The Hands that Move the World

Total Eclipse III: Heavy Metal

Lharvion 21, 1002 YK

The Eclipse Collective deals with the Cultists of War that are massing in Grey Titan’s Hold. Lucan and Indicus finish dealing with Queen Aurala ir’Wynarn, knocking her out and bringing her back to the Eclipse Keep for judgment by the others. She is wiped of memories but is taken Mellifleur (whose Cabal she belongs to) before she can be sent back to Fairhaven. Conlon is given an obelisk to place when the party faces Rak Tulkhesh, the Rage of War and loses.

Lharvion 22, 1002 YK – Barrakas 11, 1002 YK

The party prepares various armies for marching to Dragon’s Crown, where Rak Tulkhesh is imprisoned. Derli rallies an army of crusaders, Zil’dejin restores the Devilkiller Legion, Indicus teaches a militia how to fight dirty, and control is gained over the Academy necromancers and the Eran War Mages. Kaleth meets with the Prime Jester, Indicus trains with the Exorcists of the Silver Flame to protect himself against demonic influence, and Zil’dejin goes to see Mishva Garodya Stormhorn. Conlon meets the Millennium Emperor, who offers to withdraw Conlon from the Tournament after the business with the Rage of War is finished, and they can both conquer their respective domains and re-enter the Tournament of Blades after a thousand year alliance. Conlon agrees. He then fights Dralon Ostrennar, and both die at the same time. Eltimar restores Conlon to life, but Morgue Conlonnar is sacrificed to make this happen.

Barrakas 12, 1002 YK

The Collective meets with Talbot to discuss the Staff of Three Dragons. Kaleth and Rilic go to get the Chains of Balance from House Cannith’s Equilibrius, and the others hatch a plan to get the Rod of Order back from Mellifleur, which is narrowly successful.

Barrakas 13, 1002 YK – Barrakas 18, 1002 YK

Training continues for the armies being raised. At the end of the month given to them by Zelishkar of the Bitter Flame, the Eclipse Collective is shown the daemons’ attack on Dragon’s Crown. Kaleth and the War Mages create a portal to move the armies into Starilaskur, and from there they use the Chaos Gear to connect the town to the front lines and march the armies to Dragon’s Crown in what will come to be called the March of the Damned.

A bivouac is set up when the armies arrive at Dragon’s Crown, and the armies hold it while the Eclipse Collective enters. They fight a balor lord to gain entry, and after clearing some Cultists of War residing in the entrance of the dungeon, they learn that four of these balor lords — the first balors created by the Rage of War — must be killed to gain entrance to Rak Tulkhesh’s final prison chamber. They proceed through the dungeon, destroying one renegade balor who is imprisoned, fighting another in a summoning chamber, and taking down the last one in an arena kept by Mordakhesh the Shadowsword. When the last one is defeated, Mordakhesh steps forward and begins absorbing a huge volume of souls in his chamber, but Rilic steals the effect from him midway through and starts absorbing those souls instead.

Main Characters: Zil’dejin Firebane, Lucan Vrinsk d’Medani, Derli d’Kundarak, Conlon Ostrennar, Rilic Balendal, Kaleth, Indicus


Lharvion 21, 1002 YK

After stealing Merrix d’Cannith‘s Arcane Fortress armour, Kaleth and Rilic have returned to Grey Titan’s Hold, where Zil’dejin and Derli are preparing to deal with the Cultists of War, who are climbing to the rooftops of the city to enact a demonic ritual of some sort. Approximately one hundred cultists are scattered throughout the city. Zil’dejin and Derli begin leaping and climbing among the rooftops, each taking about a third of the city, and Kaleth takes the remaining third, flying about instead. Zil’dejin slays the cultists, but Derli knocks them unconscious instead, and Kaleth blasts them with spells, causing considerable damage. The apparent leader of the Cultists, as well as one other, is located by Rilic, who convinces the auxilliary cultist to give up and go home, and the leader to go to Trolanport where the “ritual has been relocated.” With this, the four of them settle the matter of the cultists.

Meanwhile, Lucan and Indicus are in a visiting chamber in Fairhold, where Queen Aurala ir’Wynarn is trapped under a force bubble with Indicus while Lucan and Baalondorus look on from outside. Though Indicus and Lucan came to kill Aurala, Indicus decides to take a different tack, and knocks her out with a backhand to the jaw. Baalondorus drops the force shield, and Indicus collects Aurala before Lucan can kill her, fleeing with shadow walk to return to Grey Titan’s Hold. Lucan catches a ride back with Baalondorus (in his dragon form).

When everybody has reunited in Grey Titan’s Hold, the party meets in the Eclipse Keep, where Indicus drops Aurala on the war table, much to Zil’dejin’s and Derli’s ire. He asks them to vote on whether she lives or dies, and while Zil’dejin and Derli refuse to even entertain the idea with a vote, the outcome is a virtually unanimous decisionto not kill the queen of Aundair. Kaleth wipes her memories of the recent past and prepares to send her back to Fairhaven via a discreet carriage, but before he can do so, she vanishes. Conlon is soon to follow, revealing that they have both been summoned to the Circle of Silent Screams in Hopelorn to attend their roles in Mellifleur’s Cabal.

In Hopelorn, Mellifleur announces to the Cabal that he is aware of what is about to happen, including Zelishkar of the Bitter Flame‘s attack on Mordakhesh, and the looming release of Rak Tulkhesh, the Rage of War. In the wake of this, he says, his Cabal will be the only power group great enough ot stand against the apocalypse, as Rak Tulkhesh’s war will only fuel the armies of the Cabal. To this end, he gives each of them a small obsidian obelisk, which they are to place in the ground on one of the many stages of battle where the dead are in great abundance. Doing so will cause all dead in the area to rise under the control of that Cabalist. He also asks Conlon specifically to save his to be planted in the heart of Dragon’s Crown, to which Conlon replies that he will try.

Lharvion 22, 1002 YK – Barrakas 11, 1002 YK

In the days that follow, leading up to the warning given to the Collective by Zelishkar, Zil’dejin begins reforming the Eran Royal Legion back into its original form, reaffirming the training of the Devilkiller Legion. He also rallies a militia from the citizens of Eros, which are given to Indicus, who trains them in some basic gladiatorial combat methods, including how to fight dirty. When not training the militia, Indicus spends his time in Flamekeep, training with the Knights Militant and the Exorcists of the Silver Flame to learn how to control himself when wearing the Demon Overlord Armour.

Derli goes across Khorvaire, gathering the faithful of the Sovereign Host under his banner. By the time he returns to Eros, he leads an army of crusaders nearly 30,000 strong, which he immediately begins training for the coming battles with the help of the Hammer of St. Derli.

Rilic returns to Nysthera d’Thuranni] with the Arcane Fortress armour, presenting it to her. She recognizes it and requests it as proof for her superiors in the House, but Rilic refuses to give it up. A compromise is eventually reached wherein he gives up the right arm of the armour. Nysthera accepts this, and gives him the last piece he needs to reassemble the Ring of Wondrous Control. Then, with Derli’s help, he begins crafting a replacement arm, using the negative energy cannon from the bow of the Phoenix Eclipse. He also subtly frees Merrix d’Cannith, and soon after receives a new wand, created in the Equilibrius from his wands of fear and confusion. The result is a wand of disintregation. At the same time, Lucan also collects a “rocket-fist” formed from the combination of the two metal arms he acquired from his alternate timeline self, and Indicus receives a set of reassembled Demon Overlord Armour, to the rest of the party’s horror.

Kaleth spends the time visiting the Chronocracy to meet with the Prime Jester, and discuss plans to either dominate or collapse the Temporal Prime. They talk for a time about being opposite forces in regulating and controlling time. Then, he retires to his tower and spends several weeks improving his attunement to the Chaos Gear, reaching near-total attunement and gaining the ability to weave a shield of pure chaos around himself.

For a short time, Zil’dejin takes a break from preparing the newly-reformed Devilkiller Legion, leaving them in the hands of Coref Irvallo while he goes to visit Mishva Garodya Stormhorn. He brings his son, Zil’temeris, with him. Mishva is glad to see Zil’temeris and expresses a desire to have seen High King Shaeras Vadallia‘s death herself. She tells Zil’dejin she cannot send forces to help him against the demons, as she cannot march an army across Valenar even if she could spare the men. They do, however, have another romantic encounter, with the possibility of a fourth child for Zil’dejin coming to bear.

Conlon has a vision similar to Derli’s from a short time ago, regarding the Millennium Emperor, who asks Conlon to come meet with him in the “Kingdom of Odakyr”. Conlon agrees and goes to visit the Emperor, where he receives an offer different from Derli’s. If Conlon withdraws from the Tournament of Blades, the Millennium Emperor offers to help him attain immortality, and to forge an alliance with Conlon when the Emperor conquers Khorvaire and Conlon conquers Argonnessen. Then, when the next Tournament of Blades comes around in 1,000 years, he will help Conlon rejoin so that he can win and attain any power he may have been unable to acquire in the time between. Further, because Conlon is vastly more dependent on his warlock powers than Derli was, the Millennium Emperor offers Conlon the chance to withdraw after the Rage of War is dealt with instead of beforehand. Conlon decides to agree to this, on one condition: that he be the one to kill Dralon Ostrennar. The Millennium Emperor is more than happy to satisfy this condition.

Soon after his meeting with the Millennium Emperor, Conlon goes to Argonnessen, where he meets with the self-styled barbarian king Dralon. Dralon wears a “clock of stars” that is a mockery of Conlon’s own, and carries a blade very similar to Conlon’s own in full view, rather than waiting to summon it. They exchange some terse words, and immediately begin fighting. They fight is quick and fierce. Conlon shuts down Dralon’s magic early on, forcing his brother to fight as a pure melee combatant. Ultimately, the two kill each other at the same time. Each of the warriors’ consciousness is brought before Eltimar, who chastises them for somehow simultaneously eliminating one another, which Eltimar apparently considers a slap in the face for all of the efforts he put in to cheat the system. Because of the way in which he bent the rules of the Tournament, he can bring back one of them. HE challenges them with some cryptic questions to decide who will go back, and ultimately, Conlon is decided as the chosen. A sacrifice is necessary, however: Conlon’s and Dralon’s physical forms effectively vanished from existence when they killed each other, so Conlon needs a vessel. His son, Morgue Conlonnar, is chosen for this task. Morgue is eradicated as a person, with Conlon occupying what was once Morgue’s body, which reforms into Conlon’s own with all of his possessions intact. He turns to drink to help manage the resulting guilt and anger.

Barrakas 12, 1002 YK

Talbot arrives at the Eclipse Keep in response to the Collective’s summons. The meeting is taken to the warded throne room. The party asks Talbot some questions about his background, which he refuses to answer, and then decides to abandon that line of questioning and ask him about the Staff of Three Dragons instead. He confirms some aspects of the assembly the party already suspected or figured out on their own, including the need for an Ascended (Mythic) sacrifice, and the participation of three individuals, each attuned to one piece of the Staff. The power of the Staff ,he believes, is not limited to what was seen on the Day of Mourning; according to the legends of the dragons, the Staff of Three Dragons is built from the raw essence of the three Primordial Dragons that built the world, and is capable of reshaping it. The Chaos Gear is the essence of Khyber, the Chains of Balance the essence of Eberron, and the Rod of Order the essence of Siberys.

They ask for any other help he can offer, and he decides to let them draw from a special tarot deck which he carries. Everyone but Rilic draws from this deck, resulting in a mixture of strange and varied effects, few of which turn out to be particularly helpful for the coming days. Talbot also offers to join them when they go to Dragon’s Crown, where Rak Tulkhesh is imprisoned; he also confirms the location of the prison, and marks it on their map.

After meeting with Talbot, the party decides to move forward with their plan to acquire the three pieces of the Staff as a contingency plan. They already have the Star of Chaos, attuned to by Kaleth, leaving only the Rod of Order and the Chains of Balance. Rilic and Kaleth decide to pursue the Chains, which are currently in House Cannith‘s possession, built into the Equilibrius which they believe to be somewhere under the sea. The others go after the Rod, which is currently held by Mellifleur the Lichlord. The plan is to summon him and confront him, while Indicus goes to Hopelorn in Mellifleur’s absence and find the Lichlord’s phylactery to use as leverage against him.

Rilic and Kaleth disguise themselves as rakshasa: Rilic takes the form of Mordakhesh the Shadowsword, while Kaleth appears as Hektula the Bloody Scribe. His clone, a Kaleth who supposedly has seen the end of time, is disguised as a generic rakshasa. So disguised, they teleport back to the Equilibrius, appearing just outside of the monolithic structure. They head in, where they are immediately set upon by the adamantine golems who protect the place. Kaleth and his clone make a break for the quaternium sphere containing the Chains of Balance, and are beaten ruthlessly by the golems. Meanwhile, Merrix d’Cannith appears to demand information about what is happening. “Mordakhesh” disappears behind a piece of machinery and Rilic drops his disguise to look like a hero, come to stop Hektula and the other rakshasa from stealing the Chains. Mainstream Kaleth soon follows Rilic’s lead. Final Kaleth is killed by the golems, but not before he breaks the quaternium shell, exposing the Chains. Rilic announces that they need to take the Chains to prevent the end of the world, but Merrix pleads with them not to. His warnings are not heeded, and the two take the Chains of Balance and leave, returning to Grey Titan’s Hold.

At the same time, Indicus is dropped off in Hopelorn by Frances d’Lyrandar, who gives him a sending stone to call him back after Indicus is done. Back on the Material Plane, Conlon summons Mellifleur in a ritual devised he devises with the help of Nimozaran the Green, attempting to reconstruct what he did to summon Mellifleur during the invasion of the Inevitables. They are successful, but Mellifleur does not appear as expected; instead, he takes over the body of Nimozaran. The party is frustrated by this twist, but elect to depend on Indicus, while trying to convince Mellifleur to lend them the Rod of Order.

Mellifleur pays little attention to the party’s pleading, as he adamantly refuses to surrender the Rod. While the party speaks with him, Indicus tries to sneak through Hopelorn in search of Mellifleur’s phylactery, but is soon caught by Narcisa, the vampire agent of Mellifleur, who apparently survived the awakening of Suhnen with some substantial injuries. She claims to be taking Indicus for imprisonment and surrounds him with a large number of undead, but is soon revealed that she is aligned with an new faction of dissenters in Mellifleur’s Cabal, and she “accidentally” lets Indicus go. Unfortunately, he is soon after caught again, this time by Zogugbu, who is less sympathetic to Indicus. He demands to know why Indicus is in Hopelorn, which the gladiator responds to honestly. Zogugbu finds the idea amusing, and informs Indicus that Mellifleur’s phylactery is actually split into nine parts, and contained among the members of the Cabal. Discouraged by this, Indicus decides to go after the Rod of Order instead, which Zogugbu reveals is not with Mellifleur on the Material Plane. The orc thinks this is funny, and so he takes Indicus to the Circle of Silent Screams.

At the Circle, Indicus clambers up to Mellifleur’s raised throne, and notices the wall behind it is solid but loosely shaped like a door. He tries to punch his way through, going through solid stone very slowly. Zogugbu calls up Tristuro to watch the proceedings with him. Eventually, Indicus shifts into the Ethereal Plane, and realizes that it is actually a passage specifically built to be accessible in the Ethereal (while the rest of the Circle extends into that plane). He finds Mellifleur’s sanctum, where his body is slumped in a chair, currently unoccupied due to his spirit’s presence in the Eclipse Keep.

Back in the Eclipse Keep, the party continues pleading with Mellifleur, and eventually stumble upon an arrangement Mellifleur will agree to: he will lend the party the Rod of Order if, when the Staff is assembled, Mellifleur can take control of Conlon’s body, assuming his place in the Ritual of Assembly. The party is pretty set against this, but continues talking about this for a while to stall him while Indicus remains in Hopelorn. While this is happening, Indicus searches the sanctum and finds a hidden passage to a small crypt, where he trigges a necromantic trap that nearly kills him. The Rod of Order is concealed inside a casket, rigged to absorb the Rod in darkness if an attempt is made to seize it. Indicus overcomes the pull of the dark magic with sheer strength, and once the Rod is in his hands, he immediately begins running.

Realizing that his attempt to negotiate with the Collective is going nowhere, Mellifleur decides to vacate Nimozaran’s body and return to Hopelorn. There, he teleports himself back to his throne in time to see Indicus attempt to bolt past him, carrying the Rod of Order. Mellifleur stands to kill him, but for reasons unknown decides not to. Zogugbu and Tristuro still give chase, however. As soon as Indicus is out of the Circle, he shadow walks to his landing zone, which is at the edge of the city overlooking the darkness of Mabar. He can faintly see the lights of the Phoenix Eclipse in the void, so he calls for Frances. Tristuro and Zogugbu appear out of a dimension door, and just as they prepare to destroy him with dark magic, Indicus leaps gracefully off the edge of the city, landing on a pile of clothing and straw provided by the Lyrandar crew on the deck of the airship below.

A few hours later, Indicus drags himself into the Eclipse Keep, carrying the Rod of Order. The party has thus acquired all three pieces of the Staff of Three Dragons in preparation for the freeing of the Rage of War.

Barrakas 13, 1002 YK – Barrakas 17, 1002 YK

Training continues for the myriad armies being brought up by the Collective to build up against the Rage of War. Kaleth takes charge of the Eran War Mages, while Zil’dejin prepares the Devilkillers, Indicus continues to instruct the militia, and Derli prepares the crusaders. While training the crusaders, Derli realizes that he can probably achieve an effect similar to what the ancient coatls managed during the Age of Demons, and that he may be able to reseal Rak Tulkhesh with a mass-sacrifice of his army.

Other last-minute preparations are put in place, and the party gets their affairs in order, knowing what is to come.

Barrakas 18, 1002 YK

Nimozaran summons the party, who have all been staying in the Eclipse Keep in order to be close at hand for when disaster strikes. He takes them to the tapestry room to show them what is currently happening on the scrying tapestry. Dragon’s Crown, a structure comprised of a ring of monoliths set into a hill among the plains of eastern Breland, becomes visible to them. They watch the scene unfold.

A rift opens in the sky, from which the Testament of Sin descends, bringing with it a rain of blades and countless daemons. As they fall, a great explosion rocks Dragon’s Crown, destroying one of the monoliths and opening a hole in the hill. From this hole pours demons to meet the daemons, beginning the war. As this occurs, rifts to Shavarath are pulled open, drawing out more demons, as well as devils and archons. The tremendous influx of extraplanar forces ripples out like a terrifying blossom as the scrying tapestry zooms back to show the surrounding area, which is soon covered for more than a hundred mile radius by a writhing mass of violence.

The Collective knows that they must now react, but they are unsure of what approach to take. They cannot teleport into anywhere protected by the Rage of War, but over the past week, Kaleth has prepared the War Mages to open a great portal through which to move the armies, but the cloest they can safely get is in the town of Starilaskur — a considerable distance from Dragon’s Crown. There is also a forest nearby, which is not visible on the scrying tapestry; Nimozaran suspects it may be protected by some magic, and while it is a gamble, they can attempt to open the portal there to be closer to the action. Kaleth chooses to open the portal in Starilaskur.

The War Mages teleport there using regular magic. Signs of the Rage of War’s influence are present in the town, even if the demons are not; civilians and soldiers are fighting in the streets for no reason at all. The War Mages fend off outside parties and open the portal, allowing a progressive march to pass through. It begins with Conlon’s Mellifleur-provided army of undead, followed by Zil’dejin’s Legion (joined by Coref Irvallo), then Derli’s Hammer and Crusaders, then Indicus and the milita, and finally the Academy necromancers, led by Rilic in Conlon’s absence.

Once the army has amassed in Starilaskur, Kaleth proposes an alternative to a long march — using the Chaos Gear, he can warp space to connect the front lines to their current location, putting Starilaskur at great risk but allowing them to arrive at Dragon’s Crown by nightfall, rather than in hours. Zil’dejin approves this plan, and the points are connected. The armies proceed through in the same order, beginning the March of the Damned.

March of the Damned

The army is first met by a wall of demonic fire, conjured around the merged points in space to stop the Collective’s advance. The undead are ill-equipped for this, and so they call forward the War Mages, who use their magic to dispel the wall of fire. As they do, however, they are set upon by daemon mages. The undead protect the War Mages as they cast their spells, causing considerable losses to the undead army, but avoiding significant casualties among the mages. While they struggle with this, war devils (malebranches) leading legion devils attack the Devilkillers. They have dealt with their like before, during the Starpeaks Invasion, and Zil’dejin is ready, using well-known tactics to defeat the war devils and scatter their armies. Eros’ armies march forward, but are soon flanked by larger demons: barlguras and goristros. To protect the others, Derli’s Crusaders split into two columns alongside the rest of the ranks, and fend off the demons according to some strategies similar to what Derli used during the Starpeaks Invasion. Even with the flanks protected, however, the armies are still vulnerable to attacks from within, as a strange type of demon appears from the soil and shadows of the marching militia. Indicus recalls some education on the weaknesses of shadow demons during his recent time spent with the exorcists of the Silver Flame, and tries to rally the militia to take advantage of these. However, they are slow to react — while the demons are defeated, many of the militia’s men are lost. Behind the militia, the necromancers are bickering with each other too much to actually do anything; Rilic fixes the problem by giving a rousing, but largely pointless, speech.

With the armies now moved into the fray, they continue forward towards Dragon’s Crown. They are first confronted with some devil necromancers, who raise their own undead from the bodies of fallen fiends to combat Conlon’s undead. Conlon forces his will upon them, taking control over the entire rival undead army for just long enough to disband it, causing the corpses to collapse uselessly. The devil necromancers flee at this point. A short time later, an army of archons arrive from Shavarath, passing over the heads of the undead and attacking the Devilkillers. Seeing the approaching danger, they form a phalanx with a shield wall, and have their archers fire into the archons’ ranks. The archons are broken quickly, and some even turn coat to fill in some of the losses suffered during the war devils’ attack on the Devilkillers earlier. In the wake of these archons, some other archons, led by Solas and corrupted by Zelishkar upon his ascension to become the Horseman of War, attack the split Crusaders, trying to kill Derli. Derli calls Kaleth’s war mages in to assist, forming walls and barriers to push back the archons so they cannot expose weaknesses in the Crusaders’ two-column formation. Derli himself attempts to call divine strength, but cannot find it among the chaos. The Crusaders suffer great losses.

Meanwhile, flying demons pass overhead, throwing fire down upon the militas. They use slings, crossbows, and assorted ranged weaponry to repel the demons, with Indicus splitting his army into two groups for attack and defense, the defense group deflecting some of the fireballs. The demons are pushed back and fly on. The necromancers attempt to raise some of the dead Crusaders and militia men, but the weave of magic is tainted in their area by the infernal and abyssal magic. A madness begins spreading through their ranks, brought on by this tainted magic, but Rilic manages to lie to them so convincingly that he restores their sanity. Some undead are restored to bolster the ranks of the armies.

Back at the front of the March of the Damned, a group of pit fiends approaches the undead army. Conlon attempts to threaten them into submission, speaking through all of his undead at once to seem more imposing, but the pit fiends care little for his threats and destroy the majority of his standing undead before they rally and defeat the pit fiends. Further back, the Crusaders are still locked in battle with corrupted archons, and Zil’dejin attempts to send Derli aid from the Devilkillers’ cavalry. As they ride, however, they are intercepted by succubi and incubi, who attempt to pull them away. Zil’dejin calls down the war mages, who save the cavalry but are tempted themselves. The cavalry, now free, then turns to save the mages, leaving the Crusaders to their own devices for now. Derli tries to inspire his men by felling Solas in a single stroke. He manages to do so, but only after his Crusaders have suffered great loss; however, the display bolsters their morale by a great deal. The militia fends off artillery strikes by spined devils out of view, protecting themselves and the Crusaders by using the bodies of their fallen as shields.

At the back of the ranks, the necromancers attempt to cast a powerful spell, but accidentally set themselves on fire. Rilic has them raise the dead to smother the fires, which is not a successful endeavour. A large portion of the necromancers are lost to this disaster. Conlon has a vague sense of what is happening, but cannot go back to relieve Rilic; Infernal constructs, resembling flame-possessed suits of dark armour, set upon the undead. Conlon has them “play dead” until they are close, and then launch an attack. The constructs, however, have no sense of distinction between the undead lying down or standing up, and wreak havoc through their prone ranks, destroying the undead army completely and forcing Conlon himself to retreat. He enters the ranks of the Devilkillers, who then must deal with the pursuing infernal armour animuses. Zil’dejin launches a tactic he devised, a “shield charge,” which causes some losses but destroys the infernal armours. Coref is brought down and critically wounded during the charge, and is placed on the back of Rumham for the time being.

Meanwhile, the flanks are assailed by a tremendous swarm of dretches, the lowest form of devil, bearing the faces of the dwarves Derli lost during the Starpeaks Invasion (although these are not the devils from Baator — this is likely just an intimidation tactic). Derli is taken off guard by this, and calls the War Mages for assistance. The War Mages attempt to shift many of the Crusaders into the form of bears, but are distracted by the effort and attacked by demons, losing many. Left alone by the mages, the Crusaders take the devils on their own, and manage to break the dretches. Horrified by what is happening, the militia attempts to rout, and Indicus — not really knowing much about large-scale command — steals a number of inspiring speeches he heard from Zil’dejin and Rilic, and manages to prevent most of the routing.

Further back, the Academy necromancers, trying to recollect themselves, try to summon a mortuary cyclone. Realizing this has often been met with disaster in the past, Rilic decides to allow them to proceed anyway, with one condition: he wants it on fire. The necromancers provide this, creating what Rilic calls “Hurricane Conlon.” Seeing what is happening, Conlon rushes back to the necromancers’ ranks and takes command from Rilic, then uses the Rod of Order to try and raise more dead. He overshoots it, and ends up turning the remaining necromancers into undead instead. This leaves Rilic alone to command Hurricane Conlon, but he somehow manages to convince it to move forward just by ordering it. It sweeps up to where two separate armies of flanking demons are attempting to clash against one another in the middle of the Devilkillers. Zil’dejin orders a false retreat, intending to push them forward again once the demons have started killing each other, but the militia sees the retreat and tries to make up for the Devilkillers’ “failure.” They try to rush in as the Devilkillers pull out, and Indicus tries to pull them back by appealing to their sense of faith. This is not very successful, and most of the militia men are lost. The Devilkillers are, nevertheless, able to recover from this, and by carefully using the position of Hurricane Conlon they destroy the two clashing demon armies.

The Crusaders, meanwhile, have been split off and are being attacked by balors. Derli calls up the War Mages once again, who create mirror images of the advancing crusaders to confuse the balors. The spells are successful, but the last of the War Mages are killed during their efforts. The Crusaders take advantage of the brief lull, and circle around, coming together to crush the balors. This is all that is needed to provide a clear path to Dragon’s Crown, ending the March of the Damned. The undead and War Mages have been destroyed completely, while the Devilkillers and Crusaders are down to half strength, the necromancers have been turned into undead, and the militia have roughly a quarter of their original numbers.

Dragon’s Crown

The remains of the armies reach Dragon’s Crown by nightfall, where they immediately begin setting up a reinforced bivouac. It will not last forever, but it will hold for as long as the Collective should require. They intend to use it as a base to rest and recover in, and as a fallback if they need to retreat from Dragon’s Crown at any point.

Just beyond the camp, at the blasted-open entrance to the dungeon within, a balor stands watch, staring at the party. It is covered in the markings normally seen identifying the far-gone bears of the Mark of War. Evidently, some of the soldiers of the Legion tried to approach it and were killed in the space of seconds. After speaking with Talbot, who was not seen on the battlefield but is now with them, the party goes forward, assured of his help. When they meet in battle with the balor, Talbot is nowhere to be seen. Of course, they must fight it anyway. This is the first time the party has fought a balor at full strength, and this one is unusually strong even for its kind, throwing the party off-balance to some extent. It is lethally skilled with its flame whip and lightning sword, and does considerable damage to the party before they bring it down, culminating with Zil’dejin slicing through its arm and shoulder before propelling Derli up into the balor’s head to hack through its jaw and decapitate it. As it dies, it leaves behind a smouldering Khyber shard resembling a Rage Shard, covered with Abyssal glyphs. After some debate among the party, Derli takes it.

With the balor felled, the party enters into the breach, stepping into a series of caverns. Here they find an abandoned campsite with a body of a drow that has been dead for several years, and come across a structure being used by a number of Cultists of War. The structure is protected by a portcullis, which Derli and Zil’dejin attempt to breach and surprise the cultists. They are not able to break it, however, and instead warp and damage it, creating a great deal of noise and alerting the cultists within. In response, Kaleth pulls them forward with telekinesis, knocking them into the bars and dropping them down, where they are killed by Derli and Zil’dejin. The cultists fight back to an extent; they are marked with the Mark of War, and are possessed of demonic strength, but their bodies do not match their force and they are quickly taken down. After a great deal of work, Zil’dejin and Derli are not able to fully break open the portcullis, instead just bending it to the point of uselessness. Kaleth teleports himself inside, and Derli manages to pull open a space at the base of the portcullis just large enough to crawl through. In the structure, the party finds some religious documents and an altar dedicated to the Rage of War, from which the Cultists were drawing their strength.

They choose to leave the altar alone, and Derli flips through the texts. They are mostly mad ravings, but there is some pertinent information within; in particular, the party learns that the balor lord they killed was one of five. Of the five, they killed one at the entrance, and another one before (which previously was jointly sealed in Derli and Xulgos Adinimys, and summoned in a ruined tower south of the Keep). This leaves three, each of which bears a glyph that can be used to open the final prison of the Rage of War. Armed with this knowledge, they proceed back through the caves and to another structure of intricate dark masonry, containing the greater interior of Dragon’s Crown. It is here that they meet with the first of many traps in the dungeon, a simple but potent mechanical dart trap of sorts triggered by the door. As they walk in, they note that some of the other traps have already been triggered and have claimed victims.

The Collective is soon met with a four-way junction in the hall. From the left comes the echoing sounds of tortured screams, while from the right there is a putrid stench. Ahead of them is a closed door of blackened steel. They elect to go left to begin with, where they find a marilith demon rotating between three heavily-tormented prisoners, taking delight in torturing each of them for nothing but the pleasure of it. They ambush her, with Rilic paralyzing her with his wand and Indicus rushing forward to finish her off. He triggers a trap midway through but avoids a series of needles fired at his throat, and kills the demon. The party then questions one of the prisoners, learning that he has been here for decades. They are about to free him when they realize his body bears some kind of potent demonic magic, and choose not to risk it. The other two prisoners exhibit the same sort of magic, but one is incoherent and the other does not have a tongue, so they are not questioned.

After leaving the torture chamber, the party goes toward the room with the putrid stench. Here, a huge pile of debris, refuse, and bodies occupied a pit which dominates the majority of the space. They notice that it occasionally moves subtly, so Kaleth uses his magic to create a protective barrier over it. The far side of the room has a passage to another chamber, but it is obstructed by a huge statue of what appears to be a priest. After some careful searching, they find a pressure plate next to the statue, and by triggering it remotely, discover that it causes the statue to wheel about and pour a cascade of negative energy on its unfortunate victims. They circumvent it by using magic and natural abilities to fly over top and squeeze past, avoiding the pressure plates.

On the other side, they arrive in a small tomb with two sarcophagi. The images on their lids are vaguely familiar, and are matched by statues. One statue is the priest that they passed to enter, and the other obstructs a hallway to a different room, appearing as a heavily-armoured warrior. They are soon recognized as Thoman Lander and Marlamin Tarmikos. Almost in a frenzy, Kaleth quickly arcane locks the two sarcophagi, and the party begins a very gradual sweep of the room to locate traps and the like. They find nothing within the room itself, but as Zil’dejin attempts to move past the Marlamin statue, it strikes at him with its huge sword. Indicus soon follows, taking the hit against Kaleth’s and Rilic’s protests, who suggest that there was probably a better way than to just charge forward after learning that the statue is dangerous. An assortment of magic is used to get the others through, with the exception of Rilic, who tumbles acrobatically and avoids the statue’s attacks.

The next room contains a huge brazier, once used to contact Rak Tulkhesh during his imprisonment. Rak Tulkhesh speaks to the party through the brazier, informing them of their impending doom and offering them a chance to extend their lives by a short while if they turn and leave immediately. They, of course, refuse, and Kaleth anticipates what is about to happen, throwing up a wall of force to protect them from impending disaster. Sure enough, the brazier explodes with demonic fire, and indeed appears to keep exploding perpetually, leaving them somewhat pinned. They eventually manage to temporarily disable the magic fuelling the brazier just long enough to escape. Derli lags a bit when everybody makes an escape attempt, leaving Zil’dejin to toss him over to Kaleth, who takes him out with a dimension door.Demon

They then enter into a collapsed stairway, beyond which is another four-way intersection. Ahead is a room from which emininates considerable heat, and which clearly contains a pit of lava, fire, or the like. To the right is an ordinary-looking corridor, and to the left is a room that eminates soft light. Careful examination (by peeking around a corner) reveals that the chamber to the left contains a summoning circle of some sort. They decide to leave this alone for now, and head towards the right, down a series of stairs. Here they find a massive, towering door of metal with four holes in it, believed to provide access to Rak Tulkhesh’s chamber. Derli inserts their first glyph into it, while Indicus examines the unlit braziers outside the door, discovering them to contain impossible darkness. The hallway continues around and up some stairs on the other side, while some short stairs into an unfinished cavern in front of the doors lead to a number of Khyber shards, glowing faintly.

Derli recognizes the small cave with the Khyber shards — he was imprisoned here, several years ago, before he was freed by the Grey Company. With this information, the Collective realizes that these shards are used to contain high-profile prisoners of the Rage of War. With some further inspection and examination, one of them is found to have a familiar presence: a balor lord, mentioned briefly in the religious texts Derli seized from the cultists as having rebelled against Rak Tulkhesh. Its presence — as with the souls of the other prisoners — appaers to jump around between the four different Khyber shards in the chamber. Kaleth attunes himself to the essence of the balor lord, and coordinates with Derli to destroy all the shards not containing the balor lord.

Once the last shard is isolated successfully, they take it over to the braziers containing pitch darkness and drop the shard in, just to see what will happen. It is soon discovered that the braziers contain spheres of annihilation: concentrated negative energy that destroy anything coming in contact. The shard, along with the balor lord, are obliterated, but its death burst is still experienced by the party, burning several of their number. They do, however, acquire their second glyph, and place it in the door before proceeding back in the direction they came from. They intend to go back to the bivouac to rest, but want to stop by the summoning circle first.

There is another altar in this room, this one with a more refined image of Rak Tulkhesh. Derli inspects the book on the altar, which is written in Abyssal script with some passages translated in Common. It appears to have been prepped to summon another of the balor lords. There are some images suggesting he can read it if he prays at the other altar (in the cultists’ base), but they decide against it. Before actually summoning the balor lord, Kaleth and his time-clone attempt to sabotage the circle. They are partially successful, doing some damage to it but also triggering a burst of illusory fire, which burns Derli who is hiding nearby (even though the fire is not real). With this, they all prepare an ambush, and trigger the summoning.

The balor lord is brought down quickly, and quick use of magic protects them from the worst of its death throes. They are then able to proceed back to the camp, which they manage without incident. The war camp is still holding, although the outermost picket line has fallen.

Once they have rested and bandaged their wounds for about an hour, they go back into Dragon’s Crown, again proceeding without incident. They go back to the hallway beyond Rak Tulkhesh’s door, where they trigger another trap they miss in their search, covering them in a sweep of liquid fire that drains out in the cave that previously held the Khyber shards. With this out of the way, they move forward, entering a room that somewhat resembles an arena. Beyond a raised platform is a wall of writhing souls, built by Incarnum, beyond which Mordakhesh the Shadowsword sits on a throne. He speaks with the party for a time, and proves that he has killed Zelishkar of the Bitter Flame, before summoning the last balor lord for the party to fight.

They take it down with some difficulty, but manage it even with Mordakhesh summoning another demon to aid it in the fight. At this point, Mordakhesh speaks with them for a short time longer, apparently stalling for some reason, before being pressed by the party to “play his hand.” He shrugs, wraps himself in some sort of antimagic shield, and steps into the screen of souls, where he begins absorbing its power. Not wanting Mordakhesh to become any more powerful, but fearing what will happen if they step into the wall, the party hatches a plan. Rilic is capable of stealing magic, so suggests stealing the antimagic which they believe is protecting Mordakhesh. Kaleth uses the Star of Chaos to connect their side with the interior of the wall of souls where Mordakhesh stands, and Rilic reaches out to touch Mordakhesh.

To the party’s surprise, he does not steal the antimagic effect, but rather the soul absorption — Incarnum magic, not affected by the antimagic field. Rilic begins absorbing the souls in Mordakhesh’s stead, even after Kaleth collapses the wall of souls, while the party looks on in horror and confusion.

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Manannan

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