Coming back down from the rooftops of the haunted island keep, we encountered a strange creature indeed – it was a naked human, hunched in a dark corner, clutching a knife and gnawing on a dead rat! It turned out he was a fugitive wizard, who had fled Phlan after the initial attack long ago, by swimming out to this abandoned island keep. It was said to be haunted, but he never encountered any ghostly denizens. Once he grew accustomed to a diet of mostly rats, he became quite comfortable living there alone, and used his magic to create ghostly dancing lights and other apparitions to keep the fearful superstitions alive in the hearts of the populace of Phlan. In this way, he kept strangers and explorers at bay, and had the entire keep to himself… until we arrived. An odd fellow, to be sure, but nevertheless this Ben Ken as he called himself proved friendly enough. The years of solitude must have left him hungry for company and adventure, for he decided to tag along on our mission and get involved in the war for the realm. I loaned him my Towel +1 from Ignax’s Bathhouse, and the green Hatchetmen’s sash, to clothe himself in temporarily. We returned to the mainland together and headed out to the Northwest of Phlan to see what discord we could sow amongst Tyranthraxus’ monstrous ranks.
As we headed out of Phlan, a messenger caught up with us and brought us word from the Duke. It seems that recruiting was going well, with thousands of soldiers and scouts being drafted from among the lower castes of Burke. Additionally, gnomes, halflings, and other voluntary militia were filing in from the surrounding countryside. The Duke was also being reinforced by a legion of the King’s own men, and the coalition forces were entrenching in a long siege line from East to West across the center of the realm.
Encouraged by our Duke’s determination to hold the line, we headed into a region of known troll activity, to see if we could persuade the vile creatures into betraying Tyranthraxus. No such luck.
On our way Westward into the swamps, another messenger caught up with us, bringing word of the first major battles of the war. Tyranthraxus had made the obvious move. He sent a large force of ogres and orcish skirmishers directly at the center of the coalition siege line, hoping to fracture it at the town of Glenbarrow. Had it worked, the tactic would have been incredibly demoralizing to our comrades. As it turned out, many brave human militiamen, bolstered by hardy dwarven mercenaries, lost their lives at the Battle of Glenbarrow, yet the attackers were repelled! “They came, they saw, they ran like a bunch of whipped dogs,” boasted the messenger. Meanwhile, we were informed, a naval fleet carrying marines had departed from Burke and was headed up the coast towards Phlan, when it clashed with a smaller force of Tyranthraxus’ ships. Luckily, the enemy ships had recently been damaged by an encounter with a sea monster from the deep, and so our boys had little trouble sending them to a watery grave.
We continued on our way, slogging into the swamplands to parley with the various bullywog tribes that made that moist territory their home. Here we had some success, persuading the chief of one particular tribe that his best interest lay in an alliance with the human King. Just when he was marshaling his warriors to accompany us though, a black-robed mage appeared in the village and had a secret meeting with the chief. After that, the leader of the frog-folk turned chilly towards us and nullified our agreement. Curses, foiled again! We hustled out of town before we could be bushwhacked by Tyranthraxus’ treacherous minions, and continued West.
On our way into the forested outskirts of Helirne, another messenger tracked us down. The news had turned sour. It seems that some of the dragon’s forces had assaulted one of our walled towns, and had managed to take it with only minimal casualties. In another spot along the siege line, there was a massive battle in which the Duke’s men were routed by a monstrous host, although in that instance the enemies’ ranks were sorely depleted. The silver lining was that not one, but two of our biggest coalition armies were approaching that location, so it looked like the depleted monstrous army would not be able to hold their prize for long.
We now headed into elven territory, and began to treat with the leaders there. This was a long and drawn-out affair of diplomatic pomp and ceremony… it is always thus with the elves, but they could prove powerful allies so we persisted.
While enjoying their hospitality (and possibly making a few half-elves), another coalition messenger reached us. He brought word that the two aforementioned large armies had engaged the enemy. The King’s own infantry had thrown themselves with foolhardy abandon at the now dug in, but outnumbered, monsters, only to be bloodily repelled. Cleverly, though, a large force of the King’s calvary used the distraction to come around from behind the trench lines, destroyed their position, and ran down every last survivor! We also heard tell of a fortuitous flash flood on one of the rivers, which evidently had drowned quite a few gnolls – the unit’s morale was broken and they slunk back to their homelands with their tails between their legs.
Finally we reached an accord with the elven leaders, and they dispatched a generous force of their warriors to accompany us back towards Phlan for a concerted assault on the enemy HQ. We began the long trek downriver together.
Halfway there, another messenger brought news. The King had recruited a large force of mercenaries who mounted an assault on Tyranthraxus’ own personal army. It was a resounding success… a heroic scout sniper had taken out one of the dragon’s eyes with a well-placed arrow, causing him to flee and his monstrous army to lose morale. They were then completely defeated! The Duke tried to press some of the orcish warriors into service on our side, but most of them fled back to hide in their orc holes. Then the Duke’s forces had teamed up with Team Rocket, our old rivals, and they had engaged a unit of ogres… but an assassin struck at Team Rocket, taking them out of commission.
We continued marching downriver, using various magics to speed us along our way.
Nearing Phlan, we came upon another messenger waiting for us. She related that Tyranthraxus had recovered from his injury, and had mustered another large personal army. They had struck at the King’s army, decimating them and driving the survivors back beyond the siege line.
But now Tyranthraxus had pulled his battered legions back to Phlan to lick their wounds and re-strategize. Though the enemy was well-fortified there, and numerous, It was time for a final assault. Our coalition hammered its way into the city, resorting to close-quarter tactics in this urban environment, and steadily driving Tyranthraxus’ undisciplined beasts back to the edge of town. Eventually a siege line of goblins, hobgoblins, and trolls hunkered down inside an abandoned castle, and managed to repel two massive assaults (by land and by sea) for several hours. Finally, as we rolled into town with our elvish war host in the eleventh hour, it was our faithful servant Hef who led a charge of mighty minotaurs to batter down their last defenses and root them out.
Only Tyranthraxus and his personal guard remained in a highly-fortified keep.