Kenabres, First Day of Armasse
A Western Storm Darkens the Sky
The 16th of Arodus, Opening Day of Armasse, A.R. 4713. We have gathered in the Plaza of Saint Clydwel, in the shadow of the Inheritor’s Cathedral, to renew our vows of service to the Lady and the cause.
The city swells with the faithful, as all seek to take part in the festival. An annual “distraction” from the horror that darkens the western sky. For one hundred and seven years the blight upon Golarion we call The Worldwound, has threatened to sweep away the mortal world. Only by the Grace of The Inheritor and the daily sacrifice of war has mankind been saved.
It is not spoken of, but the Fourth Crusade has been a failure. The urgency, the motivation, has been lacking. Many feel that the Demonic Threat has become the status quo. Protected by The Wardstones, and with little threat of invasion, Southern lords have shifted their attention away. These fools do not understand the nature of the enemy.
The crippling shortages, the record low morale, give the enemy purchase. An opening for their foul tendrils to seep into us, to befoul our purity and unity. As a Witch Hunter I know this. The threat of the hidden, the tainted, is real. The Wardstones are only as strong as the purity of purpose of those who guard them. Ever is the enemy, its cults and traitors seeking to infiltrate Kenabres. Just last night Liotr found evidence, damning The Hammers of Heaven. Such an event will harm morale, but we must be clean.
The western storm has lingered far to long. Its shadow cast over the city perpetual dampens our spirit. Perhaps that is why all of Kenabres has been looking forward to this day these last few weeks. As always I hunger for the renewal of our oath, the Crusader’s Oath. Its words strengthen my purpose and refreshes my zeal, if only all could understand and live by them as strongly.
Lord Hulrun takes to the stand to address the crowd. I owe Lord Prelate Shappok Hulrun much, he is, in many ways the reason for my existence. As always, the grim and experienced leader commands our attention.
His words give clarity to our righteous cause and signify the weight of our responsibility. I have heard the same many times before. But some new desperation on this day heightens his passion. He would never admit as such, but I know him well, he fears we are losing. The crowd erupts in cheers, but I know that their devotion will wane, and their passion will be forgotten in time. Many have become to doubt Lord Hulrun’s leadership. They are fools, he is the wisest man I have ever known.
“I do so swear under the Light, by the Sword and Scales of Truth and all the fires of heaven, to undertake this holy Crusade.
“I pledge to guard heart, spirit, body, and mind from the corruption of this Wound upon the World.
“I furthermore promise and declare that I shall wage relentless war against the Spawn of the Pit and their manifold legions, as directed by those with charge of this Crusade and whenever opportunity presents, to extirpate and annihilate their execrable race and any who serve them.”
Commander Terendelev leads us in the Crusader’s Oath. As we speak the words, I feel their weight, and a burning tingle reminds me of their physical presence upon my flesh. I repeat the oath every morning and every night, but something about Armasse makes the experience even more significant. Ignorant young crusader’s shout the words with zeal all about me. They are green, and likely will forget their oaths when they come face to face with the enemy. It is my duty to…remind them…when the time comes.
Suddenly an ear shattering tone echos through the plaza, and fire and chaos consume all. The suddenness of the enemies attack caught us off guard, we were not prepared. Great rifts open all along the causeway, and structures…and men fell. But all eyes were up above, were a massive demon, some lord amongst the Enemy, had destroyed the Kite, and with it our purpose and duty.
Makes the Final Sacrifive
But Commander Terendelev, taking his true form, would not let Kenabres go quietly. The ancient dragon took battle to the pit-fiend in the skies above. While below, the Plaza of Saint Clydwel was rent open as if the Abyss itself had come to battle. And we, all present, fell to our doom.
As the heavy blows of tumbling rubble and the bodies of our fallen companions rained down upon me, I saw one last disheartening sight before losing consciousness. Commander Terendelev, our greatest champion, the anchor of Kenabres’s defense…we made eye contact for a brief moment, and I felt the weight of his devotion to the cause. The pit-fiend slew him, and even as he, suffered so, Terendelev used the last of his power to shelter those he could from harm.
I, along with countless others, slammed into the ground at the bottom of our long descent. As my spine, and body crumble under the impact, and final darkness over took me, I felt Terendelev’s spirit, a reflection of the Lady’s divine power mending my wounds.
The Cavern under the Plaza of Saint Clydwel
I awoke to darkness. But due to the misfortune of my heritage, that has never been to much of a hindrance. Struggling to my feet, I took stock of the surroundings. The first thing I noticed was the dead. Not just the dead from the Plaza, no the ground was littered with ancient dead. Thousands of them, decayed to the bone, these were not recent. Looking about, the massive mound of corpses spread as far as I could see in a large underground natural chamber. The multitude of rock formations made it difficult to judge the size, but I could see a few sources of light sprout alight in the distance.
The closest, being of a sickly red hue. Considering the nature of the attack above, I suspected foul play, traitors in our midst. Red has always been the color of the enemy, the light of those who would shun the Lady’s warmth. I approached cautiously, but I have never been the stealthy sort.
I come upon a young man, a Chelaxian Noble and Devil Worshiper, by his garb. Peculiar that after the horrifying betrayal we faced on this day, my first encounter is with a priest of the Father of Lies. I challenge him, but the twisted lad gives his word, and his oath. Altered as his people are prone to doing. His presence twists my already bitter heart, but the Lady, through her vessel Queen Galfrey, has commanded we work with these liars for the greater good. If he is willing to face the Enemy by my side, I will look past his “delusions.” But he seems far to “diplomatic,” he is skilled at saying what I want to hear, and he holds his true heart hidden behind a careful mask. His name is Aldrick Auitanos and he will be watched.
As we discuss our surroundings, we hear the noises of others towards the center of the chamber. And then we hear a strangled gasp and the shift of stones close by. We investigate, and discover, a young woman, pretending to be a man, trapped under the weight of a large stone bulwark. She is horrified by our presence, as much my own as Aldrick’s. It is never wise to fear the Inquisition, for only traitors and criminals need fear the truth. Nevertheless, We need the man power if we are to encounter the enemy, so Aldrick and I manage to free her with some heavy lifting.
The women, Anevia, is a rude uncouth irregular who claims to work for the City Watch. I have contacts with the Eagle Watch who could confirm such things, but I suspect this is not the time. Aldrick repairs her wounded leg to the best of his ability. I would not want to be indebted to Asmodeus in such a fashion, but such things do not seem to bother her as I would suspect.
Assisting Anevia between us, we three, begin moving towards the other light sources we saw earlier. On the way, we came across a fallen Witch Hunter. His duty relieved by death, I scavenged what I could, a disservice to the dead perhaps, but against the enemy…I will be prepared. Upon finding the other survivors to our shock we discovered a pint sized knight beheading a fallen Crusader. While other traitors looked on.
My initial reaction proved to be…unnecessary. The Halfling Crusader, a pious, strong hearted lad, (if a bit naive) had discovered a profane symbol of the enemy hidden among his effects. The fallen crusader was a member of The Heralds, the order responsible for the overall strategies and logistics of the Crusade. The Enemy could do untold damage to us if they had infiltrated the Heralds. Perhaps this begins to explain the tragedy above in Kenabres. Renli found a sealed message tube, intended for the Hammers of Heaven. The message has been hidden with some blood magic beyond my understanding, but I suspect if I deliver the tube to Liotr, its contents could be laid bare.
The survivors measure few. Besides Renli, Aldrick, and me, only three others have survived the fall in fighting condition. A medic by the name of Lathander, who seems… free willed… and undependable. A massive Sarkosan by the name of Tearekt, there people are strong soldiers and competent scouts and woodsmen, though their culture has long been tainted by demon worship, I must be sure he does not still follow the “old ways.” Lastly another Halfling by the name of Milo, a green newcomer to Kenabres, he is quiet and graceful like many of his folk are, but he does not seem very capable if it comes to blows.
Two others survived the fall. Horgus Gwerm, a rotund rich merchant. Though he looked unharmed, this is not a man fit to hold a sword in battle, useless. He nags unceasingly about imagined injuries and seems to harvest a deep seated fear of both the Inquisition and Tearekt. He claims to have great wealth and made a deal with Aldrick, offering gifts for his survival and delivery. Any who would rather trust to devil worshipers over the Lady’s own crusaders can rot for all I care. However abandoning someone so early into our plight would unquestionably be bad for morale. I will suffer his presence…for now.
Lastly is an ancient scholar by the name of Aravash. The fall has damaged his eyesight, making his tome of arcane lore and power useless until he is healed. He is knowledgeable about the Enemy, and our surroundings, but he is used to command, something that can not be tolerated considering his condition. He has urgently implored that I lead this men to the remains of his library, to recover or destroy its contents. This I will do if the chance presents itself, but first we must recover the surface and see what is left of our dear Kenabres.
We split up looking for an exit from this chamber, and look for any supplies that may be useful. Renli takes a moment to sanctify the fallen as best he can, I would rather honor them by avenging their deaths. Our end of the chamber holds no exits, but we hear Tearekt’s holler from the opposite direction. Returning as quickly as we can, we find the group engaged in battle with a corpse of a spider.
A Giant Maggot
As the group mercilessly pummel the already dead spider into oblivion, from its corpse arises two giant maggots. Renli and Milo claim one, while Tearekts mighty hammer fells the second.
We exit the chamber, following an ancient dried up underground river bed. Aravash informs us that he suspects the mass grave to be the remains of the Sarkoran exodus 100 or so years ago. When the Worldwound rose up, and the Abyss swallowed Sarkoris, many tried to flee. Those who crossed the river into Mendev here, must have been rounded up and put to death. A heavy handed response, but against the might of the Abyss we must be resolute, we must be certain. If Iomedae had cause to have those poor souls slain, then I will trust in it.
The Last Azlanti
Human Culture, Innovation, History
We enter a very long chamber filled with statues, broken and piled without care. Twelve statues repeated again and again. The beggar, the thief, the fisherman, the hunter, the shepherd, the farmer, the soldier, the merchant, the tailor, the craftsman, the artist, and the scholar. The twelve faces worn by Aroden when he walked the world as a mortal. Aravash believes that when Aroden died, and Iomedae rose to power, symbols and memorials to the lost God must have been torn out throughout Kenabres and thrown into this chamber.
As we investigate, 8 skeletons emerge, hidden throughout the statues and ambush us. To think that such foulness existed below Kenabres for so long. Lathander quickly finds himself surrounded and cut off from the rest of the group as the undead menace grab hold of the eccentric medic.
At the entrance to the chamber Tearekt and Renli make short work of the skeletons engaging myself, Gwerm, and Aldrick, and we all rush to Lathander’s assistance. The skeletons are unarmed and unarmored, and are little threat, we destroy them all.
Investigating their bodies and garb, we recognize that they bare some resemblance tosome of the statues, in that they seem to depict 8 of the 12 faces of Aroden.
By the back of the chamber, a poorly crafted masonry wall cuts this chamber off from its only exit. We can hear soft chanting from beyond, and smell the decay of the dead. Renli notices a missing brick, and looking beyond tells us of a dark priest holding some sort of profane ritual in a chapel. I recognize the voice as someone speaking in abyssal, calling Iomdae an usurper! With a blessing to Ragathiel to give me the strength to destroy such evil, and reap vengeance for all the harm done today, we prepare to storm the chapel.
Tearekt makes short work of the stone wall. And we rush in. And as we do, we feel the constricting foulness of desecration, and the wretched priest unleashes a spell to dampen our spirits and courage.
Four more skeletons, these, wielding the weapons and armor fitting for the image of Aroden, join the fray. As Taerekt and Renli engage the priest, the skeletons charge Aldrick, Milo, and myself. I destroy them, but Milo suffered a grave wound.
As we finish off the undead, Lathander tends to the fallen, stabilizing the bleeding halfling. The fallen priest lashes out at Renli with a set of vicious claws, but is swiftly flattened by the might of Tearekt’s massive hammer. From his corpse we recover a magical cloak and a phylactery of faithfulness.
The defeated villain is discovered to be a rare form of undead, a huecuva, undead risen from fallen priests. A terribly fate. We right the chapel as best we can, and prepare to make camp. I recall a scroll I found earlier when we searched for supplies. Using the power in the scroll, I remove the taint of evil from this place.
In the chapel we find a curious longsword, with the inscription “She is my light, I am her Radiance.” Aldrick recognizes that the blade is enchanted to light the wielder’s path, but more interestingly it seems to have a hidden power that he can’t understand. For now Renli, takes up the Longsword, awed that it re-sizes to fit his frame.
Looking ahead Renli discovers a source of water, well found, as we were getting low. We stop for the day so that the others can catch their breath and rest for a moment. I take watch, as always, I will not rest, while the Enemy survives.