Finally it was down to Tyranthraxus’ personal forces, holed up in a well-fortified keep. Our company volunteered to spearhead the final assault. Our job: to breach the defenses and admit the elven war host.
Our quarry had gathered his veteran elite troops around him, and had entrenched in a well-constructed fortress in Phlan. Before our brave company stood the main gatehouse – a 40’ tall structure behind a pair of massive 30’ wrought-iron gates. Behind those was a heavy iron portcullis. Behind that was a small chamber full of traps and murder holes, after which was yet another portcullis and set of iron gates. On the roof of this structure lurked a quartet of abominable duergar – a grotesquely misshapen and sadistic subspecies of dwarf that normally live miles below the surface and are almost never seen above ground (Tyranthraxus’ influence must go deep indeed!). These four clutched wicked crossbows and swept their beady eyes back and forth across the field before the gates, waiting for someone foolish enough to approach the main entrance. Flanking the gatehouse were two massive 50’ stone guard towers crowned with battlements. Atop each one, a roaring giant stood sentry, hefting boulders aloft. Each giant was surrounded by a squad of elite hobgoblin snipers crouching behind the crenellations, sunlight glinting off the barbed steel points of the arrows they held drawn at the ready. Coming off from each guard tower, a long 30’ tall rampart wall stretched into the distance to either side. Rows of more hobgoblin archers lined these walls, their cruel eyes glaring at us hatefully. Every now and then, colorful garb indicated the presence of sorcerers or shamans among their ranks.
The drums of our elven war host pounded behind us, and Kalli decided it was time to begin the assault… by air. Our new, naked comrade Ben Ken (now greased up for some reason) used a Featherfall spell and then clung to Kalli as she drew Francis the magical sword and launched upwards, to surmount the leftward rampart wall. Blake used a Fly spell and bestowed a Levitation spell on Stefan, then took off after Kalli, the warrior in tow. Raynard took off sprinting beneath them all, also heading towards the left wall. That left Hrolf and I in the field facing the gatehouse, our war host behind us, waiting for the gates to be breached. Our foes wasted little time, launching a salvo of fireballs and boulders at the two of us, lost in prayer. Our gods saw fit to save us from most of the damage, though a large rock bounced off the dwarf’s hard head, and a fireball singed us both.
But now Ben Ken began the aerial onslaught, with a fireball of his own that blasted a group of hobgoblin archers off of the leftward rampart, clearing a landing zone for our assailants. As he and Kalli touched down atop the wall, a beam purple energy struck the warrioress full in the chest, seeming to sap her of strength! Meanwhile, Blake and Stefan broke off, and headed more centrally and higher up to the leftmost guard tower. Here, Blake appeared to attempt to shove the Levitating warrior over the crenellated wall and down behind the line of snipers, but as soon as his hand broke contact, the half-elf just floated there helplessly in mid-air… right in front of an angry giant! The great creature grabbed a club and swung mightily at Stefan, who luckily absorbed the worst of the blow with his shield, but tumbled back in the air several feet. Blake then darted back down to land near Kalli on top of the left wall. Below, meanwhile, Raynard had reached the base of the wall relatively unmolested by archers thanks to Ben Ken’s distraction, and the crafty rogue began to scramble up the face of the wall itself, finding improbable handholds as he went.
At the limits of the defenders’ range, Hrolf and I continued to pray furiously, he to his blasphemous dwarf god for Immunity to further Fire spells, and myself that Ronan would grant me Sanctuary from my enemies’ attacks. Then we both began to advance, slowly but resolutely, towards the gatehouse.
Up above, Stefan had managed to maneuver himself back to the tower ledge, and touched down enough to cancel the Levitation effect. He wasted no time and began hacking into the nearest couple hobgoblin guards with his axe, stepping back from the raging giant. Down on the wall, Francis (who hates mages) pointed out the warlock who had ensorcelled Kalli, and, though weakened, she focused her fury, brandished the magic sword, and charged at and sliced into the poor fellow. Francis squealed with glee as the blood flew. Behind her, Ben Ken began to pepper the defenders of the tower up above with Minute Meteors, distracting some of the guards and facilitating Stefan’s ferocious slaughter, until a couple of clever hobgoblins flanked the axe-wielder and held him at bay for a moment… but his martial skill eventually proved that to be a futile tactic. The raging giant in the first tower had used the moment of Stefan’s distraction to clamber up on the edge of the tower wall, and now attempted to pounce downward to crush the foolhardy half-elf… but the clumsy brute missed and succeeded only in shaking the whole tower, disturbing the aim of his archer allies. For his part, Blake used a Dimensional Door to teleport over the far side of the gatehouse, appearing high over the rightward rampart wall.
Down below, fortified with faith, Hrolf began his fearsome dwarven charge. His little legs began pumping and he steamed forward, shield held before him, tromping slowly but inexorably to his destination – the iron gates. I began running at the gate too, quickly outpacing him. The duergar and some of the hobgoblin archers above opened fire on the encroaching clerics… but Ronan had seen fit to make me hardly noticeable (not a threat worth wasting ammunition on) and so my poor dwarven comrade suffered virtually all their hail of slings and arrows. Incredibly, this sustained volley could not stop his slow charge, and though a few missiles struck home, they did not prove deadly enough to sway my stalwart comrade’s determination, and he charged on leaving a trail of his own blood behind.
Blake began unloading a magical salvo on the defenders on the right side. A fireball detonated atop the second guard tower, blasting a few hobgoblins off to fall to their deaths, and singing the other roaring giant. The wily bard then summoned a Wall of Fire all along the top of the right rampart wall, catching several of the archers lined up in the blaze. Quite a few, however, leapt back in time, or leapt off forwards to hang onto the outer lip of the wall.
Back on the left, Ben Ken lobbed another fireball at the first tower, yelling “Broken Arrow!” as Stefan hunched down to avoid the worst of the blast, which finished off the remaining hobgoblin snipers. But it just further angered the giant, who then managed to get ahold of the now crouching Stefan. Grabbing the armored warrior with a crushing grip, the monster actually lifted him up and began swinging him about like a club! As Kalli flew up to assist, the giant swung Stefan at her, narrowly missing again and again. Before long, Stefan brought his axe down on the monster’s hand, prompting his grip to release… sending the half-elf right over Kalli (who deftly ducked) to tumble down 20’ where he landed with a painful thump on top of the leftward rampart wall. He was going to feel that one in the morning! Perhaps a trip to the chiropractimancer would be in order.
At this point I finally reached the great iron gate doors, still escaping any particular notice from the defenders. I prayed for a serendipitous Column of Wind to whip up, and Ronan saw fit to allow a sudden powerful gust to bodily lift me up, up, up all the way to the roof the gatehouse, and up and over the oblivious duergar crossbowmen…
…and to deposit me gently down just a few yards behind them on the roof. Hrolf was closing in on the gate now too, and had the duergar’s full attention, as he was ranting and raving about his god’s divine retribution. Without pausing his charge, at one point he threw a hammer, which hurled end over end to strike one of the vile duergar full in the face, smashing his misshapen nose into his brain and instantly killing him! This served, of course, to firmly cement the rest of the duergar’s attention on this onrushing zealot barreling in towards the gate right below them. Their crossbows thrummed as they continued to fire down on him, ignoring the friendly human priest standing right behind them chanting increasingly fervently… something about purifying flames from the heavens to cleanse the earth of the unrighteous, certainly no cause for alarm.
Reynard had finally scaled the leftward wall, strung his bow, and began sniping at the giant and other guards who appeared on the wall, covering Stefan as he struggled back to his feet, joints cracking. Stefan took a deep breath, and then began hacking at the tower door, thinking to enter and ascend from the inside stairs. He made splinters of the door and entered, finding inside the various mechanisms that operated the portcullises and gate doors, and decided to begin opening the first gate.
Up above, Kalli now stood on the wall of the first guard tower, facing the raging giant. She darted in and out, sliced at it weakly as Ben Ken scrambled up beside her to perch on the corner of the tower… but another hobgoblin guard had come up too, spotted him, and launched a flying tackle at the mad wizard… who sidestepped and watched the poor hobgoblin tumble over the wall to fall 50’ to the ground below. Kalli was holding the giant’s attention as Reynard peppered it with arrows. Finally she feinted in, eliciting a charge that drew the monstrous creature off balance, and a final blow pushed it over the edge – it. too, fell down to its death below in the field outside with a resounding crash.
Across on the leftward tower, the second giant saw what Kalli had done to his friend. He picked up the charred body of a hobgoblin, and heaved it across the gap right at her! The crumbling corpse slammed into her, knocking her back against a battlement, briefly stunning her.
Below the second giant, down on the rampart wall, a hobgoblin warlock backflipped over the wall of flame, clung to the outside of the wall, and skittered in towards the guard tower like a nightmare spider.
Kalli regained her composure, stood up, held Francis aloft, and went rocketing up, over the gatehouse, to descend on this new giant assailant in the rightward guard tower. As she flew, Ben Ken conjured an ethereal bow back on the first tower, and shot a magical Acid Arrow across the gap beneath Kalli, striking the giant full in the face! He bellowed in pain as his face started melting.
Having dispatched the rest of the guards along the leftward wall, the Black Fox now stole into the leftward gatehouse behind Stefan, to take over the operation of the mechanisms that would admit our war host. Stefan, relieved of this duty, opened the tower door leading out the gatehouse roof, and was a bit startled to see me praying calmly right behind a line of snarling deep dwarves, apparently unnoticed. With a wink and a gesture to stand back, I finished my supplication to Ronan, and indeed in His infinite wisdom, He saw fit to send down a searing blast of celestial fire, a Flamestrike from the sky that engulfed the duergar in a brilliant column of incineration, wiping the blight of their existence from the surface of the earth. Stefan’s eyes widened a bit and he grinned.
Up above, Kalli drove into the second giant with a flurry of blows (her strength seemed to be returning) as the acid continued to melt his head, trickled down his ear canal and finally melted his brain. His hulking form collapsed in mid-swing at Kalli and he too dropped to crash below on the ground. Francis then began to call out the location where the other Spiderclimbing mage was skulking, and again Kalli rocketed up into the sky, down to his position on the wall, and impaled him.
Raynard had finished opening the gates and portcullises. Our assault had been withering to the defenders atop the walls and towers, but now another wave of enemies (the second shift?) began pouring out of the bases of the guard towers inside the castle walls! There were a couple more giants, a few more duergar, and many more hobgoblin archers and warlocks. One of the new warlocks hurled a fireball at Blake to the right, striking him in the chest! The airbourne bard flew out of the blast, blackened and smoking, then lobbed a fireball of his own right back at the warlock, engulfing him and a few other hobgoblins in the blast. Leave it to The Decanter to fight fire with fire.
Reynard then scampered up to the roof of the first guard tower to take up a sniping position, and began thunking arrows into the giant that had come out of the same tower on ground level, and who had just picked up a duergar corpse and was swinging it around like a club at Kalli. Behind this giant I saw a warlock creeping out from the tower as well, seemingly gesturing and intoning the words to some heinous spell. I called out to the world of insects, and sensing a colony of army ants, I asked Ronan to bend them to my will. It worked! A column of them skittered out from the cracks in the ground, and they zeroed in on the offending warlock, marching up his legs and swarming over his flesh, biting and crawling in his mouth and eyes. He would have trouble finishing that spell now.
Then a group of hobgoblins and duergar rushed over to the second gate (the doors between the inside castle courtyard and the gatehouse) where Hrolf was about to come through, and quickly slammed the iron doors shut, barring them once again and trapping the dwarf inside! Poor Hrolf’s assault was frustrated, but he quickly began Stoneshaping the walls around the iron doors’ hinges in hopes of just collapsing the whole gate. I then stepped forward to the ledge of the gatehouse roof, and looked down upon the squad of enemies that were preparing to attack should Hrolf manage to emerge… I called upon the holy power of Ronan to Hold them where they stood, and indeed they became held fast. As I debated whether it would be too evil to drop down and simply Create Water down their throats, drowning them where they stood paralyzed, the mad wizard Ben Ken leaned out above me from the corner of the first guard tower, and summoned a Mount. He sent the large horse tumbling off the tower, to violently crush my frozen victims! What a way to go.
Blake swooped in then, strafing Magic Missiles at anything that moved, while Kalli dispatched the second tower giant. Stefan charged over across the courtyard at the last remaining giant, but tripped and fell at his feet. The giant began to shake with laughter, until Raynard’s perfectly aimed arrow punctured his thick skull. He sunk to his knees and collapsed, dying.
(A moment later, Ben Ken’s summoned mount, now dead and mangled, disappeared back from whence it came. Some farmer’s daughter’s favorite prancing pet no doubt, and the family’s livelihood. Poor Peggy-Sue would never understand why her beloved horse had disappeared one day, to reappear a bloody broken mess moments later.)
In any event, we had now subdued the gatehouse’s defenses, and breached the gates! Next time we would assault the inner bailey.