Agatheron's Points of Light

An Interlude

Sturmik strode purposefully into the Great Tower, as the Warden of Iron Keep, the sentries simply nodded and knew to get out of his way.

“Where is he?” the Tiefling demanded on the way past.

“On the roof, sir.” one of the sentries acknowledged.

Sturmik smiled to himself. Order. Good. He liked that. He didn’t care if the sentries respected or feared him. Perhaps a bit of both, but either way it maintained discipline. Something that some of the patrols seemed to have forgotten.

Making his way up through the Great Tower, he found Nazin Redthorn looking north over the battlements. A huge man, Redthorn was an intimidating form with or without his armour. While his red hair was obvious, he kept it extremely short.

“Sturmik.” he nodded, What do you have for me?”

“Mixed news.” he said grimly. The tiefling saw Redthorn’s jaw tighten up, yet he was one of the few people that didn’t fear provoking the Captain’s temper. Instead, he admired his sense of control.

“Go on.”

“It seems that the Daggerburg Goblins are making more demands. Apparently several of their patrols were ambushed, and they’ve lost their foothold north of the White River.”

“Hm…” Redthorn thought for a moment. “A setback, but fixable. What else?”

“We’ve lost another patrol.” Sturmik replied matter-of-factly.

Despite the Captain’s well known discipline, Sturmik could feel Redthorn’s rage beginning to seethe.

“Another? How many does this make now?”

“Four since we occupied Harkenwold. Two within the past week. Plus…”

“Plus what?” Redthorn interrupted.

“Plus three supply caravans near Easthill were ambushed.” Sturmik answered.

“Okay. I need more information Sturmik. What do we know of the ambushes?”

“Bandit raids, it appears. Several of our men were wounded, two killed I believe, but our supply losses were minimal. I have a report from the soldiers.”

“I should like to see it Sturmik. What of the missing patrols?” he queried.

“Until this morning, I had no leads.” the Tiefling replied, “Late last week, one of our patrols north of the White River simply did not return from a toll run.”

“I know about that one. What about this latest one?” Redthorn rubbed his head trying to think his way through the problem.”

“I spoke with one of our informants, who was able to provide me with some second-hand details.”

“Second hand details?” he grumbled. “We’re going to need more than that Sturmik.”

“It’s what we have, sir. Our informant wasn’t there when the incident happened. It appears that one of our returning patrols had stopped in Albridge, and had some sort of altercation with a group in the Mallard Inn.”

“An altercation? What sort of group? A patrol that doesn’t return is not an altercation.”

“It appears that there’s a small band of independent mercenaries out there, sir. The people of Albridge regard them as heroes, because they stood up to our patrol, and put out the fires that resulted from the fight. I don’t have much more information than that.”

Redthorn paused. His face moved between concern and barely contained rage.

“Up until now, we’ve had this under control.” he began, “This is now beginning to be a problem, Sturmik. I want those so-called ‘heroes’ found. I want them to go away. Do you understand? If necessary, we’ll make an example of them, and show these people what happens when they cross the Iron Circle.”

“Yes sir.”

“If the people of Harkenwold find someone or something to rally around, it will make our next steps difficult. Vhennyk and the others will not be pleased.”

Sturmik swallowed hard, suddenly finding his mouth going dry. He nodded, rubbing his right horn nervously, but remained quiet as Redthorn continued.

“We may need to set another example to keep the Harkenwolders in line. Put the troops on standby. Also, see to it that we provide another bribe for the Daggerburg Goblins. They may be unreliable, but they are useful in keeping the residents off-balance.”

“Yes, sir.” Sturmik saluted.
“Is there anything else?” the Captain asked.

“Kaltis reports progress. The rest of our Adepts should have regular access soon.” Sturmik smiled.

“At least there’s some good news.” Redthorn replied. “I was impressed with what she did with Marl.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Dismissed.”

Turning on his heel, Sturmik turned and headed back down the stairs. They had some work to do.

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Tactical Summary
What you know so far

What follows is a FAQ and tactical analysis of what you know so far, and the actions the party has taken.

Q1: How did the Iron Circle take control?

A: The Iron Circle took control of Harken Keep approximately six weeks ago, dubbing it “Iron Keep.” As a military force, they are well-armed and well-disciplined. It is likely that they would have spent a fair bit of time gathering intelligence in order to know the lay of the land, and would have planned their coup carefully. Dar Gremath and others observed Iron Circle mercenaries “just passing through” as caravan guards from the south over a time period of at least a year before the coup. It is also very likely that the mercenary group employed spies, whether plying a unsuspecting local, or using a professionals, to provide them with information that they needed.

What is apparent, but not officially confirmed, is that the Iron Circle gained enough knowledge to negotiate an arrangement with Daggerburg. The Goblinoid force had always been a threat to eastern Harkenwold, but only in regard to low-level raids. While the precise location of Daggerburg Fortress is not known, it is at least two days walk on foot to the west of the western boundary of Harkenwold.

It appears that forces from Daggerburg staged a daring high-threat raid on various farms around the village of Marl. Upon receiving the cry for help from Marl, the Baron dispatched approximately forty soldiers to help the villagers repel the raiders. No sooner had the soldiers left Harken Village, than the Iron Circle forces struck. Surprising and killing the remaining handful of guards at the keep and capturing the baron.

It appears that while the force that the Baron had sent out to repel the goblins were successful in doing so, the returning guards were ambushed. They fled back to Marl, which sheltered them, and made an early attempt to rebel against the Iron Circle’s rule but it appears that Nazin Redthorn chose to make an example of the village. He personally led a force that destroyed the village. Some of the survivors of that fight fled to outlying farms, while others went further north across the White River and took up refuge in Druid Grove.

Q1a: Why didn’t they kill the Baron?

Unknown. Quite often a coup-d’etat involves killing the incumbent ruler quickly so as to eliminate any attempts to reclaim to the ruling title. The Iron Circle have been shown to be ruthless in stamping out resistance, so they would certainly would have killed the Baron without a second thought. The best information coming out of Iron Keep is that the Baron is still alive but imprisoned somewhere in the keep. Why they haven’t killed the baron remains a mystery, but it seems that he is more value to them currently alive than dead.

Q2: What are the current estimates on Iron Circle forces in Harkenwold?

Current estimates are that the Iron Circle has approximately 200-240 soldiers under their command. Even at a full compliment, Baron Jonn Stockmer only had sixty soldiers, plus whatever local soldiers that could be raised from the townsfolk from each village as the need would arise. It is estimated that only 10-15 of those original guards are still alive, but Dar Gremath is keeping their location and health quiet.

Q3: What are the strength of the rebellion’s forces?

In terms of the rebellion’s forces at the time you arrived in Albridge, Dar’s rough estimates are approximately 140 locals who would be able to function as able-bodied soldiers. Most of these are drawn from Albridge, as well as quietly from Harken itself. However, he is in process of trying to draw additional forces from the surrounding villages. Reithann the Druid recommended sending a group to Tor’s Hold to see if any fightitng forces could be raised from this westernmost community.

Others have suggested that the Woodsinger Elves might be worthwhile pursuing an alliance with.

Additionally, forces could be raised from Easthill and Dardun.

Q4: What about Daggerburg Forces?

This remains unknown. Certainly the goblins could raise well in excess of 200-300 forces if the entirety of Daggerburg was brought to bear, but their interest only seems to be in raiding at this point rather than controlling territory. In all, the goblins may number up to 60-80 in areas both north and south of the White River. Raiding parties appear to be approximately 10 individuals, some of whom are mounted on Dire Wolves or Battle Worgs.

Q5: What did we find out about Tor’s Hold?

Tor’s Hold is led by a Bran Torsson, eldest son of the village’s founder. They are a close-knit family village who all have strong histories of adventurers. They are certainly able bodied, but they have been left to fend off very aggressive raids from Daggerburg. They have asked you for assistance in repelling the goblin forces from the north side of the river. If you are successful, then Torsson will be able to free up sixty able-bodied soldiers to assist Albridge when the time comes.

Q5: What’s the current plan?

The existing plan is to set up several tempting targets as ambushes for the Daggerburg raiding parties, while those raiding parties are away from the main encampment at Toadwallow Caverns, the players would strike the encampment, destroy the leadership, and the means by which the goblins are resupplying across the river.

At our last gathering the party watcehd the patrols leave, and sprung into action. You took out the six guards (5 goblins, 1 hobgoblin) at the entrance of the caverns. You had expected others to come out of the deeper parts of the cave, but during the fight, nothing. Leaving you standing over the bodies of the fallen goblins, weighing your next step.

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Fire on the Road
the Reavers of Harkenwold

It was a grey day in Fallcrest. Usually late spring in the mid-Nentir Vale offers more in the way of sunshine, but the clouds cast a pallor over the group as they reconvened by the Wizard’s Gate. Each of them had gone their separate ways for a few days after returning from Winterhaven, resupplying, shopping for new gear, and putting their ear to the ground to find out any information they could about what was happening Harkenwold before they set out to investigate themselves.

Brindle had secured riding horses for the group from Sergeant Murgeddin, an old dwarf who had once fought in the Bloodspear War, and now was in charge of the Wizard’s Gate.

“These are good, sturdy mounts.” rumbled the old dwarf, “but I don’t recommend getting in a fight with ‘em.” Brindle nodded, these weren’t warhorses by any measure, but they would close the distance quickly.

Quietly the group secured their gear to the horses and got ready set out on their way.

On the way, both Rolan and Marcus shared what they had learned while in Fallcrest.

Aeren seemed determined about getting into Harkenwold, and Brindle corroborated that the rumours of a coup that Marcus had uncovered. The Warlord contacted by Lord Markelhay of Fallcrest, who corroborated the story, but that not much had been known about the group that had launched the coup. He charged Brindle with finding out what he could, and rendering whatever assistance he could. Mustering troops from Fallcrest would take time, and needed to be done in such a way to leave the central town with adequate protection of its own.

After a day’s journey, the group stopped and made camp in the Harken Forest, wanting to travel into Harkenwold by the following day. After an uneventful night, the following day would prove to be anything but.

As the thick forest gave way to the scrublands of Harkenwold, all seemed calm. Distant farmsteads dotted the landscape. Yet within a few hours of travelling down the [[King’s Road]], something seemed off. The road was empty with no other traffic on it at all. Soon they saw a column of black smoke over a hill, something definitely out of the ordinary. Smoke from farms would normally be white or grey, black smoke was not a good sign.

As they approached, Aeren reached out ahead with his mind. Five soldiers and two wolves the size of horses had surrounded a nearby steading. They were holding torches and laughing, having already lit the outhouse on fire.

“Excuse me,” said the Psion through his projection. “What are you doing?” The others appeared over the hill, to the small road just south of the farm.

“Back off!” one of the soldiers shouted, “This is Iron Circle business! It doesn’t concern you.”

“Business?” cried a female voice from inside the farmhouse, “It’s more like robbery and murder to me!”

For a moment, blood drained out of Marcus’ face, as old memories came flooding back in.

“This isn’t good,” said Brindle calmly, “we need to stop thi…”

No sooner had the half-elf started say this, than the Warlock ran foward, cutting loose with curse language that was particularly foul. He focused his rage on the Dire Wolf by the steading wall, engulfing the giant animal in a wreath of flame.

In the ensuing fight, the soldiers employed crossbow and scimitar, tooth and fang, but could not repel the group’s coordinated attack. Aeren’s scrambling, Rolan’s lighting, Ankh’s well placed sword, and Heskan’s implacable defense. Brindle coordinated everyone well, yet Marcus had a fury unbound, unlike anything the others had seen before. His attacks were near reckless, and vicious when they hit.

One of the soldiers cried out in the midst of battle, seemingly in desperation, “You have no idea who you’re dealing with.”

“On the contrary,” snarled Marcus, “I know exactly who I’m dealing with.”

With a gesture from Marcus, the soldier writhed in pain as blast of dark fire erupted from the Warlock’s outstretched arm, and the battle was over. Marcus wiped blood from his lip and smiled grimly, he had been careless, and let his anger get the better of him taking some unnecessary hits, but he held his ground.

“I take it you know these guys?” asked Brindle.

“How’d you guess?” grumbled Marcus.

“Because you enjoyed that a bit too much.”

Marcus chuckled to himself, but before they could continue the conversation, the farmhouse door unlocked, and a middle aged half-elf woman emerged with two teenage boys in tow. She looked haggard and worried, but her eyes showed relief. Rolan moved to douse the outhouse fire.

“My thanks, strangers,” she said, “Those Iron Circle jackals came to rob us. I barred my door, but they said they’d burn the house down with me and my boys in it. You saved our lives –but who are you?”

“We are glad you’re safe,” replied Brindle, “but I would ask the same.”

“My name is Ilyana, and these are my sons Jarek and Jarl. This is our farm. These reavers killed my husband Karthen when they invaded the dale. My boys have been trying to get by ever since.”

“I’m afraid you’re not safe here.” replied Marcus, “once the Iron Circle starts looking for their patrol, they’re going to come back here.”

“I’ll hide the bodies, and we’ll get ourselves to safety.” the woman replied. “You sound like you know these monsters.”

“Yes, Marcus. Do tell.” queried Aeren.

Marcus went on to describe some of his own history with the Iron Circle, a ruthless mercenary organization with holdings in the south. They maintain a keep outside the large city of Sarthel in the south, and sell their services across the region surrounding the City of Silver. It is widely suspected that the organization has infiltrated significant portions of Sarthel’s governing structure. Overt rule, however, seems to be a new action for the Iron Circle.

Ilyana explained that the group staged a coup over a month before, taking the Baron captive, and have been plundering the land ever since under the guise of “new taxes.”

“How can we help?” asked Brindle.

“The folk here in Harkenwold are ready to rebel –we just need a spark to set things off. I think you should talk to Reithann, the druied or maybe Dar Gremath in Albridge. They’ll know what needs doing.”

“I know Reithann,” replied Rolan. “We’ll see her first.”

“Go carefully,” cautioned Ilyana, “Don’t attract too much attention to yourself before you need to. Albridge should be safe enough, Harken Village is where most of their soldiers are, but be careful. They have patrols everywhere. My boys and I will hide those who fell here. With luck the Iron Circle won’t learn what happened here or about you any time soon.”

In the hours that followed, the group moved cautiously, first to meet with Reithann, and then on to Albridge… Marcus smiled, for others it would be a rebellion, for him, payback.

Note: the conversations with Reithann and Dar Gremath will come in later posts.

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Telling tales at Wrafton's Inn

“So tell us what happened?” queried Ernest Padraig.

The table was decked out with the finest that Winterhaven had to offer. While the team had set out for Shadowfell Keep in secret, by now everyone in the fortified village knew, and word was quickly spreading to the surrounding countryside.

“Well…” started Brindle, “It seems that we took a bit of a gamble and bypassed the Hobgoblin barracks in an effort get to Kalarel before he could complete his ritual. I am guessing that they might have heard us in the guard room, but prepared an ambush that we never walked into. By the time we were running back through their, the remaining Hobgoblins had taken their loot and ran.”

“Seems they scattered once the place started falling apart” remarked Rond Kelfem. The Captain of the Winterhaven Regulars was unusually chatty, but he had been proud of the work his own men had done in tracking down the spy. “I’ve managed to track them a bit, but it seems that they’ve decided to find work elsewhere.”

“Maybe Daggerburg?” mused Eilian. “I don’t think the Orcs at Gardmore Abbey would be too welcoming to them.”

“Don’t be too sure,” remarked Padraig, “ Gardmore’s been quiet for a few years, but I’ve been hearing some troubling stuff coming out of there.”

“Eh… leave ‘em alone and they’ll leave us alone” grumbled Kelfem, his usual surly demeanor returning.

Padraig waved the Captain off, “Anyway, Brindle, you were saying?”

“Honestly, I think we got lucky in the choices we made. We didn’t run into any dead ends, and even some of the traps that Kalarel had set for us we didn’t walk into. But as I said earlier, we got into the upper cathedral after making it through the ghoul’s feeding grounds.”

Aeren interjected, “Seems they were using it for a kind of garbage disposal, the ghoul was eating whatever sacrifices they had made, and with the influence of the rift, some of the food got up and started walking around…”

“Eyuck!” exclaimed Salvana Wrafton, as she poured the drinks.

Aeren, they don’t need that kind of detail” mumbled Heskan. “Get to the good part, Brindle.”

After stopping the feeding ritual that led into the rift, we were going to have to take on Kalarel himself. We had no real clue of what we were dealing with, but we didn’t have much of a choice. Instead of sliding down the chains into the chamber below the cathedral, we went down on our own ropes. Less slippery that way. I think there was some sort of lift underneath the blood pool at the bottom, but we never did find that out.”
“Tell me,” asked Valthrun, “what was the chamber of the Shadow Rift like?”

Marcus raised his hand, “An abomination to the Raven Queen. Indeed it was a portal to the Shadowfell, but to a place particularly foul as you had said. Something was on the other side of it, trying to push through. We could hear a subtle whispering coming from the portal, but there were limbs and appendages trying to push through the portal.”

Marcus and I got the sense that anything that entering the portal meant instant death.” remarked Aeren.

“When we got down there, Kalarel was on a raised platform at the end of the hall, and we were surrounded by a skeletal guard.” added Heskan.

“Don’t forget the Wight!” Shuddered Rolan.

“A wight?” Valthrun raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” continued Brindle, “We underestimated it, but in some ways that was a good thing, because we threw everything we had at Kalarel as quickly as we could.”

“You threw stuff, I got a bit more um… personal” snarled Ankh as she rubbed a nasty bruise on her upper shoulder.

“Personal?” asked Padraig.

“Well, we not only had to try to stop Kalarel, but we very quickly figured out that his ritual had reached the point of being self-sustaining. We had to find a way of reversing it.” Aeren remarked, “Marcus and were working out while Heskan, Brindle and Ankh fought their way through the skeletons to get to the Death Priest.”

“That still doesn’t answer the ‘personal’ bit.” Padraig said, sounding increasingly curious.

“Sir Keegan had given us small statues of Bahamut,” added Marcus, “we decided to try to use them to help reverse the ritual. Aeren threw two into the portal, I invoked the power of the Lady to do the same. Seems that this portal had a real hate on for my Mistress.” The warlock winced showing a spider-like wound from where the dark energy had lashed him across his neck.

“But what did Ankh do?” asked Eilian.

“Well…” started Brindle, “We were getting creative in trying to slow things down. Heskan had managed to fend off one of Kalarel’s blasts, but Ankh ran in with her sword in one hand and a statue in the other. She slid in low, and despite taking a solid hit from his skull mace, managed to cut a hole in his lower armour and then, uh…”

“What?”

Ankh interjected sharply, “I cut off his codpiece and shoved that statue up his…”

Ankh! Children!” Interrupted Brindle, pointing to several wide-eyed youngsters at the end of the table who had settled in to listen.

“Um… His lower bits?” She corrected herself, but by this time everyone at the table was laughing. Ankh smiled.

“I bet he didn’t expect that!” exclaimed Eilian.

“Um… no.” replied Brindle. “But it really threw him off. Truthfully, we were outclassed. One on one, Kalarel could have taken any one of us, and it seemed as if he was trying to separate us out, but we stuck it out. We got a couple of good hits in on him and he struggled to get away from us, and even teleported in front of the portal.”

“I want to hear more about the portal.” Asked Valthrun. “You said it whispered?”

“Yeah, and had this awful pull to it, and that thing had a mean hook.” grumbled Marcus.

“What do you mean?”

“As it tried to it would pull each of us toward it, and then if we got too close, it’d take a swipe at us. It clocked me pretty well. There’s no way we could fight it, all we could do was try to stop the ritual.”

“And just as we were getting the drop on Kalarel, he managed to teleport into a circle in front of the portal which seemed to give him extra protection.” Aeren smiled, “Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to counter that.”

“You obviously managed to stop the ritual.” remarked Valthrun, “How’d you do it?”

“Group effort,” replied Brindle. “While Marcus and Aeren figured things out and started doing some of their own prayers, Ankh poured holy water all over Kalarel’s book. Aeren struck the final blow with a well-tossed statue, and Kalarel was not happy about that.”

“I know," replied Aeren, rubbing his own bruises, “none of us came out of this unscathed,”

“Speak for yourself,” smiled Heskan, “you guys just don’t know how to roll with the punches.”

Heskan, even that shiny new suit of armour of yours had a few dings.” grumbled Marcus, “One more hit on any of the rest us and we were done for, or at least I was! Ultimately, the Lady favoured us.”

Rolan, you’ve been quiet. What happened with you?” asked Salvanna.

“The Wight.” the druid shuddered. “Each time I knocked down a skeleton, that… thing would put it back up. I was just fending it off. Once the guys managed to shove Kalarel into the portal, it was none too happy.”

“Hey! You gave away the ending!” exclaimed Aeren.

Valthrun looked at Brindle, “is that what happened?”

“Group effort again,” the warlord nodded. “Aeren managed to scramble him out of his circle, and then we hit him with everything he had just as we managed to stop the ritual. Marcus was right about Kalarel being able to take any of us out, we didn’t let him take that chance. What was left of the portal sucked Kalarel’s body out of his armour. It wasn’t pleasant. Seems that Orcus doesn’t tolerate failure well.”

“It was just then that the Wight screamed at us.” shivered Rolan, “And not just any scream, but a soul-sucking, bone-freezing, howl. It caught us off guard, because we thought the Wight and the remaining skeletons would flee or collapse once we stopped the ritual. Turns out they might have looked to restart it if we didn’t taken them down first.”

“You guys ran away,” smirked Ankh. “I was at least smart enough to try and get around on it.”

“The next time a Wight looks you in the eye and screams at you like that, let me know how it works out for you.” grumbled Aeren.

Ankh waved her hand, “I’ve always found it good to not look my opponent in the eye, usually means they know I’m coming… which means I’m not doing my job.”

“Once we recovered we concentrated out efforts on the Wight and the remaining Skeletons. It took a bit, but by then it was outnumbered.” Brindle said cooly. “Besides, it dropped this,” he said holding up a flawless longsword. I think it’ll get some good use now.

Douven Stahl looked at the blade, “That’s a Nerathian sword, very fine craftsmanship too.”

“I got a new cloak!” exclaimed Ankh as she drew it around herself. Oddly enough, nobody saw her.

Kalarel also left behind this helmet” rumbled Heskan, I’m just hoping there’s a way it can look less Orcus-like.

Just then, Thair Coalstriker, who had been listening intently, piped up. “Let me give it a go, Heskan. I’m sure I can make it more your style.” The Dwarf smith began looking at the helm from various angles.

Lord Padraig raised his goblet, “Well, Winterhaven owes you a debt of gratitude. You have not only rid us of the nuisance of the Kobold Bandits, but you saved us all from the dangers of the Shadow Rift. You are welcome any time you wish, and I hope that we may see you again soon. I may well have some work for you once you return your mentor safely back to Fallcrest!”

Amidst all of the festivities, nobody noticed a tiny yellow canary flittering amongst the rafters at Wrafton’s Inn. It hopped from beam to beam, down toward the party, and then at last coming to rest on Rolan’s shoulder… and the bird whispered into the druid’s ear…

“Come home” it said, “You are needed. Bring help!” It had been from Reithann, Rolan’s trainer and mentor who lived in the Druid Grove in Harkenwold. This was unlike her to call for help.

Sensing great urgency, Rolan signalled to his cousin Brindle, telling him of the message and asking if the others would be willing to help. It seems that there is no rest for the heroic.

Harkenwold lies a few days journey beyond Fallcrest… they would escort Douven Stahl back to the central Nentir town, and then answer the old druid’s call.

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The End (or Bottom) is in Sight
...and it ain't pretty.

Moving with some haste, the adventurers made a quick choice after defeating the Hobgoblins in the guard room, to move after Kalarel, while bypassing what might be a larger complex of Hobgoblin activity. Instead, they moved down the south hallway quickly, which opened into a larger empty chamber with two sets of doors. The doors on the west side of the room were barred from this side, while the doors to the south seemed to have shown some evidence of activity. The choice seemed obvious, ignore the untended parts of the keep’s dungeons and follow the active trail to where Kalarel was presumably close to completing his dark ritual.

Moving into the next room, the sunrod cast light into a large chamber, with a huge statue in the middle of it, a pair of dragon statues to the east, and some smaller ones further to the south in an alcove. The party remained cautious, and justifiably so. Ankh and Aeren determined the room was heavily trapped both mechanically and magically, with several nasty combinations that could be lethal to the party if due caution wasn’t exercised.

Fortunately, they exercised due caution. Positioning themselves outside of the traps reach before they activated, the party was able to render the traps ineffective. They left the dragon statues active, as Ankh completely wrecked the gears of the warrior statue. The final trap was dependent upon four cherub statues holding clay jars. They determined that destroying the statues in this alcove would also render the trap inert. After a few rounds of effort they did so.

The doors unlocked, and the path ahead was clear.

Brindle opened the door only to be greeted by a lurching zombie. Their original plan was to fall back to the dragon statues and play “zombie-pong” —an idea that was quickly dashed when a ghoul came rampaging out of the gloom, rushing past several of the gnawed undead to an apparent meal of fresh meat. Throwing the doors open, the party unleashed on the ghoul and other closing undead. Heskan stepped into the breach, cutting several zombies down with a single sweeping blow. It was at this moment, that Brindle spotted a small flying creature in the back.

Aeren recognized it instantly as a familiar, and he and Marcus made it their task to track down and destroy the Clay Scout before it could reach its master. Dodging past several Zombies as Heskan cleared a path, they discovered that the scout was adept at dodging behind targets and redirecting attacks. Yet in getting close to the scout before it could flee down through another set of doors. Aeren slowed the scout, and Marcus unleashed several blasts to take it down. Ultimately, one final Dimensional Scramble, and bits of clay scout decorated the floor of the Ghoul Warren.

A quick survey of the area discovered a small chamber off of the main hallway, with two items that would prove to be a Bag of Holding and a +1 Vicious Short Sword.

The next set of doors would lead into the heart of darkness… a Cathedral of Shadow, where cultists both living and undead were preparing the blood and life sacrifices to finally and permanently force open the Shadow Rift. Into the floor itself was a carved image of the Demon Prince mouth agape, the mouth itself formed a large pit, where streams of blood were flowing into it from a sacrificial altar at the far end of the room.

Guarding it were two Human cultists: frenzied berserkers with large greataxes. An underpriest of Orcus, a Dark Creeper, and five Vampire Spawn Fleshrippers.

Fortunately this battle proved only slightly tougher than the swamp of undead in the previous chamber. The Vampire Spawn, though deadly, could not break through Heskan’s defenses of his shiny new set of armour and its inherent Necrotic resistance. It allowed him to shrug off their attacks while he and Brindle could focus their attention on the berserkers. Ankh and Aeren moved to engage the Underpriest in the rear, although Aeren’s ultimate goal was to reveal Kalarel’s location. As he feared, the scion of Orcus was not in the Cathedral, but was most likely deep in the pit itself, where the Rift itself would be.

The guardians of the Cathedral put up a fight, but with some good planning and luck, the adventurers came through with only a few nicks and scratches.

Cutting off the supply of blood from above, all that remains was to confront Kalarel before he completes the ritual. Hopefully they would not be too late.

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A New Member - Summary

After their conversation with Sir Keegan in the crypts, our band of adventures were casually exiting the shrine to Bahamut, back into the crypt area where they had confronted the zombies. Seems that it wasn’t empty anymore.

A patrol of approximately 9 Hobgoblins had just entered the area from outside with a prisoner in tow. They had just discovered the carnage in the goblin barracks and guard areas, and had just discovered what was left of the zombie “guards” when the players walked in on them. Nobody had surprise, but the party fought well. Yet they discovered that the Hobgoblins were decidedly trickier opponents than the goblin guards, especially a Warcaster, who managed to forcibly knock down several members of the party with a push gesture from his hand.

Of the hobgoblins, there were 1 Warcaster, 2 Archers, 2 Soldiers, and 4 Grunts (minions).

(In defeating this group, the party gained enough experience to cross the threshold into 3rd level)

Freeing the prisoner, they discovered Rolan, a half-elf druid and distant cousin to Brindle. In gratitude, and in order to help his cousin, Rolan agreed to join the group in confronting Kalarel. Rolan observed that Hobgoblins, Goblins, and Bugbears all part of the same species of goblinoids, and are often found together. Hobgoblins tend to be the leaders, as they take their martial prowess and organization seriously, while leaving the goblins to more menial tasks.

The party evaded the remaining terror runes left in the crypt. No sooner that Rolan had joined the party that he noticed a small switch in the ceiling. It revealed a secret door to what appeared to be a short alcove, that had obviously not been discovered by the Keep’s current occupiers. Immediately sensing magic, Aeren determined that the walls at the back of the alcove were illusory. Marcus poked his spear through the wall, only to have a zombie lunge out through the wall, and the illusion wall disappeared, revealing 5 undead guards. Beating a hasty retreat, the party rolled high on the initiative, and managed to dispatch 5 full-strength non-minion zombies before any of the zombies had a chance to act.

(Seriously, this encounter lasted for less than one round, and some of the players never even had a chance to act. Marcus got to try out his new Level 3 encounter attack power. Also Ankh rolled a critical hit on her breath-weapon with the zombies. Criticals auto-kill this particular type of zombie.)

In searching the remains of the hidden armoury, they found that virtually all the contents had succumbed to age. Rusting weapons and armour were of no more use to the players. However, they noticed a plaque above one of the rusting suits of armour. It read:

A wondrous treasure,
Valued by all, sought by many.
Found in both victory and defeat,
Yet never at the bottom of a treasure chest.
It marches before you like a herald,
And lives long after you are gone.
Of what do I speak?

The party immediately recognized this as a riddle. After discussing it with themselves they answered “Honour,” after which the suit of armour was bathed in glowing light, and immediately transformed into a pristine suit of scale armour. The scale-mail suit was identified as +1 Black Iron Armour. As Heskan is the only member of the party capable of wearing this suit, he claimed it. While it may need a bit of tailoring to suit his Dragonborn frame, he was still able to don the armour.

Meanwhile Brindle was examining a small satchel he had found on the shelf. It was uncharacteristic of any cloth to have survived eight decades in the conditions of these catacombs, so it caught his interest. When he opened the bag, it exploded outward, knocking him to the ground… not hurt, but bewildered. Looking up he discovered that this small room had been transformed into a campsite, complete with a burning campfire, four two-person tents, each with comfortable bedrolls. Due to the lack of space, the tents found themselves tacked to the walls! Realizing that this was an Instant Campsite, a special magic item that was widely used throughout the Empire of Nerath.

The party debated taking an extended rest in the safety of this secret room, but decided to press on for the moment, knowing that they could return to this site if they needed to have an extended rest.

In the main room just off of the hidden armoury, there were stairs that led down into a well-lit area. It opened into a large room, with four hobgoblin guards. Two in front of an apparent deep well, and two flanking a corridor on the far side of the room. Immediately, one of the guards stepped forward, challenging the party, and said “Shadow seeks shadow!” Obviously looking for a password, the party made no attempt to bluff their way through it and immediately readied their weapons. The hobgoblin shouted “Intruders!”, and rushed forward, while the other shouted back to another guard and said “release it!” Looking some seventy feet past the guards was a cage holding a gigantic spider as large as a full-grown human.

Over the course of the battle, several hobgoblins tried to tie the party down, while others tried to run to the cage in order to release the spider. There were tense moments, as even more hobgoblins joined the fray, but ultimately the party defeated the guards before they could have released a “Deathjump Spider” a particularly nasty piece of work. Rolan was particularly effective in this, personally chasing down and slowing down the hobgoblin that nearly made it to the spider’s cage.

(In all the players engaged and took down 5 Hobgoblin Soldiers, 6 hobgoblin grunts, and prevented the release of and thereby defeating a Deathjump Spider)

Treasure Found: 10gp, 27sp.

After securing the location, we called it for the night.

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Into the Crypt

“I don’t hear anything.” Ankh whispered as she kneeled by the door.
“Are you sure?” rumbled Heskan. The two dragonborn sniffed at the air around the door. Cold, musty, damp… Silence.
“Look, even if something was down there, it’s not likely to be making small talk!” piped Aeren. “That goblin boss only said there were ‘dead things’ down there, he wasn’t specific as to what. We should watch our step.”
Brindle and Heskan readied their swords, Marcus gripped his spear and said,
“Open it. We can’t afford to wait.”

Ankh gently pushed, having unlocked the heavy doors with the goblin’s key. The door barely made a sound as it slid open, revealing stairs, darkness, and the strong odour of damp rot.

“Why does it always have to be stairs into darkness?” quipped Aeren.
“Last time I checked Necromancers weren’t into greenery.” mumbled Heskan. “Let’s get moving.”

“Hang on a sec. Let me have a look” Aeren reached out with his mind. It took shape just ahead of the group. Ankh lit a torch, Marcus a Sunrod. Aeren scouted ahead, looking down the corridors.

“It looks like a crypt,” commented Brindle, looking at the dual row of caskets lining the walls. “Aeren, can you see if there’s anything in those caskets?”

“This one’s still occupied!” the Eladrin whispered back. “But a few others are empty!”

“Great,” muttered Heskan, “Some of them decided to go for a stroll!”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” assured Marcus.

“There’s something on the floor over here.” whispered Aeren. “Some sort of rune. I’m not sure what it does.”

Heskan fidgeted with his shield. He hated lurking, and creeping in this kind of darkness. The shadows played tricks on his eyes, straining to see into the darkness. This wasn’t helping. At least with the goblins earlier, he knew where they were and where they stood. Here, any flicker of light could be the darkness reaching out to grab him. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head and snorted. Dragonborn? Scared? He was easily the biggest one in the group, the one the others stood behind when the swords and arrows started to fly. Yet for the moment, he felt useless.

Ankh had gone forward with Aeren’s project figure. Long hallways, and other runes became visible in the darkness.

“It’s emanating some sort of magic, I just can’t tell what.” whispered Aeren.

“What about breaking the rune, disturbing it?” asked Brindle.

“Couldn’t hurt.” Replied Aeren. “Let me try something.”

No sooner had he said those words that he immediately regretted it. Aeren cast a short cantrip, attempting to deface the rune on the floor. The rune lit up a sickly green colour, and a soul-shattering scream echoes through the hall. Aeren, Ankh, and Brindle felt the life being sucked out of them and felt an overwhelming urge to run away from the rune. Heskan steeled himself, and Marcus attempted to get his bearings as the other three ran past him. Aeren’s link to his projection was shattered, stunned he found himself running, with Ankh and Brindle on his heels. Running headlong around the corner, Aeren suddenly found himself face to face with several dead gaping faces, all reaching out and shambling forward. Ankh looked to her left, point blank lurching out of the darkness, another one.

“ZOMBIES!” screamed Aeren, dodging several swipes from the slower moving undead. Ankh wasn’t quite so lucky, as an awkward flailing punch caught her across the chin. Snarling she spun around with her sword easily dispatching her assailant with a crippling blow to the side of the zombie’s head.

Charging forward Heskan moved himself to protect Aeren and Ankh, but stumbled in an awkward blow missing his chosen target.

“There’s more coming!” shouted Marcus, “they’re coming from the north!” he exclaimed, hearing more gasping moans echo through the crypt walls.

“That’s nice Marcus!” shrieked Aeren, “I’m a little preoccupied by the ones RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!” As if in answer, a black smoky first fist grasped the zombie, snapping bones in a good solid hit. Marcus smiled, but this one was more resilient than the others.

Aeren didn’t have a chance to voice his thanks. Brindle had leapt past Heskan to give him some cover, but the shock of facing their first real fight with the walking dead hadn’t worn off. Like Heskan, Brindle’s blow was ineffectual, and he brought up his shield. The zombie Marcus blasted lurched to the side directing its flailing arms at Brindle. Aeren steeled himself, focusing his energy, having this many foes in such proximity was far too dangerous, they needed more space. Making a pushing motion, a wave of force blasted outward, pushing the three zombies back. Heskan responded by sweeping his sword through two zombies in front of him, and as they collapsed to the ground, he moved forward to aid Brindle and Aeren.

Ankh shifted slightly, gracefully bringing her sword down and felling another zombie while moving further into the room. “Marcus, get back here!” she snarled.

“There’s more out here!” he shouted back.

“That’s nice, but if you get in here we can catch them in the bottleneck!”

Marcus wouldn’t argue with that, making his way into the room with the rest of the companions, he unleashed a blast of Eldritch fire, incinerating the stubborn zombie that he had hit before. Brindle and Heskan quickly finished off the remaining two, and the group turned around to face the new threat coming down the hall.

Fortunately, Zombies aren’t all that bright. Predictably, they shuffled into view… But it didn’t last long. Heskan spat a torrent of fire from his mouth, incinerating three walkers. Marcus blasted the lead zombie, knocking it down. Brindle stepped forward, kicking the felled zombie solidly in the head. To his amazement, the zombie’s head ricocheted down the hallway. Aeren followed by disrupting the space in the corridor, obliterating two more and clearly hampering the last one. Wasting no time, Ankh quickly moved forward to fell the last one. Taking a moment to listen, the silence told them that at least for the moment, nothing else was approaching.

Taking nothing to chance, the group surveyed the rest of the area, finding several more Terror Runes. Aeren examined the one that he had unintentionally set off, realizing that the runes were a type that couldn’t be readily dispelled. Rather, once triggered, they discharged until someone would recharge it again. The only way across these without setting them off would be to jump.

But then, there was this other passage.

“What about back here?” called out Marcus. The room where they had taken down most the zombies had a passage that continued further to the south.

“You check it out.” grumbled Ankh. She was tired of always being the one to go ahead. One can be a really good sneak up to a point… but screaming magic runes weren’t her department.

Marcus crept down the corridor and glanced into a cruciform shaped chamber. The ceiling was much higher, and a silvery-blue glow emanated from the far end, above the centre of the cross shape, and in front of a pair of large double doors. He didn’t go any further, ten heavy stone sarcophagi lined the walls. Something didn’t sit right, and given the record of what just happened, they weren’t taking any chances.

Heskan pushed on one of the caskets, but to no avail. “You’re wasting your strength.” said Marcus, “these things are part of the wall and floor.”

The Draconic script on the lids wasn’t of any help either, but it didn’t sit right with the group.

Ankh suggested going back and getting a barrel of pitch from the goblin supplies, where they could pour it in the hallway and some strategic areas around the sarcophagi and maybe be ready for anything that might pop out at an inopportune moment. The others agreed, and Ankh set about pouring pitch at the base of each sarcophagus. Yet only part way through her task that her fear was realized, stepping past the first pair to the east, all of a sudden she heard a series of loud bangs as each stone casket slammed open, disgorging a skeletal warrior. Not even pausing to look for numbers, Ankh leaped back and sprinted up the hallway…

“They’re right behind meeee!!! Burn it!” She cried.

Brindle stepped forward with the torch, lobbing into the hallway. The pitch would flare up quickly, but would not burn for long. In the flare, the two skeletons collapsed in the flame, but more were coming. Two moved into position, drawing short bows and firing down the hall, catching Ankh in the shoulder.

“They’re not supposed to have tactics! How do undead have tactics?” cried out Aeren.

Marcus cut loose with a blast of eldritch energy, obliterating one of the skeletons. Aeren’s projection remained inside the chamber, dodging several skeletal swings. But just before the last one connected, dispelling his projection, two sarcophagus doors slammed open again, with two more skeletons to replace the ones that had fallen.

“We’re going to have to go through them! Make for the doors beyond the blue light!” called Marcus.

The flare of the pitch had died down enough, Brindle and Heskan obliged. Pushing forward, striking down more skeletons as they went. They came nose-to-nose with two skeletons that were better armoured than the other.

“Oh crap.” muttered Marcus. “Get past them if you can.”

A few well placed hits and more skeletons went down, and Aeren launched a dimensional burst that sent skeletons falling, giving Brindle a clear path down the hall. Moving forward, he saw two altars to Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon to the left and right of him. Instinctively, he offered a short prayer he had been taught since he was a child.

No sooner had he offered this, than the skeletons suddenly collapsed and the room fell silent.

“That’s it?” exclaimed Aeren. “All we had to do was say ‘Praise Bahamut?’ and they’d fall apart?”

“Well… the Goblins didn’t think of it did they?” rumbled Heskan.

“Good point.” replied Aeren. “I think the skeletons were more constructs than true undead. A safeguard for whatever is back here. But what is ‘here’ anyway?”

“It’s still a crypt of some sort, obviously dedicated to Bahamut.” commented Marcus, “Maybe the soldiers of Nerath that built this place had this place dedicated as a way to hold back the rift?”

“Sounds reasonable. What about this door?”

The great double door at the end of the hall was unlocked, and pushed open relatively easily. The light from the sunrod cast light on an elaborate tomb, with a large stone casket on a raised platform at the end. The stone cover had an elaborate stone carving of a knight.

“Who was this?” wondered Ankh.

“Great and Holy Bahamut, in this our time of need we ask thee for thine help…” Brindle was down on one knee paying obsieance.

“Great, he gets lucky, and now he’s suddenly a zealot!” mumbled Aeren. Ignoring him, Brindle continued:

“…for we are grateful to you and your benevolent hand. It is in promise to you that we shall ensure that the rift shall remain forever sealed…”

Just then a raspy whispering voice echoed throughout the chamber, interrupting the warlord’s prayer.

“Those are well spoken words young knight, but are they sincere? There are many who would come here to raid this tomb under the guise of discipleship, or worse yet to feign fealty so that they may open the rift!”

Just then the casket lid swung open, and a cloud of swirling dust swirled up, coalescing into an ancient skeletal form. Brandishing a large sword, untarnished by age, the figure stepped forward.

“The rift must never be opened! State your true intentions, or prepare to die!”

“Oh crap, it’s Sir Keegan!” whispered Marcus.

“Who?” snarled Heskan, readying his shield.

Brindle motioned to the others to lower their weapons.

“Sir Keegan, we mean you no disrespect. We have come with news of someone attempting to open the rift, and we are here to stop it.”

“Are you now?” the skeletal figure answered, pointing with his sword. “How do I know you’re not one of them, or some petty grave robbers like those filthy hobgoblins?”

“Sir,” Aeren replied, “we know of the rift, and we are here to try and stop it from being opened. We could use your help, your wisdom, and whatever knowledge you might be able to share.”

“Do you? Maybe you’re seeking my knowledge to further open it? Even if I knew how to stop it, do you have the ability to do it?”

Aeren replied, “If we get there in time, I believe Marcus and I have enough knowledge so that we can at least disrupt the ritual. From what we know so far, it can only be opened from this side, so we may even be able to reverse the process.”

“Indeed. I may have something that may help you…” Keegan lowered his sword slightly.

“Yet the rift is a corrupting influence,” replied Keegan as he eyed the rest of the group, “I succumbed to its madness, how do you know you won’t?” His empty eyes, surveyed the group. Ankh slowly inched away, looking for a friendly shadow. Talking with undead knights was not her strong point.

“We don’t,” Brindle replied, “but may Bahamut protect us in whatever we might face.”

“You seem sure of your faith young one. But will it be enough to strengthen you when you see the horrors that rift can unleash?”

“I believe I shall.”

“Then may Bahamut’s blessing be upon you, that you may do what I could not.”

Marcus stepped forward, placing a coin on the step before him.
“in the name of the Raven Queen, I promise you that this vile abomination will not be released.”

“Raven Queen, eh?” Keegan replied showing some interest. “Maybe one day I will feel her true caress, and find the rest that I denied myself.”

“How about you?” the Knight whispered at Heskan. “You’re a fearsome looking one. Have you got what it takes to face whatever the rift throws at you?”

Puffing himself up, Heskan took a deep breath, summoning all of his courage and growled:

“They will taste the steel of my blade, the fire of my heart, and the power of this entire group. I will drive them out of this keep, and they will lament they day they ever decided to set foot in this place and desecrate this holy ground!”

If a skeleton could look impressed, it did. Keegan lowered his weapon.
“Always trust a Dragonborn to never back down from a fight. I hope you live up to those impressive words.”

Ankh breathed a sigh of relief, if Heskan was good at anything, his bravado was almost matched by his skill with a blade.

“I will help you.” Sir Keegan said, “I cannot leave this tomb, as my burden is to be confined to these walls. The penalty I pay for having murdered my own family and friends. Yet you may find refuge here if you need it.”

“Where is the rift?” Aeren asked.

“Almost directly below us. I can feel its power growing. Be warned, once you feel the earth tremble, you won’t have much time.”

Ankh worked up enough wit to speak, “You said that you might be able to help us, but you can’t leave this tomb. How can you help us?”

“In a small panel in the back of the altars outside of this room this all there are icons of Bahamut. They will assist you in your hour of need.” Keegan paused as if to think. He then turned to Heskan,

“And then there’s this,” as he unhooked the sword and scabbard from his belt, and held it out to the burly Dragonborn fighter.

I cannot leave this place, but my sword Aecris can. I am no longer worthy to bear it, but maybe I find some redemption in releasing it to you. May it serve you well.

Heskan bowed as he accepted the weapon.

“Lastly, look for the armoury hidden in the crypt. I do not know if the interlopers have found it yet, but it may yet have something that can assist you.”

“You are too kind,” Brindle bowed with respect. “May you find final peace at last.”

With that Keegan returned to a cloud of dust that swirled into the sarcophagus, and the great stone lid lowered gently back into place.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’m glad we didn’t piss him off.” muttered Ankh. “can we go now?”

“Don’t forget the icons” said Marcus.

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Our First Day...
Summary - May 18 2012

The adventure began with five heroes on the King’s Road between Fallcrest and Winterhaven. In recent months, there has been a noted increase in bandit raids on wagons travelling this particular route. Caravans have had to increase their guard, but resources remain tight. Towns are largely left on their own since the fall of the Empire of Nerath. As such, merchant houses in Fallcrest, namely house Azaer, Naerumar, and the Halfmoon Halflings sponsored several groups to investigate the bandit raids, and to put a stop to it if possible. With the blessing of Lord Markelhay, a handful of small groups struck out in different directions for their own fortune and glory.

Our adventurers, Aeren, Ankh, Brindle, Marcus, and Heskan came together and agreed to cover the route that would take them to Winterhaven. They had an ulterior motive of their own. While each of them came from different sponsors within Fallcrest, they all were concerned for their mentor Douven Stahl who had travelled to Winterhaven several months ago, but has not been heard from since.

A five day walk west of Fallcrest, their trip to Winterhaven was remarkably uneventful. Just as they were beginning to think that they had lucked out, within a half-day’s walk from the western village, they were set upon by a band of Kobold Brigands. The attack was clumsy, but the ferocity of the Kobolds was unusual. The group fended off the brigands, but any attempt to subdue and capture them failed. The kobolds seemed unusually afraid of failure, preferring death than to have to come back to “Irontooth” empty handed.

Following their skirmish, the group made it to Winterhaven before nightfall. They established themselves at Wrafton’s Inn, where they began to talk to the locals about the bandits they had encountered. They also began to ask questions about their lost friend and mentor Douven Stahl.

After spending a day meeting some of the townsfolk, the group tracked down Eilian the Old, who had drawn a map for Douven to find what was thought to be the burial site of a Dragon. They also were in contact with Lord Padraig, who commissioned them in tracking down and eliminating the Kobold lair. Padraig’s own guard force, the Winterhaven Regulars had their hands full keeping the town itself secure, and lacked the resources to clear out the lair.

Determining that they would first explore the Dragon burial site to see if they could find clues to the whereabouts of their mentor, the group made their way back along the King’s Road where they were ambushed by a group of Kobolds that were much better equipped than their previous encounter. They fended them off, but not unscathed.

It left them a choice, go after the burial site, or track down and eliminate the Kobold Threat for good…

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