16th of Zephyr, 1075 AE
Bluffing their way through the rough-and-tumble dirt streets of Blacktide Den—a near-lawless collection of scoundrels, criminals, and outsiders—the party took their first steps into the dreaded Lahtenda Bog, inhabited only by witches, swamp creatures, and necromancers for over four-hundred years. Knowing their quarry was meeting near the ancient Sunspear Guard mausoleum deep within the mosquito-infested morass, they steeled themselves against all manner of attack, whether from human or beast.
Coming across freshly-killed swamp creatures, the Sunspears fell upon a group of corsairs resting and healing themselves, leaving only Captain Ironfist’s envoy—who wisely surrendered—alive. He explained that Ironfist neither trusted General Kahyet nor wanted to spent time in the bog, and so had procured his services. He proposed a trade, in that he could lead the Sunspears—still disguised as assorted corsair pirates—to the site of the meet and give them all of Ironfist’s gold, as long as he could walk out of the exchange freely. The party agreed, not liking their options.
After several hours walking and battling through the swamp, they came across General Kahyet, making no effort to hide her identity, handing over a bag of money to another corsair crew, lead by Captain Besoz. Displeased at Ironfist not meeting as agreed upon, but ultimately accepting the envoy’s smooth-tongued explanation, she gave him a similarly large bag of coin, which he handed to Tancred with a knowing nod. Starting to depart, he broke out into a run when the party fell upon the General; consorting and paying corsairs to raid Istan’s shores was a crime worthy of arrest in and of itself, let alone the terrible destruction those under her command had wrought with the waking of the Apocrypha and the release of undead across the isles.
With sword strikes, arrows, and divine magic all lancing toward the aged Kournan general, her frail form belied the strength and conviction which fueled her spirit. Emboldened by her faith and confidence in a being she named “Abaddon,” she shrugged off the mightiest of blows while bringing her terrible magics to bear upon the Sunspears. All felt the lash of her arcane might save Akeela, who sprinted after the envoy, determined to not let him escape, for his part in Ironfist’s crimes against the people of Istan.
Grevious wounds were traded on each side of the pitched, swamp-sodden battle, but ultimately the power of rightenousness began to overpower Kahyet’s dark master. Surrounding herself with a protective field, and knowing her options were few, the general began casting a truly powerful spell, the effort of which ate at her very flesh, as if to fuel and give shape to the terrible energies she channeled.
Tancred called out “In the name of Balthazar, Halt” in his most commanding voice, channeling the divine energies of the god of war, putting as much force be himself could funnel into the word. Remarkably—and in a surprise even to himself—the demand worked, and Balthazar sapped Kahyet’s will to continue casting. Unfortunately for her, and for all others in the middle of the terrible Lahtenda morass, the pent-up energy of Kahyet’s powerful casting had to go somewhere.
An explosion rocked the wooded swamp, larger and louder than any the Sunspears had heard ever before; it was as if the air itself was cracking in half. The blast rendered the general’s body into vapor and sent the collective Sunspears reeling, deafened and blinded from the concussive force of her failed spell.
Picking themselves up, painfully, from the marshy ground, they looked around for any trace of their quarry. “Got the envoy!” came Akeela’s cheery voice from deeper within the swamp. “Did I miss anything?”
Picking themselves off the soggy ground and seeing no trace of the murderous General Kahyet, the Sunspears regrouped and, with the Envoy in tow as their prisoner, began the long march back to the Great Hall, where they hoped to meet with Spearmarshal Kormir.
Unfortunately the Spearmarshal had not yet returned from attempting to gather support for official action against the Kournans for their continued assault on Istani independence, and—not wishing to face First Spear Jerek alone—met with Castellan Puuba, their long-time mentor. He listened to the story of their trek into the bog and the information acquired therein, mostly corroborated by the Envoy, and sighed heavily into his calloused hands.
A Kournan general was dead on Istani soil, at the hands of young Sunspears, while on a mission designed to keep them out of trouble. “I’ll speak with Jerek,” he ultimately decided. “Get some rest; tomorrow is going to be very long, I guarantee it.”
The Envoy, quite put out at not having been left to his own devices back in the Bog like he was promised, grumbled epithets at his captors all the way to the Great Hall’s prison block.
20th of Zephyr, 1075 AE
A joint tribunal between Istan and Kourna was called to determine the truth of the Sunspears’ claims and their culpability for the death of General Kahyet. Calling witnesses from across the isles, the Sunspears faced General Morghan who—representing Kourna—laid into their credibility and the actual value of their testimony. To everyone’s surprise he openly admitted that Kahyet was behind the corsair attacks on Istan, but staunchly presented the argument that she was working alone, without knowledge of or permission from Warmarshal Varesh Ossa.
The outcome of the trial seemed to loom disfavorably for the Sunspears’ claims when Spearmarshal Kormir, returned from travels both to the mainland and to empires far abroad in search of allies, burst into the courtroom and demanded to know the meaning of the proceedings—she had witnessed Varesh’s heresy with her own eyes, and demanded that the Kournan leader present herself for proper trial and condemnation.
General Morghan scoffed, insinuating that if Kormir wanted the Warmarshal, she’d have to come to Kourna and herself. With nothing more to say, and nothing more to be said, the court adjurned with whispers of war on everyone’s lips.
The following morning saw one of the largest assembly of Sunspears in recent memory; troops had been recalled from Kourna both for their own safety and to aid in the assault of Gendara, the Moon Fortress—the seat of Kourna’s military and political might.
Vareh’s crimes were laid out to the crowd by Raidmarshal Mehdara, from the death and misery caused by the corsair raids to the pursuit and worship of dark, malefic forces. With Kormir by her side, she ordered the smiths to tend to their forges, the loremasters to study all maps of the Kournan capital, and for the most pious to seek the blessing of the five gods themselves.
Their foes were not the rank and file of the large Kournan army—they would be defending their homeland and following orders to protect their Warmarshal, and there is no shame in that—surrender would be accepted, and the Sunspears were ordered to be surgical in their assault; this conflict was not an excuse to succumb to wild emotion rather than calculated precision.
War had come to Elona, and the Sunspears were determined to show their true mettle. All knew this fight, this conflict, would enshrine their legacy as the true and rightful defenders of all the kingdoms, and their victory would be so complete as to prevent any from raising their hand against the peace and good order of society again.
Header image from Black Lotus
More information about this ongoing story arc can be found in this post