Thirteenth Cataclysm

His "Name" is Billy Blind
"I could tell you... but it would *cost* you."

After successfully preventing the opening of another Hell Hole, our heroes were blindsided by a shadowy figure kidnapping Wizholm before their very eyes. Naturally, this shit wasn’t going to stand, so the remaining three gave chase.

The chase abruptly ended when they found Wizholm and his kidnapper, Grimble Glyphweaver (who was also Wizholm’s brother) standing in front of a large boulder, acting all surly. Grimble proceeded to cause a door to open in the boulder, which lead to an office of some kind. The person inside the office invited the four to enter. They did so, with reservations.

The man inside his office introduced himself as Billy Blind, an information dealer. He mentioned that he found the four “interesting” and that he would be happy to offer his services to them. To make good on this arrangement, he even offered them some information for “free:” the new front in the Orcish Wars that they had heard about was about the get more bloody, since the Orcs planned to sneak behind enemy lines and assassinate the military leaders there.

Naturally, the group wondered where Billy Blind got his information. And, again naturally, Billy Blind gave them no clues to go on. Deciding that they couldn’t risk the information not being true, the group headed out to go and stop the assassination plot. Before they left, Grimble gave Wizholm a staff that he had found in the wreckage of their childhood home; some part of Grimble still cared about his older brother.

Fortunately, the horses that the group had used were rested up in the time it took for the group to battle demons and meet a shady information dealer, so they were off towards the front. They eventually came across a large expanse of land which the Imperial Army had marched through. They also heard the howl of a Warg, which they figured was a part of the group of assassins they were here to stop. They found a rocky outcropping which they figured was as good terrain as any to stop the plot.

The assassins, it turned out, were a small pack of gnolls accompanied by a trained warg. The battle was intense: an assault by the gnolls and the warg quickly overwhelmed Norn’s defenses, causing the dwarven hero to collapse near death’s door. Fortunately, the remaining heroes were able to clear out the enemies, with Wizholm unleashing necromantic frost, Noleg furiously bisecting anything that got in his way, and Miri displaying her new talent for turning her arms into chainsaws, a trick which cause the warg to die a little inside and a lot outside. Norn also rejoined the fight by calling upon the spirit of his heroic ancestor, the Champion, bane of orckind.

When the battle turned against them, the gnolls attempted to flee. The pack leader almost escaped, but an excellent javelin throw by Noleg left him pinned to a tree with a spear through his brain. The group decided that their best move would be to join up with the main army to plan their next move, and so they quickly followed the army’s tracks after catching their breaths.

In the Imperial Army camp, the group found themselves greeted by Captain Chuckman, who quickly brought them to the leaders of the Imperial Regiment; Captain Adrian, High Wizard Rowan, and Lord Shalefire. The leadership was mostly surprised by the fact that the Orcs were employing more subtle tactics like this (though Shalefire did point out that the Orcs had used a similar tactic in the Dwarven Front of the Orcish Wars). The group then left to earn a much-needed rest, getting their wounds patched up by clerics, good food, and a little shut-eye.

A war council was held after said rest, in which the party suggested that they give the Orcs a taste of their own medicine and kill of their leaders. Rowan mentioned that the War Wizards under his command did know a ritual that would unleash meteoric magic upon a designated target, but they would need someone to designate the target. Naturally, the group volunteered to do this (more or less, anyway). The group was given suits of magic armor in preparation for this most important mission. If they could pull it off, then the Orcish Legion on this front might fold entirely…

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And Your Prize is Demons!
When it comes to demons, everything is creepier.

The day after the Battle of Boltstrike Pillar took place, the group awoke to find that Kawil had disappeared. The spy had taken his share of the gold, and had only left a note that said “bye.” Apparently, he had just beaten out the large storm front that made it impossible to leave the spire for a week. During this time, Wizholm adjusted to using the magical powers which had become warped as a side-effect of Stonehammer’s ritual, Norn made sure that Glaezentorg’s curse was gone (it was), Noleg crafted 2 cloaks from the dragon the group had slain (one for him, one for the Emperor), and Miri sparred with Captain Chuckman so that he could get back in shape for his return to duty.

After a week had passed, the storm broke, mainly due to a contingent of magical investigators that the Empire had sent to determine what had gone on at the pillar. At their head was Sir Leon, one of the Empire’s Dragon Knights. In addition to escorting the investigators, Sir Leon had come to give “Sir” Noleg his next assignment: the capture or death of Ian Baker, a pastry chef-turned-demon summoner with ties to the Diabolist. Baker had apparently disappeared into the Northern frontier of the Empire, and events up there were concerning enough that a bounty had been placed on his head.

Noleg was ready to move of course, and the others decided to come along because demonologists are bad news. Sir Leon provided the four with horses, and so the four set off along the road carved by the migration of the Great Koru Behemoths. While on the way, the group passed the time by relating some incidents in their past to each other. Norn expressed his concern that he might be the last great hero that the Dwarves would ever produce, and that he felt it was his sworn duty to end the Orcish menace that had threatened his people once and for all. Noleg talked about his first ever assignment as an Imperial Hunter: namely, the takedown of a noble that had been sacrificing other nobles to a demon lord. Wizholm mentioned that he was not quite a living gnome, nor was he an undead gnome either. Maybe his soul was put back into his body wrong, or something along those lines, but whatever it was, it appeared that the Prince of Shadows and his organization were interested in just what he had become. Miri mentioned that she had been a part of a Holy Order dedicated to the Great Gold Wyrm.

The storytelling was put on hold as a group of bandits attempted to waylay the party. Before hostilities broke out, though, the bandit leader called off the attack and bowed to Miri. Apparently seeing her as a long-awaited chosen one, he became extraordinarily helpful, to a very creepy degree. He also appeared to know that the group had arrived in the area to eliminate Baker. The group theorized that this group might be a demon-worshipping cult that didn’t like Baker, but the aid that the bandits provided, in the form of Portal=Sealing Daggers (that probably should have belonged to a Holy Order) and info about where Baker was were reluctantly accepted by the group.

The bandit leader also mentioned what Baker was up to: apparently, he was attempting to open up a new Hellhole. Hellholes being, as much of the group knew from various experiences, areas in which a portal into Hell was opened up. Since more Hellholes meant more demons wandering the countryside, the group decided that speed was of the essence, and let the bandits slink off into the bushes, while all agreeing that they hoped they wouldn’t meet those creepers again.

The group moved in towards Baker’s location, the Ruined Fortress of Arn (Arn being a fortification constructed by the Dwarves in the 3rd Age). The rocky terrain meant that they had to leave their horses by the bottom of the hill and not engage in any mounted combat to the GM’s relief. Before moving into the Fortress, Noleg used his snazzy new Blue Dragon Cloak to fly over the Fortress and scout it out. Said reconnaissance revealed to the group that their best course of action was to charge into a horde of demons and beat the ever-loving crap out of them. Which they then proceeded to do.

The party initiated a bloody battle which revealed that dretches make terrible guards. After killing several of the demons, Noleg decided to finish one off by tearing off its head with his bare hands. This caused the remaining hellspawn to flee the battlefield. The group then made its way into the fortress, where they found Ian Baker and a summoned imp performing a ritual to open a hell portal. After expressing disbelief that his dretch army did nothing to stop the heroes, Ian left the ritual to autocomplete while commanding more dretches to act as meat shields between him and his foes. This went as well as could be expected.

The group quickly barged through the dretch wall, and made their way onto the dias where the portal ritual was being conducted. This, of course, caused Ian to freak out. Rightfully so, in fact, since he and his imp ended up being chunkified by Noleg’s axe, after said Imp was pummeled by Miri and Norn. The group then attempted to begin to close the portal, when a demon tore its way out of the portal and into the world.

This new demon was an inferno of hellfire and hate known as a Rage Demon, and it wanted to lash out at the nearest targets. Miri met the being’s charge, with the Rage Demon commenting that she was “his” descendent, a comment which will probably never become relevant. While Miri, Norn, and Noleg combated the thing, Wizholm began the sealing procedure. The fight ended quickly when Miri discovered that she could turn her arms into buzzsaws as well as swords, and eviscerated the Rage Demon. While the Demon proceeded to seriously injure Miri, it was left weak enough that the spirit of Gram Steelfist, conjured by Norn, was enough to banish it back into hell.

After the battle, the group proceeded to quickly seal up the portal, averting the creation of a new Hellhole. But before they could celebrate, a shadowy figure lept into the room, grabbed Wizholm, and leapt out of the room, shouting that it needed to “borrow” Wizholm. The figure then greeted Wizholm; it was Grimble Glyphweaver, Wizholm’s estranged brother and subordinate of the Prince of Shadows.

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Blood & Lightning
The Legend Begins

This story begins with the group (consisting of Miri the Tiefling Fighter, “Sir” Gares Noleg the Aasimar Barbarian, Norn Steelfist the Dwarven Cleric, Kawil the Cloaked the Elven Rogue, and Wizholm Glyphweaver the Gnome Wizard) all signed onto a caravan which was delivering supplies to Boltstrike Pillar, one of the Dragon Empire’s most valuable magical research centers. Signed on for various reasons, ranging from mercenary to historical, the group banded together when a group of Goblin bandits, led by an infamous Goblin sorcerer, attempted to rob the caravan. The ensuing battle saw the goblins dead (and the King’s bounty hunter, Noleg, the richer for taking the head of said sorcerer), although some of the goblins rising as zombies indicated that maybe the bandits weren’t working on their own.

After the ambush, the group made it to Boltstrike Pillar, where they met Hyrum Chuckman, Captain of the Guard, and Brother Stonehammer, a priest of Steelfist, a great Dwarven Hero. While Gares made his way to the Pillar’s scrying chamber to call in the bounty, the rest of the group informed Captain Chuckman about the bandits they had faced. This caused the Captain pause, since he said that the tower’s magical defenses should have alerted the guard to the presence of a new bandit group in the area.

Two members of the group, Norn and Wizholm, were at the tower to retrieve Glaezentorg, the personal axe of Steelfist himself which had become corrupted by some unknown malignant magic. However, since the axe had been in the tower for so long, some of the cursed magic had become attuned to the Tower’s aura, and the wizards in the tower needed time to disentangle the cursed axe’s magic from the Pillar’s with a ritual. They, along with the Kawil, Miri, and Gares, agreed to Captain Chuckman’s request that they set off traps in the nearby ruin of Greenstand (the traps being set because Greenstand was so often used as a base by various bandit groups). Well, after negotiating a generous fee, of course.

The group followed a hidden undergound passage to Greenstand. The first thing wrong they sensed was the smell of burning flesh. The wizard sent his owl to scout ahead; it reported back that the traps had already been set off and that there was something odd about the site. The group headed up to find the goblin bandits massacred, along with several dead Lizardlings that didn’t look like they fit in with the bandit’s Lich King-inspired appearance. Several large gashes in the ruin indicated to the group that what they were facing was more than just mere bandits; a dragon was going to be their enemy.

The group raced back to Boltstrike Pillar, just in time to see a massive blue dragon blast the tower’s magic defenses down with its lightning breath. It also was carrying several lizardlings on its back, which leaped onto the top of the tower to begin a fell ritual, no doubt involving Glaezentorg. Before the dragon could do any more damage to the Pillar, Captain Chuckman threw a ruined piece of the tower at the dragon’s wing, crippling it and causing the dragon to crash onto the ground below.

The group now had a choice to make, and decided that stopping the ritual was more important since the dragon wasn’t going anywhere. They raced to the top of the tower, although during their ascent, they could see that the guards had turned on each other due to the bloodthirsty curse of Glaezentorg. When the reach the top, they found most of the tower’s wizards had been killed as part of the ritual. The lizardlings, however, were not the ones conducting the ritual; that fell upon the bloody hands of Brother Stonehammer!

Stonehammer, apparently disgusted with the declining dwarven culture, had made some kind of dark pact with the Three to magnify the axe’s curse. Before he could finish the ritual, however, Wizholm, enraged that one of his favorite professors had been one of the wizards killed, managed to call upon his most powerful magic and melted Stonehammer with a bolt of acid. The lizardlings began to fight with the group, although they were no match for them, several being hurled off the edge of the tower.

In the middle of the fight, however, out of the puddle of acid erupted a draconic-looking figure. Glaezentorg’s bloody curse had suffused the body of Stonehammer, bringing him back to life and mutating his body to match his new allegiance. The mutated Stonehammer fought with Norn, with Kawil helping to bring him down too. The battle ended when Norn summoned the spirits of his heroic ancestors, who hurt Stonehammer enough that he decided to flee rather than continue to fight a losing battle. He swore to the Steelfist heir that he would see him again, though.

At the battle’s end, the group managed to find a severely injured by still alive Captain Chuckman, who reminded the group that the dragon was still at the base of the tower. Wizholm cast a feather fall spell on the group, and they all leapt off the tower to face off against their final foe. The dragon laughed at the group as they approached, telling them that no matter how the battle went, the Three had won the day now that the curse of Glaezentorg was under their control (albeit in an unexpected way).

As epic music began to play, the battle began. Norn, now wielding an un-cursed Glaezentorg, and Miri pressed the advantage, making sure the dragon had nowhere to turn to. Wizholm unleashed magical might while Gares hurled javelins with the force of thunderbolts. And Kawil managed to teleport onto the dragon’s back, stabbing the wounded beast in the eyes and leaving it vulnerable for Steelfist to once again summon the spirits of his heroic ancestors to finish it off.

Although the group had managed to kill the dragon and drive off Stonehammer, the Three had still wrought destruction upon Boltstrike Pillar, which was closed down due to most of the researchers there being killed. What the Three will do with the anthropomorphized curse of an ancient Dwarven weapon is anyone’s guess, but it surely cannot be good…

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