0400, Sul, 15 Octos, 3E998
With the immediate danger to the western gatehouse tower eliminated, the Heroes 4 Hire re-secured the doors and barricades while they decided what to do next. Illyia Baham and Lt. Diplo Norixius, after hearing the events in the haunted second floor of the curtain wall from Dajjal, decided to go to Adept Karraway’s aid. They climbed down the rope and dashed across the outer courtyard, keeping an eye out for the Ankheg, and exchanged the portable ram for the 10’ pole in the Bag of Holding. Illyia ran through the door and up the stairs where he had originally triggered the flash-bang-and-glass-beads trap, and Diplo use the 10’ pole to pole vault to a second story arrow slit.
The 10’ pole crackled ominously as it heaved the 380 lbs. of combined dragonborn paladin, heavy plate armor and equipment up, only to come a tad short against a curtain wall where the stories are 15’ tall. Diplo leaped and grabbed at the top of the arc, and just managed to grip the bottom sill of the intended arrow slit. Hanging by a single hand, he lifted the pole and slid it in through the slit, and then used both hands to climb in himself. As he collapsed breathlessly on the floor inside the arrow slit, Illyia reached the top of the stairs and stood over him, admonishing his perpetual need to “do everything the hard way”.
The two moved cautiously out of the western curtain wall tower, through the door and middle wall interior into the eastern tower. They quietly approached the door to the eastern wing of the curtain wall, stealthily cracked it open a sliver and looked in. There they saw Karraway walking a patrol route… east away from the door along the south side, looking out each and every arrow slit he passed at the fort’s outer courtyard, a U-turn at the end and back along the north side of the wing, again unfailingly looking out each arrow slit as he passed it out at the forward approach and road to the drawbridge. Diplo instantly recognized the standard military “guard on patrol” in Karraway’s body language, tattle-telling experience he knew not to be in the cleric’s background. The two conferred a moment, and deciding that they would try to bluff the situation versus attack their comrade and the team’s only healer.
Diplo stayed back with the 10’ pole in a joust position as Illyia prepared to open the door. Suddenly, they heard Karraway’s voice shout at them to identify themselves from beyond the door in a military manner. Illyia opened the door, Diplo dropped the pole, they both stood at attention and responded, “Yes, sir!” Karraway was taken aback for a moment, demanded they identify themselves, and then accepting their initial lie of being troopers from another squad in the fort he ushered them inside the east wing and slammed the door shut behind them. Karraway immediately started discussing the hopeless tactical situation of the overrun fort and plans of defending this room. The elf and the dragonborn played along as best as they could, but Karraway quickly became suspicious of their ruse and finally demanded they give him the name of their sergeant. Diplo responded with the name of the first sergeant he ever trained under in the Eridani military, and Karraway responded by clobbering the side of his head with his mace. The fight was on, but Illyia was so fast he knocked Karraway unconscious in a single action.
A silvery mist lifted slowly out and off of Karraway’s comatose body, coalescing back into the vaguely humanoid silhouette Dajjal had described. It lifted its hand and reached for Diplo as he turned and fled back towards the western curtain wall tower. Illyia began to bodily drag the unconscious Karraway in the same direction. Diplo felt the chilling, numbing touch of the entity as it touched him on the shoulder, but when he dashed through the door into the western tower, the ghostly presence seemed to break off its pursuit, apparently at the edge of some geographic limit. It then turned and went after Illyia in the same manner, who stopped dragging Karraway and fled on his own past the ‘line in the sand’ as soon as the entity’s chilling touch landed. Diplo seized the opportunity while the entity was enamored with Illyia to dash back inside the ‘hot zone’, and finish dragging Karraway to safety. With all three potential targets out of reach, the entity that possessed Karraway floated back toward the eastern curtain wall wing. Illyia and Diplo revived Karraway, who was still jelly-legged from being possessed by the Haunt. He was awake and aware the entire time, and gained full insight and knowledge of the spirit that possessed him. He awoke with that knowledge in tact and told the following tale:
The Haunt is actually the spirit of a man named Jon, a Sergeant of the Guard here at Fort Garsley, the original name before it was sacked over a century ago. As the fort fell to a huge band of marauding orcs, the last survivors of the fort’s defenders… Sergeant Jon’s squad… held up in the east wing of the curtain wall and made their last stand. Sergeant Jon’s men fought valiantly, but the Sergeant watched his men fall one after the other until he was alone, and made his last stand on the very spot where Dajjal and I first encountered the silvery mist. That was the scene we were watching playing out over and over again against the wall… Sergeant Jon’s last memory, the memory of his inevitable demise. His rage at the orc assault, his despair that his family would never know his fate, and worst of all, the knowledge that he had failed his men, his fort, his leadership and himself… that he couldn’t even defend a single room against the Horde… bound his spirit to that very spot until he completes that goal: defend the room.
He can not rest until he does, Gentlemen. We can avoid him; we can defeat him in is ectoplasmic form; after a night’s rest and spell preparations, I can even exorcise him, but he will never pass on to his final rest until he does. I don’t think we should leave him like that.
Diplo and Illyia agreed, but they also pointed out that he wasn’t going anywhere, and they could and should come back for him later. It took Karraway several minutes to recover enough to rejoin the others, but he agreed and told them he had full knowledge of the layout of the fort, including the keep’s interior. The trio went downstairs to the winch room, picked or broke the locks securing the winches, raised the portcullis and lowered the drawbridge. They then returned across the outer courtyard toward the rope hanging out of the third story of the western gatehouse tower.
As Diplo and Illyia went to the curtain wall to find Karraway, Alton Beeblebrox ran across the central wall parapet to the east tower, staying low to keep out of sight of the archers stationed on the balcony and the surrounding stockade wall. Beeblebrox found what he was looking for… the wolf pup, running around in circles and yipping wildly at all the commotion. He grabbed a piece of meat out of the pup’s food bowl and tried to coax him into trust, but the pup wasn’t so easily fooled. Dajjal followed him into the eastern tower and assisted, with better luck. With the pup gathered up, Beeblebrox descended the rope in the west tower while Dajjal joined Greves atop the tower to continue picking off archers and keep watch on the surrounds for any more assaults on their position. They immediately went to work on the few remaining archers on the curtain wall parapet, cleaning them off as Beeblebrox made his way back across the outer courtyard, up the staircase and back down the makeshift rope out of the curtain wall and fort itself. He ran out to the hidden observation and staging position where they left Kwon and handed off the pup to him for safe keeping. Then he returned to the fort just as the drawbridge was lowered, and he joined Diplo, Illyia and Karraway as they headed back to the rope to the west tower third floor.
Once the remaining archers atop the curtain wall were defeated and Beeblebrox’s escape route was clear, Greves and Dajjal returned their attention to the archers on the balcony and surrounding perimeter stockade. An extended archery battle cleaned off the balcony, but the fort’s defenders proved unusually lucky in scoring hits on Dajjal and Greves even with their battlemented, tower-top advantage. After several long minutes, they were out of healing potions and ammunition. They kept the trapdoor descending to the floor below barred, sat down behind the full cover of the battlements, and waited for the other four to return.
Back at the ranch…
Illyia made it up the rope first, in spite of Beeblebrox’s attempt to race him there. As he grabbed the sill of the arrow slit at the top, his wrist was grabbed by a surly hand and he was quickly hauled inside, thrown to the ground and grappled by four hobgoblin soldiers, who then proceeded to attempt to manacle him. Beeblebrox landed his ‘super-jump’ (from his Boots of Striding and Springing) in the same arrow slit sill as Illyia was being restrained, and a pair of archer shots flew to meet him. One missed and Beeblebrox caught the other one out of midair, and then he jumped back out the arrow slit and down to the ground while Illyia activated his Ring of Misty Step for the last time in the day to teleport back down to the ground. Diplo was just about to ascend the rope when the elf and the halfling both appeared on either side of him after having ascended not 5 seconds ago, intoning in unison, “You don’t want to go up there.”
The four Heroes on the ground yelled to Dajjal and Greves on the tower top above that the third floor was again filled with enemy, and then ran towards the portcullised Sallie port in the gatehouse wall under a hail of arrows from the tower’s third-floor slits. As they low-crawled through the narrow opening under the jammed portcullis, flaming oil poured from the murder holes above, covering the party and setting the crates and barrels stacked up in the Sallie port aflame. Beeblebrox backed out the way he came, but Diplo, Illyia and Karraway hustled through the fire and headed out the Sallie port inside the inner courtyard. Beeblebrox used his Boots of Striding and Springing to jump up to the second story arrow slit in the east tower as the other three rounded and entered the same tower through the ground floor doorway and stairwell. They briefly saw each other on the east tower’s empty second floor, and then the trio continued to the third floor. Beeblebrox moved to the open archway to the room over the Sallie port and saw two hobgoblin soldiers withdrawing into the west tower after having finished dumping the oil, unaware of his presence.
Beeblebrox fired Dajjal’s old light crossbow and dropped one hobgoblin instantly, but the other quickly returned fire forcing him to take cover. The soldier then retreated out of sight, and Beeblebrox quickly closed the distance across middle room, found the room in the west tower empty and continued through the swinging open door in the southern wall. When he reached the bottom of the stair leading to the smashed trapdoor leading to the third floor room above… their former room… he stopped to avoid the soldiers aiming bows down the opening. Meanwhile, Illyia, Diplo and Karraway came up into the third floor chamber of the east tower and took up positions in the open doorway and arrow slits looking across the central wall parapet at the west tower. The squad of soldiers had not closed the door between the towers, and they could see not only the soldiers but their lieutenant and their captain. Illyia had Nightshade circle around from surveying the situation and swoop in to deliver a Magic Missile barrage. Illyia’s spell caught the captain of the guard from behind and unaware, killing him in a single attack. As Nightshade retreated from the launch point, Illyia killed another soldier with his bow through the open doors. The soldiers then slammed the doors shut to protect themselves while they prepared their counterattack.
Current kill count: 93 hobgoblin soldiers, 5 sergeants, 1 boggle, 1 captain of the guard
The tables have turned and the Heroes 4 Hire now have a squad of soldiers cornered in the third floor chamber of the western guardhouse tower, but how will they clear them out from such an entrenched position? Can they without sustaining major losses? What Secrets do the Slaver’s Stockade still hold?
Find out next week on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”