All was quiet in the military command center deep in the heart of Citadel Drezen, save for the tense argument between Crusader Commander Geir and King Harlakar, leader of the dwarves of Drezen. Geir turned toward the Optimist Primes, who were seated around the great stone table that served as a pleasingly ornate centerpiece to the otherwise utilitarian chamber.
“This is foolishness!” he declared. “A trap at best, the end of this city at worst! Why would this… creature, engage you in single combat? For honor? It has none! For glory? It’s only glory will be to see your bodies bleeding out in the sand, then loosing it’s hellish army upon this town. They outnumber better than two to one; they nearly destroyed the citadel by stratagem and poisoned the entire city. THIS is simply another stratagem! They know your power and luck, and the gods that stand behind you. If they kill you seven, they will finish us.”
Harlakar slammed one split-knuckled hand on the table. “Is your heart so weak, Geir?” Harlakar stood up from the ancient wooden chair, carved by dwarves two centuries past and pointed an index finger the color of tobacco at Geir’s nose. “Do your balls shrink at the thought of defending this city with your life, should they fail?”
Geir’s brow lowered, and his voice did as well. “I fought with them to take this city, shoulder to shoulder,” Geir said, danger filling his words like gas in a balloon. “My men – MY men – died to open the gates to yours. There are two crusader graves for every dwarf who gave his life here…”
“Stop,” Harlakar said, holding up one hand. “I was wrong to question you. I have fought beside you, my friend. But this… it is an opportunity. It is a gift!
Harlakar continued: “I believe they will destroy her. These men and women took this city once, they can save it again. They killed Baphomet!”
“Technically we, um, did not,” said Gato quietly.
“But the cost, if they should fail,” Geir said, ignoring Gato. “If they are killed, they will be paraded in front of that horrific host and made into banners as the demons come at us again.” Geir paused. “The risk is too great.”
Irabet looked thoughtful, tapping her tusk with one forefinger while she seemed to consider each of the warriors’ positions. “What do you think?” The questions was directed at Lothar, but encompassed the company in it’s entirety.
The High Priest of Erastil in the North seemed strangely serene. “Our friends are both correct, Irabet,” he said finally. “It is indeed a trap, and the demons will likely use any means or deception to kill us. But it also an opportunity. Without this, we face a desperate battle against this army. They mean to destroy Drezen outright, of that there can be no question. This they will attempt regardless. But we have already thwarted one of her plans; if we can cut the head off the demonic snake…? Then it will be us with the banner, to wave in their faces.”
The tall ulfen continued, raven insouciant on his shoulder. “We have plumbed many dark places, Geir,” Lothar said. “And we have come out victorious in each. Some of us have made bargains… (he looked at Gato, and Fletcher) and some of us have been made whole (his eyes swiveled toward to Fflasheart, and Farotto), but all of us have been made aware that we fight not for ourselves but for powers much higher than this. We, all of us, have been chosen. This is simply the latest hurdle that we have been tasked to overcome. Victory or defeat, it is what they gods have put before us. And one cannot run from or escape that which has been ordained.”
Lothar paused. “We will fight.”
Harlakar looked exultant. Geir looked at first aghast, then steadfast. “So be it,” Geir said at least. “But I will not wait here inside the city walls like a maid while you fight. Two hundred of my best cavalry, all I can spare, will take flanking positions and attack in the event of your fall. I know a few mages who can shield our approach as best we can. If you fall…” Geir’s eyes were bright. “If you fall, we will avenge you.”
Harlakar walked over to Geir and clapped him on the shoulder, then faced the party. “And I will bring 500 of my heavy foot with you as an escort – chain and mattock, axe and shield, veterans all.”
“Her army is two thousand strong at least and grows by the minute,” Irabet observed.
Harlakar whirled to face her. “Then perhaps we should ask for another day, so as to make it a fair fight…?”
Bardos’ face was impassive as the rest of the table laughed hollowly at the dwarf-king’s bravado.
Erastil Lord of the Furrow Lord of the Mountain and the Hawk and the River I beg of you a service, speak with me so that I might become wise. Halcamora Lady of the Forest Lady of the Copse and Leaf and Vine I beg of you a service, speak with me so that I might become wise. Cernunnos Lord of the Hunt Lord of the Spear and Arrow and Stag I beg of you a service, speak with me so that I might become wise.
Everyone stood around Lothar as he spoke into the ether, calling upon his gods to learn what they might so that they would be prepared for the fight with Aponovicius. Lothar kneeled before a small grove of trees in a small farmstead outside the city. There was a longhouse and the family within watched unblinking past the open shutters. Water burbled in a nearby spring.
The rest of the party stood or sat nearby while Lothar went through the preparations to commune with the gods, and once the ritual had begun the air filled with smell of pine, of fresh turned earth, of grapes recently tread in the tun.
Lothar quietly beseeched the trees for about ten minutes, then abruptly opened his eyes and looked at the party. “They have come. They know what we face and will give us their wisdom. Ask what you would know.”
Did Aponovicius create the portal below Citadel Drezen? No
Can Aponovicius recreate the portal below Citadel Drezen in time to affect this battle? No
Does Aponovicius to stop the attack on Drezen if she loses? Yes
Does it mean she will? No
Can we beat her in single combat? Yes
Will Aponovicius cheat, and pervert the ideals of single combat if she is able? Yes
Is Gato true evil? No
Does Aponovicius have spell resistance? Yes
Would cold-iron weapons be best to strike Aponovicius with? Yes
Does Aponovicius have a weakness that can be exploited? Yes
Does Aponovicius have a strong fortitude? Yes
A strong Will? Less so but Yes
Strong reflexes? Yes
Is she stronger than Baphomet? No
Do we have access to the resources we’d need to exploit her weakness? She doesn’t have a weakness per se, so there isn’t anything specific you could use against her to which she is particularly vulnerable.
Is her weakness energy based? No
Is she immune to fire? No
She has resistance? Yes
Same for cold? Yes. She is immune to electricity and poison, resistance to fire, cold and acid.
Did she give us 24 hours to benefit her as well as us? Yes
Is Aponovicius planning a surprise or feint attack during this? No
Does she really want to face us on the field of battle? Yes
Can Aponovicius fly? Yes
Can she Dimension Door? Yes.
Is Gato really a caravan guard? Yes
Does she have the ability to bring in combatants? Yes
Will she? yes, probably. maybe. No idea.
Is this the end of the module if we beat her? No
Will she let us pick the spot of the fight? No
Is that because the spot she’s chosen offers her an advantage? No
Is that because she has ego problems and needs to perform in sight of her troops? Yes
Would humiliating her throw her off her game or piss her off? Yes
How do you humiliate a demon? Do we have pictures of her fondling small kittens? No
Does she have the ability to hit us with fire? Yes
With acid? No
Negative energy? No
Is she also a cleric? No
Does she have True Seeing? Yes
Is her armor class 30? No
Is her armor class higher than 45? No
Is her armor class higher than 40? Yes
Is she vulnerable to a Fletcher? Yes
Does she bleed? Yes
Does she have fast healing? Yes
Will she be distracted by a paladin on the field? No
Will Gato sneaking around off camera be helpful to us? No (True Seeing)
If we kill her will she stay dead? Yes
Can she go invisible? No
The demons that are here: will they be killed permanently if they are killed here? Yes and no. Some were summoned but a lot of them will have walked through the Worldwound.
So we are making a dent in them when we kill them? Yes
If we defeat her, will her army disperse? Yes
Is there a good chance that someone will die during this battle? ehhh Yes
Would it be prudent to wait and seek more resources before attacking her? No
Can we ride the skywhale into battle against flying creatures? Yes
Is this the last combat of the adventure path? No
Is there something we are overlooking as pertains to this battle? Yes
“I don’t know if you remember, but I was not here when the Citadel was taken,” said Irabet Tirabade after the rest had left and only wine was left on the table. The sun was gone now, and the city had grown quiet, unnerved perhaps by what each person surmised would happen the next day. “I was named Guardian of Drezen later, by Queen Galfrey, and I have worked very hard to earn the privilege of that title.”
“I know not what will transpire tomorrow,” she continued. “But there is something that I want you to know. If… if you fall, I vow to you that I will die in the defense of this city.”
Irabet paused and took a long swig of wine. “Geir is a pragmatic man and understands well the dangers we face – he thinks of resources, men and materiel, morale. He counts sheaves of arrows and wagons of food, and knows well the cost of each, both in silver and blood. Harlakar… he is a champion of his people, and thinks of glory and honor. Death at the hands of demons is something he imagines could never occur. He is a dwarf for whom the sight of colored banners flapping in the wind over arrayed ranks of soldiers is the prettiest sight – no cut jewel or tall flower could kindle more beauty in his heart.”
“I am neither. But you have heard my vow. Here shall I stand, unto death.”
Then she smiled, her crooked tusks sliding wide to show her crooked teeth in a curved line like tombstones in a field. “But I have no wish to die here, so I encourage you to win this fight.”
The Optimist Primes emerged from the gates of Drezen into a blood-red morning.
Geir’s cavalry had left before dawn, taking every possible advantage against the eyes of the demonic army. Geir had gone with them. If his friends were to die on the ruddy Worldwound sand, then he would make his stand there too.
They came out into a crowd of dwarven heavy infantry, their booted feet kicking up swirls of red dust that echoed the towering whirlwinds in the distance. It was those whirlwinds that were filling the air with fine red dust, filtering the sun’s light and throwing a crimson pall over what felt like the entire earth. Each dwarf was armored for the fight – chain hauberks with the blue and white tabard of Harlakar, octagonal steel shields slung to the side, heavy iron hammer or bright double-bladed axed in hand and a short, thick stabbing sword at their hip. These were the cream of Harlakar’s veterans, and they threw an enormous “huzzah!” when the Optimist Primes emerged from the tall gates Citadel Drezen. Harlakar was as proud of them as he would have been of his own sons, and he beamed as they clapped the OPs on every shoulder, cheered and saluted them, and sang their war chanties.
Harlakar met them, alongside five of his captains, each in charge of one of the centuri’s. “Your escort is ready, my friends!” And without waiting for a response, Harlakar ordered his soldiers to advance. Behind them, half a thousand dwarven warriors began to march as they made their way toward the killing ground outside of the Sword of Valor’s power.
The Optimist Primes continued their preparations for attack, buffing various PCs with a variety of enhancements.
Aponovicius, teleported from 300 feet, materialized and attacked Storm. She fumbled the first attack and did no damage.
Fflasheart, Storm, and Fletcher attacked, doing significant damage while the rest of the party continued to buff. They made will saves and Aponovicius disappeared, indicated that her presence was an illusion
A new, smaller Aponovicius appeared about 150 feet away, and a blade barrier appeared amongst the party causing decent damage.
Lothar and Farotto fired arrows at Aponivicius, with some success
Bardos Dimensionally Locked Aponivicius to this plane, negating her teleport ability
Storm and Fletcher charged and pounced Aponovicius, doing moderate damage (Storm fumbled an early attack)
Fflashheart charged but could not cover the distance, instead opting to Flame Strike Aponivicius, but ultimately missing due to Spell Resistance.