Characters Present: All.
All went according to plan, and James brought us into Cordell as prisoners. As we were carted through its streets, we saw that it was a huge city, filled with people moving purposefully from one point to the next. Though it was brimming with people, we noticed a distinct lack of energy: it was if the city had sunken itself into a mode of self-imposed oppression and occupation.
The prison was situated in the bowels of the main keep, which was the largest and most imposing structure of the city. James – accompanied by a small company of guards, along with Hazen, the rifle-carrying brigadier we encountered previously on the bridge – brought us to the dungeon where we were caged and shackled. Ironically enough, though Corrin chose not to accompany us because he did not wish to be taken as a prisones, he was already being held in the dungeon when we arrived. James ordered the guards to leave him alone with the prisoners, and all but Hazen agreed to do so immediately. It was clear that Hazen was suspicious of both us and James, and would only leave us alone with James after he was ordered to do so in a sharp tone.
Once the guards had cleared out, James set us free. James had doubts about releasing Corrin, since he had previously refused to cooperate with his plan. He finally agreed to allow Corrin to join us after Valindra promised to take responsibility for his actions. We snuck into the armory with James during a changing of the guard. Once there, we were given back our equipment, and were outfitted with brigadier armor to facilitate our disguises.
Using our brigadier disguises, we made our way to the entrance of the Duncan’s castle. Everything seemed to be going quite smoothly – that is until we were met at the castle gates by Hazen and two other brigadiers. Though we tried to bluff our way out of our predicament, Hazen saw through our disguised almost immediately, and announced that he was arresting James for treason. James turned to us, and told us that Duncan would be in the throne room, and that we would have to face him alone. Without another word, he turned and attacked Hazen – hoping to keep him occupied while we scrambled to the throne room.
We were now faced with the challenge of finding the throne room. Erik had been toured around the castle when he was a young man, and was able to muster up some faded memories of the place’s general layout. We managed to figure out some specifics by interrogating some of the castle’s guards, and Horacio invoked some help from on high by praying to Pondera for guidance.
Finally, we found the entrance to the throne room. We took a moment outside of its doors to strategize, but as it turned out Hazen was hot on our tail. Whether or not he had defeated James in combat was unclear. He ordered us to stop where we were, or he would shoot. Of course, we did no such thing: we scrambled into the throne room, bolting the door behind us to shut Hazen out.
Duncan was alone in the throne room. As we moved closer to him, we could see that he was preparing himself for combat: he had holstered a pair of pistols, and was seeing to his armor. His clothes were mostly blue- and copper-coloured, as were the many decorations that filled the room. He addressed us quite calmly, and told us that there was a portal opening in Ravenshore – a portal large enough to facilitate the return of the old god Pondera. He explained that the leader of the cultists opening the portal was a former brigadier, and that he had betrayed Duncan and his anti-magic crusade in favor of the will of Pondera.
We asked him why he had committed his genocide of magical beings – and why he was obsessed with wiping out all of the practitioners of arcane and divine magics. He told us that Pondera planned to draw power from them to facilitate his return to the rest of the gods, and that their genocide was necessary. This was difficult – if not impossible – for many in the party to accept, and after one thing lead to another, we fought with the king.
Beak had extracted himself from the scene before the fighting broke out, later to return to use carrying a surprise or two (as is his usual fashion). The party was somewhat conflicted about how Duncan should be treated: Horacio, being faithful to Pondera, was angered at Duncan’s extremism, and felt that he should be eliminated in order to restore some balance to the world. Valindra, however, felt that he should be kept alive (at least, for now) in order to stop the god of balance from breaking through to this plane of existance, and bringing about an unpredictable wave of destruction and change. The remainder of the party had their own concerns about Duncan, but in the end everyone except Valindra decided to fight him.
After a long and difficult combat, Duncan fell. As he lost consciousness, he handed us a magical scroll, which would allow us to teleport to Ravenshore immediately. What followed was an intense debate: should we keep Duncan alive? Or should we kill him? Words flew back and forth, but the cacaphony was eventually silenced by decisive action on Erik’s part: Erik raised his shield high in the air, and brought it down upon Duncan’s neck – severing his head from his body. Beak, who had returned shortly after Duncan had fallen in combat, decided to take his head as a trophy.
The ritual allowed nine people to pass through a portal to Ravenshore. Fortunately, Beak had brought with him one of the army’s ritual casters, and the various supplies necessary to set the ritual in motion. Soldiers flooded into the throne room as we began to open the portal. Just as they were about to fire their rifles at us, however, the earth began to tremble, and the sky grew dark. This distracted the soldiers for a precious few moments, and we traversed the portal without incident. When we arrived in Ravenshore, we found that the ground was shaking far more violently than in Cordell, and the dark clouds which littered the sky had centered themselves around Baron Ravenholm’s old keep.
The ritual had begun, and the portal would be open soon if we did not hasten to stop it.