Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres.   Posted by NorthStar DM.Group: 0
NorthStar DM
 GM, 151 posts
 In my hands may you find
 both Hardship and Reward.
Wed 27 Jan 2016
at 06:37
Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres
Our story so far...

CHAPTER ONE:
The festival of Armasse officially began at noon on the 16th of Arodus with the blessing of the festival by Lord Hulrun, ruler of Kenabres, himself. The crowd, gathered in Clydwell Plaza, quieted as the aged inquisitor took the stage, clad in shining, resplendent armor. He cleared his throat and, just as he was about to speak, a bright light shone from the west, as if the sun were rising from the wrong direction. A moment later, the sound of a thunderous explosion ripped through the air and earth, along with a violent tremor. To the west, the fortress known as the Kite—the location of Kenabres’s wardstone—had vanished. In its place, a brilliant plume of red fire, lightning, and smoke erupted into the heavens!

 Above the city, in a sudden burst of the blackest smoke,  another form appeared--as nightmarish as the dragon was breathtaking. A humanoid shape three times the size of any man, with skin coated in fire and lightning, gripped a flaming sword and whip. The creature’s identity was immediately obvious: Khorramzadeh, the Storm King of the Worldwound, had come to Kenabres!

Just as the fear started to wash across the crowd, a powerful roar accompanied a welcome sight: Kenabres’s greatest guardian, the ancient silver dragon Terendelev, who had until that moment been attending the opening ceremony disguised as a human, had launched herself into the air, transforming instantly into a shimmering, scaled symbol of beauty and goodness!  The dragon and the balor lord clashed above while on the ground gates and portals erupted from below the earth as demons exploded into the streets.

A screeching roar of fury and pain yanked your eyes skyward again. Khorramzadeh, Storm King of the Worldwound, cut deep into Terendelev’s body, and crashed down into her chest. A few more blows, and the titanic duo spiraled downward toward the crowd...

The sight of the dragon smashing into the facade of the Cathedral of St. Clydwell is one no witness would ever forget, but even now you remember that at that moment, a titanic demon erupted at the far end of the plaza, reducing several buildings to ruins as it smashed into this world. The rift it created cracked like splintered wood across the plaza, and this time there was no escape—it opened below the feet of the crowd, below your feet, and you felt the world tilt and fall, sliding away into darkness.

 Yet, even as hundreds fell, the dragon--broken herself amongst the shattered Cathedral, noticed the plight of "her" citizens. Though she saw death standing over her, she seized this final chance to save the souls she could, if only a handful.  A bleeding talon stretched out toward the crowd, toward you. Arcane words tumbled forth from the dragon's blood-speckled maw, and--- just as gravity yanked you into the abyss--- you felt her magic take hold of you, slowing your plummet into the darkness as if you were mere feathers falling into a pit. The last thing you saw of the Fall of Kenabres was Khorramzadeh drifting above the ancient silver dragon, his sword lashing out and cleaving full through her neck. As her severed head fell, as you floated slowly downwards amidst the screams of others falling to their deaths amidst the rubble, the rift above you suddenly filled with stone and slammed shut. The light of the world above was gone.


NorthStar DM
 GM, 152 posts
 In my hands may you find
 both Hardship and Reward.
Wed 27 Jan 2016
at 06:54
Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres
THE UNDERGROUND SURVIVORS
You awoke in darkness, with head throbbing, ears ringing, and every breath a labor amidst the choking smell of dust. You realized that you were covered in dirt and filth, but despite the general aches and pains, your injuries were relatively minor. The sounds of rocks clattering, moans of pain, coughing, and the struggling of others becomes apparent as your senses return, but it remains pitch black. A burst of divine, clerical light revealed the air of a large underground cavern filled with slowly settling dust.

 One side of the cavern was an enormous mound of rubble with small rockslides of gravel still occasionally tumbling down. Here and there, bodies were mixed with the rubble—citizens of Kenabres whom the dragon could not save. Nearly everyone who fell into the chasm perished. Only the ones to land on top of the landslide instead of being entombed under it were alive...





The group’s very first obstacle was each other.


Anevia was pleasant enough, given the circumstances, and if she had been uninjured there was no doubt her scouting skills could have been very useful. Nevertheless, the human did help those with diplomatic voices keep the peace.



Aravashnial was obviously used to being in a position of power and, despite his injuries, he immediately began demanding to know everyone’s names and what experience they have battling demons or other fearsome creatures. The other voices of wisdom finally realized the Elf’s insecurities and fear of dependence caused by his blindness. By putting him in a position of “mentor” and “rear general” they reassured him and took advantage of his experience, although he still tended toward “conspiracy theorist” explanations.



Horgus was insulting and crass. One of his first suggestions was to get the “real survivors” to safety, and come back to help the others later.  Horgus’ animosity toward Aravashnial was obvious and he seemed to be personally disgusted any time he was in close proximity to Anevia. The human’s poor attitude and frequent insults made him grating to be around; however, one of the most intelligent members of the party realized Horgus actually had knowledge of numerous subjects (local history, dungeoneering, engineering, nature, etc) and the man’s elitist ego was slightly satiated. His barbs and complaints didn’t stop completely, but at least they were somewhat softened.

NorthStar DM
 GM, 153 posts
 In my hands may you find
 both Hardship and Reward.
Wed 27 Jan 2016
at 07:01
Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres
THE UNDERGROUND ALLIANCE
 The city of Kenabres stands above several layers of underground chambers. Deep below the city, caverns skirting the upper edges of the Darklands realm of Nar-Voth have existed for ages, whereas closer to the surface, old catacombs and sewers riddle the rock. The city’s explosive growth during the First Crusade saw the construction of more of these tunnels than would ever see use, and today they’re home to outcasts, pariahs, and an unusually large number of mongrelmen.

These Mongrelmen are the descendants of those who fought in the First Crusade, when the crusaders had little experience in dealing with the unique hazards the Worldwound presented. During the First Crusade, many unknowingly exposed themselves to fell energies and nightmarish radiations. In the years that followed, a shocking number of children born to the crusaders were hideously deformed. Many of these unfortunate innocents were put to death by overzealous inquisitors or even fellow crusaders, but some parents fled underground to raise their children outside of the light of intolerance. Today, the descendants of these unfortunates are known by various names, such as “mole people,” “pitlings,” “tunnel people,” or most commonly as “mongrels.” They have no name for themselves. Life among the mongrels is short and often brutal, with a generation passing in as little as 20 years. Nevertheless today, no fewer than five distinct tribes dwell in the deep caverns, abandoned sewers, and forgotten crypts of Kenabres, which form a vast underground labyrinth.

The Mongrelmen Alliance
The party of survivors found two mongrels desperate to free a third companion from a collapsed cave pillar. The mongrels spoke in strangely accented but quite eloquent Common, and asked their intentions. “If your intentions are ill, we ask you to journey onward and leave us in peace. If they are good, then perhaps you can lend aid. As you can see, misfortune has befallen us.”  The strongest members of the Party lent their strength to the great stone and the injured mongrelman (Crellis) was freed. He and his two companions (Lann and Dyra) joined the party of survivors.

The mongrels agreed to escort the PCs onward to their settlement, Neathholm.
Mongrel guards met their companions warmly, but eyed the PCs with suspicion. Thankfully, Lann’s word was good enough to let them all enter the massive chamber. The impoverished settlement revealed the harsh and survivalist conditions of the Mongrels.

The Party met Chief Sull, a bloated and unpleasant-looking but mild-mannered mongrel with one clouded white eye. Once Chief Sull learned why the Survivors were in the caverns and of the source of the tremors that shook the tunnels and caused so much damage, he became quite concerned. He and his kind, Sull explained, may be outcasts and freaks in the eyes of uplanders but their ancestors helped drive back the demons in the First Crusade. He wanted the demons defeated as much as anyone who lives above, and asked if the Party would be willing to bring a message to the surface: “Those of the First Descendants will rise with the inhabitants of Kenabres to defend the city, rebuild its walls, and unite all its people.”


Chief Sull also informed the Party of the nearest route to surface and offered to send warriors with the party if they would wait two days for him to send word to the other Mongrel tribes. The “Uplanders” rested in Neathholm safely for a day but undoubtedly wanted to return to the surface as quickly as possible.

Chief Sull offered a token of goodwill in the form of three potions of lesser restoration; one of them was used immediately to heal Anevia’s leg and another on the disfigured Aravashnial.  Fortunately, it healed the terrible scaring on his face, but unfortunately did nothing towards curing his blindness.

Chief Sull escorted them to a tunnel at the edge of Neatholm territory. He wished the Party luck and told them he eagerly awaits word of whether the Crusaders Above wish them to join the battle above. If the Mongrels soldiers return with the words that  the Crusaders Above will welcome the Crusaders Below, the Mongrelmen will be ready to literally rise up and help take back Kenabres.
NorthStar DM
 GM, 154 posts
 In my hands may you find
 both Hardship and Reward.
Wed 27 Jan 2016
at 07:09
Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres
ESCAPE INTO THE RUINS
As the Party emerged from the sewers, they found a city vastly different. The tremors and demonic attacks had devastated the city, leaving it a smoking, apocalyptic ruin. Deep chasms riddled the city, while the paths of enormous demons had left ruinous trails of rubble extending out from the city’s heart. Above, the once-familiar skyline of Kenabres had forever changed—the tower of the Kite and the Cathedral of St. Clydwell were completely destroyed, while elsewhere plumes of dark smoke still rose from the smoldering remains of burned-down buildings. Fat buzzards floated above in skies now scarred by black smoke and red-tinged clouds. The Worldwound had expanded its borders and claimed the city of Kenabres.

The place felt deserted, yet the scream of a fresh victim often pealed through the soot-encrusted streets, indicating that the number of survivors had dropped again. Evidence of violence lay everywhere--- burned buildings, splashes of blood, or dead bodies (both animal and humanoid) waited to be claimed by the vultures.

Although nearly everyone wanted to go a certain direction to check on a certain loved one, or neighborhood, or responsibility, the Party easily knew that separation would be suicide. Despite their differences, Anevia, Aravashnial, and Horgus ---indeed every member of the Party---was equally horrified when they behold the true extent of the devastation the demons have wrought upon Kenabres. The three long days together in the tunnels had changed the weak; they boar the shock stoically and with a grim determination. The small band of Mongrelmen that joined them and doubled the party's numbers were obviously shaken with fear, yet none of them retreated back to the safer underground.

Upon hearing the mix of horror and concern in the voices of the others, blind Aravashnial quietly revealed that he was a Riftwarden. Although the Riftwardens operated in secret, in the case of something catastrophic they had planned to use  the Defender’s Heart inn as a place of refuge. Anevia then exclaims that Defender’s Heart was her and her wife’s (the aforementioned paladin, Irabeth Tirabade) emergency meeting place in case of disaster or separation. With a sliver of hope, the group begins to head for Defender’s Heart the largest inn in Kenabres.

Although few barricaded houses still hold citizens who are trying to stay out of sight, most of the demonic hordes seem to have left. However, the journey to Defender’s Heart is anything but easy, loosened monsters, dire rates, evil conspirators and cultists, looters, the occasional demonic dretch or abrikandilus that was left behind, and even just the “simple” dangers of fire and devastation make traversing the city especially difficult. The Party encounters almost no one of a worthy nature and none who can aid them. Several pitched battles with demonic remnants have to be overcome before they finally find safety.


NorthStar DM
 GM, 155 posts
 In my hands may you find
 both Hardship and Reward.
Wed 27 Jan 2016
at 07:15
Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres
DEFENDER’S HEART
The largest inn in Kenabres is Defender’s Heart—a stout stone structure that survived the fall of Kenabres. Built to last and largely ignored by the initial demonic attack (which focused much more on Old Kenabres and the riverfront), fate has made Defender’s Heart a perfect choice as a place for surviving crusaders and veterans of the war to gather and form a sort of defensive line. The majority of the surviving crusaders now housed here belonged to the Eagle Watch, and they have assumed control of the various other leaderless mercenaries while they wait for the Mendevian army to come to the city’s aid.

It is later, after their arrival at the Defender’s Heart Inn that the Party learns that before the fall, Kenabres had a population of 12,330. Now, the bulk of those citizens have either fled the city, been abducted by demons deep into the Worldwound, or have simply been killed—only 3,400 people remain in the ruined city. Confusion and fear abound. At this point people only know the true fates of those directly around them.

Rumors abound that other border coutries (Mendev, Ustalav, Numeria, and the Realm of the Mammoth Lords) have fallen under attack or even have been oblitetrated.

While approach to the inn was a bit unnerving thanks to a crossbow bolt from an over-stressed guard narrowly missing a the head of MongrelMen soldier, Aravashnial luckily spoke some type of password just in time to keep the other crossbowmen who lined the windows of the top floor from releasing a volley of death upon the battle-weary Survivors.
NorthStar DM
 GM, 156 posts
 In my hands may you find
 both Hardship and Reward.
Wed 27 Jan 2016
at 07:21
Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres
DEFENDER’S HEART (continued)
The inn is owned by a one-armed man named Kimroth Otai, but he largely ceded control of the building to the Eagle Watch—the highest-ranking survivor of which was the half-orc paladin Irabeth Tirabade, Aenevia’s wife. Along with a handful of experienced crusaders and city guards, Irabeth has spent the past several days gathering intelligence on the assault, formulating plans to defend the inn against periodic attacks by demons and cultists, and working to keep morale up by promising that the Mendevian army is only a few days away from helping to retake Kenabres.




 The reunion between Anevia and Irabeth was emotional and a mix of hope for those who kept it for their own loved ones and piercing loss for those who knew they and their loved one would never have such a reunion. . Irabeth thanked each member of the party for keeping Anevia safe and swore to assist them in whatever way she could.




Irabeth explained that she’s now in charge of the Eagle Watch, at least, until the Mendevian army arrives to help reclaim the city. She knows that word got out about the attack, but has also heard that Nerosyan and other cities along the border are facing their own plights—so far, she’s relatively certain that none of the other border cities have suffered as great a defeat as Kenabres; however, the city’s wardstone has been destroyed and that as a result, the entire network of wardstones has diminished in power to a shadow of its former strength. She thanks Iomedae daily for the inherent disorganization of the enemy, noting that had the demons made as focused an attack on Nerosyan as they did on Kenabres, things would be dire indeed.

Irabeth listened intently to the Party’s additional information:
Mongrels of Neathholm: The paladinic commander is delighted to learn that the Mongrels of Neathholm (people she prefers to call the “First Descendants,” out of respect for their original parents), and agrees to send some Eagle Watch knights back with the MongrelMen Soldiers down to  work out the alliance.

Traitors Within: Irabeth speaks briefly about the cultists of Baphomet.  “They have spies everywhere,” she says, “and have apparently been among us for decades. Only recently has proof of their presence been manifesting. I personally managed to root out one of their more powerful members the day before the Storm King's attack. It was Staunton Vhane, who we all thought of as a model crusade. But as far as I was able to discern, he’s been working for the demons for decades as a leader of a group called the Hammers of Heaven. There’s even evidence he may have been the one to betray the City of Drezen 75 years ago. They knighted me for that discovery, but I’m still not sure why, since he slipped through my fingers and is out there still, causing who knows how much more damage...” Irabeth trails off here for a moment before she finally takes a deep breath and clears her head of any morale-reducing thoughts….
NorthStar DM
 GM, 157 posts
 In my hands may you find
 both Hardship and Reward.
Wed 27 Jan 2016
at 07:25
Prologue: The Fall of Kenabres

A SAFE HAVEN
In the days that follow Defender’s Heart is a place to relax, recover, and resupply. The building is quite large, and the crusaders, merchants, mercenaries, and others who have gathered here number nearly 200. There are only a few rooms still unoccupied in the huge inn, but arrangements are made and Room and Board are provided to each of you.  Several low-level clerics and paladins of Iomedae, Sarenrae, and Torag are present, and they provide healing to all free of charge.

The now fully healed Anevia is almost always near Irabeth’s side in the early mornings and late evenings, but otherwise has obviously found a place to help.  Likewise Horgus, has thrown his poltical expertise (and apparently most of his substantial wealth---well, that which has endured) into the survival of the Kenabresian government. The only member of the Surviving Party that seems to have disappeared is the blind elf, Aravashnial.  However, given his secret revelation, no one doubts his loyalty or that he is most likely quite nearby.  A blind man keeping himself unseen by others – the irony can make one smile even amidst the horrors of devestation.

Everyone in Defender’s Heart hopes that the Mendevian army will arrive soon, but as the days have worn on hope starts to fade, the talk amidst the morning Change of the Guard often involves more Rumors of Shadow than Rumors of Light.....



OOC: Thank you all for reading and enduring this long backstory that explains our 4th Level Start. Our truly open scene will be classic morning breakfast in the Defender's Heart Inn which will give you all a chance to interplay with each other as much or as little as you want before the next plot-wheel is set set spinning.