The last fortnight has been but a blur. After delving through the mountains to an ancient dwarven ruin, we came across a strange fish-like creature attempting to give us what we wanted, though we eventually figured out that it was a trap. We managed to deal with it forcefully, and gained possession of a powerful and old polearm that bore the memories of those who had suffered in the ruins. With the weapon in hand, we made our way back to where the wolf had told us we would find the Champion, only to run into a paladin and a ranger who soon joined our growing company. While on the road, we attempted to ambush a small patrol of devils. It was a rough fight for all of us, and after killing one with the polearm, an aura washed over our enemies, sending them running in fear. "You fools!" cried one "We will return for you!" Return they did, but not before our company was able to take purchase on top of a large rocky outcropping. As the cavalry circled like vultures, we took pot shots from our vantage point, doing our best to hold them off from overtaking us. We almost lost a few of our party members, most notably a dragonborn paladin by the name of Shagar.
It's been many years since I had felt a genuine fear that we would lose a party member so easily, and immediately I began to remember my first campaign as a battle cleric. Death does not frighten me so much as it did then, but the realization of my own mortality is a humbling proposition.
We pushed forward to the top of the mountain, where we rejoined a member who had journeyed forth with us after our meeting. The dwarf was a boisterous sort, but he seemed well enough. Anyone who is capable enough to hold his own in combat is more than welcome at my side, after all. As the day grew late, we settled down to take our long rest, but before we could complete it, the Barbarian was awoken by the sounds of screaming in the town below. Our paladins and myself all agreed that the best course of action was to, as stealthily as possible, investigate the glow coming from the town below.
The town was empty, with the exception of the smell of burning flesh and the roaming patrols of half-devils. Once we were found out, I knew it would be a hard push to find out what was going on in the center of town. It was three long pushes into the town before we finally made it to the center. Dead bodies were piled to the sky, lit aflame and smelling heavy of rot and char. The fetid orange glow illuminated the darkness, exposing the wretched, twisted forms of the corrupted. In the center of the clearing was an altar of sorts with three erected obelisks, and to them were tied Wander, and two females. I could see one that seemed to be the leader of the group and two, possibly three lieutenants. Below them, I saw at least ten grunts, and without hesitating, our party rushed into the fray as the leader initiated some form of ritual to Asmodeus.
I still remember the teachings of my mentor when I was still a young battle cleric in the service of a nation I can no longer remember. "Young Kava," the old man spoke to me, "in order to fully channel Tempus' blessings, you must clear your mind of all self doubt, only then will be able to uphold the values you have taken upon yourself." As I remembered my teachings, the three tenets of all followers of Tempus rang true: 1) Be fearless, 2) never run from battle, and 3) always follow the rules of warfare. As such, I charged forward as the dwarven barbarian fell over. I did not shirk as I wielded the spear in my hands, striking with a flurry of blows guided by Tempus, the foe-hammer. As the blade struck the third time, a piercing wail that could peel the paint from my sigil echoed across the area, sending a handful of the devils running for the hills. I helped get the Jotum up, the dwarf thanking me as I used the last of my spells to help him follow the tenets of my faith, a task that even unknowingly he followed to the end. I watched as he flanked around the side and Borris charged in on his trusty mount. to interrupt the ritual. Never had I been so honored to fight among valiant warriors. I watched as the leader faltered and the ritual was interrupted, cheering as the paladin stood his ground. As the foes began to retreat, I pressed forward, striking at yet another and dropping them. Several more fell this way.
In the heat of battle, I failed to notice that a new cleric had entered the fray along with another paladin and an accompaniment of rangers. The chaos that ensued only served for me to take even more advantage of the disorganization. I was struck multiple times, but they failed to down me as I pushed my way through their ranks. I turned back to see Bob, our human barbarian bursting through the pile of burning bodies. However, I quickly realized my usefulness was limited now that my spells had been burned leading up to this critical moment.
I looked up just in time to see Jotum walking up behind the leader as he was preoccupied with Borris. A resounding crack and a cry erupted as the barbarian clipped the leader's legs out from underneath, then cleaved him in two. As happy as I was to see this, the battle was not yet over, and so I kept pushing forward, trying to make my way to the altar to save my allies. Unfortunately I was not able to save them in time. As we began to think the fight lost, Shagar burst from the side alley and ruined one of the lieutenants, only to try and save the other paladin, who had been with the slaves. Unfortunately, the fighting leading up to this moment had grievously wounded him and made him susceptible to a precision strike. In my rage, I lashed out again, killing yet another of the devil-spawn and causing many to flee. As the remnants scattered, I stood over the dead bodies, victorious. But, as the haze of battle subsided, I quickly realized that this victory came with a heavy toll. Our warlock and the monk were missing in action, while both barbarians and two of our paladins were dead.
In that moment of lucidity, I prayed for Tempus to guide the souls who had fallen in battle, that they may find proper repose. Over the next hour, the few of us that remained would divide our goods up among ourselves, and I would send a message to the other party, informing them of the party's critical condition. Memories flashed in my mind of the first battle, standing over my mentor's crippled body after he had slain a company of soldiers on his own. I had been unable to protect them as I had been unable to protect him, and so their deaths are my burden to bear. No regrets, ever forward.