Echoes of Glory

Deus Ex Machina

In which there is an antisocial angel, many traps, and almost everyone dies.

This Time
We rejoin our heroes outside the Proving Halls of Gorum. Fairly certain now the the Iron God’s temple was not the repository for the treasure they seek, they set out for the shrine of Milani. However, no map they possess actually shows the site. Tzann MaCray, as a former employee of the consortium from whom the maps and research were claimed, volunteers a lead his former boss had yet to explore: There exists within Temple Canyon a site known as the Temple of the Small Gods, a site for those who worship lesser deities, or whose friends or family had left Taldor to attempt the Test of the Starstone.

To MaCray’s knowledge this site was tended by a guardian, and this guardian would likely know the location of the shrine to Milani. Once there, however, the knights found the guardian to be intractable almost to the point of open hostility when questioned about the shrine. Only upon learning that our heroes hailed from Blackthorn, and were therefore the rightful inheritors of whatever treasure the bandits may have stolen, did the guardian open up and agree to show them the way.

With the guardian’s begrudging help, our heroes soon found the location of the long-neglected shrine. An artificial cave carved into the rock its entrance had been almost completely covered by sand. Though there was never any guarantee that what they sought would be buried there, the sheer number of traps they encountered once inside seemed to suggest there was something worth guarding beneath the ancient stonework.

Working their way deeper into the cave system, they encountered a small group of plunderers caught in the act of raiding a vast treasure room, and combat was soon joined! However, the tables quickly turned against our heroes when the enemy sorceress turned out to be a far more adept enchantress than they had anticipated. First, mighty Dread was slain after succumbing to magical sleep, then Sir Glenn collapsed under the assault, and finally even Dame Lagatha, despite her legendary defenses, was killed by a stab to the back.

In that moment, it seemed that all might be lost, were it not for the timely intervention of the guardian, now revealed to be the powerful angel our heroes had earlier suspected him to be. In a flash of heavenly power, he had vanquished the sorceress and returned the dead and dying to their earthly bodies. Through divination magic he had seen the peril that awaited them, and had feared he might be sending them to certain death. And with that, he made his exit, leaving our heroes to count the many, many gold coins that lay in the chests around them.

Next Time

20, 8, 5, 13, 15, 14, 11, 5, 25, 1, 12, 23, 1, 25, 19, 12, 9, 5, 19
….

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Hall of the Iron God

In which there are many explosions, ample rope use, extra planar foes, and an old friend breathes his last.

In this Episode
Mighty Dread is briefly stalled in his pursuit of the enemy by their release of a pair of dire wolves, though such foes cannot hope to hold back the Knights of Blackthorn for long. Sir Glenn Fiddich even goes so far as to casually assert that he has a terrific recipe for dog. The long, winding tunnel ends at a massive cavern, carved by the long years of flowing water. High platforms connected by sturdy hanging bridges form a winding path to the base of a vast pair of iron doors set into the wall of a cavern.

In this place waits a wizard and summoner of some repute. A man with grand designs, ambitions, and plans. For days he has been stymied by a seemingly incomprehensible riddle carved into the iron doors, and now he has interlopers to deal with. He orders his mercenaries to attack, then begins to summon animals from the pits of Hell to assault the intruders.

A pair of hideous giant wasps lead the charge, following by hellish, rage filled wolverines. Hired mercs fill the air with arrows, wearing our heroes down slowly but surely as they press forward against the tide of devilish animals. Dame Lagatha puts paid to one of the wasps as the combined efforts of Glenn and Dread send the wolverines back to hell. The enemy summoner uses this time to send a fireball streaking into the corridor where our heroes are clustered, and though the experienced knights escape largely unscathed, stoic Bragg catches the blast directly and struggles to keep his feet.

Perhaps thinking that a man with an eyepatch must act the part, Sir Glenn throws caution to the wind, vaulting from the platform to grapple the remaining giant wasp. Incredibly, this move succeeds despite being attempted by a man whose physical prowess rates somewhere between “hemophiliac” and “agoraphobic chess champion.” The wasp struggles to supports both its own improbable weight and that of the wizard and plummets for the ground, scrabbling against the cliff face for traction.

With the path clear, Dread, Lagatha, and Bragg charge for the hovering summoner, bullets and javelins flying. The summoner replies with one fiery spell after another, as his magical defenses serve to turn aside our heroes’ ranged assault.

Meanwhile, Glenn scrambles off the back of the infuriated wasp and up the cliff face before the beast crashes. Seeing his opportunity, he makes a beeline for his enemy counterpart, leaps into the air, and when he is close enough to see the whites of the summoner’s eyes, he detonates with an almighty ball of fire. Caught off guard, the summoner is nearly burnt to a crisp and one of his mercenary archers is completely incinerated.

Scrambling desperately to regain the upper hand, the summoner retreats back towards his last remaining troops and throws everything he has left at the knights of Blackthorn, but in the end it is not enough. The summoner dies, skewered by Lagatha’s sword, and the final mercenary surrenders. The day is won, but not without cost.

Laid low by eldritch fire, the orc brawler known only as Bragg died as he lived; following his friend Lagatha into the jaws of hell.

Intermission
Our heroes took one look at the massive iron door, said “nope” and decided to build a camp fire and have a nap. The bards will likely skip over this incredibly boring interlude when the story is retold for future generations. Really sucks all the emotion out of the previous scene.

8 Hours Later
The iron door to the cavern beyond is no puzzle box (it was designed by followers of a war god, after all) and opens easily to any Ulfen-speaking explorer with a willingness to lay hands on it, rather that sit back and study it for days.

Beyond the iron door lies a mountain of scrap metal topped by a statue to Gorum. Before it stands an ancient servant of Gorum, an iron-plated, bear-like creature called a Zentragt, who has waited a small eternity for a worthy challenger. Combat is quickly joined, with Lagatha taking the lead against her god’s servant, while Dread and Glenn battle creatures brought forth from the scrap metal, who seem to exist only to make the fight equal.

Though both sides exchange blows that could crack a battleship’s hull, in the end the Knights of Blackthorn prove themselves worthy, and the Zentragt’s remains melt back into the collection of scrap metal, leaving behind a single token: a Zentragt Collar.

On the altar to Gorum two more prizes await, a ceremonial battle shield known as the Iron Mountain, and a glittering longsword that Lagatha takes no interest in. To her eyes it appears to be little more than scrap iron. Interested in this as he is in all things magical, Glenn takes the sword, and Dread offers to carry it.

Next Time!
Though our heroes return from the Gorum’s crumbling temple with new treasures, it’s clear that this was no bandit haul. Will the temples of Aroden or Milani hold the riches they seek? Or will they return home empty handed? Find out soon!

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Riddles in Stone

In which clues are discovered, rival treasure seekers are soundly beaten, and a new “friend” is made

Today!
Ever bold and intrepid, our heroes make for Temple Canyon, hunting the long-lost cache of the Galtan Redcloaks, a band of mercenaries who were the first the loot the ruin of Blackthorn Keep after its fall. Rumored to contain both the treasures of Blackthorn and the DeVar family, as well as riches other bandits might have added to the hoard in years since, it is easy to see why so many other parties might show interest in the cache. Unfortunately, clues to the actual whereabouts of the riches are hard to come by.

It soon became clear that what few bandit factions had survived the attentions of our heroes, the Eagle Knights, and the recent war, had begun fighting one another over the cache. Our heroes located an old Red Legion base built near the entrance to the canyon, now playing host to a small group working to find the treasure before time and battle erased clues to its location completely. None among them could claim to be the equal to a band of battle-hardened knights, and they put up little resistance. Two of them even surrendered their research into the area in exchange for their lives. According to their map, they had been hunting through shrines devoted to various gods, and had narrowed their search down to an old temple of Aroden and a cave frequented by Gorum’s faithful, though there was also a third, more obscure reference to Milani, a demigoddess of revolution and uprisings.

After Dame Lagatha made a strong argument in favor of visiting Gorum’s shrine next, our heroes made the gate at the same time the bandit scouting party returned. Supported by an enigmatic ninja and a bagpiper named Tzann MaCray, the party leader was unmoved by Sir Fiddich’s tired insistence that standing in their way would end poorly. She paid for this decision, as so many do, with her life.

The ninja immediately vanished in true ninja style, and the piper promptly took to his heels as well. Though he was sprinting away from combat just as fast as his feet could carry him, Sir Fiddich teleported ahead of him, greased him in butter, and threatened his life with magical fire. Improbably, this bizarre conflict was eventually resolved by offering MaCray a job to join the group (for which Sir Dread shilled out 75gp for his bardic services).

The shrine to Gorum led deep into the rock, following natural caves. Though it had seemingly been years since a worshipper of the War God had set foot inside the ruin, the signs of both Gorum’s presence and recent treasure hunting activities were everywhere. Inside an ancient training room the group found evidence of a chaotic battle between the living and a guardian of the Iron Faith. Having been proven unworthy in sight of the Lord of War, the dead did not rest easily, and rose to attack. Though damaged, the guardian was eager to strike at the restless dead, and Lagatha soon realized such a servant of her god would do her no harm. With the undead quickly vanquished, the group was free to continue, though the training room itself held further secrets.

A series of magical stone plaques detailing ancient Gorumite fighting techniques adorned the walls, though they had been damaged (as well as magically trapped) by the recent trespassers. Despite this, both Lagatha and Glenn chose to undertake the trial, allowing images of chaotic battles past to fill their minds. While Lagatha returned to herself with an even more perfect understanding of the training required to properly wear the metal armor all Gorum’s faithful bear in his name, Glenn found himself staring straight into the face of the War God himself. Though the experience left him deeply shaken, he knew without doubt he had earned Gorum’s favor, for good or for ill.

Next Time
Having followed clear signs of rival treasure-seekers since stepping foot in the caves, Sir Dread is now almost within striking distance of the enemy! Will our heroes put paid to these pesky interlopers and lay claim to the treasures that must surely await? Or will the enemy’s ample head start (and time to prepare) prove to be too much? Find out soonish!

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Blood and Thunder

Lives are lost, a city is sacked, and a bloody summer is brought to a close.

Our Heroes have fought and bled for months on end to stand in front of Disaren and bring it to its knees. In a war that would be known to the crass as “Disaren’s War” and to romantics as “Blackthorn Rising,” the novelization of the tales that brought our bold knights to the enemy’s doorstep are included below:

Part 1: Hammerfall!
Part 2: The Alycean Valley Campaign
Part 3: The Battle of Landis Ford

And now for the thrilling conclusion…
Marching from the east, the vast army known to its backers and benefactors as “Oppara’s Hammer” approached the city, finding it defended by everything Disaren had left: 2 Legions – the 75th Heavy and the 23rd, the last of the Disaren Regulars, the Knights of the Gold, Coover Leeds’ Red Legion, and Tolgrin “Blackscale” Cassman’s Swamp Drakes.

Unfazed by the forces arrayed against her, Dame Lagatha ordered the 109th Legion forward, while the Opparan Auxiliary moved to provide a screen for Arcane Thunder, the Blackthorn cannon unit led by Glenn Fiddich. Roaring battle cries to Gorum, the 109th shattered the demoralized remnants of the Disaren Regulars and took the lower city, soon finding itself battling the 23rd for the upper city. Outside the city gates, the companies comprising the left flank of the 109th swept into the trenches of the 75th. Sir Dread, serving as unit champion of the 109th, went headhunting, and within the hour had slain countless men, including the commander of the 75th. Outmatched and leaderless, the 75th soon broke, and Dread and the rest of the 109th were free to press the attack into the city to reinforce their brothers.

Ignoring the dauntless 109th, the Red Legion and the Knights of the Gold drove straight at Arcane Thunder. The Opparan Auxiliary put up as much of a fight as they could, but were eventually crushed when the Swamp Drakes flanked them. With nothing in their way, the Knights of the Gold ran roughshod through the Blackthorn militia’s lines, scattering gun crews and engaging Sir Glenn and the command staff. The Evondemor dragoons managed to drive the knights out, slaying their commander, Lord Restov, in the process. Glenn rallied his men and got them back on their guns in time to fire a devastating volley into the Swamp Drakes. Cassman’s men were almost completely obliterated.

Gravely wounded by shrapnel, Cassman attempted to escape, but Glenn wasn’t done. Determined to see vengeance done for the eye Cassman had taken when last they’d met, the wizard rode out on D’Argo to chase the bandit lord down. Battered within an inch of his life by Glenn’s magic, Cassman found himself completely helpless as the barrow hound tore him apart.

On the streets of the city, Sir Dread met Rudolfo Disaren in combat, trading vicious blows before the flow of battle dragged them away from one another. It wasn’t long before Rudolfo died of his wounds, and his valet surrendered his sword to Lagatha as the 23rd buckled before the onslaught of the 109th. The city had been taken.

The victorious soldiers looted the town of Disaren of everything that wasn’t nailed down while their commanders did the same with the manor house. When he had taken everything he could carry, Sir Glenn had his gunners level the manor with cannon fire, as a parting gift to the family that had dragged him into a three month war and taken his left eye.

Next Time
Snared by plot hooks, our victorious heroes set off to find out just what, exactly, is the big damn deal with Temple Canyon?

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Calm Before the Storm

In which insults are exchanged, artillery is acquired, a town is finally named, and the Fires of War are fanned

In this Episode
Our Heroes were slow to get underway, as the plan which seemed so clear the previous evening faded into obscurity in the morning light. However, they found a halfling named Joey waiting for them in the great hall of their keep, whose information soon colors their actions. A former artillery corpsman on Lance Aldan’s payroll, Joey arrived to oversee the delivery of Aldan’s gift to Lagatha: 1 Stuffed Dire Gorilla, 3 Live Barracuda, a spyglass, and the piece de resistance, 2 Heavy Bombards. This gift lies in wait a few hours west of Blackthorn, just beyond a large force of Taldan Legionaries. Aldan’s men were concerned a government army would likely be very interested in confiscating their siege weaponry, and so Joey went ahead to seek advice from their clients.

The Knights of Blackthorn sallied forth to find exactly what Joey said they would: a small army calmly blockading the main road into Rhoetius. Glenn split off with Joey to go collect the artillery, carefully keeping out of sight, while Lagatha, Dread, and Bragg faced down the soldiers. Their commander turned out to be none other than Captain Plagius, a legion commander staunchly loyal to Disaren, who already had plenty of reasons to dislike Lagatha and company. Lagatha and Plagius exchanged words, few of which were pleasant, and Lagatha walked away with a ballista bolt protruding from her shoulder, which she let Bragg keep once she had extracted it.

Meanwhile, Glenn met up with Chet Masterson, another former Alkenstar Artillery corpsman, and collected the promised weaponry, along with the 60 some refugees from Ridonport who had followed Aldan’s men all the way from the impoverished city on the mere whisper of rumor that the new lords of Blackthorn were offering up “free land.” Seeking to avoid confrontation with the army to the east, Glenn led the wagons along the goat trail on the south shore of the Deiphovan Slough, and, defying every possible expectation, ran into no trouble whatsoever, even when he was forced to ford the wagons across an ancient quarry.

A little while later, Glenn and his charges rolled into town, and while addressing the small horde of newcomers, Lagatha uttered the words “Welcome to Hydra’s Hollow!” Since the name “Rhoetius” had been left off of most official maps for a century, the new name stuck.

Although Severus Locke bitterly assured his employers that Disaren was likely seeking war with them simply because of their association with Evondemor, the official explanation Lagatha had dragged out of Plagius was that Disaren held them responsible for the disappearance of Blaine, youngest son of the family. Worried by this revelation and hoping to avoid bloodshed, Glenn set out once again for the army sitting on their doorstep to tell them the truth of the matter. However, by then said army had picked up and vanished completely.

Once again, the knights convened, and arrived at a tough decision: Dread and Glenn would pursue the departing army and try to discern their motives, while Lagatha remained behind to defend the town against possible treachery.

Later
In the dead of night, Glenn, Dread, and Corbin (their lone remaining scout, and resident throat-cutter) caught up to Plagius and his army to find them camped for the night, but Plagius himself and several of his men were in the midst of interrogating an aged knight, dressed in Taldan regalia. Our heroes staged a daring assault and slew Plagius, along with his retinue.

Meanwhile: The ancient stonework of Blackthorn was hammered by incoming fire as the little town of Hydra’s Hollow came under heavy attack just after midnight. Lagatha scrambled to return fire with the newly installed bombards, before leading a counter-attack into the town itself. The mysterious attackers were stymied at the gates, but only morning’s light would reveal the true extent of the damage . . .

Next Time
The thunder of guns, the clash of swords, and the screams of the dying. War is coming.

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The Wizard Robs a Bank (for love)
Holding out for a Hero

Previously
Alas! One of the world’s mightiest warriors, Dread of Blackthorn, has fallen! After slaying the vicious Razormaw, a Fell Hydra lurking in the steaming waters just outside the walls of Rhoetius, in a matter of seconds, Dread was torn asunder by the beast’s unholy spawn! His sacrifice allowed Glenn Fiddich and the Sheriff’s department to repel an attack that would have otherwise been unwinnable, but that is cold comfort to his friends! Leaving the warrior’s corpse in the hands of Eirina, newly arrived Cleric of Sarenrae, the wizard rides for Evondemor with Sheriff Sunny and D’Argo, hoping to secure the necessary material ingredient, a 5000 gp diamond, for a Raise Dead spell!

Meanwhile, Lagatha of the Southern Isles is on an Eagle Knight ship bound for Taldor on a secret mission! Appearing via wish magic in the middle of a storm, not to mention an apocalyptic firefight between the small Andoran brig and a much larger Chelish frigate, the war priestess arrived in the nick of time to turn the tide of battle, rescuing dozens of slaves and saving many Andoran lives! Later, she will discover the fate of the smuggler’s town of Carver’s Cove, and lead the Eagle Knights to victory over the Reavers in Evondemor itself!

In this Episode
We rejoin the wizard in his quest to rescue Dread from the clutches of Death itself!
(Suggested Listening)

After a hard (some might say “montage worthy”) ride, Glenn arrived to find Evondemor’s Temple of Abadar (and most likely repository for the diamond he needed) in complete disarray. After a recent robbery (by an agent of Disaren, no less) proved that the temple and the vault beneath were in desperate need of a security upgrade, construction crews were brought in, leaving the normally orderly temple in total chaos. Glenn explained his need to the head of the Temple, Mother Kaleda, who made the fateful decision to lead the wizard down into the vault itself, as the vendors she would normally have directed him to were shut down for construction. Unbeknownst to her, an ambush had been laid for her down in the vault.

Evondemor’s vault was built in two halves, with valuables and curios (as well as those relics which House Bourtz intended to destroy, including the Alabaster Urn) under lock, key, and guard, and the truly dangerous and cursed relics sealed behind a massive metal door. It was this second, deeper vault that Blaine Disaren wanted access to, and he was willing to go to any lengths to get inside.

Blaine broke down enough of the magical wards around the Urn to summon reinforcements from within, and murdered the guards and staff on duty. With the very magics that were meant to protect the vault concealing his crimes from the Temple above, Blaine set his trap and waited.

When Mother Kaleda stepped inside the room and located the lockbox she needed, the trap was sprung. A vicious Salamander appeared from illusory cover and piked her, while Glenn was set upon by outlaws, who had donned the garb of the slain Temple Guard. A pair of Annis Hags dropped their disguises and filled the room filled with fog before joining the fight as well.

D’Argo and Sunny, sensing something amiss, appeared to defend the wizard in the fight, which was hectic and uncertain at every turn. In the aftermath, Mother Kaleda lay slain by Blaine’s hand. The outsiders he had summoned were killed by Sunny, and the magus himself had been accidentally teleported into the cursed vault by a “dimensional bark” issued by D’Argo.

Resisting the urge to steal everything that wasn’t nailed down (since every possible witness not personally loyal to him had gone to meet their gods), Glenn settled for a small handful of expensive diamonds and a fancy-looking cane, and vacated the premises with all due haste.

Later
With the diamond in hand, Eirina cast her spell, and Dread came roaring back into the world of the living. Convinced beyond doubt that his brush with Death had only made him stronger, Dread set about the task of proving his superiority over all things multi-headed by paying the town’s fledgling smith, Denna Castoven, to fix (and enchant) his shattered armor using the bones and hide of Razormaw.

And right about when Glenn was ready to completely give up on Lagatha ever returning, she rode out of the mists and into town, pretty as can be and pleased as punch about all her new kit. During the reunion, Glenn saw a opportunity to get “better acquainted” with his long-lost comrade, and took his shot . . .
(Suggested Listening)
. . . which fell flat. Fortunately, during the encounter, Glenn had a million-platinum idea for a book about a heart-broken Sasquatch, and set to work on his magnum opus immediately.

Also, the gang beat a prisoner to death. Since these people are supposed to be the protagonists, let’s not dwell on that . . .

Next Time
Armed with the knowledge that House Disaren very much wants them all destroyed, the gang makes plans to head back to Evondemor to see if their alliance with the battered town still stands. What will they find there? Will there be high jinks? Does anyone care that Andoran’s Eagle Knights seem to think they’re allowed to do whatever they want in foreign countries now? Stay tuned!

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