For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Following their rebuke at battle with the hobgoblins, the party had reconvened and swiftly sought to capitalize on what spoils they’d managed to recover. Three days were spent among the Camp and the group’s own fortifications, purchasing and preparing new potions, scrolls and magical arms and armament to assist them in their next endeavor: an assault on the black gates of Tsar and the terrible fortress that was Kirash Durgaut and the Tower of Weeping Sores! Armies had been smashed against such defenses–but the adventurers were boldly committed and set to task readying themselves for their attack.
While resources were restocked and wounds mended, Meryk saw to gathering more information among other adventurers and interests in the Camp–in the process managing to glean a rumor that the Whispering Way’s cultists had completed their own journey in secret and had now entered Tsar. Word was that a group of such cultists had sought Kirash Durgaut as well–doubtless to find an audience with whomever ruled over the battlements, potentially still the infamous General Myrac even after so many years.
Anxious to ensure that the forces within Tsar were not brought together and seeking to secure a foothold among the temple-city’s defenses, Kirash Durgaut made an obvious but dangerous destination. Wishing to take no chances, pricey safeguards were purchased among packed scrolls and after a final evening of prayer and preparation, the party set out down the long road to Tsar on foot–for Brother Vang’s full countenance of divine magics had been reserved to preserve his fellows in the fights to come.
On the morning, word reached the party that another group of adventurers had already set out to assail Kirash Durgaut–and that an entryway beyond the Black Gates may have even been secured. Seizing swiftly, the party set out–and the march ahead was a familiar one now. With a few hours spent treading the cracked remnants of the broad crossroads, the Black Gates came into sight ahead.
Upon the roadway, near to a hundred siege undead lay broken and destroyed–leftovers from those who strode forth before them–yet on the high ramparts countless more skeletal defenders stood at the ready with bows and siege weapons at their disposal. Already projectiles were lobbed towards the adventurers, though near to all fell far short of their position–but even posing so little a threat individually, scores of skeletal archers would nevertheless weather down even the most heavily armored among their number.
As the party continued to observe and discuss their approach, a flash was sighted high on the fortress–a fireball loosed among the battlements; for a moment, the defenders on the wall-tops turned their attention inwards, distracted by the force–and with the opening at hand the group hastened to cover the remaining ground and breach the ajar gates of the fortress into the immense courtyard beyond.
Once inside the outer walls, the party made their way along the flank of the fortress–discovering then that a veritable killing field lay ahead, framed by further walls and dominated by a colossal tower. The central tower was recognized to be a Dokkalfoer, a rare construct capable of repelling invaders via rained arrows and pulses of force; soon after coming into view, the tower began to bombard the party at range while on the walls distant reinforcements could be heard on the approach.
With no time to spare, Anselme broke ahead and quickly made his way to the entrance of Kirash Durgaut itself alongside Leone–though the young druid found the sizable double doors heavily reinforced and covered with arcane runes and sigils. Attempting to make an entrance, potent layered traps were sprung and after an attempt by Pandora to secure passage inside the doors were found to be heavily barred as well.
As the Dokkalfoer continued to rain punishment down on the party, Emma and Gothrac squared off and began pulverizing the door by force with weapons of adamantine–soon making a hole for the group to hasten inside. Swiftly the party rushed into the cover the corridor beyond provided just as waves of siege undead and skeletal centaur-like marrow knights began to arrive outside the fortress; with the way out thick with a throng of enemies, the group was committed: onward and upward through the fortress ahead to confront its master above.
Ahead lay a lengthy corridor interspersed with three sets of upraised portcullis and a further set of reinforced doors on the far end. Murder holes and other suspicious markings lined the full length of the passage–and so with a sense of dread the party began to proceed. Emma, Anselme and Gothroc along with Pandora all managed to rush to the far end of the corridor and set to work upon the doors there, while Cassandra, Brother Vang and Leone trailed in the middle; Meryk, covering the rear of the party’s entrance into the fortress, was last to make his way into the corridor–and it was with the party split as such that the portcullises slammed down and chaos erupted throughout!
Boiling pitch and oil showered down from the murder holes above, coating the whole of the divided party with the searing substance; from countless arrow slits the full length of the passage, skeletal archers began loosing immense volleys of arrows on the intruders–and the portcullises themselves were discovered to be animated objects, slamming and impaling against the would-be transgressors with a frightful fervor! While half the party set to the task of destroying and tearing down the portcullises, Pandora abandoned disabling the lock on the inner doors as more traps were loosed–leading to Emma and Gothroc squaring away to tear a path ahead once more.
Once the party had cleared the entrance hall there was scarcely time to regroup–for the strangely shaped chamber beyond was surrounded by further archery positions from the level above, arrows soon raining down as the group gathered. Three sets of double doors were found spread among three walls–and after a brief check of the adjoining flanks found waiting mobs of siege undead ready to pour into the room–and so Emma and Meryk tore ahead from the party to the third set of doors, bursting them open and finding a small antechamber beyond with doors on the opposite wall.
As Anselme and the others worked to cut down the many siege undead spilling into the chamber, Emma and Meryk entered the antechamber out of the line of fire from archers above; Emma moved to power her way past the next set of doors and make a path for the rest of the party–and it was then that a twenty-foot cube of concrete came slamming down on both she and Meryk from above as a stone wall was discovered on the other side.
With two of their number trapped beneath the crushing weight of near to five hundred tons of stone, the rest of the party scrambled to recover the duo–an emergency application of salve of slipperiness and use of dimension door and powerful healing magic eking out the narrow survival of the pair. Though it was a rather costly rescue on the group’s resources, Emma and Meryk yet lived to fight on within the fortress–and now that the siege undead had been cleared, the party pushed on past their foul-smelling holding rooms.
Stables were discovered along with foul latrines as the group explored the lower level; beyond the main entryway’s traps and archers, the opposition was found much scarcer and breathing room was afforded. Electing to finish the first floor before ascending, the party soon discovered a prison area wherein an attach three-armed skeleton was fought and swiftly dispatched. Beyond, a torture room was found–and having heard rumor of General Myrac’s proclivities for such measures, the group was ill pleased.
Much to the party’s surprise, cages within the torture room were occupied by men and women in black robes–members of the whispering way, it had seemed. Before the prisoners could be questioned, however, a trio of iron maiden golems sprang startlingly to action–descending swiftly on the party. Gothroc was quickly trapped within one of the golems, countless piercing spikes grievously wounding the fighter as the others fought; Emma and Pandora were similarly trapped in short order–and after a harrowing stretch wherein Gothroc and Pandora were on the verge of death, the golems were destroyed with the duo deep in unconsciousness.
While time was taken to tend to the considerable wounds just sustained, the prisoners were questioned–though not released. It was discovered after some argument over trustworthiness that the cultists had arrived at the fortress seeking audience with General Myrac–and that the man himself still lived, it seemed. However, their attempt to make contact did not go as planned–and after several of their number had been captured and tortured, the leader of their group had been taken above with promises that their ‘turn’ would come soon.
For a time, the party debated the merits of waiting for Myrac to return to the torture chamber that they might ambush him while he was relaxed–but such notions were dispatched when the cultists revealed that the man had other denizens retrieve his victims for him. Though the party would not release the prisoners for the time being, Brother Vang provided water and rations to those interred and promised to later return once the group’s work was done above.
Doubling back the party found a forge and in it, a forge wight which was quickly dispatched; from there they began their ascent, heading to the second level and systematically rooting out and destroying the great many skeletal archers which had plagued them from above. Once the defenders of the entry gauntlet had been dealt with, the group began to make their way deeper into the fortress. Guard rooms were discovered unmanned, with signal bells poised within each which Anselme quickly took and eagerly packed away. Pandora considered attempting a prank of the command level through the signals before the group moved on.
Past store rooms and narrow halls the adventurers uncovered a small office which seemed to boast records from the garrison and payroll; taking great care to thoroughly search the space, the party recovered aged tabards and uniforms for the fortress along with tapestries and banners denoting the many devoted to Tsar more than two hundred years prior. Sifting through the collection, one of the banners was recognized as having potentially been a precursor to that utilized by the nation of Molthune.
Of most interest to Anselme was the ledger present among the affects in the office–suggesting a sizable payroll for the troops of old Kirash Durgaut and further, that it may not have been rendered at the time. After thoroughly overturning the office, a hidden key was discovered along with a hidden keyhole–and soon enough a succession of secret panels, caches and lock-boxes were delved through until the party recovered the missing payroll which would help swell their coffers.
Proceeding onward the party entered a ringed hall filled with doors to smaller rooms which, upon further investigation, proved to be officer’s quarters for the fortress. Not long after beginning their search through such a spectre emerged to attack the group–and soon, a half dozen other spectres and ghosts joined the fray. Whittling away at the very essence of the adventurers, Brother Vang’s channeled faith coupled with enchanted weaponry and a generous application of druidic and sorcerous magic soon sent the spirits away.
The attack had left several weakened, however–and so the party withdrew temporarily to regroup and re-assess their approach to the rest of the fortress; ahead, several levels of Kirash Durgaut yet remained–now the least of which included the ramparts upon which countless undead and other abominations had been observed in prior aerial scouting. One thing was for certain: General Myrac and his war council would have to be confronted before the day was done. If only they’d known then how soon that would be…
We left off this session partway through the fortress–but next time the final battle and conclusion yet await!