The week once the mythic companions returned was a busy one. Sturn threw his weight behind the defence of the city Drezen, Gnarl worked with Aron in the cities rebuilding, Utinar spent his time in contemplation with the lost halfling. This took the majority of their time.
Jaroo was out of sorts given the heros inability to cleans the taint of the hidden fane. He requested of Irabeth a grouping of scrolls to be able to cast Hallow on the grounds the team cleared to bring it back into balance with the world.
Jaroo requested a meeting with Irabeth, the half-orc paladin, who was tasked with the guidance of Drezen by the Queen.
“Mistress, I would ask for a spell with our next shipment from Kanebres. It is currently beyond our capabilities to cast. A Hallow spell which will complete the removal of the taint covering the hidden fane.”
Irabeth replied, “it will be done good druid. Tell me of this fane you and your companions cleared.”
Jaroo told Irabeth of the fane where there was a small chapel dedicated to Baphomet. A spell caster of some kind with a summoned 6 legged draconic familiar which disappeared after its death. There were Baphomet Templars, on a rest from their ranging in the world wound. Also a pair of demons who have yet to be identified. Hidden in a fake treasury of such, another demonic whirlwind. Poor Atiasi was thrashed by the creature before escaping by dimensionally shifting. The strength of the paladin, and the dwarves decimated all the foes, along with the spell casting might of our spell casters.
Irabeth listened intently to the story. When he was finished she said, "once the taint is removed, perhaps we could use the sake fane as a forward base of operation?
“I don’t see why not, Mistress.” He replied. “It needs renovating, as a statue of Baphomet is standing over the chapel. I believe it was originally dedicated to the nature spirits of the land before the demonic host invaded the land.
On another note mistress,” he remembered, “some of the documents recovered point to a location called the Ivory Sanctuary, hidden by a wall of illusion. It is located in what used to be a forest of some type.”
“Interesting”, mused Irabeth. “I’ll have one of my scholars look into it.
Thank you, kind Jaroo. Your report is most insightful.”
With his request presented, and story told, Jaroo retired warily to his room. The taint was still affecting him. The spell, he hoped, would cleanse him too.
A week went by, waiting for the caravan of supplies from Kanebras along with the scroll of Hallow. The team kept busy but apart except for their down time in their communal room. (Meta- communal time is when the players can converse, unless specifically stated in the post.)
Sturn continued working with the defenders. A dedicated task master, but a fair deciplinarian. A good leader of men.
Gnarl continued his work on the Keep itself. Taking what he leaned from the demons. He began making more narrow corridors, and cold iron fixtures.
Utinar, after he sent his personal army to scout the land, stayed mostly in the church to Torag. Those who sought forgiveness in deed and thought, he would hear them. The trecherous halfling was a daily visitor. The Barbarian Jestak too was a regular visitor, amongst other knights, commoners, and priests.
Atiasi as well as Havik spent his time with Arenvashal assisting with corrupted weapons over the purity forge to convert the evil to good. They bickered like women over the potency, and versatility of book learned, vs natural magic infused into mortal shells. Both loved the debate, but neither would admit it.
Atiasi also provided 5 shards of the ward stone which still held power to add to the construction of Atiasi’s Ward. The staff continued to wake. They spoke with aravashal of the history of Kanebras, and the world wound. Various, locations, and persons both current and past.
The end of the week brought the caravan to the Keep. Jaroo as.quickly as his diminished form could take him hurried to the caravan master. There were many missing from the normal retinue of the caravan. The master included.
“What happened?” He asked of one of the drivers.
“Raiders m’lord. They’ve been hitting us for a month. Ever since we began regular supply shipments. We began staggering our times, but they appear from no where. This was harder than before. I’m afraid they took the box for the Heroes. I mean, you… M’lord.”
“Damn”, Jaroo violently exclaimed.
He stormed off.
That night, in the common room, he spoke to the companions.
“The spell we needed to complete our task at the Fane was stolen by raiders.” He began, “the caravan was attacked and most of the drivers and guards were slain.”
“What!!! Who did this! We must up the Action to end their existences! send them back to the abyss from where…”
“They’re human,” Jaroo inturrupted. “Barbarians, from the sound of it, Sturn.”
“Oh!!! Well, non abyssal creatures are too crunchy. Just like this mint. Errr, holy wafer.” Crunch crunch he bit into the mint. “They are beneath me.” He continued as he walked to his room."
“Us”, began Gnarl, “either.” finished Utinar. “We should have been dead from the 2 harlots.” Continued Gnarl, “about as much value as garnets.” Said Utinar.
Havik grimaced at the warriors, “I’m game. These raids can not continue.” He volunteered.
Atiasi chimed in, “We shall join as well. You need your strength returned. And far be it the book learner show us up.” They smiled.
They looked at each other an took stock of what they had in each other.
That night, Havik went in search of Jestak. The mighty barbarian mistress would be a welcome addition to the small group. He found her in the dungeon. She took a cell for herself apart of the path to her own personal redemption.
“Jestak, I would have a word with you if I may.”
She looked up from her book of Golarian Deities. Its pages fell open to teachings of Sarenrae, the Dawnflower. “Yes Havik?”
“We could use your strength and talents on this mission we are about to embark on. A group have been hitting our caravans on their way to us, taking what is easily held and melting back into the wilderness.”
“Why me? I’ve turned from my murderous ways. I will not take another life. What could I offer you?”
Havik answered, “Your skill in the outdoors, your knowledge of the various tribes in the wilderness, Hell… Your company would be most welcome.”
Jestak looked down a moment and lightly blushed. “This one is nice.” She thought to herself. “Very well mage, I’ll accompany you.”
The next morning, the four were mounted, ready for the day and their hunt to begin. The three noticed something odd about the sorcerer. He sat astride his mount, but his staff was not in his hand.
“What?” He asked. “My ward is in good hands. The extra shards I collected from when the Ward Stone detonated are being imbedded by Aravashal. I am fully accomplished, and capable without it. We’re just after a few raiders. It’s not like we’re not going to see Baphomet himself.”
His speech in the singular was not sitting well with the small group, but they had a job to do. Off the 4 rode along the road toward Kanebras.
The road was quiet. Jaroo and Atiasi had not followed this way since they were tasked with the liberation of Drezen. Two days later they reached the outpost of soldiers.
There they spoke with the post captain. Little more details were gained of the raids, aside from they always take all the dead. Both theirs and ours. It was an odd habit.
Back on the road, they mused. Perhaps they eat the dead? I can imagine raising cattle is very fruitful in this festering place." Said one. “Perhaps they bury them all honorably?” Guessed another.
Only time would tell once they found the raiders.
Another day passed when they turned south along the trade rout. They would pass patrols guarding the way, and once a single pilgrim on his way to the liberated temple of Iomedae on the way to Drezen.
In the afternoon of the fourth day, they came across a completely decimated caravan. Wagons overturned, draft horses let loose, some goods still smouldering. No dead, or even wounded. No one was left.
They did a quick search of the wreckage. No one left.
The team reloaded the wagons with what could be salvaged. Jaroo, using his affinity toward animals, directed them to continue to the patrol station to bring the needed supplies, what was left of them.
Jaroo’s large 6 legged feline, with 2 sets of eyes, dug around the scene, picking up a scent. To the west the raiders fled. “This way, talon found them.”
Down the marred path the walked. All but Jaroo, who transformed into an owl and took wing in the evening hours.
They found a small gully where the group could camp for the night. They looked up in the night sky to the rocky crags from which lava spilled like a burning waterfall. Atiasi thought to himself, we are going to have to get on top of that to look at the landscape around us. The tower from which the Lava fall spewed forth was named Eagle Rock.
While resting, and keeping watch, Jaroo in the guise of an owl, spied a huge creature on wing flying amongst the spires of eagle rock.
The following day, they were back on horseback, following Jaroo’s companion along a trail barely recognizable from a mere game trail. There were bits and pieces of discarded armor, ripped clothing, even some drops of blood.
The day wore on.
Later that day, they saw smoke on the horizon. It climbed into the sky about a mile out to mix with the sulphurous clouds. Easily missed if not for the keen eyes of Jaroo, now in the guise of an Eagle.
The group continued on.
About a quarter of a mile from the smoke plume, a small village slowly came into focus. One house, then another. Children played, but there were no physically capable adults to corral them in. The grown ups were all elderly and malnourished. Most seemed to be on the edge of starvation. They quickly gathered the young into their homes. There was the distinct look of fear in their eyes.
They wore the skins of slain animals from years past, and some cloth items as well. Some from earlier crusades, some from recent.
Havik, for his part, put some bits of food down for the children to collect. All stood still, watching. As the group moved on, a small girl crept out from under a house, ran to the stump where the food lay, grabbed it and dashed back inside.
“Something is very wrong here.” Havik stated. “Children should not go hungry.”
The shrubbery began to thin conciderably. The smoke was just over the next rise.
The house built of stone stood in the center of a cleared area. There were slits in the side for ventilation and missiles, as well as a central chimney. Taking a knee to watch the house, the team spied a duo of what can only be described as barbarians walk from the thick wooden door, carrying a pot of refuse, to an open air garbage pile. They walked with determination, and quickness. No dallying around.
Once back in the house, Jaroo flew over to the pile to investigate. There was mostly standard garbage, but also a few bodies, and bones left from what carrion beasts consumed.
Back he flew disgusted.
“So what’s the plan?” asked Havik.
“I don’t think we want to hurt anyone specifically, but whoever is running the joint.” Replied Jaroo.
“Too bad, I could really do some damage to the interior from here.” Frowned Atiasi. “Who are they?”
Jestek chimed in, “They’re the winter sun clan. A cursed tribe. I thought they all died out years ago.”
“Well someone’s home.” Said Havik. “We should knock.”
Atiasi offered, “Allow me.” A wave of his hands and from fifty yards away, a translucent blue hand made of force materialized and knocked on the door.
It swung open by two of the tribe. Jestak yelled across the open space in her native tongue. They replied and slammed the door.
Jaroo asked “I caught some of it, but what did you say?”
She answered, “something about my cowardly mother has more stones than their leader. It sounds better in my tongue. It is supposed to get their leader here, but as you can see, they’re cowed.”
Then we will have to do it the old fashioned way. In person to see the chief.
The 4 of them Wales to the door, with Jaroo’s companion behind. On approach, the doors swung wide again, this time they looked at Havik little closer.
Not only was he elven, but he also began to scratch here and there. Places where he scratched became visibly darker, and steam, or smoke rose from his skin. Something was happening to him but was missed by the others outside the barbarian tribe.
They walked into the entry way. It was flanked by a stuffed bear, and a man sized eagle. Both of which had seen better days of repair. They continued down a corridor to a communal area. Here, more of the clan lay about. These were well fed. These were the raiders. They too had pieces of caravan driver, and guards clothing and armor beneath their animal pelts.
They all raised to their feet, then the procession continued down another hall to a set of double doors. The group were ushered into the main meeting hall of Marhevok Grind Wintersun. The doors were closed behind them with just the chief and his concubine.
To the side of the room was a pool of rime filled water.
“At last! What does the mistress wish of us!!!” He bellowed to the but looking directly at Havik. I see we are One in this land of demon spawn!
Remembering the vile elf which had her way with the group before, Atiasi leaned forward to whisper into Havik’s ear. “I believe he means the elf that kicked our asses.” Then a little louder so the chief could also overhear and think himself clever. “The Mistress demands the scroll case found on the caravan marked for the fools leading the knights.”
Havik stated bluntly. The box of scrolls. It will weaken our enemies if our mistress had them."
“BAGH!” He replied. I’ll find these upstarts, and I will SLAY THEM ALL!" The mistress needn’t worry about scraps of paper. COME! Join me my brother. Let us join forces and become one tribe! You can keep your soft… Playthings."
By this time, Jaroo had made his way to the double doors, his cat by his side. Jestak at Haviks side and Atiasi held his ground just behind and to the side as a good major domo would.
The banter continued until a slip of the tongue, and the barbarian chief yelled, “You are IMPOSTERS! SLAY THEM ALL!!!” As he stepped forward, his height visably grew, bone, and shards began poking through his skin, which grew darker, and red. Finally, horns of a minotaur grew from his head as he rushed the party.
His concubine was nowhere to be found.
Marhevok charged the group. Specifically at Havik. “I am your Doom!”
His powerful charge was interrupted by a heavy swing of Jestak’s mighty adamantine great sword. At the same time, Jaroo morphed into a large Cat, who put his weight against the double doors to keep out the rest of the tribe.
As the fight broke out, from within the rime crusted pool, a pale blue Frost Drake burst out and immediately sprayed the heroes with its icy breath. They all took damage, some more than others.
Jaroos cat sprang at the new threat. They tumbled into a halo or fur, and scale.
Atiasi stepped back out of the frost covered area then drew upon the mythic power within him, and his arcane bloodline to enhance his spells, blasting the barbaric chief.
Havik was having none of melee, he called upon his conjuration specialization to dimensionally step across the room.
With his “brother” no longer in front of him, Marhevok took his frustrations out on Jestak. She tried to counter his physical blows with her great sword, blocking one of three mighty blows from the enraged barbarian. Her contientious objection to fighting forces her to fight defensively, and only attack incoming attacks.
Atiasi now, with his footing secure, gazed at the Drake squared off with the mighty cat. A spell flew from his lips, coursing through the air, at once the Drakes pupil slits shrank to the width of paper. It shook its head but the charm spell had already taken effect Jaroo was having a difficult time holding the doors closed. With the weight of 8 of the tribe pushing, they broke through the doors. They poured into the room just has Havik, taking a queue from Atiasi’s spell choice, a pair of scorching rays flew from his outstretched hands, felling the mighty barbarian chief.
The rest of the tribe stood agape as their chief died. Their eyes belied gratitude. No longer were they afraid for their lives, but now they knew they had no home.
So it was offered by the quartet, to come to the fort, bolster the scouting force, and strike back at the demonic plague that is causing the land to festering.
With a quick once over in the barbarian home, a magical bag was found in the quarters of the dead chief. Next to it, the case of scrolls, and dispatch orders for Irabeth. Lastly, perched on a leather shoe horse, a saddle made specifically for the frost Drake, and his new rider. The group went back to the village where the old and young lived. The food stores were open and they were able to eat, and drink their fill. They gathered up what few belongings they had, loaded up on horseback, in wagons, and pulled by bulls. Some wouldn’t make the trek, but most would. That was alright by them. The terror that was Chief Marhevok was no more.