17th Day of Nythoria:
True to form, our trip to look in on the manticore resulted in nearly more than we could handle. It turned out that far from there being just one of the ugly and deadly beasts, there was a whole family. Our crude but effective new member, Sticks charged into the mouth of the cave where they lived and very nearly paid with his life. Ranas, as quick with his mind as he is with his feet, pulled him out of harms way. A short but ferocious battle ensued and we were able to take the cave without further casualties. Inside we found more townsfolk, one of them alive. Ranas looks to the injured while the rest of us brace for the inevitable attack of the remaining adult. The bitter cold spring wind batters this hilltop and somehow finds its way even into the cave.
I kick myself for not having foreseen the result of hiding in the creature's lair. When the last manticore returned, it launched several spikes from it's tail into the cave entrance. We were literally pinned into the dead end of the cave with nowhere to go. The resulting battle was more drawn out than were the others but the result favorable (praise the gods).
With our wounded, we decided it was too risky to try to descend the hill in the darkness and so set up watch in the cave and slept as best we could. During my watch, I heard something outside that took me on a little reconnaisance mission around the side of the hill. What I found there was a dwarven encampment. I snuck back to camp without making contact. I doubt they'll find us before dawn, the weather doesn't invite exploration.
18th Day of Nythoria:
We buried the dead towns people in a side cave and Ranas sent their souls to Odan for judgement at first light. Carrying a litter with the injured woman on it, we made our way down to the trail. We had not gone two miles when we were set upon by a group of dwarven bandits. We paid a ransom to them for safe passage down the road. Just the thought of it makes me chafe. However, it allowed us to return to Cormeer with the wounded townsperson still alive. We will rest the night and then plan to return to the dwarves to take back our hard earned cash with significant interest due on the loan.
19th Day of Nythoria:
We put the most of the dwarven bandits to the sword today without too much trouble. We captured two of them and returned them to the constable in Cormeer. They are to be hung, it seems. The residents of this town have few compunctions about dishing out justice for such crimes as highway robbery.
We will spend the rest of this day resting, planning and preparing to storm the keep northeast of town tomorrow, on Firesday. That, I have no doubt, will be a battle that we shall be lucky to walk away from.
20th Day of Nythoria:
Most of this day was quiet but in early evening Kaddori from the keep unexpectedly raided the town. We were alerted to the trouble by the cries of citizens rushing away from the Kaddor who attacked innocent people in the center of town from atop the backs of the reptilian Drax mounts. Our group struggled to enter the combat but found ourselves hampered by the throngs of townsfolk fleeing toward us. We were able to take down a couple of the Kaddori warriors and our hearts were starting to rise. Imagine our distress when we realized that one of the Kaddor had riden his beast into Mylassa's Temple and stolen the holy crucible from therein. Our group and the town guards threw ourselves at the invaders in an effort to recover the item. We slew those around us with deadly efficiency but imagine our agony as the Kaddor made off with the bowl tucked under one gray stocky arm toward the keep. At first we were inclined to head after the thief immediately. But, a few moments reflection showed us the folly of this strategy. We had depleted our magical spells, it was dark, and the enemy would be expecting us to follow. We decided to follow our original plan and take the keep the following dawn.
21st Day of Nythoria:
I am dressed and sit in this darkened room of the Inn waiting for the others to finish their final preparations. I can hear the shuffle of heavy footsteps in the next room as Nero struggles to wake himself from a deep sleep. Humans! They might as well be a herd of stampeding wild boars with as much noise as they make. To their everlasting credit, however, they are good fighters and stalwart allies. I'd not have them arrayed against me.
Rope is being coiled, a last bit of oil worked into the leather of sword scabbards, and stray buckles tied down with black cloth bands to keep them from jingling at an inopertune moment. Our plan, such as it is, is to take the southwest tower by stealth. Once that is in our hands, we will try to take the Southeast tower and then hold the high ground against Kaddori counterattacks. May Ellasil watch over us today, even with the help of two of the town guards we will need a fair measure of divine guidance to pull this off.
Gads! It was a tough fight. I can barely keep my eyes open but this journal is so important...
We took the first tower without too much trouble. Ranas cast a spell of silence on a grappling hook which I then was able to hook into the guard's belt. I gave it a tug and then Sticks heaved the guard off the tower from below where Sticks bludgeoned the unfortunate fellow. Meanwhile, three of us held the tower while Sticks and the town guard who decided to tag along raced along the wall toward the other tower. It was then that our miscalculation became clear.
We had miscalculated when daylight was going to occur and began the attack before it was light. This gave the Kaddori - who can see in the dark - a distinct advantage. While I could see well enough, thanks to my amulet, the rest of the group was effectively blind. It was about then that the guard in the second tower raised the alarm.
Realizing that this was a situtation that was going to get very dangerous VERY quickly, I cast light on one of the crossbow bolts in my quiver, loaded it, and sent it quivering into the ground in the center of the courtyard. By this time, Sticks had reached the far tower and had fallen INTO the courtyard when he lost his grip. So much for our careful plan about taking and keeping the high ground.
Now the Kaddori were arriving in force. They launched several volleys of javelins at those of us exposed on the keep's walls and ran to engage Sticks and the two guards who had begun melee down below us.
At this point we were starting to feel our lack of a good, armored fighter in the group. Sticks, Ranas and Nero were doing some serious damage in melee but were taking far more damage than was good for them. Were it not for Ranas' healing touch, I think Sticks would have fallen.
Bad became worse when Ortyne, his imp, the Kaddor mage and two more Kaddori warriors emerged from the only intact building inside the keep. This was serious trouble. Ranas put a damper on their party by casting a silence spell on the ground in front of the buildng before them while I quickly bolstered my defenses with a couple of magical protections. Running out in front, I tried to distract the mages' attention away from the fighters to give Sticks, Nero, and Ranas a chance to protect themselves or attack. Meanwhile, Phae and Tish peppered the remaining Kaddori with missiles. At least they did until a spell sent Tish flying down the road away from the keep at full tilt in an all out panic. Back inside, Dui, our monk extrordinaire, jumped off of the wall and did a flying body slam on a Kaddori warrior near the wall. I took the opportunity to seek out the shadows on the far side of the wall that divided the front of the courtyard from the back to see what would develop and who I might get behind for a surprise shot.
Unable to cast spells with verbal components, the mages retreated into the building. Sticks and Nero followed almost at once. It was an act of bravery that was almost their last. The building was booby trapped and no sooner had they entered than the building exploded in a burst of flame. Nero and Sticks were both unconscious and Ranas rushed to their aid ... again.
Only seconds after building exploded, Ortyne and the Kaddor mage came around the back side of the wall where I was. The situation was looking extremely dire. Most of our party was wounded, there was a good chance (or so I thought at the time) that Nero and Sticks were both dead, Tish had fled, and I was nearly out of spells and with precious little offensive capability even when I HAVE all my spells prepared. Knowing full well that it was folly but having little choice, I let the two mages pass by me, unaware of my presence, and then I cast a spell designed to glue their feet to the ground. There was little chance it would work. BOTH of these men were more powerful than me. At the moment the spell took effect I shouted a taunt to pull their attention around to me. If I could only slow them down for a few seconds I thought it might make a difference to my companions. The spell worked with Ortyne, I saw his feet stick to the ground and cease to move. However, even as Ortyne struggled, the Kaddor mage shrugged off my spell's effect and began an incantation of his own. Now, I am not fast but I'm quick. No, in truth and all humility, I'm one blindingly quick. But on this occasion I wasn't quick enough and it was almost the end of Nora Fencerunner. A black ray of negative energy sprang from the Kaddor mages finger and engulfed me. In an instant I felt the blood drain from my face and my heart faltered. My hands felt suddenly like lead and I was forced to drop my crossbow and I crumpled to one knee. I heard, as if from far off, Seetna, my familiar, give a horrified shriek from the woods nearby where I had ordered her out of harms way. Struggling even to breathe, I gathered my strength and lunged for the shadow of the wall, and cover. I had clearly met my match. I had no idea if I had bought the others enough time to survive but I did know that I was finished in this fight. With a sinking resentment I realized I could contribute nothing more.
After what seemed liked hours, but could only have been seconds, I heard someone call my name. Dragging myself out of the shadows, I made my way around to the other side of the wall. I was greeted by an amazing sight. A naked and hairless pair of warriors, Nero and Sticks, stood next to Kaddori corpses near the building. Ortyne's body, killed by Nero's axe, lay at my feet next to the wall. Looking around, I took inventory. To my astonishment we had finished the day with no casualties, though I was later to learn that both Sticks and Nero had been pulled back from the brink of death by Ranas. They will no doubt be attending religious services for weeks to pay their debt to him.
We spent the next few hours taking stock of our situation. Someone, I don't remember who for I was nearly catatonic at that point, sent to Cormeer for our men at arms and wagon. We would have preferred to stay in the keep but were in no shape to even attempt to drive off a counter attack. We needed the safety that only the town could provide us. Nero had killed Ortyne (praise the gods) but we were unable to find Mylassa's Crucible that had been stolen from town. Nor did we find Ortyne's Imp familiar. I can only imagine what happens to devilish familiars when their master's die. I imagine they must be thrown back to the planes of Hell in some sort of punishment. Ranas was in a fury. It turns out the chapel originally belonged to his patron saint, St. Westus. The defamation of the chapel and the deposition of the saint's statue had him spitting curses and vowing to hunt down the Kaddor. I'm glad he's on our side,... most of the time, anyway. He would make a seriously bad enemy. We loaded the statue onto the wagon with us and headed back to town.
And now, I must sleep. I wonder at being able to sleep on the hard slatboards of the wagon as it bounces over the uneven road, but staying awake seems an impossibility.
22nd Day of Nythoria:
Today we deal with the implications of our actions at the keep. There is resupply and planning to take care of. Ranas has asked his deity to restore my strength and his patron has seen fit grant that request. I am made whole again. It seems that I, too, shall be attending Ranas' service this next Godsday.
Phae, Nero and Sticks have set up an schedule for keeping the keep under surveillance. So far there has been little movement though we know that there are at least 12 Kaddori warriors and the mage left to take care of. While I spent the day casting spells over some of the items we recovered from the keep to determine their value and magical nature.
Our primary purpose at the keep, to find the treasure of Tennimos (the would be lich) is still yet to be accomplished. When we return, in two days, we hope to finalize this chapter in our group's history.
23rd Day of Nythoria:
I have created several scrolls today to help us in our next assault on the keep. Our surveillance continues and we will probably attack in two more days. There are still preparations to make. When checking in on our men at arms, I found that they were starting to get lack out of inaction and boredom. I asked Nero (who look's sort of good without any hair) to work them into the watch on the keep. It wouldn't do to let them get complacent.