For backgrounds on the characters played in this campaign, look here~
Once the darkness had cleared and the dust settled, the party regrouped and prepared to marshal forward–faced with the cave system which served as warren for the hobgoblin mercenaries. Infantry lay dead at the entrance–but the bulk of their brethren had made a tactical withdraw in the ensuing chaos of Cassandra’s magic and even now could be heard shouting orders and regrouping in kind. Still enraged, however–Emma tore off after her adversaries following furiously into a twisting series of narrow tunnels where she soon came faced with six infantry in the dark: three bore tower shields to block off the passageway while three at their back wielded long spears to rebuke an advance.
With two passageways to traverse, the party became split–Pandora and Brother Vang making their way in pursuit of Emma while Cassandra and Anselme took to look down the alternative cavern. A ballista bolt sailed free from the shadows of the second passageway–and in the broader caverns Anselme was barely able to make out a hobgoblin engineer manning the wheeled siege implement and flanked by a rather frightful golem comprised of whirling gears and spinning blades. After loosing strikes of flame and stone in an exchange of fire with the engineer, Anselme was able to drive the technical mercenary back before following to join his fellows in the first passage.
By now, Emma had managed to break past the blockade to face the source of her rage while Pandora hastened to join her; from deeper in the caverns however a rain of arrows came time and time again, hobgoblin archers set in firing positions from higher ground with a clear line of fire on the intruders. To make matters worse in the already cramped confines of the narrow passage, an unseen sorcerer began to open up magical pits beneath the feet of the adventurers–each a forty foot drop and filled with acid at their base!
What little room there was to maneuver was swiftly growing scarcer–and while the heavily armored hobgoblins tasked with tying up the party were being whittled down, the whole of the passage was quickly becoming a quagmire in turn. From a narrow passage to one flank the gear-work golem ground its way free, tearing into Emma and Brother Vang with equal fervor in a wild whirl of blades; Cassandra attempted to loose torrents of arcane power against the mercenaries in the narrow passage, only to be revealed from her invisibility with glitter-dust and forced to draw back and outside the range of fire from the archers further on.
Already short on space to stand, what solid ground remained became beleaguered by black tentacles via further sorcerous magic–swiftly prompting Cassandra to switch gears and begin systematically attempting to dispel the works of her counterpart. Slowly but surely the battle of attrition began to slip further in favor of the warren’s defenders; Brother Vang’s divine healing struggled to match tempo with the wounds his allies sustained and while Emma endeavored to oust the golem into one of the acid pits without success–she herself soon fell prey at last to one opening beneath her feet, requiring aid from Pandora to hoist herself free.
At the rear of the party Gothroc Gro-Bromac sought to secure the path to the cavern’s entrance only to find that a group of hobgoblin infantry backed by additional archers and a shaman had moved to flank and box in the adventurers; the fighter suffered significant wounds battling to keep a path open for his fellows–and discussion had begun among the group to consider mounting a retreat from the engagement after becoming so stalled in the passageways. While Gothroc managed to cut a path to the cave’s exit, Emma broke free from the rest of her companions, separated by the acid pits–and charged headlong into the waiting throng of infantry on the other side beneath a rain of arrows.
So separated from the party, Emma was swiftly surrounded while further waves of the mercenaries continued to arrive from deeper in the caves; Pandora maneuvered her way after her friend while calling back to the others to begin their full withdraw from the fight–hoping to bring Emma back safely in their midst. Cassandra, Anselme, Leone and Brother Vang began beating their way back through the tide of foes who had since flooded the entrance to the caverns–but while Leone was swiftly free from the cave and Cassandra flown after the feline, Anselme and Brother Vang became separated from one another–the crusader surrounded by mercenaries.
Once more Brother Vang invoked divine protection to raise a magical sanctuary against his foes–while Anselme wielded the very stone of the cave to erect a wall to section off two thirds of the enemy forces from the cleric; with crusader’s sword in hand and empowered with righteous strength, Brother Vang began to cut his way free from his remaining foes while Cassandra–now free from the midst of her enemies–resumed bombarding the cavern with fireballs and other arcane conjurations to cover her allies.
Meanwhile, deep in the cave Emma had managed to cut down several of the hobgoblins–yet ever more continued to appear to replace them as she and Pandora became further entrenched in their midst. Both had slowly but surely suffered considerable injury–despite Emma’s fearsome durability shrugging off the brunt of so many blows and Pandora’s deft maneuvering ducking and weaving to avoid them; enemies so numerous had gradually taken their respective toll on both women as they fought.
Upon the high ground the hobgoblin archers ran themselves dry of munitions, so many arrows they had rained upon the adventurers–withdrawing to seek a resupply; Pandora pleaded with Emma to forfeit the field and withdraw with her, yet the barbarian demanded further blood from her foes, hoping to find their leader. As more significant enemies began to emerge from deeper in the cave, the duo at long last began to withdraw together–but now faced a veritable horde of hobgoblins blocking the path of their retreat through the narrow passageways.
While weaving amidst pits and plentiful warriors, Emma and Pandora struggled to fight for their freedom–all but smothered by their foes; Anselme, having waited long for the emergence of his friends, took to the form of an earth elemental before tunneling his way back into the caves that he might help retrieve the duo from a certain demise. As Pandora fell in battle, bleeding and on the brink of death–Anselme arrived just in time to pull the drow beneath the stone and tend to her wounds; in the meantime, surrounded by near to two dozen infantry and other enemies, Emma raged on.
Outside the cave Brother Vang clung to the cliff-face, working feverishly to seek and support those still remaining within the caves; a distortion in the air drew the cleric’s attention, however–before a ripple in the very fabric of the space parted, and out emerged a strange reptilian creature in gear that was stranger still. Something flickered within the deep corners of the cleric’s subconsciousness–recognition of a decidedly rare outsider: the garthiss, denizens not of differing planes–but differing time-streams. More ‘commonly’ for as little as such a creature was known, the one which now faced Brother Vang was veritably an assassin!
Panicking and possessing precious little options, Brother Vang made a bold decision–declaring loudly and clearly to the traveler that he could not, would not be stopped here this day–with conviction in his cause, his charge and his creed; attempting to intimidate his would-be assailant, Brother Vang and the garthiss both held a moment on the fringe of uncertainty. Then, before the cleric’s eyes and with no small bewilderment, something subtle changed–and the garthiss female spoke in cryptic common of a contract–and further, solicited a quarry.
Blinking for a moment, Brother Vang declared Orcus, the statues he and his fellows sought–and of most immediate and pressing concern, the hobgoblins within the cave. The traveler cited acceptance of this ‘contract’–before vanishing much as it had arrived, much to Vang’s bewilderment and relief most palpable. Inside the cave, Emma fought her way nearer still to the entrance–but now the enemy ranks parted to allow one most imposing to stride through and meet the barbarian in battle: Vermer, the veritable leader of the mercenaries, strode forth to match muscle with the barbarian’s brute force.
Anselme had managed to extract Pandora from her predicament, but returning for Emma would prove far more difficult–and now, the barbarian had suffered further blows potent enough to bypass her normally dauntless durability; Emma wavered, dazed and badly wounded–before a glimmer upon the air saw the arrival of an ally unforeseen. Looking very much as if a velociraptor had been given goggles, the garthiss emerged from seemingly out of nothingness and engaged Vermer–before with a flicker, both she and he were absent from the field.
Not hesitating with the window of opportunity, Emma swiftly roused and broke through the thinned, stunned ranks of the hobgoblins before daylight could be seen from the cave entrance–and with covering fire from Cassandra and Anselme, the barbarian was free among her allies–all rallying to complete their retreat. Unable to overwhelm the hobgoblin mercenaries, though having felled two dozen among their ranks–the party withdrew from Tsar to the remnants of the fire-base beyond its walls, to regroup and lick their wounds. Once safely inside, Brother Vang shared word of his strange encounter–only for the garthiss to arrive in their midst.
As before, the traveler spoke cryptically of a contract with Brother Vang, one whose payment was by way of an exchange of services the cleric had ‘already paid’ in the time to come; with wary dread the man attempted to inquire further, but found secured neatly within a scroll case upon his person a rolled parchment written in a wholly alien script. The garthiss, whom introduced herself as ‘Kaa’, noted that this involvement would doubtless attract to the group ‘other’ denizens from among the time-streams–further complications thus set to arise as the adventurers continued to ply themselves against the forces of the temple-city of Tsar.
What remained ahead–and what destination would be next was now yet to be seen–but nevertheless it was clear that far more than mere mindless undead stood ready to match might and minds against the adventurers in their quest…