A few days after the incident with Mackenzie Fleetwood, the group found themselves smack-dab in the middle of a parade, being hailed as heroes of the Dragon Empire for their role in the Battle of Orc Mountain. While they expected trouble, it turned out that the guards the Emperor hired to protect the parade were entirely up to the task of keeping the parade safe. Weird, I know.
The parade ended with the group being given medals, and soon they found themselves at a great feast. In the middle of the feast, Norn was pulled aside by some members of the Church of Steelfist. He learned from them that at the end of the banquet, he was supposed to be presented with Steelfist’s Shield, which had been released from the Dwarf King’s vault after much deliberation on his part (and whining from his subjects). Unfortunately, they’d just received a magical distress call from one of the dwarves who had been tasked with seeing the shield to Axis. The caravan had been attacked, and the shield likely stolen.
Norn asked his comrades to join him, and they left the capitol with the Steelfist clergydwarves post-haste. Coming upon the caravan, Noleg took charge of the investigation, using his experience in investigating and tracking to learn what had happened. Apparently, the caravan guards had been attacked from behind, suggesting that whoever had done so had been traveling with the caravan before striking. The wounds on the guards backs had also been done with claws, leading Noleg to suspect Stonehammer, the heretical cleric that the group had fought back at Boltstrike Pillar to be the culprit.
Wizholm backed up Noleg’s suspicion by noting that the ambient magic in the air had been tainted by the same hate-curse that had fueled Stonehammer’s resurrection after he had been killed at the Pillar. Noleg began to track Stonehammer, finding that the trade goods that the caravan had been carrying had been unceremoniously dumped away from the ambush site; clearly, the attack had not been motivated by profit.
Unfortunately, Stonehammer’s trail lead through lands controlled by the Crusader, and Stonehammer’s curse had driven a cavalry patrol from the Infernal Crusade mad. The patrol promptly lashed out at the first group it came across; three guesses as to who that was, and the first two don’t count.
The battle was over quickly, with each of the cavalrymen slain rather quickly. One was skewered by Miri’s blades, while the other two were on impaled each other’s armor spikes due to a well-timed throw from Noleg. All their horses died, save one which rode off into the distance. Norn decided to interrogate the spirit of one of the cavalrymen, and used his ability to call upon the spirits of his ancestors to briefly manifest one of the fallen warriors. While the warrior was surly, he did indicate that the group had been deliberately targeted by the hate-curse.
The team quickly picked up the trail again, and followed it to a defunct lighthouse on the edge of the Midland Sea. The group headed inside, and found Stonehammer in the middle of some kind of ritual which involved Steelfist’s Shield. The former cleric them displayed a new talent; he summoned several demons, a small squad of dretches and the Rage Demon which the team had fought at Ruined Fortress of Arn.
The battle quickly devolved into Norn dueling Stonehammer (who quickly assumed his cursed draconic form to fight) while the rest took on the demons. Noleg and Wizholm handily destroyed the dretches, while Miri fought with the Rage Demon. Said demon managed to thoroughly destroy the summoning circle due to its bloodlust, meaning that no demonic reinforcements could be summoned. Miri then managed to get it to lodge its fist into the ground, leaving it open to a bisecting attack from Noleg.
The group then united to help put down Stonehammer for a second time. After being killed again, Stonehammer’s body melted into goo and sunk into the cracks of the lighthouse. His disembodied voice congratulated Norn on a battle well-fought before going silent. He might be dead for good after the fight, but the group isn’t holding its breath.
After the battle, Norn retrieved Steelfist’s shield. He was not a step closer to wielding the full Regalia of the Champion, the shield recognized him as its master. But still, questions remained. Namely, what is Stonehammer trying to accomplish, and how does one kill an enemy that refuses to die?