It is done: 13C defeats The Book, orogs flee, Holden forces retake castle

In a disconcerting turn of events for their long-suffering DM, the members of the 13C – siblings Mira and Balthazar Keredes, Aerrick Tansden, Sister Deloris, Valkeer Sunthorn and Trevor Montforte – took down one of Orcus’ top guys The Book in an epic battle characterized by shared smite buffs and surface to air missile fire.

This victory put the 13C over the necessary point total for victory, thereby earning a resounding final victory in a campaign that has lasted for nearly six years real-time. With first session taking place sometime in January of 2014 – a session notable for the first known introduction of the “boom clock” – the 13C has investigated murders, fought Lovecraftian horrors, busted perpetrators, traveled to Osirion, Nidal and Varisia, defeated Shory wizard Mr. Calarukh, been feted by Pharoah and peasant, won a glorious chariot race, and generally behaved in manners quite opposite of what those observing a law-abiding cluster of crown prince’s detectives might have expected.

The Orcusian forces had already suffered: guerrilla attacks by the 13C had already knocked out key elements of the castle’s defensive capabilities but, while those strategic attacks were significant point-getters, the party still faced two of Orcus three greatest servants.

The beginning: orogs on all three bridges over the Usk River, and the Book floating about 200 feet above, near the close end of the middle bridge.
Closer view of the Book. One inch – 50 feet. Castle Holden is in the background, with a few orog platoons on the ramparts.
The Book, with the 13C in the background. The brown line represents the plateau into which Castle Holden is built. The 13C began their attack from atop it.

The stakes were high. Already wanted in Oppara, having killed two fellow members of the Prince’s Detectives, the 13C knew they had to beat the Book, if only to protect themselves from extradition, Baron Erim Holden had promised them Varisian knighthoods. Other promises were in the offing as well – safety, land and rewards in the Three Forks Barony (shown above). It was a chance to start over in relative safety, although some people had made other arrangements, Mira Keredes among them.

The Book confronts the 13C at the cliff face.

Aerrick opened up on the orog bridgers with hefty fireballs, frying many and lighting the bridge on fire (although it would take hours for the bridge to burn, considering it’s size). Those orogs were in a position to foment arrow fire, but only if there were visible targets. At this point, the 13C had shown no interest in leaving the cliff plateau.

Valkeer shared Smite Evil with the 13C, creating a fair bit of havoc since there was only one target.

After some solid hits, the Book beat a retreat toward the river and it’s orog forces, kicking up an Obscuring Mist to help. Aerrick cast Fly on everyone and this became an aerial battle.

But not for long. Under the cover of Aerrick’s artillery, Balthazar, Mira and Trevor landed on the far side of the Usk, almost directly underneath the Book. By this time, the Book was on the run, trying to put some distance between itself and the party, recover some hitpoints and re-evaluate it’s strategy. But a timely Dimension Door moved the hunters into position.

The didn’t hesitate to take advantage of that position. In one round, Balthazar, Mira and Trevor put almost 500 points of damage into the Book.

That was enough. The Book fell onto the the bridge, scattering orogs. The remaining orogs made for the castle, which seemed to be dissolving into particles like sand. The original Castle Holden came increasingly into view from underneath the fading Orcus overlay. The Book seemed to particulating as well, in the same manner, and within a couple hours both had faded into nothingness.

The next morning, right at dawn, the Holden forces arrived to an empty castle grounds. They took the castle quickly, with Mwangi mercenaries and the Baron;s own Varisian light infantry entering the castle to clear out whatever remaining orogs they’d find. Soon, they’d reported back two items from inside: one, the orog and hobgoblin forces had taken whatever supplies they could find and escaped through the caves – the same back door the 13C had once used to enter the castle, weeks before. That was good. Less positive was the news that they’d take with them the Bell’s phylactery, hidden behind the small Sphere of Annihilation (also now gone, probably dispelled somehow). Wherever the Bell was now, his phyactery was in friendly hands.

Erim Holden was as good as his word. After dispatching men to the corners of the newly founded barony, the very next day he presented to his men his newest knights. The ceremony was short and to the point, but Holden praised their efforts – the castle, after all, had been taken without a single casualty, something Holden and his captains ha dthought nigh-on impossible.

One by one, Baron Holden knighted the former members of the 13C and asked them to name their rewards.

Sir Aerrick Tansden had mad it clear since taking on this job that he wanted nothing more than an inn to call his own, to live out the rest of his days in peace and comfort. The baron granted this to him – the Dickish Archer – and more besides. The Baron awarded Aerrick land to grow crops and herd livestock to supply it, plus vineyard and barleyfield. And since even now people were flocking to the town downriver, the Baron blessed Aerrick with one more gift: it was Aerrick that would decide the new town’s name.

Lady Mira Keredes had already made her plans. She had signed a contract with the Tunnelhome Collective, known far and wide as the place for adventuring professionals, to operate a franchise in Magnimar, some 600 miles northwest on the Varisian coast. Her franchise was already being arranged, logistics and support in place, and she would leave in a month to take it up.

The ending prayer of the Tunnelhome Collective Franchisee Agreement. The rest is secret.

The Lady’s brother, Sir Balthazar Keredes, opted to stay in Three Forks. His prowess with the bow, the Baron told him, would be of significant value here. While Ombrol might now lie properly in a grave, and the orogs gone to greener pastures, the Nidali would not look kindly on this encroachment on their northern frontier. There would be work. Balthazar took a fine manor house in town, and immediately put Mahmud in charge of it as majordomo. Then he set to work building a capable archer corps for the Baron. He was seen at all hours at Castle Holden, exhorting the men to keener aim and stronger pulls. “Nock… and fire!” he could be heard yelling, again and again.

Sir Trevor Montforte was in a unique position, for he was the only one here who was not ex-13C. He was not under interdict in Oppara, not wanted in Taldor, and essentially free to go and do what he would. “What will you ask of me, Sir Trevor?” Holden asked. Sir Trevor had but a simple request: allow me to do what I do best, under your auspices, and clear Three Forks Barony of monsters. Montforte’s family was widely known as monster-hunters, and Trevor himself was the culmination of generations of expertise in this area of endeavor. The Baron happily granted this request, along with a manor in town and rooms in the castle.

Valkeer Sunthorn and Sister Deloris asked nothing of the Baron, and refused the titles he offered, for they intended not to enter into the Baron’s service but instead to go back to Oppara and face whatever justice the Taldan’s decided, in their wisdom, to mete. But they wanted to make a strong a case as was possible. To this end, they petitioned Iomedae to return the spirits of Edris Takeda and Camilla Volcatur, of the 9th Cluster, back from whence they had dispatched them only days ago. It was a difficult process. Edris, so vital and perspicacious a detective, was upon return a mere shell of his old self. The process of death and return could wreak havoc on a psyche, it was true, and Takeda suffered it’s effects – confused, unsure of names and places, prone to emotional outbursts, Takeda was hardly more than a child, both intellectually and emotionally.

Not so for Volcatur, who knew exactly what had been done to them by Valkeer and Deloris, and was of minimal thankfulness about being returned. She immediately bent to to the care of her comrade Takeda, and would take no charity from the Iomedeans. Ultimately, she did agree to accompany them back to Oppara, and promised to tell the absolute truth about what she’d seen here in Varisia. That was enough, Valkeer and Sister Deloris supposed.

It was hardly a week before they Teleported back to Oppara and threw themselves at the feet of Taldan jurisprudence. Much was revealed, and the the Zones of Truth erected for the adjudication practically shed sparks at the revelation of Kaja Steward’s perfidy and the replacement of Lady Saxby; the murders of Harkover Lee and the Qadiran ambassador, as well as the killings of Takeda and Volcatur themselves (they couldn’t rightly be called murders anymore, but it was clear that Volcatur would never forgive the Iomedeans for what had befallen Takeda); and the presence of Orcus’ servants in northern Nidal. The cross examination was heated, and emotions ran hot, but in the end the magistrate suspended the gaol sentence, banished them from Oppara (pending a 50,000 gp fine, upon payment of which they could return) and enacted a lifelong ban on ever holding governmental or legal office for the state of Taldor. It was a difficult sentence, but all agreed that, in the balance sheet of evil and good deeds done, there was something akin to justification and, therefore, justice in the end. Valkeer and Sister Deloris accepted the sentence with equanimity, left the city, and set about acquiring the gold that would gain them entrance back to the place of their birth.

In the end, the members of the 13C had done much – much that was laudable, much that was execrable. They had slain great foes, made fell bargains, been lauded by emperors and vilified by commoners. They’d cracked some good cases, missed some obvious clues, Let bad guys go, got good guys killed. They ruined a lot of DM’s plans, drank a fair amount of martinis, absinthe and bourbon, ate a shload of brownies, made a few frontal assaults, and never regretted a single decision, no matter how ludicrous.

But all agreed that, in the balance sheet of evil and good deeds done, there was something akin to justice in the end.

The Arms of Three Forks Barony and Family Holden
The Book’s combat strategy notes, page 1
Page 2. Note the distances and powers, like archery range targets.
Castle Holden. The Orcus overlay starts atop the cap over the pillars; all underneath that is the original castle.
To the Honor and Health of the 13C!