Iomedae is my Strength
So many lies, so much doubt, so much treachery. In the wake of the Assault on Kenabres, every day has revealed another betrayal – of values, of honor, of brothers. So few in the Crusade uphold Your ideals, it is my deepest hope that can be changed. Only in valor and righteousness will we ever succeed.
Part I – The Betrayal
As the last sound of Irabeth’s question hit my ears, a new sound follows – the gasp for air and gurgle of blood caused by an assassin’s blade plunging through her throat. Her metal armor clangs against the aged stone steps as her body collapses limply to the floor. A cruel laugh echoes out of the assailant’s mouth and as I close I recognize the man’s face.
If he could be called that. Sir Benedict Raithus, a coward, bully and bastard of a knight – second sword ot Godran Velsoon – revealed to be a demon-born assassin. His flesh pealed away to reveal his true nature. I guess I can’t say I am surprised. How there was so much blindness to all this corruption while innocents were persecuted in the name of the Crusade I will never understand.
But now is not the time for such thoughts. I condemn the traitor for his actions as I rush across the infirmary. Lath hurls a curative mixture at Lady Irabeth, but is has no effect on her mortal wound. Artemis, never one to back down, seeks the guidance of the Drunken Hero as he draws his bow. Seeing the mighty archer take aim at him, the cowardly Raithus vanishes. Bastard.
Diving to our fallen commander, my prayers go out to You. This cannot be her fate – let this noble woman, Your stalwart and dutiful servant, live! I feel a warmth radiate from my heart out through my limbs and as You have so often as of late, You deliver your blessing through my hands. Miraculously I watch the brutal, and clearly fatal wound close before me. Irabeth’s chest rises shallowly as air returns to her lungs. Thank you Iomedae, for rewarding her piety.
As I hold Irabeth in my arms, Lath and Artemis seek out the assassin. His guile run deeps, and he reappears only after plunging his blade into Lathander’s back. Artemis lets fly his arrow which buries itself in Raithus’s shoulder. Lath too steps off the assassin’s blade and stepping away hurls one of his explosives at him. Jumping up from Irabeth’s side, I rush the traitor, Radiance drawn, hoping to deliver Your righteous judgement down upon him. Radiance strikes true, causing a mighty wound in his chest.
Wounded and faltering, Raithus thinks to threaten me, calling out that he “will haunt your family for generations to come” as he vanishes again. I know my mother and father both walk safely in Your Hallowed Halls, and thusly call back, “I have no family”. But the coward has already fled, as evidenced by Artemis’s next two arrows striking only the stone behind where Raithus once stood.
As Lathander begins to mend his own wounds, I return to Raithus’ target – Lady Irabeth. Drawing my shield, I stand above her unconscious body, ready to defend against his next attack.
Artemis suddenly bolts for the healer’s quarters and stepping through the door finds Raithus with his blade to the throat of the medic Jerami. The traitor tries to bargain one life for another “give Irabeth to me and I will let the boy live”. Lath rushes forward but Raithus pushes the blade harder against the lad’s throat. I call out to the coward, offering him a challenge – if he thinks so little of me, come battle me. If he wins, he gets us all. Sadly, his cowardice runs deeper than any measure of honor and he refuses, “Give her to me, or this boy suffers of a life of damnation”. Artemis, quick with his words, replies, “Damn the boy, or damn us all” as he fires 2 arrows. They strike forward incredibly fast, but not fast enough as Raithus and Jerami disappear. Lathander’s knowledge of the arcane reveals that Raithus has traveled to the Abyss with Jerami. We will rescue him. A good man will not be lost.
Turning back to our commander, the Lady Irabeth lies unconscious. Lathander and I go to her, lifting her body and moving it to a bed. In truth I am still amazed, and honored, that You would use me as a vessel for Your divine blessing. Thank you Iomedae. Lathander too is amazed, though moreso that he could not safe her yet I somehow could. I tell him that I am but a tool, Your willing agent. Perhaps he will learn more of devotion later. He is a strange fellow, though generally of noble heart. I hope he can grow further in that.
Part II – The Truth Revealed
The sound of commotion and battle echo through the halls and we reluctantly leave Lady Irabeth in the infirmary as we seek on the other troubles beseiging the Eagle’s Nest. As we head toward the back gate, where we had entered, there are signs of fighting everywhere. Refugees and soldiers alike lie wounded and dead. Continuing toward the gate we encounter Lucius and Milo. Reaching the gate, we find Edores, Zamiedan and a small group of soldiers holding the defense against a wave of dretches. Lending our aid, we are able to turn the tide of battle and put the wretched demons down.
The attack had come from both within and beyond. Lucius and Aldrick had been set upon by another traitor, the wizard Ted “the Burner” Turner, while seeking solace in the temple. Many innocents perished and Aldrick was separated in the fierce fiery barrage, but Lucius rose through the flames and offered Your judgement against the traitorous arcanist. The wizard’s reliance on fire proved foolish as Lucius’ ancestry shielded him from the worst attacks. His blade rent the traitor in twain, but mended just enough of his wounds, so as to have him for later interrogations.
Milo too encountered similar events in the mess hall. My kinsman, ever seeking solace from our monstrous appetites, noticed the kitchen had grown eerily quiet. Gaining entry, an unnatural fog he found a hideous dretch feasting on the cook. He put it down then helped several knights kill other lesser demons.
I too share with my comrades the dire nature of the attack. How the assault by the dretches was likely a diversion to allow them to strike at their goal – Lady Irabeth. I reveal Raithus’ treachery and condemn him as traitor. I tell of the mortal wound he inflicted, and then the gift You in turn bestowed upon me, granting her life. My goal is to spread knowledge, yet as word spreads, so too does a sense of fear and hysteria. Some call for Velsoon, the commander of both Raithus and Turner, to be put in command while others state that he must face judgement for his subordinates’ crimes. The hysteria grows.
Mighty Lucius, ever bold and resolute in his duty, bellows out that with a commanding voice that with Irabeth comatose and Velsoon in question, I am in charge. Some challenge his statement, to which he responds, “He is the only one I trust!”. I appreciate his trust, but am in shock at his words. I am but a lowly temple guard, though admittedly one You have seen fit to bless with great strength in our time of need. Still, the soldiers need a calming voice, and casting the doubt of Raithus’ failure, of Turner’s failure, I am able to bring order back to the company.
I ask Edores and Lathander to return with me to the infirmary while Lucius, Artemis, and Milo seek out Velsoon to learn his part in all of this. There is still no sign of Taer or Aldrick. I truly hope that they still live, though Aldrick’s part in all this is still a mystery to me. Regardless, he fought loyally beside me thus far and so I will trust in him, though ever warily.
Returning to the Infirmary, Edores is shocked by the state of Lady Irabeth. I can see the doubt and fear in his heart. “Edores, she still lives, we have foiled their plan for now. Let the men not fear because of this, let them rally behind this. She can be a beacon of hope, of the Lady’s radiant light, in our hour of need. Irabeth should be dead, but Iomedae saw fit to send Her blessing through me and grant Irabeth another chance to serve.” He warms to the words and we begin to prepare Irabeth for travel.
I hear Anevia’s cry before I see her, and I feel a deep pain in my heart for her even as she runs into the room and throws herself atop Irabeth. Lathander tries to pull me away, yet I share a sacred bond with these ladies, and so now I will serve as a support for them. Drawing her hand crossbow, Anevia rashly tries to end her own life. I cast the weapon aside and look her in the eyes, seeing the pain and fear within. “Anevia, you cannot lose hope. Remember the love that drove your onward in those dark days below the city. When I spoke to Irabeth of your survival, she was overjoyed. You must have strength. Irabeth lives through the blessing of the Sacred Lady. This is a sign from Iomedae, of the coming of dawn. We foiled a great evil today, and Irabeth will be our strength. Please trust in me, trust in Iomedae. She has saved your love, and you two will soon be reunited.” Anevia finds reason in my words, and offers her trust and support for my plan. We take Irabeth’s body to a private room outside the great hall.
We are joined in the chamber shortly after by Lucius, Artemis, and Milo. They had found Velsoon tortured and dead, nailed to the headboard of his bed. His guards too had been murdered with a small blade, likely the same blade Raithus had used against Lady Irabeth. So it would seem Raithus’ plan was to execute both potential leaders, leaving the survivors of Kenabres without someone to turn to. He did not plan on Your intervention. Lucius then dispatches men to check on the status of Orlun, Aravash, and Mallus.
Part III – A Call to Arms
As we await their return and discuss our options, Adjunct Norselan and his guards arrive. He is upset by the state of Irabeth, uttering the words “so it is true”, but like the veteran officer he is, he focuses on the task at hands. Norselan explains Lady Irabeth’s twofold plan. With the knowledge that the forces of Daskari and Baphomet are trying to corrupt what remains of the Wardstone, we must attempt to thwart their plans. There is no chance for a large force to strike at Old Kenabres, for such would draw the full might of the demonic horde within the city. Lady Irabeth believed, and so in turn does he, that a small force could sneak in and strike at those holding the Wardstone if they had the proper distraction. To that end, Norselan has communicated with other pockets of resistance and at dawn every battle-capable man and woman will strike out at the city’s gates, hoping to breach the demon’s defenses and make for Mendev.
The men dispatched return and inform us that Orlun is still alive, though continues to remain unconscious. Aravash and Mallus are both gone from their cells, likely teleported away by some foul magic. Fewer weapons we can rely on. Returning to the plan, I do not like the likely sacrifice of so many striking for the gates as we slip toward Old Kenabres, but from an understanding of army tactics, it makes sense. Still, the men must be rallied for such an action.
Stepping out into the great hall where most of the soldiers and refugees alike have gathered, I offer a brief prayer to You. I think of those warriors, both great and small, who have served before me. I think of my father and my mother. I think of the orphans that likely still lie trapped, or worse, at the House of the Hallowed Shield. I know You are ever at our side, holding aloft our shields. I know You are ever in our hearts, guiding our actions. I know You will grant us strength in this hour.
Standing atop a table, like a great commander might speak from a stage, I call out to my brothers and sisters in arms. The words that echo forth across the silent crowd are bold and strong, calling on their faith and devotion – to Iomedae, to the Crusade, to each other. At moments I feel almost as though I too am a spectator, as though the voice comes not from me but some other power. Is it You, who has guided me so often? I believe so, and yet, this feels different, like a power awakened within me from long ago. It is strange. I reveal Lady Irabeth who had fallen to an assassin’s blade but had been saved by Your blessing. The radiant dawn is coming, ushered forth by this boon You have bestowed and the day brings new hope. We will strike out at the demons, we will break through the walls, we will unite with the army marching from Mendev. We will be victorious!
The roar of the soldiers shines brightly with hope, and it saddens me that I will not stand beside them. Our mission takes us deeper in. Stepping down, greater men give orders and distribute various supplies, including the black powder which Lucius procured, to be used in the escape attempts. I find my way to the tower atop the Nest, and look out in all directions then focus on Old Kenabres, staring into the abyss where the Kite once stood. So we shall come to a reckoning, returning to where this began.
As the forces prepare to depart, Edores and several knights request honor of staying in Eagle’s Nest to protect Lady Irabeth and the others too infirm to travel. Lucius and I offer our blessing and Adjunct Norselan agrees to allow it. Zamiedan, the sacred knight of Saranrae, and his followers ask for the honor of accompanying us. I know in his heart he is a righteous man and welcome into our company. We wait by the front gates of the Eagle’s Nest.
The sounds of fierce explosions and battle echo back across the city. The diversion has begun, it is our time to move. We strike out across the barren waste before the Eagle’s Nest, seeking a hole in the wall up into Old Kenabres. Climbing through the fallen stone takes time, and I wonder on the state of those forces striking at the gates. As we near the top of the ruins, we hear a familiar sound – the squawk of the Vrock. Zamiedan calls that we must go on, that he and his men will face this beast. I clasp his arm, offering both Your and Saranrae’s blessings to him. I will honor his stand, and accomplish our mission. We will not fail.
We continue to sneak across Old Kenabres, hugging walls and checking corners. We manage to elude the watchmen at the gate, and draw near to the Gray Garrison. Our target lies before us, yet something strange, a massive insectoid covered in chitinous armor clings to the outside of the building.
Battle is imminent, and we will phase untold horrors, but I know I will always walk in Your Light, and in Your Light I will no neither fear, nor pain, nor defeat.
Iomedae is my Strength.