Some may believe that my frustration came from the death of my followers. In the end that would be nothing more than a foolish assumption. Now were they enlightened men, were they the only ones in this righteous army that understood what was required to win this war, well of course. However, their passing was of minor significance at best, but they stood as reminder to me as to the failings of my companions resolve. They are so afraid to stain their hands in a war that is slowly corrupting the souls of all it touches. Inconceivable, the ignorant fools! The enemy does not play at such niceties. The enemy does not quibble over right and wrong. The enemy craves for death, carnage, and destruction, and my companions are too blind to see they are winning. Fortunately I am not so blind and fortunately the rest of the night went by without further interruption. In the end we decide to leave the issue of Nora alone to see how it would develop. We broke camp early and started to head down the riverbed. I entertained a brief notion of staying behind and ignoring the wishes of our group. I wondered why I should die and why we should fail for their hubris. However, the screaming voices in my head seemed to agree, which gave me pause. Forcing them down it became clear they would most likely attempt to kill me and while I am confident they would fail there were answers within Drezen that I required.
Oddly as we traveled the air felt exceedingly warm but our breath was cover in frost. Yet more proof of the chaotic behavior of the Worldwound. Continuing down the riverbed we came to the double bend that Nora mentioned could be an excellent place to ambush our army. Being cautious Artie moved ahead quietly to determine if such an ambush existed. He confirmed it was a great place for an ambush and noticed a cave entrance about fifteen feet up the one of walls. The cave had a perfect vantage of the entrance to the first curve. Sticking to cover Artie moved up to gain a better vantage of the cave and watch if anything moved when we made our way around the first curve. He may be a barbarian, but a useful one and I am glad I have kept him alive this long. While he did not support my plan, he did not add his voice to the opposition, which I suppose is progress.
After waiting for our agreed upon time the rest of us entered the curve and Artie noticed movement slight movement at the entrance of the cave. It appeared to be a small bird like creature. Artie was only able to catch quick glance as the creatures head looked over the edge of the cave, but quickly ducked back down out of view. With the coloring of the surrounding rock it was he was able to see the thing at all. Once the creature confirmed that we were coming it let out a loud squawk. Lathander believed it to be a warning cry of some sort similar to what a crow would give off. Deciding not to take any more chances than required, Artie killed it. Wishing to confirm his kill Artie climbed up to the cave entrance and found his arrow with blood on it, but no sign of the bird. Additionally he found a tiefling body bearing the same wounds from the Asmodites the night before. It appeared to have been rummaged through, and all the identifying marks and items of worth had been removed.
The man seemed to be of particular vigor that day and Artie climbed back down from the cave only to move up the opposite wall and start climbing. He was obviously intent on checking the flat lands above the canyon so we set a rope and followed after him. Once on top Artie noticed a camp set several hundred feet off of the cliff edge. A camp which we determine could hold a raiding party of 35-50 barbarian tieflings and appeared that it had at one point. Most likely they were planning on ambushing us once the army had entered the curve of the canyon. While even 50 men would be of little effectiveness against us, with the higher ground and potential for rock slides, it could have been a bloody encounter. However, it would seem that we had a guardian demon of some sort as they had been routed. Artie could tell that the barbarians were making there way to the canyon edge when something scattered them. From there they ran in the complete opposite direction deeper into the Worldwound. Focusing on the tracks of the creature that scattered the barbarians it appeared to be a large cat. What was most odd about what Artie explained was that the tracks slowly turned from feline to a feminine humanoid foot. Lucius using his powers followed the aura and recognized it as the same aura from the night before. The same aura that killed the Asmodites. This aura seemed to grow stronger as it turned from the cat like creature to a human, which was ominous.
Seeing as there was little more that we could accomplish we moved the army forward and continued travelling toward the end of the canyon. After some time the canyon walls finally fell away and we came to 5 triangular prisms of solid granite. They did not look natural and sat in the main path of the riverbed. The granite itself was an odd mixture of chaotic patterns as if it had been corrupted by the Worldwound, which I suppose it not entirely odd. It was at this point that the fool Lathander pulled out a hidden map of the Worldwound and found navigation directions listed in our current location. The directions seemed to suggest that they would guide a boat around the prisms if water still occupied the canyon. Once again Lathander hinders our cause and once again escapes a whipping. A detailed map of our surroundings could have saved us time and possibly found us a safer route to the Citadel. Perhaps with such a map we would still have our scouts. A man that lacks character and discipline is allowed to make decisions that could cost the lives of our soldiers and perhaps even cause the forfeit of our mission. This is something that is true of any commander; however he is not our commander, but none the less he takes the decision without authority or command. If only they could open their eyes and see what their cause had become. A cause with men, good men, who follow the ideology of our enemy, the belief that they are free to make that decision. Free to do what they wish! Free to believe what they wish! While I must suffer for not being able to fulfil my duty, MY OATH! FOOLS! Despite their failings I will not fail and I will not let this world fall to chaos, even if good men must die.
Pushing my thoughts on Lathander aside we moved through the five prisms. As we moved through the stone prisms twisted their form, each side taking features of a face, one leg, and one arm which held a vicious looking axe. Almost immediately they start swearing at us in Teran and looking rather menacing. I am not sure who attacked first, but it is of little concern. It was a tough battle as they were earth fiends. In the end though they all crumbled to dust as we destroyed them. Finished with the earth fiends Artie spotted another bird flying off a ledge making its way back toward Drezen. Still being cautious Artie fired three shots and took the bird out of the sky. Moving up to the bird he once again finds only bloody arrows and no sign of a bird. We determine it is most likely some magical summoned creature or some such thing. Lathander and I searched the axes and Lathander notices a makers symbol of a moon rising over a field. Lathander found the symbol again etched onto a small fetish made of bone and copper.
Finally, the army reached us and we are all congratulated for our discovery and destruction of the ambushes. While we had nothing to do with the destruction of the first ambush site, I was confident it was something we could handle so the praise was not ill-received. Meeting up with Edorus he noticed the stone piles and they reminded him of a story about the dwarves in this area. The story went that the dwarves bound and made a pact with powerful champions of the earth to guard the path in Drezen. While it appeared that the legend was true the stone guardians were a pale, twisted, and corrupted version of their original selves. Additionally Edorus mentioned that Nora had gone missing and had not appeared for the entirety of the day. This was of course of little surprise as we were close to our destination and she was after all most likely a spy, the demon worshipping heathen.
We continued to travel with the army and after many days of travel we finally saw Drezen off in the distance. Edorus wisely called the army to a halt and convened a war council. We know little about the current state of the citadel, but Edorus told us what he knew. Demon lord, Aponavicious, master of Drezen, was at one time gathering hordes of tiefling tribes under her command. Unfortunately, all the spies from the city went quiet before the attack on Kenabres so we had little knowledge of what forces waited for us in Drezen. The citadel itself was a massive dwarven fortification, and the city that came up around it was split into the south and north banks. South Bank was mostly markets and such so that almost all lived within North Bank but for the smiths that also operated out of North Bank. A second fortification had been started before the fall of the city and was intended to be a retreat for men of wealth. This was called paradise hill, which was rumored to house all those captured within this area of the Worldwound. There was a large cemetery just below North Bank, which we would be required to pass in order to reach the citadel. We could only guess as to the location of the banner as there was no knowledge of its last location. Also Edorus was unsure as to whether or not the walls had been rebuilt, which could complicate matters greatly. Fortunately we all quickly agreed that if Aponavicious and her army of tens of thousands of tieflings were within the citadel our goal and chances of completing it would be zero.
It was agreed that nothing can be decided until we scouted the citadel further to determine the state of the walls and perhaps discover the source of the billowing black smoke encompassing the city. At my recommendation we moved east and circled around to approach the cemetery from it shadows so as not to be seen by the citadel. We moved toward a rise in the cemetery that would give of a good vantage over the city while providing us with ample cover. If successful the cemetery could prove to be a strategic location to place our army. The cemetery was extremely eerie as such things tend to be and became more so once we noticed that many of the graves had been disturbed. Lathander peered down one of the disturbed graves and discovered a ghoul. Of course he shouted like a fool, but then noticed that it was dead. Investigating the body further Lathander believed that the ghoul, and the others we discovered, starved to death. The ghouls themselves were digging down to eat the dead bodies, which explained the disturbance of the graves. Unfortunately, there were hundreds of them, and ghouls do not truly ever die. Well not unless you hack them apart.
Regardless of the dead ghouls, the cemetery provided an excellent view of the city as I believed it would. From the hill we could see the city and it appeared that South Bank had been completely destroyed. North Bank had been mostly demolished and Artie could see work crews in the southern part of North Bank taking materials. All were slaves being driven by tiefling masters. The wall around the citadel had been repaired while they were working on the other walls. It was obvious that they had taken the materials from South Bank and North Bank to fix the wall, but hopefully they are not as skilled with stone as the dwarves. From the state of South Bank we could see that there was once a very large army camped within, but they were no longer there. That fact combined with attack on Kenabres made it safe to assume that Aponavicious was gone with her army. From what he could see Artie guessed a couple hundred tieflings in all and it appeared that the slaves were in fact being kept in paradise hill. However, Aponavicious was said to keep many pets so we had to be wary. We received our first taste of that moments later when Artie pointed out that the smoke was not just smoke, but thousands of carrion birds swarming around the citadel. Something that a giant flying skeletal Linorm could easily take care off and dispersers.
Done surveying the city most of us turn to move to a slightly different location and discuss our thoughts briefly. Lathander lingered for a moment longer looking at something through the looking glass. As he turned to speak with Lucius and point out what he had seen, he found a ghoul instead…perhaps our cause has some hope yet.