My mother said the Slaughter Lands were no place for princes, and the path to our keep could have hardly been less comfortable, but I finally understand why the celestial flame has led me here.
I had my doubts, though my tutors trained me to share those not with those I led.
Sleeping on the ground with rough men, gnomes, and maniacs dulled my edge. Drinking strong, foul ale to endure the indignities to my station was all I could manage.
But this morning, with the crisp taste of cider stolen from the demon-spawn that have taken the keep, I have found clarity. I lie here in the secret heart of my ancestors keep drinking that tart, sweet local apples that my father and grandfather, thick with advice and admonitions, have never tasted.
Our old relics fall apart around me with naught left but stone walls and metal coin; yet its enough.
After clearing my throat with cider and relieving myself in a crack in the stones, I laugh as our wyldman, Jyro, continues to talk to a skull and drag smoke from the rat woman’s hookaa.
Something is happening in the underways of the keep. We hid our tracks, but perhaps the cloven-foot beastkin track us with some magic. Leaving Sir Symon asleep to protect Jyro, I rouse and seek council with the gnomes and great Orc. My parents would have never accepted such a beast, but they were not touched by the flame, and I had an instinctive trust in the brute.
He flinched when I grasped his arm, but no more so than the gnomes as I infused them with soul fire to prepare them for the day’s work. If we had a tactician, we should have planned a secretive assault from these chambers. Murder the interlopers in 1s and 2s until their godling boss was left to his own, but that was not the men I was given. Looking at Symon and Junior and remembering the wisdom of my tutor who said use the tools you are given, I knew this would be a simple assault.
Perhaps, we could reconnoiter a bit before Jyro’s madness ran its course.
The occupiers had obviously noticed the dead we left and the escape from the prison, as Donnyronny returned to tell us great beasts were left to block our entrance and egress. I felt a surge of confidence and walked calmly up to meet these beasts.
By the time I recognized that a great wolf was attacking me, I was scorching it with celestial fire, twining beams around its thrashing body. I raised my shield to block it from the little people, when Ronnydonny slipped past and planted a knife through its eye. They were convincing me of their bravery, but I should have silenced the beast.
The other worg howled at the end of a chain while Junior tried to train it as if it were a puppy. No wonder his scars. Thinking quickly, I dashed to the far ladder up to the castle’s ground floor, hoping to flank the enemy, but arrows drove me back. Yet again, one of little men dashed forward. The spidermancer cast through the opening in the ceiling and grunts confirmed the beastkin were dealing with his magic.
Screaming for Symon and Jyro to get up and out, I pushed Junior up the ladder to take advantage of the distraction and followed. Without drawing a weapon, he still provided our moment and I slew a monster from the ladder while the gnome crawled over my head.
Soon we were crowded into one of the keep’s towers with bodies stacked in the hall leading out. I was relieved when Symon made it up, since his weapon was actually drawn and Junior was still trying to talk sense into the servants of the beast lord as they popped arrows in at us.
Again, the little folk proved their worth as the spidermancer filled the underchamber with webs and spiders. I learned I can cast a fiery duplicate of myself into action. He looks very dashing and has quite a smile as he runs around blocking halls and hugging beasts. We are quite worn out as we take the room, yet from the far passage comes the strangest goblin.
I don’t quite remember how, but he convinces us to trust him as he sketches out the rest of the keep and how our enemies are laid out. We agree to rush to the highest floor so we can throw down the archers and gain higher ground. The beast lord and his lieutenants await us in the great hall. Again, stealth would have been a good tactic, at least until we were all in position, but the demented prisoner we “rescued” obviously had a different martial teacher.
As Junior and the little people engaged the archers, Symon raced back down the stairs impatient to confront the false god. Knowing how little thought he puts into protecting himself, I followed him down, but not before seeing the beast lord summon the ravens of the rook and sending them in a furious unkindness.
The dire ravens darted in and out, and while I could protect myself, it was all feathers and pecking for a minute as we swung blindly and burned wildly after them.
Fortunately, the smug godling waited for us, as his archers were flung down from the ramparts and his ravens overcome.
Unfortunately, Symon made it 1/2 step into the courtyard before the waiting monsters struck him down. Junior jumped down on top of an archer, but was faring little better. Some of the monsters were falling into magical sleep, but the wizards and I were wearing out. With my shield over my head, I slid into the archway to restore Symon. My warding flares popped keeping the beastkin from landing a solid blow and I pushed him to his feet.
Ronny stabbed wildly at the monsters, I could see flaming webs from above, but Junior was put to sleep with the beasts and Symon went back down after landing a clean shot.
Summoning the very last of my reserves, I scorched every monster in the room. The rat woman, seeing the tide change, slipped in and stabbed one in the back. I poured my healing potion in Symon’s bloody face and he popped up to strike the monster chief down. At least, that’s how I remember it.
My followers had their blood up and must not have heard me demand we take the chief prisoner, and the monsters and ravens were soon chopped down. I lifted the spear of light from the dead hands of our foe and lifted it overhead blazing light into every dark corner of my keep. We had won and I was home.
Over the next several days, we burned the bodies, cleaned the halls, and made a deal with the rat woman and bullywug. Continual lights sprang up in all the halls and from the peaks of the towers so any remaining good folk in the savage lands would see the keep as a beacon and rally to their new lord.