Wrath of the Righteous

The Reclaimation of Iomedae's Lost Temple
There and Back Again. A Crusader's Story.

After the brawl in the kitchen, the crusaders set about getting healed to face the wailing beyond the next door. Sturn moved about the room with the healer’s wand.

In the midst of Sturn’s prayerful mutterings, the doors banged open and in walked a pair of ghouls. Gnarl immediately went to work hacking apart the nasty creatures and the team joined in. Just as the first two were sundered, the opposite door banged open as well. It spewed forth another ghoul and what appeared to be a half-demon. This demon was chanting to his pitiful god as the group went to work on them. His attention focused on the paladin of Iomedae and with scorn for good he cast his spells. The evil magic washed over Sturn with a shudder and tore away at his life force. Suddenly the holy warrior lost the experiences of older battles and his skill at arms was inexplicably reduced.

In short order, the crusaders had hewn the filthy scum into parts and pieces, and were peering through the now open doorway. The team could sense the approach of another demon flying down into the courtyard outside, but only the dwarves and the druid could actually see the dreaded Nabasu demon flapping just outside melee range. The beast, being somewhat intelligent, beckoned the party forward in its Abyssal tongue. nabasu.jpg
Atiasi pulled a wand from a hidden pocket and lit the courtyard with magical daylight. The Nabasu backed in mid-air and cast darkness to counter the light. Somewhat annoyed by the nerve of the beast, the sorcerer repeated the process and once again lit the area.

The demon hovered over the courtyard and taunted the group of heroes. The druid and his cat, Agassu, leapt for the evil beast, but to no avail. Gnarl fired his crossbow and missed repeatedly. It was then that Atiasi cast a spell upon the paladin. Sturn began to rise above the ground and soon maneuvered into position to attack. Sturn began smiting the creature with heavenly force and gained its attention the way any paladin prefers. Although this was not the easiest demon to take on, Sturn chanted to Iomedae and fought ferociously. The foul beast began a dark spell which washed over the courtyard and raised the hackles on the heroes’ necks. The blast of evil hit holy warrior with nasty effectiveness. The wracking pain was a much stronger version of the previous spell and removed thrice the skill of the half-demon’s magic.
Atiasi sensed that his friend needed more help and cast his flying spell upon Gnarl as well. Knowing what was coming, Gnarl dropped his crossbow and drifted with a smile into the aerial melee to assist his fellow crusader.

The massive dwarven axe flashed down in a mighty chop driving into the previously wounded demon and dropping it to the flagstones below.

A sigh of relief washed over the group of friends as they began healing once again and searching the area. With dextrous fingers and detection spells alike, the team discovered a secret lead-lined cache of potions and gems behind an altar.

With the temple cleaned and consecrated the party made its way back to the waiting army.
The healing potions were distributed amongst the troops and the demons’ heads were piked as trophies. This seemed to boost the morale of the army somewhat.

Continuing on, the scouts discovered a mass of movement up ahead. Leadership was summoned and determined that they were insects from another plane. The friends followed the crawling swarms into an underground tunnel system and with a spell of silence from Utenar, managed to sneak past groups of gnashing insects to discover their queen. A nasty huge version of the swarms that began its wardance upon seeing the intruders.

A nasty melee ensued in which the queen was slain by blades, spells, teeth and claws. But not before she managed to summon her hordes. Sturn had been blasted by acid and that drew the insects like honey to bees. He was soon covered in the gnashing bugs and they began eating through his armor and equipment.

Realizing the situation was dire, he wisely tossed his wand and sword beyond their reach and began channeling energy to preserve his life while his friends went about swatting and finding away to rid him of the bugs.

In frustration, Gnarl began hacking into the queen and shoved his hand into its body to remove the acid glands. He yanked it out and to his surprise and dismay the swarm immediately moved from Sturn to Gnarl. Before the same fate fell upon the grumpy dwarf, Jaroo wrapped himself around the swarm and the glands in what he called ‘hugafire’ and burned them both. The fire extinguished just as the cracks in the walls began to glow with purple brilliance. The glow revealed an opening with clawed hands grasping for purchase. Atiasi called aloud that it was indeed a planar gate as the heat and stench of the Abyss washed over the crusaders…

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Paladin's Journal
...the rest of the story

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Journal excerpts of a disgruntled Paladin

Day One
We march from the ruins of Kenabres and a new found army of Knights. The sudden repulsion of the demon hoard gave us time to breathe. That was certainly short. Our new commander is a stout dwarf named Utenar Firebelly. Not sure what to make of him, he approached our unit today in an attempt to get to know more about us. Our attentions quickly turned to scouting reports of Valis Gift being razed. It was. We camped by the river Sellen.

Day Two
Nothing to report. The march was progressing smoothly. It is as if the demons had some better thing to do than harass a hundred man army poised to strike back. I like these easy days. Too bad they are not all like this.

Day Three
The fighting was fierce on the ford. Our unit took initial advantage with our longbows upon the enemy. Although unfortified, they were ready for a battle. We took our punishment and returned three fold. There were casualties but enough healing kept them moving, if not missing a few digits. A bit of a commotion at the command post and subsequent speech by the master dwarf indicated that we had a traitor run from camp. I inquired about the reason why but that was not needed when asking for the traitor’s death. Those easy days are about to eat troll shite.

Day Four
Nothing remarkable but the feeling of dread we will soon be in the wounded lands.

Day Five
It was a lucky day. We faced down a army of tiefllings and dretches in relative ease, the battle lasted less than an hour. Our Marshal commander had enough thought to keep the bulk of us alive. There is nothing here though for us but the dry canyon that was one the Abarhi riverbed. A perfect road to a dead end called Drezen.

Day Six
It hit us. A haboo with winds that sandblasted our shields and entered every crevice in our skin. I do not think it has dawned on some of the men, but there was no sign of the traitor that fled. She likely fled to Drezen. If she made it, our welcoming committee will be less forgiving than a hurricane. We did not make it far today either. Sosiel will not give me a straight answer on our reserves but we have to be at least half way through with a siege before us. The commanding officers have decided to investigate a chapel on the cliff edge. It seems like a penance investigate for blessings. Not much good that will do us, the same as always.

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An Army on the Move
With a short interlude for a traitor

From the personal journal of Sturn Terrasmyn, housed in the Great Temple to Iomedae Special and Venerated Documents Collection

We marched from Kenabras just before dawn, and made good time, some thirty miles on the first day. I chose to ride ahead with Aron‘s scouts, both for the purpose of seeing what was ahead of us, and to assess their skill and dedication. I’ve been concerned about traitors in the ranks, and they can come in two general sorts: willing turncoats and dupes. I figured that if our scouts were either, we’d be in for a world of trouble. None were evil, so far as I could tell, so that calmed me – a bit.

We found the Tiefling force encamping around the bridge we needed to cross, and I favored a quick, aggressive assault, which Utenar agreed to order. The fight was intense, but short – they broke and ran, most of them, and we trampled many into the dirt and river. We didn’t get their demon leading the force – I’d love to find a way to prevent them from teleporting away.

The disturbing piece, beyond the loss of some men and horses, was my discovery of the demon blood in Aron’s pack. We interrogated him and I think it was planted on him. We shook down Sosiel Vaenic, as well, and as a group we determined that both were telling the truth and unaware. The blood had been planted, and the only person who’d been in a position to do so was Narah Dendiwhar, that annoying bard. We started our search for her immediately and – surprise! – she was gone. The only remnant we could find was some lingering enchantment, evidence that she’d ridden off on a spectral steed of some sort. A traitor was gone, but took with her detailed information of our army, our march, and our plans. Having little other choice, we encamped for the night, healed the men as best we could, and moved out early the next morning.

Again I rode with the scouts, and by mid-day we found another town, abandoned and with collapsing walls and roofs. We had to pass through it on our way to Drezen, northwest of our current position, and the town created a series of natural choke-points for us. We sent up Jaroo in bird form to scout and he came back with news of dretches hiding in one area, and an ambush force of Tieflings in another. Arranging the army for ranged assault, Utenar ordered volleys of arrows onto both forces, which we followed with a pincer charge of cavalry. These two groups were little effort for us, and were broken and dispersed into the hills.

We regrouped the army and sent out skirmishers again, forward into the hills, and placed a handful of lookouts on the surrounding hilltops. Meanwhile, the team and I headed up a steep hill to what looked like a large temple or cathedral complex – set apart from the rest of the town, and seemingly less damaged.

Upon arrival we entered the complex, which was also without a roof – this place had been abandoned for a while, it seemed – and were set upon by a group of ghouls. Atiasi called for patience, asking us to hold back, and we were rewarded with a massive blast of fire, which ended several of the things, and sent many of the others running. I’d heard that ghouls crave living flesh over all else…clearly, not above being burned to cinder.

Pursuing the beasts, Gnarl disappeared into an adjacent chamber while were were set upon by gargoyles – I’d heard of these stone beasts, but had never faced one. I found that I could move far faster and with greater ferocity than ever before. I will attribute this to Iomedae’s favor, as I and my comrades were able to destroy the beasts quickly.

Following Gnarl, we were set upon by demons – finally! – and again our new-found abilities served us well. I’ve never moved so far, so quickly, and have been able to launch so many attacks! I saw similar feats from the others. I know we have earned Iomedae’s blessing, and I only hope that we can continue to deserve her support.

The demons were, but one that disappeared in a sulfurous cloud of cowardice, destroyed. It was time then to take stock of our surroundings and see what else this complex might hold for us.

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Upon Leave
the army marches

Aron reported to Utenar, “Sir, we have advance scouts ready and can be ahead of the march at your request.” Standing at the fore-front of one hundred heavily armed cavalry troops, horses braying and restless. The clanking of armor and arms filled the early morning air. Jaroo felt uncomfortable on the horse but knew the animal would soon forget its objections. The dwarfs rode upon smaller steeds although any fall from the saddle would certainly bruise. Sturn and Atiasi summed up the party with equal awe of, “…what the hell are we doing?”

The chief siege engineer, Aron, was immediately fond of the dwarven duo. He spent most of yesterday’s introductions asking about their history and what brought them to Kenabres beside the festival. Inquisitive for a human rogue. Aron introduced Nurah and Sosiel in turn. The later was a dark toned human and follower of Shelyn. The impeccably dressed cleric formally explained he would be taking on the administrative and logistics of the march, as well as any healing duties. Stout in his conviction and the purpose of their quest, Sosiel Vaenic pledges service to the Heroes of Kenabres in the recovery of the artifact. The halfling, Nurah Dendiwhar, does not share the same confidence. Having just been released from the Queen’s garrison, she explains that her knowledge of the worldwound and Drezen will help keep their losses down and troops alive long enough to lay siege on the citadel. Still, the adventurers seem hardy enough to impress Galfrey so she regards the endorsement as good company.

Sosiel informed the commander and group of their provision status. The timetable permitted them light rations, enough to make it to Drezen but nothing long enough for a lengthy siege. Requiring provisions along the way and following the queen’s route direct would be wise. In further counsel, Nurah explained that the lands north of Kenabres were not as infected with the abyssal energies as those to the east but to expect no help from the land, as it’s taint held plague and death for even the heartiest soul. For those who could, she recommended creating food and water daily as purification did not seem to work.

As Utenar called forward, the unit of well trained paladins took rank and file. In a disciplined display, the new Army of Kenabres moved out of the city gates and into the nearby forest towards Valas’s Gift, a small farming community within a day’s march due north.

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A New Supper
...or a heart to heart

I think we should all come together as characters to discuss the destruction of the Wardstone, and what has happened to our characters. I would think this would happen after the queen arrived. Atiasi would want to gather the companions together.

The afternoon was getting toward evening when the brothers arrived in the antechamber. Atiasi was lucky to be able to find a small keg of dwarven ‘Holy Water’. There was a meager meal with a bottle of wine.

“We are sorry to ask you here friends. Friends… A week ago, we didn’t know of your existences. Now we’ve been thrust into the centerpiece of now, this fifth crusade. The light of freedom if you will.

We know that Iomedae or the wardatone has bestowed upon us gifts, or a strength of sorts. There is no denying what we experienced. It has affected us in different ways. We, for one have splintered. The magic sings in our veins, but a part of us has been shaved off to create the living staff we hold." Atiasi smiles at what he is about to say. “We’ve had a difficult time coming up with a name for it.”

“The crystal fused to the end is the heart of what was.the wardstone. Sarenrae, not to be outdone by Iomedae, gave it to us, when she took a piece of my soul to breath life into us again. The staff remembers things of the past, and of the enemy we face. We will grow together, and remember more. This is why we… I’ve been speaking in plural. We’re not insane. But now as well, our Magic is more potent. We can push more into castings. It’s stronger.”

“So I ask you… What are your gifts? What have you discovered in this short time?”

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The Queen at the End of the World

The Queen stood over a table poured with notes, maps, and troop movements-some of which the adventurers recovered. She stood in armament fit for war in apparent full-plate, only the regalia underneath her vestment revealing her royalty. Looking up with peerless eyes, she leaned forward then motioned the group closer. A smile washed over her forlorn face, they could see the touches of time in wrinkles but her face still stood in beautiful contrast for a woman of war. Her hair long and braided, purple hidden in tucks underneath her helm. Her presence at once intimidating and soothing. Her age a mystery in appearance, she looked far younger than she should. Perhaps even the dwarven brother’s beards curled a bit at the feminine warrior; it would be impossible to tell if their cheeks blushed due to their red hair. Her rosy voice broke…

“While there are some narrow-minded souls among the crusade who blame you for the destruction of the wardstone boarder, I do not begrudge you for what you did. Far from it. From the sound of it, you saved entire legions of crusaders from a most vile fate by preventing Vorlesh from transforming them, and the blast of energy gave us the time we needed to regroup and prepare for what will certainly come next.” With measured tone, “But you understand the implications of what you done, I’m sure-the wardstones are gone, but Iomedae has seen fit that you will be their replacement. I can think of no other reason that would explain why their power would have settled in your bodies and souls and did not merely fade in the ether.”

Crossing her arms, “In time, the demons will regroup and reorganize-we can trust their inherit chaos to make this period of regrouping longer than it otherwise would take, but we should not underestimate them. They will be back soon enough. Already I have had reports from along the front lines that small groups of demons are attacking fortifications and settlements along the southern boarder.”

Standing upright with her left hand over her chin, tapping gingerly with her index finger, “But what intrigues me most is news from several reliable resources that as our fiendish enemies are starting to mass in the southern reaches along the Riftshadow within the Worldwound, they have left several of their northern lairs relatively unprotected. In particular, the fiend Aponavicius has taken the bulk of her army from Drezen, leaving it only moderately protected as she joins with teh Storm King in Iz to, no doubt, plot greater attacks on larger targets like Nerosyan, Karcau, and beyond.”

“The time is right to strike into their territory. Drezen was the first of our cities to fall after the First Crusade, and we lost more than our kin and our pride that day. We lost the Sword of Valor, a magical banner carried by the Inheritor herself during the Shining Crusade.” Grasping in a right fist, “If Drezen could be retaken-if the Sword of Valor could once again be held by the crusade… well I trust I do not need to explain how well that would affect morale.”

“But with the imminent attacks along the border, I cannot spare many to lead an assault on Drezen. And even if I could, a large army attacking the city would only draw Aponavicius back to defend the place. The obvious tactic is to send in a group of capable heroes with a modest but well-trained army to strike now, while the element of surprise is ours. And this is why I have sought you out. If you can retake Drezen and reclaim the Sword of Valor, not only will you silence the fools who would brand you traitors for destroying the wardstone, but more importantly, you would bolster the entire war effort with your heroism. And I fear we need all the bolstering we can get!”

Galfrey paused as her thoughts collected upon the task she laid out before the adventurers.

“Hope springs eternal and that is the reason why. The reason we love, we hold our children, we serve our fellow beings, the fact we breathe. The reason we fight the battles we do and suffer the loss.” A sad pause interceded as the she brushed herself, “Our sacrifice cannot go on forever. That is why I share my hope with you.”

“This is the dawn of the Fifth, and I believe final Crusade. Will you be Knights, Heroes of Kenabres?”

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Where did Atiasi go?
and with Whom

“Gentlemen, I have somewhere to go. I did not Pilgrimage to Kenabres to only become a crusader for the city. Have no worry though, when you need them, you will have my spells. I do have something to look into of a private nature. If needed, I will be at Twenty One Lantern Lane. It is, or at least was, a two story brick house with a chimney.” with his statement, Atiasi turned to the door and walked out with his staff. Those who looked at him as he made his statement noticed something different about the staff. There was a large chunk of what looks like burnt crystal fused on the end of it.

Atiasi knew his parents were residents of Kenabres. He traveled here from the new Kingdom of the Mist Marches in hopes of finding his place in the world and fighting on the side of his Goddess Sarenrae. He also wanted to find a connection with his past with finding his parents and what it is with the birthmark over his heart.

He knew the house stood in the northern part of the Ring District. He only hoped it would still be standing. It would take some time to get there to see if it even existed. He would take the normal route as if nothing had happened to the city. His hopes were that the craters the demons caused did not bar his way too much. Atiasi felt lost. He was a stranger to the city before it was destroyed, but now, it’s all but alien. he knew he needed to get to the ring district but the streets were forced back onto them selves, buildings were toppled over blocking his way. He could not fly (yet) to get a birds eye view.
He was about to turn back when a feeling washed over him. a pull in this direction or that. It wasn’t his innate directional sense but something guiding him. He pushed a fallen door out of the way, revealing a side path next to a house, then up an untouched street, to the walls of the Ring district. The one of the gates were blown off its hinges, the other ripped down bringing with it part of the wall. There were bodies strewn all about. Few were whole. Most were gnawed upon to some degree or another.
“Don’t look at them”. Atiasi heard. He looked around to try and find who said it. None were left alive here. “They gave their lives to try to save many. They have Earned their rest.”
“Who’s There!!!” Called Atiasi.
“I’ve been apart of this city for many years. I know many of its secrets, if I could just… Remember”
Atiasi spun around looking for who was speaking to him. The words of his defensive shield spell came from his lips. A blue field of force shimmered in the air in front of him before it became a translucent distortion. “Again, I ask you, Who Is There! Who speaks to me?”
“I am defense, I am Knowledge, I am Strength. I… I’m… I’m what is left.”
“Left of what?” asked Atiasi, “The Last of the Demon’s who destroyed this Fair city? SHOW YOURSELF!!!”
“I’m not… I’m… I am in your Grasp young spell caster”.

Atiasi looked down at his staff. He remembered.

When they entered the chamber of the Wardstone, the witch in the cage could not stop Sturn’s advance directly to the ward stone. There was nothing she could do but watch as the Rod of Cancellation came into contact with the Stone. The world stopped for a moment. Then the Wardstone exploded, destroying the witch and all creatures in the room, save the hero’s. A fist sized chunk which was destined for Atiasi’s head was intercepted by his staff end which quickly fused to the iron capping it. There, the the fractured intelligence of the ward stone waited, and with Iomedae’s blessings, awoke.
(level 1 mythic feat: Legendary item)
Asitai (name in progress)
Quarter Staff made of Bronze Wood. capped with Iron. on the end is a smoky fist sized piece of crystal from the original Ward Stone.
Intelligent Item:
Int: 10, Wis: 10, Cha: 10
Senses: 30’
Alignment: Neutral Good.
3/ day: Protection from evil.
1/ day: Comprehend Languages
1/ day: See Alignment

With the help of the Ward stones knowledge of Kanebras, it took only an hour to make their way to Lantern Lane.
“Do you know who my parents were? Um, I have no idea what to call you. You are obviously intelligent. I’m not going to call you Staff, and not so arrogant to suggest Staff of Atiasi. Other than ‘the ward stone’ have you been called by any other name?”
The staff replied “I am more than just a piece of the Ward stone. I am an extension of you as well. If I remember, which is difficult, Sarenrae would not be outdone by Iomedae and kept apart of the ward stone whole. She also took a sliver of you soul to breath life into me. I am still awakening, but as you grow in power, I know I shall as well.
as to a name…”
Also, I know the city, and its inhabitance. Your parents were good people. That is all I know, for now. Perhaps when we arrive at their home.

The section of the city was blessedly untouched by the destruction wrought upon the city. There were a few pockets that survived. Not because of lack of intent, but lack of interest as there were few threats here. Some of the houses were thoroughly looted, but most were left standing. Fortunately was the case for Atiasi’s parents home.
“This is it” the staff said
“I’m aware. I feel like I’m violating their home. but this is my home as well. even if I have never stepped foot in there. I was carried as a baby.”
“Funny”

Atiasi opened the door with the key his adoptive parents gave him. Here was Months worth of Dust and growth. They must have had some sort of agreement to have someone come in and make sure the place was left standing, but not lived in by anyone else.

Meta what did he find?

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Sword of Valor
...no rest for the wicked

During the height of the First Crusade, as the initial wave of demons was forced back into the heart of the Worldwound, the crusaders began to build fortresses in fallen Sarkoris to hold the defensive line. The greatest of these fortresses was built by a small army of dwarven crusaders-worshippers of Torag who drew upon the architectural styles of their ancient Sky Citadels to create Citadel Drezen, a squat, almost bunker-like fortress situated atop a rugged bluff in the north-eastern corner of the region. The citadel was completed in 4628AR and played a key role in the successful end of the First Crusade. In the years after that crusade’s end, the citadel drew more and more crusaders, and a town of stone buildings grew rapidly around the citadel’s walls. For a time, Drezen served as the unofficial capital of the crusade, and it was in this fortress that many of the crusade’s most beloved and sacred relics came to stay. The greatest of these was the Sword of Valor-a magical banner once carried into battle by Iomedae herself during the Shining Crusade. Under the aegis of the Sword of Valor, several crusading orders struck decisive blows against the demon armies, and its presence in Drezen was believed to make the Citadel’s walls impregnable to demons.

Unfortunately, the Sword of Valor offered no such protection against traitors…


It took five fools on a suicide mission while the Eagle Watch distracted to destroy the last major piece of Kenabres’s wardstone. With the lure of a wardstone fragment ripe for corruption removed and the sudden final death-pulse of the border’s wardstones, the demons have retreated for now. A few stragglers remain in the ruins, but they will soon be hunted down and exterminated… a new ray of hope shines on the beleaguered city with the arrival of Queen Galfrey and her armies, fresh from the defense of other cities along the south. She plans to meet with the heroes who played such a vital role in the city’s defense-and who, if rumours are to be trusted, are the heritor of the wardstone’s power. The city feels broken and empty yet glimpses of hope shine in the eyes of her people.

The group of adventures find themselves back from the Grey Garrison at the Defender’s Heart, set up as a meeting point and triage center for the city. As they wait, Irabeth and Aniva join the group in solemn celebration, more like relief.

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Victory!
...with a special bonus added...

The team took only a few moments to explore the 2nd-floor landing and hall, discovering a few more rooms of mild interest, a great deal more fecal matter, and a library with some nasty foes inside. Squeezing into the small room and up against the stacks, the heroes made quick work of the scum there, and then found another chamber, a large scrying room full of animated corpses.

Sturn, incensed by the wanton desecration of his deity’s temple, rushed head-long in, shouting at every move, doing his best to inspire the others to follow him into battle. The team, now well-accustomed to each other, worked smoothly and dispatched the undead there before heading up to the third floor in search of the wardstone.

At the top of the stairs they found another small chamber, hemming in their ability to move and fight from all directions…and a large mutant minotaur beastie that bum-rushed them, preventing easy access into and maneuvering throughout the room. Braving the inevitable attacks, Gnarl brushed past the great beast, absorbing punishing blows as he cleared space for the others to attack. Jaroo dropped his dinosaur guise in favor of his actual form, and pressed the attack, while the others used sword and spell – and maybe a hammer or two – to beat the massive creature to the ground, splitting its skull against the hardwood floor. One door led from this chamber, and on the other side Sturn detected great evil – the wardstone was close at hand!
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Through the door the team rushed, bracing for what they believed would be their final, and likely most deadly, fight. The room on the other side presented the wardstone, locked in an iron cage, and a demon-woman-caster-somebody working through the twisted syllables of what could only be a foul ritual or spell. Wasting no time for a monologue, the five heroes ran forward: the dwarfs and Jaroo toward the woman, while Atiasi stayed back to cast a spell, and Sturn, drawing the Rod of Cancellation, made directly for the wardstone.

The demon-kind’s spell was interrupted as the melee ensued, and yet it was Sturn striking at the wardstone that turned the tide, with the stone exploding in a brilliant, celestial light, blasting to foul little pieces the woman, and stopping time around the team for a split-second as the force of heavenly power enveloped and penetrated them, imbuing them with a unearthly vitality.

Moments later – really, they could not tell how much time had passed – a shimmering image of another demon-woman appeared before them, but her spells and lame monologue had no effect on them, leaving her irritated when she was unable to incinerate them. Instead, she summoned several babau demons to do her work for her. They, in turn, took a look at the five fine examples of badassity in the room, and the cat, and summoned some more of their friends just to be sure.

Despite their brutal, well-coordinated attacks and the massive amounts of damage they doled out, they were unable to gain the initiative in the fight…even after severing Gnarl’s spine, cutting off his hand, and gouging one of his eyes out….even after ganging up on Sturn (clearly, recognizing the real threat in the room). One by one, then in groups, they were defeated and destroyed.
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Standing in the ruined chamber, its stone walls blasted almost smooth from the massive release of divine energies – fell and good – the five heroes and Toonces were greeted by a manifestation of the goddess Iomedae herself, who addressed them personally and by name, thanking them for their great deeds and courage, and exhorting them to continue their fight to contain and eventually roll back the hordes of demons from the Worldwound.

The vision of Sturn’s youth was fulfilled in this moment as his divine patron confirmed him as one of her champions, and accepted his service as worthy. As she faded from sight she gazed directly at him, as if to take full stock of him as her knight…and winked. She winked at him!

Silence was all that was left after she was gone, and the five knew there was nothing they could add to what had happened, what they’d been asked to do, what they did, and what it all meant. And yet, seized by the moment, Sturn looked at his friends – the men alongside whom he knew he would face Hell’s fury – and had a thought.

“Who’s ready to accept Iomedae and her wisdom?” he asked. Suddenly getting their wits about themselves the dwarven brothers scoffed, each muttering something about how “…a woman without a beard was no woman at all…”, while Atiasi busied himself with brushing ashes off his robes and awkwardly whistling to himself. Jaroo, on the other hand, being a relatively transparent and practical fellow, nodded.

“I’m in…that’s all the proof I needed.”

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Storming the Stronghold
"...cleanin' up the town, oh yeah...."

The team moved swiftly through the shattered city toward the temple, now defiled and acting as the demonic head-shed. Gnarl and Sturn cased the massive front doors, spying two bloated demon-spawn standing guard there. Sadly, both were the distorted shells of two former men of the city, one of whom had been the mayor. Sturn muttered something to himself about freeing what was left of them, and then the rushed the front door.

A short melee ensued, resulting in both demi-scum being destroyed and the doors breached. Into the lobby the team poured, confronted by a desecrated temple in full fecal bloom, followed quickly by a confrontation with another group, this time eight cultists, eager to prove their worth to their demonic lords by killing more crusaders.

Wrong idea, guys – the varsity team had arrived.

Although they took damage, the righteous invaders struck down all of the vile adepts, providing them with the chance to meet their true masters probably a lot earlier than they’d expected. ‘…probably not as grand as they’d hoped…’ Sturn thought grimly to himself, marveling at the stupidity and craven evil that so many chose.
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The team moved into another room, encountering this time actual demons, and filled the chamber with their wrath, bum-rushing the book-gobbling wanna-be puppeteers. These fights were swift and deadly, and although the crusaders never doubted the outcome, they still took considerable damage as each new fight ensued. Both Jaroo and Utenar required healing, and even Sturn made use of his ability to mend injuries, on himself and others. And yet, they had to press on – there was no other option at this point.

Into a long worship chamber they moved, despite being the victims of several hurled fire bombs. This is where they felt the pain the most on the ground level, although all enemies were destroyed eventually. More healing and regrouping followed, along with the discovery of a powerful magic sword that had once belonged to one of their allies. And then…up the stairs!

For once, in a seemingly unbroken line of adventures, quests, and journeys, a team of stalwarts discovered a set of stairs that went….up. Strange…disconcerting…clearly the work of sinister hands….and yet definitely up. And so up they went.

Up they went, and into a hall packed with waiting cultists and other foes – 12 of them in all! The team’s speed and ferocity surprised these enemies, enabling the heroes to move quickly among them in order to begin the work of cutting them to pieces. And cut them to pieces they did, even with the addition of a 13th foe, a mutant dog-elk-mosquito-wildebeast craft project that burst forth from a side chamber, barking, bleating, buzzing and roaring its way down the wide hall.

The heroes cut and thrust and parried, much like at their fencing master’s call in days of old, and the training held true, leaving heaps of body parts and gore layered above the ever-present smears of excrement.

Breathe…center…focus…heal….and then onward! The team was all eyes outward, scanning the doors within the hall, checking for magical and evil auras behind all of them, and listening for any signs, as well.

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