as the blood flowed from his open wound. Having not seen Stoat’s assault, the Aspect of Time had no reason to find the lack of an arrow in Alamir’s chest strange, nor was it unusual that the Aspect of Resolve stood nearby.
The newcomer Arkus also found things amiss, as Alamir and Maldus attacked him suddenly, accusing him of treachery and shouting angrily about his “blasphemous view” of their cherished gods. The Vessel of Man did his best to defend against the enraged clerics, but found the pair to be more than a match for his skill. The inconsistencies in the state of affairs within the room were lost on him, having not bore witness to the visions of his fellows.
Seeing his allies greatly wounded from random and unprovoked attacks against one another, Maldus lept into action, calling on the holy powers of Selandi to heal them. The white magic burned them like fire, and charred the flesh of the Aspect of Life as well. Astonished and with no way to help his friends, Maldus could do little but look on helplessly as the Group members writhed in agony. Even the periodic healing pulse of his Aspect power further injured them.
Meanwhile, oblivious to the events transpiring in the eyes of his companions, Stoat looked over the Party with confusion. Each acted out of sorts and in reaction to some manner of unseen encroachment… Some, like Rarnok and Alamir, reacted as if pained. While others, like Arkus and Maldus, reacted in panic. Cosdrelita lay on the floor, crying and screaming as to why the Party would hurt her, and even the projected Dokari stood wide-eyed and motionless, apparently affected as well.
The halfling studied the room carefully, searching for any sign of an aggressor or malicious device. Then – as abruptly as it had started – the trance faded, releasing the Party and their allies back to normalcy. Rarnok was the first to act, instructing everyone to encircle him for a teleportation spell. Whoever or whatever had been the cause of the effect had done so without detection and had overcome the entirety of the Group simultaneously.
In an instant the Aspect Party was gone from the keep, appearing – much to the proprietor’s surprise – within the confines of Forberon’s antiquities shop in the Cosdol capital of Cosolen, hundreds of miles away. They asked immediately after Prince Sevlen and were happy to learn that the prince had returned from Eldor, by all accounts in success regarding his mission to secure aid from the less than friendly Kingdom to the south.
News that the Krangi invasion had gained a solid foothold stunned the Prince’s court, but with affairs in Cosdol still unresolved, they could do little save for offer prayers on the buffer state’s behalf. For his part, Sevlen directed the Party to the Kingdom’s northern lands, where word of kidnappings, murders, and eyeless corpses offered possible connection to the recent movements of Guldella Olmlor and the Aspect of Undeath prior to the battle outside the temple of Brovadol.
With a new investigation mission in hand, the Aspects again made use of Rarnok’s teleportation spell, returning to the reclaimed temple that now served as prison for the Aspect of Undeath. For his part, Alamir was pleased to see that the young warrior Lellana had arrived, but was unable to visit her, as Guardian Strond had other news of import. The hired swordsmen who had stood guard over the inner sanctum were dead, having evidently entered the chamber as a group and been slain by the powerful inner sanctum guardians.
Strond could offer no explanation as to why the mercenaries would have entered, particularly after being warned of the dangers and instructed to remain outside, but they had nonetheless gone in, falling victim to the guardians. Having been recently victimized by hallucinations or mental manipulations in Korak, the Party theorized that the same culprit could be at work in both cases. Were these incidents perhaps the first move in a chess-like battle against some significantly dangerous adversary? The Aspects of Malice and Torment were still unaccounted for after-all…
Godday, Thirteenth of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Following a tense night with Stoat standing guard over the Inner Sanctum, Maldus rose early, communing with Selandi to gain insight into recent events. The deity answered numerous questions, most with certainty. Of particular note regarding the responses, Maldus learned that:
- The Aspect of Undeath had not compelled the mercenaries to enter the Inner Sanctum.
- Keeping the Aspect of Undeath alive would ultimately benefit the cause of light more than destroying her.
- The Group was being monitored with Scrying from afar, but the recent mental attack had not been achieved through the same means.
- Dokari’s Crystal Ball was in some way dangerous to the Party.
Satisfied that the commune had given him enough to guide his decision-making, the Aspect of Life emerged from his ritual area and informed his companions of the results. With Stoat needed alongside the rest of the Group, it was decided that the Inner Sanctum would be bricked up until the Party was ready to conduct the rite to restore Gonjeyla Sarazi to life. Guardian Strond placed workmen on the task straight away while the Aspects made ready to again leave the temple.
Noting that Roth was still returning to the temple with the recovered mounts (via Scrying), the Party traveled on foot to meet with him, reclaiming their mounts outside Hihden and continuing northward with the intent of conducting the investigation into the eyeless kidnap and murder victims for Prince Sevlen. They followed the roads as far north as Durven before heading overland into the trees of the Voldorwoods to avoid having to go through the waterways which would add additional time to their trip. A week after their departure from the site of the lost temple, the Party arrives to the town of Almven in the northern territories.
Godday, Twentieth of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Entering the northern town of Almven, the Group was directed to the local Temple of Enchantment when they inquired with the locals as to kidnappings, murders or eyeless victims. The Keyholder there greeted the Party, and showed them to a man in his care that had been recovered by woodcutters, and – who had been the victim of a dark ritual in which his eyes were removed. The man named hobgoblins as the ones responsible for his kidnapping, and described the ritual that robbed him of both his eyes and sight.
Recognizing the descriptions as being consistent with the Church of Endless Night, Arkus informed the Party of his findings while Maldus procured permission from the Keyholder to return on the morrow to use his magics to restore vision to the recovering victim. With this accomplished, the Group turned next to the local constabulary, learning in the process that The Dark One’s church operated openly within the city limits.
The constable explained that the large majority of the Church’s attendees were fearful of the dark god and paid homage more to avoid his wrath than in support of his cause. There were some however who were more direct followers and were suspect in committing recent acts of kidnapping and murder. The issue had only days before come to a head when a Knight of the Black Pit had been killed and a member of the Order of Light accused of his murder.
The clergyman of the Eternal Lantern, one Senden Edarn, claimed innocence of murder – accusing the Church of Endless Night of attempting to murder him and defile his church. The resulting battle, in which Edarn had been victorious, had cost the would be Knight-assassin his life. However, with no conclusive evidence in either direction, Edarn had voluntarily entered custody and awaited a ruling by the town’s local magistrate – who even now reviewed the case.
Rarnok, desiring a more swift resolution to the case, offered the magistrate the services of a Paladin of Vrilnan, the True, a proposition quickly agreed to. The gnome used Sending magic to request the assistance of former Party member Sir Brendolm Minel, Lord of Tigden; and upon receiving Brendolm’s response in the affirmative, used his Teleportation spells to bring the Paladin to Almven. Under the watchful eye of the Truthseeker, Edarn related his story, a truthful telling that implicated the Knight of the Black Pit Tordal as one of the attempted murderers.
Veshday, Twenty-first of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Waiting only long enough for Maldus to restore the sight of the latest victim and Rarnok to return Sir Minel safely to Tigden and reappear, the Party began the hunt for Tordal with freshly issued arrest warrant in hand. A search of the woods near the site of the victim’s recovery aided little initially, until the Group was given direction by Wild Elves maintaining a watch on the lumber camp. Using his potent Command spell, Maldus immobilized the small congregation surrounding the wanted cleric and helped to effect the arrest without incident.
Back in Almven, Tordal’s interrogation revealed his superior as the Hobgoblin Sulgaruk Vaktohg, who had ordered attacks against both Senden Edarn as well as other worshippers of Bleslelna, the Eternal Lantern. The orders quickly escalated to abductions of any available persons and quick rituals to The Dark One with sacrifices of eyes. Fearful of his own safety should he refuse, Tordal had done as ordered, bringing anyone he could safely get his hands on to the humanoids.
Scrying on Vaktohg revealed the humanoid to be within the company of several of his fellows. The Group quickly formulated a bold plan to ambush the dark cleric and readied themselves for battle. Casting a full compliment of augmentation spells before acting, the Party teleported directly to the villain’s camp, engaging him unaware and catching his defenders by surprise. Maldus quickly used his Blade Barrier spell to cut off several of the reinforcements, while Arkus, Rarnok and Alamir assaulted Sulgaruk.
Caught unprepared, the hobgoblin leader fell quickly, heavily damaged before he even knew an attack was forthcoming. The efforts to revive him on the part of his various subordinates were ultimately unsuccessful, as the continuous onslaught perpetrated by the Group outshone the small amounts of healing provided him. In the end, the lone surviving hobgoblin, Shatu was forced to surrender or face certain annihilation.
With the battle concluded, interrogation of the captured Shatu revealed that more than thirty additional hobgoblin warriors roamed the area, answering to Vaktohg. When prompted for Vaktohg’s superior, the captured warrior refused to answer, a problem quickly remedied by the Charm of Dokari. Making the trek back to Almven, the Group contemplated the potential complexities of going after their next target – Sulgaruk Vaktohg’s master, the Sun Slayer Azak Naggetrek…