18 Arodus 4719 AR
The Archangels ascend up to the surface and find the city of Kenabres almost deserted with evidence of ruthless violence everywhere. Burned buildings, splashes of blood, and dead bodies claimed by vultures are plentiful in this ruined place. Seeing the direness of the situation at hand, the heroes and their companions move carefully and quickly to find any survivors left from the Storm King’s attack.
After much pestering from Lord Horgus Gwerm the heroes decide to take the minor noble to his mansion first. On the way they encounter a kneeled weeping woman in front of a ruined shrine of Sarenrae. Surrounding the woman were human knights in battered armor, their eyes burned with a feverish light. The horrors of the demonic invasion have driven them to madness. Desperate to drive back the demons, they have latched onto an old folktale – that sheathing one’s blade in the body of a virgin temporarily transforms the sword into a demon-slaying weapon. Preparing to carry out their grisly, the heroes come in the neck of time to thwart the knights and save the woman from cold murder. Fynna and Aziz are able to talk down the knights after subduing them and change their ways. Devastated about their course of action, they vow to protect the heroes and face punishment. They also learn from Karina (the leader of the mad knights) that a resistance force still persists within the city and is stationed north in Defender’s Heart (Kenabres’ largest inn). Anevia is relieved to hear from them that her wife (the Eagle Watch paladin Irabeth Tirabade) is alive and leading the resistance forces from there. Satisfied with this recent turn of events, the heroes continue onwards.
The next hour they finally reach Horgus Gwerm’s manor. It’s something of a miracle for the manor seemed have escaped without any damage at all. Horgus is somewhat disgusted that his guards and servants have abandoned the manor, making some snide remarks while walking through the courtyard. Extremely offended by Horgus’ lack of empathy and respect for human life, Fynna slaps him and calls him out for his attitude. The noble warns the others to subdue the beautiful woman or they won’t receive their reward which shuts their mouth quickly. As they enter inside they find that the mansion has been completely looted which pisses off Horgus and pleases Fynna immensely. Fortunately for the Archangels, Horgus’s vault remains locked tight and rewards them the gold he promised them earlier. He thanks each of them awkwardly once the award is paid, promises to help them if they are ever in need of his services, and leaves their care by locking himself within his well-stocked vault.
With their reward in tow, the heroes continued north to Anevia’s home in order to pick up some supplies before heading to Defender’s Heart. On the way there they encounter a frightening sight. In the middle of a cleared street an improvised stage made of several partially destroyed wagons and cards had been erected in the middle of the street. On the stage stood eight frightened-looking men and women, each armed with jagged broken weapons and clad in bits and pieces of dented, bloody armor. Two quasits flapped about nearby as they work to stage a “play” of sorts comprising battles between their victims. The heroes intervened however and the quasits order their intimidated human “actors” to protect them. Terrified and cowed, the poor commoners try their best to fight the heroes, but thanks to the assistance of both the heroes and the knights (especially Karina’s pinpoint throw with her cold iron longsword), they are able to slay the two quasits and free the commoners from their enslavement. Aziz and Leon tell the commoners to gather their family members and essential belongings in order to accompany them to Defender’s Heart.
Before heading to Defender’s Heart the heroes make a supposedly quick stop at Anevia’s small home in Eastern Kenabres in order to pick up some supplies. When they arrive they find the building seemingly abandoned but still standing. Unfortunately for Anevia though, the house is actually far from abandoned. One of several criminals Irabeth tracked down during her times in River Kingdoms was a half-orc cultist of Xoveron named Vagorg, a man whose grandiose plans to burn down an entire neighborhood in Tymon were cut short when he was captured by her. Seeking revenge, Vagorg settled in during the Storm King’s invasion and waited patiently until he could enact his vengeance. He attacked Anevia and with the help of Adlo, Aziz, and Fynna they were able to subdue the half-orc from causing any further harm. Forever grateful, Anevia goes into the secret alcove and gives the heroes the treaures Irabeth stashes there for her in thanks.
The heroes continue onward and after another half hour carefully maneuvering around the ruined city the group of adventurers, knights, innocent civilians, their families, and so on finally reach Defender’s Heart. The largest inn in Kenabres, Defender’s Heart is stout stone structure that survived the fall of Kenabres with ease. Built to last and largely ignored by the initial demonic attack (which focused much more on Old Kenabres and the riverfront), Defender’s Heart was a perfect choice as a place for surviving crusaders and veterans of the war to gather and form a sort of defensive line. The majority of the surviving crusaders now housed here belong to the Eagle Watch, and they have assumed control of the various other leaderless mercenaries while they wait for the Mendevian army to come to the city’ aid.
While the inn is owned and run by a one-armed man named Kimroth Otai, he’s largely ceded control of the building to the Eagle Watch – the highest-ranking survivor of which is the half-orc paladin Irabeth Tirabade. After passing through the initial defensive line to gain entrance, they enter to find the resistance is still strong within the city. Crusaders, mercenaries, adventurers, and civilians are all inside working together to survive and combat the deadly demonic forces still residing in the city.
Anevia lets out a joyful cry as Irabeth appears, quickly coming to greet her once word of her return spreads. The women embrace tenderly before Anevia introduces her wife, Irabeth, to the heroes. After initial introductions, Irabeth shares words with Aziz for a moment as he explains about the three cultist hideouts throughout the city, the requested alliance by the Neathholm mongrelmen, the mad knights they saved, Vagorg’s revenge plans, and the innocent civilians they were able to escort. Thankful for their help, Irabeth swears to assist the heroes in whatever way she can.
- Mongels of Neathholm – Irabeth is delighted to learn that the mongrels of Neathholm (or the “First Descendants” out of respect for their heritage) still exist, and agrees to send some Eagle Watch knights down to contact Neathholm and work out the alliance.
- Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth – News about the long-standing infiltration of Baphomet’s cultists intrigues Irabeth. The Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth are, in her opinion, one of the most dangerous elements of the enemy. She informs the heroes that she can reward them for their efforts against the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth. Each safe-house site cleared earns the party a reward of 1,000 gp.
- Vagorg and the Mad Knights – Irabeth thanks the heroes for the capture of Vagorg and the mad knights. They will be sent to a tribunal conducted by Lord Quednys Orlun, the highest ranking political official left in Kenabres, who will act as judge, jury, and executioner if necessary. After some words from Aziz, Irabeth says he will deal with the reformed knights personally so that they may redeem themselves in the eye of Iomedae.
After much needed time to heal and resupply, the heroes set forth back into the ruined city in order to investigate the three cultist hideout in behest of Irabeth Tirabade. After a request from Aziz, Irabeth grants one of the redeemed knights (Karina Pentaghast) to accompany them in their investigation.
On their way to one of the potential cultist hideouts, the heroes and their allies pass by a besieged clothing shop (“Fine Fittings”) where a frightening rat-faced demon called an abrikandilu is terrorizing the shop owners, Belthis and Nira Loumis. The heroes swoop in to save the human couple and after a quick bout with the demon focusing on the beautiful Fynna, they are able to save the shop owners. As a gift, Belthis and Nira Loumis offer each hero a fine outfit worth 100 gp as thanks. The heroes send Karina to escort Belthis and Nira back to Defender’s Heart as they continue their way to Nyserian Manor.
After an hour of stealthily walking to avoid demons, the heroes arrive to Nyserian Manor to find that this once surely stately manor is now nothing more than a pile of rubble and a gouged trough of ruin. Little remains of this manor to interest the heroes other than the fact that the ruined manor is certainly no longer used by the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth as safe house. They continue their search to the next closest reported cultist hideout, the Tower of Estrod.
Another hour of traversing through the ruined city and the heroes arrive at the Tower of Estrod. It once served Kenabres for decades as a library and research laboratory owned by the city, but now much of the tower’s holdings have been destroyed when the top was smashed away by some sort of demon. Using the missive, Adlo disguises himself as a cultist of Baphomet and approaches the front door to peacefully gain entry in order to infiltrate. After saying the passphrase “I’ve new material for the archives” the door is opened only for Aziz to blow their cover as he rushes in with a fury to slay the cultists. Battle ensues. The cultists are unable to handle the power of the heroes. Praetoril moves on ahead up to the second floor of the tower only to confront a quasit and a vile male tiefling witch who immediately blinds the aasimar oracle. The fight gets extremely heated as the cultists buy time for their tiefling cultist leader as he quickly attempts to burn all the evidence he can. They are able to push through and somewhat stop the tiefling cultist from doing any more damage. Many important manuals, scrolls, and tomes are lost in the burning, but the heroes are able to retrieve and mend an important burnt missive sent from Faxon (the tiefling cultist) to a woman named Minagho. Adlo recognizes the woman’s name to be the demonic ruler of the ruined city of Raliscard in the Worldwound, and Vorlesh as the woman rumored to have helped open the Worldwound in the first place. The heroes have no idea about the Nahyndrian crystals however, but the missive suggests that Areelu is planning to use it on some sort of devastating attack against the Crusaders. With this information in hand and Praetoril’s vision still severely obstructed, the heroes decide to head back to Defender’s Heart for a bit to rest up and recover from their wounds.
The heroes arrive at Defender’s Heart and find a local cleric of Iomedae to heal their wounds and cure Praetoril of his blindness. During this time, Hakim finds Irabeth Tirabade and hands her the burnt missive explaining to her what they found. Thankful for the work they have put in their investigation of Baphomet’s cultists, she promises to bring the information to Quednys to research and decipher as they continue their search to Topaz Solutions. After healing up, Praetoril informs the rest of the party that he is ready and they continue back down south.
After another hour or so of carefly trudging through the ruins of the city, they find Topaz Solutions; a relatively unassuming herbalist’s shop that specializes in alchemical equipment and potions. Its proprietor has land since abandoned the shop and as the heroes bust in to see what’s going on inside, they find a contingent of looters ransacking the place. In anger, Hakim threatens them to drop the stolen goods and leave or they will face terrible punishment. Fynna though calms the enraged paladin down and is able to convince the looters to leave their goods and leave through the sheer force of her charisma. After they leave, they search around the place and Adlo finds a secret door in the northwest corner of the building behind a series of shelves containing fake alchemical items. They proceed downstairs to find a hidden basement where cultists crafted poisons for use by Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth. Inside they find against one wall, a wooden table holding a strange apparatus that looks like a clockwork toy of a snake-bodied, six-armed woman holding a sword in each hand, tightly corked bottle, filled with what looks like water, sits before the statue. A sinister image of a star surrounding a goat’s face is painted on the wall above the table. Adlo slowly approaches the statue only to see the goat’s mouth start moving. “Ahh… I hope you are among Iomedae’s slaves… I would hate to think of mere peasants wasting such a personal greeting from Lord Baphomet!” A mandragora claws its way out from the goat’s mouth and attacks the heroes, only to be quickly slain. With nothing of interest left, the party heads back to Defender’s Heart to inform Irabeth and the rest of the Eagle Watch the completion of their mission.
They finally arrive back at Defender’s Heart in the late afternoon and tell Irabeth that they were unable to find anything of note within Topaz Solution. Thankful for all their help, Irabeth rewards them for their efforts and tells them to rest and recuperate for the time being as Lord Quednys and the rest of the leadership goes over the evidence the heroes have recovered. With enough luck, they’ll have the necessary intelligence to plan a counter-attack against the current demonic forces still residing in the city. During this downtime the heroes split for a bit to do their own thing.
- Fynna approaches and consoles the scared families, reassuring them they will get through this crisis. She promises to them that the demons will be dealt with.
- Praetoril, not wishing to bother the others, waits outside of the large stone tavern and helps keep watch with the other guards.
- Adlo tries to brighten up the city orphan’s spirits playing games with them and distracting them from the demonic dangers outside.
- Leon helps raise the morale of the soldiers inspiring them with stories of great crusaders who have survived and flourished in much more dire circumstances. He also tells the soldiers, mercenaries, and anyone willing to listen about their exploits the pass two days. The extraordinary stories about the Archangels begin to spread throughout the ranks bringing hope.
Hakim, still feeling guilty for losing Aravashnial, gathers information from the locals about the Riftwardens in the city and finds out that the Riftwarden hideout might be at the Librarium of the Broken Black Wing. With the possibility that Aravashnial might be hiding there, Hakim gathers the rest of the heroes as they head to the southern reaches of the ruined city.
After two hours stealthily maneuvering through the city, the Archangels finally arrive at the Librarium of the Blackwing, called “Blackwing” to the locals. From what Hakim was able to gather, the place has a reputation for containing the most complete record of research on demon hunting in the country. Further information gathering by Hakim also reveals that the Blackwing has long served as the hidden base of operations for the Riftwardens in Kenabres. Unfortunately, Blackwing now lies in ruins – all that remains standing is the Librarium’s façade and its reinforced great hall.
With Fenna and the four other librarians in tow, the heroes escort the Riftwarden survivors to Defender’s Heart. News of the rescue spreads through the ranks and Lord Quednys Orlun rushes down to see his subordinates. He quickly hugs Fenna and the heroes find out that Fenna is actually Lord Orlun’s granddaughter and protegé. He tells them that he is the founder and head librarian of Blackwing and was at the Cathedral when the attack began. He suffered a near fatal wound saving several citizens from certain death, but sirvived after he was brought to Defender’s Heart and healed. Initially, he believed Blackwing was completely destroyed and was haunted by this possibility, but is immediately grateful to the heroes that they were there instead. He tends to Fenna and the rest of the Riftwarden survivors and tells them to be ready for the meeting tonight. Understanding the seriousness of the situation at hand, the heroes agree and busy themselves till the late evening as they wait for more word from Irabeth and Lord Orlun.
FLASHBACK – Prelude to War
As you guys recover from your bout investigating the cultist hideouts throughout Kenabres, Commander Irabeth Tirabade approaches the five of you in the late evening with a grim, worried expression.
“I’d like to discuss with you more about the note you found earlier, but something important has come up. The Crusaders are in need of your assistance. Would you mind coming with me?”
You follow Irabeth out of your room into the open hearth of Defender’s Heart. The place is eerily silent as the survivors from the calamity are fast asleep. The flickers of the still burning hearth and the steps of patrolling crusaders are the only things that remain in this vacuous space. Irabeth leads you upstairs to a private room in the corner of the inn. Anevia is idly standing in front of the door. Her right leg seems to have been healed and regenerated. She sees you approaching and gives all of you a grin.
“It’s nice to see you five again.”
You enter inside a large room with a single queen-sized bed, a small table sprawled with books and notes, and burning hearth near a closed windows, and an aged and angular human with an eagle’s talon tattoo on his cheek. It’s the head of Blackwing Librarium, Lord Quednys Orlun. The aged man turns to you lot with an expressionless face. Only his eyes show his haunted and pained demeanor.
Irabeth requests you all to sit down and she stands in front of the hearth a bit before proceeding.
“First of all I would like to thank the five of you for all that you have done so far. Braving through the underground city and helping us secure an alliance with Neathholm, escorting the innocent folk you’ve encountered along the way to Defender’s Heart, investigating and rooting out the activities of the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth… Kenabres and the Nation of Mendev are indebted to your dauntless service to all that is good in this world. You have shown your righteousness when most would falter. You have shown your capacities when most would despair.”
She turns to you now; her face now solemn and serious.
“I’m sorry for what I’m about to ask of you for this will most likely lead to your deaths.”
Anevia’s face turns grave as she watches her wife pace back and forth in front of the hearth.
“As horrific as recent events have been, we’ve come to realize that they are, in fact, merely a prelude. The razing of the Kite, the destruction of our wardstone, Terendelev’s murder, and the assault on the city were nothing more than opening gambits. The Worldwound is on the march in a more concentrated assault than we’ve seen since the fall of Drezen. It’s fair to say the Lord of the Locust Host is finally making his move. The end of this hundred-year-war is upon us and it falls to us to ensure victory.”
“While the Templars of the Ivory Labyrinth were scattered, those who serve the Lord of the Locust Host himself remain concentrated in Old Kenabres. What we’ve heard from within the barricade they’ve erected is ominous. The cultists are waiting for something, and based on our own information and what you’ve managed to recover so far, it sounds like the vile witch Areelu Vorlesh will soon be coming to Kenabres. And it appears that Quednys determined what she intends to do.”
“When the wardstone was destroyed by the Storm King, it exploded and destroyed the Kite. The network along the border failed, but did not fade completely. From what I have gathered and what Quednys has theorized, a significant portion of our wardstone still exists, and that the cultists have taken it to the old garrison in Old Kenabres. From what we’ve learned, they’re hoping to engineer a way to somehow reverse the field generated by the wardstones – essentially, to use our own greatest defense as a devastating weapon.”
“The attack on Kenabres had a predictable result: causing the crusade to gather at the border to defend it. Some wonder why the demons haven’t attacked in stronger numbers. I believe that Areelu was counting on us massing along the border, and that if she can corrupt the wardstone field, she can strike a devastating blow against us all. In effect, we’ve lined up for our own slaughter.”
“Vorlesh is surely seeking some object of great Abyssal power, likely the Nahyndrian crystal mentioned in the missive you recovered, and with it she intends to turn the source of our hope into an unimaginable nightmare. We cannot hope to evacuate everyone from the border – I doubt they would give up the defensive line even if they knew what the enemy planned. But we can still stop this from happening – we just need to have someone infiltrate the Gray Garrison, locate the wardstone fragment, and destroy it.”
She looks squarely at you five. “All of Kenabres’ greatest defenders have perished, fled, or were captured. This final task falls to us few who still remain. I’ve seen your skills in actions. I’ve heard from Anevia of the sacrifices that you made for our people. I believe that a small, elite force like yourself can strike at the Gray Garrison, infiltrate, and deal with the situation before all is lost.”
[ What everyone will be doing as we infiltrate the Gray Garrison? ]
“The rest of the surviving crusaders and mercenaries will go on the offensive throughout the city to buy you some time. We will have to abandon our defensive positions and will certainly take losses, but luring the cultists now in control of Old Kenabres will increase your chances. As long as you can destroy the wardstone fragment before Vorlesh’s arrival, it will all be worth the risk.”
[ Do you have anything to help us destroy the wardstone fragment? ]
“Unfortunately destroying the wardstone fragment will be quite difficult. Luckily for us, Master Orlun has the perfect tool for finishing the wardstone’s destruction.”
Master Orlun clears his throat. “I was able to salvage a rod of cancellation from a ruined wizard’s shop. With this, you should be able to drain the last vestige of power from the fragment and, in doing so, completely sever the wardstone’s remaining connection to the field.”
Irabeth pipes in. “Doing this will rob Vorlesh of a crucial chink in the wardstone field’s armor and prevent her from using it against the crusaders unless the demons can manage to destroy another wardstone… something I don’t think is possible in the short term. Kenabres’ stone has suffered numerous attacks over the past several years that made this final destruction possible. Almost,” she adds wryly, “as if the demons have been planning for this day from the start.”
[ Can you provide some troops to help us with destroying the wardstone fragment? ]
“I can’t risk any more troops now as it is if they are going to play bait as you destroy the wardstone. But…,” Irabeth looks at Anevia sadly. “I can’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t attempt myself. Anevia can lead the rest of the crusaders and mercenaries in my stead. If by my life or death I can assist you in this suicidal mission, I will. You have my sword.”
Irabeth begins to wrap up the meeting. “Time is of the essence now. Gather any allies that you have, plan your infiltration strategy, and meet with me early tomorrow morning so we can coordinate our attacks and strike at these cultists and demons once and for all.”
With the stakes so high, the heroes call in for favors to help them with this important and potentially life-ending mission. Knowing that they’ll have the help of the Eagle Watch Commander Irabeth Tirabade, they request assistance from Horgus Gwerm and Neathholm. Horgus donates a fair amount of his personal supplies to Defender’s Heart. These additional supplies bolster morale enough that the crusaders fight particularly well, delaying the escalation of forces buying the heroes more time in their assault against the Gray Garrison. Including this, the Eagle Watch was able to secure an alliance with the Mongrelmen thanks to the heroes help. Neathholm provided additional support by sending some of their soldiers to help with the Crusader’s distraction plan and also sent some of the best rangers to the heroes to aid them in the assault.
With the stage set, the heroes rest up and wait to bring on the oncoming storm.