The Shield of Heaven

Counterattack

Or "How Ayla Returned to Kick Ass"

Ayla took the heroes down to the staging area of the citadel and introduced them to a brood of griffons at her service. Each hero was paired with a griffon of similar countenance, and upon examination they realized these were the same griffons whose eggs they previously recovered. In the staging area, one of the griffons pounced on a figure hiding behind a stack of supply crates: Izora Moonhallow, their former barmaid at The Green Dragon. She admitted to stowing away and preparing the meals — she wanted to stay with Rawlin as he took up his new duties as the citadel’s security officer. The heroes agreed to let her stay.

In Blackguard, Ayla confronted Priestess Runa Cardillo and claimed she was a heretic and a charlatan who led others astray in the name of false gods. Strangely, Runa did not deny this charge and admitted that she had not been in contact with Virtus; in fact, she had never known of any clerics of Virtus who had truly spoken to the god. As she retreated to her chambers to meditate, Cain requested her assistance in removing his surreptitious alter-ego, Zarkhesh, the wraith that has been attempting to possess him since his foray into the world of death. But Runa’s faith was shaken and she could not act on behalf of Virtus.

That night, Runa slipped into Dietrich’s room and attempted to end her celibacy. Dietrich, however, dissuaded her from such actions and asked her to remain true to her faith for a little while longer.

In the morning, upon receiving word from Aoric Usted that the hydra eggs were ready, Ayla held a war council that included Crubren Ironhouse, Fargen Stormbellow of the Storm Giants, Dolgrin Ironhammer, Talathel Aventail, Lord of the Aruthel in the Locked Forest, and Periwinkle Buzzlebee, High Flummox of the Great Gnome Clan of the North. All save Talathel voted to assault Brookfield. Talathel agreed that the fall of Thrax and Blackwall cannot be ignored and offered to send an army of elves in support despite his initial hesitance.

The heroes decided to send the citadel, guided by Goladin and Rawlin, to the rear of Brookfield as a diversion while they assaulted the front gate. The initial battle went well and the heroes overtook the gate without much trouble. Balor made an appearance to direct the Blackwall soldiers, but retreated to continue supporting the others (and perhaps to avoid a confrontation with Ayla).

The heroes moved into Brookfield and encountered a squad of goblins with bombs strapped to their chests. After making short work of the enemy, Balor reappeared and set upon the heroes a Cauchemar, a super-powered Nightmare with devilish powers. The Cauchemar summoned several Hell Hounds and sent them after the heroes before attacking them as well. After a struggle in which Ayla tested out her new Paladin ability to smite evil, they defeated the Cauchemar and its minions.

Waiting inside the Brookfield College was their old friend, Aoric, who gladly handed over three explosive hydra eggs. As they made the exchange, a new citadel appeared upon the horizon; Hell’s Tower was fast approaching, clearly converted into a flying fortress. Aoric suggested that the heroes use their new toys on the citadel.

Ayla led the charge on her griffon mount through scores of dragons and, once they were within range, let loose the hydra eggs upon the flying fortress. Malum, perched atop Hell’s Tower with Thanatos upon his back, hurled insults and curses at the heroes, but that did not dissuade them. The hydra eggs impacted the tower and shattered it into a blossoming flower of orange and red explosions, sending the tower crumbling down upon the Fields Eternum in a heap of stone and earth.

Malum and Thanatos made their escape and the heroes returned to Brookfield for some well-deserved rest.

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