The players returned to the refugee camp with the rescued children and were met with a heroic welcome. This act, and news that there might be a safe haven in the hills, raised the morale of the Ashurna refugees.
The next day the team took a group of refugees with them back to the Keep and set out to fully explore it. The keep was massive, stretching far back into the hillside. A dwarf refugee by the name of Baiden said that he believed that the keep must have been built with the help of dwarves since many of the techniques used in its construction were dwarven in nature. The team also found a way down to a hidden dock at the base of a massive waterfall. This was the head of the Baskaly River that flowed all the way down to the ocean coast bordering Khepras and Shar. They also found two, still useable, river boats of an elvish design docked here. As well they also found a secret way into the keep using the old underground river passages they discovered when fighting the RatKing a few days earlier.
They began moving the Ashurna refugees up to the keep, and gave it the name of Fort Phoenix. Not all the refugees came, many preferred to keep moving south, so in the end about 600 people moved into the keep and began setting up their new home.
At this time the Players meet Flynn, a young would be adventurer, looking for a team that would take him on as a squire. He also mentioned another party of adventures, called Zelatar’s Blades, that had passed through the camp a few days before the heroes. These adventurers though were a mean lot. They bragged about how many people they had killed, and violent act they had committed. They also stole the only boat the refugees had and set sail down the river.
Suspicious that these adventurers might have been the ones that murdered his clan, talan got the team to agree to follow them down river and find out for sure. So the team took one of the river boats and with the help of ‘Cappy (and ex-sailor and now Fort Phoenix resident) set off down river. Just before they left a local wise woman named Hepiena gifted the team with mystical badges that she said may help them in the future.
The journey was a long one, almost 13 days, and during that time they came across a few small fishing villages that had had run ins with Zelatar’s Blades. From talking to some of the locals Keats learned that the Blades were bragging about a big score they had just completed and were on their way to the capital of Khepras to meet with the King and get their reward.
The team pressed on, before eventually coming to the river city of Worthara where they found a massive army camped out along its banks. It seems that the Empire of Vashkhor was in the process of marching upon the capital of Khepras in order to dispose of the King who they believe had aligned himself with the forces of evil and may in fact be working with Kal-Turak. They also learned that many of the citizens of Khepras were almost happy with this, since many dark and strange rumors had been floating about the King had gone insane and had taken to hiring Goblins and Orcs to act as his personal guards.
Rather than attempting to travel across land to get to the capital, Gova Deshvan, the players kept to the river and eventually reached the coast where they took passage on a merchant ship heading up the coast to the capital city. By doing this they believe that they may have gained a few days on Zelatar’s Blades and beat them to the city. They were right. They took up lodging at an inn near the city gates and waited for the Blade’s to arrive. When the Baldes showed up the part spied on them, learning that they were indeed a powerful group of evil bastards. They had numerous magic items on them and when they got to drinking they bragged of horrendous deeds.
Not sure they could take them in a straight on fight the team decided to join up with the castle guards and attempt to get close to the exchange point, possibly finding a chance to learn more and recover the artifact stolen from the Ulronai clan.
Getting jobs was easy. Word had reached the capital of the approaching Vashkhor army and any able person was in high demand. What also was working in the teams favor was that the castle guards were a lazy, untrained & undisciplined lot, made up of goblins, orcs and human bandits. The players covertly mapped out the castle and when the time came they were able to set up in advantages positions in the throne room.
First the King entered with his guards and seneschal, Jonaus. Here he met with Zelatar’s Blades and paid them a hefty sum for a small wooden box that they gave to him. After the Blades left his seneschal rang a small gong set off to the side of the throne room and a few minutes later a black robed wizard appeared. The wizard and King talked about how in exchange for this item, Kal-Turak would provide protection to the King against the approaching Vashkhor army.
Before more could be said, or the mage could escape with the artifact, the team sprang into action. Talan, using a distraction created by Kern, leaped down upon the wizard and stabbed him from behind. The fight was on. The rest of the part jumped into the fray, not letting up on the wizard until they were sure he was dead, all the while fighting off the Kings guards. Kern was able to lead the King out into a back hallway then he proceeded to strangle him to death for the crimes he had committed against Ashurna. He then chopped off the kings head.
Rather then fleeing with the recovered artifact, the party decided to stay on and see what would happen. They talked Jonaus into helping them loot the King’s treasury, but found it lacking, since so much money had been rewarded to Zelatar’s Blades for the artifact that the King was going to trade to Kal-Turak for protection and power.
The team then took the severed head of the King to the general of the approaching Vashkhor army and told him the threat was over. The General agreed and thanked the players for helping prevent the massive loss of life that would have occurred if the army had to lay siege to the capital city. The Vashkhor Empire had no interest in occupying Khepras and the army turned back for its long march home.
The players now had to decide what to do next. Some of them we uncomfortable with leaving Khepras without any leader since whoever would eventually gain power may once again turn his attention on Ashurna. So with the help of Jonaus they set out to locate one of the Barron’s of Khepras and see about how to make peace with whoever would rule Khepras next.