Princes of the Apocalypse

The Brightest Flame Burns Quickest

  1.   Storming the Tower
  2.   Hounds From Hell
  3.   Scaffold Hyjinks
  4.   Fire Elemental

Storming the Tower

Having just managed to catch up to the fleeing ranger, Idra's gaze looked up and into the larger courtyard he now found himself in.  A wall, broken and in disrepair in several places, wrapped around an equally damaged tower that stood roughly 100 ft. in height.  A large doorway into the tower was blocked with fallen debris and stonework from the inside.  Scaffolding had been erected up to about 30 ft. of the tower where a doorway could be seen entering into the tower from the scaffolding.  Two guards, dressed as the ranger had been, walked around on the scaffolding keeping an eye on what was beginning to transpire below.  

In the middle of the courtyard was a large wicker-style statue that held a massive bonfire within its confines.  The flames did not seem to touch the wicker frame, however, but seemed to provide an object that the two robbed 'druids' who stood with their heads bowed in prayer.  As the ranger came to the entrance of the courtyard he managed a forced cry of alarm between ragged breaths.  Idra now found himself alone facing a courtyard full of druids that the party had now expected were some sort of fire cultists with his companions chasing after him, laboring up the hill.

Idra went on the offensive, striking the Fire Cult Guardian with the but of his spear, stunning the fleeing escapee before stabbing him a second time with his spear.  Many of the party members continued their dashing up the hill but only managed to get within visual range of what awaited them above.  Valeria managed to stop short and get a wild shot on the escapee with her Eldritch Bolt but she was still far enough down the hill that most of her vision was blocked by the terrain.

The two priests seemed to move in unison.  One stretched out his arms and raised his head to the wicker statues face and cried out, "Arise, and cleanse this place of the unworthy!"  The other turned and raised an intimidating finger at Idra while 3 searing beams of light shot out from his hands.  Idra attempted to dodge, and managed to only be struck by one of the beams which burned into his skin causing significant damage to his shoulder.  The guardians armed with heavy crossbows above moved to the closest edge of the scaffolding and looked down with amusement at the feeble attempts of the transgressors who would try and assault the Cult's tower.  

The second round enabled more party members to join into the fray.  Milpot had managed to top the crest and enter into the courtyard so that he could bring his polearm to bear, striking the stunned escapee in the chest.  Idra continued his assault on the poor sod, but having caught one of the searing rays earlier decided that he'd keep an eye on the priest's next attempt to point that accusing finger at him.  The mysterious suit of armor, having flown across the rough terrain landed and began swinging its massive two handed sword, smiting the escapee whose breastplate managed to absorb most of the damage.

All of the party members watched the two robed priests as the one with the extended arms continued his chant, "Arise, and cleanse this place of the unworthy!" while his partner began swirling his arms in an eerily similar way as the fake druid had the day before.  With a mighty command of "Hadokken!" a Fireball was released, dropping into the center of the party and damaging everyone save Merrick because he had slept the hardest and was the last member of the party to stumble out of his tent during the initial pursuit of the fleeing ranger/guardian and Doria who had short legs and who was continuing to shuffle up the trail.

The party, now concerned with greater magics, pressed the priests, worried of what was to happen when the priests continued their powerful area effect spells.  The escapee had fallen, and burned with the explosion of the fireball.  Valeria decided to cast her newly learned spell, Fireball, landing it in a spot that struck the priests and the wicker statue while not encompassing the party members.  The explosion was impressive, an ability that the party had not seen from Valeria before, but the effect did not seem to have as much effect on the priests as they swayed under the fireballs pressure, remaining standing and slightly singed.  Howls from further into the courtyard could be heard as two large mastiffs, black with soot and whose eyes and mouths had a strange inner fire burning within.  A fire cult guardian, armed with a shield and long sword, followed the two hounds and eyed the melee with excitement.

Doria had managed to crest the hill and surveyed the chaos with confusion, sensing that these priests were not the druids that she had expected to find, she cast a spell which was targeted on the same spot a Valeria's fireball.  For those who took notice (which was not Milpot!), a large portion of earth erupted in sharp crags and jagged edges in a large area that had spread underneath the priests and the wicker statue.   Milpot attacked at the priest who had thrown the fireball while encouraging Idra to rally and bring an end to the spell casters.  Idra had moved and managed to stun the chanting priest, and having stunned him, continued to needle him with the point of his spear in a very Gully Elf fashion.  

With the one priest stunned, the caster priest then turned to the wicker statue and chanted aloud, "Arise, and cleanse this place of the unworthy!" even though he would surely be brought low from the coordinated attack of the party members that had advanced within melee range.  The hounds charged in, attacking the closest party member, which happened to be Idra, and though he managed to side step one of the feral beasts the second managed a massive wound on Idra's inner thigh, taking Idra out of the fight as the beast wrestled with the limp form of Idra in its mouth, the smell of singed and burnt meat hanging heavy in the air. 

The statue moved over to attack the mastiffs as the kennel master guardian moved into the fray. The statue's heavy sword cut swaths into the beasts thick skin, but the beasts seemed to be as resilient as the guardians had proven to be and did not fall under the construct's initial assault.  The two guardians on the scaffolding now took notice and raised their crossbows and began shooting down at Valeria and Doria, the two obvious spell casters within the group.  Doria caught a bold deep within her back, causing her quite a lot of discomfort while Valeria managed to dodge the bolt intended for her and she then moved to take cover behind one of the intact walls of the keep.

Merrick charged forward stood over Idra's unconscious body as he began striking at the monstrous dogs, hammering into them with his warhammer.  As Idra had fallen, so did the stunned priest regain his senses.  His partner had fallen to Milpot's continued polearm attacks and the priest then raised his hands touching his thumbs together and extending his pinkies, blasting Milpot with a cone of flame.  Unknownst to the priest, Merrick had positioned himself where he stood on purpose, despising mages as much as Idra despised his long list of things, he whipped his hammer out, striking the priest on the forehead, dropping the priest as the jet of flame turned and smothered itself out.  

The wicker statue, however, erupted in a large gout of flame.  The heat of the conflagration had even forced Milpot to move away from where he had been standing close to it.  Looking upon it, the statue seemed to resemble something of a living form as the 20 ft. tall frame moved and writhed with the fire.  Merrick, surprisingly, continued to not be happy with the situation at hand…

Doria had caught another bolt as she rushed over to Idra's fallen body and layed one of her hands on his forehead and one on his chest.  Concentrating, she transferred her energy into Idra's body which slowly built up where her hands touched his body, warming them until Idra's eyes shot open.  Flailing his arms and staring into the beady eyes of the halfling, Idra could only look at her in horror as he began piecing together what had happened with his stark realization of what the halfling had done to herself.  Not only had she capped her sharpened teeth (Idra could only assume this had been done some time ago because all of the halflings on his home contenant wore their teeth filed) but she had touched him and healed him with this 'druidic' magic that had set off this entire series of events at this hill.  She had certainly revived him and judging from the sounds of the dogs growlings and yelpings, she had done so in a timely fashion.  This was a lot to take in for the monk so as he rose he ran.  He ran away from the combat and the halfling which he could not fathom at the moment and began making his way towards the scaffolding of the tower to get at a target that was less vicious than the dogs and more to his abilities.

Merrick had managed to smite one of the hell hounds as its partner ripped into the suit of armor's grieves.  It seemed that a war hammer, wielded by one of Tritherion's devouted servants became an excellent dog smasher as hit upon hit bludgeoned the poor beast to pieces.  The  armor was receiving the attention of the hell hound and the kennel master who had surprised the party by igniting his sword on his first attack.  The flame disappeared after the first round, but the party was wanting none of that fire nonsense and so began targeting him.

Out from the wicker statue a roughly bipedal form exited its base.  Without turning, it's 'arms' which were nothing more than points of flames attached to a larger body of flame, reversed itself and reached forward, fueling the fire the burned the wicker frame.  Pieces of it's earlier prison began collapsing and falling as the living flame elemental delighted in thermographic expression.

The party had never faced an elemental before and so did not know how to best tackle it, let alone one made out of living flame.  There were no troughs or water towers to collapse onto it, and no one really wanted to get within range to tackle it.  Valeria continued to jump out and then back into cover while blasting random targets with her Eldritch Bolt, but no one wanted to be the first one to draw the elemental's attention so it was ignored as long as it had not turned its attentions on them.

Idra had ran up the scaffolding and locked eyes on one of the guardian's that had been shooting it's crossbow at the party's spell casters.  The guardian fired a bolt at Idra which struck the scaffolding harmlessly only to be stunned and then treated to a series of beatings by a spear point to the thigh and then a double elbow to the neck and chin.  The moves, the strikes, and the poetry that Idra had performed on the scaffolding was entirely missed by the party below as they continued their combat with the hound and guardian while keeping a wary eye on the living fire.

On the opposite side of the tower, a rogue Eldritch Bolt missed a guard and struck one of the various lanterns that were draped upon the scaffolding.  The lantern fell and crashed onto the middle level of the scaffolding setting it ablaze.  The fire cult guardian, having been the only one to see Idra's impressive combat skills, dropped his crossbow and drew his sword and shield, preparing to rush Idra on the following round.

Another of the hell hounds fell to Merrick's warhammer and the suit of armor now turned its attention on the lone guardian, hammering him with his massive sword.  The fire elemental, now finished with burning the wicker frame, turned its attention to other flammable objects, choosing Milpot as something to play with.  Reaching out, its touch burned Milpot with a fiery caress, causing him severe burns and then catching his clothes on fire. 

Now the party really began concentrating on the elemental.  Milpot had extricated himself away from the elemental and spent his round putting out the flames that had set his clothes aflame.  Singed and hurt, he could only watch in horror as the halfling was set on fire and fell to the ground, unconscious.  Surrounded, the elemental found itself with several options to ignite and it chose to caress Doria on the following round because she had been using her Shillelagh to make several successful attacks against the flame.  Unfortunatley, the intense flames were too much for the wounded druid, her body fell to the ground while fire erupted onto her body.  

For most of the battle, the party continued to wail on the elemental, not knowing what effect, if any, their blows were doing to it.  They understood it was magical fire and Doria's magical quarterstaff that she had summoned certainly seemed to draw its attention, but for the normal weapons that most of the party held, they could not tell for certain if they were doing any damage to it.

Idra followed up his flurry of blows with a windmilling elbow that launched the poor, stunned guardian over the railings and down onto the ground below.  As the second guardian charged forward, Idra leapt over the railing, ducking under the guardian's opportunistic attack, and landed onto the ground with his fist and knee buckling the earth underneath.  Looking up with a smile he absently blew a strand of hair out of his face until he caught sight of the halfling's unconscious form on fire.

Milpot rushed over to Doria's body, patting out the flames in haste but as the last of the flames died down, he heard the last expulsion of breath escape her body.  As the party members caught site of Milpot's surprised look and the heavy silence that followed, a very somber mood crept over the companions.  Doria had not been much liked, she had been a gruff companion who openly called out the racial bigotry that had been shown to her.  She had led the party here on pilgrimage with the intent on healing the land of the chaotic elements that had plagued it, much like the party had been trying to intercede and curb the objectives of the elemental cults that for whatever reason had seemed intent on extending their dominion over the people that resided in the Dessarin Valley.  She had given the party good council when they were all trying to piece together the ulterior motives of the cultists that had been posing as druids and had even rescued the one party member who time and time again let his distaste for her race, class, and gender known.  This was a loss that the party could not turn away from and ignore, it was one that had selfishly put herself in harms way for the party and had paid dearly for it.  Her death was on their watch and the party was helpless to stop it while the fire elemental continued its gleeful igniting of party members.

Merrick had received the elemental's caress, and while he patted himself out, he watched as the flames passed harmlessly over the suit of armor.  With continued strikes, the elemental finally succumbed to Valeria's Eldritch Bolts, evaporating it in an expulsion of heat until it was no more.  The scaffolding that led up to the one open doorway 30 ft. high in the tower had all collapsed and was burning under the intense heat of the various fallen and broken lanterns.  It did not look like the scaffolding was very well designed or reinforced so when pieces began collapsing, the entire system collapse on itself.

The party came together with Valeria brushing off the soot off of Doria's burnt and scarred face.  Everyone wrestled with their own introspective thoughts on what Doria's sacrifice meant to them and each probably struggled with what their own sacrifice may entail should the time come.  

Milpot, however, looted her body.

 

 

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