Kraken Knuckles, The Salty Circumnavigators, and Clerical Errors arrive on the battlefield outside the city of Wintergarde, along with the armies rallied by Kraken Knuckles. The Alizarin forces number in the thousands, and though the soldiers answering the groups’ calls are considerably smaller, they include seasoned warriors such as mercenaries, orcs, and griffin riders. As the combatants move into formation, Kraken Knuckles and the Salty Circumnavigators leave the field, finding their way into the sewer tunnels leading into the city, while Clerical Errors remains behind to lead the armies.
Soon within the tunnels, the two groups encounter a section of walls lined with traps in the form of small holes that appear primed to launch something. Pthalo, with the aid of a musical assist from Freeport, easily disarms a section of wall, and Kraken Knuckles moves forth. The groups then find a section of wall dripping with ooze, which Jetki Applebottom counters, followed by walls of ice and fire dealt with by Bodi'ka and her friend Mitsuki, though not without suffering damage. As the groups delve deeper, rats swarm out into the tunnels, but Freeport pulls out a viol and charms the rats into submission with song.
As the groups move forward, the tunnels fill with a heavy mist, obscuring the path ahead. Il’an is able to find the wall and leads Kraken Knuckles forward, but the group reaches the otherside and finds themselves separated from the Salty Circumnavigators. Kraken Knuckles forges ahead into the dungeons below Darkbane Manor. The group finds another set of holes in the wall blocking the way ahead, but Naeris takes point to slowly and stealthily lead the group forward without setting off any traps, though she had initially hoped to intimidate the holes. The group finds themselves in an old storage area, and find a straggling group of Alizarin guards. Pthalo attempts to sneak past them, but as his boot scuffs against the stone ground, the guards turn their attention towards him, and he barrels forth to incapacitate them quickly.
The group finds a massive iron gate blocking the path, and Jetki runs his hands along the walls until his stubby halfling fingers find a loose stone hiding the gate’s key, though not without being stung by the scorpions that had nested in the crevice. As the group turns a corner, they find themselves in the Manor’s dungeons, where a shadowy figure lies shackled in one cell, and three more guards walk into the room. Mitsuki fires an arrow into one’s shoulder, calling it a warning shot, and one of the guards pulls a crossbow and fires at Mitsuki and Freeport, despite Naeris the bolt-magnet being right there in plain view. Bodi’ka slashes at one the guards with her scimitar, but the blade scrapes off his armor. He retaliates by carving into Bodi’ka with blow after blow. Naeris charges forward, drawing her frostbrand blade, and cuts through one of the guards, leaving him frozen and shattering in pieces on the ground, pulling a spectre from his soul and sending it after its former compatriots. Mitsuki fires another arrow, sending it through the last guard’s neck and dropping him to the ground.
Jetki knocks the cell door off its hinges, eventually, and breaks through the prisoner’s shackles with a burning hand. The prisoner appears to be Bodi’ka’s mother, who says she was kept alive as a bargaining chip by the Alizarins, though Manius had been telling everyone that she was dead along with the rest of the Darkbane family. She says she hasn’t seen the rest of her family since the Alizarins took the city. The group leaves her behind after she points out a secret door, and the group finds that it leads to a wine storage area with stairs that lead up to the kitchen. The servants in the kitchen are hard at work preparing a meal, and seem unphased by the new addition to the kitchen. The group hurriedly disguises themselves in servant-garb, with Pthalo dressing in a bureaucrat’s outfit he’d stashed away in his pack for weeks, and offers to deliver food for the servants as a cover.
The group passes into the dining hall, where Naeris and Il’an quickly pocket sets of silverware, and Naeris stops suddenly, announcing that she heard yet another voice in her head--this one seeming to know exactly who the group is despite their disguises, and attempting to bait the group into engaging in battle with the voice upstairs in the library, but also letting slip that Lord Manius is in a separate location in the ballroom.
Go Go Power Rangers
Pthalo creeps towards the door and cracks it open to peek into the entryway, and immediately dodges out of the way of a sword that stabs through the door. The armored paladin behind it rips the sword back, pulling the door with it, revealing three more heavily armored individuals. Freeport casts an enchantment, suggesting to the four guards that they would much prefer to return home and take a nap, where one of the guards will surely find his partner having an affair, and the guards begin to calmly make their departure. Across the entryway, though, two longbowmen spot the commotion, and begin firing arrows into the dining hall. The monks dodge out of the way, and Naeris and Il’an begin firing magical rays at them through the departing guards. As one of the archers is downed, the second archer misfires, and the arrow strikes the last guard before he can leave. The guard, awakening from the enchantment, draws his blade and engages in a melee with the monks and Naeris. As the casters defeat the archer, Bodi’ka slips through the confusion and shoves her blade into the guard’s armor, felling him.
After a brief discussion, Kraken Knuckles decides to head for the ballroom to face Lord Manius head-on, as it seems their cover is quite blown. Standing alone in the center of the ballroom, Lord Manius awaits, wearing a crisp black suit and wearing no weapons. Bodi’ka raises a scepter, calling radiant flame down upon Manius, though the flame dissipates and Manius remains standing unsinged. Manius pulls out two small figurines and throws them forward, and the figurines turn into two majestic lions that begin attacking Jetki.
From behind the pillars in the ballroom, Alizarin soldiers step out and raise heavy arbalests and begin firing upon the party. Il’an begins to blink between the material and ethereal plane, and Freeport turns invisible. Pthalo begins making his way around the room, slipping through fired bolts and weaving around the pillars, striking down the soldiers. Naeris draws a shield that draws into it tendrils of psychic energy, then releases a beam of illusion magic at Manius, but again he shakes off the effect. Freeport casts forth a wave of psychic energy that explodes around Manius, but he remains largely unharmed.
Il’an appears back in the material plane momentarily and casts a spell, breaking the magic of the figurines and turning the majestic lions back into their original forms. Manius gracefully moves his limbs, positioning himself into a fighting stance, and spectral images of himself begin to bleed away from him and coalesce into physical form. Two images of Manius each move to attack the monks, embroiling them in a fist fight. Il’an appears once more and conjures lightning from the air, sending it into one of the possible-Maniuses and chaining off into two more possible-Maniuses, but all three seem to impossibly dodge away at the last moment.
Two of the Maniuses raise glowing, flaming fists and blast into Jetki’s tiny halfling form until he falls into a halfling state of halfling unconsciousness. Two more Maniuses flank Mitsuki and knock her unconscious, as well. Pthalo slams a fist through one Manius, but it bursts into light and fades away, revealing itself to be one of the images.
Creepy old wizard Il’an appears beside Mitsuki’s body and begins treating her with an herbalism kit, and once she awakes, he cackles madly and asks her if she wants to be a T-Rex. When she tentatively answers in the affirmative, he casts a spell and fades away into the ethereal plane once more. Mitsuki’s form grows leathery and huge, and the Mitsuki-Rex begins to chomp at one of the Maniuses.
A healing word from Freeport wakes Jetki, and Freeport begins to play music that changes Jetki’s shape, as well. Jetkyrannosaurus roars as his huge scaley head reaches the ceiling for the first time in his halfling life, and begins to thrash his tail at the Maniuses and scoops up one of them in his jaws. However, a ring on that Maniuses’ finger begins to shine with light, and that Manius slips through a halfling-sized gap in Jetkyrannosaurus’ teeth, escaping the grapple.
With the Maniuses separated, Pthalo gains ground on one of them, his fists a blur as he beats it back. Mitsuki-Rex rounds on another Manius, ripping into it with her jaws, and destroying another of the images. With the tide of the battle turning, Manius moves into another stance, this one causing him to glow with light that blasts much of the room with radiance, and sending waves of burning light out from him, felling Pthalo and Bodi’ka.
Il’an reappears, treating Bodi’ka’s wounds, and Freeport shares a healing word with Pthalo, but another wave of light knocks Pthalo and Bodi’ka unconscious once more, followed soon after by Naeris. Manius sends a blast of flame at Jetkyrannosaurus, then pummels the great lizard with his fists until he reverts once more into his tiny halfling form, and a surge of psychic energy from Manius knocks the halfling down.
Manius turns his attention on Mitsuki-Rex, his fists a series of blinding light, but barely managing to remain polymorphed, Mitsuki-Rex lowers her jaw around Manius’ head, and rips it clean from his body.
Light explodes through the ballroom as Lord Manius dies, and Jetki’s twitching halfling body falls still as his tiny halfling soul leaves his tiny halfling body.