The Fire-Axe had given the party the very approximate location where they might possibly find some duergar. With the help of Thrane the party are able to use the library to narrow down the location of the the duergar hold of Zhaanzen-Kryr. With these two pieces of information they have a solid lead on where to start looking. They also get some background on the history of this particularly grudge-bearing offshoot of the dwarven race:
Talingarde may be a predominantly human kingdom,
but it would not be as powerful as it is today if it were not
for the dwarves. When the first Talirean settlers arrived
on this island, they discovered that there were already
thriving civilizations here – the Iraen, the Yutak and the
Ice Elves just to name a few. But the most civilized and
developed people on this island were the dwarves of the
Human history has largely forgotten the frst meetings
between dwarf and man. They were rarely cordial. Te
dwarves were rich with treasure and scattered in separate
small mountain holds, each an independent city state.
One by one, the dwarven holds fell either by war, disease
or cultural integration.
The dwarven population slowly integrated into the
human population and you have the situation you have
today – dwarves and humans living side by side with
largely the same culture. These dwarves have made
their mark on Talirean civilization from top to bottom.
From the steel plows in the fields to the fine plate armor
so ubiquitous among the knights and nobles, dwarvish
technology is everywhere.
But there were a few dwarven holds that did not go
quietly. Sensing their eminent lessening and destruction,
they cursed their fate and turned to old, forbidden dark
gods of the earth. They pledged their loyalty to these infernal deities if only the human tide would be abated. It
was these dwarves, corrupted and twisted by hatred and
dark magics, who became the duergar.
The duergar fought both invading human and dwarf
to the last and it seemed for a while that they might actually prevail. But then the humans unveiled a new sort of
ally. Dwarven warriors fought alongside human soldiers.
These dwarven tunnel-fghters and engineers rooted out
the duergar in their fastholds and scattered the corrupted dwarves. Only a few hidden fortresses yet survive in
Talingarde and they continue to exist only by savagely guarding their secrecy
They then use tracking skills to successfully locate a small patrol of duergar. These are extremely suspicious, but Sam's mixture of diplomacy and intimidation gets them to agree to take the party to see the King. They agree that the party can keep their weapons in return for keeping Fitch as a hostage; Sam appears to see this as a win/win.
Sam's gift of a pair of captive dwarf children puts them in Thane Zashur Arzen's good books, and he decides not to kill them out of hand but instead to listen to their proposition. Once again Sam's persuasion skills come up trumps, and Zashur promises the aid of 100 duergar warriors led by his son Zargun Arzen. The Posse are guests of honour at a festival where the dwarven children are tortured, and then roasted to death on a great brass grill.
Returning to town, Sam then moves on to negotiating with Price Gaius Vestromo. She does this with extreme, and understandable, nervousness and care, impressing on the party the need not to fuck this up. The party do not fuck this up. Aided by Creel bowing deeply and respectfully at the perfect moment, and by Fitch shutting up, Sam manages to successfully negotiate with the Prince without in any way getting killed and eaten.
In return for a certain chalice previously stolen from his family by the Mitran priests, which he believes may be hidden in the Vale, Prince Gaius will lend them the services of 10 vampire spawn. (Creel's knowledge of religion suggests this chalice might allow the ancient vampire to create true vampires rather than spawn. It is believed that this chalice is what introduced vampirism into the Vestromo bloodline in the first place)
Sam floats the idea of the Prince perhaps turning one of the Posse into a vampire as a reward, although she herself has other plans for greatness. The prince however asks a very high price – he longs to drink the living blood of an angel (or other powerful good celestial). This is tabled for later consideration.
Sam then waits til Dukeday, and goes to see the Duke. The Duke allows himself to be persuaded by the bones the party have obtained, along with Princess Iris's ring, although it seems like this is at least as much because he is sick of dealing with chancers with fake bones, and wants a chance to put the stupid law to bed for good. Sam's flowery speech is as persuasive as ever, although Fitch and Creel, looking on, both note that the Duke appears not to be overly enthused about the glorious and inevitable victory of the noble Mitran forces against the evil horde of evil. Considering the Duke is of the old half elven aristocracy and his line had survived the last regime change it seems possible the ruler of Ghastenhall, always noted for its independent spirit, might be hedging his bets a little.
I bring you grave news. Perhaps not unexpected news, but grave news nonetheless. Myself and my associates have discovered the fate of the Princess Iris, at long last.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Elise and I am a Chronicler of Mitran History and the Salvation of Talingarde.
As you know, we live in dark and troubled times, and I have taken it upon myself, along with my associates, to keep records of the valiant struggle of the Mitrans against the current Surge of Darkness. Once the light of Mitra prevails, as it surely will, my record will be forever enshrined in history for all our future generations to take heart from in times of doubt, and to ensure the Serenity and Benevolence of Our Lord can never be questioned.
It was in this capacity that we found ourselves in the Cear Bryr a few months ago – drawn there by tales of strange happenings in Farholde. Where strangeness arises, so too do the great deeds of the Mitrans.
During our time in that great forest, we came across what was undoubtedly a holy burial site, clearly abandoned and forgotten for many years. It was during our exploration of the site that we came across these remains… [hand over delicately wrapped skeletal remains]. We thought nothing of them initially, until we noticed that on one of the fingers was that ring.
I cannot tell you exactly how she met her fate, as any evidence was long since lost to the mists of time, however knowing of course of the legend of Princess Iris, as soon as we could we made our way here to present our findings to you, so that you could finally get some closure on this tragic matter.
As for a reward – being able to bring this sad tale to a close is reward enough. I do have a favour to ask of you though. A few weeks ago I undertook a pilgrimage to the Vale of Valtearna. This holy place will doubtless play a vital part in the war against the Darkness, and I needed to see it for myself and speak to the people there to add to the Chronicle. I had a wonderful trip, seeing and experiencing the peace of Sanctum for myself. However I was not allowed to visit the gardens or the cathedral. I was wondering if you could use your influence to ask the powers that be to grant me access. For the sake of the Chronicle, it would be invaluable for me to see this holiest of sites for myself, and if possible interview the High Priest.
The Duke is saddened to report that he has no authority over the head of the church in the Vale, and while he will be happy to request this access (a scribe hastens to write a letter for him to seal) he has no great hopes for its success. In mitigation he offers a chest of jewels which Sam disappointedly accepts.
Suddenly, with the skies darkening by the day and the first light flurries of snow falling, it is time to march on the Vale! The Posse assemble their army: 2 units of bugbears totalling 250, 100 duergar, a herd of Alunatic cultists, 10 vampire spawn, an ogre mage assassin, three Nessian Warhounds, and a medusa.
They plan to use a general charge by the army as a distraction while they storm the watchtower from the roof, but Raiju volounteers to scout first, bringing back more information about a gong
and about two “watchers”, magical beasts of some kind. He didn't want to get too close, as he believed they could sense evil. Sam lends (Lends. This isn't a gift) him her ring of mind shielding, and Raiju (volounteering that “Raiju was an assassin before, this is how I earned my living, infiltrating is Raiju's bag!”) says that in half an hour he'll have taken the guardroom and will be able to keep the portcullis open. He then vanishes once again, presumably to go and do that thing.
The Posse then get the army ready to charge, and prepare themselves for a burst of buffing and a swift flight into the vale and onto the roof of the tower. As the tower hurtles towards them the disparate bunch of hasted, invisble monsters note that there are two monstrous looking creatures on the roof of the tower. These, the Watchers, are half-angelic lammasu.
-they're what now?
-You know, body of a lion, wings of an eagle, face of a wise-looking old dude. Lammasu.
They also note that there is indeed a great big brass gong, but that it's tied up to stop the winter winds constantly gonging it, so won't be immediately gongable as it will need untying first. It seems unlikely there will be enough time for a prospective enemy to do this before being covered in Grumblejack, but Creel casts 'silence' anyway. Belt and braces.
The first lammasu casts smite evil on grumblejack and thus bypasses his damage resistance, doing terrible damage. The other is less successful, as it is trying to save its smite for the other, still invisible enemies it senses.
Adelea has engaged the second lammasu, Fitch adds backstabs, Izavell shoots one with her bow, Sam demoralises them.
Grumblejack retaliates and brutally kills a lammasu. Splotch. Zach starts refilling his health bar. Adelea cuts the other one down.
The captain of the tower comes charging out of the trapdoor, alerted by his telepathic bond with the lammasus, but they are already dead. He bellows “Damn you, you monsters!”. Sam intimidates him by coolly saying “we meet again captain, but under different circumstances”.
Zack's casually tossed off burning hand spell chargrills four guards, with the other partially trapped beneath the corpses, and soon to have his head bashed in by Creel's unholy mace.
Grumblejack and Adelea engage the captain from opposite sides, while Fitch acrobatically slides acrobatically through the captain's legs and flips to his feet, stabbing him in the back in one swift move.
The captain does his best, but is quickly brought down without doing real damage. The mook guards he was able to scare up for his mad dash to the roof fare less well. The party are in command of the roof, at least for now. But what of the vital tunnel, its two portcullis… es? Portculli? What of the vital tunnel and it's… great big metal droppy-down gates? What about the two statues that Sam thought were clearly clay golems? What about those?
The charging horde is just about to hit the tower – what will they find?