Before we could decide how to dispose of Vorpat, the tower began to rumble. He did not become Archmage through luck. It was his cunning that ensured him that exalted position, and it was his cunning that triggered several mystical switches to go off at once upon his defeat. The tower’s top became enveloped in a bubble of energy, thin as paper but stronger than steel. The bubble began to lift off the rest of the tower, shearing where we were standing clear from the rest of the structure. We levitated over the city, and on the horizon we saw an airship approach. Such a construct had not been seen since the ancient Centralian Empire, and for Vorpat’s men to have control of even one was a testament to the success of their archeological efforts. While we remained in the bubble, we were safe, but that safety was very tenuous. As the airship approached, we hatched a plan to escape.
For a moment, I was the Archmage of Protence. At least, I claimed so. I took the Sceptre of the Old Ones into my hand and proclaimed myself the Archmage, having felled Vorpat. The men did not seem to accept my coup as legitimate, but that was not the point. Nor was the point the wanton destruction of priceless Protencian artifacts by Hilde and Coronatum. The point was to provide a distraction for Aislynn to teleport to the deck of the airship, away from the crew’s eyes. Onboard the ship, she made her way to the engine, in which a wind elemental was trapped. She freed the elemental, and the airship’s mystical energies began to drain. Without the elemental, the ship was nothing more than a hunk of wood and metal thousands of feet in the air for gravity to take straight into the ground. The ship rocked as the elemental left, and panic set into the eyes of the crew. Aislynn teleported back to our bubble as the airship began to list, slamming into the bubble we were trapped in. The momentum sent the bubble crashing back into the tower, and slowly but surely the ship began to drag our bubble down toward the ground, leaving a gash in the side of the Archmage’s tower on the way down.
When we hit the ground, it was with a shuddering jolt that knocked me clean off my feet. The airship crashed into a nearby ring of the city, and now on the ground we could see flames in the dusky sky all around. The riot we started early had spread, and no doubt the chaos caused by this latest spasm of destruction would only further fuel the violence. As I took into account the devastation all around, I could only wonder if this was what it was like when my mother and father tried to change the status quo here, or if their revolt died with but a whimper. Whatever the case, I felt little sympathy. Protence was rotten at its core, I see that now. Change needed to happen, and quickly. Unfortunately, the price of change is violence. We could not have done this unless a powder keg laid in wait, ready to explode. We were but the spark. But my sister and I would be left unsatisfied. As we examined the archmage, we discovered that this was not him, but a simulacrum no doubt designed to distract and delay us as the coward escaped. We gained some measure of vengeance, as he could not return to his former seat of power, but still he lived.
Thus disappointed, we traveled back to Hallowdwell, where we found the situation there had deteriorated as well. The outer walls of the city had been breached by the ravenous hordes of the undead, which now paraded through the streets. Terrified citizens barricaded themselves in their houses, which now resembled fortifications. We cut a swath through the undead to the gates of Castle Hallowdwell itself, which still stood. The former revelry that denied the gravity of the situation had disappeared, and even the nobles looked thin and defeated. Our arrival caused some amount of commotion, and I daresay we were the best news that had come into Hallowdwell in some time. Once we were safely enclosed in the gates, we spoke to Xavier. Without much time left, we needed to begin planning our assault; the defensive strategy was beginning to crumble in the face of the ever-growing swarm. Aislynn worked with the Order of the Nightshade to get a bead on the source of the Deathwind. Meanwhile, I talked with Gyrus, who had come with a legion of Knights of Avandra, to see if more troops could be had, but the time it would take to deploy them was far too much to make a difference.
Even in the direst of times, the bickering between factions continues. Upon entering the war room to plan our strategy, we found Elhazra and Bohm arguing about the skull relic that was stolen from the Temple of Pelor. We brought that bickering to an end, though it was clear the tensions still simmered. Using maps we had obtained from Sanford, whose destiny must be intertwined with ours to be following nearly in our footsteps, we made our plan of attack. A full frontal assault would be pointless, a defeatist gestured wrapped in a cloak of faux heroics. Aislynn’s magic, and information the Arktfarian nobles provided, pinpointed the De Thuin estate in the deep south of Arktfar as the most likely source of the Deathwind. The ley lines in my map of the Ebon Tower also headed for an area very close to the location of the manor. We had our target. Our plan was to take a small band through Greenwood, emerging near the southwestern border with Arktfar. The vast majority of the Deathwind hordes were moving northward toward Hallowdwell, leaving the south open for us to move through. Since speed would be of the essence, and since the tower’s portal would not open wide for an army, the group to the south would be but a task force, lead by our band. We would make our way through to the Du Thuin manor, which we believed would give us a direct connection to the Ebon Tower, the source of the Deathwind’s power. To the north, the armies of Hallowdwell would need to draw the attention of the undead, to keep them occupied. But it was a losing battle, and time was of the essence. If we tarried too long, they would eventually be slaughtered in whole. With all aware of the stakes we faced, we set out that very day.
The trip through Greenwood proved to be difficult. The energies of the Deathwind had begun to infect the forest, transforming areas once lush and verdant into tangled brush of thorns and carnivorous plants. With time already being at a premium, this was one delay we could not afford. Luckily, we were escorted through the forest by Mariana and her elven archers, not to mention Hilde and the Valkyrie, which cut through the underbrush with as much efficiency as she does our enemies. We emerged from the woods after several days only to stare upon the wasteland of destruction that was once Arktfar. Using the power of the Nightshade Staff to penetrate the plague clouds, we made our way toward the manor. Our progress would be stopped along the desolate road by Julius and his Dark Legion. He claimed in particular that he must stop me, and what I intended to do with the tower. He knew I intended to take the tower and remake this pitiful world, and he wanted to prevent that. But what choice is there for this world? The Dark Legion was powerful, but none of them could take the tower and stop the Deathwind. I have seen the vision in my dreams. Only I and my companions can take the tower and stop this menace. Julius, the Crusher, wanted to stop me before then. It may be a melee if some will not listen to reason and let me take control of the tower, but not before we lift the plague. He wanted to stop me before we rid the world of the undead, and for that he seeks the destruction of the world.
We did battle, and enflamed by the rhetoric of their leader, the Dark Legion fought viciously. All bets were off this time, and it was Lahktar who struck first. Their assassin kobald, whose slim blade had found the chinks Coronatum’s armor, was no match for Lahktar’s psionic shout which tore him into pieces. Their daeva knight I entrapped in a sonic cage, which I flexed, crushing him inside his own armor. And Aislynn got her own personal revenge against Julius, sucking the very energy from his body and leaving him a withered husk. Their leader fallen, the rest of the Legion tried to flee, but we did not allow them to do so. This battle was to the death, and we would not rest until the Legion had been destroyed. Only their hobgoblin archer escaped, to tell the tale of his companions and how they had been cut down. After the battle ended, I told Bohm to say the rites of funeral over them as they burned on a makeshift pyre. They may have been trying to stop us, but their intentions were noble. Misguided as they were, they sought to do good in this world. They did not deserve the indignity of raising as grotesqueries, and they deserved to be sent into the world of the dead with the blessing of their god. This battle, the entire drive to the tower, will be marked with such tragedies, I am sure. But what greater tragedy can there be but failure, for the fate of every living creature in this world relies upon our success? We must not be deterred.