1 Deepwinter 459 (New Year’s Day)
The bombing had stopped. It was by no means quiet out, with alarm bells ringing throughout the city and the evergrowing mass of confused and frightened people gathering in the streets, but to Arlyn’s well-trained ear, it was deafening. He glanced at his companions. Only the human swordswoman, leaning over one of their unconscious assailants, cocked her head as if listening to the night. Everyone seemed focused on their prisoners, quietly discussing their options. Almost everyone, Arlyn corrected himself. Basil stood slightly apart, fingering the hilt of his narrow blade as he watched the skies.
Studiously ignoring the muffled discussion of his comrades, Derek slid one of the prisoners’ distinctive red armbands from around his bicep. They had all been wearing them. A black horse-head decorated the accessory, familiar runes splayed across the icon in thin white letters. The wizard frowned. The symbols were familiar to him, but the words were not. He shook his head, stuffing the armband into his pouch as he got to his feet.
“We need to be going,” Torrent said. Jasmine glanced up as Joshua rose to his full height, nodding at the pale-haired priestess’s pronouncement. Sounds of battle drifted through the city, probably from the western wall. Jasmine sighed. She knew that the towering cleric was frustrated that they hadn’t the time to properly interrogate the prisoners, but that certainly didn’t weaken her resolve to be rid of the men entirely. After all, the only good Ragesian…
Elessar hefted the other man, carrying him gently toward a nearby alley. Jasmine lifted her own charge and followed him, rolling her eyes as she watched the paladin gently lower the injured thug to the ground. Jasmine grinned at him pleasantly as she unceremoniously dumped her burden in the same relative vicinity. She trailed behind slightly as the party lurched into motion, speculating at her chances of catching them up were she to double back briefly and rid the world of a couple of minor Ragesian irritants.
Frowning slightly, she hurried to catch up as the others were swallowed by the swelling crowd.
Torrent leads the party in a generally easterly direction, doing her best to avoid the thick knots of frightened citizenry. The group stops occasionally to offer aid to the wounded or rescue those in need, then hurries on their way, determined to make the scheduled rendezvous at the depository. At the gate between city wards, the masses become frantic as a dragon flies low overhead, inspiring terror amidst the milling crowd below. Doing their best to avoid being trampled, the heroes take advantage of the opening left in the wake of the panicked populace to work their way into the back streets of the next ward. Minutes later, they find themselves outside the eighty-foot-tall stone tower that Torrent had spoken of.
Identifying herself to the guard at the gate, Torrent wins admittance for the group and makes her way inside. The tower’s interior is dark and quiet, the sounds of the city muffled by heavy stone. Letting their eyes adjust to the wan light of a single lantern, the heroes ruminate for a moment just inside the main entrance before making their way to the stairs. They’re met on the ramp by a misshapen gnome, presumably the Lyceum spy Rivereye Badgerface. Acting as if he expected them, the gnome leads them up to the second floor to one of the tower’s many heavy lockers. The party becomes suspicious, however, since he seems to have misidentified Elessar as his anticipated contact Peppin, with whom Torrent is certain that the gnome is already acquainted. When the gnome explains that a password is necessary to access the case that they are there to collect, Elessar attempts to gently explain that Peppin is not among them, and has instead been recently found slain. The gnome immediately takes flight, escaping onto one of the tower’s numerous balconies and managing to disappear into the night.
The tower’s guards soon arrive and search the premises. A group of sentries stationed in the depository’s interior are located on the top floor, bound and gagged, along with the actual Rivereye Badgerface. Once the heroes have illuminated the diminuative spy regarding their intentions, Rivereye informs them that they were captured by a group of elves who intended to open the case. The gnome managed to convince them that some sort of password was necessary, lest the contents be magically destroyed. Thus the charade. He is unclear where the elves have taken the case, but he knows that they have a contact at Gabal’s School of Wizardry.
The party decides to take the gnome to a nearby Resistance safe house, located beneath a church devoted to the Order of the Aqualine Cross. As they are leaving the depository, however, they witness a brief aerial encounter in which one of the city’s griffon-mounted defenders successfully lances a Ragesian wyvern-rider. The beast falls to earth just a few blocks ahead, and the party soon arrives at the scene. Though the wyvern is obviously dead, the rider seems to have survived and fled into a nearby alley. Joshua implores Torrent to proceed toward the church whilst he and the party track down the Ragesian soldier.
They follow a trail of bodies in the blood-soaked snow to a small dwelling, where they corner the Ragesian and attempt to subdue him. The battle turns vicious, however, and Charmalina is nearly killed. The heroes converge upon the wyvern-rider and quickly cut him down. Gathering up the household survivors, they follow Joshua through the streets as he cradles the wounded halfling in his arms, bearing her to safety.
Lending what aid they can to the healers of the Aqualine Cross as they tend to their fallen comrade, seeing to the security and welfare of their tiny refugee-filled chapel, the party settles in for the night.