Secrets of Mystara

Post 26 (The Final Assault)
or, Inappropriate Encounter Level

While the brothers and maidens next to the temple drag the eight zargonite bodies from there to the middle of the road, the brotherhood priests minister to their wounded. The sub-commander has his blindness removed, and a cure wounds spell is used on the unconscious brother. Although it heals him, it does not restore him to consciousness. The brotherhood priests had only that one healing spell between them, although they have several remove fear and remove blindness remaining.

Two Madaruan priestesses, as well as the High Priestess, work to restore consciousness to their four fallen warriors, although they can do nothing about the dead squad leader but mourn her. FluffyKitten tugs at the sleeve of the High Priestess until she accompanies her to the tower where Iris is held. The High Priestess uses a cure moderate wounds to free Iris from her paralysis, and then a cure serious wounds on her [1 hp to 8], another cure serious wounds for FluffyKitten [4 hp to 11hp (full)], and finally a cure light wounds on Iris [8hp to 12hp]. The three women descend the tower. One maiden has been blinded, but after examining her the High Priestess says that she will recover soon. The Madaruan priestesses are out of healing spells for the moment.

The High Priestess, Great Mother, Azerius, Brotherhood Sub-commander, Alyria, a Magi Enchanter, Morgan (with the communication disk), and Bhelgarn (doing his best to follow the conversation) all meet in the middle of the road in front of the Zargonite fortress.

Azerius says that his brothers will be pursuing the zargonites into their fortress, to destroy them once and for all.

Alyria says that the Magi are effectively done with combat operations – they will not pursue the zargonites into their fortress, but they still have several invisible scouts and can help the alliance hold the field.

The High Priestess says that the Maidens as a group will not enter the fortress at this time, but that their officers are free to do so if they will, and here the Great Mother nods eagerly. (The High Priestesses’ tone is polite, but her words underscore the difference between Azerius commanding all the brothers and her leaving it up to maidens to decide for themselves). The High Priestess says that the Maidens will concern themselves with clearing the battlefield and denying the enemy the use of the dead.

Here Morgan interjects, asking what needs to be done to keep the bodies from being raised as zombies – cutting off their heads? Burning them?

The High Priestess says that unfortunately, cutting off their heads is not sufficient. Burning them would work, but she does not think there is enough pig dung in all of the undercity to burn the scores of bodies just slain in the battle. Once hostilities have ceased, the Maiden Priestesses know spells to accelerate the decay of the bodies, but for the moment the most effective strategy will simply be to remove the bodies from proximity to the fortress – if the zargonites cannot see the dead, they cannot raise them. The unwounded maidens will be in charge of carrying the bodies of the fallen away from the fortress, at least the humans and bugbears. She does not think they can manage to remove the five ogres, which are easily over 600 pounds each. They will also strip the gear from the bodies to see what is salvageable or useful.

Azerius snorts and says that while he recognizes that the Maidens did the majority of the fighting up to this point, he does not cede claim to any of the items recovered, especially magic items.

Alyria says that the magi who are out of spells can be in charge of stripping gear, if the maidens can drag the bodies a little farther to the front of the Complex. As a neutral party, Alyria will look for any items of value and save them for division between the Maidens and Brothers.

Bhelgarn says that many in the party, himself included, are still fresh and would be interested in continuing the attack on the zargonites. Azerius replies that the brothers will be grateful for the help, so long as those participating understand that they are under his command. There is an uncomfortable silence, and then Morgan suggests that a two-pronged attack would divide the forces of the zargonites. Azerius agrees, and says that his forces will be entering through the barracks if Morgan will be taking a force through the temple. The Great Mother says that she will be part of Morgan’s force, and the Magi enchanter says that he will, as well. Morgan asks the Great Mother who else among the maidens might be going, and she says she believes Pandora will want to go as well. Morgan asks whether the two “fast” unarmed maidens could go, and the Great Mother hesitates, saying they are not prepared for fighting of the intensity that will be seen inside the fortress. Morgan assures her that they would just be for relaying messages and carrying wounded, not fighting, and the Great Mother agrees.

Morgan asks whether the Magi have any healing potions to spare, or invisibility spells. Alyria personally has an invisibility, and Morgan asks her to cast it on Remmy. Alyria indicates that the Magi do not have any healing potions. Azerius says that the Brotherhood will be entering through the barracks door – which they have found is locked. They could batter it down, but in the interests of time and a coordinated attack, he requests that the Magi open it. Alyria says that the Magi did not take any knock spells, as they prepared for combat on the field, but that perhaps the party still has the ring they were given? Morgan confirms that the knock ring has one charge remaining.

The Brotherhood arranges themselves in front of the door to the barracks as the Maidens drag away bodies to the Complex for the Magi to search and strip. The party lines up at the base of the east wall of the temple wing. All of the party members are present, as well as The Great Mother, Pandora, and the two messenger maidens, the Magi Enchanter. Pooches is still a giant, and the party members who received the blessing of Glöð still have that active. Ember is still using her Wise Discernment and Remmy and Ember are both invisible. It is fifteen or twenty minutes since the end of the battle; only the striking that had been cast on Thrud’s axe has expired.

Remmy slips the knock ring to FluffyKitten, then sets to work on the iron door of the temple. He has picked it before, and is confident that he can open it again. In short order, he hears a satisfying “click”.

Remmy opens the Temple door while Ember stands guard

Meanwhile, Fluffy has knocked open the barracks door. At a signal from Morgan, the Brotherhood, led by Azerius, opens the barracks door while Morgan takes her group to the temple door. Remmy and FluffyKitten return to the base of the east wall of the temple wing.

Azerius leads the Brotherhood into the barracks

Azerius leads the first and second Brotherhood squads through the open barracks door. There is a single open hall for the entire wing, much like the temple wing but with a 10 foot ceiling. A number of stuffed mattresses had been on the floor until recently, but now these are cleared away and stacked against the walls with a few chairs and foot lockers so that the room itself is open. Two ogres, severely burned and scarred from the fireball, stand in the middle of the room, while slightly behind them is one of the zargonite squad leaders. At the far end of the room further entrance to the fortress is blocked by a lowered portcullis, behind which are a row of zargonite priests. The place is dimly lit by an oil lamp.

Azerius and his two squadmates charge the ogres, while the priests begin spells. Even before Azerius can close to melee he is blinded by a darkness.

Azerius meets the ogres in combat, but is blinded

Azerius’ squadmates immediately move to his sides, protecting him from being flanked by the ogres. The zargonite fighter moves up to engage the brothers. The second brotherhood squad moves into the fortress.

Battle lines form in the barracks room

Quick but deadly blows are exchanged. Wounded as they are, the ogres do not last long against the blows of even a blinded Azerius.

The ogres fall to Azerius

Meanwhile, led by Ember, the party enters the zargonite temple. The entire tapestry has been burned and the wall and high ceiling scorched. The near set of pews is blackened with soot, their edges charred, but the far column is intact, if covered with a fine layer of soot. The scent of smoke still is heavy in the air, fighting with that of incense. The temple appears deserted, and Ember’s Wise Discernment does not reveal any foes.

The party enters the temple

Iris mounts Fluffy and dashes up the steps at the rear of the temple, through the curtain, and in to the common room of the novices. She has been charged with checking the prison level to assure Morgan that there is no one behind them as they penetrate deeper into the fortress.

Iris heads for the dungeon while mounted on Pooches

The brothers push through the barracks

With the ogres slain, the two brotherhood squads move quickly to eliminate the remaining zargonite fighter, but not before he wounds one of Azerius’ squadmates. As the zargonite dies, the brother lapses into unconsciousness but is stabilized by his comrades. The brotherhood continues to advance into the barracks as fast as they can send troops through the narrow door, and by now there are three squads of fighters inside. A brotherhood priest removes the blindness from Azerius. All the while there was active fighting, the zargonite priests behind the portcullis were casting spells, targeting the brotherhood leaders. Once their warrios have fallen, though, they cease their casting. Behind them, their ogre and fighter guards withdraw down the hallway, but immediately run into the advancing party, as they both converge on the rear of the fortress where the stairs lead to the second level. After a brief pause at the shocked meeting, both groups charge one another.

A surprise meeting

Morgan shouts orders all around. Thrud, Odleif, and Bhelgarn move to block off the hallway from the zargonite advance while Bhelgarn’s sword flares, radiating brilliant light. The Great Mother and Pandora are having as much difficulty seeing as the zargonites are, so Morgan sends them to check the stairwell to the second floor. The Great Mother doesn’t balk at Morgan’s command but hustles off at once with Pandora. Wolfbane, the lone magi, and the messenger maidens have remained in the temple, charged with overturning pews and smashing them into pieces of ready firewood.

The advancing party faces the retreating zargonites

While all the fighting has been going on, on the first floor, Remmy has been staring up at the third floor from outside of the fortress. The caven of the undercity is pitch black to him, but across the street the light from the Magi still burns, so he can see the rough outlines of the fortress. He can barely make out a window ledge on the third floor. The only window on the first floor was barred, and the ones on the second floor were little more than arrow slits, but this one is wide and, at least according to the Magi, unbarred. He takes a few steps back and begins circling his grappling hook in long leisurely arcs, then releases it. It sails up and catches the lip of the sill. “Wait here until you see the rope go up and down,” he says to Fluffy, then begins his ascent.

The stonework of the building is as ancient and pitted as the wall of the Enclave, and it is only a short time before he has gained the sill. He listens, but does not hear anything inside. He gropes about the darkened recesses of the window. Half a foot inside are wooden shutters. They are not even locked, though there is a simple latch on the inside that he easily undoes with his dagger blade. Easing open the shutters, he drops lightly to the floor of the room beyond. On the first floor, the stone walls of the fortress were five feet thick but here he estimates them to be no more than three feet. Remmy turns and gives two quick tugs to the rope, then feels it go taut with the weight of Fluffykitten.

When the halfling reaches the widow ledge he helps her ease to the floor of the room, then whispers that she should start in. “No see, no see niente” she whispers back, in a curious mix of Common and Darokite, but starts forward, one hand guiding her along the wall. When she is a ways away, Remmy lights a torch.

As the torch flares to life, both of them can see the room. It is furnished as an elegantly appointed bedchamber, though it is too large for the single set of furnishings it contains. Along the south wall, two men in priestly robes over bronze plate armor stare down at the courtyard below through windows like the one Remmy entered.

Fluffy and Remmy see the priests by the light of Remmy’s torch

The priests must not have heard their entry, and they are momentarily confused by the light. Since Remmy is invisible, there is no obvious source for the light, and they miss the halfling woman moving low and crouching behind furnishings. FluffyKitten dashes forward, aiming her dagger at the back of the knee of one of the men, the gap where the plates do not cover. Her blade pierces the ancient chain links, but the man does not go down. Instead, he just curses and turns on her.

As the two priests begin readying weapons against Fluffy, Remmy moves behind one and thrusts his dagger into the man’s back. The blade is turned aside by the armor, and now Remmy is visible as well. His appearance causes momentary confusion among the men, long enough for Remmy and Fluffy to exchange glances and see that they are in agreement – these are well-equipped, high-level priests, and not appropriate targets for the pair of sneaks!

Remmy and Fluffy sprint back to the window they came in, Remmy reaching it first. He descends the rope swiftly while FluffyKitten is still laboring to ascend to the window ledge. Remmy is on the ground and Fluffy some ten feet in the air by the time the priests manage to throw off the grappling hook. Fluffy has the wind knocked out of her when she lands but is otherwise unharmed.

Back on the first floor, the zargonites have halted their advance as they attempt to see into the blinding light of Bhelgarn’s sword. Morgan spies three ogres, three tough-looking fighters, two priests, and a hobgoblin. She finds the magi in the temple and orders him to lightning bolt into the zargonites. He cannot aim well given the light, but his bolt misses the front ranks of the party and hits several zargonites, which is as much as Morgan hoped for. Seconds later the zargonites close the distance and enter into melee with Odleif, Bhelgarn, and Thrud. The brotherhood has been stymied at the portcullis, and are straining to lift it so that they may pass.

Lightning bolt!

From left to right, the brotherhood has taken the barracks but are held at the portcullis, the zargonites confront the party, breaking pews in the temple, the maidens secure the stairs, Iris and Pooches descend to the dungeon

For a second, with the advantage of Bhelgarn’s light, the party is acquitting themselves well. Odleif takes a crushing blow from an ogre, but then manages to kill the brute before he drops back and Morgan takes his place in the line. The magi casts mirror image on himself, in case his position is over-run.

The party holds the line…

But the zargonites keep coming!

The brotherhood cannot pass the portcullis

Then, the tide of battle shifts. One of the zargonite priests gets off a darkness spell that extinguishes Bhelgarn’s sword, then drinks a potion to render himself invisible. Another uses a wand to paralyze Thrud. An ogre hits Odleif with a great club, knocking him unconscious. The fighter facing Bhelgarn says a word and his boots glow. He begins raining blows down, striking four times for every attack the dwarf can make. Two more zargonite priests have joined the group assaulting the party, and Morgan quickly realizes that they are outmatched and about to collapse. She calls desperately behind her for support from mages and maidens.

The mage sends forth three magic missiles, striking the priest with the paralyzation wand. Morgan sends another missile his way. Pandora pulls the immobile Thrud out of harm’s way as the Great Mother takes his place in the line. Wolfbane completes a sleep spell; two priests and the hobgoblin (and, unbeknownst to the party, the invisible priest as well) drop to the stone floor. Ember rushes to the side of Odleif, checking his wounds. The thin party line is holding, but is tenuous – Bhelgarn and the Great Mother are taking blow after blow from the supernaturally fast fighter.


Between Morgan and the Great Mother, the party finally manages to drop one of the fighters. These are doughty fighting men indeed, with heavy armor that protects them from all but the most powerful or skilled blows. At the same time, Azerius and the third-in-command of the Brotherhood, between them manage to lift the portcullis. As they struggle to hold it overhead, brothers stream past them into the fortress proper, threatening to take the zargonites in the rear. One of the zargonite fighters, rather than take the place of the man who just went down, turns around and adopts a defensive position in an arched doorway. From there he can hold off the brothers, as only one man at a time can attack him. On the third story, the two priests who chased off Remmy and FluffyKitten can now see that all of the brothers have entered the barracks. Taking that as their cue, they cast animate dead spells on the corpses of two ogres near the barracks door. The ogres rise as zombies and make for the last of the brotherhood squads to have entered the building.

As Azerius holds the portcullis, brothers enter the fortress. But outside, two ogres rise as zombies!

Iris had pressed the stone at the top of the stairs and descended to the dungeon on Pooches. A heavy scent of smoke and burned matter lay over the room, but she saw nothing living and giving off heat. She spurred Pooches back up the stairs. As she emerged into the temple, she quickly took stock of the battle that has erupted, in particular seeing Bhelgharn staggering under the blows of the hasted zargonite. “Bhelgarn, down!” she now cries, as she goads Pooches forward at a run. The dwarf drops to one knee and bends down as Pooches sails overhead, colliding with the plate-clad zargonite and knocking him into the wall.

Pooches clears the battle lines as a zargonite fighter guards his group’s rear against the brothers.

Iris begins to engage the zargonite priests in their midst

A lone zargonite fighter holds off the advance of the brothers

The fight in the hallway deteriorates into violent chaos. Iris slides deftly from Pooches’ back and approaches the zargonite priest with her sword, but a massive blow from his weapon sends her sprawling. Pooches stands over her protectively, crushing the priest’s arm in his giant jaws. The zombie ogres are halfway through the barracks, forcing the last brotherhood squad to turn and defend themselves, but they eventually destroy the undead. The hasted zargonite lands a blow on Bhelgarn that sends the dwarf to the ground, but a bare second later he is himself felled by the Great Mother. Between them, Pooches and Pandora manage to bring down the zargonite patriarch. Ember rushes between the wounded of her side. Freed from battle, Morgan dispatches the wounded and sleeping, while the Great Mother engages the zargonite in the doorway, but not before he lays low a brother.

Recent casualties; Odleif, Bhelgarn, Iris, and the last zargonite fighter facing the party. Ember has left Odleif’s side to tend to Bhelgarn’s wounds. The ogre zombies advance on the brothers.

Brother squad six turns to face off against the zombie ogres

The zargonite fighter in the doorway takes out a brother

The zargonite patriarch is down. While Morgan slits the throats of the unconscious and sleeping, the Great Mother moves to attack the final zargonite blocking the doorway. Ember tends to Iris.

The first level as the fighting draws to a bloody conclusion. Remmy and FluffyKitten have entered the temple.

Casualties from fighting on the first level of the fortress:

Brother 1-2 (Fighter 2) unconscious
Brother 2-3 (Fighter 3) unconscious

Odleif – unconscious, later healed to 2
Iris – unconscious, later healed to 2
Bhelgarn – unconscious, later healed to 2
Morgan – wounded (to 4 hp)
Pooches – wounded (to 36 hp)
Thrud – held

Zargonites, killed by Brotherhood
Ogres 1, 2, 3, and 9
Squad Leader (Fighter 4)

Zargonites, killed by coalition party
Ogres 4, 5, 10
Priests r, q, and n (Priest 3)
Patriarch B (Priest 6)
Mauler (Fighter 4)
Captain of Security (Fighter 5)
Assistant Commander of Troops (Fighter 7)

With the first level clear, the three leaders meet

Now that the fighting has died down, Azerius meets with Morgan and the Great Mother. In a tone that seems almost apologetic, Azerius says, “Once again, it seems you have beaten us to the thick of the fighting. The Brothers are still eager to press on.”

Morgan responds, “That was a hard-fought battle for us, and I fear they have not yet revealed their full strength. Our group is not fit for more combat, but we will begin gathering materials to smoke out the remainder of the zargonite forces if necessary.” Azerius seems suprised at Morgan’s dead-serious determination to set fire to the fortress, this time for good. He asks that she wait until the Brothers have begun their retreat before lighting anything, if it comes to that.

“We will trail your group,” adds the Great Mother. “There are a few of us who are still capable of fighting, but I would not risk them until we face Anthony himself.” Azerius nods his agreement.

Looking through the portcullis bars into the barracks room, Morgan says. “I see mattresses for us to collect – and we will be beheading the dead. I think we have all faced enough zombies.”

Azerius nods his agreement. “Our fallen brother is stable. You need not tend to him but…I would…appreciate it…if you would assure his position is not overrun.” The words of petition seem difficult for him to say. “Of course, we will be claiming spoils from all of the fallen in the barracks,” he says, his voice returning to normal.

“As we will from here,” responds the Great Mother, her hand gesturing to take in all the bodies in the hallway. “You may tend to your wounded for a few minutes while we clear the area.”

Under the direction of Morgan and the Great Mother, all those slain in the fight with the party have been dragged to the temple (excepting the three massive ogres), where a neat pile of smashed pews has been made. Morgan notes that Remmy and FluffyKitten have returned, and they give her a brief report of their foray to the third floor. By the time the hallway is clear, Ember has used all of her divine healing power to restore the three fallen party members. The brotherhood has located a winch near the portcullis on the inside, and has worked to raise and lock the portcullis in place. Just to be sure they do not have their path of retreat blocked, Azerius orders chairs from the mess hall beyond to be wedged under the portcullis, holding it open even if the catch on the winch is released. Then the Brotherhood men form an orderly column and begin their march up the stairs. After their passing, Morgan directs her group in collecting mattresses from the barracks, while she personally decapitates the ogres and the sole zargonite fighter.

The fallen zargonites are dragged into the temple so that they may be searched for spoils

Azerius leads the brothers up the stairs to the second floor of the fortress

At the head of the stairs from the first floor to the second, the Brotherhood are met by a single zargonite fighter and priest. As Azerius ascends in the lead, the priest casts spells at the advancing brothers. When the Brotherhood is close to attaining the head of the stairs, the zargonites fall back and ascend a nearby spiral stair to the next floor. The Brotherhood now occupies the second floor.

Many of Morgan’s party are severely wounded, or at least out of spells. Morgan, Thrud (who doesn’t have much choice in the matter), Odleif, Remmy, Bhelgarn, the messenger maidens, and the magi enchanter remain in the temple. A few others decide to go on, trailing the last brothers up the stairs – Iris, giant Pooches, FluffyKitten, Ember, the Great Mother, and Pandora.

Azerius entrusts his squads five and six with exploring the second floor of the fortress to make sure no enemies remain behind, and then leads the rest of his troops up the spiral stairs to the third floor. What remains of Morgan’s party (sans Morgan) also spreads out and searches.

On the second floor of the fortress, brothers, maidens, and party members look for stray zargonites while the main group of brothers is above. Note the stairs down to the first floor and spiral stairs up to the third.

The pair of men in Brother Squad 5 enters an iron door. While it is unlocked from the outside, it locks behind them after they enter (although they do not discover this until later). Inside is a bedroom, but a well-appointed one with many carvings and statues. There is a metal lever set into the floor – pulling it seems to have no effect, but they believe it somehow connected to the portcullis below. Searching the room well, they find a secret door to a room directly over the barracks room. It appears to be another barracks room, equal to the first but with the mattresses still in place on the floor. There is a trapdoor in the floor leading to the barracks below and a ladder nearby. When they try to leave, they find the door locked, so they take the trapdoor to the barracks and eventually regain the second floor.

The pair of men in Brother Squad 6 pass an ancient brass-bound wooden door to find a bedroom with a bronze bed frame and stuffed mattress, and a locked wooden chest. The room is unoccupied. They search another such bedroom room farther down the hall, and also find a door leading to a balcony overlooking the temple.

Ember, the Great Mother, and Pandora find a temple to Zargon. Unlike the public temple below, this one is smaller but more richly appointed – likely a place of worship for the zargonites themselves. There are not wooden pews, but stuffed leather cushions and a carved stone altar. There is a tapestry in the room depicting Zargon eating his worshippers, very similar to the other one but smaller. The women tear it down for potential combustion, and find three mattresses behind it which are also added to their second floor pile of burnables, kept by the stairwell.

Later they cross the hallway and enter a large room that appears to be a training hall. There are racks of oversized but blunt swords, daggers, maces, and whips along the walls, as well as several suits of leather, chain, and bronze plate armor. There are large skins of fresh water, barrels of sand, and a supply of bandages and splints. No zargonites seem about.

Search teams explore the second floor of the fortress. Upper left, temple. Clockwise: training room, stairway to first floor, bedroom, bedroom with secret door to barracks.

Brother Squad 6 searches a bedroom, the maidens and Ember enter the training room, FluffyKitten and Iris move burnables to the stairwell

As soon as the brotherhood emerges from the stairs onto the third floor they encounter zargonites – both the two that had been withdrawing before them, and the two that had repulsed Remmy and FluffyKitten and later animated the ogres. The zargonites form a line in the narrow hallway, with two fighters in front (their weapons master and commander of troops) and two priests behind (Patriarch A and Priest m). Since they may only fight two abreast, the brothers are forced to confront the zargonites two at a time, with their front rank also exposed to spells from the zargonite priests. Azerius and his second-in-command move forward in the first rank and begin to trade blows with the zargonite fighters.

The brothers engage the zargonites in a narrow hallway on the third floor of the fortress

The zargonites fight defensively, parrying blows and taking a step back rather than being damaged. While they counterattack when openings present themselves, it is clear that they are simply buying time for their spellcasters to get off as many spells as they can during their slow withdrawal. They have only retreated a dozen steps down the hallway when the brotherhood’s second-in-command is held! Fortunately, the zargonite withdrawal gives another brother from his squad the chance to step in front of his commander before the weapons master can take advantage of his helplessness and dispatch him.

The second-in-command of the brothers is held

Azerius redoubles his assault on the zargonite commander of troops, but it is scant seconds later before the weapons master lands a blow that slices the brother he faces from neck to groin. As the brother falls, another from the first squad moves to take his place.

Despite their losses, the brothers push ahead

A few more steps back, and a corridor opens to Azerius’ right. This would be a chance to let a third brother into the front line and flank the zargonites. Azerius feints, then leaps for the opening, but the zargonite has already anticipated his play. Ignoring the feint, he aims a backhand strike at Azerius’ shins, then as the brotherhood leader topples to the floor he stabs him in the back. Azerius lies unmoving on the floor. The moment of distraction is all the weapons master needs to send his blade up under the chin and into the brain of the brother he faces.

Two more brotherhood casualties

Undaunted, the brothers push ahead. The zargonite priests reach a door and slip into it, then the weapons master does the same, his entry protected by the commander of troops. A lone zargonite stands in the doorway to the room, covering the retreat of his comrades, fighting two brothers at once. Fianlly he is brought down, and stumbles back into the room covered in blood and dying. The brothers rush the room.

They find it curiously absent of opponents, the now-dead zargonite collapsed against a chair. There is no sign of the other three who entered, nor are there any exits. The room is dominated by a huge iron and leaded-glass table, surrounded by a dozen metal chairs with padded cushions. Six of the chairs have actual human skulls mounted above their headrests. The room is wood-paneled, the planks and sheets having intricately carved designs that seem to move to the eye. As the brothers look about the room, the slain zargonite jerks to his feet and resumes the attack as an unholy zombie. Several of them are wounded before he is dispatched, again.

The brotherhood has taken the council room and slain the zargonite commander of troops, twice, but lost their two most powerful fighters.

With the lull in combat, the third-in-command, himself a Fighter Lord, assumes control of the brothers. He dispatches a messenger back down the stairs to recall the brothers from squads 5 and 6 – their swords are needed, even if their searches are not complete. A brother from his own squad is instructed to stay in the hall with the wounded (Azerius, unconscious but stable, the second-in-command, held, a slain brother and another unconscious but stable). He himself takes charge of searching the council room and it is not long before someone finds that a section of wall is not real – there is an illusion covering an entrance to a stairwell. He organizes the brothers, and they prepare to ascend.

With their wounded and dead guarded in the hallway, the brothers ascend the secret stairway to the fourth floor

Casualties from fighting on the third level of the fortress:

Azerius (Fighter 12; unconscious but stable)
Brother second-in-command (Fighter 11; held)
Brother 1-3 (Fighter 2; killed)
Brother 2-2 (Fighter 3; unconscious but stable)

Commander of Troops (slain twice, once as Fighter 8, once as 10HD zombie)

The Brotherhood’s third in command reorders his troops in a more cautious arrangement than Azerius had, with scouts in front rather than himself. They advance, but do not charge, up the stairs to the fourth floor. At the top of the stairwell is a single priest, standing just above a step on which is carved a large star rune. The rune glows red, lighting the stairwell dimly.

A zargonite priest awaits the brothers at the top of the stairs

“Kill the priest, but don’t step on that stair!” the brother leader commands. Brothers 4-2 and 4-3 advance carefully, swords held in front, one stair at a time. At the top of the stairs, the zargonite priest grimaces. He is out of spells, and thus considered no longer useful to his superiors. He has been ordered to do this. He waits until just before the brothers are on him, then brings his staff down on top of the rune. Fire erupts, exploding through the narrow stairwell. The priest, burned and scarred, is knocked back into a corner of the landing. Brother 4-3 is in front, sees the priest’s staff, turns to the wall and crouches. He is burned, but alive. Brother 4-2, unaware, is caught squarely by the full blast. He staggers, then collapses, dead but still on fire. The Brother commander gives the order to charge.

Lesser brothers are sent after the priest in the corner, while the two best warriors (third- and fourth-in-command) turn and face the zargonites arrayed in the landing. The Weapons Master, still wounded from the fight below, stands with Patriarch A, blocking access to the wider landing. Behind them are three priests and a fighter – Zargon’s champion, two patriarchs, and High Priest Anthony. Seeing the leader of the zargonites, the brotherhood realizes that they are close to total victory, and begin a unanimous war chant.

[Far below, in the street, the High Priestess of Madarua is tending to the wounded. She looks up. Can she hear the chant? Is her goddess telling her something? She leaves her patient with a kind word, and begins walking toward the zargonite fortress]

With the landing still in flames, the zargonite priest is backed into a corner as the brothers advance

The zargonite priest is backed into a corner, surrounded by brothers striking at him. Desperately he pulls a potion vial out of his robes, a hidden treasure even his superiors did not know he had. He drinks it, and is filled with supernatural speed. He deftly dodges blows, opens the nearby door, and has barely stepped into the room when a final brother’s blow cuts him down.

On the landing, the two brother leaders trade furious blows with the weapons master and patriarch. One of the patriarchs in the back ranks sees the priest go down – he has been waiting for this. With a prayer to his dark god, he animates the corpses of both the priest and the burned brother. In a second both rise as zombies.

The brother commander sees the undead rise. “Brother priests!” he yells, without pausing his attack. One of the brothers still coming up the stairs is a priest of Gorm. He holds forth his holy symbol, forcing the two zombies through the open door. The brother commander cuts down the patriarch he faces. Immediately the zargonites in the back rank retreat up the stairs. The weapons master is surrounded by brothers, but backs up to the stairs behind him, defending their access. Facing three brothers, he is swiftly brought down.

With the patriarch slain, the weapons master retreats to the stairs. The zombies are forced into the room off of the landing.

Rather than continue their advance, the brother commander calls for a halt for the time being. Again, he is more cautious than Azerius. The two brother priests use their holy symbols to force the zombies to the far end of the open room, backs to the brothers. They are careful not to push them so far ahead that they would hit the wall and turn back around. While squad five guards the stairs, the best fighters remaining position themselves, two on each zombie, just behind them. On a signal, they all strike at once, and dispatch the zombies before they can turn around and strike back. Then they quickly search the room, as well as its companion across the landing. Both appear as lavishly furnished bedchambers, most likely for the patriarchs given the small personal altars.

The weaponmaster is slain on the stairs, the zombies trapped in a bedroom

Casualties from fighting on the fourth level of the fortress:
Brother 4-2 (Fighter 3) slain by symbol of fire, then raised and slain as 5HD zombie

Priest m (Priest 3) slain, then raised and slain as 5HD zombie
Patriarch A (Priest 6)
Weapons Master (Fighter 6)

[The High Priestess of Madarua enters the zargonite temple. Immediately the messenger maidens rush to her side, concerned. She calms them and tells them that the end is near. Morgan asks her whether she can do anything for Thrud, but she just shakes her head sadly and tells her to have faith. She asks the way to ascend, and the messenger maidens show her the stairway to the second floor.

On the second floor, the High Priestess finds Ember in the stairwell to the third floor. Under her direction, the Great Mother, Pandora, Iris, and FluffyKitten are arranging materials. A large pile of wood is beneath – mostly smashed furniture. On top of this they are arranging mattresses. The mattresses have been soaked with the skins of water from the training hall, so as to burn slowly and produce the most smoke possible. When the High Priestess sees what they are doing, she nods grimly, but beckons for the maidens to follow her. As they proceed up the stairs, Ember looks back and forth between her fire pile and the ascending maidens, and then shrugs and goes up the stairs herself. Iris and FluffyKitten follow, mounted on giant Pooches.]

When nothing of interest is found in either bedroom, the brother commander organizes his men to ascend the stairs. Apparently they are up high enough in the fortress that the entire floor is just these two rooms and the staircase landing. The first three floors are the most massive part of the complex, with three large wings, but now they are in the central tower which is smaller but rises higher.

The zargonite fortress – starting on the fourth floor, the structure narrows to a central projection

There are no zargonites waiting for them on the fifth floor. The level appears much as the previous one did – a central landing with a spiral stairs on each side, two doors leading off the landing. To reach the stairs up, on the other side of the landing, they will have to cross the center of the floor, on which is etched a large rune, different from the previous one, and glowing in a dull brown light. It is large and impossible to go around. They might jump over it, but in heavy chain it is likely that one of them would not make it, and it would block their retreat. The brother commander asks for volunteers. His second, the squad four leader steps forward. All the other brothers brace themselves behind the protective stone of the stairwell, while brother 4-1 crosses the landing.

BOOOOM!! A concussive blast seems to shake the entire floor. The brothers rush to their comrade, who has fallen on his back. He is dazed, but alive. When they try to speak to him, he does not respond at first. Later, he tries to talk but is shouting. They come to understand that he has been stricken deaf, but appears otherwise unharmed. The brothers quickly search both rooms off of the landing and find that they are richly furnished bedchambers, similar to the two below. The brother commander leads them up the next set of stairs.

Casualties from fighting on the fifth level of the fortress: – none

[The High Priestess of Madarua attains the third floor of the fortress, and immediately sees the wounded brothers in the hallway. She speaks briefly with their guard and examines Azerius. His wounds are potentially fatal, but have been treated. Not as well as she would do it, but capably. His vitals are stable. He will likely live. She turns her attention to another wounded brother, when above her sounds a loud explosion. She looks up, beckons the women with her, and proceeds down the hall and into the room to where the brotherhood guard says the next staircase is.]

[In the temple, a distant, muffled boom is heard. Dust and mortar from the ceiling filter gently down through the air. Bhelgarn puts his ear to the stone floor. His face shows that he doesn’t like what he hears. He looks about the temple, finds the part that appears most structurally sound, and tells Morgan to help him drag the bodies to that corner.]

The staircase arrives at the sixth floor of the fortress with a narrow landing, barely enough for one person, and a large iron door. The spiraling stair continues upwards. The deaf brother, recovered enough to move, pulls on the large iron ring on the door. There are no pins set into the hinges – the entire door falls directly onto him, pinning him beneath it. In the room beyond, a hoard of ancient skeletons slowly come to a mockery of life and clack and clatter forward.

The fight is brief – between the priests and the blades of the brothers, the skeletons are smashed into piles of dusty bones with only one brother wounded. They lift the door and pull their comrade out from underneath. He cannot hear them, but nods his agreement with proceeding. It appears that this entire floor is just the one empty room with the skeletons, and the landing of the staircase, a total of perhaps twenty feet by forty feet.

Casualties from fighting on the sixth level of the fortress:
20 skeletons

[The High Priestess of Madarua sees through the illusion in the council chamber and leads the women up to the fourth floor. She pauses just long enough to assure herself that the three zargonites and the brother on the level are truly dead, and then continues up the stairs to the fifth floor.]

The seventh floor has the same arrangement of a narrow landing and door leading to a single room. The door is not trapped, however. The room beyond is the most lavishly appointed one they have yet seen – the brother commander is sure that it is the private quarters of High Patriarch Anthony. If his count of floors and windows is correct, the next floor up should be the last – and he fully expects every remaining zargonite to be there. He tells his brothers to rest a moment and gather their strength for the final assault.

The High Priestess ascends the stairs on the fifth, then the sixth level. As she starts up the stairs to the seventh level, murmured voices are heard. The Great Mother holds up her arm to stay the Priestess, but she shrugs it off. The women climb the stairs and find themselves in the midst of a circle of brothers, swords out, but kneeling in prayer. The brother commander looks up and smiles. “Never has a brother been so glad to see a maiden,” he says. “Will you be joining us?”

The Great Mother nods her agreement. “Wouldn’t miss it,” she says darkly.

Ember does not understand enough Cyndician to know what they are speaking of, but it is clear enough that there is just one fight left, and that they are worried. She tells Iris and FluffyKitten to take Pooches and wait in the room below, the doorless one with the disarticulated skeletons. “I’m sure Pooches would like some bones,” she smiles. “If all seems lost and you see us fleeing, or if the noise of fighting stops and you don’t hear our victory cheers, dash down the stairs and start the fire on the second floor, then retreat to the temple and tell Morgan she has my blessing, and that of my Goddess, to lead you out of this place.”

“And what of you, mistress?” asks Iris.

“I trust my Goddess will let me know what to do,” she replies. “Whether that is fight, flee, or sacrifice myself.”

The brother commander carefully arranges his troops in waves. He places the Great Mother and Pandora after all the brothers, then Ember and the High Priestess. “Shall we shout to the Skyfather as we charge?” asks one of the brothers, and he nods absently, then shakes his head.

“No”, he says, looking at the Priestess. “Our cry shall be ‘The Three True Gods’”.

There is a stunned silence, and then the brothers take up the cry – some plaintively, some fearlessly. “The Three True Gods,” they shout, “The Three True Gods!” louder each time until the Great Mother and Pandora take up the cry as well. At that, they all begin rushing up the stairs.

The eighth floor of the fortress is a single open room, a temple to Zargon. The walls go up ten feet, then slant inward under a peaked roof whose ceiling beam is twenty feet off the floor. From the cieling hangs a chandelier of iron and gems, with iron chains descending from it to each of the four corners. To the left of the stairs is a dais, on the dais a hideously carved stone throne, and on the throne sits High Patriarch Anthony. Above the throne is a narrow, slitted window. On the far wall is an altar where thick, red candles gutter and burn over golden bowls full of blood. The air is thick with incense and the smell of death. Grooves and channels in the floor, caked with dried blood, drain from in front of the altar to a circle in the center of the room directly beneath the chandelier.

In the center of the circle stands the Champion of Zargon, a huge and muscled brute of a man. He has black leather pants but no armor and is naked from the waist up. His head is completely enclosed by a huge iron helm with the likeness of zargon and a single red ruby for an eye. The gem glows and pulses wickedly. He holds a sword with both hands, and a whip is coiled at his hip.

Two Patriarchs in plate armor and robes block the dais from the stairs.

The brothers crowd onto the stairs, then as one burst into the room. Screaming “The Three True Gods!” they rush forward. The Patriarchs begin their spells, one completing a hold person targeting all four of the brothers. Two of the brothers [3-2, 4-3] are immediately paralyzed. The other two fall into melee with the Patriarchs. Zargon’s Champion surges forward, swinging his sword viciously and almost immediately slaying a brother [6-3].

The defensive line of zargonites has the brothers backed up on the stairs, with no more being able to enter. The leader of brother squad five sheathes his sword, hunches down, and charges Zargon’s champion as if to tackle him. The champion brings the pommel of his sword down hard on the brother’s helm, but he is at least knocked back several feet, opening a hole in the line so that the brothers can continue to enter the room. All of the brothers are wounded, but they do outnumber the zargonites, and now move to surround and flank both the champion and the two patriarchs. Anthony sits passively on his throne, watching the proceedings intently, but not raising his hand. The dead brother rises as a zombie, but as soon as the High Priestess enters the room she calls upon the power of Madarua to reduce it to a pile of rotten meat and bone.

After a few moments of combat, one of the patriarchs is out of spells. He retreats to the far corner of the room, by the altar, but is pursued. His hand goes to to broach of his cloak, activating a scarab of insanity. The brother closest to him stops his battle cry of The Three True Gods! and instead has a vicious expression overcome his face. He turns from the priest and attacks the champion from behind.

The final fight in the temple. From left to right, a patriarch with a symbol of insanity faces brother 4-1, zargon’s champion simultaneously holds off two brothers (one insane – red) and two brother priests, Anthony sits on his throne, two brothers and a brother priest surround a second patriarch, the High Priestess and Great Mother have just entered the room, two brothers are held and one is dead, Pandora and Ember are still on the stairs.

The leader of brother squad four charges a patriarch, and he too is driven insane by the scarab. His battle cry dying on his lips, he turns and strikes down one of the brother priests (P3-1), then stands over him exalting in the carnage and grinning savagely. With the moment of reprieve, the patriarch looks to Anthony – but still he has not moved! The patriarch cannot understand why his unholy leader has not yet moved a hand against the invaders. Then follow several moments of desperate fighting, during which both the other patriarch and finally zargon’s champion are laid low. With only two zargonites remaining (and the two murderously insane brothers), everyone else present turns and looks at Anthony, preparing to charge the throne. Even Ember, from the shadows of the stairwell, sticks her head out.

All eyes on Anthony. Still conscious, left to right, Patriarch, B4-1 (insane), B6-1 (insane), BP4-1 (priest), B3-1 (commander), BP3-2 (priest), B5-1, High Priestess of Madarua, Pandora, B5-2, Great Mother, Ember

“Enough!” shouts Anthony, and pounds his fist against the arm of his throne. A wave of force sweeps across the room, stunning all of those present, even the bloodthirstily insane brothers. Those still conscious feel trapped, frozen in their bodies, unable to do anything but listen to Anthony as he speaks. Ember does not understand his words, but she is told their translation later.

“At last, it is as was foretold! When the leaders of the three factions stand before my throne, all my enemies will be swept away. The priests within my own order who conspire against me (and he gestures to the remaining patriarch) and ALL those of the factions (his hand sweeps across the room) – the brute, the whore, and the sneak – will all die today! Only I will be left to rule the undercity, unopposed! Zargon will be fed unceasingly by the people of the city from this day forward!”

The High Priestess is the first to break out of the daze and speak. “The leaders of the Maidens stand before you, Anthony, but your prophecy is false!”

The brother commander speaks next, “Indeed, I am not the leader of the Brotherhood, merely acting commander. Azerius lies below, unconscious, but alive!”

The Great Mother points to Ember in the shadows. “And that is not a Magi, but one of the strangers from the light-void, sent here to unite us in your overthrow! Your false prophecy is not complete, but the true prophecy that tells of your fall is about to be completed!”

Their words are bold, but still none of them can move their limbs.

Anthony scowls. “Very well then. I need no prophecy to kill you all, myself. Some of you I will hold, and some I will kill outright. The slain ones I will raise, so that the held ones can watch their friends being eaten by their own allies, one at a time. Some of you I will frighten, so that you flee before me, out into the city, where I, and my army of undead, will hunt you down.”

As he dwells on their fates, Anthony smiles cruelly. “You have no chance, you know. Two of you are insane and will attack as soon as I release you. All of you are wounded, and most of you are just one blow away from unconsciousness. You have no spells left – the Magi did not even come. I, on the other hand, am fresh, rested, and whole. I am in the highest temple to Zargon and am filled with His Unholy Power. I have all of my spells prepared, which are more than enough to kill you all.” He begins to laugh, a laugh of deep contempt and hubris, and of delight at the future.

Everyone present struggles, but none can break the spell imprisoning them, so long as he is on his throne, so long as he is speaking and laughing.

“Anthony!” calls out the High Priestess, so defiantly that he ceases his laughter. “What you say is nearly true, much like your failed prophecy. Yes, I spent all of my spells in the battle – all but one. Praise the Maiden, it is a spell I do not need my arms to cast, just my voice.” Anthony’s eyes widen, and he begins a spell of his own, but the Priestess continues. “And that spell is Silence!”

As the High Priestess completes her spell, leaves and roots burst forth from Anthony’s helmet and cover his mouth, stopping his chanting. As they touch him, they wither and fall, but new ones spring forth continuously. He is unable to speak, unable to cast any spells, and with his voice cut out, they are freed from the spell that ensnared them.

The two insane brothers turn on their comrades. Avoiding them, the patriarch climbs over the altar, spilling the bowls of blood as he goes, drops down the other side and begins to make his way along the wall in an attempt to flee. The High Priestess draws her mace and moves to intercept him. Ember enters the room, running to its center in an effort to help the brothers fighting their own comrades. Most of the allies present charge Anthony on his throne. He swings his mace, and when it contacts a brother it erupts with lightning, the bolts arcing through the brother’s chest before he drops to the ground. Then the High Patriarch is engulfed by a wave of attackers.

In a few moments it is over – the two insane brothers have been knocked unconscious by their brethren, the patriarch has been slain by the High Priestess and a brother priest, and Anthony himself has fallen, his final screams going silenced and unheard.

A costly victory

As Anthony’s body hits the floor, a deep rumbling is simultaneously heard and felt. A great fissure rends the throne, and pieces of it start to fall to the ground. The chandelier bucks and swings wildly. A weak red light comes through the narrow window. The two brothers highest on the dais, from their vantage point, can see through it. One shouts. “The Eye! The Eye is erupting!” A jolt shakes the whole floor, and cracks start to appear in the roof.

“Grab the held brothers and run!” shouts the High Priestess.

“Take the unconscious!” adds the brother commander.

A large slate from the ceiling smashes to the ground in front of the Great Mother, breaking into dozens of pieces. “Leave the dead! There is no time!” she calls.

Although five of the brothers are still conscious, two of them can barely walk themselves and are in no condition to carry comrades in heavy armor. Three brothers take unconscious brothers, while the Great Mother and Ember each drag a held man. Ember descends as rapidly as she can without falling, pausing only long enough to yell for Iris and Fluffy to follow.

The evacuation begins! The allies fill the stairwells of the three levels as they descend.

As the last brothers flee the temple, the floor jumps again and the walls of the eigth floor completely collapse, with huge slabs of stone falling both into and out of the room, tumbling down the sides of the fortress.

The temple collapsing, the allies dashing down the stairs

With the weight of the collapsed walls on it, every jolt of the ground strains the floor of the temple. Soon it is creaking, cracking and groaning. As the last of the brothers cross the landing of the fifth floor, the temple floor gives way. Stones, altar, and bodies tumble down onto the seventh floor. Entire sections of wall plummet off the side of the fortress and crash onto the roof of the third floor. In the street below, all the maidens and magi watch in horror and amazement.


The allies continue their flight, hearing the ominous crashing and grinding noises from above. On the third level, part of the central corridor gives way when a piece of wall comes crashing through. The lone brother on guard works to pull the wounded brothers toward the wings of the building, away from the collapsing center.

The allies dash down the stairs and through the council chamber on the third level. They know the stairwell down is across the hall, but the hall is half blocked by rubble and half open with gaping holes in the floor and ceiling. They turn left instead, retreating into the north wing of the building.

Below, in the temple, the remaining members of the party, as well as the maidens and enchanter, push themselves flat against the temple walls. Bhelgarn is shouting furiously but ineffectually at them to cover their heads.

With a great groan, the floor of the seventh level gives way, and now two floors of rock and debris begin to fall. At this point the central tower of the fortress loses any structural integrity, and the collapse accelerates down and down. Huge plumes of stone dust jet forth, and everyone is choking and blinded.

Gradually, the rumbling ceases. There is a haze of dust hanging over the entire undercity, but on the far shore of the sea, the volcano known as the “Eye of Zargon” glows brightly red, a single river of lava rolling down its side. The sixth, seventh, and eighth floors of the fortress are completely gone, and a hole has been rent beneath them all the way down to the first floor. The fifth and fourth floors are half collapsed, with just their farthest extremities intact and a gaping gap in the center, as if of a huge horned helmet. On the third floor, the allies peer through the dust cloud. They can just about make out one band of people to another, across a void of space and tumbled rock where once the center of the building was. Everyone in the temple is covered in a layer of dust and debris that erupted from the center of the building, but the temple itself is intact.

There are a few moments of eerie silence, as everyone waits for the next tremor, the next collapse. Then, in the distance, they can hear cheering. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of voices, the cheering calls of people in the city, maidens, magi, and citizens alike, cheers that express relief at the end of centuries of oppression.

Casualties from fighting on the eighth level of the fortress:
Brother 6-3 (Fighter 3) – dead, animated as a 5HD zombie, destroyed
Brother 3-2 (Fighter 3) – held
Brother 4-3 (Fighter 3) – held
Brother Priest 3-1 (Priest 3) – unconscious but stable
Brother 4-1 (Fighter 9) – deafened, insane, unconscious but stable
Brother 6-1 (Fighter 5) – insane, unconscious but stable
Brother commander 3-1 (Fighter 10) – seriously wounded
Brother 5-1 (Fighter 8) – extremely wounded
Brother 5-2 (Fighter 4) – unharmed!
Brother Priest 3-2 (Priest 3) – unharmed!
Brother Priest 4-1 (Priest 4) – extremely wounded

High Priestess (Priestess 8) – wounded
Great Mother (Fighter 6) – seriously wounded
Pandora (Fighter 3) – wounded

Ember – wounded

Zargon’s Champion (Fighter 9) – dead
Patriarch C (Priest 6) – dead
Patriarch D (Priest 6) – dead
High Patriarch Anthony (Priest 8) – dead

Post 25 (The Battle of the Five Armies)
The Battle of the Five Armies

After their return from the War Council meeting, Morgan and the Great Mother get busy readying their respective people. Morgan tells Remmy to take a message to Odleif, still in the tower, about the upcoming battle. She tells FluffyKitten to take the other tower, and to tell Iris she will be there as well – Iris is currently resting or memorizing spells in her tent. Morgan tells Bhelgarn to show them all how to remove the latch mechanism. Morgan asks Bhelgarn how many vials of the thick, old oil he brought, then tells him to spread that on the stairs, up and down, of the rear tower.

Morgan speaks briefly with Ember, and agrees that she will be praying for a Blessing and a Wise Discernment. Morgan calls for Wolfbane, and the invisible mage eventually appears. Morgan says that Wolfbane should take to the wall of the Enclave for the battle, rather than following the rest of the party onto the field, and the mage readily agrees. However, Morgan also asks her to cast invisivibility on Ember, who will be going on to the field (thus removing Wolfbane’s spell on herself).

After a few more tactical commands, Morgan retires to her tent to attempt to prepare her own spells. In the meantime, the Maidens are deploying in four squadrons. The first two are of lightly-armored, rapidly-moving maidens. They are waiting in the Enclave proper. A third group is in the Mausoleum, with their leader watching out the window facing the Zargonite fortress. They are more heavily armored and have some of the strongest maidens. Finally, Pandora’s warriors, recently arrived from the pyramid, are stationed in the Mausoleum as well, near the window facing the enclave. The Great Mother is on the cavern floor between the walls of the Enclave and the Mausoleum, along with most of the maiden officers – some higher-level warriors and a few priestesses. The High Priestess is in the Enclave, and plans on remaining there for the duration of the battle, tending to the wounded and preparing for the maidens to fall back if necessary.

The Magi have split their forces between their four corner towers and the main building of their Complex. In addition, four of their mages have given themselves invisibility and are acting as scouts, one on each side of the building.

It is perhaps an hour after Morgan has entered her tent that the forward Magi scout sees something…odd. In the center of the road that runs between the two fortresses, Cyndicians are approaching. They appear to be normal cityfolk, in robes and not bearing weapons, but they are moving strangely. With halting steps, arms held in front of them and wrists together, they stumble and stagger across the road.

Cyndicians (in tan) approach the Magi Complex, seen by a Magi scout

The mage takes a moment to confirm what he is seeing, then quickly retreats to the wall of the Complex. Placing his palm on the wall, he is taken inside the central building, where he informs the other mages of what is happening. He then dashes out to one of the towers facing the street.

An ancient enchantment is upon the complex, the secrets of its creation now lost to the knowledge of the current members. So long as the doors of the corner towers are kept open, those inside them can see out, as if the five feet of stone were naught more than thick glass. By the time the mage scout reaches the tower, those inside are beginning to see the approaching cityfolk, just at the range of their infravision. One mage starts a phantasmal force, creating a large red sphere in the “sky” above their complex, alerting the other factions to a possible attack. Another mage begins a light spell, as all present suspect there is more there than a few cityfolk who they cannot see.

The Cyndicians are now seen by those in the mage towers (mages in yellow)

One of the magi casts light, centering it on the first row of pillars in front of the Complex. In the center of the spell the light is nearly equal to daylight, and is too intense for the Cyndicians to see into. However, the sphere also lights the nearby area more dimly, and thus nearly the whole road can now be seen. The cityfolk have their hands tied in front of them with thick cords. The other end of the cord is wrapped around the waist of a zombie, one per citizen. As the zombies shamble forward, the Cyndicians are pulled along in their wake. The presence of the light illuminates the scene not just for the Magi, but for anyone nearby. Odleif in his tower can see the zombies, as can the maidens along the walls of their Enclave. As to whether the Brotherhood can see…in a second, the mage concentrating on the phantasmal force changes the image from a red sphere to a glowing zombie approaching the wall. This image is twenty feet tall and hovers over the Complex, likely visible from anywhere in the Undercity.

At the sight of this, the maidens spring into action. Ember gathers the party together, at least those in the Enclave with her – Odleif is in his tower, and Bhelgarn has just emerged from one of the rear towers. With as many in the party near her as she can, Ember calls for the Blessing of Glöð to be upon them. At the same time, the High Priestess of Madarua is casting a spell upon Pooches! By the time she is finished, the dog stands twice as high as he did before, and is in fact the size of a large war horse!

The two squads of maidens in the Enclave begin filing out of the open portcullis as fast as they can. The two squads in the Mausoleum begin streaming out of the windows, vaulting through the open frames with practiced ease.

View from the Mausoleum, with Pandora’s squad (maidens in green) exiting the window. In the Enclave, Pooches is now giant. Bhelgarn is moving forward.

In the light of the Magi’s spell, new foes appear. Advancing rapidly down the road are row after row of goblins. Even as the goblins run forward, the zombies continue their march on the walls of the Complex.

The long line of zombies in front of the walls of the Magi Complex

The goblins (in brown) appear on the road

The advance of the zombies wavers, then ceases. The magi observing had thought the cord at their waists was just for the Cyndicians, but no! After several loops around their waist, each zombie’s cord runs to loops around its arm, then ends in a metal grappling hook! With dull, lifeless motions, the zombies as one begin to swing the hooks in large underhanded circles, then let them go at their apogees. The hooks sail forward, trailing cord behind them. Most bounce harmlessly off of the Complex wall, but a few fly over. The zombies listlessly haul back their cords, and for a few the hooks catch firmly on the lip of the wall.


The first grappling hooks from the zombies lodge on the wall and towers

Now the goblins, running pell-mell down the road, begin to peel off in squads of five, each group making for one of the established grappling hooks. While the Cyndicians struggle helplessly, the goblins prepare to mount the taut ropes.

The goblins break into squads and head for the ropes

Her spell on Pooches cast, the High Priestess turns to the two squads of maidens moving through the portcullis. On each group as it passes she bestows the blessing of Madarua. Ember beseeches her goddess for Glöð’s Wise Discernment on herself. The party is ready to head to the field, but their way is blocked for the moment by the maidens streaming through the gate of the Enclave. Remmy shrugs and begins to climb the wall. Built to be perfectly smooth limestone, a thousand years have made easy nooks and crags and he scales it without difficulty, locks his own grappling hook into place, and belays himself down the other side.

Iris tells Pooches to “Lay down!” and she and Fluffykitten climb aboard his back. By the grace of Madarua, the hobgoblin armor that Fluffy fashioned into makeshift barding for the dog has grown proportionately along with him, and they grab on to the huge leather straps and metal rings. Iris spurs him up the stairs of the wall, astounded men of the maidens diving out of the way. He pauses for a second on the battlements, then at shouted word from Iris he leaps out into the air and comes crashing down on the cavern floor at the base of Odleif’s tower. No horse could survive a twenty-foot drop onto stone, but horse-sized Pooches merely crashes to his belly and a second later is on his feet again. Iris and FluffyKitten dangle from their holdfasts, but maintain their grip as the massive dog starts off again.

As maidens leave the Mausoleum, Pooches jumps from the Enclave wall…

…and Pooches sticks the landing!

Ember turns and gestures towards where she hopes Wolfbane is on the wall, silently mouthing a prayer that she was not knocked to the ground by Pooches! A second later the mage appears, just as Ember disappears.

The two “fast” units of Madaruans move forward, intent on helping the Magi repulse the zombies and goblins. Thrud, Remmy, Ember, Morgan, and Bhelgarn move alongside them, when Bhelgarn is blinded by a Zargonite priest. Meanwhile, Iris and FluffyKitten cross from one tower to the other on Pooches’ back. Madaruan priestesses in special support squads bless the slow-moving squad and that of Pandora.

The maiden squads advance

Although the maidens and party members are advancing with all haste, the goblins are already scampering nimbly up the ropes, and are beginning to fan out across the wall and tower ceilings of the Complex.


The goblins breach the complex

The goblins are bare seconds away from dropping to the courtyard below and rushing at the open tower doors. Inside the towers, a fierce internal debate rages among each mage, whether or not they should immediately use massive-damage area of effect spells (fireball, lightning bolt, cone of cold). Using them would kill the bound Cyndicians. This was likely the reason the Zargonites sent the prisoners with the zombies in the first place, to restrict the mages’ options for defending themselves. On the southwest tower, a mage opts to delay the attackers with sleep. All of the goblins on the roof are put to sleep; several more on the ropes fall and are injured on the ground, even a few bound Cyndicians collapse.

The maidens advance on the Complex. Many of the goblins have been put to sleep.

Iris and Fluffykitten at the top of their tower

In the northwest tower, the mages watch as a wave of goblins clambers up the ropes. A fateful decision is made – a mage points his finger and a huge ball of fire erupts at the base of the wall, engulfing zombie, goblin, and Cyndician alike. The flash temporarily blinds everyone on the battlefield, and the sound of the explosion rolls in echoes throughout the whole cavern of the undercity. Those nearby but out of the blast feel the searing heat and are knocked over by the concussive force.


There is a moment of silence after. On the ground in front of the wall, a full score of bodies lie burning – six zombies, eleven goblins, three Cyndicians.

The aftermath

Bodies burning or sleeping

Into the stunned silence dash a number of mages. They sprint up stairs and throw open trapdoors on the roofs of the two towers. Some stay on the tower roofs, some venture out to the top of the wall. They slit the throats of the living and throw the dead down. They are no warriors (or even thieves) used to killing and more than one goblin wakes up during the struggle. Some of the mages are wounded.

Mages move out along the top of the wall

The maidens halt their advance briefly, in shock at seeing the fireball, but their squad leaders order them to continue. While the north tower is now mostly clear, there are still zombies and goblins swarming the south tower. The team of maiden priestesses gets close enough to start destroying the undead. Through the power of Madarua, the flesh and muscles of the zombies rot at incredible speed, slough off, and leave only a wavering skeleton before it, too, crumbles to the ground.

The maidens continue their advance on the Magi Complex

Now free of the tower, Ember looks out over the battlefield as she advances. A few seconds ago, a handful of zombies and goblins could be seen in the light. Now, all the zombies and goblins on the field light up – the zombies with an intense blue light, the goblins less brightly but still easily visible. More importantly, a blue glow from across the street indicates that troops are forming lines in front of the Zargonite complex – two rows of human fighters in bronze plate armor can be seen, as well as two priests behind them.

Wise discernment reveals Zargonite fighters

The maiden squad leaders shout rapid orders. Pandora’s squad and the heavy squad turn and advance on the Zargonites, while the two light squads and the priestesses continue to bear down on the zombies. With the new visibility, the mages suddenly are able to target across the battlefield, not just in front of their walls. Seeing the maidens advance on the Zargonites, a mage quickly sends over a sleep spell that incapacitates one of the squads and both priests.

Maidens advance on the sleeping Zargonites

Ember sees the Zombies being felled at a distance by the Madaruan priestesses and two squads of fighters still on their way. She turns to the Zargonites herself, in the process revealing a third squad and Zargonite squad leaders. The closest squad of maidens charges the Zargonite lines and begins to engage in melee.

Maidens and Zargonites in melee; a third Zargonite squad

As more and more priests appear behind the Zargonite battle lines, a mage on the ramparts of the Complex takes careful aim and looses a lightning bolt that decimates the back ranks.

Lightning bolt!

Pandora’s squad, divided into two battle lines, surges forward and rushes the Zargonites.

The first of the maidens arrive at the corner of the Complex and begin to engage the zombies, most of the goblins being either asleep or already on the towers and wall.

The aftermath of the lightning bolt; the maidens engage Zargonites and Zombies

On the maiden’s left flank, Pandora’s squad is holding their own against the Zargonite fighters, despite the fact that the Zargonites are larger and more heavily armored, and that one of the maidens has been blinded by a Zargonite priest. On the maiden’s right flank, however, the Zargonites are advancing, led by a huge squad leader with a vicious sword. The maiden squad leader steps in to check him, but then she is blinded as well! The maiden’s right flank is rapidly giving way.

The maiden’s right flank about to collapse under the Zargonite assault

Odleif, Iris, and FluffyKitten shoot down into the melee, attempting to eliminate the Zargonite priests before they can incapacitate any more of the maidens. Remmy arrives at the scene and attempts to flank the vicious Zargonite squad leader.

Remmy arrives at the melee

Meanwhile, as Ember advances further onto the field, her wise discernment reveals more foes. Now there is a fourth squad of Zargonite fighters, this one positioned between the Zargonite temple and storeroom wings of their fortress. A magi sees Bhelgarn stumbling about, and counters the Zargonite darkness with his light.

View from behind the fourth Zargonite squad

Ember advances with the Great Mother and maiden command unit

With a hue and cry, the Brotherhood sweeps onto the field, down the road that only moments before the goblins had used. As the Brotherhood charges forward, Pandora’s second rank moves forward into melee. Things are looking dire for the maidens. Their squad three leader has been knocked to the ground by the Zargonite squad leader, four other maidens are unconscious, and one is blinded. Bhelgarn and Thrud have rushed to the scene, and along with Remmy are attempting to stop the advance of the huge Zargonite squad leader.

As the Brotherhood takes the field, the party attempts to prevent the collapse of the maiden’s right flank.

As they continue down the road, the Brotherhood forces begin to split. Some charge the waiting fourth Zargonite squad, while others continue on in an attempt to reach the ongoing melee with the maidens.

Half the Brotherhood (in blue) begins their charge of the Zargonites…

…while the other half continue down the road toward the maidens

The Brotherhood engages the Zargonites outside the temple

As the melee rages in three separate areas now, Iris and Fluffykitten are the first to spot a new arrival to the battlefield. A large number of bugbears is approaching, followed closely by a group of ogres. They are working their way over the cavern floor, along the south side of the Zargonite complex so as to shield themselves from those in the general battle. While Iris continues shooting, FluffyKitten descends the stairs of the tower to bring Pooches inside. He barely fits through the tower door, but she manages it.

Side view of the arriving humanoids (in brown)

Overall aerial view of the battlefield

A maiden rapid squad works its way along the base of the walls of the Magi Complex, severing the ropes of the grappling hooks and releasing the bound Cyndicians. Two priestesses destroy the few remaining zombies on the ground, while mages with daggers and magic missiles kill the remaining goblins on the walls and roof. Two mages are slain, but fighting for the complex is now over.

The goblins and zombies are dead, but so are two mages

The maiden command advancing; in the distance, a maiden rapid squad clears the base of the Complex walls

Working together, Remmy, Thrud, and Bhelgarn slay the Zargonite squad leader. They manage to hold the maiden’s right flank while Pandora’s squad on the left finishes off the Zargonites there. The maiden-Zargonite melee is all but finished, with the maidens victorious, and the few remaining Zargonite priests and squad leaders pulling back to the barracks door. The maidens can now see the advancing bugbears, who are being pestered by missile fire from Iris, FluffyKitten, and Odleif. Pandora calls for the maidens to take their wounded and retreat, rather than face the bugbears. When the maidens reach their squad leader, they find her dead, but take her body with them. Ember works rapidly, doing what battlefield first aid she can among the wounded maidens without losing her invisibility. As one of the maiden rapid squads works its way along the wall, getting closer to the center of the light, the other one withdraws around the side of the Complex, hoping to remain unseen by the advancing bugbears.

The Brotherhood forces continue to advance on the Zargonite squad by the temple, but the Zargonites are pulling back, drawing the brothers into the space between the temple and storeroom. Zargonite priests continue to be picked off by magic missiles from the Complex.

Bugbears advancing, maidens retreating, brothers advancing, Zargonites retreating

As the brothers advance, the Zargonites withdraw before them

Maidens withdrawing with the wounded; a priest and Zargonite squad leader withdraw to the barracks

Bugbears (far left) advance through a hail of missile fire

As more bugbears are wounded from above, their advance slows, and they begin looking up. Iris falls prone, behind the battlements of the tower, while FluffyKitten crouches. The bugbears resume their advance.

Iris hides from the bugbears

With the bugbears mostly past the tower, the ogres come into view, moving to both sides of the tower. The magi are safe now, but have been watching the battlefield. This large force of ogres could rip through the wavering maiden lines before the brotherhood would arrive. A mage decides to send over their last remaining fireball, detonating it in the center of the ogre mass. FluffyKitten and Iris, on the top of the tower, are caught at the edge of the blast and damaged; Iris briefly passes out. By the time she comes to her senses, the ogres are continuing forward. None of them were killed by the blast, but all of then bear horrible burns and scorch marks.


Burned ogres move forward; Zargonites retreating into the barracks

While the bugbears advance on the retreating maidens, the ogres take the field, but the battle has reached its tipping point. When Iris sees the ogres making for the barracks door rather than the maidens, she tells FluffyKitten to release Pooches. Iris herself begins shooting at the ogres, starting with those who appear most wounded, but then she is paralyzed by a hold person spell from a Zargonite priest, who is then killed by an arrow from Odleif. FluffyKitten bounds down the stairs, inserts the latch in the door, and opens it. “Poochy! Door! Guard!” she commands, pointing at the nearby barracks door. The giant dog squeezes through the tower door and bounds out into the melee. The ogres have a head on him in height, but he is unwounded and has a vicious set of giant teeth. Fluffly closes the door and removes the latch, and returns to the top of the tower.

Pandora, seeing that the ogres are not engaging, calls for all maidens, her own squad and that of the fallen leader. With Thrud and Bhelgarn anchoring the lines, the maidens fall together and then charge forward at the bugbears, engaging the larger humanoids two-to-one.

Pooches emerges from the tower

Pooches heads for the barracks door while the ogres attempt to flee inside

The maidens reform and charge the bugbears

By the temple door, the brothers have finally fallen upon the lone Zargonite squad. They look to be making short work of the fighters, but then spells begin to rain down on them. The reason the Zargonites pulled them into the space between their building’s wings is now apparent. At windows and arrow slits above and to both sides, Zargonite priests from within their fortress are attacking the brothers. Most of the spells are failing as the powerful brotherhood fighters resist their effects, but then the second-in-command of the brothers is blinded. Seizing the chance, a Zargonite priest animates the corpses of three fallen Zargonites. The resultant zombies surround the blinded brother and fall upon him.

The brotherhood at last engages the Zargonites in melee, but Zargonite priests are casting from the fortress

The brother’s second-in-command is blinded and surrounded by zombies

There are a tense few moments, but then brotherhood priests arrive and turn the undead. A maiden rapid squad arrives and together with the brothers finishes off the last of the Zargonites outside. The door to the temple is found to be locked.

Brothers and maidens hold the field outside the temple

While Pooches guards the door to the barracks, the combined forces of Pandora’s maidens, Thrud, Bhelgarn, and the just-now-arriving brothers finish off the bugbears.

Pooches guards the door, cutting off any retreat for the Zargonites

The combined maidens, brothers, and party finish the bugbears

The forces of the alliance hold the field. Not even three minutes since the fighting started, it is over, for the moment.

The Alliance holds the field

Cyndician Civilians:
3 killed (fireball)
7 freed

Fluffy and Iris wounded (fireball)
Iris held
Bhelgarn blinded but cured

Magi of Usamigares:
2 wounded
2 killed

Brotherhood of Gorm:
1 wounded
1 blinded and wounded
1 unconscious

Warrior Maidens of Madarua:
6 wounded
4 unconscious
1 blinded

Priests and Fighters: 32 killed, four escaped to fortress
Zombies: 17 destroyed, 3 fled to city
Goblins: 25 killed
Bugbears: 10 killed
Ogres: 5 killed, 5 escaped to fortress
Hobgoblins: 1 killed, 1 escaped to fortress

Post 24 (A Council of War)
A Council of War

Although the priest fled before them, they do not find him in the rest of their more-than-two-hour-journey to the undercity. There were certainly enough side-branches he could have hidden in, and they did not want to lose any time searching for him. The Maidens are likely close behind them, perhaps they will be able to deal with him.

They can smell the rich moistness of the undercity before they leave the tunnels, and then hear it. The city is abuzz in activity, with shouts, screams, and cries. At first Morgan thinks the attack has started already, but once they enter the cavern proper they can tell the noises come from civilian quarters, not any of the faction-strongholds, and there is no sound of steel-on-steel, or in this case, bronze on bronze.

The magi thank the party and head for their Complex. They party travels first to the Brotherhood’s Redoubt, and are soon let inside. They lay the bodies at the feet of Azerius with as much dignity as they can muster after hours of carrying the stinking, rotten sacks of meat. They hand over the remaining gold masks and, finally, the helmet. Azerius takes off his helm to pay his respects to their fallen comrades, and immediately all the brothers assembled do so as well. After saying a few words to his people, Azerius addresses the party, telling them that they have earned the trust and support of the Brotherhood in the upcoming war.

“That is better for us all,” agrees Morgan. “Can you tell us what is happening in the city?”

“Priests swept through some time ago. They are angry that none of the cityfolk have turned you over yet. They captured many citizens and dragged them back to the temple.”

“That can’t be good. Will they make zombies from them?”

“In all likelihood. Their attack is imminent.”

“Than we need to hold a War Council as soon as possible. Would you be willing to come to the Madaruan Enclave?”

Azerius shakes his head. “Let us meet on neutral ground. Your group has proved its merit, but the other factions have far to go to earn our trust.”

Morgan bites her tongue to keep from saying something about how the Brotherhood’s pride will be the downfall of all three factions. Instead, she says, “How about that place that guards the catacombs? That is neutral, yes?”

“The Mausoleum? Yes, I would agree to hold a war council there.”

“Fantastic. Meet me there in two…no, in one hour.”

“I do not know this term hour – is it close to a short sleep?”

Morgan sighs, hands over a torch to Azerius. “Burn this. When it completely out, meet us at the Mausoleum.”

The party leaves the Redoubt and crosses the narrow stretch of cavern floor to the Complex of the Magi. Morgan sends the rest of the party ahead to the Enclave, while she and Remmy remain behind to summon the Magi to the meeting. They speak with Alyria, return the glowing crystal under the table (since the room is now crowded with people greeting the magi recently returned from the pyramid), and ask Alyria to send a representative to the meeting in just under an hour. Alyria takes an hourglass down from a shelf on the wall and sets it running on a table.

Meanwhile, the party has walked behind the Complex and is heading for the Enclave. There is a crowd gathered around the gate, shouting and waving their fists. Bhelgarn and Iris approach close enough to see with their own infravision, but trusting that the crowd cannot see them. It appears to be normal citizens, with no Zargonite priests about. Still, the crowd is very agitated. Bhelgarn picks up words like “death”, “traitors,” “strangers”, and “release.” They don’t want to have to go through that mob.

When they explain to the party what they see, FluffyKitten and Odleif slip off, while the rest of them move around to the back of the Enclave. Odleif stays at the periphery of the crowd – he can’t see anything, but he is enough of a woodsman to be able to navigate simply from the noise they are making. He finds the base of the closest tower, finds the door unsecured, and ascends to the top of the tower. Sitting on the trapdoor, his head is below the battlements and he should remain unseen.

Fluffykitten puts her blank mask into place, pulls her robes about her, and makes directly for the crowd. She eases past the people and makes her way to the portcullis. People cluck their tongues as if to say “who let a child come?” but they continue their protest. FluffyKitten peers through the portcullis, tries to catch the shape of a maiden silhouetted by the light of the campfires inside the Enclave.

Bhelgarn leads the party to the rear wall of the Enclave. It is still patrolled by maidens, though fewer than the front, and there are no protesters present. He calls up to a maiden and is able to request in Cyndician that she lower a rope down. The party climbs up. Bhelgarn leaves Iris on the wall to watch for others, while he takes the rest of the party to their campsite. Ember immediately asks him for an update when he arrives, and Bhelgarn tells her that they were successful in the pyramid, but that they need to scare these protesters off as Morgan, Remmy, FluffyKitten, and Odleif are all still outside the Enclave.

FluffyKitten manages to catch the eye of a maiden on the other side of the portcullis, and tries to mime her throwing down a rope, but she either refuses or does not understand. Someone in the crowd spots her trying to talk to the maiden. Fluffy’s shoulders are grabbed roughly, and she is pushed and pulled to the back of the mob.

By the light of Ember’s campfire, Bhelgarn opens his bag and takes out all of the candles that were recovered from the base. He carefully sorts through them setting aside the relatively few he deems intact – after a thousand years or more most of them have dried wax, split paper, and spilled powder. He decides to keep 7 short candles, 3 long candles, 3 bags of powder, and 6 grape clusters. He lights the wick of a short candle, then dashes up the stairs to the top of the wall, ignoring the miffed expressions of the maidens. When the crowd sees him, one of the strangers from the light void, above them, the cries redouble and a few begin throwing stones.

Bhelgarn tosses the lit candle into the center of the crowd. The wick burns down to the end and goes out – and then, a second later, blue and orange flames erupt from both ends of the candle. The candle begins to spin wildly on the cavern floor, emitting sparks and a shrill whistle. The crowd falls back immediately, and when the maidens on the wall take up a chant, the crowd scatters. One woman tries to grab FluffyKitten’s hand and help her run, but when the “child” twists out of her grasp, the woman, wearing a cat mask, decides to run on and save herself from the maiden’s fire magic.

Odleif hears the crowd scatter, and looks over the edge of the tower to see the candle still flaming and spinning wildly on the cavern floor. In a few moments the portcullis is raised and FluffyKitten enters, just as Morgan and Remmy are climbing a rope into the Enclave from the rear.

Missing only Odleif, Morgan lays out the situation to the party quickly, and then asks to meet with the Maiden leadership. When the Great Mother arrives, Morgan tells her about the war council meeting, and asks her to deploy two maidens to each tower and one more on the stairs of the Mausoleum to guard the meeting area. The Great Mother agrees.

Morgan, Ember, and Remmy make preparations to attend the meeting, with Wolfbane nearby and listening. Iris returns to her tent to reunite with Pooches and Blackcloak, rest, and hopefully recover spells. Bhelgarn, Thrud, and FluffyKitten feel uncharacteristically tired and turn in to rest, themselves. Odleif props himself up on the tower wall and dozes.

Ember tells Morgan that she saw the priests and fighters leave the Zargonite fortress because some of them were carrying strange lanterns. They moved through the stalls and apartments of the city, rounding people up. In the end, they marched about three dozen cityfolk into the temple, shoving and whipping them. She fears for them and hopes that this war will be over quickly. She says that a few cyndicians came for the cure, and the maidens were administering it to them, but then the mob came.

Morgan checks with some of the maidens on the wall, who say that many priests have been coming and going from the fortress in ones and twos – likely scouts and messengers, but that there have been no troop movements since the cityfolk entered.

Soon Morgan, Ember, and Remmy are joined by the Great Mother and five maidens, prepared to go to the war council. Morgan asks the Great Mother whether she is concerned about another mob approaching, but the older woman laughs. “No, all that chanting was just posturing. They want to be seen by the Zargonites opposing us because they are afraid they will be taken by them next, but really they hate them. Many of the people in that group were known sympathizers or agents of ours. As soon as we strike a decisive blow against the Zargonites, the cityfolk will rise up, you will see. The only weapons they had to control the people were fear and addiction. You solved the second and we are about to get rid of the first.”

The Great Mother sends maidens ahead to stand look-out at the towers, warning them about Odleif. The rest of them continue through the Mausoleum and up to the second floor. Azerius is there already, and the maiden they left guarding the stairs soon calls to them that a magi is on her way up. It is Alyria. The Great Mother and Azerius apparently already know one another but neither of them recognize Alyria. She explains that she is the gatekeeper of the Magi. Azerius says that he would have hoped for someone a bit higher-ranking, to show that the Magi were really serious about the alliance.

“Yes, that,” mumbles Alyria and sighs. “I have been helping the strangers since they arrived, and sometimes taking a few liberties with my official role. The Council decided that if I was so committed to them, I was the best one to attend this meeting.” Azerius smirks but says nothing.

“Right, well, you’re all here and that is what important. You are coming together to get rid of the Zargonites, and we all have a common goal. So let’s get started,” says Morgan. “Before we make a plan, help me understand how the Zargonites fight, what we can expect from them.”

The three faction leaders (or council member, in the case of Alyria), take turns speaking. None of them are sure how the Zargonites will fight, because they have never fought them in a pitched battle in front of their own fortress before. Within their lifetime, actions against the Zargonites have always been ambushes, hit-and-run, guerrilla tactics. Occasionally the factions have taken opportunities to eliminate isolated Zargonite troops, but most of the encounters have occurred doing food raids. However, they all agree that the Zargonite’s general strategy is to counter the strengths and exploit the weaknesses of their opponents.

The Maidens have more people than the other factions – they tend to focus on caring for every member of the group and have good access to healing magic, so weaker maidens can survive. They favor light armor like scale, which allows them to move much faster than the plate-armored Zargonite priests and fighters. They are the most adept at striking with surprise and then retreating before the Zargonites can bring their forces to bear. Against them, the Zargonites usually employ humanoids. They can field large numbers of goblins and hobgoblins, which cancels out the advantages the maidens have with both speed and numbers.

The Magi are individually very weak in combat, but have great access to spells. Just a few sleep spells can overcome even large groups of hobgoblins, priests, or fighters. Against the Magi, the Zargonites field zombies. The undead are immune to almost every low-level spell the Magi have – charm, sleep, phantasmal force, invisibility. They are affected by magic missile, but Alyria reports that it takes on average four missiles to drop a zombie. While the Magi do have priests, their priests do not have the power to turn undead, unlike those of the Maidens and the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood already had fewer members than the Maidens. Since the party killed 22 Brothers, they are now the smallest faction. However, they rely on individual strength and prowess. Because they believe in emulating the Might of Gorm, they do not worry about helping their weaker members survive. The few Brothers that remain are personally very powerful and skilled fighters. Against the Brothers, the Zargonites rely on their incapacitation spells. The greatest fighter among the Brothers can be rendered ineffective by a simple darkness spell cast by the least Zargonite priest.

Besides these three specific strategies, the Zargonites are the best supplied and equipped of the factions, since they are in control of the city. Although they wear chain to travel in (such as up to the pyramid), this close to their stronghold they will likely all be wearing bronze plate armor. Most of them have iron swords as well, and relatively few of the Maidens or Brothers do. They are also better equipped with magical weapons and armor.

Morgan reflects on this a bit, and then speaks. “This attack was precipitated by our raid on their stronghold, correct?” They answer in the affirmative. “And yet within your memory, none of the factions have ever taken so bold a move?” They all agree that they have not.

“Listening to you, allow me to guess why not – the Maidens and the Brotherhood have no means to enter the fortress by stealth – it would have to be a direct assault. It was the Magi who provided us with both invisibility and knock. The Magi could have entered any time they wanted, but lacked the strength to do anything once there.” Alyria nods. “Whereas the Maidens or Brotherhood would have had to try a direct assault. In order to bring enough force to bear, the Maidens would have had to commit most of their troops, which they never would, because an unsuccessful strike would cripple them.” The Great Mother smiles ruefully but nods. “The Brotherhood could send a small but powerful force. However, once there, that force could be easily overcome by Zargonite priests because their small numbers would leave them vulnerable to disabling spells.” Azerius nods curtly.

“So,” says Morgan, drawing out her point as the elven teachers did when she was small, “our raid was so successful because we were able to combine the strengths of each of you – the numbers and healing ability of the Maidens, the strength of the Brothers, and the magic of the Magi…”

If she is waiting for them to be impressed by her revelation, she is disappointed. Azerius looks down at her sourly. “Please don’t believe that this observation is new to us. Before the fall, the Three True Gods worked in harmony to guide Cyndicia. We know that we are more powerful together. Our reluctance to cooperate is not for practical reasons, but rather out of fundamental disagreements about philosophy and approach.”

The Great Mother nods, and adds “…and mutual suspicion about motives.”

Alyria shrugs, “…and internal disagreements within our respective factions.”

Morgan is infuriated – they have had the answer in front of them all along and still refused to co-operate? Why…Never mind. Not important now. What is important is that they accept the need to work together in the battle at hand.

“Ok, ok, regardless…you all agree that in this battle you will need to combine your strengths? So how about getting some mage support for a Brotherhood unit, with Maidens in reserve to…”

“Not going to happen,” says Azerius sternly. “There is no way we will fight in mixed units.”

“Not at the moment,” corrects the Great Mother hopefully.

“Trade builds trust,” says Alyria. “Let us win this battle separately, and then we can discuss more intimate relations.”

“You cannot win this battle separately!” blasts Morgan. Her shout echoes off the stone walls of the Mausoleum. There follows a long moment of silence. “At least you must agree to come to one another’s aid when needed.”

“Of course,” says Azerius.

“It is only logical,” adds Alyria.

“From the propaganda the priests were spewing in the city, it appears that the Zargonites do not yet know the Brotherhood is part of the alliance,” offers the Great Mother.

“And this is our great advantage,” responds Azerius. “We can assume that they will begin by assaulting either the Maidens or Magi, or less likely, both. But they will not provoke us. The Brothers will amass a force, wait until enough of the Zargonites are committed to the field, and then move in to strike them down.”

“How many is enough? Who will signal the attack?”

“I will decide,” says Azerius, as if that were obvious. “We will not strike until the Zargonites have the bulk of their forces out – the other factions can deal with a small assault – we will not waste our advantage of surprise on that. But as soon as the Zargonites have enough troops in the field to be a credible threat, we will strike at them.” All of this has been a matter-of-fact statement. Now a softer tone enters his voice, almost as if he is asking. “Of course, for our strike to be effective, we will need the Magi to be neutralizing the Zargonite spellcasters.”

“The Magi can be in charge of taking out spellcasters,” says Alyria. “So long as someone is protecting us from their zombies.”

“We can have priestesses and maidens eliminating zombies,” says the Great Mother. “So long as we don’t have the whole Zargonite force threatening our flanks or rear.”

“Well then, are you saying this might actually work?” asks Morgan, with less than her average level of sarcasm, and the other three grin. “Okay, it seems then that the challenge is to get the Zargonites to commit. We may have to have a false retreat – flee before them to draw them forward.”

“Not to worry,” says the Great Mother. “We practice that all the time.”

“Good,” says Morgan. “Okay, you won’t mix units but we have the Maidens on the field to draw them out and then the Brothers come in. So where are the Magi?”

“Why, in our Complex,” says Alyria incredulously. “Too dangerous for a mage outside.” Azerius snorts derisively. Alyria continues proudly. “Any spell that is relevant, we can cast from behind our walls. They all have range – so long as we can see the target.”

Morgan is stunned. “See the target? You do realize none of you can see beyond 10 paces, don’t you?”

“In the dark,” admits Alyria. “But you light up the battlefield, and we can hit anything in the light. As I understand it, your group has a number of light sources – both normal and magical…?”

“We do…” says Morgan hesitantly.

“Well, there is your role,” says Alyria brightly. “Take your lights around wherever there are threats, and we will cast on them.”

“Which means you would have us always in the most dangerous part of the battle?”

“Well, you don’t have to stay there – just identify it for us and we can light them up. It is just that our lights don’t move once cast, and we won’t have people in the field to assess threats. But if you can point them out, we can take care of them.”

Morgan is not sure how that sits with her, but to be honest, they would likely have to be doing the same thing for Iris and Odleif in their archery towers.

“Fine. What about signaling, how do you communicate?”

The Brotherhood and Maidens report that they are used to sending officers to run small squads independently, and they communicate as necessary by sound – but that will not be possible above the din of a real battle. The Great Mother says that they plan to have signal fires from their tower. Azerius says that no signaling will be necessary – once the Brotherhood commits to the attack, they will drive forward until the battle is over. Alyria says that the Magi will be running a phantasmal force above their complex that should be visible to everyone.

There are some further small discussions on minor points, but not much. Given that each of the factions is committed to operating independently, Morgan will have to be satisfied with the broad strokes of their agreement to cooperate strategically. She proposes that they leave now so as to prepare. She herself would like to have a chance to recover spells, as she has not truly rested since before the assault on the Zargonites.

Post 23 (War Clouds Gather)
War Clouds Gather


The compound is filled with Maidens, their men, and their children – more of them together than anyone has seen up to this point. There are gasps as Morgan enters with the maiden, and then she is surrounded by a throng. The High Priestess herself pushes through the knot of women, puts her arm around the maiden, and guides her gently to the tower.

The gormites are met by guards – allowed through the gate with the party, but then their way immediately blocked. The crowd below is torn – affronted by the unthinkable insult of having men of the Brotherhood in their Enclave, but not immune to the sympathy elicited from the obvious bruises and broken leg of one of them. Murmurs and protests sweep through the crowd, accompanied by shouts from along the wall. Voices are raised – it is getting heated and unruly. Invisible, Ember and Wolfbane are being pushed from all sides.

ASKITAH!” bellows the Great Mother from atop the wall, where she has been watching the Zargonites without pause. Immediately the courtyard falls silent. Just a few children, too small to know any better, continue to whine or babble, and these are rapidly removed by their fathers and taken into their tents.

“Maidens,” begins the Great Mother in a voice loud and practiced from years of command. Iris, still holding the disk, translates for the party. “Mark these events well, for someday you will tell your daughters of them, and their daughters!”

“Already you have seen things undreamt of – strangers from the light void. A delegation of Magi, requesting admittance to our Enclave. Men from the Brotherhood, here to ask for our help.” Her arm gestures toward the two men below. Morgan and Ember note how skillfully, with a single phrase, she has neutralized the threat of these two men, subverted their power, and calmed the crowd.

“But stranger things are ahead! Look there! Even now, the Temple of Zargon is burning! Who did this? FOUR WOMEN AND A CHILD. How did they do it? With our help, and with the help of the Magi, working together. Our Mother teaches us to hold strong and secure in our beliefs, to stay true to the roots of our faith, but also to be open to change as we grow. Relationships are living things, and they grow and change as all living things.”

“And now it is time. It is time for us to join together the factions, to unite the Three True Gods. These strangers are here, sent by the Mother, to show us the way. Already they have vanquished a Patriarch of Zargon and his hobgoblin guards. Already they have journeyed to the Underworld and returned to us the cure for vision mushroom addiction. Already they have entered the very fortress of Zargon and returned our precious Nehelli to us, she who many of you had lost hope of ever seeing again. But now, it is our turn. The Maiden calls to you, calls to each of you, to rise up against the Zargonites. This is the time of War. Remember your faith! Remember your vows! Each one of you have pledged to defend the honor of the Maiden, with your own blood.”

“Blood of the Maiden!” she cries.

All those assembled shout back, “BLADES OF THE MAIDENS!”

“The Mother protects!” she cries.

THE SISTERS DEFEND!” they answer.

“Let them hear you!” she shouts, gesturing over the wall.

The crowd takes up the chant, “BLADES OF THE MAIDENS! BLADES OF THE MAIDENS!”, repeating it louder each time, until the whole undercity echoes with their cry.

The Great Mother descends the staircase along the wall, gesturing to Morgan as she goes. Morgan gathers the party, including the gormites. The maiden guards are busy chanting, and offer no resistance to the men’s departure. The Great Mother leads them away from the wall, up to the very base of the tower, and halfway around, so that they can hear one another over the roar of the crowd. Seeing the disk in Iris’ hand, she holds out her own until the elf passes it to her.

Away from the crowd, the face and tone of the Great Mother change dramatically. “I don’t know whether you are the biggest fools I’ve ever met or too clever by half. You could have slipped in, grabbed a prisoner, and come out. Killed a few guards, sure, but nothing they couldn’t hide from the people. But you had to set fire to their temple?”

“Yeah, and that’s not all we set fire to!” says Remmy snidely. “We burned their torture room and their mushroom stores, too!”

“Fire pretty!” says FluffyKitten brightly.

“Indeed,” says the Great Mother. “Regardless, they cannot deny your assault – the whole city has seen it. You have forced them into responding. They will attack us, in force, and soon.” She turns to Morgan. “You said you wanted to see us save ourselves. Well, you have done a masterful job of ensuring that we have no choice other than to do that. I can only hope your negotiations with the Magi were as skilled. If you still plan on getting the Brotherhood into this alliance, I suggest you get these men back to their redoubt before the Zargonites attack.”

Her voice softens somewhat. “Some of you are wounded. I will ask the High Priestess to visit you as you prepare to leave, but don’t ask for more, or wait around. And if your own priestess ever shows up, have her reset that man’s leg – it’s poorly done and won’t heal well, but I doubt he wants one of us to do it.”

The Great Mother returns the disk and takes her leave, and she is not out of earshot before she begins shouting orders to the maidens in preparation for the attack.

“That went well,” says Morgan sarcastically. “If the Great Mother had been invisible, would that have counted as an aggressive act?” She takes the disk and moves over to where the two gormite men are on the ground, one sitting, one lying. “How much of that did you get?” she asks the one who wielded the scourge. The other looks to be delirious from the pain of being transported with his broken leg.

“It is all very confusing,” begins the gormite. “I understand that you rescued us. I believe you are not of this world. The Maiden general thinks the Zargonites will attack soon. You would like the help of the Brotherhood?”

“That’s pretty much it. Who’s higher rank, you or him?”

“He is – I am but a Brother, he is an officer.”

Morgan looks around for Ember out of reflex, but she is still invisible. Morgan says loudly, “You have healing left?” Ember answers in the affirmative, from right next to Morgan, making her start. “Can you get him lucid?”

Ember runs her hand over the man’s leg, checks his forehead, listens to his heart. She stabilizers his knee and has Thrud pull on his ankle with all his might. There is a squishy crack, as his poorly-healed shin separates into two pieces. He doesn’t even have time to scream before he passes out from the pain. Ember is now visible. Thrud moves to his shoulders, holds him down in case he regains consciousness before Ember is done. She carefully but firmly guides his lower leg back together at the correct angle, uses two torches as splints and wraps the leg tightly with cloth. Then she passes her hand over the leg, murmuring “Hjerte bedringens vei, Hjerte bedringens vei, Hjerte bedringens vei, Hjerte bedringens vei”.

The man’s eyes flutter and he gasps, then he looks about and tries to get up, but Thrud continues to hold him down. He was a strong man once, but Thrud has no difficulty in keeping him still. “Fill him in,” says Morgan to the other man. Several minutes of conversation follow.

At the end, the gormite officer looks at Morgan expectantly. “You are returning us to our Redoubt?” The other man’s cheeks are moist with tears.

“Yes,” Morgan answers, “and in return, we would like you to get us to speak with the highest officer you can.”

“Fair enough. I would suggest you leave us just outside the entrance, and then retire. I will do what I can.”

The party moves back to their tents. Wolfbane decides that she will begin her rest now, in order to more rapidly recover spells. The rest of them take off their zargonite disguises. The High Priestess emerges from the tower and joins them. “The blessings of the Mother be upon you. When I learned you were planning to rescue the magi, I did not mention our Nehelli out of fear of endangering your mission on a false hope. But you returning her to us has done more for the morale of the Maidens than you can know. We are ready for this war.”

The Priestess examines Iris, finds the bruises from when she fell down the stairs. She casts a cure light wounds and brings her to full. She looks at FluffyKitten, covered in more bruises, and uses a cure moderate wounds to restore her to full health. She finds Bhelgarn to be a mass of scratches, cuts, welts, and bite marks from the zombies, and uses a cure serious wounds on him, restoring all but a jagged cut across the back of his neck. Morgan is unwounded.

The Priestess inclines her head respectfully at Remmy and Odleif. “I honor your bravery, good men,” she says, “but I may use the power of the Goddess only on those who are members of the Maidens. I hope you understand.” She turns to Morgan, offers two small skins of liquid. “Here are two potions of healing. I trust your judgement in their use.”

Finally, she addresses the two gormite men. “We have our differences. But it is time to unite the Three True Gods. Commend me to Azerius. Tell him the Maidens are ready to fight alongside the Brotherhood.” Without waiting for a reply, she retreats in their stunned silence.

Morgan examines the “potions” – they look like small waterskins, with bone necks and wax seals. Not exactly a leaded glass potion bottle, and delicate to transport.

“How you both doing?” she asks Remmy and Odleif.

“Okay for now,” says Remmy. Nicks and cuts cover his forearms, but nothing too serious.

Odleif lifts his chain shirt, shows her the nasty stab wound in his abdomen. “I kin use some ’freshment.” Morgan looks around to be sure the High Priestess is out of sight, then lets Odleif drain one of the skins. The other she saves for later.

Leaving Wolfbane behind, the rest of the group takes to the rear wall of the cavern. The undercity is noisy, but it is a restless, tense noise, with none of the singing they heard when they first arrived. As they near the Magi Complex, they hear shouts ringing out along the road in front. Those with infravision can see a zargonite, most likely a priest, flanked by guards. Around them are a ring of cityfolk, following them and listening as he makes an announcement.

“People of Cyndicia! Strangers walk among you! They are not like us! They are here to destroy our world!

They have set fire to our stores of food, and of release! They want to rob you of your right to eat, and to dream!

They have desecrated the temple of Zargon the Great! Our Master stirs and is wroth! Soon he will prowl the streets of the city, and no one will be safe!

We urge you, for your own safety, to turn these people over to us! Anyone who has information that leads to their capture will be rewarded with a lifetime exemption from work duties! Anyone who captures and turns them in will receive a lifetime of release!

But until these people are found, we can give you NO release, and NO food. We must guard what supplies remain for the safety of the city. Stay away from the docks, stay away from the fields – anyone found there will be detained. Anyone found helping the strangers will be punished as a traitor to the city. Be alert! Protect yourselves from these murderous strangers and their traitorous accomplices!"

The longer he speaks, the more agitated the crowd becomes. Remmy takes out his blowgun, while Morgan helps him estimate the distance and direction. He is just about to dip a needle in poison when Ember places her hand on top of the tube. “Listen!” she whispers. “There are messengers all over the city, probably with the same speech. At best this is a distraction and we don’t have time. At worst, that crowd could turn on us, and then we would have to fight cityfolk. Focus on the mission – there will be time for fighting later.”

Remmy reluctantly puts away his weapon. “Morgan, you and Iris talk to the Magi,” says Ember. “We will drop off the gormites. Meet us outside their fortress.”

Morgan and Iris approach the Magi Complex. They knock, and Alyria bids them put their palms on the circle. They appear in the same room as before with the tables and lights. There are fewer people this time, and their conversations are more earnest. Alyria greets them.

“Thank you both. The Master is weak but recovering – mostly he was starved but not beaten. You can count on the Magi as allies. Have you heard what the zargonites are announcing in the streets?”

“Yes,” says Morgan, “we just came from that.”

“They will attack soon.”

“How soon?”

Alyria looks over her shoulder, leans her head in, and whispers. “Although we are not as strong, we believe our intelligence gathering is superior to that of the other two factions. By our estimation, the zargonite high priest is eighth level, and therefore capable of casting fourth level spells. If he had already prayed for spells before your raid, and then needs to change them for an attack, he would need to rest at least six hours and then pray for maybe another hour or more. We estimate the attack will come any time after the next six hours, most likely between eight and twelve.”

When Morgan translates for Iris, the elf exclaims, “Wait, you know about hours?”

Alyria points to a wall-mounted sand hourglass. “We Magi have retained more abstract knowledge than the other two factions.”

Morgan wonders what else they know about that will be useful. “Those crystals – do you have a magic light source we can use?”

Alyria frowns. “Those are permanent magic items, and we have just a few. Everyone is preoccupied with the coming attack, and is unlikely to notice one is missing.” She looks about carefully, then slides the one on the table between them into Morgan’s waiting bag. “Make sure we get it back after the fight – along with the disk,” she says pointedly, then returns the two women to outside the Complex.

When the women rejoin the party, they are told that the gormites have already taken the two men inside, and now they are waiting for a response. Perhaps ten minutes later the gates open – massive twin interlocking iron-bound gates that are set into grooves in the ground and slide laterally. A single man comes forward. He is tall, nearly as tall as Thrud, powerfully built, and clad head to foot in plate armor. His sword is long, as long as Bhelgarn’s bastard sword. When he takes off his helm, he reveals two things – first, a long scar that crosses his forehead, the bridge of his nose, and and his opposite cheek, and second, that his left hand is limp and withered – it can barely hold his helm and certainly wielding a weapon would be impossible.


“I am Azerius, Commander of the Brotherhood of Gorm,” he announces. “I understand we have you to thank for the return of our two brothers.”

Bhelgarn steps forward. The party agreed that as a male, he should represent them to the gormites. “That is correct. We have come to ask you to join an alliance against the zargonites.”

“That is of potential interest to us. Please enter our Redoubt.”

The party enters through the narrow gate in the thick stone walls. Their way is flanked on each side by Brotherhood warriors standing at attention. More than one of them feels uneasy about seeing the familiar blue robes and gold masks.

The courtyard has numerous small stone buildings, but they are dwarfed by two massive stone towers. “That is the Tower of Might,” says Azerius, indicating the one on the left. “And this, the Tower of Justice. Gorm teaches us that both of these things are equally important.” Unlike the courtyard of the maidens, there is no one but soldiers about – no women, no children, and no tents. It seems very sparse and utilitarian.

Azerius continues, “If you are willing, I would like to invite your leader to a ceremony…” Bhelgarn steps forward. “…we call the Rite of Truth. For there can be no Justice without Truth.” Bhelgharn hesitates, looks over his shoulder at Morgan. She has no idea what is transpiring, but moves next to Bhelgarn, receives the disk from him, along with a quick summary.

“Meaning no disrespect, Commander,” she begins. “I am what we consider our leader, at least in situations of combat. If you will accept a woman, I will undergo your Rite of Truth.”

Azerius looks at her, then pointedly at the symbol of the Maiden on her wrist. “We recognize that our way is not for everyone. For your sake as leader, you may enter the Tower of Justice – but I would ask that the other females of your group remain outside, as well as any who are not warriors.”

While Iris and Fluffykitten loiter outside, Odleif, Thrud, Remmy, and Bhelgarn follow Morgan and Azerius into the tower. A number of guards bring up the rear. The entrance feels like a tunnel, due to the massive ten foot thick walls.

The entire first floor of the tower is an open temple – there does not appear to be a staircase, ladder, or any other way to proceed to the higher floors. It is lit with a dim light of no obvious source. The space resembles greatly the temple in the pyramid above – the walls have been painted a sky blue, the ceiling is blue but also has grey and white clouds. In the exact center of the room is a gleaming gold statue of a man with a bronze balance and a silver lightning bolt – the statue is larger than an actual person and is mounted on a base of marble so that the arms of the lowered balance are just within reach of a tall man but the raised bolt is above everyone’s head. Near the statue are two pillars of marble, with a crossbeam of bronze running between them. The tops of the pillars are chest high and they look like they might serve as some sort of altar. Crossed weapons are hung on the walls, but there are no chairs, pews, or benches in sight.

A robed man stands near the marble pillars. He bows his head at Azerius’ approach. Azerius reaches up to the statue, takes down the bronze balance, hangs it on the crossbeam. The robed man produces two handfuls of stones and gives one to Morgan and one to Azerius, who addresses her.

“Each of us may ask questions, in turn. This is our temple, so I will begin, but for every question you answer me, you have the right to ask a question of your own. When we have stated our answers, we will each place a stone on the balance, and the Sky Father will judge our words. Truth has weight; lies dissipate like air. If our replies are equally truthful, their weights will balance. If one of us lies, it will be shown as the more truthful words outweighing the lies.” Morgan nods her understanding and acceptance.

“Six long-sleeps ago, we sent a squadron of Brothers to the upper pyramid. They were supposed to relieve the squadron we had on duty. Neither group has returned to us – they are long overdue. Do you know what has happened to them?”

Morgan composes herself. Time for truth. “Many long-sleeps ago, we arrived from the light-void. We were starving and dying of thirst. When we entered the pyramid, my only thought was of survival. When we found your first squadron, I ordered my people to engage them in combat. We killed them all. Later, we were set upon by others I presume to be your second squadron, most likely in retaliation. We killed them as well. Do I regret the killings, now that I know what your people are like? Yes. Would I change it if I could? Yes. But we did what we did.”

Azerius’ face is somber, but he accepts her words without anger. “You may ask your question.”

Morgan says simply, “Are you interested in the overthrow and destruction of the Zargonites?”

Azerius smiles grimly. “That is something the Brotherhood has worked for since before the fall. It is always our goal and has been for generations immemorial.”

Azerius places a stone on the balance, and his end sinks down. Morgan places hers in the opposite pan and the two sides move up and down, coming to rest at the same level.

He leads again. “What have you done to oppose the Zargonites?”

“We have slain a priest and his guards – the Maidens say he was a Patriarch, but I do not know what that means. We have returned a flower from your underword that has the potential to cure anyone of their mushroom addiction. We have attacked the Zargonite fortress and rescued the two prisoners we returned to you just now. We seek the destruction of the zargonites as much as you do.”

Azerius nods with satisfaction. Morgan asks, “Are you sincerely interested in an alliance with the other two factions, to work together to overthrow the Zargonites?”

“If they are willing to respect our ways, to treat us as equals in the alliance and not pawns, we are prepared to join. If they show themselves worthy of our aid, we would help them. If YOU show yourselves worthy of our aid, we would join with you and them.”

Again stones are placed and found to be in balance. Azerius continues.

“You bear the mark of the Maidens, although you say you are from the light-void. Will you favor the Maidens? If we manage to overcome the Zargonites at last, will you take the side of their faction in any disputes which follow?”

“It is our only interest to help you defeat the zargonites, and restore the rule of the Three True Gods. We have no interest in one faction prevailing over another. If the zargonites are gone but you three continue to fight one another, than anything we have done here has been wasted. We wish that you can come to settle your differences peacefully, without our involvement.”

Morgan reflects for a moment. She has the right to a matching question, but has resolved what she had come to ask already. Then she hits upon something. “Do you have a prophecy regarding us, regarding the coming conflict?”

“A prophecy, no. The Brotherhood does not produce prophets. But we have carefully preserved all of the religious texts that we could recover after the fall. There are some that speak of such a time a this, of the time when strangers would arrive during the rule of the zargonites. The texts say that “the strangers from another world will lead us in victory over the forces of the false god.” There are many among us who believe that they refer to you."

Again the stones balance. Azerius looks at the robed man. “I have no further questions. The Rite of Truth is ended.” The man collects the stones, and Azerius re-hangs the great balance on the golden statue.

“The truth of your words pleases me, as I hope my words have done for you.” Morgan nods. “But there is still the matter of Justice. You have, by your own admission, proclaimed your guilt in the slaying of a score of Brothers. Do you accept my Judgement?”

Morgan swallows. “If it will allow you to enter into an alliance with the other two factions, I will accept your judgement. I ask only that your judgement fall on me, and no others. As their commander, I accept complete responsibility for their actions.”

Azerius squares his shoulders. “The men you killed were guarding the entrance to the light-void to fulfill what is written in the texts. They were all volunteers. Every one of them had pledged their lives to help you get here to the city. Their food and water sustained you. Their armor protected you. Their honey cured you. You would have died without their gifts to you, although neither you nor they knew it. They fulfilled their responsibilities honorably, and fulfilled the word of the texts.”

“Justice cannot ask the impossible. I cannot ask you to bring those brave men back. Justice can only demand that you do what you can. Return their masks to us, so that their spirits may aid the next generation of warriors. Return the helmet of their leader to us, for it is a powerful item, and will be important in our struggle. Return their bodies to us, any that are left, so that we may honor them with our rites. If you do that, you will have proven yourselves worthy and we will join your alliance against the Zargonites. If you do not, we will watch you and them destroy each other, and we will rebuild the city ourselves.”

“I accept your judgement.” Morgan bows, collects the men of the party, and leaves the tower.

“Well?” says Iris upon their exit.

“Do you remember the last time we went up to the pyramid?” says Morgan, then thinks to slip the disk into her belt so that her words will not be understood by any Brothers. “When I said we needed to get anything important so that the NEXT faction wouldn’t give us a quest to go up again?” She lets her tone serve as an answer to Iris’ question as she gathers the others.

Once they are out of the Redoubt, she whispers to the others. “We need to get to the pyramid and back BEFORE this war starts. Go to the Maidens, drop anything you can, take the bare minimum. No food, no gear, just water. This is a forced march – you carry your armor, not wear it. I know that stinks – but if you can’t keep up, don’t go. Who has gorm masks here, and who left them topside? Okay, gather the ones you have here and be prepared to move out. Iris and I need to see the Magi again.”

  • * * *

The common room of the Magi is eerily empty. Just Alyria and the two women. “Everyone else is resting or preparing spells,” she explains.

Morgan gets right to the point. “There was a magic helmet. It was with the gormites in the pyramid, but we gave it to the magi. We need to get it back – it is the only way the Brotherhood will join the alliance. Can you help us?”

Alyria looks concerned, checks to make sure that indeed they are alone. “That will be difficult. Auriga is very interested in personal power. The other two factions rotate their watches in the pyramid – but Auriga has been up there since before I was the gatekeeper. If he thinks it helps him keep power, he won’t let it go.”

“So what do we do?”

Alyria sighs, then a hard edge comes in to her voice. “We will need every mage we have in this war. We were about to send a paper tablet up recalling them to us, and Auriga, too. I had been tasked with organizing that detail. Will you deliver the tablet for us?” When Morgan agrees, Alyria adds “Then I will add to the writing, tell him to turn the helmet over to you.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

“Auriga would be good to have here when the war comes. But if we have to choose between him and all the Brotherhood, it would be better to have the Brotherhood and not him. Do what you have to do to get the helmet back, just try not to hurt anyone you don’t have to.”

Morgan says she understands. Alyria produces a scroll, and Morgan recalls that Wolfbane told her the magi did not have a word for “scroll”. Just now she called it a “paper tablet”. By the light of an enchanted crystal, she adds a few lines at the end in the indecipherable Cyndician script.

“Good luck” she says, after handing it over to Morgan.

Back at the Enclave, the party readies their gear. After much reflection, Ember decides that she is not going. She has no healing spells at the moment, and would need to rest to have some. But resting defeats the purpose – she does not want the whole party to wait for her, leave late, and be away when the attack starts. Morgan accepts her decision.

“We know the way, with luck we won’t have to fight anything, it is better that you stay here and prepare for an attack,” Morgan says.

“You should take the potion at least,” says Ember.

“We will, and maybe another…” Morgan sees the Great Mother directing preparation for an assault and speaks with her. She requests another potion of healing, in return for delivering a message to the maidens in the pyramid about the impending attack. The Great Mother had not planned on alerting the maidens above, because she did not think she could spare messengers who likely would not be back in time anyway. She is very willing to trade a single potion for the chance that the entire squad could be recalled in time.

With Wolfbane, Ember, and Pooches staying behind, the seven remaining members of the party set out. There is a momentary stop at the Redoubt, as they leave off the few gold masks they had carried with them. Then they leave the cavern. Traveling light, it is a quick two hours up the tunnels. They don’t rest, and arrive at the pyramid winded, but in good shape. There were a few wrong turns in the tunnels, but between Bhelgarn and Odleif they quickly got back on track. They fill their skins in the Great Temple and catch their breath.

The stone statues and iron statues are easily passed, traveling as quickly as they are and with only seven in their group. None of them like the sensation of moving about with their armor in their packs, but it is quicker. They climb the ramp from the Tombs to the third level, and use the spinning room to arrive at the maidens. Morgan delivers the message – the war is coming, and all of the maidens are recalled to the undercity. Pandora says that it will take them a while to pack up and secure their base, and after that they will be traveling slowly in armor, so most likely the party will return before they do. But regardless, they will see them in the city before a long sleep. Pandora leans in close to Morgan and whispers, “I knew you were the ones we were sent to find. Thank you for making this happen.” They leave the wide-eyed maidens securing gear; preparing everything they will take for travel, and everything they will not to be moved to their locked temple – they will leave the dormitory room empty except for the table and chairs.

The party approaches the electrified entrance to the gorm temple, and Bhelgarn secures the key to his pole with practiced ease. Morgan realizes that Hazrad has the other key, and curses under her breath. As soon as they open the door to the temple, they smell the bodies. It is overwhelming, and they have to work to avoid retching. The sheets are stained and discolored.

Iris, looking green in the light of Bhelgarn’s sword, can barely speak. “I don’t think…(she gags, then controls herself)…I don’t think I can carry those…not without being sick…”

Odleif lights a torch, which he says will burn off some of the smell. He looks at Iris sympathetically. “‘Twill get better in t’a halls. It’s jess built up in t’is room, is all. Once we’re movin’ it’ll air out a fair bit.” Then he looks at Morgan. “‘Course, we’ll be smelt fer two levels away by any monsters hereabouts.”

Morgan grimaces. “Then let’s start airing them out. Me, Odleif, and Iris will move these into the hall – Bhelgarn, leave the pole and key please. You, Thrud, Remmy, and Fluffy use the ladder to check on our base. Bring all the gorm masks, plus as many of the candles as you can carry without slowing yourself down.”

After the others depart, the three remaining begin moving the sheet-wrapped corpses to the door. Even Odleif has to work to keep his stomach down as he lifts and drags the limp bundle.

“Ugh, shouldn’t these be stiff or something?” Morgan asks.

“Nae, t’at be only t’a seconn anna t’ird day dead,” responds Odleif. “T’ese ones been dead morrin a week, I reckon.”

The others find their base above undisturbed. They take the masks, and Bhelgarn distributes the “candles” from the box they are in to different sacks, breaking up the load between each of them. There are 19 small sacks full of powder, 23 “candles” of powder wrapped in waxed paper (like the ones taken previously), 16 candles that are longer, slimmer, and have a wooden holder or support stuck in them, and 45 strings set with little clusters of cylinders, somewhat like bunches of grapes. Many of these strange items are leaking powder, have their paper rotted through, are cracked, etc., but some are intact. Bhelgarn believes that he could sort through them and separate out the good from the bad, but he would need time to do so.

The party reunites in the spinning room, and Odleif selects the button for the magi’s corridor. At the statue in front of the false wall, Remmy struggles to remember which way he pulled the wand. He finally guesses more than remembers and tries to the left – the wall slides away and the party proceeds. They knock on the temple door and receive no answer. They knock on the dormitory door and are rewarded with a multitude of surprised voices.

Several minutes later, Auriga opens the door cautiously. Behind him are arranged a dozen mages, all with hands free and prepared to cast.

Morgan is in the front, with Iris, Remmy, and FluffyKitten behind her, and the others farther back in the hall. Morgan has the scroll from the Magi in one hand and the disk in the other, and her sword is sheathed.

“What is it?” demands Auriga. He is wearing the helmet.

“I have a message for you all, from the Magi of the undercity,” she says.

“Well then, give it over,” Auriga says imperiously, and hol