DDC – Eve of War

And so here it was – the grand season finale. The group had met the enemy and retreated, barely surviving. They had tracked down the refugees who had fled the Hold. They had identified those members of the Clan infected with lycanthropy and secured their cooperation. There was a reconciliation between Thorin and Karkanna, and the revelation of a new family member – and a dragon dropped by to confirm whether the group really was an instrument of the Draconic Prophecies concerning these events.

So that was a lot to process for people as various strands woven through the game all started to come together. The Cult of the Triumphant Dead held the Hold and the portal being built that would mix the magics of Xoriat with that of the Fey Winter’s Knight to bring eternal winter to the heart of Khorvaire. Thorin and Karkanna’s father was still hostage within the Hold, infected with lycanthropy that held his heart condition at bay. The Hags had been working on drugs that would render all who took them vulnerable to the magics of the fey with the plan to distribute them across the lands to be conquered by Winter. The DDC had slain the Hags, while Kerne’s sister fled with the secret to making the drugs to keep them from the Winter’s Knight. It had been Faye who had chained the portal in the Hags’ lair before fleeing – and she was now on the run.

During the week of downtime then between last session and this one, people spent time in preparation. The first snows of winter arrived, and temperatures dropped rapidly as ice crept across the rivers and made travel even more treacherous. Kerne worked with Valenia to identify some of the more obscure ingredients and processes identified in communications with Faye. They produced what they hoped would be an elixir that could cure those affected by the werewolf curse. It resulted in three bottles of…something…that looked like congealed blood in a clear liquid and no volunteers to test it.

Arwan spent the week working with the villagers of Flower Town to make repairs, and to shore people up in faith and reassurance. He listened and talked and spread good news to all – and received a measure of divine favour for his work. The people of the town came to value his presence and were prepared to go to greater lengths to aid in the fight. In a similar vein, Caeluma spent the week with the werewolves – teaching them meditation and practical lessons on managing the rage and the curse and the shifting of forms. He also rebuilt and rededicated a shrine in the abandoned village, bringing the presence of the Sovereign Host back to a shadowed place. The divine powers noted this and granted the promise of aid.

And then there was Thorin. Who spent the time reconnecting with his people, encouraging them, making plans for battle and then frequently forgetting them amid the wild carousing. He had vague recollections of doing something he shouldn’t have while drunk, but as nobody seemed to know what it was either he figured it couldn’t have been that bad – even if there were complaints that someone had fouled the well.

Local Map of the Amberhammer Lands

All in all, between their preparations, the presence of a dragon nearby, and word getting out among the refugees, more people gathered to their banners – giving a fighting force of some 40 dwarves and 18 werewolves and a dragon to aid the DDC. There had been sightings of something draconic flying near the Hold, but nobody could quite identify it. The additional refugees did confirm however that a small force of duergar had taken the mines and were fortifying it – and that dolgaunts and dolgrims were occupying key watch towers on the approaches to the Hold.

A plan was quickly improvised. Caeluma and Killiklik would take a handful of werewolves to tackle the mine entrance – either to clear it or collapse it, while the main body of the army moved against the Hold from the North. Caeluma and Killiklik would then flank from the West as they rejoined the army.

The assault on the mine was swift and brutal, with Killiklik’s fiery breath clearing defenders and defences from the entrance, while Caeluma led the pack inside. There they found a reeling duergar force and inspired the captive miners to break chains and rebel. Between those two assaults the duergar were driven off – and a divine wave of healing spread through everyone remaining. The miners vowed to close off the duergar breakthroughs and secure the galleries so that no more reinforcements could come up from below. This left Caeluma and his companions free to rejoin the main fight.

Meanwhile, the army had overrun the northern watchtower with minimal losses and was advancing on the Hold. As they approached, a chaotic horde of dolgrims, dolgaunts and duergar spilled out to meet them, and battle was joined. The people of Flower Town and the werewolves joined forces, reunited as the people of Clan Amberhammer and were led by Karkanna on the field, while the DDC pressed forward to the gardens and main entrance.

The mindflayers and the beholder had been joined by another of the beholder’s nightmares – fuelled by dreams of conflict with Killiklik it had spawned an Eyedrake – a horrid amalgamation of dragon and beholder that on its own would tax many groups. Worse, the quiescent portal in the gardens had widened and opened, held open by dark tentacles from the other side that blindly groped and writhed in the air, and shrouded by dense snow and fog as the cold of the EverIce of the Winter Knight’s realm blasted through. Here then was what had brought on the sudden commencement of snows and ice across the mountains. Unchallenged, this winter would never end.

Killiklik and the eyedrake launched straight at each other and their epic fight scorched the air through the heavy snow squalls filling the air. Fiery breath, and razor claws and teeth were met with antimagic pulses and streams of magical energies in retaliation. Thorin and Arwan closed on the nearest mindflayer and nearly managed to drop it in the first moments of the fight before its hideous mental powers washed out across the battlefield.

The party nearly fell in that moment, if not for Arwan’s divine favour to offer aid in making saves in those frantic seconds. The second mindflayer also tried to scourge their minds, while the mindflayer arcanist with them cast lighting through the pair as punishment for approaching.. Then the beholder emerged from the doors of the Hold and began to bombard the party with magics. Caeluma, Valenia, and Kerne fought back and tried not to get pinned down as rays from the beholder’s eyes scythed across the garden.

Slowly, the beholder’s allies were cut down. Killiklik managed to destroy the eyedrake with his breath weapon, but was turned to stone by the beholder – his body falling from the sky and through the open portal. Arwan’s battle prowess surprised everyone as he decimated the remaining mindflayers – receiving the accolade of The Hunter from Killiklik before he died. As a last ditch effort, the arcanist mind flayer plane shifted Thorin to a hellish location to be rid of him.

With Caeluma and Arwan paralysed, Kerne caught in the beholder’s antimagic gaze and Valenia slowed and almost turned to stone, things looked grim. And that’s where the final divine favour was granted, and Caeluma’s patron – the Solar Gerleon returned Thorin to the mortal realm and blinded the beholder’s antimagic eye. The group rallied, slew the arcanist and then piled in on the aberration before them. In the height of the winter’s storm, it was Valenia who landed the final blow with an arrow from concealment. The title of The Quiet was finally claimed.

And with that, the battle on the field below became a rout as the dwarves won the day. The portal curled in on itself and sealed up, and Gerleon was no longer there. With the portal closed, the sun began to break through. They had won the battle. Now they had to win the peace.

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