Mensalith's Gambit

The Battle of Blackworth

(3:30am):

Rylocke was awakened by the alarm of a giant bell. Immediately he could tell something was wrong. The bell was being rung by someone in a panic. Outside his room at the inn, he could make out several different sounds; someone shouting orders, the clanking of metal, the screams of women, and the cries of children.

He peered out his second-floor window, into the courtyard below. It was not yet dawn, only the faintest light made out the scene. Crudely armored men were running with purpose to different parts of the town. Torches were sparsely situated around the busy courtyard and on the walls. The town militia could be seen barring the gates, attempting to form ranks, readying weapons. There couldn’t be more than a hundred armed men in the town, and they all seemed to be present.

The Dwarf opened the door to his room and saw a pale-skinned Eladrin with black hair, wearing ornately runed leather, gliding hurriedly down the hall. He called out to him, asking what was happening. The tall Eladrin turned and answered him.

“Enemies – enemies at the gate!”

He retreated back inside, donning his armor and grasping his war hammer. As he looked out the window again, He could see a mass of moving torches, marching toward the front gate. Their flame was burning an unnatural green; the very sight of it filled his heart with dread. The coming horde vastly outnumbered the small band of men inside the gates, and he realized that the townsfolk and soldiers knew this as well. Waves of despair flowed through the town, weakening the defender’s resolve. Rylocke knew that in order to survive whatever is beyond the walls, he mustn’t despair.

The cleric made his way down to the courtyard, the shouts of soldiers filling his ears. One voice was louder than the others; a heavily armored man sitting upon an equally armored white horse, giving orders as men went to and fro. His eyes fell on the Dwarf.

“Dwarf!” He shouted. “Are you here to fight? We could use your hammer!”

“I can fight. What do you need?” Rylocke answered.

“I need men to help barricade the gate, and hold back the horde. I also need those inexperienced fools up on the walls to properly man the catapults. I can’t be everywhere at once!”

Nearby the captain, there were three other visitors, donned in their garments of war, with uncertain looks on their faces. They looked to the captain as he was speaking with authority.

“Outsiders!” The captain gestured to the other three. “I also need you to defend the town with this dwarf and my men, we need every bit of help we can get.“

As they approached the gate, men were reinforcing it with giant wooden planks. Atop the walls, soldiers were loading catapults and archers were trying to find their place. The men manning these siege weapons looked confused and scared, unsure of what to do next.

“Hold the gates! The enemy is upon us!” The captain yelled from the courtyard. “Ready catapults, wait for my mar-“

Suddenly, a hail of flaming arrows fell on the courtyard. The captain was struck in the chest and neck, and fell from his horse. Fear was spreading among the men defending the town, as their leader was struck down. The putrid smell of filth and waste hit the defenders like a wall as they realized the enemy had reached the gates of Blackworth.

As the soldiers looked on, Rylocke was able to inspire them to fight for their lives. He took command of the squad of archers on the wall, directing their fire to great effect. Adrie, the Half-Elf Swordmage led the men on the parapet to pour scalding oil on any enemies unfortunate enough to be at the front gate. Erevan, the Eladrin Wizard, gave orders to a small team manning one of the catapults, and rained massive destruction on the horde. Garret, the Halfling Rogue, took charge of the other catapult, leading them and inspiring those around them to stand fast and destroyed many of the enemy.

The enemy rained flaming arrows on Blackworth, and followed them with giant magically green-flaming boulders that crashed down among the ranks. An evil voice could be heard in the horde, and Adrie sensed that this voice was feverishly shouting angry incantations, directed at the town. Above the gates, dark clouds began to form and swirl, crackling with magical energy. As the fight went on, the voice seemed to get louder and the clouds above grew and became angrier. The defenders felt this was a bad omen, and they retreated from the walls to gather in the courtyard to hold back the gates. But it was too late.

Suddenly, all sounds ceased. A giant lightning bolt tore out of the clouds, and struck the gate, as if directed by some evil force. Splintered wood and broken stones flew through the air as the gates and wall exploded. The defenders were thrown from their positions and everything went black.

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The Slave Caravan

The heroes awake in a cage pulled by giant beasts, hands and feet bound, and without any possessions. They can see that they are amongst a long line of cages and Orc soldiers, presumably the same enemies that attacked them at Blackworth. With them in the cage is a young man, weathered and dirty, staring out at nothing. Garett engages him in conversation and finds out that his name is Alain, and he is from Hullhearth, a town to the north and west of Blackworth, that met a similar fate. His family was in Hullhearth, and he does not know what happened to them, but fears they are dead. Garett gets the feeling that Alain would love to escape, but feels so defeated that he does not care to try. He is overcome with despair.

Some nearby Orcs are overheard talking, and only Adrie can understand what they are saying.

“So what if we are attacked? We are strong, and we’ll just kill the prisoners if we meet any trouble. Stop worrying. I’m thinking more about food and sleep than enemies on the road. I wonder how much longer we have to march?”

“Not long, we make camp at sundown.” The other answers. “Grannik says we need to get these prisoners on the other side of the Ironsides before they spoil. Dead slaves ain’t no use, he says. So we’ll be up before dawn, as usual. What Rokrag does with these is anyone’s guess, but I’ll bet it ain’t nice and pretty.”

The orcs both share a muffled laugh. The other one speaks.

“I heard he was using them to work in the mines, and some for experiments, whatever that means. But I think they been sending the fancy ones to Him for some other reason. Them’s the ones who read the words and remember things that happened a long time ago. Dunno what for, but that’s what me cousin Jalkraat told me. He cooks for Rokrag, and hears what they talk about.”

The other orc sucks in his breath. “Has your cousin ever seen…*Him*?”

“No, no, you dolt. Rokrag is just a lieutenant. I doubt he has even been within a mile of the Great One. Idiot.”

“Well, I don’t know!”

The Orcs bickered back and forth until a shout ahead in the procession silenced them.

Eventually, as the sun begins to set, the Orcs pull the caravan off the road next to a forest. The beasts are corralled, and fires are lit. The heroes smell the foul stench of what can only be Orc food.

As soon as it is dark enough, Garett begins work on escaping his restraints. He is skilled enough to remain undetected in his struggle, and manages to free most of the occupants of the cage until finally he is spotted by a passing guard. The Orc guard calls over two of his friends to guard the cage as he goes in to refasten the holds on Garett. But just as soon as the gate is opened, to the Orc’s dismay, Garett is not the only one free, and a fight breaks out. The Orcs are quickly overtaken and just as the last one is about to fall, the sound of metal and shouting can be heard both ahead of and behind them. There seems to be another battle in the caravan. The remaining Orc uses this opportunity to escape toward the front of the procession, and the heroes, along with Alain, dart off into the forest.

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The Underground Temple

Wandering through the forest, the heroes attempt to continue south, on the way to Stoneguard. Still without money, armor, or weapons, they felt the closest promise of shelter is the best option.

While walking, Erevan falls into a pit. The rest of the party yells down to try and communicate with him, but no response can be heard. One by one, they all decide to jump down the pit in attempt to rescue him. Alain thinks better of this and continues on his own.

At the bottom of the pit, there is a pitch black room with a stone floor. Erevan casts a light spell, and finds a unused sunrod. He lights it as the rest of the party falls through the ceiling and joins him. Once illuminated by the sunrod, the remains of a room of worship is revealed. There is a forgotten altar, littered with old holy symbols of some deity surrounded by the image of the sun. A shut door to the north has a face in a sun carved into it, and another shut door to the south, with the same carving except the mouth in the face is slightly open and carved out deeper. Above this southern face are the words, “His light shines in the darkness, and only those who know him may pass.”

The heroes are able to determine that the ancient occupants of this temple used some sort of bright jewel or stone to unlock the door by inserting it into the mouth. They decide to push the bright sunrod into the mouth. As they do, the light is extinguished. After a few seconds of silence, the grinding of gears and stone can be heard, and the door opens. It leads into a passageway further south.

The passageway turns into a very wide and long room, sparsely lit by daylight. The light seems to be coming from the ceiling, but not through holes; it appears to be reflected from some other location by mirrors. There are eight mirrors, and eight spots of light on the floor. Just past the points of light is a long expanse of darkness where the floor drops off into nothing. Across the pit, about 150 feet away, the party can see another door on a secure floor. But how can they reach it?

Beneath their feet, they see a grid of letters carved into the floor, in no particular order. A successful perception check helps Erevan notice the vine-covered walls are covering eight ancient levers resting in a cross path, much like the cardinal directions on a map. Above the levers, the words, “Those who have seen his light will know where it shines brightest.” are carved.

When they move a lever, they discover a corresponding point of light moves in the same direction. They realize that this puzzle’s answer is directly linked to knowledge of the deity whose temple this is.

After thinking long about this, Adrie is able to recognize the symbolism of Pelor. The followers of Pelor are charged with bringing his light into the darkness, and the heroes are able to position the lights to spell out the word, “darkness.” As they do this, platforms are raised from the pit to provide a pathway to the other side.

The party cautiously makes their way to the other side and see an open door, presumably leading out of the temple, and a few seemingly discarded holy relics and jewels of Pelor. There seemed to have been others inside the temple a long time ago, who stole anything of real value. The only things left are of special significance to only those who worship Pelor. The heroes decide to take these things with them, and emerge safely from the temple. They are able to find their bearings again, and continue on their way south.

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