Age of Arcana

Infiltration of Fort Daleheart

An attempt on the fort quick spirals out of control...

The day is 16th of Market, PI 53.

The party wakes at dawn within the boughs of an old oak tree, centered in a small glade within the planes of Dergomal, south of their destination Fort Daleheart. As they wake, the land is filled with fog and mist, and a lone figure stands within the glade, shrouded within. Ticking Clock and Dox descend from the tree to flank the figure, walking along the outer edge of the glade. As they pass the trees, however, they feel their feet held to the ground, long vines grabbing at their ankles, slowing their movement but not fully stopping them. As they look away from their feet, they see the figure before them, feminine in shape, and looking directly at them to either side. Giving up the ruse, Ticking Clock stabs his swordcane into the ground and offers his hands to the sky in a gesture of peace. Dox follows suit with his own hands, and the figure looks into the tree to the rest of the party. As the party descends, the fog begins to clear.

"Who are you, that rests within my glade?" The voice is quiet but clearly audible above the sounds of morning, with an echoing quality as if the speaker was not quite there, but all around them. Lelantis, the elven ranger, steps forward.
"We are a small group out of Waekefield, we are heading for Fort Daleheart, to the north."
"And who were they?" She gestures to the gorey mess that is the remains of the hobgoblins from the night before. The figure is clearly visible, now, as the fog and mist swirls out from around her. An elven woman in figure only, her skin is layered in foliage of leaves, vines, and wood. A dryad.
"They were a hobgoblin patrol, meant to do us harm. We had to kill them and dispose of the bodies."
The dryad, considering the elven ranger before her and the group within her glade, gives a nod. "Any who mean to do harm to a member of the elves is an enemy of mine. Should another enter my glade, they will not leave it."
Lelantis gives a thankful bow, and the dryad steps back from the party, dispersing in the air.

With the dryad appeased and all rested, the party returns to their horses and ride for the fortress once more. After three hours, the party crests a large hill, and their quarry stands before them.

A large fortress sitting upon a cliff face some 30 feet high, with walls standing three stories, sectioned by towers standing four or five stories tall. Two rivers flank the fortress upon its hill, the western river cutting through the rest of the hill and forming a canyon before the gatehouse on the opposite side from the party.

Dox is sent to investigate the fortress and possible routes inside, choosing the canyon running along the western side. Finding no way in save small sewage tunnels barely large enough for their kenku companion's head, Dox returns and the party decides to scale the wall. Using her magic harp to grant him the ability to fly, and again to change the weather towards a more overcast and stormy setting, Dox uses his racial ability to shift into a Hobgoblin officer, dressed in the armor of those they had killed the night before. The changeling flies up towards the top of the battlements, ties off the rope on a crenellation, and stands guard as a patrol passes by without issue. The rest of the party makes their way to the top as a second patrol begins to round the corner.

All but Dox and Ticking Clock hurry into the tower beside them, waiting in ambush, with Dox standing on the wall in the facade of an officer, and Ticking Clock hiding his tiny frame in the embrasures of the battlements. As the patrol begins to pass by, Ticking Clock jumps out behind the patrol, killing one with a stab through the back. Dox unsheathes his sword and strikes at the second, missing. Lelantis rounds the corner and fires at the same, missing as well. Ophinora steps out of the tower, using her bardic magic to distract the man and damage his mind with an insult, and fires her bow, piercing his skull. With the patrol dead, and soon tossed over the edge and into the western river below, the party takes up refuge within the large, circular tower in the south of the fortress.

Taking care of two guards on the ground floor, the party takes in the sight of the fortress before them. Four circular towers, two square, a large gatehouse, Two sizeable, structurally sound buildings, a granary, a collapsed stable, and at least four dozen in standing forces in sight alone. The battlements of the fort are in dilapidated state, but are clearly in a state of repair, with the rest of the buildings inside the fort in a less advanced but similar state.

Picking out the captain's quarters in the lower right, Dox heads for it with covert intent. Walking inside without trouble, he reaches a small waiting room and attempts to head inside to the captain himself, but is stopped by a guard. Unable to speak Goblin, he is forced to kill the large armored guard as quietly as possible, set him in a corner as if sleeping, and take his place armor, face, and all. After a minute and a half of eavesdropping on a conversation he is unable to comprehend, and scribbling phonetically what he can make out, Dox heads back towards the southern tower.

Deciphering Dox's notes, as he is able to understand the language, Ticking Clock relates to the rest of the party what was said. The captain within spoke to another hobgoblin, with another two guards besides. The captain had been arguing with the other hobgoblin about the lack of efficiency and skill on the part of the "devastators" in their attempts to infiltrate Waekefield. Should the devastators continue to disappoint, the captain would be forced to see to the matter himself.

With the knowledge that the fortress indeed intends harm upon the town, the party resolves to complete their mission by assassinating the captain, and possibly clearing the fortress. Ticking Clock becomes a prisoner of Dox in a ruse to enter the captain's quarters unmolested, shackled in the bounty hunter Dox's unlocked manacles. The two make their way inside the captain's quarters, while the rest of the party takes up position within the southern tower's fourth and fifth floors, with Saje watching the trap doors leading between levels.

Making their way inside, Dox and Ticking Clock pass the outer guards, enter the captain's quarters with Ticking Clock mimicking a hobgoblin's voice to the effect of having a prisoner. With the two inside, they see a particularly large hobgoblin male sat behind a rounded table, geared in plate armor, with sword and shield, and flanked by two guards in half plate similarly armed. As Dox is asked in his hobgoblin facade where he'd captured the kenku, the two panic as one is incapable of speaking hobgoblin and the other is clearly a prisoner. The two break the ruse as Ticking Clock unsheathes a hidden dagger and attacks the captain!

Failing to damage the large hobgoblin, Ticking Clock scrabbles back. Dox fires at the large commander, misses, and fires at the guards two either side. The captain, in a fit of rage, unsheathes his sword and stabs down into the kenku's arm, then slashes down, missing the other. The kenku stands, stabs the captain in the shoulder, and backflips majestically over Dox's head, landing in the doorway behind. The guards attempt to harm them both, but Dox kills the one on his right before he presents much trouble. As he takes a shot in the shoulder, the captain walks onto and off the table, and walks menacingly towards the two assassins

Outside, the three other party members listen helplessly as the events play out within. As the two guards outside begin to head inside, the party fires down upon them, and watch as the rest of the fortress begins to rouse. Watching the door of the captain's quarters and attempting to hinder any effort to reach the inside, the party can do little from within the tower.

Back inside, Dox and Ticking Clock are forced out of the captain's war room, into the waiting hall. Dox does what he can to defend his inquisitive kenku companion, taking blow after blow even as Ticking Clock is harassed and harried from the sides. With the only exit blocked by entering guards, outnumbered two-to-one, and an impressive officer enraged before them, Ticking Clock does the only thing he can think to do.

Removing the amulet of teleportation from his belongings, he takes a single breath, and drops it around Dox's neck, activating it with a single word, mimicking their dragonborn companion's word to him – "Friends." Dox is helpless as he is forced to teleport away in a flash of light, leaving the smaller, fragile inquistive behind, backed into a corner.

As the fortress wakes around them and begins to enter the captain's quarters, and the battlements begin to fill, the other three members of the party exit their tower and flee. Ophinora uses her harp to turn invisible, sensing a strange force from within the instrument even as the magic takes effect. The three party members – the rogue, the bard, and the ranger – Flee down the rope outside their tower and down the battlements to the earth below. As the walls fill up with archers above them, the three flee for their lives towards their horses, followed by Dox's canine companion, whimpering at the disappearance of his master.

Only moments later, the party is startled by the impossibly loud sound of a ringing gong, and as they look behind them, their eyes are filled with the vision of a massive pillar of light shooting out from within the fortress, undoubtedly visible for over a hundred miles in every direction. Within seconds, as they start running once more, a winged, humanoid figure bursts out from above the fortress walls behind them, and lands a few yards before them, carrying their kenku companion Ticking Clock.

As they run, the party is unable to tell just what this angelic figure travelling with them is. All except Ophinora, who instantly treats the red-winged, copper-skinned, bloody-eyed creature with intense suspicion and hostility even as Ticking Clock treats her with respect and gratitude. Filling their minds with her own thoughts as they mount up upon their horses, the figure directs them towards the corrupted western forest, comforting them with the knowledge of her power over that domain.

As the party rides hard towards the forest, mere yards away from the tree line, they are only seconds from being overtaken by dire wolf riders from the fortress. The angelic figure attempts to force Ophinora into throwing up a Wall of Thorns with her harp, but is talked down by the bard's impressive strategic skills, and instead opts to stop, and fly over the party, standing between the party and the riders behind them.

Minutes later, as the party passes the tree line and enters the forest, the figure lands upon Dox's riderless horse, exhausted and filled with arrows and sword wounds. Now casting her harp's spell, a wall of thorns erupts behind them, and the party continues on before they must stop to rest.

Ophinora finally explains her distrust of this figure, informing them of just what she is – An Erinyes, an infernal creature of fallen celestial origin, an officer in their legions and one of the more powerful of their number. Instant distrust is risen within the party, but Ticking Clock convinces them to listen. He nods to the erinyes, who first touches her forehead to the kenku's, and then casts a scene within the party's minds.

As Ticking Clock stood within the captain's quarters, surrounded and outmatched, and with his friend Dox now saved, he backed into a corner, and accepted his fate. … Until his cane landed upon an imperfection in the floor. Throug sheer, blind, and absolute brainless luck, the kenku had managed to back himself into the one corner that held a way out. A trap door. Taking this one opportunity, the kenku opened the door and fell down into the darkness below, followed quickly after by the captain himself. Panicking, the kenku searched around the dark room for any assistance, and saw it.

With a single band of runed metal bolted to the wall, covered in blood, filth, and tortured wounds, an angelic being hung before the inquisitve, helpless but powerful. Ticking Clock quickly retrieved his crowbar from his pack, lept up, and began to pry the band from the wall, waking the being. With the scene before her, and her binding weakened for the first time in her memory, the erinyes pulled free of her capture, and set upon the captain with a ferocity unmatched by any on the mortal plane. Within seconds the captain lay headless in a pull of his own blood, and the erinyes fled out of the prison with the kenku in hand. Heading up over the wall, the erinyes glided down towards her rescuer's companions, and the scene ended there.

After a few more short discussions, the erinyes had informed the party of pieces of the puzzle they had not been privy too. Councilhead Abeth's family had once owner the fortress they had just escaped from, and was attempting to take it back. The hobgoblins, for their part, were attempting to infiltrate Waekefield, and seize the whole of the region for glory and honor. The party had been thrown into the middle in an attempt by Abeth to outmaneuver the warlord herself. Another short discussion revealed to Ophinora, through the Erinyes' ability to read all languages, that the harp in her possession was a cursed item – Whenever she attempted to play it, a force within the harp would try to seize her mind, and the power of that force would grow with every spell she cast per day, resetting each dawn, until it succeeded.

With the whole picture a bit clearer to their eyes, the party finished their rest and set off once more for Waekefield.

Meanwhile, Dox through no will of his own had been teleported through the power of the amulet to an underground room. Taking quick stock of his surroundings, the bounty hunter discovered he was in a basement in the middle of Dergomal City, in an abandoned house just off the marketplace. Looking through the marketplace, Dox found an item he had used in the past – A sending paper. Using this magical item to send a message to his companions telling him his locaton, of his safety, and his intent to return to Waekefield, Dox headed off. With the discovery of wanted posters in several places of the city detailing his dress and his changeling race, Dox opted to change into his traveling clothes before seeing a contact of his within the city. Informed of his very much criminal position within Dergomal, and set up with a caravan headed towards Alsharra as a way out of the city, Dox set out to rejoin his friends, with one more sending letter to them the next morning.

Within the corrupted western forest, the party traveled south under the protection of the erinyes. A full eight hours of travel later, with Dox's message appearing in Ophinora's hands about halfway through, the party reached the edge of the forest near Waekefield. Here, the erinyes stopped to leave them. Ticking Clock immediately went to the figure, and the two spoke in their minds. As a way for the two to communicate in the future, the erinyes burned a single rune into the kenku's hand that would connect their minds at a touch. The erinyes then set off towards the infernal city of Diyu, to the east, and the party headed once more for home.

The day is the ending of 16th of Market, PI 53.



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