Rally the Troops
The Blades had just delivered the unconscious body of the militia leader Nathan to the remaining defenders of Llorkh. They had barricaded themselves in the merchant district, overturning wagons and preparing for attack by hobgoblins. The militia had no leader, their attack on the goblin camp was defeated, their city was in flames and their families were in danger. Morale was at a low point, it was only a matter of time before men deserted and fled for the hills.
There was no apparent leader of these desperate citizen-soldiers. After a few awkward moments a bald, barrel-chested man stepped forward. He was Robert, a local smith who took part in the attack on the hobgoblin camp. He explained how things went wrong, how the hobgoblins were ready for the surprise attack and fought back the militia. Spies must have revealed the plan. The mercenary hobgoblins pushed back, driving the fleeing militia back to the town, looting and killing as they went. Robert’s squad made their stand here in the marketplace. Over the last few hours, more small groups of militia have trickled in, wounded and exhausted.
The Blades took charge of the situation, healing the wounded and calming the men. As they made plans for a counterattack, a guard shouted “Patrol returning!”. Four militia limped towards them, all badly injured and two near death. Griegor rushed forward to assist, himself no stranger to battle wounds. He removed an arrow from one man’s arm, bandaging the wound. The second dieing man was bleeding all over but had no visible wound. Griegor tried to remove his armor, searching for an injury as the man bled to death. At the last moment Kriv called on Tempus to heal the fallen warrior. The bleeding stopped; he would survive.
The patrol told of twenty or more hobgoblins at the town hall, including their leader, sending out orders to other groups of goblins in the city. The enemy had control of most of Llorkh. It was only a matter of time before they again attacked the militia. The men despaired at this news, some panicking and openly planning to desert. The Blades put a quick stop to that, threatening those who would leave and reminding them what will happen to their city at the hands of the goblins.
The Blades now had the full attention of the militia. They only needed leadership, a plan and some motivation. Rolan gave an inspiring speech, rallying the men. All thoughts of desertion were gone and they were ready for battle. The Blades began organizing the men into units when an alarm was sounded. Hobgoblins were attacking! The men were eager to fight and with the Blades’ help easily drove back the monsters. Spirits high, they were ready to follow the Blades into battle and retake their city.
Battle for Llorkh
Leading the Llorkh militia, the Sacred Blades cleared the town from street to street, giving wide berth to the town hall and the strongest concentration of hobgoblin forces. Fibbit and Yarnon scouted ahead, reporting on groups of goblins. The Blades would plan an overwhelming ambush, crushing the goblins a dozen or so at a time and rescuing more militia along the way. After a few such battles the town was mostly clear of goblins. Citizens took up arms to help out, and no less than sixty armed militia were now ready to assault the town hall.
Fibbit reported twenty hobgoblins on the top steps of the town hall in phalanx battle formation, their leader and a shaman behind the shield wall, the hall doors barred behind them. They had the high ground, were battle-hardened and well-equiped, but had already lost. They did not even know they were the last goblins in the city. The Blades decided to parley, unwilling to risk the deaths of many citizens in a direct attack. They made a show of force, equiping noncombatants in the rear lines to make their army seem overwhelming. Old women held long spears and wore helmets, with the hobgoblins none the wiser.
Griegor came forward with a white flag, ready to parley and end the situation without battle. Despite their hopeless situation the goblins were unwilling to surrender. They scoffed at the peasant army, announcing that the ritual taking place inside would destroy any foe. Griegor gave the signal and dozens of arrows flew overhead, some striking goblin flesh. The militia rushed forward. Here and now they would retake their town. Old women stood in the rear, ready to help the wounded and dieing.
The trained hobgoblins held steady, shield wall absorbing the brunt of the overeager peasant attacks. They fought back savagely and the battle grinded to a standstill. Spells flew overhead, some from the Blades, others from the goblin shaman. Suddenly the town hall’s doors blew apart, splinters flying everywhere. A massive wall of fur and teeth leapt out and every combatant stopped for a moment, shocked and terrified.
“Demon!!” came the cry, in both Common and Goblin as combatants on both sides gave the beast wide berth. The battle lines parted like water leaving the exhausted Blades to face this new threat. Operious recognized it as a Barlgura, a bloodthirsty fiend of the Abyss that could only enter this world if ritually summoned. Its master appeared in the shattered door – Administrator Farlex. The man who had betrayed his hometown to the Zhentarim and sold his enemies into slavery now recklessly summoned a demon. He commanded it to attack Fibbit and it obeyed. Eight hundred pounds of pure evil rushed at the halfling.
The Blades had infiltrated Llorkh, battled through the duergar stronghold, organized a resistance army and lead it in battle throughout the city. They were already far past the limits of normal endurance, ready to drop of exhaustion. Now they had to battle a demon of the Abyss and its insane master for the fate of Llorkh. They were up to the task, coordinating an assault on the mage while Fibbit danced between swings of the demon. A squad of militia still loyal to the mage rushed out of the town hall, serving their master til the end. They died swiftly, far outmatched in a battle of spells, dragonborn and demons. Meanwhile goblins and militia continued their battle, deaths adding up on both sides.
Farlex was knocked unconscious, not before magically blinding Griegor and Kriv. Fire was concentrated on the demon and the beast went berserk with rage. It swung futilely, unable to kill its foes. Finally it fell, body dissolving into a puddle of black stinking ichor and soul returning to the Abyss.
The larger battle quickly ended as the hobgoblin leader fell to a swarm of angry peasants. The few surviving goblins tried to flee but were cut down without pity. Llorkh was finally free.
Much work remained to be done. Fire brigades were organized, gallows were built. The wounded were cared for and the dead scavenged for valuables. The town hall was explored and source of the demon found: a hastily-drawn chalk summoning circle, an innocent woman sacrificed inside. Books containing the evil ritual were found nearby and destroyed.
Luckily Farlex was alive to answer for his many crimes. The Blades questioned him long into the night and learned much of the insane man’s story. While a merchant in Llorkh he had heard the call of Cyric, tempting him with immense power if he but followed the god’s commands. Cyric lead him to the Lady of Shadows and she arranged for his rise. She planned the coup in Llorkh, assassinating the previous Administrator and installing Farlex as the new leader. With her puppet ruler in place, she used the city as a base for a growing army of mercenary hobgoblins. Their next target: Loudwater. They would create chaos and panic while Cyric cultists rose up to take control. Too bad they were now dead, thanks to the Blades. The Lady also rented out the old stronghold to duergar of the Underdark – for what purpose or price, Farlex did not know. As for Farlex, his political enemies were handed over to the goblins and from there into the lucrative slave trade to lizardmen and worse.
And so the Zhentarim controlled an entire city, profiting from Llorkh’s misery without having to occupy it.
Farlex was eager to save his own wretched life and offered even more information. He was certain the “Lady of Shadows” was actually a famous figure – the Duchess of Secomber. She has ruled there for the last twenty years and is responsible for its rise from sleepy town to bustling city. He swore she was some sort of undead creature, a pale ancient woman who is definitely no longer human. Whether these are the rantings of a madman or the truth remains to be seen. If she is truly a Duchess, undead, and a Zhentarim mastermind she would be a potent foe indeed with both mystical and political power at her command.
Farlex let one final bit of info out, desperate not to be handed over to the bloodthirsty mob. Why did the Zhentarim bother with all the cloak-and-dagger, mercenaries and duergar; why not openly occupy Loudwater, Secomber and Llorkh under the black Zhentarim flag? The answer was hinted at in the dwarven stronghold and confirmed by Farlex: Netheril. That ancient shadowy empire had a long hatred of the Zhents. The Zhents feared that any city openly controlled by them would be destroyed out of spite. Such great lengths the Zhentarim had to go to, just to hide from the Empire of Shade. They must be powerful indeed to make the Zhentarim so wary.
Farlex was dragged to the gallows in newly-renamed ‘Heroes Square’. The Blades took a well-deserved rest. They spent the next week in town helping to rebuild and ensure Llorkh remained firmly in the hands of good men. Nathan recovered from his battle wounds and as a token of gratitude the Blades were offered an enchanted suit of platemail from the slain hobgoblin leader. Over the next few days more slaves made their way back to town from the various duergar mines, the duergar slavers having packed up and returned to the Underdark. Apparently they were not mining ore, but clearing out some old ruins using slave labor. Maybe they found what they had come for…
Llorkh established an interim leadership of town elders who made the Blades an offer: clear out the dwarven stronghold of undead, and they can have it. No one had lived there for decades and it was still believed to be haunted. The Blades made a quick return to the abandoned towers, slew a handful of undead wights of some ill-fated adventuring party and left the interred dwarven dead at peace. What the Blades intend to do with the stronghold remains to be seen.
The Blades finally left Llorkh, now a far better place. It had a bright future ahead of it thanks to them. As they rode off towards Loudwater, a few dwarven ghosts gazed out at them from the tower battlements, satisfied at last that their tomb was undisturbed by evil.
Return to Loudwater
It had been three long weeks since the Blades were in Loudwater. Spring is now approaching, trade is beginning again along the river and soon caravans will be moving all through the region. Loudwater itself has become something of a sanctuary city, with many farmers moving to the safer surrounding area and even some citizens of Llorkh having relocated to the vacant houses in town. Goblin and lizardman attacks have been on the increase outside a few miles surrounding Loudwater, making it unsafe for those living in more remote areas.
The Loudwater Guard under the leadership of Captain Harrowleaf has been training hard and even driven off some goblin scouting patrols. Within the walls, crime was at an all-time low after the death of the cult gang and purging of the Watch and Constable. The new Watch was hard at work keeping the peace between new settlers and longtime residents.
The liberated Temple of Tempus has a new tenant, Brandis, an eager young human cleric newly arrived from Waterdeep. The Grand Temple there was eager to respond to Kriv’s request for assistance, glad to spread the teachings of the Lord of Battle to reclaimed lands. Brandis was hard at work teaching self-defense and love of Tempus to local citizens (and collecting money for temple repairs).
Curuvir has returned from Draigdurroch Tower and is eager to speak with everyone about both old and new quests. He reports some strange people skulking about in the forest north of the tower. He also has news of Orus, the druid of the southern Moor that had wanted to speak with the Blades a few weeks ago.
For now all that can wait. The Sacred Blades can rest for a least a while, enjoying the peace and quiet they have earned for the people of Loudwater and Llorkh. Maybe they even have time to attend the Spring Ball. Lady Moonfire would love to have them all as guests of honor…
On second thought, maybe they will head out soon to slay dragons and free another city from Zhentarim clutches.
|Rally the Troops, Retake the Town: 525 (complexity 3 Skill Challenge)|
|Last Stand at the Town Hall: 1200 (level 5 encounter)|
|Stronghold Wights: 1000 (level 3 encounter)|
|Free Llorkh: 1050 (level 4 major quest)|
|Bonus XP: Llorkh and Stronghold cleared, minimal civilian deaths, slavery stopped in region: 1000|
|4775xp total, 795xp per person|
|Grand Total XP per character: 5620 (5500 total needed for 5th level, 7500 for 6th)|