Monday, February 22, 2010

Second Day

The Lord Archibald, clad in black scale mail and with a greatsword strapped across his back, strode into the courtyard, while his Black Guard fanned out to secure him. A lone remaining battlemage, unseen by all, dropped from the ramparts above Archibald, hands glowing in readiness. In one motion, Archibald drew his sword and cut the falling mage in two, smashing the body into the open gate door before it hit the ground. He then turned to the party. "Who are you?"

The party introduced themselves in friendship, explained the events of the night, and offered to take Archibald to speak with Annasta. He agreed. When they arrived, they found Annasta and the other Agents in the room slain on the ground.

With it apparent that he was now the leader of the resistance against the Prince, Archibald decided to accept the help of the party. He announced that he would start gathering forces in the Great Hall, the site of his brother's demise, and requested that the party continue with the tasks set out for them by Annasta. He also expressed puzzlement about the role of the battlemages and asked the party to enter the Tower (the battlemages' section of the castle) and interrogate a mage. Lastly, he instructed his most trusted and accomplished guard, Sir Griflet, to assist the party in their endeavors. With that, he departed.

The party decided that Archibald's request for information was their most important task and departed to find a mage. They followed their map towards the Tower. None expected to find a devil on their way. Their only warning was the sound of chains on stone. A chain devil soon stood before them. The battle was difficult, with the devil using its chains to wrap the party and parry their attacks, but the devil was soon defeated and was banished back to the Nine Hells.

Upon entry to the Tower, the party heard the sobs of a man and the alluring voice of a woman comforting him and asking him to cooperate. Sir Griflet burst down the door to find a succubus (a evil devil that uses its charms to manipulate mortals) interrogating a bound mage. The other devils in the room (legion devils and spined devils) attacked. The succubus went after Griflet, briefly dominating his mind and causing the paladin to throw himself to the ground. The succubus approached Griflet and gave him a soft kiss full of devilish corruption, but the knight soon snapped out of it and attacked the succubus.

Meanwhile, Fizzy deployed a portable arcane staircase to walk over the melee, collect the sobbing mage, and drag him out of the room. The mage's bindings were cut, but he merely hid in a corner in fear. The battle raged on, with Griflet fighting in front and most of the party firing support from outside the door, and soon the devils were destroyed. The mage was brought to his senses soon after the succubus was defeated.

The mage, named Cormac, explained that the mages were being instructed to summon as many devils as they could before going on patrol in the castle. He was the only high-ranking battlemage to resist, and he was nearly broken by the succubus's entreaties. Khestral had become more powerful than ever, Cormac reported, and had been inventing new spells unlike any the mages had seen before. He promised that they could share in this power if they cooperated. After the night's events at the feast, the Prince was seen entering Khestral's office and abode in the center of the Tower. Khestral sealed off the door with an enchantment: only Khestral or one of the royal bloodline could open the door.

The party took Cormac back to Archibald. On their way they encountered two cambions (cross-breeds between devils and humans), but Ferik was able to convince them to report back to Khestral after pretending to be in the Prince's service and telling them of Archibald's presence in the castle. After arriving in the Great Hall, the still-frightened mage wet himself in the face of Archibald's intimidating interrogation, but when the party explained Cormac's role in events, Archibald softened. The Black Lord set off to gather nobles to fight for the cause, while the party set off to gather magical arms and armor for the resistance.

On their way they encountered a group of six guards led by a battlemage. The guards, urged forth by the mage, marched forward in formation. With their halberds at the ready, this was a powerful tactic. Unfortunatey, it left them clumped together. When they stood within range, all of the party (especially the enthusiastic Vexx) fired a volley of arcane attacks, utterly destroying the formation. The mage attempted to throw what he could towards the party, but, outnumbered five to one, he was quickly overcome.

The party soon arrived at the dungeons. Around the corner they heard a discussion between a frustrated voice and a very droll one. Inching closer, they discovered that the first voice was demanding entry to the armory, and the second was refusing it. The party hid in the nearby rooms full of mundane arms and Vexx sent a Ghost sound to draw in their enemies. The ambush was spoiled, however, when Sir Griflet sprung the trap too early. In the ensuing chaos, the lone guardian of the magical vault (a dark-skinned gnome) had his life threatened as he was twice used as a living shield, but the devils, mages, and guards were soon killed.

The gnome was very grateful for the party's assistance, but refused to open the vault, as he could only do so under the King's orders, and the proper King was as-yet undecided. Some discussion revealed that the gnome identifies as a "deep gnome", a group usually devoted to mining, but has found his home as an unsleeping guardian of the vault, to which he is magically tied. The gnome unflinchingly refused entry, and the conversation went in circles.

After some time, the bard Jij took the gnome aside and asked for details about the enchantment. The gnome was convinced of the bard's good intentions. "Very well, changeling", he responded, and explained that as long as he was conscious and somewhere in the castle, the door would not open without his permission. With this knowledge, Vexx cast a sleep spell on the gnome, who soon passed out, and the door to the vault swung open.

The party loaded their bag of holding with the weapons in the room, also opening a chest full of more interesting magical weapons, which they divided among each other. They also briefly discussed what the gnome said to Jij: he was not the human he appeared to be, but rather a changeling, a doppelganger. The bard insisted that he did not often change his appearance and would like to continue as a human. The group accepted his request, and set off to return to Archibald.

They met another couple of cambions on the way, each guiding a hell hound, who seemed very interested in their bag of items. Ferik again tried to bluff, which the cambions believed, but when one tried to grab the bag, a fight broke out again. After a few blasts from the hell hound's fire breath and a few strikes from the cambions' fiery swords, the party emerged victorious and continued.

They entered the Great Hall to find it much more crowded than before. Many of the castle guards and nobles who were at the feast were being armed and trained. The Black Guard gladly accepted the weapons and armor that the party collected. Archibald thanked them personally, spoke briefly of plans to assault the Tower, and sent the party off to the alchemist in hopes of achieving another edge in the coming battle.

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