Title: A Secret Army
Date: Late Davor, 1332 Avard
Synopsis: The team finds River Crown celebrating its victory over the warforged army – but something is amiss.
Later afternoon on the 21st of Davor, 1332 Avard.
The Meridian Explorations team made it into River Crown late in the afternoon, and found the town abuzz with its victories. The duchy's call-to-arms had resulted in the destruction of a nest of trolls and the defeat of an army of warforged. While many other baronies were still returning home, River Crown was one of the first to make it back. Five of its people died during the fighting with the warforged, but thankfully none were lost cleaning out the nest of trolls.
Corrin found Greff rather quickly, having returned from a visit to her family in the Cradle of Heaven Mountain. Felix was still irritated with Corrin for taking the Book of the Lightforger to her family, but Corrin was quite happy to invite Felix there to read the book himself. Her good nature took the edge off of the mage's irritation. Meanwhile, they talked and listened and caught up on many stories, as it had been awhile since they had last seen one another, and much had happened. They also listened to the goings on of the villagers to keep things in perspective.
The tales the villagers told of the defeat of the trolls were impressive. The people of the Janis Plains used catapults to hurl flaming pitch against the trolls, setting parts of the Cold Rivers on fire and blowing the fell troll apart with their bombardment.
The defeat of the warforged seemed odd to the combat veterans of ME. The more they listened, the more they heard, the more they realized that something was amiss. Greff and Felix had both fought against the warforged, and they knew that there was no way the people of the Janis Plains could have so easily defeated a force of warforged over a thousand strong. The mechanical constructs had been designed and created during an age of powerful magics, and the ME team had barely survived an encounter with just a score of the warforged – and that was using powerful magics to counter the constructs, terrain command, and picking the site of battle. The villagers talked of coming across the warforged and defeating them en mass, using tactics that had worked well against the undead.
Baron Wilhelm Dellis, Lord of River Crown, had not been able to go to the annual King's Court. As such, he was hungry for information about the goings on in the capital. The ME team was hungry for knowledge of the battle of the warforged. The baron, in his deep, precise voice, asked a dozen or so pointed questions about who was at the court and what they were wearing, and was thus able to tell more about the goings on of the kingdom that Greff or Felix had every imagined. For example, the earrings of Duke Dwarfkiller would let all who knew of orc customs the status of the orc's state of mind. Greff had never thought to apply such to the duke of the orcs. Count Stonegrudge had been seen at the court, and so things were well enough in Teras for the count to leave the city for a time.
Felix asked about the warforged battle, and Greff picked up on some outright lies. Without challenging the baron directly, they probed carefully, questioningly, asking about the battle. Eventually, the baron invited them outside to help him grab some more of his expensive mead – his one real luxury. The team prepared for an ambush in the starry night outside.
The baron spoke in a very low, conspiratorial voice. Because of who they were, he was prepared to share a secret with them. Count Torak, Marquis Codrus, and the remaining barons of the duchy had helped dupe their own people into believing that the warforged army was defeated. A team of mages from Lok Magius had gated in, and even they had found the situation difficult. The nobles realized that their people would be slaughtered. The mages, however, used one of their own to find a way to communicate with the warforged – and order them to stand down. The ME team realized that the mage the baron described was their own Roswyn. Perhaps acting through an illusion of Graven, the warforged captain that was ever by the Ducal Mage's side, Roswyn had somehow taken control of over a thousand 'lesser' warforged – lesser because they were not as autonomous as Graven, but still just as deadly.
After swearing the ME team to secrecy, the baron lead the team back inside with several casks of mead, and promptly tore into them all. The whole of the ME team – Therin, Sir William de Grace, Johr, and Kralik, along with Corrin and Greff and Felix – finished the night on a good note, drinking and enjoying one another's company, playing jokes and carousing until the wee hours of the morning.
Later the next morning, their hangovers healed by Theren, the baron asked them to investigate the Weavies' place. During the mobilization to fight the warforged, the warriors of River Crown marched through a region battered by undead less than a year before. The Weavies, like many of the displaced farmholders near River Crown, stopped by their old home on the way through. The house had been battered by the undead before the Weavies managed to escape and run for River Crown. When the Weavies looked into the old house, they hoped to find things they had abandoned and never returned for. One of them fell through the root cellar, though, and fell into a pile of old pots. They were pulled out and left in a hurry, not investigating the pots.
The baron found the incident odd enough to to ask Meridian Explorations to explore the Weavies' place.
The team received good directions, and crossed the river to the south. Within several hours, they arrived at the remains of the Weavies' home. The abandoned earthern home showed signs of damage from the assault of the undead. There were deep gouges in the door and the shutters, made from the bone fingers of attacking skeletons.
Felix and Corrin lead the way, Greff and the others holding back. The silik Demon's ability to tap and feel the depths and caverns of the earth was used to assess the home before they went down into the root cellar by way of its vertical ladder. The small cellar was no more than six feet by eight feet, but most of the floor was gone.
In the depths below, by the light of Felix's magic and Corrin's stolen mage lights, they found intact and broken pots. The area was permeated with necromatic magics underlain with a bit of preserving transmutation magics. Inside the intact pots were still preserved, necromatically 'enhanced' bits of flesh – from humans, elves, orcs, and a variety of other humanoids.
Felix, determined to investigate, began to go through each pot systematically. One of the pots contained flea-like bits of undead that jumped at them and began biting them. Theren became heavily involved at that point, his love of Arpelos and his hatred of the undead saving the team from the worst of it.
After a time, all of the pots had been busted open, and all of the undead fragments of flesh had been destroyed by Arepelos' might.
The chamber was not a dead end, however. A single corridor led out, into a room decaying with rot and the smell of water. There, broken stairs led down, into muddy water. Demon's sense of the earth told them that there was another chamber, beyond.
Morning of the 22nd of Davor, 1332 Avard.
Dinner was a farmer's chili, of which Ross carefully moved aside the vegetable portion. We'll keep in mind that he eats NO vegetables. How odd. I feel for his colon.
RPG System: Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition.
All characters are 16th level.