We return to our characters from the second party, and begin the next stage of the campaign...
Leira has servants cleaning her and dressing her and gossiping. They hope she's happy with them. After a while they send her out, where she's collected by the King's chamberlain. The servants let slip that they're supposed to pack, as she's leaving today. Leira: "No."
The hallway is full of suitors, all looking to court her. The first is a bottlemaker; the second is a captain in his Majesty's army.
Leira turns to Hugo the chamberlain: "Why is this happening?"
The Archmage catches her just outside the audience chamber and rescinds his offer for her to come to the Mage's college. He sounds frustrated and regretful, but then she's been refusing magic school in favor of heated baths for months now. His reason? "The king has chosen you something else."
Leira: "Am I being sacrificed?"
Hugo: "Absolutely not."
Alexej is sparring, and being admired by the noble ladies who are trying to get his attention. He is approached by Gaitan Tallier, the King's Constable. They've interacted socially.
"Alexej! I see you have quite the crowd of admirers today! You can't steal all the attention, though. Care to spar?"
Alexej: "Is there dinner afterwards?"
So Gaitan is using a heavy flail, and attempts to disarm Alexej. The guisarme hits the ground, and Alexej dives after it, grabbing it up and trying to trip him. Gaitan managed to tag Alexej while he was retrieving his weapon, though.
Sitting on his butt, Gaitan curses as Alexej whacks him. Gaitan attacks from the ground, slamming the flail into Alexej's shin. Since his opponent is still prone, Alexej goes to power attack and make use of his combat expertise, but misses.
Gaitan tries again, hitting once. Alexej tries to hit him again, but misses; Gaitan is rolling around a lot. Gaitan tries again, but misses, and this time Alexej tags him. Alexej's starting to feel the strain, but he whacks Gaitan again.
It's looking like a fairly even match. Gaitan misses again, and they continue exchanging attacks until Gaitan finally yields. The noble audience applauds. Gaitan: "Next time I'm going to trip *you*!"
Alexej: "Is good plan."
Gaitan: "Come! This was fun, but I was sent to bring you to the King."
Alexej: "Last time I see king, I get thrown in basement."
Gaitan: "Not that king, our king. The big king."
Alexej: "Ahhh! I come!"
The halls are lined with nobles, all on the look-out for a marital match. Gaitan shoves Alexej in next to Leira.
Marshall is in a room with Viggo the Whisperer, who's doing parlor tricks. He's the King's Chamberlain: "So let me get this right: Lord Provost Luthien, of the Duendewood elves, is a Vecna worshipper and possibly in league with this invading army."
Viggo: "And they're all in league against us?"
Viggo: "And they're creating an army of invincible skeletons?"
Marshall: "I know this firsthand."
Viggo: "And the Eye of Vecna had a whole other world inside it?"
Viggo: "You did the right thing coming south." He snaps his fingers and a servant appears with a tray of snacks.
Viggo: "Over there, that military man is Alexej. The young girl next to him is Leira. She may not look like much, but don't underestimate her; she wields powerful magics. Conrad the Seneschal, Charlaine the Master of Ceremonies, the Lord Mage, the King's Champion, and Dante Alighierri, possibly the greatest poet in the world; Father Rafael; and Sir Gosper, the avatar of Helios ("and the only man in this room I am truly scared of").
The king stands: "Faithful servants! Thank you for coming. Today I bestow upon you the title of High Protectors of Sol Povos: Solari."
The Master of Ceremonies goes through the details, and servants bring us broaches of office and capes with the rising sun sigil of the Solari embroidered on them; Gosper comes down to pin them on us. We have minor estates, titles, and Tavros is commanded to take the name Fontaine, and embraces his cousin the King... but carefully, so as not to crush him.
Alexej: "I don't understand why I cannot be Sir Alexej. It is my Sir-name."
Charlaine: "You are being made a lord, not a knight."
We are also given chambers here in the palace. Alexej gets servants and cooks; Mercy receives a recently-vacated chapel with living quarters for himself, acolytes, and servants. Leira gets a heated pool. Tavros gets a small keep with its own staff. We'll need to pay the staff from our own stipends, but it's basically done: we're all Solari, and we celebrate.
About ten minutes later, a tall elf-lady comes in and announces that Springhollow has fallen. Discussion follows, with the revelation that the her followers were trying to create a cubic gate, and the forces of Vecna are using those powers in some dark ritual.
We have our first assignment. We're to be teleported to Springhollow. Alexej selects Lord Rizek (Pork Schnitzel) for his noble surname. Leira has not selected one yet; she wants to give it proper thought. Marshall Mercy is, of course, now Lord (have) Mercy, and Tavros is formally a Fontaine, acknowledged scion of the royal family.
We ask for (and receive) a wand of cure light wounds and a wand of enlarge, and Tavros and Marshall add Masterwork Heavy Flails. We also pick up some silversheen to be able to make our weapons behave like alchemical silver, and some holy wafers.
Our writ is to clear out the undead, capture the duke, and stop whatever dark ritual the Vecna-worshippers are trying to perform.
Alexej: "Sounds easy!"
Tavros: "Dark rituals are never easy, but I feel we can handle this."
Mercy: "Actually, they're not that har-- never mind."
The wizard teleports us to Springhollow, and it's a zombie wasteland. What kind of monster would do this? (Leira: "Wight Supremacists.") The wizard points to the arcane vortex swirling up into the clouds from the tower. "I think I can open the force field enough to let you in. But your first priority should be to clear the town and capture the Baron.
Alexej has his cloak on and his broach is upside down. Tavros has cloak and broach, but nothing more.
We approach the keep. We see no lookouts; Tavros rides his warhorse up to the gates and looks inside. The griffins on the roof and the skeletal T-Rexes spot us and approach. Leira sends a fireball at the Griffins. She moves up takes shelter behind Tavros.
Marshall, meanwhile, moves up and considers spells.
Oh hey, now we've got *everything's* attention! The griffins spread out, and one of the zombie horses comes rushing up. We are about to be on the wrong side of a Zerg Rush.
Alexej moves up, but not far enough to do anything.
Tavros' horse freaks out at the skeleton horse, and kicks and bites it. Leira drops a fireball on a big crowd of skeletons, and wipes out all but one of the thirty-two skeletons. Marshall casts a quickened Divine Favor, then attacks the skeleton horse.
One of the T-Rexes charges Tavros, but misses. The zombie horse tries to attack Quicksilver and misses. Another zombie horse moves in, and the griffins are circling around overhead. Fortunately, we're still standing in the gate and there are only so many things that can reach us. The skeletons are piling in to fill the gaps between them. Another squad of skeletons is moving towards us from beside the house. Alexej attacks the zombie horse, and finishes it. Alexej attacks the other zombie horse, but misses.
Tavros and Silver pound on the second zombie horse; Leira fireballs the rhinos. Marshall casts Dominate Animal on the T-Rex, but it manages to resist. The dinosaurs move in, and the first one attacks Marshall, biting him for a ridiculous amount of damage. It attempts to yank Marshall up into the air, and succeeds. The second one attacks Tavros, biting him and lifting him into the air as well. Odds are good that we're both going to get eaten next round.
One of the griffins has circled over the gate and lands behind Leira. The other griffins have settled in atop the guard towers.
Alexej switches over to his scythe, and attacks the griffin, but misses. Tavros prepare to sell his life dearly, and readies an attack for when the beast tries to swallow him.
Lyra chooses this moment to turn invisible, and the griffin looks very confused. She slips behind the griffin.
The Tyrannousaurs swallow Marshall and Tavros; Tavros attacks on his way down the throat, doing some damage. Alexej adds some damage as well.
Tavros cuts his way out of the T-Rex from the inside, and falls at its feet. Leira backs up and throws another fireball, this time at the griffins on top of the towers. Two of them die; the rest are even more singed than they were.
Marshall tries to cut his way out, but doesn't quite make it; he's sitting in stomach acid and being crushed, which isn't doing him any good. The T-Rex over Tavros attacks and misses; the other one heads off with a belly full of Marshall. A zombie horse move in towards Alexej; and one of the griffins moves over him.
Alexej does his Whirlwind attack, damaging a griffin and finishing the zombie horse.
Tavros attacks the T-Rex above him, doing more damage but still not bringing it down. Leira moves back up and drops another fireball, clearing out a squad of skeletons and damaging the Rex with Marshall in its tummy. Marshall tries to cut his way loose, and succeeds; he drops out, and falls on the ground. He attacks again, and slams his scythe into the Rex's Achilles tendon.
The Rex spins around, reaches down, and bites Marshall again. The second one tries for Tavros, but misses. A griffin attacks Alexej and misses; a second griffin attacks and also misses. A skeleton tries to attack Tavros but misses; more are moving in. Alexej is a bloody storm in the center of griffins and skeletal horses, killing two of the griffins.
Tavros attacks from the ground again, doing a huge amount of damage to toes and ankles, and the Rex staggers.
Leira throws more fire, since nothing here is resistant to it, and Tavros' Rex goes down; the zombie horse falls, a big chunk of skeletons fall, and the rhinos survive, but they're scorched and *very* unhappy.
Marshall got bitten again, but manages to throw Hold Animal on the dinosaur and escapes. Marshall comes back to his feet. More griffins attack Alexej, who's a blur of deadly movement; he takes no damage.
The rhinos charge, and one of them connects with Tavros, who takes A LOT of damage. The skeletons move in on Marshall, who goes down.
Alexej does another whirlwind, but only connects with one of his opponents. Tavros decides to use Lay On Hands, and heals himself for some of the damage; Leira drops a fireball on the Rhinoceri, killing all of them. (Tavros is extremely grateful.)
The Rex is still held, Marshall is still out of action, an Griffin attacks Tavros but misses; and none of them manage to damage Alexej. The skeletons start trying to claw through Marshall's heavy armor, but fail.
Alexei continues spinning and attacking, taking out the zombie horse, then tags a griffin, misses another griffin, hits another one but fails to kill it, and misses the last. Tavros charges the paralyzed Rex, and power attacks it but good.
Leira fires off a magic missile at the remaining Rex, adding to the damage. The Rex shakes off Marshall's spell, and Marshall is still out of the fight. The Rex attempts to bite Tavros but fails. The griffins swarm around Alexej, but they all miss him. One of the skeletons damages Marshall, which is... bad. Alexej takes out another griffin.
Tavros desperately attacks the remaining Rex and misses completely; Leira blasts it with Scorching Ray but misses. Fortunately, the T-Rex misses Tavros as well.
The griffins attack Alexej and one of them manages to damage him finally. The skeletons miss Marshall.
Alexej continues his attacks, and tags the first griffin.
Tavros tags the dinosaur and finishes it, then takes out a skeleton. Leira zaps two of the skeletons with Scorching ray. Alexej kills another griffin.
Tavros moves over and stabilizes Marshall. Leira moves away from the griffin and kills two more skeletons. Marshal awakens beside the body of a dead Rex, and destroys the last two skeletons.
The remaining griffin actually manages to connect with Alexej. The griffin snarls at Alexej, who tries to trip it... and succeeds. Four legs are no barrier to Alexej, who attacks it while it's prone and finishes it off.
Thus is the courtyard of the Baron's keep reclaimed... at least for now.