Night approached relentlessly. The sun had slipped behind the walls of Valderin and the silhouette of the city was imbued with a soft amber glow. Yet soon, that light would be snuffed out, and darkness would take hold.
Paledos stood amongst the Legionnaires on the Southern Redoubt. From this defence, the City Guard could protect the farm folk outside the city walls, and provide an early warning from assault . As the guards on the stone wall looked out across the horizon to the east and south, Paledos admired the city behind them. His prey. His plaything.
The guards had no idea that he posed any threat. Why should they? He looked like one of them. Why should they suspect an attack? This city had never truly been threatened by an army of this size. Paledos could sense how close his Gnoll were now, lurking in the shadows, but the brave idiots around him gave no sign that they were ready for what was coming. There were so few of them too. He’d seen significant gaps along the battlements. The city was so afraid of an attack from an unseen enemy within the walls.
That was the only reason why Paledos had condemned the five noble lords and ladies to death over the last half a year: to generate a force of habit. The Legion were so focused on stopping an assassination. The ‘Patrons ‘heroes’ had succeeded a month earlier, and the chance to repeat that success would be focusing their attention as well.
The Heroes. They had been the factor that Paledos could not have predicted. After years of plotting, he had not suspected the appearance of this group of busy-bodies. this gang of plucky adventurers. He would incorporate their actions into his scheme, but Paledos had known at once that they would be a great issue.
Almost every part of his plan had been building to this singular event. Whilst the assassinations would divert attention, everything else was meant to seed chaos. The abduction of the monks at the temple should have driven a psychological wedge between the people and their faith. Had no one explored the temple, the ruined remains of the monks would have soon been found strung up on spigots on the west road into the city. What a terrible omen that would have been.
Had the Heroes not stepped between the bickering Small Lords to the south, the Legion would have found the two families dead amongst their grapevines. A violent tableau would have revealed a descent from into madness and the destruction of two important farming families. The tragedy should have resonated through the community, but the Drow had been rooted out.
The espionage at Ninzton had been one of the more entertaining endeavours, but the true target had been the Sapphire Asylum to the south. The indentured Incubus had been working on loosening the defences of that prison, allowing the inmates to spill free and drag as many Legionnaires as possible away from the city. Once again, the Heroes prevailed, but the ensuing chaos still sapped the strength of the city protectors.
All this, and the expeditious expulsion of the Red Coins had meant that the city was saner and more secure at this juncture than he would have enjoyed. The city would still suffer this night, but they would be harder to break.
Ultimately, as he had expected, neither Hero nor Legionnaire could not be in all places at once. Either distracted by greater gains or more entertaining pastures, the Gnoll had been overlooked. His work in the deeper Timberland and high in the mountains had also remained undiscovered.
He had been concerned that his deal with Yeenoghu would backfire. Despite the bargain, the Gnoll he had been granted still risked everything by hunting beyond the Timberland. The farmers had complained of missing livestock, but the reward they offered was pitiful and their complaints meagre. Not that it would have mattered. Anyone following the trail would have been swarmed by Gnoll, and anyone else digging too deep would have been crushed by his stone golems.
Paledos was pulled from his distracted reflection by a muttering around him. It seemed as though a few of the guards had spotted movement in the long grass beyond the Redoubt. That meant that it was time to begin. He raised his ‘human’ hand and pointed down the length of the redoubt as his reedy voice muttered an incantation.
The tranquil night air was filled with a shrill rush of arcane power and the cries of the poor souls around him. The ever-growing darkness was momentarily repelled by a vibrant, shock-blue line crackling its way through the guards on the battlements. A second later, the magic was gone, the night was darker than it was before and a string of guards fell like dominoes.
Legionnaires screamed. Weapons were drawn. Chaos shook the defences. A few plucky heroes rushed to strike at the guard that had betrayed them, but their blades danced across a shimmering shield around Paledos, whose eyes stayed fixed on the city behind the Redoubt, and the peasant homes that would soon be overrun.
A moment later, the world was alive with screams and clashing and cheers and shrieks. Paledos did not need to glance around to know that the Redoubt was overrun. He could smell the Gnoll before he could hear their incessant, gleeful chattering. His Stone Golems would be marching now too.
A single gnoll, face and neck caked in blood, stepped up to Paledos and began to splutter the vulgar Gnoll language in his direction. Without caring to look away from Valderin, Paledos replied in the same speech – all guttural, laughing, choking sounds. Such a horrid dialect, but the broken form of Abyssal was easy to learn.
“Go.” He chuckled and chattered, “Tell your boss to start. He leads the charge to the city’s heart.”
The Gnoll laughed in agreement and dashed back over the wall of the Redoubt, into the darkness. Paledos did not watch him go. He leant forward and floated out towards the city.
He thought of Lady Tullik and the Ministry. He thought of the Heroes and their meddling. He thought of how they would all react when they saw what he had in store for them, and the expressions on their faces as the life was drawn out of them. He thought of all the devils and demons that would tear him apart when all of this was done.
“This will be fun, while it lasts” he said, as he soared towards Valderin.
Thank You For Reading
Occasionally as a the host of a Table Top RPG, you write something for a moment, and then forget it existed. I had entirely forgotten this little piece of scene-setting until I was sorting my files the other day. This was a moment my homemade campaign had been leading to for about 18 months.
After so many quests, various interactions with the villain’s Henchmen, ‘Paledos’ the white Tiefling, spellcasting BBEG was ready to launch a full out attack on the capital city. The siege lasted several 4 hour sessions in real time, and this brief summary of what the heroes did not see really helped (I think) to set the scene and raise the stakes.
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