Acting quickly, the group barred the door to the temple, before searching the upper levels. Von Sterben had left his study open, and they wasted no time searching for the weapon. Instead, they found a collection of notes, which they hurriedly gathered — only one took their immediate attention: a note from the governor, stating that the weapon had been hidden in a secret, well-guarded fortification.
They slipped out, the streets mercifully quiet. The governor was occupied with “an earlier incident”, but the adventurers were informed they would be able to see him in a matter of minutes. While they recovered from the brutal fight, Uni’s Insight tingled: the meeting with the governor was a trap. Utterly unfazed, they entered anyway.
Unceremoniously, Abdul dumped Von Sterben’s head on the man’s desk. Reeling in shock, he shouted, “What is that!?” — to which Abdul calmly answered, “The lich’s head.” The shout, unfortunately, alerted the guards outside, and Leo and Raku leaped into action: Leo jumped the desk, trying to silence the man, but succeeded only in knocking him backwards to the ground. Meanwhile Raku held the door fast, shouting that it was jammed — then, finally managing to cover the governor’s mouth, Leo’s voice joined his, claiming the governor was having a seizure.
Uni pointed the Key of Knowledge at the man’s face and channeled her energy through it. He relaxed, eyes going white as he slipped into a strange trance; Abdul asked the most important question first: “Where is the fortress in which you hid the weapon for Von Sterben?”
Governor Smith replied serenely, “In a small fort, one mile south and half a mile east of the city.” The magic having run its course, he quickly returned to reality, panic-stricken eyes watching Abdul who held a knife to his throat. The magic may have been unnecessary, as the man seemed to cooperate eagerly after that, divulging the fortress’ defense (ten elite guards and intruder-detecting magic) and writing a (shakily-written) note to the effect that the weapon was to be surrendered into the group’s care.
Then, enforcing his silence with a combination of threats and promises, they opened the door. The governor insisted to the guards that he had indeed been having a seizure, and to let the group pass unharmed. The guard captain, confused, asked, “But sir, what about… the plan?”
Smiling wryly — her insight hadn’t failed her after all — Uni glanced at the governor and asked, “Plan? Oh, do tell.” After repeated insistence to let them go, the captain of the guard shot them a dirty look, mumbling, and stalked off.
Thanks to the group’s orienteering skills, the structure was not difficult to find. It was, however, well-defended: the guards were undead, now; notes and arbitration would be useless. The intruder detection was in place, but using her invisibility to get a closer look, Uni also detected a magic-dispelling field. A quick test later, throwing a rock with a light attached, convinced them that it would indeed undo any magic they brought with them.
After a long few minutes planning an ambush, the plan instantly fell apart, as the undead soldiers manning the fort’s walls retreated, rather than press forward to attack. Reverting to the subtlety of a battering ram, they formed into a tight group and crossed the barrier, immediately reactivating their magic spells.
And with good timing, as moments later they were attacked by a group of six wights, three on each side. As Raku engaged the nearest creature, landing a glancing blow with his hammer, Uni skimmed a beam of light along another’s leg — the battle began poorly. Still, not all was lost — a brave risk of Greg saved Raku from a fatal blow to the head, and a similar intervention by Raku spared Abdul getting a shortsword through the chest.
As the battle dragged on, the fighters — and Abdul in particular — rapidly losing strength, they finally began to see results against the resilient creatures. One, its leg violently wounded by a light spear, stumbled to its knees. Another had its arm shattered by Raku’s hammer; one of its comrades fractured Perrin’s arm in recompense. Another took a flurry of Abdul’s sharp blows to the chest before collapsing. Yet another died to a blow of Leo’s mace. One by one, the creatures fell, freed from their arcane reanimation.
The fight cost them significantly, but the thinly-patient Greg managed to restore their wounds, and set Perrin’s broken arm, before they proceeded into the central area. A glyph on the wall, set to dispel magic, tempted Uni — handing off her magical gear, lest they be affected, she pressed it. In response, the barriers surrounding the fort were dropped, and a combination of glyphs appeared in its place that she theorized would restore the defenses.
Inside the fort were four bodies, also members of the governor’s elite guard — though whether they had died to the other monsters, starvation, or Von Sterben himself — or even if they had simply been ‘turned off’ by the defense glyph — was unclear.
Spying a glimmer of metal, Abdul and Raku let their curiosity of the men’s deaths fall to the wayside: a shining longsword rested on a stand in the center of the room. Raku let out a breath. “Why, I never thought I would see such a sight. Not even a lump o’ the metal itself.” With a thrill of triumph, Abdul grasped the blade and hefted it. “I’d never mistake the sight: ’tis divine steel, that weapon is.”