The halfling was healed, some, and interrogated, more. Throughout the afternoon, as the army moved ever closer to Drezen, the team questioned her from a variety of angles, confusing her and breaking down her defenses, or so it seemed. She provided some mildly useful information about the city and its demonic overlords, which were later confirmed in part by reconnaissance on foot and in the air. It even seemed like she might be open to breaking with her masters, but that would be an issue for another day. The most pressing task was taking the city and rescuing the many crusader prisoners still held in a stockade outside the wall.
After long and tedious deliberation, Field Marshal Utenar decided on a course of action: a dawn attack on the stockade – a swift, highly aggressive assault on the palisade to destroy the demons there and free and arm the crusaders, thus saving them and increasing the size of their overall force.
Waking before the others, Sturn went about preparing his best brew of Bad Army Coffee for the men. Only moments into the process of mixing a handful of bitter grounds with a bucket dirty water he was interrupted by two soldiers, breathlessly running at him.
“Sir! Sir! We have news!” blurted one, a worried look on his face.
“Out with it, man!” replied the Paladin, already groaning to himself at what was no doubt some screw-up of potentially epic proportions that the hirelings allowed to take place while the leadership team had slept.
“The halfling! She escaped! She just disappeared! Or broke loose! Or waylaid the guy detailed to watch her! Or something! We’ve no idea other than she’s gone and gone and we’re not getting her back! That’s what happened, sir!”
Sturn shook his head and clenched his jaw. “Then wake the army, you boob! Time’s not going to wait for us!” he shot back, clearly irritated at the hand dealt them by fate.
Moments later the army was on its feet and preparing to assault the stockade. Leaving their camp materials behind, aside from the wagons full of captured and extra weapons and equipment, they marched hard on the hilltop, raining arrows on it once in range, and then rushing the door, stupidly opened by the mouth-breathing demons within.
The fight was short and bloody – mostly with demon blood spilled. Utenar’s order to attack with abandon turned out to be a wise one, and even though another force of demon-kind (or their allies – couldn’t be sure…didn’t matter in the end) attacked from the rear, the battle ended with a resounding victory for Iomedae.
The prisoners, some muttering about their flower gardens and others hooting about “…we want Dan!,” were happy to be free and armed, and given their military experience were easily organized into a force of fodder for future furious fighting.
Utenar’s next order was to march on the cemetery opposite the city, to rout the ghouls wandering around there. The dwarf reasoned – and that’s no small feat for a dwarf, mind you – that having an army at their back as they assaulted the city would be a bad idea, and so the two forces – cavalry and foot – rushed the graveyard and pummeled the tongue-wagging undead into a deeper form of dead; that is to say, dead in the good way.
Pivoting once again, the forces of good marched back to the city, nearing the bridge that led into the main gates – the only gates, it seemed. Upon getting within range of the bridge, which was only about 30 feet wide, scouts noticed one, then four, massive and ill-tempered demon-possessed beasts of burden, each tied to support posts of the structure, seemingly ready to pull it apart and down on order. The Paladin archers, heretofore very successful with their long-range attacks, were unable to fire on the beasts due to the rise of a hill south of the bridge, which would have exposed them to catapult fire from the city.
Onward! Across the bridge! That was the sentiment of the leadership team, which utterly abandoned both armies and decided that attacking the city was a job for Big Damn Heroes, and not some large, well-armed, experienced, and thus far successful group of soldiers. Taking the “we happy few, we band of brothers” line perhaps too deeply to heart, and desiring all the XP for themselves, they charged across the bridge in search of demonic arses to kick.
And kick those arses they did. Like a well-oiled machine finely tuned, each man positioned himself relative to allies and enemies alike, falling into the familiar pattern of Sturn leading the charge – owing to his astonishing foot speed – the dwarves chugging along behind, attracting as much damage as they could, Jaroo leading his vicious petting zoo, and Atiasi staying way back so as to be able to hurl arcane doom without getting his robes soiled.
Hack, slash, bite, chew, smash…repeat. The vile cultists and the few demons leading them were no match for the World Class Wrecking Crew, thought Sturn just before he was gnawed on by a chimera that, as it would turn out, unwisely joined the fight. ‘Yeah…that’d be a cool name for us…’ he opined just before the massive beast appeared above him, chomped on him, and shook him like an old dog toy.
As the rest of the team attacked the beast, Utenar carried Sturn to safety and applied healing magic. Toonces, Jaroo’s brave cat companion, was killed as it tried to hamstring the creature. Atiasi, meanwhile, connected the arcane dots and applied just the right spell on just the right part of the beast’s backside, staggering and stunning it to the point that enough damage dealt by the others dropped it – unconscious! A few well-placed hacks, slashes and smashes later and the rotten hodge-podge of a monster was gone for good.
All the men felt a surge of energy welling from within them as they turned toward the gates – a feeling of total renewal and growing power. The gods had again showered their favor on this mighty crew. Barely missing a beat, they nodded at one another and aimed a collective ‘boot to the head’ at the great wooden gate…
This would be the point at which everything goes into slow motion as we see them strike their awesome pre-attack poses and the camera focuses on the downward-slamming boot of one – probably Gnarl – as it crashes into the gate. It would be as if the camera were mounted on the gate itself, looking outward across the bride, watching the boot heel descend on it. Atiasi would be in the background, hand up, fingers splayed, arcane energy crackling between them. Utenar would have his weapon at his side, his other arm waving the team forward. Sturn would be in mid-rush, sword back like a Louisville slugger about to send a ball into the parking lot. And Jaroo, a look of pure rage and pain on his wolfen face, would be leaping, fangs beared, with a fallen Toonces behind him.
Then the screen would freeze, like in an 80s action show, and the credits would roll, forcing the audience to wait until next week.