| Here's a loose breakdown of what happened (PC names excised, though they are welcome to speak up on their own behalf)!
For the last 3-4 years, the storyline about Alret's Elpalzi splinter group came and went in fits and spurts, including one point where Ulf'hara Keep, the home of the Zoluren royalty for many years, was blown up and many lives were lost. Former GM Seyalle was the one who started it all, but finishing up these events was very important to me, so after some changes in staffing and other behind the scenes bits took place, I took up the mantle and set about ensuring a resolution over the course of April and the beginning of this month.
After years of underground efforts, military probes, and clandestine information gathering by the Zoluren military and related government factions (much out of the sight of the public so as to not hamper the efforts), it came to pass that Lady Lilena Turmar and her intelligence gathering contacts began to make real headway on finding out how to gain the upper hand against Alret and his forces.
* Elpalzi begin crawling the Northern Trade Road, with incursions into Kaerna, Arthe Dale, Dirge, and the Crossing off and on. They also began using better weapons and armor than seen in the past.
* The Zoluren Council met on the Elpalzi situation in light of Lilena's gathered information. Lord Grigoire Denesal, the acting Steward of Zoluren as well as its Military Advisor, gave an announcement to the public regarding the nearness of the Province moving to end the threat once and for all.
* Lady Lilena Turmar began to assemble a small group of Adventurers to add to her intelligence and infiltration team, swearing them to secrecy until the news would not threaten the success of their mission -- aiding those Elpalzi who wished to remove Alret and live in peace with Zoluren, and gaining access to the key that could open Sorrow's Keep.
* Moon Mage visions and other strange goings on began to indicate that Alret may have uncovered an artifact that is related to the demon Maelshyve, and that him and his troops may be using the demon's power to try to bolster their own.
* As the efforts of the brave Elpalzi loyalists were being uncovered by the general populous, Lilena's recon group began meeting secretly with some of them to provide magical items that would assist in protecting their minds from Alret's Lieutenant Geva so that they could begin to secure themselves and their families and break the hold that Alret had over them that was forcing them to fight on his behalf.
* A group of various PCs held a meeting to discuss what they could do to aid in the war effort until such time as Lord Denesal gave the signal to storm Sorrow's Keep. Lady Turmar came and spoke to the assembled, and a plan was hatched to help more quickly gather supplies for the swelling ranks of the Zoluren military in the very short timeframe before the assault was expected to occur without tipping off the Elpalzi to the extreme build up in forces. Representatives from the Apostles and the Order of the Black Fox agreed to spearhead this effort, under the cover story that they were holding an event to raise supplies for the Turmar-Magen charity benefit.
* Numerous invasions by the Elpalzi continued throughout Zoluren, ramping up in size and difficulty.
* Strange notes continued to be found being carried by some of the Elpalzi troops, some indicating that they were being forced to fight against their will, and others seemingly in code and appearing to indicate some sort of plan to strike against 'the moon witch of House Turmar', presumed to mean Lady Lilena Turmar. The various Adventurers who found the notes eventually consolidated their knowledge (including deciphering the coded message), and it was passed on to Lord Denesal and Lady Turmar. This ensured that Lady Turmar did not fall into the trap being set for her, and she went into hiding on the heavily warded Turmar Estate so as to not be a liability to the remainder of the mission.
* The peace-wanting Elpalzi loyalists gathered their forces under their magical protection and pushed Alret's forces out of the Elpalzi homelands, recovering their relatives that had been held hostage and stealing the key to the Keep. Many of the Elpalzi loyalists chose to remain in their homelands to protect their families at this point, but others decided to continue the fight against Alret and were frequently seen attacking his forces when they tried to invade Zoluren.
* Lady Turmar's recon group secured the key to Sorrow's Keep from one of the Elpalzi loyalists and brought it to Lord Denesal. Unfortunately, it was quickly ascertained by court mages that the element of surprise would not be on Zoluren's side as the key would not work for them without ritual re-attunement.
* High Temple Investigator Soraent had a strange Holy compulsion where the 13 visited him and asked for him to consume prayer beads. Not being much of a carver himself, Soraent got other Clerics to carve beads, and other Adventurers to bring him beads. Upon eating a prayer bead, he regurgitated a holy necklace that would grant two uses of the Protection from Evil spell, even to people unable to cast magic. Many, many beads were consumed, and many, many necklaces provided. There was speculation that this was due to the 13 wanting to help protect their followers against Maelshyve's influence.
* A Moon Mage by the name of Trethom lead many Adventurers in the attunement ritual for the key. They successfully fought off a mental attack by Alret's Maelshyve-infused power and completed the ritual.
* Prince Belirendrick IV of Zoluren acted as the key bearer and rallied Adventurers for the siege on Sorrow's Keep, as Lord Denesal commanded the Provincial army, and former Seneschal Maghana searched for her half-brother, who was amongst the prisoners in the Keep.
* Alret's forces were defeated by the combined forces of Adventurers and the military, but when Alret himself was faced down, he called upon Maelshyve only to have the demon refuse to give aid. Instead, her creations flooded the area and as Alret fell (repeatedly) to Adventurers, his soul was consumed by Maelshyve. Three deaths Alret took to lose himself, one for each of the tines on Maelshyve's symbolic claw, sealing his fate.
* The Holy company of Zoluren soldiers that were also trained by the High Temple worked to seal off Maelshyve's influence before it could spread to permanently taint the area outside of Sorrow's Keep, requiring the forces inside the Keep to fall back so they would not be trapped forever in there with the demonic energy.
* Some of Maelshyve's children did make their way outside of the Keep due to the sheer force of her will, but once the Keep was sealed off by Holy magic, Maelshyve was unable to sustain her influence on the Province as a whole, and Adventurers dispatched those of her creatures that remained on the outside.
Upin final death, Alret dropped:
Before I wrap up here, I want to thank all of the GMs who helped in this last month with wrapping up the Elpalzi events:
Without these guys and gals pitching in on both the event and technical ends, I'd have never been able to make this event what it was. It was truly a team effort!
My thanks also go to all of the players who made this work out so well. You guys juggled IC need for secrets with spreading information and roping others in, rallied the troops and triage for numerous invasions, held meetings to organize so many aspects, and were just generally awesome! Participation was really high, and I got to see both old faces and new not only get involved deeply, but pull others into it who might not have been otherwise.
I hope folks enjoyed the conclusion to this long storyline!