Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Breaking Balentyne: Part I

Dear, Constant Reader, this is for you. Going forward I will no longer be telling this from the perspective of a journal. I find myself time and time again wanting to retell the story. So going on this will be a story instead of a journal. I hope you will still enjoy what my players and I have to share with you. 

The Armory

10:15 P.M Day 117, Rova  17, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Day 7, 23 days remaining.

So it was decided. Drae, Kiliketz, Styx, and Maldrake's familiar Hellmare pressed on through the trap door of the storage room to further investigate the garrison. They left the storage area and found themselves in a circular room. An old stairway rose to an upper level while a strong wooden door exited to the west. There were a few old weapons laying around and a currently shutdown but recently used forge. The quartet scavenged slightly through the weaponry, perhaps to find masterwork or magical items and could find nothing.

Before proceeding through strong wooden door, Kiliketz listened for any sounds. The little mephit heard not one single iota of noise. He showed an affirmative to this and proceeded to open the door. This opened to a ten foot wide thirty foot long hall way that turned sharply north at the end. Hellmare reported telepathically back to Maldrake of the passages and safe passage at least thus far. Because of this, the rest of the group carefully came up through the trapped door. Grumblejack had a difficult time as he was very large.

Maldrake spoke, "We should check upstairs first before proceeding. We don't know what could be on those upper floors."

Kiliketz and Hellmare went up stairs. They found themselves in a large circular chamber to which this open room six large flags hang on the wall. Perhaps these could be hiding spots at a later point. Maldrake was not exactly ready to move upward, but knowing the upper floor was not occupied the hallway proved to be a better exploration point for now.

Stix went forward following Drae. They looked around the corner in the decently lit hallway. Raising a fist to tell the party to stop, he held his palm out in moved it to mimic a door opening and closing and held up five fingers on his right hand. He pointed to Kiliketz and motioned him to come forward.

Drae whispered to the mephit, "I need you to listen to each of these doors. Can you do that?"

Chuckling to himself Kiliketz laughed out, "Oh course I can grey one." He placed his ear against the first door on the right and could hear nothing.  Drae with aid of Stix, unlocked the door and pushed it open to find themselves in a well kept room. The clean L-shaped room contained a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and a chair here as well as other typical furnishings. The only thing of any value here was Captain Barhold’s medal of commendation, which had an inscription on the back. The inscription on the solid gold medal read:

"Sir Captain Barhold may the way of Mitra guide you ever forward."

Other than this small discovered the desk had some used writing utensils and blank parchment. The wardrobe also had some ratty boots. Drae recalled something odd about the name of this Captain. Before proceeding he went back to the group and said, "I believe this person has a relation to Bellam. His last name was Barhold as well."

The group shrugged this small discovery off and continued to clear rooms.  They switched to the left side and repeated again. Kiliketz placing his ear to the door, waiting for sounds and together they would unlock the door. This room was a slightly smaller room and was very well kept but clearly had not been occupied in a very long time. There was almost nothing of any value here save a few dusty clothes in the wardrobe which might fetch a few silver.  Stix closed the door behind him and they locked the room back up.

Moving northward to the next room on the left, the group found the jack pot of rooms. Clearly they must have stumbled onto the Captain's rooms. As before no sounds could be heard and they opened up the door to an amazingly clean and wealthy looking room. Searching the wardrobe revealed a small chest with nearly thirty pounds of assorted finery. There was also twenty pounds of mixed royal clothing. These items were snatched up as well. As Stix and Kiliketz began to move out of the room, Drae stopped them.

"Wait you two. I think there is a secret wardrobe with in the wardrobe. Interesting, what do we have here?" Drae inquired.

Pulling at a small slit in the back of the wardrobe revealed a hidden door that had a mix of envelopes and letters.  Motioning for Stix and Kiliketz they went back to the armory to go over the letters. He handed one to Kallista, Maldrake, and Urgeon. Urgeon began to read his out loud, "My dear Kaitlyn. Another night of unbearable tossing the turning has plagued me once more. I wish our love did not have to hide like a snake in a bush. I will be in town again tonight. When you husband leaves, signal me as such by leaving a leaf in your window."

Maldrake continued on with his given letter, "That was an amazing night Kaitlyn. Your body is as sweet as the autumn dawn on a Rova morning. I cannot stand being away from you. I wish your oaf of a husband wasn't in the way. We could then be together forever."

Kallista then finished with her letter, "My love of my life Zacharias, you make me feel like the women I was meant to be. I am torn that I must live in this prison of hate while looking onward to my palace of lust. I have a surprise for you next time we meet."

After returning the letters to Drae for safe keeping, Kallista said, "So the rumors were right. Maybe we could use these letters to our advantage. Drae keep those close to your chest."

They all returned back to the hall way keeping the louder of the bunch on the back but Kiliketz then listened to the final room before checking the far north door. This door was locked and no sound could be found. Upon opening the door there was only a bed and a tiny table with a parchment on it. The parchment was a route that surrounded the town of Aldencross. Drae put this info into his pouch as they locked the door behind them.

The tiny ice mephit listened to this door now. He reported that he could hear the clanking of armor and the footsteps of men getting louder as they moved from east back to west. There was clearly something or someone out there. The rag tag group backed off initially to discuss what they should do. They left Kiliketz at the door while they formulated a plan. In the next five to seven minutes or so he reported knew information.

He said, "These footsteps stay steady for only about thirty seconds when they pass the door going east. They take almost two minutes to return when they get back from the west."

Maldrake stepped up and sent Hellmare out once more. With only a few seconds Hellmare reported back telepathically to Maldrake what he could see.

"Master, this is a huge hallway. Twenty feet wide, easily one hundred fifty feet to the west and another twenty to the east. I can see two southern doors and three northern doors towards the end of the hallway. At each end are gigantic doors. Easily big enough to walk animals and wagons through. What shall I do master?" the invisible familiar explained..

Maldrake replied, "No, come back through if it is safe."

The familiar did as he was asked and the door was closed. 

"We should poison their water supply or food supply or something." Kallista advised.

"I concur, but we must find it." Maldrake replied.

There was a moment of confusion on the poison remaining. Drae was sure he used all of it but, Urgeon produced one more five pound bag of the arsenic. A collective smile graced everyone's faces. First though, they retreated back to the armory to begin their trek to the top of the tower.

The Archer's Strongpoint

10:30 P.M Day 117, Rova  17, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Day 7, 23 days remaining.

They passed though the flag room, ignoring the door leading to the west much like the hallway in the armory and continued upward. This level after a close inspection turned out to be a key archer’s strong point. Arrow slits adorn its entire outer wall. Wooden racks contain the watchtower’s store of arrows. Four thousand normal arrows neatly sorted into a two hundred quivers of twenty arrows each hang on the racks.

Maldrake commented that we should maybe snap them or destroy them but instead we moved along for fear of making too much noise and we were not sure where we were.  This did not dissuade Stryder from snatching up five quivers of arrows for himself. Kallista decided however to take a gander out some of the arrow slots.

What she saw left her gape-mouthed for a moment. Out of most of the slits the tower they were clearly in overlooked most of the landscape beyond. As she moved to the northern side of the wall, the gate house stood below and across the river. She could see two sets of bridges now. A wide sturdy one that was most likely the entrance to this place. It was large enough to accommodate two or three horses abreast.  One end went back towards the west and was not able to view due to the corner of the garrison obscuring vision. To the east was a draw bridge with the bridge up.

The others took a gander on by one as they saw the scale of fortress at which they were tasked with infiltrating. It looked so small to them from the city of Aldencross. To see it in person words could not do it justice. Filthy Mitra loving scum they may be, ignorant engineers be they not. Twenty-five feet above the large walkway they could also see the a smaller bridge that was no wider than perhaps ten feet. Equipped at staggered intervals were buckets or some sort of mechanical contraptions. Regardless of what the group was seeing, the purpose was clear: Punish enemies with whatever tricks this garrison had up their sleeve who dared opening walk along that lower walkway.

The Rookery

10:45 P.M Day 117, Rova  17, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Day 7, 23 days remaining.

At the next level a foul stench hit each nose with a force that if viewed carefully one could see them actually take a quarter of a step back. The Nessian Knot found themselves in twenty by ten foot room with two solid wood doors. Carefully, Maldrake placed an ear to the door and could hear a muffled scuffling.

Drae stepped to the door and gently tried to open it and it was firmly locked. He began to pick the lock and after only a few brief moments he had it open. He peeked inside to see almost no light except for a candle on the other side of the room. Drae closed the door carefully and turned to the party, "It is the rookery. I don't know if it is he, but from those rumors that just might be Mad Martin" Drae said.

Drae looked into the door once again and stepped in a bit more being very careful not to let any unneeded light.  With great stealth he examined the area. The stench was greater now. The floors were covered with an inch of raven droppings. To the right on Martin's desk was a signal horn. He took a mental note of this and returned to the group.

Stryder and Stix turned up their noses at the sight and smell of his boots.  They were covered to the laces. A plan was in order. It was agreed that a plan needed to be formulated. Drae was fairly confident that he could end this miserably little man's life and send him to Mitra thirty seconds before he knew he was there. After hearing about the signal horn, Maldrake was taking no chances.

"Hellmare will go in with you and grab the signal horn as you jump him. We will follow in after we get the signal from Hellmare." Maldrake advised.

Drae simply nodded and cracked the door slightly and entered. The stench of decaying bird shit was not as overtly a problem as walking on it. Squash, squish, squash. Closer now. He raised one of his rapiers up to strike the blow to Mad Martin. He watched Hellmare appear near Martin and disappear. Drae nodded to the infernal creature.

With a lunge Drae struck the studying man in the side of his back. He let out a howl of pain and quickly jumped up from the his chair and went to reach for his signal horn only to see it float away. Maldrake and Kallista plowed in first, followed by Stix and Styder. Grumblejack and Urgeon brought up the rear. The fight was over in only a few swift seconds but not before Martin was able to command one or two swarms of ravens to crash down on Drae. They pecked and scratched all over his body. Drae nearly lost an eye.

This proved to be futile as Drae plunged his rapiers first into his neck and then into his chest. The blood which proceeded to flow was sticky, as Martin's body with limp. Drae slid the sad sack off his weaponry and gave it a flick. The raven's aggression subsided. Drae handed Maldrake his wand that could cure lighter wounds and with in a few flourishes he was good as new again.

Standing at the stairway leading back down, it was discussed that the rookery may not be usable with out Mad Martin, but the ravens are still alive and well.

"How do you expect to deal with them all?" Kallista asked.

"Grumblejack can kill puny ravens." Grumblejack replied and went on into the door. Worried the party looked in at the sheer comedic sight. This nearly ten foot tall monstrosity is grabbing at the ravens. He snagged three or four out of the hundred flying around. They left him be for a few minutes while they continued to come up with a plan.

Stix spoke up first by raising a bomb and a flame about to lick the fuse, "I got a plan." Maldrake dismissed the small goblin.

Maldrake and Drae began discussing the idea of poisoning the water supply of these ravens. There was further debating on how much arsenic was left. While Maldrake, Drae, and Urgeon were calculating the poundage of the last small bag of arsenic an unbelievably loud explosion to which was followed by a brilliant flash of light. Stix cackled with glee as the flaming corpses of some three or four hundred raven's lay charred around Grumblejack's feet. Stix hopped up and down and all around.  Scuffing in sadistic circles as he kicked up bodies of dead raven's to and fro. A couple raven's even lay askew the cold stone walls. This proved to be quite a compliment of Stix's bomb making skills as the room 40 feet in diameter.

Kallista glared at the small alchemist and began rushing everyone back into the rookery as Maldrake listened for any reinforcements. Ten minutes passed as no one came to check on poor Martin and his dead ravens. Attempting to scold the young goblin proved to be futile. He only smiled.  They allowed him to continue his work. After the rookery was finished, Grumblejack ate what he could of Martin before the party had to move on.

Maldrake spoke up, "Shouldn't we do something with the remains?"

Urgeon simply replied, "The disgusting piece of unworthiness was eating his food up among the ravens. Look at the stacks of his dishes. The servants probably leave his meals at the door, knock and run away. I know I would."

So it was decided to be safe to move on. Before they could get completely out of the door, Grumblejack scooped up some charred bird and had himself a snack.

From Flag Room to Courtyard

11:15 P.M Day 117, Rova  17, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Day 7, 23 days remaining.

The door to the courtyard was unlocked. It was not well lit aside from torches near a building to a the north. The moonlight shined over the open yard as a large fountain was the first visual landmark. To the direct west and east of the door there were sets of stairs leading up.  The cobblestone pathway led northwest and was difficult to see where it would end as a smaller build to the west of the door was blocking the view. But not blocking enough to realize at the center of this courtyard was an inner tower that raised upwards of around another 70 feet.  The stairs leading upward had shown that the lay out was that of a typical garrison, high stone walls, guard perches that surround the courtyard though no troops could be see.

As if on schedule or secretly listening in a flicker of light could be see bouncing up and down along the walls as shadows changed shape. It was quickly identifiable as a bulls-eye lantern. Almost in perfect timing, the same light could be seen by looking up and to the east. The party and narrowly missed opening the door right as a guard was passing by. Instead, this guard was about to start his own rounds among the top level of the garrison. Maldrake took action first.

"Hellmare, I want you to fly up and out and please tell me what you can see." Maldrake telepathically commanded. And so the little creature went invisible and did as it was told.  Flying high into the air it could survey the large open area and massive walls. There were only two guards on duty that it could count of as their bulls-eye lanterns lit up massive expanses of area at a time. In only a few minutes there was enough area covered to report back a decent run down of the layout.

"Master, there are two guards that alternate. At all times there is one on the ground and one on the surrounding edges." Hellmare reminded. Maldrake patted his familiar on the head. They retreated back into the flag room and formulated a plan of attack.

Urgeon made the point that a surprise attack would be optimal but would need to look natural, "We know that each of these scum has a signal horn and isn't afraid to use it. We also do not know how the system of alarming each other is setup. This attack must look normal and thus I think I have the solution."

Maldrake and Kallista listened attentively.

"See what we do, is attack with a group of eagles that I can summon." Urgeon suggested.

Grumblejack spoke up next, "Why eagles? Grumblejack not afraid of eagles, why ug'ins be afraid of eagles?"

Urgeon looked upon the ogre with admiration of his question, "Because dear ogre, we can't very well summon a demon or other kind of unwordly being. Surely they would not be alarmed at being attacked by some stray eagles."

Grumblejack shrugged and sat down.

Drae commented, "What about the ground level guard?"

Urgeon replied, "Well, it seems that they have an order to what they do. If we take out one, the other can't signal while another attack is happening. We would probably make too much noise to go unheard but a pack of eagles could be just quite enough that the guard won't know what happened before it is too late."

"Then I want to help end that ones life, I'm stealthy enough to pull it off." Drae retorted confidently if not a bit arrogantly.

Maldrake sent hellmare out again to tell them when the guard was about to go to the top level of the courtyard. Once signal was given, the attack commenced. Urgeon summoned three eagles to attack the guard while Drae cast grease on the bulls-eye lantern. Naturally the guard lost grip on his lantern and was in extremely low light. Balentyne must not have cared too much about inner security as this guard dropped to his knees with in a few quick strokes from Drae and a couple pecks and bites from the eagles.

The lantern let out a brilliant burst of flames as the glass broke and the oil ignited. Drae motioned to the group to get to the other guard before he could see the flames. Quickly Maldrake, Kallista and Stix moved to the corner of the large inner tower to jump the unsuspecting guard from the left.  Stryder, Grumblejack, and the rest stayed close to the southern building to jump him from the right.

They could see him walking down the stairs after coming from the north west. His lantern gave him away easily. Forty feet, he walked absent-mindlessly to his death. Thirty feet, he stopped to lace his boot. Closer now. Drae came up behind Grumblejack, wand ready to cast grease. Twenty feet, he was close enough to see his tired eyes. His armor wasn't even properly put on. Ten feet, and appearing below his feet was a puddle of grease.  With out fail, the trooper fell flat on his ass and his signal horn, lantern, and a few arrows went flying. Maldrake and Stix were on top of him before he even knew what had happened. Like clockwork, the party swarmed the defenseless guard. Stryder put a couple shots into him as everyone else took their shots in turn. His limp body lay beaten and bloody. Grumblejack feasted a bit more but left most of the remains.

The Choir Hall

11:45 P.M Day 117, Rova  17, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Day 7, 23 days remaining.

Before entering the inner tower the party though it best to venture to the smaller buildings first. Listening closely there was no sign of activity beyond the ornate doors. Drae and Stix both confirmed that these doors were not locked, nor were they trapped. They opened the doors and before them was a magnificent choir hall.  Apart form the well made pews and Mitra inspired decor, it was only a mere church. They looked in just slightly to see around the edges of the ceilings, statutes of numerous saints of the Mitran faith. It is calmly lit and well maintained.

Maldrake wasn't interested in entering. Kallista felt the same way. There was nothing of importance in here. She mentioned the rumor about strange magical statues singing with the singers. It made them worried to enter. Though nothing seemed unusual. So, they left the church alone and moved on.

The Stables

11:55 P.M Day 117, Rova  17, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Day 7, 23 days remaining.

Moving directly south of the church, they came upon the smaller building to which was unidentified. Going around to the west of the building revealed the familiar doors of a stable. There were no animals inside. It looked as though it may have been empty for a while. Much like the church there was nothing of great interest here and to this group contained the same level of life as the church.

The Great Hall

12:05 P.M Day 118, Rova  18, 3042 AP (After Peace)

Day 8, 22 days remaining.

They could hear the footsteps. Unsure of how many, but plenty sure this snowball wasn't going to get any smaller, the burst in. The doors flew open and two shocked guards turned to see the sinister party baring down on them. They drew their weapons an prepared for a fight. If there were any question about something evil being afoot, it was made apparently clear when Stix let loose a bomb in the stone gathering place. The explosion rocked the walls and dust fluttered from the rafters. The blast ripped up the flesh of the approaching guards as the flames lit one of them a blaze. This enraged the solider further. He charged towards that party taking a swing.  The solider that was at the farther part of the great hall lifted his signal horn and let it blow.

"I knew we should have waited outside!" one of the guards yelled out.

The howling signal rippled through the room. For as tiny as the horn was the sound was magnificent. It was louder than the explosion.  Though as soon as the signal horn was finished, two more guards were already coming down the stairs.  Grumblejack advanced along side Kallista and exchanged blows with the first two guards. The latter warriors began their charge as well.  Urgeon summoned a mini armada of elementals to join the fray. Being lightning elementals they were able to fly about with great speed and agility. They thrashed at the guards with amazing power. The guards were clearly out numbered and were doomed or so it seemed. Styder let loose a flurry of arrows from across the room. Missing with frustration, the arrows flew off into the distance. Just as Maldrake began to close in on the right as Drae closed in on the left four more guards stormed down the stairs.

Stix was at it again. Letting another bomb fly over the party it landed perfectly positioned t cause immense damage. Immense damage was an understatement. It caught another two guards on fire and dropped another. Drae and Maldrake began their part in the fray dealing quite a bit of respectable injuries to the average armored troops. Their screams filled The Great Hall and echoed up the cold stone stairway. Grumblejack bashed down one of the guards as Kallista dispatched another guard. Her blackblade supercharged with a shocking grasp electrocuted the poor man to his knees.

Urgeon directed his lightning brutes to converge on their targets. With their powerful attacks the troops proved to be party tigers among a sea of scissors. The electrical bursts from each attack were amplified as the soldiers breastplates made for perfect conductors of the powerful strikes. Sizzling hair and boiling skin soon began to stink up the large room. What would normally give way to proud moments of rallying and perhaps even a banquet or two instead provided shelter to remarkable display of carnage.

Though the troops were no match for the group at hand, the numbers were getting worrisome. Two more guards came down the stairs only to be introduced to more bombs. These final two unlucky souls took the brunt of Grumblejack's fists and Kallista swift blade. In addition to that unlikely tag team Maldrake began to chill the breast plate of one of the troops. You could see the season of his face. A summer evening, calm and relaxing as he barley noticed a change. It was already closing in on winter in the north. Into fall where the poor boy was attempted to adjust his breastplate while trying to dodge attacks. When he then was succumbed to the winter blasts as his armor seized around him and caused great pains to strain against the frozen metal. He didn't last long before the party took him down.  There was still one final troop left standing as one more solider began his way down the stairs, though this was no mere solider like the other rift raft that Nessian Knot had been forging a path against.

Rushing down the stairway came a dashing knight adorned in brilliant plate armor. It shine so bright that it appeared to amplify from the torch lights in the area. An armor decorated with golden trim and holy symbols of Mitra. Through the open face plate one could see a black beard aging on the edge of gray. His wrinkled but handsome face peered with concern but also pity for his fallen comrades. He bellowed out to the heretics, "Lay low your weapons, less you risk endangering your mortal souls any further with this villainy!"

The reply came with a blotch of grease below his feet to which he shook off with ease and began by cutting Grumblejack down with ease only to turn and strike down one of the elementals. It looked dreary at first. This mammoth of a paladin was crushing our dear party with great ease. Stryder's aim became much better as he plunked a few arrow through the tough plate. Most of the melee struggled greatly and to quite a fault. The lightning elementals did score a few good blows and as Drae came in to get his share of the fun, Stix took this as an invitation to quite literally light up the party. The incoming explosive hit the knight square at his feet and set him a blaze. Sadly it also knocked Drae flat on his back and left him unconscious. Kallista unleashed a flurry of magic missiles against the holy man.

The lone knight renewed his mighty blows and struck Kallista down with a smite only the gods of old could resemble. It was as if she didn't exist. She was reduced to nothing. He turned with excellent agility to then clobber the other elemental and dispatch it to the whatever realm it came from.  Maldrake did revive the party only to have the Knight knock some of them back down once more.  The hero of the day was the psychotic pyromaniac of a goblin named Stix. The little green bastard kept the Knight lit on fire while everyone else was slowly pinging him away. The group fought long and hard. While the fight only took a couple minutes, it seemed like a life time.

So there the group stood, in The Great Hall panting over a pile of partially charred and bloody corpses. Maldrake took Draes wand to cure everyone to a healthy state and retrieved the magical armor and other great rewards from the dead. It felt like a turning point of immense triumph. Kallista was estatic to awaken to the dead Mitran scum. She plunged her Blackblade into the skulls of each body, feeling the surge of pleasing joy from herself to the blade and back again. After gathering their composure and realizing what their mission was, Kallista was ready for the action.

"Signal the Bugbears! We have taken out at least half of these troops!" she commanded.

Maldrake kneeled to pray and began to ask his god a question, "Is it time great one. Have we done enough? Will we bring glory to you and to Thorn?" Maldrake was quickly answered in the negative. "I'm afraid not Kallista. We have a lot of work to do."

They decided to move on and not rest. Drae and Maldrake both were concerned about leaving all those arrows left to use. Drae lifted a torch from one of the walls and motioned to Maldrake to head to the archer's room.