Opposite the wicked Aspect of Undeath, the assembled Aspects of Valor, Life, Time and Resolve remained on the field of battle – still seeking a method to bring down the undead queen. Their victory over Guldella Olmlor and the Aspect of Rage had been a costly one, leaving Hilg – the Aspect of Nature – dead, and Rarnok without equipment. Elsewhere, inside the temple, Guardian Strond and the hired workmen could only nervously await the arrival of their salvation… or their doom.
In the end however, compassion bested brute force, as the efforts of Maldus and Alamir to force Undeath to remember her previous existence as Gonjeyla Sarazi prevailed, crippling the dark Aspect with despair and ending both her aggression and the struggle. Her willingness to accept the Party’s assistance in being restored to life prompted a visit to Selandi at the Eternal Palace, revealing materials that would be necessary to undo the dark curse of The Blacksoul.
Homeday, Fifth of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Placing the hired workmen on clearing the Aspect battle site of corpses and debris, the Party tasked Guardian Strond with scouring the temple’s Hall of Scrolls for any mention of Aspects, or associated materials which could be useful in their quest to redeem Gonjeyla Sarazi and the other forced servants of The Dark One. In the interim, a small funeral service was held for the fallen Hilg, with his Brick of Remembrance used to mark the grave.
Other business included the arrival of tracker Holcrel to the temple, who sought a new assignment in light of the death of his previous mark, Guldella Olmlor. A brief deliberation concluded with the Group dispatching the hired hand to retrace Undeath’s steps as far back as he could, hoping that in doing so, the tracker would uncover a location on the Aspect of Malice or Torment, or another similarly useful tidbit of information.
With things in motion, Maldus devoted time to conversation with the imprisoned and lethargic Aspect of Undeath, using the crystal ball to project the illusionary Dokari directly into the sealed weapon’s cache so as to avoid entering the chamber and triggering a confrontation with the formidable inner sanctum guardians. The queen of undeath spoke of an ebony citadel where her band of heroes had tracked their prey, where they had ultimately encountered death itself in the shapeless cloud-form of Manfred Blackmourn.
Thinking back to Cunvden, the Aspect of Life recalled the towering black fortress viewed briefly when the Group had crossed into the Plane of Shadows through what he now knew was the spherical gate spawned by a portal stone. Was this the citadel Undeath spoke of?
Godday, Sixth of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Hoping that a visit paid to the wise men of their largest nearby cathedrals would give them answers, the Party departed the temple once more, scrying on Soother Vrasthaldol in Crandolen momentarily before appearing in his office via Rarnok’s teleport spell. The Soother had no works on Aspects in his library, but did possess scrolls related to separating demons from their hosts – information that would likely have relation to the ritual they would require.
Taking the documents carefully, the Party exited the cathedral, stopping into the antiquities shop of Yarnar the sorcerer on their way to the Halls of the Valiant. An acquaintance and former colleague of wizard’s guild broker Forberon of Cosolen, Yarnar proved a likable man and made the business of offloading items taken from Guldella Olmlor swift and pleasant.
The marketplace detour also introduced the Group to the traveler Arkus. Claiming association with the Vessels of Man, the stranger insisted the gods were little more than a plague upon Tellene, but was nonetheless knowledgeable about their lore. A capable, though faithless figure, Arkus took great interest in talk of the dark Aspects of The Blacksoul and was shortly after accepted temporarily into the Group to assist in battling them.
The Party moved next to the Halls of the Valiant, where Champion Coltind Veldor eagerly greeted Alamir, having previously received copies of his letters regarding the discovery and reclaiming of the lost temple. The Champion elevated the Aspect of Valor to the rank of Protector, and assigned to him the young warrior Lellana as his follower. Veldor also possessed pages pulled from the church’s archives, pages containing a ritual detailing the long-ago exorcism of a being who was said to be “divinely empowered”.
Of particular note on the list of required materials was a goblet of black dragon’s blood – an entry that would surely require investigation to locate an appropriate creature. It was agreed that the planned trip to the Plane of Shadows fortress in Cunvden would need to be put on hold, as crossing over without the necessary items would prove quite fruitless. The Party could, in the meantime, look into other smaller tasks.
Leaving the Group at the Halls of the Valiant, Rarnok teleported to Cosolen, intent on updating Prince Sevlen and speaking with Forberon concerning the acquisition of other items from the list. Though unable to see the Prince – who was still away in Eldor, the Gnome was able to speak with Folikar Pateris – both informing him of recent developments and collecting the gold promised by the Prince for the hiring of mercenaries in P’Bapar.
The trip also alerted the Aspect of Time to news of great import. The hobgoblins of Norga-Krangrel – who worshiped The Dark One and held his Church of Endless Night as their state religion – had launched an invasion force into Korak. As the long standing buffer state preventing the humanoids from attacking any other nation, Korak stood as a vital element to maintaining stability in the region and averting the spread of The Dark One’s influence. The invasion could not be allowed to succeed… lest the Time of the Void become unstoppable.
Utilizing his teleportation magics once more, the Gnome returned to his companions in Crandolen and updated them on the latest news. The Group made hasty preparations while Alamir conferred with Champion Veldor regarding the sword fragments he had discovered within the lost temple. The sword, pictured on chapel paintings in the hands of Brovadol’s herald Serun, was fully assembled at last, and reconfigured itself to allow Alamir’s chosen weapon The Civilizer, Serun’s Blade to be slotted into it, converting the weapon to The Civilizer, Serun’s Blade.
Purchasing two scrolls of Teleport to permit the Group to travel instantly despite his magic being exhausted, Rarnok transported the Party to P’Bapar where they confirmed the news of the invasion and sent word via Sending to Roth to notify Guardian Strond and the other temple inhabitants as well as to journey northwest to retrieve the mounts left behind days before. The follower Lellana departed Cosolen and began travel toward the lost temple, where she was instructed to await Alamir’s return.
The Group moved next to the shop of Bali Hetemel, who was able to give them the name of a contact in Korem. The merchant, Fanam Hana, was quickly viewed with Scrying and gave the Party a place to Teleport to. Hana subsequently gave the Group the name of both the nation’s leader, General Alere Garnak, as well as his finance minister Blim. Deciding it better to not simply appear in the General’s presence, the Party traveled through the city to the grand fortress and gained access through their commission papers naming them agents of Prince Sevlen.
General Garnak was able to inform the Group that the hobgoblins had broken through the southern lines and had taken control of a stretch of the buffer zone some ten miles wide near Katebapido. They offered to ride south to assist in the war effort, and Garnak agreed, wishing them the best and warning them of reports describing what he believed was a monster of unknown origin attacking his forces. Rarnok conjectured that the effect described by the General – that of an unseen entity slaughtering soldiers – could also be the work of magic.
With all available information exchanged the Party was given the name of the minister of state (Purus Sapila) as their Scrying contact person – the General being warded from such effects – and sped along their way. Names of various captains at the front lines provided for scrying/teleportation turned out to be all slain, so the Group was forced to travel manually. They were provided with mounts to ride south and after nearly a week arrived to the scene of the breach.
Homeday, Twelfth of Reaping, 1044 Y.K.
Arriving to within sight of the breach to discover the end of an outburst of combat, the Aspect Agents approached the hobgoblin-occupied fortress as Human soldiers conducted a withdraw, having apparently failed at some manner of counter attack. Disciplined hobgoblin troops guarded the keep’s entrance and manned the walls and nearby support structures. Also among their number were a trio of huge spider-like creatures, patrolling the field and supported by hobgoblin units.
The Group wasted no time, charging forth and joining what few Human soldiers remained. Rarnok, Alamir and Maldus moved toward the keep itself, dismounting to engage the enemy head on. Meanwhile, Stoat and Arkus diverted toward the wall, lined with archers overlooking the field. With his horse still at full gallop, the Aspect of Resolve slipped to the underside of the beast, avoiding fire and reaching a broken section of wall with little difficulty.
Back near the keep, Alamir put The Civilizer, Serun’s Blade to quick use, slicing into the first spider creature and cleaving it in two in the blink of an eye. Despite their astonishment, the hobgoblins maintained their ranks, attempting to box the lordly warrior in. The second spider focused its attention on Maldus, webbing the cleric in place and heading toward him. Rarnok took position beside Alamir, giving the Party Haste and calling for Cosdrelita’s song.
Immobilized, but not out of the fight, Maldus blocked his spider’s path with a Blade Barrier, encircling the monster and the squad of troops that supported it. He activated his Dimension Stride Boots next, removing himself from the web and focused his area of attack spells on the unit blocking the keep’s entrance. Rarnok and Alamir moved to the grouping as well, having made short work of the squad that advanced on them moments before.
Elsewhere, at the wall, Stoat climbed the crumbled section and slipped unnoticed past the archers line, his eye on the roof of the keep itself. The cranking of gears and pulleys drew his focus, and the Halfling made his way up once more, locating the siege engines he had expected. A nearby barrel of pitch and a bit of fire removed the first engine and its crew from the fight, while an expertly fired arrow severed the lifeblood cord of the second.
In the fiery chaos of dying siege engineers, the tiny Infiltrator moved toward the rooftop hatch, sending an arrow into the neck of the unfortunate humanoid sent up to investigate the noise. He slipped down the ladder and into the upper level, spotting a robed figure summoning another spider creature. Launching a sneak attack from concealment, Stoat made sure that summon would be the last, and ducked to avoid the spider’s gaze as its summoner hit the floor with a thud.
Downstairs, the squad of entrance guardians had withdrawn to the door’s inside, attempting to avoid massacre at the hands of Alamir and Rarnok. Their position of safety behind the locked door lasted only a moment, as the powerful swings of the cleric of Brovadol splintered it in short order. Maldus meanwhile, had taken to casting against the wall archers, deafening them with a powerful Thunderclap. The hobgoblins trapped inside the Blade Barrier busied themselves avoiding a small flight of Flaming Spheres.
With the keep effectively overrun, the upper level defenders conceded the position, withdrawing along the wall to friendly territory. Those unable to retreat fought until cut down, buying their allies time to make their escape. The deafened archers used hand signals to coordinate their movements, fleeing the immediate area as the last of their fellows in the keep’s lower levels perished. Troops contained inside the Blade Barrier laid down their swords, having surrender as their only option.
Assembling once more, the Party collected what they could from the area and looked down the length of the walls where the retreating enemies linked up with secondary positions and erected additional barriers. The small grouping of Human soldiers who had returned during the fighting stood alongside the Aspect heroes – but it would surely take more to close the gap entirely.