Iomedae is my strength.
The wind slams against the small farmstead whilst lightning crashes illuminate the bedchamber. Even the storm is on the demon’s side, yet we, the Righteous, shall prevail. Rushing to the fallen daughter of the farmer, I call out to You for the blessing you have given me once before, and in my moment of need you see fit to grant this young woman life through me. Aldrick too tends to one of the injured, though I worry that he is damning her soul in saving her life. The thought receeds to the corner of my mind as a loud thud, as though something landed, is heard from the roof. I inquire for a route to the roof, and one of the frightened lasses points me toward the ladder to the attic.
Crawling through the filth I can hear the storm raging above, the girls screaming below, and the battle echoing beyond. Too scattered and spread out, we are in terrible position and ripe for the picking. Your Glory is our armor, yet the foolishness of some may cost us dearly. Kicking out the slats of a vent, I climb onto the roof and start seeking my foe. Yet they command the storm and through the might of the wind cast me aloft and off the roof.
Back inside the farmstead Aldrick and Milo engage in combat with a demon attacking through a window. At first it tries to drag a woman out yet Aldrick’s magic is able to protect her. Then it launches a lightning bolt at Aldrick, yet instead kills one of the woman within. Calling on Asmodeus’ bond with law, Aldrick launches a spell that wounds and stuns the demon because of its chaotic nature. Summoning his courage, Milo rushes ahead to Aldrick’s side and strikes at the demon, though Aldrick’s blow finally ends the beast. Aldrick commands the women to move to the lower level for safety, and he and Milo herd them down.
Across the darkened farm, Artemis ran for the fallen body of Lathander and grabbing it, dragged him into the barn. Utilizing a potion, Artemis restores life to Lathander’s limp body, yet they are quickly confronted by one of the demons. Artemis’ arrows fly true and strike the beast, and Lath’s alchemical concoctions explode against its Abyssal flesh. Yet the lightning storm has set the barn ablaze, and though the first demon falls, another is heard in the rafters. They exchange fire with the creature, who in turn summons the storm into the barn. The whipping winds fuel the fire, and parts of the barn start to tear apart. The building creaks and groans against the stress and eventually gives out, collapsing atop Lathander as Artemis dives for safety.
Back at the farmstead, Lucius stands resolute on the front porch where he is struck by a bolt of lightning from the dark storm above. Taking guard, he steps out into the storm, awaiting an attacker. Another comes down and wounds Lucius with its lightning, yet not before he can land a vengeful, vicious slash into it in turn. His mighty voice calls through the darkness summoning the demons to face him. One swoops at Lucius’ head yet fails to wound him. He prepares for the next dive, and as the demon appears he cuts it in twain.
Coming back to my sense on the ground, I try to stand yet am cast aside and go tumbling across the farm toward the burning barn. Hearing Lucius’ words, I too call out a challenge into the darkness. Foolishly a demon flies down to strike at me and lands. Your righteous wrath channeled through the blade Radiance, I strike the foul demon valorously and turn it to a memory. As my blade slides from its falling corpse, the storm abates.
Turning to the collapsed barn, we move to see the state of our companions. Artemis begins searching for Lathander amid the rubble when a swarm of beetles ushers forth. Taken aback and knowing Deskari’s mastery over vermin he steps away. Yet the swarm does not strike, and instead forms into a likeness of Lathander, before actually turning into him. He has made use of the cloak we recovered from Deskari’s priestess, though I hope he is cautious with such a vile item.
While some of us see to the innocents, others examine the bodies of both the fallen brigands and demons. What tools can be used against the enemy are taken. Lucius finds a mark of Pazzuzzu on the Storm Demon. Pazzuzzu is an enemy of Baphomet, so the question arises as to whether these demons are in fact in league with Baphomet and Deskari, or if they are merely enjoying the benefits of the growing Worldwound. In either light, it is troubling.
We gather the innocents and escort them back toward town. Arriving, we see the signs that they too were confronted by an abyssal storm. Edores reports that the demons descended on them as well, and though they were able to dispatch them, the camp has been scattered and the men will be tired and worn in the morning. More concerning, the townfolk rose up and executed Kyle, one of the turncoats who had joined with the bandits. Though a criminal, he should have faced judgment lawfully rather than at the hands of a lynch mob. I understand their pain and feel for their loss, but we are civilized folk and cannot descend into wonton madness.
The night fades slowly into day, though little light is gained. The filth of the Worldwound continues to grow and all we gain is a hazy, red mockery of daylight. Similarly a darkness is growing in the soldiers’ hearts. The gravity of our mission has set it, yet there is still room for hope. So quickly do men let their spirits fall at the sign of adversity. Yet throughout history good has only triumphed over evil after overcoming many obstacles. So too will we succeed in this endeavour. I have faith, Your might and wisdom guide me.
Yet the fate of the townsfolk remains to be determined. They cannot remain here, that is certain. Lucius and Aldrick are content to abandon them to their own devices as they retreat toward Kenabres. It is clear to see this town, limited to women, children, the old and infirm, will stand no chance against even a few demons. Are orders direct us on toward Drezen, bringing us deeper into enemy territory, and bringing such a large company of civilians would both slow us and ultimately lead to their destruction. Thus it is clear, we must lend them defense on their retreat while we move forward on our quest. A paradox? No, it is simple, and though it means dividing our force, it is the only way to follow both our orders from the Queen and the commandments set down by You.
In speaking of this with Edores, I find him of a similar mind to myself. His heart and faith are pure and understanding of Iomedae’s teachings. Yet Lucius begins stomping around, declaring that they must deal with it themselves, that it is not our duty and we must be on our way. Not our duty?! He claims to be a servant of the Church, a righteous defender of The faith, yet I have seem only hate in his eyes as of late – I fear for him. Your teachings tell us that we must protect the weak and innocent, helping those in need, that we are responsible for the lives of our prisoners, that we must be temperate in our actions and moderate in our behavior. I know right and I know wrong, and I have the good grace to know which is which. Lucius seems more and more to have forgotten these things, letting vengeance and hate fuel his commitment to order.
I believe it comes from his hatred of his misbegotten birth, but he must learn that he is defined by his actions and deeds, not his bloodline. Still if his actions continue down this course, I worry that he will fall to the evils that he seeks to defeat. Lucius is my brother, a bond as only soldiers fighting alongside each other can share, and so I will honor him, and guard him against corruption. His soul is strong, I will encourage it toward Your light.
In the end Edores decides to protect the people, sending a small contingent of troops with the refugees back toward Kenabres. He and Lucius are two sides of a coin, and I will stand nobly by both of them.
As the citizens travel south, we turn our force northward, further into the Abyssal realm. The continuing darkness weighs on the souls of the men, yet we soldier on. As we camp that night we are haunted by dreams of death and betrayal. Morale is low, and I turn to the annals of the First Crusade, sharing tales of the valorous heroes who turned back to first abyssal horde. I see Your light growing in the troops’ hearts, and we continue our journey north.
As we draw nearer to the fort and its ford, Anevia returns to us with grave news. Riding ahead of the army, we dismount and move down toward the river, where we are confronted by a mess of corpses. The bodies of men and tieflings litter the water, including members of the Queen’s Men, who had been dispatched to the fort before us. It is clear a battle took place, though we have little time to think on the matter as several trolls move about the bodies, feasting on the corpses.
Iomedae is my Strength