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Montbelliard

Into the Depths of Dolsha Kiran

The group had an unexpected surprise before they took the teleportation circle to avoid having to sneak past the wall of Montbelliard. Athravan revealed that he was staying behind to advise the Army of the Grand Alliance on the Spire’s capabilities. Kresh announced that he was a member of the hated Montbelliard Secret Police, and that he would be staying behind to advise the Army of the social structure of the city.

The group received three new recruits. Bhavya Minmei is a giggly female tiefling devotee of Erathis. She was a member of Sugorim’s reconnaissance squad encountered when the Saint first teleported the group outside Montbelliard. She obviously had a crush on Athravan when she first encountered him, but now her attention seems to be focused on Ashur.

Ashur was chosen as a replacement for Kresh’s martial skill. This tall, lean Deva is nowhere near as strong as the daring dragonborn, but he is fiercely intelligent, and he seems to use that intelligence to devastating effect in combat.

Midmardan is by far the most unusual member of the group. He is a wilder, a creature of the Feywild, and he is a master of the wild. Aethanier, the elven general of the Army of the Grand Alliance, emphasized that Midmardan may not be as streetwise as the rest of the group, but he is a master tracker and “a master of the heart.”

After some debate on the best way to use their new assets, the group decided to proceed to the teleportation circle that would take them below the keep.

After the jump, they realized they were in the remains of Dolsha Kiran, the dwarven fortress upon which Montbelliard was built. Charged with finding their way out, Midmardan took the lead, seemingly navigating through the twisting labyrinths of Dolsha Kiran as if he was born to the environment.

The group proceeded carefully through the tunnels for four hours until they encountered a trap that had already been activated, pinning a wererat by the arm on a set of vicious spikes. Only the arm remained; there was a bloody trail leading up a flight of stairs. The heroes carefully disabled the trap and followed the trail, where they were set upon by some terrible ghouls, another ghoul which threw black globs of necrotic filth at them, two swarms of rats and a mysterious, floating jellyfish type creature.

The group sprang into action. Vellus used his natural mobility to great effect, flanking a ghoul and plunging his blessed dagger into its pockmarked hide, sending it back to the grave. The darkness of the halls of Dolsha Kiran were split apart with the brightness of the magic unleashed by Antioch as he burned the ghouls with radiant, holy fire. Bhavya Minmel called upon Erathis to smite the foes, sending one ghoul careening into a far wall. Meanwhile, Midmardan transformed into the Primal Beast, a being of fur, fangs and claws, the Feywild’s fearful guardian. He immediately assaulted the necrotic filth-flinging ghoul, pursuing it, hounding it, and eventually tearing it to shreds.

The rat swarms proved to be the most difficult foe. Individual sword thrusts proved ineffective, and even Ashur’s sweeping blade strikes missed when they were most desperately needed. Still, the heroes managed to persevere, while the mysterious jellyfish-type creature floated away and out of combat.

The group spent about a half hour catching their breath, tending to their numerous wounds and listening to Bhavya’s prayers. In the immediate vicinity, they found a fountain that had become covered with a viscous slime after centuries of disuse. Vellus identified it as a monument to Ilea Stormhammer, a dwarven medic who had tended to the wounds of the king of Dolsha Kiran when he was mortally wounded during a fight with the “foul beasts below.” Her actions saved the king’s life and he was able to turn the battle to his favor and drive the foes back. Vellus felt it necessary to clean the fountain, but a variety of methods were considered and discarded. Then Ashur realized that a prayer may work, if properly administered. Bhavya channeled the divine spirit within her, and the fountain seemed to glow with a radiant light. The foul slime evaporated, and water began to flow from the fountain once more. The heroes drank from the water and felt themselves restored.

Midmardan turned to navigation duty again, expertly guiding the party through the labyrinth of Dolsha Kiran as if he was reading the directions from a map. After four more hours, they arrived at a mighty ziggurat of black stone. Four mighty, rectangular slabs surrounded the ziggurat at the corners, upon each were carved a mighty, 70-foot tall statue of a dwarf warrior in plate armor. The far end of the chamber was hidden by the mighty ziggurat, but at the apex of the structure, the heroes could see more than a dozen of the strange jellyfish type creatures circling and darting as if they were moths to a flame.

Vellus spotted a piece of paper stuck on the ziggurat about a flight up its steps. He ascended the steps and immediately spotted glyphs etched on the ziggurat that matched symbols he had seen in a journal in his possession. He immediately disregarded everything to examine things. Ashur joined him and recognized the symbols as being primordial, though it was apparently in a code that he couldn’t divine. Vellus offered Ashur his journal so that he could try to decipher things. Antioch joined them, holding aloft his magical torch so that Ashur could read.

That attracted the attention of the creatures circling the ziggurat, and a few of them swept down upon the party. Ashur hurriedly commanded all his comrades into a tunnel to take away the creature’s advantage of flight. Vellus, intoning the motto “Fortune favors the bold,” instead went forward, intent on reaching a point in the ziggurat where he could enter the structure. He was immediately set upon and lashed, stung and assaulted by the floating jellyfish creatures. The group turned to the offensive to save the poor halfing, and when we last left our heroes, they seemed to be successful in turning back the assault.

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Session 9
Day 4 - Alliance Camp --> King Alabas' Camp

Yesterday that scoundrel Middlebrooks showed me names on his list. I pretended not to know any of them and he went on his way.

Moments after he left, a group of officers stormed into the tent. We spent hours talking and arguing with them, but it came down to this: They wanted us to infiltrate the city, and spread word that someone from the outside wants to rescue them. Onu was quite angry at how she'd arrived – spelled and bound to a horse – but her guards later came to apologize. They also gave us a priest to join us.

One of the officers was actually Prince Danilo, one of the King's sons. They wanted us to get to Prince Omar, whom they believe may still be willing to help us. Danilo gave me a ring to show to Prince Omar. 

We then left on horseback, and traveled into the mountains. After a few hours, we reached a camp. King Alabas was there. I knelt before him, and he spoke to me. He asked me to retrieve a book, the Book of Kings, from the Iron Throne. How I'll ever get in there is a mystery, but I told him I would. 

 I also asked King Alabas what it meant to be a "Keeper of the Forge". He told me, much to my shock, that it was a name used for those who sit on the Iron Throne – kings! Of course, he was probably mocking me – moments later, he was patting me on the head like a child. But I only bowed. It was a small embarrassment compared to the thrill of being in the presence of a king! 

We entered a room with some sort of magic swirling around, and everything went white.  

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Session 8
Day 3 - Sarpadian Family Farmhouse --> Alliance Camp

We quietly left the basement, which was apparently accessed from a living room through a hidden door. Light shone from the east onto a longhall with a cold hearth at one end. I think all of us were in a daze, since we were - as far as I know - outside Montbelliard for the first time; outside the cold stare of the Siphon. As such, we stood there, caveblind, until a gang of elves, humans, tiefling, and an eladrin cornered us. They tried to arrest us in the name of the Alliance and insisted we surrender our weapons. I gave up a few of my less balanced daggers (I rarely use those ones anyway), and followed them on horseback to a large encampment.

Onu refused to give up her weapons and stayed behind. At the camp, we entered a tent. A few moments later, Onu, bound and slumped over a horse, arrived to meet us. We ate a not unpleasant meal of field rations, then a halfling burrowed his way into our tent. He called himself Middlebrooks, and offered to play Dragon’s Bluff. He had no idea how outmatched he was. We played for gold and for information.

Middlebrooks told us that King Alafas was alive (!) and leading this Alliance army. He told us of many city-states who were pushed into the ocean by Saraquin, and that they re-allied and began conquering along the Magnamus River. Heading upriver, they overtook Baelin and Salamanca. Salamanca, like Montbelliard, was infested by gnolls, but an angel appeared to the army there, boosting their morale as only a sign from above can do. They call the angel “the Saint”. When they laid siege to Montbelliard, the angel’s wings were clipped. I shall have to ask what he meant by this. I did see it flying high against the demon defending our city.

The halfling was interested in a list of names, He showed the list to Antioch, who identified the following:

Alfgerson, a dwarf curator and fence who lives in the Roost Styrk, a human, large viking type, security guard in Angel Square and beileved to be a member of the Benetatis. Rosanne Flocke, a human woman in her 50’s, profession: bricklayer, but she’s rumored to be royalty.

I will write more on these names after I have had time to peruse them at greater length.

The lad Antioch won quite a number of my chips in that accursed game. I will be sure to make this right next time we sleep.

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Conclusion of 1st Adventure
A Visit from the Dungeon Master

The demon crashes in front of you, making a crater in the ground and knocking you off your feet with the force of the impact. The angel lands with a flourish between you and the beast. One of the demon’s bat wings falls to the ground nearby, and you notice black ichor spurting from a stump on the demon’s back. The abyss-spawn rises to its feet and bellows a scream of rage.

As you lie on the ground, terrified to be so close to a demon at the height of its rage, you see beast suddenly silhouetted in a golden light. However, this isn’t the heavenly light from the angel… it’s from the spire.

The angel drops its sword and holds its hands out in front of it, as if trying to block its eyes or keep a door shut. The Spire’s beam fires, this time straight at you. It burns a hole straight through the demon and flashes immediately before the angel’s hands. The energy is deflected around the angel and yourselves, as if you’re in a protective shell in the middle of a conflagration. You see a moment of shock on the demon’s face immediately before it is consumed by the Spire’s rays. Buildings instantly become ablaze, and those few, unfortunate souls still on the battlefield start screaming in panic as they go up like torches.

The angel buckles against the force of the Spire’s ray, and you see the protective bubble start to contract. In your heads, you hear the Angel say, “I will take you somewhere safe. Tell them their saint is dead… but to fear not… for I have given them a final gift.”

The angel suddenly looks to the side. Following the angel’s gaze, you see a humanoid in robes standing atop the building burning to your right. Then you hear in your heads, “No! It cannot be!”

The figure waves its hands, and the protective bubble flashes out of existence. There’s a moment of panic, when you feel the blazing heat of the ray, when you see your clothes start to ignite… and then, there’s nothingness.

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Session 7
Day 3 - Outside Montbelliard, Sarpadian Family Farmhouse

We awoke in a storage cellar, our bodies aching from a seemingly endless day of battle. Athravan told us – almost reverently – that we were in a farmhouse, friendly to the resistance, some 10 miles outside of Montbelliard, although in the same breath he admitted he’d never been outside the city. When I return, I will certainly learn more about this wily elf.

As yesterday wore on, the demon caused our own dead to rise up against us. It threw the angel who had spoken to me against a wall, where it lay still for a long time. Fortunately, the demon did not turn its attention toward me, and I ravenously attacked the undead in an effort to retrieve my goddess-kissed dagger. I revived the woman Onu with my last potion, and she fought at my side, urging me into such a flurry of attacks, the likes of which I never thought possible! At that moment, a stinking and maggot-infested creature lurched toward us, its jaw gaping too wide in a grotesque mockery of life. I spun away, dove for my dagger, somersaulted, and plunged the beautiful blade into the monster’s dusty chest.

A moment later, we saw the Spire shoot magic sharply downward, as if it was attacking something in Spiretown itself! This caught the demon’s attention as well, it said “freedom”, and flew away. The angel chased it, eventually tearing off one of the demon’s wings. In my utter exhaustion I collapsed, and we all awoke here.

Besides garden tools, wooden benches, and various other miscellany, there is also a rack, bearing about twenty bottles of wine. Each bottle is decorated with a fancy “S”, which the elf says is the mark of the Sarpadian family. He says they are allies in the resistance. We overheard an argument outside, something about ‘attacking the city again’, and being rewarded with land. Could our ‘liberators’, or whatever it was that bore into our city today, be mere mercenaries? But with an angel fighting alongside them?

In the dank basement there was a chest, with a greatsword hanging over it. The chest was surrounded by floor levers, but I jammed one of them and opened the chest. Inside was a fine coat of silvery mail, a military badge like the one my grandfather wore, and medal of honor from the days of King Aramas! Beneath the mail were a few other items, including a wicked ornamental dagger. I took the dagger, along with a few coins and gems, for later study. Kresh took the greatsword down from the wall and looked at it greedily.

For a moment, we heard noises above us, as if guards were about to open the thick stone doors of the cellar, but then footsteps faded. Bracing ourselves for whatever would come next, we climbed the ladder, cautiously opened the doors, and peeked out into the world beyond.

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Session 6
Day 2 - Montbelliard City Walls

The wraith screamed toward us, raining destruction as it came. From the corner of my eye, I noticed Athravan, the cowardly elf wizard, looting the bodies of the dead. It surprised me that he would stoop to such measures, but then a finely woven cloak caught my eye, along with a number of coins and an ornate purse, all of which he stuffed into a backpack.

At that moment, a loud snap from below shook the entire north tower. Our precious magical ammunition was hurled to the street below, and the human officer fell over the edge of the tower. I tried to throw her a rope, but then another snap tilted the tower so much that it was all we could do keep our footing. We rescued the woman, then proceeded to heave a boulder that had fallen in the way of our exit. After several tries, we were able to access the tower’s trap door, and we made our descent into the street.

The street level was utter chaos. We found ourselves in a square with a fountain, in the Stacks I believe. A building was engulfed in flames, the wizard said it was our ammunition that had caused the fire. I heard screams inside, and followed them into the burning building. To bear the flames, I first immersed myself in the fountain, an act that would have sentenced me to a month in the Dols in any other circumstance. The dragonborn, Kresh, and I managed to rescue several of the trapped citizens before another distraction occupied our attention.

The wraith followed us into the square, seemingly unhindered by our city’s forces. Kresh attacked it, then fell to one knee, apparently under the wraith’s spell. I threw a stone at one of its minions, but hit its shield instead. At that moment, the wraith changed form. It became a glorious angel, obviously sent from Avandra. The angel whispered to me that I am the guardian of the forge. I don’t know what it means, but it appeared from the ponderous faces around me that others were receiving similar messages.

At that moment a horrible demon appeared and stood face to face with Avandra’s angel. Emboldened by the presence of my god, I threw one of my daggers at the demon. To my utter surprise, the blade sunk deep into its cloven hoof, and it shrieked in pain. The demon then waved its arms dramatically, and the slain began to rise on the battlefield, one after another, until we were surrounded by the walking dead.

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Session 5
Day 2 - Montbelliard City Walls

After destroying the siege tower, we made our way quickly to our destination at the northern tower. Unkh, the tower’s platoon leader, was resistant at first. He asked question after question about the distance to the target and the nature of our ammunition, but we finally managed to persuade him to aim our magic globes at the enemy command center.

At that moment, a wraith screamed toward us and everything became … difficult.

This was the day we experienced serious technical difficulties, and finally gave up.

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Session 4
Day 2 - Montbelliard City Walls

After defending our tower, we looted the bodies and took stock of the battle’s progress. The warrior wore an outlander’s furry hide armor with an emblem of a tower shield with a white starburst. The corpses of our enemies seemed somehow shadowy, as if covered with an oily haze. Perhaps the Siphon eats them even more quickly than it does the walking dead of the Dols. Two of our towers north of us have fallen now, and the enemy’s siege weapons continue to crawl toward us.

We had to pull Stong up onto the battlements – he’d conveniently managed to hang from a ledge for the duration of the battle. The moment he was on his feet, the Hiver began shouting to him about a command post atop a hill far beyond the wall. He said it was beyond our range, and sent Noori into the Trebuchet pit. Noori returned shortly, gingerly handling a large wooden box. Using a key, Stong opened the box and took out twelve black globes. He gave them to us and commanded us to make our way to the sixth tower, which now lay beyond two ruined towers to our north. He said something to the effect that the globes were light enough that they would reach the target.

In order to cross the first ruined tower, I took a rope and shimmied my way along the crumbled wall. I took an arrow in my back. Once across, I did a foolish victory dance and took another arrow in my shoulder. I tied my rope to a sconce to ease my companions’ passage. While crossing, the wizard also took an arrow and, to his credit, didn’t complain about it.

As we reached our destination, a siege tower, loaded with dark elf archers and grunts, clamped itself onto the walls. We made quick work of the minions inside, and the wizard used his magic to set the entire siege tower aflame. We unhooked the siege tower and continued on our way.

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Session 3
Day 2 - Montbelliard

The hiver landed, shouting commands, and his pursuers crashed onto the trebuchet in a cloud of feathers and stink. In addition to the orc riders, there was a lanky soldier and a very powerful, helmeted warrior. Stong, our gumshoe bugbear captain, was buffetted off the battlements while fumbling at his weapon belt.

The elf and dragonborn became caught up in battle on the north side of the landing, against the orcs and vultures. It was difficult to see in the chaos, but it looked as if one of the vultures turned on its rider, and flew off with a stringy orc meal in its beak.

I and the human woman were set upon by the masked warrior. My first swipe with old Farnar’s red-hilted dagger knocked him down, and I thought he’d be an easy target. We tried to chip away at him from both sides, but he was quick and strong. He knocked the human unconscious for a moment, and knocked me nearly cold. Thinking I was done in, I cried for help, but at nearly the same moment, I felt a will to survive, like I’ve never felt before. As this reserve of strength surged through me, I rolled up from my belly and hamstrung the helmed monster.

It was at that moment the tide turned on our little tower. The elf cast a spell which set the helmeted warrior on fire, someone gave a hoot of victory, and we stumbled toward the center of the trebuchet. For the moment, it appeared that the invaders had faltered.

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Session 2
Day 2 - Montbelliard City Walls

The Spire’s dizzying magic thickened the air yesterday as we waited. I was charged with passing signals from one tower to the next, while a grizzled veteran, a dwarf named Noori, instructed us on the mechanics of the trebuchet. Soon enough the sun fell, the enemy kept its distance, and my companions on the tower fell into a lolling slumber – brought on by boredom as much as anything, I suppose.

When our rookie platoon leader fell asleep, I stole a peek at his orders from High Command. Simple enough, we were expected to target their siege weapons. The human scolded me for it. True enough that it was none of her concern, but it’s in the nature of an officer to busy herself with the affairs of those around her. I also liberated Stong’s coin purse and a pair of vials. The purse was surprisingly heavy – a good take, and already my summons pays for itself!

As the sun rose behind the shimmering haze of our walls, the enemy stirred. The host looked terrifying in its black armor, blurred by the Spire’s magic into one massive, oily mob. A commotion arose below, and the city gates screeched opened. A gaggle of half-naked, stumbling prisoners, dirty and chained together by their necks, was herded out into the wasteland toward the enemy. Though the cruelty of it made me sick, a part of my mind reeled at the possibilities. A negotiation? Is Machial fearful? I had little time to ponder, but I’m sure they were taken from the Dols. When I return, I shall ask around. Though I have been swallowed into the belly of the beast, I will not rest in my efforts. Knowledge is the supporting keystone that makes the tower crumble. (F.A. told me that.)

The sun rose to full light, and a huge shadow … thing rose up from the host. It gave a ghostly shout, and the enemy advanced. Despite Noori’s efforts at coordinating the trebuchet, the gobs continued blundering and knocking their heads together, until a few of us began encouraging them. We egged them on with laughable imitations of drill seargents and bawdy tavern jesters. Finally, we got off our first shot, a direct hit on one of the enemy’s siege weapons. It splintered the wooden tower with a thunderous crack, and we all cheered. Soon enough though, the enemy advanced and tore apart the tower north of ours, killing the human I’d been signaling to only moments before.

At the same instant, there was a loud crack that shook our tower as if we’d been hit. As it turns out, our trebuchet had snapped a pulley and, because of my size, I was asked to climb inside its workings. Below, Noori was bleeding from a cracked skull. The human, I believe her name was Onu, managed to revive him. I, in a moment of pity, threw him one of my precious potions. I suppose there’s justice in that, and I don’t regret it. I crawled in amongst the ropes and pulleys, and easily got the thing working again. The dwarf was still dazed though, and it took all of us to get the gobs focused again on their task of reloading the trebuchet.

Just as the battle’s tide seemed to be turning, a Hiver raced toward us. My instinct was to ready my sling, until I remembered we weren’t facing a raid in the Dols. The moment the wasp landed, three enormous vultures, carrying orc riders, appeared through the Spire’s haze and landed to challenge him. I’m not sure how I feel about defending a Hiver – but to face these grisly creatures, we’ll need every weapon in every hand.

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