A dead-eyed servant appeared at the door to Talia’s room. She briefly wonders how long it’s been since their will was their own, and what secrets Thorne kept here that would necessitate such … obedience. Perhaps it was just a show of power for power’s sake.
They have been afforded every luxury during their stay since escaping from the prison. Her uncle may be old enough to have known such finery in the days of his youth before the purges, but this was entirely new to her. Born well after the purges first began, they have been hunted. Scraping to survive. Learning to rob, to trick, to kill. Talia was only a few years older than Raziela when her parents died – holding off the guards sent to flush out the last remaining tieflings in Talingarde.
Talia’s attention snapped back to the present as she and the servant joined up with the rest of her companions. Grumblejack, the ogre they first freed from the chains of Branderscar. Little Raziela, now quite formidable after her training with Teodora in the yard. Her brother, Eliazar, and her two new “sisters”. Lydia was in the prison longer than all of them combined, and still seems a bit … off. The oldest of the girls, Heather, is no caster on her own, but certainly took to the charms and illusions of the coven quickly enough.
Thorne is in his study, opulent as ever. Their new ‘master’ certainly seems to like to hear himself talk. But the contract was signed for Asmodeus, not for him. But he must have some worthiness as a master, for something as powerful as Teodora to bend the knee to a mortal. Blah blah proven ourselves worthy. Time to put our training to use. …Bringing war to Talingarde? Talia’s wandering interest snaps back at that.
Deliver munitions to the goblin chieftan sounds easy enough, and the ship to deliver the cargo is already arranged. A smile plays at Talia’s lips as Thorne tells them to kill the crew and burn the ship. And of course, get a refund for the smugglers’ services before we sink the ship. Eliazar should like that part.
The next part of the plan sounds trickier. Infiltrate the keystone of the watch wall, kill the commander, and let the goblins in.
They also receive sealed orders to break open when the mission is concluded. Talia briefly wonders what would happen if they were foolish enough to open it early.
After their preparations are complete, they go to the docks to meet with the captain. He seems affronted that he is offered weak girls when he was promised guards. Raziela’s pistol at his crotch quiets his objections quickly, and we make ready to sail.
Talia gets used to the rocking of the boat fairly quickly, and the trip goes fairly uneventfully after she and her sisters call in fair winds to sail by and fogs to hide the boat from shore.
At least until the fishmen showed up.
About a day north of the wall, a few approached the boat from an island off the coast. Talia and her sisters quickly caged them, but they summoned water elementals on deck. As her friends and the crew took up bows against the caged fishmen, and arms against the elementals, Talia called forth one of the lesser names of lightning – shock arc. The air and water inside the cage crackled with electricity. After the second, there was a satisfying sizzle, and the elementals on deck were controlled no more, and dove back into the sea.
Unfortunately, Raziela was rather worse for wear, and had to be brought back.
Talia was quite ready to be done with boats when they arrived, and the few things she could think of that were more vile than sailors far from shore was what she’d do to them when their business was concluded. One more thing quickly topped the list when she met the goblins.
Lydia began speaking with the goblins, and their party was led to the goblin warlord’s tent. The three girls passed rows and rows of goblin tents, hordes of leering goblins, and a few great white bears.
It quickly became apparent that the leader of the goblins was also working for Thorne. They planned to march to the valley and await our signal – a hand cannon fired when the keep is secured. After firing it they will attack within the hour. We have about two weeks before the goblin forces are in position. Time enough for the keep to fall.
The goblin warlord keeps hitting on Lydia, and she wisely denied his advances. The three girls head back to the ship and disembark as quickly as possible. When the ship lands near Aldencross, the three girls join hands and sing, caging the entire crew. Talia calls forth the name of lightning, again and again and again, the captain howling in pain and rage and helplessness until finally falling silent. Talia, her sisters, brother, cousin, and the ogre claim the cargo and set the ship alight. Carefully weaving the illusion of merchants, the six prepare to approach the wall.
The six arrived shortly after dawn. Aldencross appears to be a typical northern market town. There are no walls, wooden plank construction everywhere. Like kindling waiting for a spark. On the northern side, people come and leave freely. Several small, well armed bands go ranging. A central notice board has pictures of Raziela, my two cousins, and uncle. The pictures don’t really do them justice. And the bounty REALLY doesn’t do them justice. Talia briefly entertains the idea of the King’s vanguard who their dear lion fought at Branderscar on such posters. In due time.
A score or more off duty soldiers are around the town. The inn seems to be the only establishment that caters to travelers. There are no soldiers there when the “merchants” arrived. There was a small stage with barely clad dancing girls, well endowed bar maids, and a well stocked bar. Securing a room, the companions split up to explore the town north of The Wall.
The gates are closed, with guards stationed at each end. People are queued to have their travel papers checked, and servants constantly go in and out of the keep. It appears that we have our way in, we just need to secure some papers.
The local gossip includes news of a famous theater troupe. The head of the Mitran church here, Father Donnagan, was put in place here after being demoted. One of the four captains is a lush.
Guards in the inn talk about the prison break. None of the prisoners have been caught yet, and the prison is being re-garrisoned. It was a huge embarrassment for the Talingarde army. A solider brags about the keeps defenses while trying to impress serving girls. Talia perks up at the fireball loving magical support. He’ll be first. Anyone who might become wise to their illusions should be disposed of quickly.
Back in their rooms, the three girls join hands and begin to sing. The magical sensor rises and begins to explore the keep. Then they creep over to the next room and charm the sleeping couple, then polymorph them. The two rabbits should keep Raziela occupied while they explore the other side of the wall.
With their travel papers, the three girls appear as the merchant couple – Heather as the wife, Talia as the husband, and Lydia as … a donkey. Due to the long line, the guards can only do cursory checks of each traveler’s papers. A long, boring sermon ensues. Talia quickly grows stiff and bored, picking out which columns would bring the building down the fastest. The three girls slip out to explore the town during the intermission.
When they arrive back at the inn, Eliazar and Grumblejack look like dwarves, are very drunk, and nearly naked. Raziela produces a very detailed map of the keep, including a tunnel from the basement of the inn to the keep.
It appears that the dwarves have been here for several months, and there are detailed notes on the upkeep of the keep’s defenses. The girls once again call forth their magical sensor, spying a very well concealed stone door being opened by the innkeeper. Following him down the mile of well constructed passage to the trap door at the end, the girls spy him carefully sliding it open a hair and peeking at the keep above. Then the innkeeper slides it the rest of the way open and climbs into a storage room in the lowest level of the keep. He takes a case of dusty and very expensive elven wine from the stores. The storeroom otherwise seems to be well used.
The magical sensor travels further into the keep, stopping to explore the mage’s room. It appears that he is working on some sort of ice golem. He clearly knows the scrying device is there. He attempts to dispel it twice, but the girls simply cause it to reappear. He leaps away from the scrying sensor that is nearly up his shorts and goes for his wand, spectacles, and a navy blue robe. The girls steer the sensor out the window, and he feather falls after it. The sensor matches his fall, then zips back up into the keep. The mage stalks off back to the central keep and storms up to the rookery. Quickly switching to audio, the mage Tacitus begins ranting about being spied on again. Angry words are exchange, and they nearly come to blows. The mage storms back to his room.
The girls retire for the evening, and awake to the heavy tread of the dwarves leaving for work. Carefully weaving an illusion to appear as servants of the keep, the six creep through the secret tunnel. The three witches hide the back wall of the storeroom and enter unseen, charming the guard outside of the storeroom when it is clear of servants. They grab bags of grain to take upstairs to the rookery.
There are guards stationed on every landing. One stops them and questions the heavy load the old man that Grumblejack is disguised as. The girls assure him that the bag of grain isn’t as heavy as it looks. The guard stationed just outside the rookery waves them past and shuts the heavy door behind them. They drop off the bags of grain. The three witches join hands. The rooker shrugs off a charm, then a polymorph. He grabs a horn by his desk and sounds the alarm. Grumblejack moves to hold the door shut against the guards. Raziela touches the rooker, unholy energy pouring into him. The ravens are freed, a swirling tempest of claws, beaks, and feathers. Heather and Lydia are blinded, but Eliazar and Talia make quick work of the swarm with fire and lightning. Heather puts an arrow into his chest, and the rooker falls out the window to his death.
The guards manage to kick down the door, three entering with the mage behind them. Raziela crushes the first one’s pelvis with her warhammer, and Grumblejack cleaves the next in two with his greatsword. The three witches join hands, and a solid wall of force encases the magister and the remaining guard. True to his reputation, Tacitus pulls out his wand and launches a fireball in the direction of the intruders. The look on his face as the fireball hit the invisible wall of force was rather priceless. Both mage and guard were reduced to charred corpses.
The girls quickly wove an illusion to hide the bodies and make the rookery look even more blasted. One of the captains and more guards were quickly approaching. Talia threw herself into the arms of the guard captain, and between sobs explained that the mage had stormed into the rookery yelling about being spied on. They came to blows, and it was … horrible. The guard captain seemed suitably enamored with the sobbing girl in his arms, and valiantly promised to protect her. The guards were sent off to chase down the (dead) mage, and the ‘servants’ took the opportunity to go search the mage’s quarters. However, an Alarm sounded and the ice golem came to life. The girls raised the illusion of another book case to stand in, but Grumblejack was stranded over in the mage’s quarters. Hearing the alarm, the guards came in and were attacked by the golem.
Grumblejack slipped out during the fighting, and 15 or so guards later, and the gallant captain looking MUCH worse for wear, the golem was destroyed. Leaving ample time for the bodies to clear out, the girls waited in the ‘bookcase’ and stripped the mage’s quarters. Talia briefly wondered what he needed wolfsbane potion for. Talia produced sounds from above as a quick distraction for the guard at the door to the mage’s laboratory, and the ‘servants’ slipped back to the inn uneventfully. Even more uneventfully thanks to her brother’s Mind Lapse. Handy trick, that.
Back at the in, rumors are spreading that the magister went mad and killed Martin in the rookery and set his golem on the guards. Talia also finds out that her gallant savior is having an affair with the wife of another captain. Heather begins gleefully spreading the rumor that the Lord Commander and the head of the ranger have been performing rather unspeakable acts behind closed doors. A table full of rangers due to head out in the morning are, to the girls’ amusement, not terribly surprised. The pretty maidens (and Heather) encourage their drinking, and soon they pass out, but not before revealing the captain’s favorite spot to camp and the fact that they are going out ranging tomorrow morning. The girls curse the six of Talingarde’s finest, and Lydia makes good use of her jailor’s ring given to the goblin warlord to let them know exactly where the patrol will be camping.
The three witches and their companions awaken to loud banging on the front door of the inn. The sun is still a faint glimmer on the horizon, and they overhear the innkeeper being questioned. Quickly slipping from Clairaudience to Clairvoyance, they see four guards with a freshly drawn wanted poster of the old man that Grumblejack was disguised as last night. Slipping back into audio, the innkeeper says that he saw a man of that description drinking there last night.
Lydia informs the group that the witch hunter from Branderscar is in town, and sees him going door to door. The three girls join hands, and call in a storm to soak the witch hound, his patrols, and foil his senses by saturating the town with magic. How easy is it to sniff out a witch, when the entire town reeks of witchcraft? The girls also set about charming everyone in town.
The girls spy on the questioning of Martin the rooker. All they get out of him is the serving girl Raziela was disguised as. The magister’s body was hung upside down from the tower. Clearly, he needs to be … brought back.
Lydia’s rat creeps up the tower and delivers the touch to reawaken the dead, and the girls taunt the Lord Commander with dreams of an army of witches attacking from the south.
The mage reawakens, burning, and apparently retaining the magic he held in life. A most excellent new toy. An ice storm leveled the acolytes outside the church, and a fireball took out the 20 guards surrounding him. However, skeletons are frail creatures, and it did not hold up long against the Father and Lord Commander. However, the tunnel below the keep is in an interesting spot, and Talia managed to destroy the body of the rooker, finished off the Father as the poor skeleton exploded, and managed a few parting shots at the Lord Commander. He raised his shield and retreated back to the keep. Horns sound and the guards return en masse to defend the keep.
The witch hunter kicks in the door to the bar and notices that they are ALL charmed. He immediately starts punching people. A full on brawl breaks out, and the dwarves jump in the fight. Pity. Rather liked those dwarves. Half the people in the fight are out cold on the floor, as the witch hound’s hand lights up. The dwarf tips over a table, blocking the punch but catching the entire inn on fire. The witches gather up their companions and things and exit through the back.
The witch hunter exits the bar unharmed as fire engulfs the inn. Cries of ‘Murderer!’ and ‘Arsonist!’ quickly rise from the currently rather pro-witch mob. He flees north.
Talia cracks the bar holding the doors shut as the townsfolk flee towards the Wall. The keep is on lockdown, but they are forced to open the gates for the mob. It is still pouring rain, so Eliazar gives the blaze a bit of help to engulf the town north of the wall.
Refugees are being invited to stay in people’s homes on the southern side of town. We get several offers, but take up the dear Captain Motts’ wife. She shows her dear friends some rather saucy letters from “Captain Zack”. Talia goads her brother about learning cure disease after he gets a taste of her hospitality. Exhausted, they all catch up on sleep until the Captain gets home.
The captain looks positivley haggard from dealing with a crazy mage, a crazy witch hunter, the crazy mage AGAIN, the dead Father, and the witch hunter setting the town on fire. The gates are closed, everyone is on double shifts, and the Lord Commander asked him to ride south to call for reinforcements.
Clearly, that won’t do.
Lydia manipulates the Captain into wishing to remain near his wife, and the wife to wish to remain near Captain Zack. Talia sneaks up to the wall and collapses the stables. And then sets it on fire for good measure. Repeatedly. Captain Mott’s wife approaches Captain Zack in the bucket brigade and, well, now they are all off to be executed or worse.
It appears that there are still several lantern archons remaining in the chapel. That won’t do at all. Also, the Lord Commander remains to be dealt with.