The bakers have been busy. Somehow, I don’t know how, they’ve been working on the biggest pastry anyone’s ever seen. So that’s a thing. And something about blackmarket pastries that I don’t want to know about. And there was a group of squatters that could have started turning the area into a slum; we elected to deal with it by hiring them as laborers to start working on housing; they get the second house they build. And some bandits have moved in, but things will happen about that… either someone will clear them out or they’ll be encouraged to set their sights on Friula instead.
And then the campaign season started. We got word that large contingents from both Savoyne and Friula were on the way… well, we expected that, I suppose. Though they seemed inclined to detour around Sanguine’s fort… can’t imagine why.
The Friulans arrived first, and surrounded the south side of the city. They weren’t able to bring siege weapons to bear… something about packages from the kobolds from Zobeck kept leaving nice little packages of extremely critical parts of siege engines every night and the siege engines falling apart in a castastrophic fashion.
I like them.
A week or two later, the forces from Savoyne showed up from the north. The two armies did not seem inclined to mingle, though that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be keeping an eye on them to make sure that no deals are being brokered. And we might want to see about encouraging the infighting.
The Mharoti groups are going to be tasked with harassing the enemy as much as possible in whatever way they see fit. And possibly make it look like they’re attacking each other. Given the competitive nature of the two groups, they’re probably going to be seeing who can outdo the other. The kobolds from Zobeck are going to get involved too. The idea is to cause as much trouble as subtly as possible.
This is going to be entertaining. Especially since someone set up a tally board…
About a month later, it was proposed that important pieces with identifying marks should be stolen and kindly left in the other camp, though naturally in a non-working state. The kobolds excelled at that. And it did seem to be having an effect.
That was about the time that Ceor told me he was sensing something unpleasant coming… including a faint hint of jungle rot. And once he pointed it out, I could feel it to. It was oppressive, like a storm coming in, but wrong.
Fuck my life.
Reeshka said it seemed to be blowing in from the east. And there was a sort of forest that had sprung up… Great. Sanguine is busy taking care of a contingent of troops from Friula that elected to get cute, and I don’t think he’ll be able to get to us in time.
I suppose it’s fortunate, in a way, that the east gate is where the gap between the armies is… I don’t want chance a teleport. I know the area, but gods know what it looks like now. I suppose riding straight into the mouth of hell isn’t the craziest thing we’ve done.
Close, but not the craziest.
The center looks like it’s fifteen miles away, and we’re going to be plowing through what looks like zombies made up of plant life. That’s nice.
We made fifteen miles in an hour at a gallop, but the horses seemed to have no problem whatsoever, and we noticed that their hooves had golden fire coming off them. It seems to be helping, so I’ll worry about figuring it out later. Reeshka said it was a divine manifestation.
While we’d picked up an honor guard made of combined Mharoti and Zobeckian troops, they’d ended up dropping back to deal with advanced shambling horrors, so it was just us when we made it… it was really creepy, with the blue, purple and green foxfire over everything.
There was a hill that actually looked new; the rocks were still steaming. We saw more groups of the zombie-things, standing in what looked like guard formations. They’re not going to let us up the hill without a fight, and that does look like where we need to be.
Fireballs it is.
Meanwhile, Ceor elected to charge into them and do what he does best. Which is to make them explode into little pieces. Anusk seemed to have a flickering golden outline, that almost seemed like another creature that was trying to occupy the same space. It doesn’t seem to be doing any harm, so it’s a low priority right now. One of the things managed to hit Ceor on his charge, but didn’t do much, despite the spray of acid.
The maniacal laughter on top of the hill is probably a bad sign.
Of course, we have their attention now, and two of the groups that I’d set on fire came forward towards me and Reeshka. I got hit in the face with a branch. It splashed acid on me. I didn’t like that, but the way they’d advanced meant that I could catch them all with a Fire Snake, so that was good. I finished off all but one, and Reeshka took care of that one. Ceor was having some trouble; that’s the thing about fireball. I don’t have to be all that accurate.
I set another Fire Snake on the group that was engaged with Ceor, while Reeshka made them explode with holy light. Ceor charged the next group… twice, because he’s apparently picked up the dimension door ability.
And the hill is growing. That’s nice. There were more zombies between us and the top, and I don’t think we’ve got time for this. So Reeshka hit us all with a fly spell. so we don’t have to. We flew the rest up the way up the hill.
I heard that laugh again, and a familiar voice asking what took us so long.
Of course it’s fucking Cindersong.
Who the fuck else would it be?
There are not enough things on fire on top of that hill. This will be remedied. With extreme prejudice. I don’t use my empower metamagic rod often, but this is a splendid occasion to do so.
_Fuck you. Fuck you with a cactus. On fire.
It was a lot more fire than I usually fling, and it almost put him down. Reeshka finished the job. Maybe he’ll stay dead this time but I’m taking no bets.
His death didn’t seem to halt the horrible pillar of fire at the top of the hill, though. So that’s something else. I got up there while Ceor dealt with another group of zombies.
Oh god, it’s Bloodstone. Why won’t these fuckers just stay dead?!
Of course, the bastard shot me with the hell of a lightning bolt. It really hurt. I did repay the favor. With interest.
I believe the term ‘arcane temper tantrum’ was used at some point, though I’m not entirely sure by who.
He can stay dead too.
At least it seems like all the weird shit stopped when I immolated Bloodstone. The zombies crumbled, the fire stopped, and the hill started receding. So it looks like things will go back to normal.
Cindersong’s body just crumbled away, but Bloodstone left a seed like shape. That’s not going to do. Between my fire, Ceor’s sword, and Reeshka’s acid breath and consecrate, we seemed to take care of it. And golden light arced between the three of us, forming a field of golden fire that detonated and scoured the mountain top of all plant life. It did leave behind a staff, a few spindle ioun stones, and some tatters of clothes. The staff was a Staff of Necromancy… which is weird considering the way that would interact with Mara’s influence… an irridescent spindle ioun stone, and a clear spindle ioun stone. The irridescent one will sustain the bearer without air, and the clear one will sustain the bearer without food or water. Not entirely sure what to do with them.
There was still golden lightning coming from the horses’ hooves as we went back; Reeshka’s sure it’s some sort of divine effect and I can tell it’s some sort of bizarre planar energy, and that’s all we know. Neither besieging army elected to mess with us as we returned, and our honor guard was still alive, if in varying stages of injury. The gap between the armies was noticeably wider. Some were dead, but some had elected to desert and seek shelter in the city. Ceor gave orders that anyone wanted to fight for us was welcome; we won’t make them fight their own, but I expect there will be no issue with asking Friulan troops to fight Savoyne, and vice versa.
As the gates closed, a silver lightning bolt struck what was left of the hill and it shattered.
In the morning, there were a group of generals outside the east gate, with a flag of parlay. One of them had a group of swords, which were laid out in front of Ceor. Fourteen swords, to be exact. Six plus eight. How wonderful. They offered Ceor their surrender, and hastened to add that though they were following orders, they thought the circumstances and actions of the leaders of Friula and Savoyne were less than honorable. While we did make it clear that the standard rules of capture and ransom would be followed, it was understood that they had been following orders, and would be treated with all due fairness. I know they were expecting that they’d be executed, and were visibly relieved that that was not the case.
Twelve of the generals of the free companies elected to follow the standard ransom procedure and go home, but one from Friula and one from Savoyne elected to sign on with us, as well as about three companies worth of men. The twenty men who rode out with us will be given honors, and a permanent promotion to an official honor guard, if they elect to stay.
Ceor did mention that when he checked on Anusk, his coat had turned a golden color. That night, I had a strange dream that almost seemed meant for Reeshka; it involved having massive wings and a tail. When I woke up, there was a small golden egg on my pillow. I’m pretty sure it’s some sort of drake egg, and three or four days away from hatching.
So that’s a thing.
Also, apparently, a pair of treasure drakes have decided they liked Reeshka’s decorating taste, and moved into the castle. Well okay then.