Monday, November 8, 2010

Into the Mountain

Zol, Barrakas 10, 998 YK (Day 24).

After an almost endless period of time, the party settles on calling themselves the "Eclipse Collective." They inform Mr. Artauche of this, who is relatively uninterested, and wanted the name only for the sake of bureaucracy. Now that his forms have been filled, he grants them more details. They are to meet with one of his primary agents: a man named Talbot, who has been in the Seven Pillared Hall (the hub of civilization in the Labyrinth, maintained by the Mages of Saruun) for some time. He will have more information on the artifact Mr. Artauche desires, which is called the "Rod of Order." All that he is able to say about the item is that is reputed to have immense magical power, though he is uncertain what this power is.

Thunderspire is about a day north of Vedykar, so the party sets out immediately. Lucan decides he must leave once again, citing only "Medani business," and abandons the party once more.

Wir, Barrakas 11, 998 YK (Day 25).

The Collective arrives at Thunderspire. The mountain is preempted by a large cobblestone pathway leading up one side and gated by an enormous arched doorway, flanked with elaborate minotaur statues. As they arrive, Lythanis stops to admire the craftsmanship of the old minotaur civilization.

They find the door leading into the mountain is closed. Two imposing guards are posted outside, who inform the party that the Mages of Saruun have ordered the place closed to outsiders, for the time being. When asked why, the guards offer little information. The party decides after some not-too-careful deliberation that waiting until the guards must leave to sleep is the best idea. They wait until the sun sets.

At this point, the guards posted out front go inside through a smaller iron door to the right of the main gate... and two different guards emerge, for a changing of the guard. The party groans all at once, with the exception of the mute Eshunu.

Stahlstrauss attempts to intimidate the guards into letting them in by yelling madly at them. The guards care little for what he has to say (yell?), and Lythanis believes a different approach is necessary. He attempts to sneak around the side of the mountain, presumably to look for an alternate way in, while Stahlstrauss provides a distraction by continuing to yell furiously. Lythanis, however, is not stealthy in the slightest, and Stahlstrauss in unable to intimidate the guards, and the plan fails completely.

Fed up with the guards' indifference to their plight, Lythanis launches into a long explanation of some obscure, almost-forgotten magic ritual used once to smite some group of mages' enemies to intimidate the guards. Knowing the power of the Mages of Saruun, the guards are put somewhat at unease. One guard decides to go inside to check with the Mages about the Eclipse Collective's business.

After some time, Zil'dejin grows impatient. He turns to the remaining guard and yells, "WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?!" Stahlstrauss chimes in with a (helpful) "REALLY WHAT IS IT." The guard is intimidated by the presence of the two large and menacing individuals, and so turns inside to find out what the holdup is.

With the two posted guards gone, Garmeth hastily picks the lock on the iron door, and the party goes inside. They find themselves in a roughly-made room carved out of the rock and dirt, in which a small guard post is set up. Another guard sits at a table inside. Lythanis lies to him about their motives when questioned, and the guard believes what he is told. However, he still does not let the party further into the mountain.

After some time, growing alarmed by the quickly-coming approach of the two gate guards, Zil'dejin offers a bribe of 500 gold to the guard, who takes it and allows the party to proceed without his attention. As they leave the side chamber, they find themselves in a well-crafted but dimly lit hallway, huge and descending downwards from the minotaur gate. They notice footsteps approaching.

Eshunu uses his knowledge of cave and labyrinth layouts to guide the party to an easily missed side-passage at the side of the long hallway, and the five quickly duck inside. The guards pass by, and the Collective hears a conflict going on in the room at the end of the side-passage. The voices are apparently hobgoblin and halfling. Curious, the party goes inside to investigate.

The hobgoblins, who identify themselves as the "Bloodreavers," are attempting to kidnap a halfling in this room. The Bloodreavers also have a grudge against the Eclipse Collective for interrupting their slave deal with Kalarel at Winterhaven. This deal is revealed to be the reason for the numerous captures there, including that of Stahlstrauss, Eshunu, Garmeth and Lucan, as well as the attempted abduction of Typhus. They are enraged as the party is identified, and are riled up further by Stahlstrauss' taunting, and so they attack immediately, turning their attentions away from the halfling.

The fight proceeds quickly. Zil'dejin is in particularly good form in this battle, and is responsible for the final blow upon every hobgoblin slaver, which is also fueled by his immense hatred for slavery. The warcaster, who leads the small group of hobgoblins, attempts to take the halfling hostage, but is forced to drop him when Lythanis attacks him telekinetically and pulls him away, allowing the rest of the party to eliminate him.When the battle clears, the party speaks with the halfling, who introduces himself as "Rendil Halfmoon," claiming his family owns the only inn in the Seven Pillared Hall. He offers to guide the Collective there through the labyrinth to the Hall, and they accept.

Once at the Hall, they check in with the frequently-apologizing Talbot, a man with sharp features and a love of dark clothing. He tells them a bit more about the Mages of Saruun and their lock-down of the Seven Pillared Hall and the entire labyrinth. His information on the Rod of Order has so far been very limited, and he informs the Collective that their best bet is to speak with the Mages themselves.

After browsing around some shops in the Hall, they are accosted by the guards from earlier, and are brought to a teleportation circle connected to the Mages' tower. Inside, a mage named Orontor offers to forgive their trespass and possibly even allow them to take the Rod of Order from the hall if they can investigate the whereabouts another mage of their order, named Paldemar. As it happens, Paldemar has been missing for a few weeks without contact. The party, seeing no other option, agrees, and Orontor gives them a small metal symbol (an eye with a snake wrapped around it) as proof they are working for the Mages.

They visit the Halfmoon Inn for directions, and with a map drawn by Rendil Halfmoon, set out into the Labyrinth to look in the first place they can come up with for a missing person: in the hands of the Bloodreavers, the hobgoblin slavers in the mountain.

The Golden Claw, Pt. II

Mol, Barrakas 9, 998 YK (Day 23).

During the interval in which they rest before proceeding to the next part of the ruin, the party is rejoined by Garmeth and Lucan. Garmeth's inability to accompany the group in the first place is explained by him as "severe illness, due to eating nothing but rats and insects for so long in Winterhaven." The group decides not to press the matter. Meanwhile, Lucan's return is apparently incidental, and his acquisition of information on the party's whereabouts and current business is mysterious, but is possibly best explained by his connection to House Medani. Tam'elanath, however, remains in Lakeside; he contemplates as he has before if the life of an adventurer is really meant for him.

After the brief reunion concludes, the six open the double doors and proceed into the next chamber, which is mostly empty save for a deep well in the center and a side room splitting off at the side. Here, they are met with another group of gnolls, including one particularly savage-looking one outfitted in human remains and wielding a large flail. They are attacked immediately upon entry, and are forced to defend themselves.

The battle proceeds more or less as expected, until one of the gnolls is pushed into the well by Lythanis' telekinetic abilities. At this point, the party hears some loud crunching and muffled screaming; they pass this off as an ideal success in killing the gnoll.

Some time later, however, a different creature arises from out of the well. They are able to identify it (with some difficulty) as a "Carrion Crawler," a bizarre millipede-like creature that survives off of animal remains. Awakened by the gnoll pushed into its domain of the well, it rises to the surface of the room and joins the fray.

The toxin it emits is, initially, a little daunting for the group, and its paralytic effects prove surprising and somewhat difficult to contend with. Eventually, however, once Stahlstrauss and Eshunu have cleared the rest of the chamber of gnolls, the party is able to kill the creature. The room now safe, the party investigates. In the adjacent side room, they find the Golden Claw atop an old, long-dried fountain, which is handled by Lythanis.

Meanwhile, Stahlstrauss and Garmeth decide to descend into the well from which the carrion crawler emerged, and using lengths of rope supported by Lucan and Eshunu (and to some tiny degree, Lytnanus), move to the bottom of the well. Here, they find nothing but darkness and a tunnel that descends further into the earth. It ends in a blocked off passageway, which they decide to break open.

They see only a larger passageway within, but hear strange sounds. The ensuing dialogue at this point is as follows:

Stalhstrauss: "Should we keep going?"
Garmeth: "I don't know. I'd give it 50/50."
Stahlstrauss: "I hear... millions of tiny claws."
Garmeth: "Our odds aren't good here. I don't even think I could heal you if something happened."

Lengthy pause. The silence is filled by distant skittering.

Stalhstrauss: "Let's get the hell out of here."
Garmeth: "Yes. Let's."

They attempt with some difficulty to escape the well, and the party emerges from the chamber just as more carrion crawlers burst from the well. They shut the door behind them and run from the ruins, leaving them behind.

They return to Vulyar, where after additional confusion as to where to meet the agent, they finally return to him at the Singing Serpent and give him the claw, receiving their reward. The agent also tells them that Mr. Artauche has more work for them, and would like to meet them at his home in Vedykar, if they are so inclined. The party agrees, and works on how to get to Vedykar from Vulyar, as there is no Lightning Rail line between the locations. They eventually locate a small guild of mages in Vulyar which has a sister guild in Vedykar, and for a small fee the knowledgeable dwarf custodian allows them to use their linked teleportation circle.

One disorienting teleportation later, they arrive in Vedykar, and stay the night at the "Horse and Ass" inn, a shabby establishment in which many questionable drinks are had and Garmeth is given a bar of soap. Garmeth and Lythanis have a heated argument about eating rats (as Garmeth did in Winterhaven); Garmeth calls Lythanis uncivilized, who takes great offense at the accusation. Lythanis and Zil'dejin play a card game. Everybody finally goes to rest.

* * *

Zol, Barrakas 10, 998 YK (Day 24).

The party tours various shops around the city, including Davran's Magical Items owned by a snarky halfling, and Dorragan Coalstriker's smithy, where Stahlstrauss learns a bit more about the Coalstriker family and their distribution throughout Karrnath. They also visit a guild of mercenaries, the Bladed Arms, where they are summarily kicked out.

Finally, the six goes to meet Mr. Artauche in his manor on Wealth Street. They are admitted on official business, and meet Mr. Artauche himself, who introduces himself as "Remelius Artauche." He is a tall, slender man with a serious face, clean-cut appearance and extravagant clothes. In his office, which is littered with various devices, he explains he has a contract to adventurers willing to go to the Thunderspire, the tallest of the Ashen Spires to the north where a small group of mages has control over a former minotaur labyrinth. He is looking for an artifact from there, and believes the party has proved themselves capable of retrieving it.

The party considers it, and finally agrees. He has them sign a series of contracts binding them to his business; one for each party member, and one that collectively represents the party. He asks them to sign the name of their adventuring company; the party needs to take a moment to consider what this is.

It takes much longer than expected.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Golden Claw, Pt. I

Mol, Barrakas 9, 998 YK (Day 23).

It has been two weeks since Zil'dejin, Tam'elanath, Lythanis, Stahlstrauss, Eshunu, Garmeth and Lucan arrived back in Lakeside from Winterhaven. Lucan has departed to report back to House Medani. Tam'elanath has returned to his home/shop combination, and Zil'dejin continues to sleep in his shed. Stahlstrauss and Eshunu, who require no sleep, spend the nights in an alleyway, and Garmeth and Lythanis have been sleeping at the Lucky Gnome Taphouse and Inn across from Tam'elanath's hovel. Garmeth has decided to remain with the party for reasons indecipherable: common logic fails with Garmeth's line of reasoning, a fact he's particularly proud of.

Zil'dejin, Lythanis, Stahlstrauss and Eshunu are gathered in the clearing between the hovel and the Lucky Gnome when they are approached by a man. He is wearing red leather armor with gold trimming, and a bright red cape. Both the cape and the shoulder pads of the armor are emblazoned with the same symbol: a stylized gold circle with the letters "RA" in the center. He asks if they are the ones who have just recently returned from Winterhaven.

The party tells him that they are, and he responds that he is a member of the Aurum. Lythanis recalls the historical context of the group but not the significance, and the agent explains that the Aurum is a renowned group of wealthy, individual collectors of objects of historical, arcane, or other significance. The man he personally represents is identified only as Mr. Artauche, a Gold Concordian (a very high ranking member in the Aurum) who has a business proposition for the adventurers. He says that they must agree to accept before he can give them details, but promises 20% up front and the rest after the simple job is complete.

The group eventually accepts, and Artauche's agent explains the details. Mr. Artauche has apparently become interested in an item called the "Golden Claw," an object revered by gnolls. It is quite old, and Mr. Artauche has discovered it is currently located in some ruins north of Vulyar which predate the establishment of Galifar. Some gnolls have indeed taken up residence here, and are worshiping the claw. Stahlstrauss asks if the gnolls are of any importance; the agent replies that they are not part of any known tribe, and are a small, isolated group. He gives the party some prepaid tickets for the Lightning Rail to get to Vulyar from Irontown, and tells them to meet with him in the Singing Serpent in Vulyar when they have finished their job. With this, he leaves. The party also visits the Septarch's Tower at the east gate of Lakeside before leaving on the King's Road going south. Here, Nimozaran the Green, the pompous elderly "septarch" of Lakeside, initiates Lythanis into the so-called "Lakeside Mage's Guild" and teaches him the Enchant Magic Item ritual. With this, the four leave south for Irontown, unaccompanied by Tam'elanath or Garmeth who remain in Lakeside for the time being.

In Irontown, the group is relatively unfamiliar with the area and asks a local man for directions. He is unhelpful and apparently drunk, but points Stahlstrauss in the direction of the blacksmith and is able to give rough directions to the Lightning Rail station. Stahlstrauss and Eshunu then visit the blacksmith, who they discover is Brozan Coalstriker, the brother of Thair Coalstriker (of Winterhaven renown, who has apparently recently escaped from his prison). Brozan is quite taken with Stahlstrauss and gives him a bizarre, double-sided axe for a low price, and fixes a few more spikes onto his frame. Stahlstrauss then explains the situation of the forge in Winterhaven, and Brozan panicks, grabs his hammer, and charges out of the shop, locking it behind him. After this, the four regroup and board the train bound for Vulyar.

At Vulyar, evening is already approaching, and they decide to make haste for the northern path out of the city to get to the ruins. The road gradually disappears, and they find themselves in a wooded area. Following the map, they arrive at the ruins in question, and they go inside.

The first room is slanted upwards, and has a number of alcoves with gnolls standing at the far end, and a large crevasse in the ground between the party and the gnolls. Lythanis notes an out-of-place carving of a skull on the ground, and tries to pull it telekinetically. The effort causes the skull to twist, and gates in the alcoves open and start releasing fine silt into the room. The party acts quickly, and are at first able to impact the gnolls significantly; but, before long, the silt starts sweeping through causing footing to be lost and toppling some of them, dragging them into the crevasse at the far end.

The battle under these conditions is difficult - Zil'dejin nearly suffocates - but they are ultimately successful in defeating the gnolls. They return back to town to gather some supplies - Lythanis hopes to try his new ritual on Zil'dejin's halberd. They go back to Vulyar, and arrive around sunset. They go first to a general store, where a dull merchant sells Stahlstrauss 30 ft. of hempen rope. They are then directed to a place to purchase reagents: an alchemist's shop a few buildings down from the general store. They go where they are directed and find a house with the windows boarded, and a sign over the door reading "Alkemist." The "t," impossibly, appears to be written backwards.

They go inside and see nobody. Lythanis calls out, but gets no response. Stahlstrauss notes a bell on the counter; he hits it, and it detonates (the raw power of the Destructabell!). This prompts a gnome with a van Dyke beard and white hair (save one black streak) named Pock, prone to confusion and sudden loud outbursts, to emerge from somewhere in the recesses of the building. He is able to sell Lythanis some of his spare reagents, and at request (with a small fee) affixes an experimental component onto Stahlstrauss' body. With this, the party leaves, and is again interrupted on the street by the same agent they met earlier that day.

He tells them Mr. Artauche has changed his mind, and must have success within 24 hours. The party begrudgingly agrees (after all, what choice do they have?) and goes back to the ruins, which have been barricaded by the gnolls. The four work together collectively to smash the barrier, and they go back inside past the room now covered in dirt into a room flanked with sarcophagi and ending in a throne made from worked stone. There are more gnolls here, as well as two hyenas.

The front gnolls and the hyenas charge the party in the doorway, but they are fought off by direct assault from Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss and support from Eshunu and Lythanis (including a telekinetic lifting of one of the sarcophagi and subsequent dropping upon them). They then move to attack the one with a bow at the end; Zil'dejin, with his halberd now enchanted with lightning, charges forward with a very strong attack using his enchantment to his advantage, and knocks the gnoll backwards onto the throne. He suddenly becomes dazed and disoriented, and the party quickly uses this to their advantage. The room is now cleared, and they have only one door to proceed through. The four search the room and find, among more basic treasure, a small figurine which they determine creates an illusory projection of a soldier in a uniform that they do not recognize. Additionally, Zil'dejin sits on the throne and finds the source of the gnoll's disorientation: it presents an illusion of pre-Galifar Karrnath, when the ruins were still an active building. He steps off the throne, and they take a short rest before going further.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Shadow Rift

Mol, Lharvion 23, 998 YK (Day 9).

The party pushes through the ironwork doors and find themselves in a large, high-ceilinged chamber of much better craftsmanship than they found in the rest of the lower levels, despite the relative disrepair. After their eyes adjust to the lighting provided by glowing crystalline pillars in the center of the room, they can see that crimson streams of blood trail across the floor into a set of grates surrounding a square hole in the middle of the cathedral (which Lythanis notes also supports a number of chains, descending below). The blood is coming from a dais at the far end of the room, where a man in a red robe with a tattoo of a human skull chants madly and holds a knife high in the air.

The six begin to advance, thinking this to be the ritual they were sent to stop. Two crazed men approach them from either side of the old cathedral and block their progress directly forward into the room, and begin swinging their axes around crazily.

The group engages them for a time, and the priest (who identifies himself as a member of the Blood of Vol) advances to support the berserkers. Meanwhile, the party is flanked by feral vampire spawn - humanoids that are like incomplete vampires. Also, a creature resembling a warped halfling dressed in dark clothing approaches and begins focusing on Lythanis.

The adventurers fight back the vampire spawn, and eventually cut through the berserkers. Lythanis is felled by the halfling-like creature, but Lucan is able to save him from further assault and helps him back to his feet. Together, they advance on the priest and end his life. They congratulate each other on a job well done, until Valthrun enters the room (following the assurance that it is now safe).

He seems nervous and skittish, and yells in panic about having to stop the ritual. The party seems confused at first, until Valthrun notes the light and sounds of chanting emanating from the hole in the ground. He says that the rift to the plane of Mabar, the Endless Night, is situated below them.

The party descends by the chains into the chamber below, and arrives in a nightmare. The blood from above pours down in horrible falls, creating a pool of blood in the depressed center of the chamber. On the north wall is a huge portal, scribed with ruins and pitch black within. In front of it are more runes, which appear quite sinister. Opposite, a large statue of a demon stands. To the east is a set of steps with smaller statues of the same demon, and an extravagantly-dressed undead human. To the west is another set of stairs, leading to altar fashioned of bone. In front of it is a human wearing heavy armor and a cape, and carrying a large mace. Beside him, another human stands, dressed identically to the priest that had been in the room above them. The heavily armored one is chanting.

As the party descends, the priest calls out to Kalarel, the senior member of the Blood of Vol who is conducting the ritual. The party has never seen him to this point, but has seen his name referenced a number of times in letters, notes, and the like. He interrupts his chanting and turns to laugh at them.

"You fools!" he gloats. "You think to interrupt the ritual now? You cannot stop me - I already have all that I need! With the last component, the Third Sinister Rib, I can complete my task here and open the rift to Mabar! You are far too late!" He laughs out loud. The party turns to Valthrun, who they believed was still in possession of the rib.

Valthrun just stares at Kalarel, who extracts an amulet from beneath his armor and uses its enchantment to warp Valthrun to his side. Valthrun refers to Kalarel as his master, and Kalarel assures him that for his service he will have a position of some importance in the Blood of Vol. Then, Kalarel swears to eliminate the party.

Two dolgaunts appear, warped goblins that Garmeth recognizes clearly. Garmeth is sickened by their forms and charges towards them, but is soon overwhelmed by them. The rest of the party engages the dolgaunts (and now, the priest) as well, except for Lythanis, who stays behind to deal with the undead caster on the stairs behind them. Meanwhile, Kalarel and Valthrun (who has been deceitful this whole time and is actually a rather accomplished caster) support the dolgaunts with spells.

Eventually, the group breaks through the dolgaunts, and Eshunu kills the Blood of Vol priest. The adventurers approach Kalarel and Valthrun, though battered by the attacks of the dolgaunts and the spells. Lythanis finishes off the wight who had been attacking him, and moves up with the rest of his companions. As they draw closer to Kalarel, he uses his amulet once again to move himself and Valthrun to the circle of runes in front of the portal. They appear to be empowered by the runes in the ground.

Garmeth is too wounded to fight now, but the remaining five proceed to assault them. Meanwhile, the seal on the rift grows weaker, and the wretched thing in the portal, a being apparently made entirely of darkness, slips into the world a little more with each passing moment.

Valthrun and Kalarel are then supported by the thing in the portal, and a large fight ensues. The thing in the portal lashes its tendrils over and over. Eventually, Lythanis is able to disrupt the arcane runes supporting Kalarel and Valthrun after a while of concentrated efforts, and the exposed Valthrun is quickly cut down. All the while, the rift grows stronger - reality feels less solid, and the room gets darker until all the torches are extinguished, leaving only the light of the runes on the portal.

At this point, the four statues of the platinum dragon acquired in the crypts on the first floor shatter and burst with light, revealing their true forms: holy symbols of Dol Dorn. The holy power illuminates the room for a moment and heals all who oppose Kalarel and the thing in the portal, allowing Garmeth to rise to his feet. Additionally, to Dol Dorn's loyal follower Zil'dejin, a protective boost in durability is also conferred.

Now renewed, the six concentrate their efforts on Kalarel, who they overwhelm and finally fell, with Garmeth delivering a powerful series of blows as the finale to drive Kalarel to the ground. Nearly dead but completely deranged, Kalarel tries once more to stand to his feet where most would just succumb to death, but his broken body is grasped by the tendrils of the thing in the portal, and he is dragged screaming into the darkness. At this point, the blackness in the portal fades, and the light is restored to the room. Reality feels solid once more.

The party yells a victory cry, and examines the area for anything of use. They find some gold in the altar, and a magic dagger used as part of the ritual. They then return to Winterhaven.

Once there, they do not find any sort of hero's welcome. Indeed, the people of Winterhaven seem quite predisposed to strongly dislike or even hate the party. They first move to Valthrun's tower with the intention of taking any magical items he owned, and try to pick the lock. They are stopped by the town guard, who takes them to Lord Padraig. He has little interest in their business in the keep when the party sees him, and he sends them on their way. They are met by Eilian the Old, their one remaining friend in Winterhaven (though he recognizes only Zil'dejin and to a lesser degree, Lythanis, of the six) who congratulates them for their work on behalf of King Kaius III and gives them a reward of some money. He is then asked why the people of Winterhaven hate them, and he replies with the obvious answer.

"You've threatened townspeople, tried to break into numerous buildings, destroyed longtime resident Thair Coalstriker's forge and sent him to prison, and everyone is quite certain you've just murdered Valthrun. You're really only tolerated now for your efforts in the graveyard." He continues on to express his gratitude and friendship, and finally he concludes by saying Tam'elanath has already left with his own reward back to Lakeside.

The party stays here for a time, and exchange their magical dagger for a potion and a magic horned helmet (carried now by Zil'dejin). But as they find no respite at Wrafton's Inn, they finally decide to depart back for Lakeside, their job here now finished.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shadowfell Keep, 2nd Floor (III)

Mol, Lharvion 23, 998 YK (Day 9).

Now accompanied by Stahlstrauss and Eshunu, Zil'dejin and Lythanis proceed with Valthrun further into the dungeon. They are met with a fork in their path; on one side, a small passageway leading to a corner, and in front of them, a large set of iron-bound double doors. Thinking it best to eliminate their less imposing options first, they proceed down the small hallway.

The hall ends with a door that has been barred by a single board nailed across it. Scrawled roughly on the board in common script is the word "Closed." Knowing better than to heed such warnings (or perhaps just not caring), Zil'dejin smashes the board and opens the door. The party proceeds, with Valthrun preferring to stay where the light is.

Inside, the room is pitch dark. Lythanis lights a Sunrod, and the room becomes clear enough to see; it is immaculately clean, and he is able to notice a very thin silvery trail on the floor, not entirely unlike that made by a slug. However, nothing else appears to be inside. Stahlstrauss tentatively goes to investigate the end of the trail, which appears to be in a small alcove further down the hall.

As he attempts to get a closer look, the gelatinous form of the trail congeals and forms into one cohesive being: a large Gelatinous Cube. It advances on him too quickly for him to stop it in time, and consumes him in its mass.

The rest of the party springs into action to try and save him, but the cube proves surprisingly durable. However, Stahlstrauss is able to escape with only a small amount of damage to his frame, and the cube moves on to attack the other three, gathered further down the hall. Lythanis, panicking, expends a significant amount of energy to launch the cube backwards, slamming it into the back wall of the hallway. The surrounding area shakes from the impact.

At the far end of the hall, next to where the cube crashed, another alcove exists in the corner. It is blocked by bars and contains two nearly-forgotten prisoners; a Githzerai monk wearing clothing with an elaborate design, and a Half-elf in chainmail passed out on the floor. The impact of the cube wakes them; the monk, Garmeth, rises to his feet from his sitting position, and the half-elf, one Lucan Vrinsk, awakes.

Garmeth sees the situation for what it is - the only opportunity to escape with the gelatinous cube that threatened to devour them before else occupied. He moves quickly, and is able to pick open the lock on the bars that hold them back (though it is easily picked - perhaps by design). Meanwhile, the cube advances on the party again, and engulfs Zil'dejin.

Zil'dejin is having trouble escaping, and so Lucan rushes over to assist him in getting out of the cube. Now free, Garmeth attacks the cube, alongside Lucan and Zil'dejn while the other three attack from the other side. Before long, the cube is worn down and separates from itself, essentially dying (though, it was hardly alive in the first place).

The six then decide to ensure the area is secure before exchanging any words. In an adjoining room, they find two sarcophagi. They open one inadvertently, and the other opens with it; two "corruption corpses" shamble out, masses of constantly-regenerating foetid flesh. They dispatch the corpses quickly, which explode when defeated, and move to the next room.

This room, apparently once a children's bedroom, is now mostly empty. A chest inside has, aside from the items owned by Garmeth and Lucan, some items of value including some jewelry and a Safewing Amulet +1 (taken by Lucan).

They then take the opportunity to talk. The two who were imprisoned were captured separately, but placed in the same "cell" with the threat that if they tried to escape, the cube would eat them (and, indeed, it probably would have). They were not fed or attended to for days, and were more or less left to rot in the darkened halls which had been boarded off, presumably by the hobgoblins. The party explains their reasons for being in the keep, and Garmeth agrees to accompany them until the ritual is stopped. Lucan, who is aligned with House Medani, feels a need to repay the party for freeing him, and to complete his own mission for his Dragonmarked House, though he is not at liberty to reveal what this mission is.

Now numbered at six (plus Valthrun) the party proceeds through the iron-bound doors at the intersection they passed initially. Inside, they are met with the foul stench of death and the pervading sense of imminent danger. They quickly discover that this room is absolutely filled with the dead.

The party engages in a lengthy battle with the zombies, but most are rotted and frail; they are able to cut a swath without much difficulty. Meanwhile, a small gargoyle-like messenger construct attempts to flee the scene as the dead begin to fall. The party is alerted by this, but none are close enough to reach it and stop it in time. Lucan is quite close, but not close enough, and he has no means of making a ranged attack. Instead, he takes the opportunity to demonstrate one of his many peculiar abilities: called "Dimension Swap," he folds the space between himself and the messenger, literally compressing the dimensions so they are standing inches away while before they were several yards apart. They quickly swap places and like an elastic, the space returns to normal. Lythanis is then able to stop the messenger from proceeding.

The room is quickly cleared after that. The party discovers a small tunnel in the wall; it is too small for the large Stahlstrauss and Zil'dejin to fit in, but Lythanis and Garmeth are able to get inside. The room at the end was once attached to the keep, evidently, but this is no longer so. There are some treasures here, including an unusual felt bag, which Lythanis identifies as magical. They are afraid to open it, so they take it to Valthrun to identify, though he is little use in this respect. Eventually, Stahlstrauss opts to reach inside, and pulls out some coins and a potion stored within the impossibly large depths of the bag of holding.

After this is done, the party descends a set of stairs, and stands before some ornate ironwork doors, marked with many images of demons and the like. They gather their wits and then proceed.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Shadowfell Keep, 2nd Floor (II)

Mol, Lharvion 23, 998 YK (Day 9).

With Typhus and Mikhal deceased (only one was really mourned; guess which one), Zil'dejin, Morgue and Lythanis proceed with Valthrun in tow to the hallway that the fleeing hobgoblin attempted to take Typhus to, pursuing some distant but formless telepathic cries that seem to be originating from this direction. They find the hall leads to two separate doorways, one leading north and the other south; they enter the northern one first. On entry, they are noticed by a hobgoblin guard, who flees into an adjacent room and starts yelling about intruders.

Here, amongst a stash of crates and boxes mostly full of rations, they find two weakened bodies chained to the floor. One, a large warforged, lies next to another construct - this one not of Khorvaire origin, and completely unfamiliar. This second construct, made entirely out of crystal, is the source of the telepathic yelling.

There is little time for speech, but the party decides that without the assistance of the paladin and the wizard who accompanied them before, the help of these two (obviously sharing a common enemy, given their current condition) will be invaluable in the coming battle, and so Morgue is able to pick the locks on the chains that bind them and free them. They retrieve their weapons and armor from some of the crates in the room, and prepare to fight the hobgoblins.

The warforged identifies himself as Stahlstrauss, and his companion as one Eshunu, who is incapable of speech (having no mouth, vocal chords, tongue or really any means of producing vocal sound) and can communicate only telepathically. Stahlstrauss is a warrior, created during the Last War as a front line shock troop, and Eshunu is a druid, though little more information is given.

The party engages the hobgoblins by advancing through a side-passage through the north. Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss charge the main chamber, where they are met with some difficulty by an archer, and a Warcaster using a variety of spells against them, particularly one that causes a kinetic outburst.

Meanwhile, Morgue, Lythanis and Eshunu are assailed by a series of grunts and soldiers leaving the main chamber to attack the weaker party members. They present a huge threat to the suddenly undefended Lythanis and Eshunu, but Morgue, who is (slightly) more adapted for physical combat, tries to hold them while his two comrades fire long-ranged attacks.

The attempt is futile, however. Morgue ultimately gives his life to ensure that Lythanis and Eshunu are protected, and is killed by the assaulting hobgoblins, though his sacrifice gives them enough time to get to safety and kill the hobgoblins from a distance. Morgue's last words are "Screw the opposite!" before passing away on the floor of the keep.

After the battle is resolved, the party talks a little more about their purposes. Stahlstrauss reveals that he and his longtime travelling companion Eshunu arrived in Winterhaven by chance, but were caught off guard by a hobgoblin warband and awoke in the dungeon as they were found. They decide to accompany Zil'dejin and Lythanis (now grieving over Morgue... at least, Lythanis is grieving) for Stahlstrauss' intentions of revenge, and Eshunu's unstated purpose to follow Stahlstrauss.

The four with Valthrun then move to the southern door in the hall, where they are blocked by a portcullis arising from the ground. Stahlstrauss and Zil'dejin work together to break it down, and they proceed into a seemingly empty room. Before long, they are ambushed by hobgoblins from two adjacent rooms - they discover that they have stumbled on the quarters of the hobgoblin Warchief, and he is not at all pleased that they are here.

The battle goes with some difficulty at first, and the presence of the Warchief rallies the other hobgoblins and pushes the party into the hall. But, they are able to stand their ground there, and soon take care of the band, loots a chest owned by the Warchief as well as some crates (including some wine - Zil'dejin leaps at the opportunity), then leaves to proceed further and, hopefully, stop the forthcoming ritual.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shadowfell Keep, 2nd Floor (I)

Mol, Lharvion 23, 998 YK (Day 9).

Zil'dejin, Morgue, Typhus, Mikhal, Lythanis and Valthrun awake in the crypts after what was probably a fairly unpleasant sleep. The corpses of the zombies have vanished mysteriously, but Splug continues to decay foully in the corner. Now confident that they have seen most of what lies on the upper levels of the keep, they decide to move down the stairs to the next level, which Valthrun assures them is the purported location of the rift to Mabar. Morgue decides to perform one last sweep of the upper level, and heads back up the stairs from the twisting hallways while his companions descend.

They are met immediately at the bottom of the stairs by a set of fairly well-armed hobgoblin guards. In the middle of the large chamber, a large pit drops into a well, and at the far end, a dark room with what appears to be a cage is present, though the contents of the cage are, at this time, obscured. They are prompted with a challenge phrase by the front-most guard: "Shadow seeks shadow!"

Thinking back, the note (currently carried by Morgue) the party found on the hag's body contained a phrase for such an occasion. Zil'dejin offers the response, "From the ground, some magic was found."

This, however, was not the correct response phrase. One of the guards flees the room, while the others prepare for combat. The four respond in kind.

Zil'dejin and Mikhal descend first, attempting to knock the guards into the well, but failing at first. Lythanis is able to pull one into the well, but becomes a target for the guards shortly thereafter. Typhus moves down to offer support as well, but also becomes exposed in doing so.

Meanwhile, the two guards who were more towards the back of the room when the fight began have moved into the dark room with the cage, and eventually are able to lift the bars. When they do so, a spider emerges, which they are able to identify as a Deathjump Spider, though can tell little more about it other than the common name for it.

The spider moves very quickly, lunging on Lythanis and knocking him cold. The hobgoblins see this opportunity to swarm the intruders, and many more emerge from adjacent rooms to assist in the assault.

Mikhal struggles to defend his allies, but is overwhelmed after a time. He falls to the ground covered in wounds, and succumbs to them, passing away. Typhus is able to protect himself with blasts of fire and his color spray spell, but the oncoming hordes are too much, and soon he too is overwhelmed. Zil'dejin falls back and is able to help Lythanis to his feet, but there is still a great deal of enemies. The two petition the cowering Valthrun for help, and eventually he comes down the stairs to launch, at great length, a rather weak casting of magic missile. Meanwhile, one of the nearby hobgoblins grabs Typhus' unconscious body and attempts to flee with it.

Despite the low-grade effort that exhausts Valthrun completely, it manages to kill one of the hobgoblins, which provides the window of opportunity Zil'dejin and Lythanis have been looking for. They begin clearing the room of hobgoblins and make some genuine progress, despite the odds. When the last of the hobgoblins fall, Zil'dejin and Lythanis pursue the fleeing hobgoblin and Typhus.

However, the rough handling of his battered body is too much for Typhus. He, too, is forced to give in to his wounds, and his life slips away from him as he is being abducted. This is perhaps somewhat fortunate, as Zil'dejin's attempt to recover him would consist of a very hard tackle into the back of the fleeing guard, causing Typhus' body to hit the back wall so hard one of his horns becomes cracked.

Lythanis and Zil'dejin finish off the last hobgoblin, and examine the situation. Mikhal and Typhus have both perished in the narrowly-escaped struggle. Valthrun is exhausted, but half-heartedly offers to raise them both for an extravagant fee; the remaining two are forced to refuse. They drop the two bodies into the wells in some kind of pseudo-burial (that most would probably consider actually very disrespectful, but nobody was around to see it anyway).

Finally, Morgue comes back down the stairs from his run through the upper level. The news is broken to him, and the three mourn for some time before proceeding onwards out of sheer necessity, and at the insisting of Valthrun.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Crypts

Sul, Lharvion 22, 998 YK (Day 8).

The party, having finished clearing the maze-like system of corridors and sonic runes, decides to press further into the dungeon. It currently consists of Zil'dejin, Morgue, Typhus, Mikhal, and Lythanis, accompanied by Valthrun, the aged wizard of Winterhaven, and Splug, the cowardly goblin companion of Typhus. While Lythanis remains in the twisting corridors to study the runes further, the others choose to head east from their current location; this is the exit to which they were drawn when the runes caused them to flee earlier.

They enter into a room with much better lighting. It is cross-shaped, with three stone sarcophagi along either wall leading towards the intersection further into the room. Valthrun accompanies them to the doorway, but then turns to assist Lythanis with his studies. Splug, as always, remains faithful to Typhus, and the remaining five enter further into the room.

After passing between the two pillars in the center of the cross-shaped hall, they begin to feel somewhat uneasy. Before long, the doors on the sarcophagi open, and hordes of the undead begin to emerge, and close in on them from all sides.

As they begin to fight the zombies off, the four quickly realize that there is simply no end to the zombies - more than should be physically capable of emerging from the relatively small sarcophagi. Still, faced with no other option, they continue to fight. Meanwhile, Splug - trapped further down the hall amongst other zombies - struggles against the odds, but is finally beaten to death by some stronger, more muscular zombies than those faced by the rest of the group.

Typhus seems more or less unfazed by this turn of events, and is more concerned with the overwhelming force of zombies around him, which - combined with those who have felled Splug - are now concentrated upon him. Without any route of escape, he is beaten down to the ground by the horde.

The zombies move onto the more pressing matter of Mikhal, Zil'dejin and Morgue, who are attempting to knock over the sarcophagi, essentially hoping to seal the lids on them and prevent more zombies from emerging. While they are distracted from devouring him, Typhus eventually regains his footing, and stands up to unleash a color spray spell upon the zombies, thinning out some of their numbers and allowing his companions access to the sarcophagi further in.

With this, the party topples the remaining sarcophagi, sealing the zombies in, and moves to the door at the end of the chamber.

It leads into another, smaller chamber, containing only one sarcophagus, this one more ornately decorated than the last. Morgue attempts to open it, and moves forward to do so, but as he tries it opens widely, and a skeletal figure emerges. They prepare to fight it, but then it speaks.

It identifies itself as Sir Keegan, who was once lord of Shadowfell Keep. But he murdered his friends and family due to temporary madness instilled upon him by a "dark priest, serving demons." To atone for his crimes, he locked himself in the crypts to watch over the rift to Mabar.

He begins testing the four to see if they are worthy of helping him in this task. He deems that they are after questioning Morgue's craftiness, Typhus' knowledge, and Zil'dejin's imposing presence. He then tells them that, in his current state, he can do little to prevent the ritual that is about to take place; however, he offers his sword, Aecris, a holy blade which is taken by Mikhal, and tells the party to seek the blessings of the dragons outside. He then sends them on their way.

The party finds that the altars outside do, indeed, carry in secret compartments a number of small images in the shape of dragons, carved apparently out of platinum (as identified by Morgue).

They choose to take some time to dwell on this, and after bringing Lythanis and Valthrun in with them choose to take a rest in the room, waking in shifts to keep watch (seriously, what is it with these guys and sleeping in crypts?).

Truly, we mourned Splug most of all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to the Keep

Sul, Lharvion 22, 998 YK (Day 8).

The party is beset by the gravehounds still standing after they have cleared the skeletons.

Tam'elanath maintains a safe distance, assisting the group by firing arrows at the undead dogs beside Lythanis, who in a similar tactic, offers telekinetic support. Meanwhile, Zil'dejin and Mikhal work to hold them off, absorbing their attacks and dealing out direct damage while Morgue struggles for his life, no longer threatened by the gravehounds who have had to turn their attention elsewhere.

However, among the frenzy of the hounds, the party has forgotten about the hag, who becomes significant again in the battle by taking down Mikhal. The gravehounds leap at the opportunity to devour the fallen paladin, but they are too weakened and now, too diverted; the party is able to at last finish them off, and turn their attentions at long last to the hag.

Lythanis ignites the air around her with telekinetic force, severely burning her as Zil'dejin moves in to strike her down once and for all. Ninaran hits the ground, and the party searches her, finding little of significance except for a small sheet of vellum, with a rather sinister message:

I received your report on the adventurers. Next time you see them, put an end to their interference. Mix the blood of ten individuals with the elixir my messenger will bring you. Then, trace the following pattern on the ground, and pour the liquid into the lines. This will supply you with a force to help thwart them. I'm very close to completion; I leave it to you to see that I am not interrupted. As you already know, if you do come to the second level of the keep, the pass phrase is, "From the ground, some magic was found."
 - Kalarel

With this, the party returns to Winterhaven, where the townspeople are still lined atop the walls. Zil'dejin informs the townspeople of the situation, and they are let back within the town's walls. Morgue attempts to ask Lord Padraig for a reward of some sort, but is offered none. Padraig also mentions that Valthrun has been seeking the group, and so they head for the aged wizard's tower.

Valthrun tells them that, at last, he has determined the significance of the Third Sinister Rib. He informs the party that this item is integral to a ritual designed to break the seal on Orcus in Khyber when they are at their weakest - during the Winterhaunt. He says that the ritual can proceed without it, but that the rib could be equally useful (if not more so) in stopping the ritual. He pleads with the group to escort him to the second basement level of the Shadowfell Keep so he can stop the horrors before they truly begin.

The party, however, is still generally suspicious of Valthrun and his motives. Lythanis and Morgue are very much opposed to his joining, while Zil'dejin and Mikhal are essentially in favor of his coming with them. Ultimately, it is agreed they will escort him. Zil'dejin, Morgue, Mikhal and Lythanis set out for the keep once more, while Tam'elanath stays behind to protect Winterhaven should another incident occur like the one that was just avoided.

* * *

The party arrives at the keep to find Typhus standing outside, Splug still faithfully at his side. When questioned about his whereabouts for the past two days, Typhus is surreptitiously evasive, and eventually just insists they proceed. The group, knowing better than to question his bizarre motives further, proceed back into the keep.

They enter into a dark, maze-like room. As soon as they get fully inside, they are attacked by hordes of zombies. Valthrun and Splug are instructed to stay on the outside of the room while the party tries to fend them off.

The undead, however, are shown to be quite fragile, and the group has little difficulty keeping them at bay. They run into a brief snag with some faintly growing runes etched into the ground, which when stepped upon unleash a horrible noise that magically instills panic in those who hear it, causing them to flee and alerting more zombies. Despite these pitfalls, however, the party is ultimately triumphant without too much difficulty, and is able to proceed further.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Winterhaven Graveyard

Sul, Lharvion 22, 998 YK (Day 8). Morning.

In the morning, Zil'dejin, Tam'elanath, Morgue, Lythanis and Mikhal quickly break camp - Winterhaven has remained safe for the night. Their duty in protecting the town for the immediate future has been fulfilled, and so they set out for the graveyard.

The path to the graveyard creates something like a fork on the Old King's Road, going directly east from Winterhaven and turning north into the shallow foothills of the Icetop Mountains. It is a short trip from the town; they arrive after about twenty minutes of walking. Wrought iron fences enclose the cemetery. They push open the iron gates and proceed inside, seeing nothing as yet.

Inside the graveyard, the tombstones are very densely packed. Three mausoleums are present besides the gravestones, and some of the soil surrounding the tombstones seems disturbed. A sickly bluish glow pulses from somewhere near one of the mausoleums.

Seeing nothing, the party chooses to investigate one of the mausoleums, and they progress into the cemetery, walking slowly. Morgue moves quickly ahead, and as he proceeds about halfway into the graveyard, the ground breaks open all around them and the dead emerge, poised to attack. Morgue seeks shelter from the inevitable onslaught of the first wave - an army of skeletons with bows and swords and four undead hounds - by pushing open the door to the mausolem. However, inside he does not find the sanctuary he sought; instead, the mausoleum plays host to a green-skinned woman with warped flesh, carrying a strangely curved bow that is designed to accommodate her unusual build. Morgue has just enough time to see her emerge before she lays her left hand on him, and is not able to dodge in time. He falls backwards, his mind a storm of nightmarish  and horrible visions.

With Morgue thus occupied, the hag turns to Tam'elanath and takes careful aim with the bow, muttering something to herself and firing it with great speed. The arrow slams into Tam'elanath, piercing his armor and injuring him severely - the party notices the hag's focus appears to have been sharpened on Tam'elanath.

Meanwhile, the skeletons advance. Mikhal prepares a sacred circle to help protect the party from the advancing horde. The graveyard becomes a battlefield. Zil'dejin whirls his Lifedrinker around, charging into skeletons and smashing them to bits. Tam'elanath is able to recover from his injuries and steps back to fire arrows on the hordes. Morgue continues to battle with the nightmarish visions and now, his overwhelming injuries. Mikhal struggles to keep the brunt of the attacks off his allies while simultaneously fending off skeletons, and Lythanis takes advantage of a newly-acquired ability he refers to as Burning Flux, which twists and warps empty air into a burning mass that burns anyone caught within.

The skeletons fall one by one, but their presence and the pressing attacks of the gravehounds lead the party to forget about the hag for the time being. They find themselves surpressed by the hounds and their hag leader, though all the skeletons have fallen...

Shadowfell Keep, 1st Floor (III)

Sar, Lharvion 21, 998 YK (Day 7). Late afternoon.

The party chooses to investigate the last remaining door in the unadorned cavern section of the Keep, which is adjacent to the room that was formerly filled with rats. Mikhal restores the majority of Morgue's injuries with lay on hands and they continue towards the old bronze double doors. They're covered with a layer of fungus; scratched into this fungus is the message, "Stay out. Really." They proceed anyway.

The doors open to a set of descending stairs, leading down into a natural cavern. The cavern is carpeted entirely with the same fungus found on the door, and the room is filled with a stagnant pool of almost entirely opaque, dark water. In the middle of the water is a small island, covered with bones, coins and small objects. Lythanis notes the water appears to be rippling; he suspects something might be moving beneath the surface.

The party cautiously approaches the edge of the water, and are met with a blast of an incredibly offensive odor which clouds their senses. At this, the origin of the movement Lythanis observed becomes apparent; a blue amorphous blob, not entirely unlike the ochre jelly they defeated earlier, rises to the surface of the water, moving by means of large pseudopods.

They combat the slime here, battling its surprising mobility and corrosive touch, and are eventually able to "kill" it (if it could ever have been said to be alive in the first place). After they are certain it is no longer a threat, they decide to investigate the island in the middle of the water. They are hesitant to swim in the horribly unpleasant water; Zil'dejin offers to attempt to leap the roughly ten foot span to the small island, and takes a running start and jumps to it.

On the island, they find another potion of healing, a magic shield of protection (taken by Mikhal), and a wooden message cylinder, as well as some coins. The message cylinder contains three sheets of vellum. One details a map to the Shadowfell Keep in relation to the local area, apparently extending down from Irontown to the south. The other two contain messages. The first holds the following:

"Remember, don't wet the nodule unless Kalarel is not receptive to the offer. Then, wet it only from a distance, and then turn and run. Water will bring the creature out of its dormancy, and it will consume anything it can reach."

The second one reads as follows, in the same writing as the first:

"Greetings, Kalarel. I have recently learned of your activity in the area and I have an offer for you. During your time in this region, if you should capture any humanoids, we are eager to buy them. We have duergar allies in the Thunderspire in need of slave stock. If you are interested, please send an envoy back to me. My messengers will show the way.
 - Chief Krand, of the Bloodreavers."

The party dwells on this for a moment, and then takes stock of their situation. Morgue is still quite injured, and the others are starting to feel the effects of prolonged combat as well. Eventually, they choose to return to Winterhaven. They set out from the Keep.

* * *

It is night when they arrive back at Winterhaven, and the party finds the gate to be closed. Many of the townspeople stand atop the parapet, armed and nervous. Lord Padraig waves to the party as they approach. He tells them that Winterhaven is in danger; many of the villagers have disappeared, and more pressingly, the dead in the cemetery have apparently come to life. Padraig is worried they will move to attack the town soon.

The party discusses the situation. Winterhaven is shut off and its gates are locked; they cannot gain access until the threat is over. They decide to go to the graveyard and investigate, but believe it is more important to ensure the town stays safe for the night. They set up camp, sleeping in shifts and keeping watch over Winterhaven until morning.

Lord Padraig

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Shadowfell Keep, 1st Floor (II)

Sar, Lharvion 21, 998 YK (Day 7).

Zil'dejin, Tam'elanath, Morgue and Lythanis awake in Balgron's chambers. Not wanting to stay any longer than they absolutely must, they leave, headed back towards the entrance of the Keep. They decide to remain still, needing to press further to discover what is happening to Winterhaven. They head into the eastern hallway, and find themselves in some sort of excavation site.

Here, they hear a multitude of goblins arguing angrily about something in their native tongue. Thus made aware of the goblins' presence, the party advances carefully. Morgue moves forward first, sneaking cautiously at first but then walking into a wide open, well-lit space, and in a last-ditch effort to hide after this mistake, throws his cloak around himself and dives to the ground. The goblins are not fooled by this display, and begin their attack.

The room is composed of the same flagstone that makes up the rest of the Keep, but here it is in certain intervals dug out about ten feet into the earth below. The goblins clamber up ladders to put themselves on the same level as the party, and launches a volley of crossbow bolts while their nearby guard drakes attempt to attack as well.
Zil'dejin charges forward to meet the guard drakes as they advance, stopping them and subduing them while Morgue supports his retaliation. Tam'elanath hangs further back to fire arrows at the offending goblins, and Lythanis ventures to use his psionic abilities to push them back off the platforms and into the pits once again. These tactics slightly injure Lythanis but are ultimately very successful, and the party makes quick work of the excavation crew. From here, they plan to move into a gap the excavators have made in the wall, leading into a natural cave formation slightly beneath their current location.

Before they go down the "stairs" leading into the cave, however, they take a moment to catch their breath. At this time, Mikhal Thanesman returns from his trip to Winterhaven, and descends the stairs of the Keep to find the party nearby. They catch up - the party are at once pleased and irritated to see him again, frustrated that he left them when his defensive abilities were needed most (against the goblins) but glad to see him back to protect them in the immediate future. With Mikhal travelling with the party once again, they descend into the caverns attached to the Keep.

Unlike the ruins, there are no torches here - the party is in total darkness. Tam'elanath and Zil'dejin light sunrods, and they can hear rats moving about in the darkness, but cannot see them.

As Tam'elanath moves forward into the caverns, rats drop from the ceiling to attack them. The party fends off these first few giant rats, but more appear, drawn by the sound of battle, and are accompanied by a massive brown amorphous blob, which they recognize as an ochre jelly. Surrounded by rats and besieged by the jelly, the party faces a bit of difficulty, but Mikhal is able to soak up much of the damage directed at the party. Zil'dejin cleaves the jelly with a mighty strike, thinking it defeated, but it merely splits in two and continues attacking from two fronts. Eventually, they are able to bring it down, though somewhat injured by its corrosive form - Morgue, who fell in battle against the goblins earlier, is particularly damaged. They proceed into the caves.

In the next area, they find a series of small tunnels, and a pit extending ten feet into the ground with a crushed, unrecognizable form within. As they move further into the room, their movement and the light from their sunrods attract this areas inhabitants: a horde of kruthiks. They scatter out from the tunnels to attack the party, and the one adult accompanying them launches a series of toxic spikes at them. They are eventually able to take down the kruthiks, with Mikhal keeping the less durable members of the party from taking damage (including the battered Morgue, who lingers as far back as possible) and Zil'dejin fighting hard at the forefront, even using his rarely-seen dragon breath ability to fire lightning upon the lizard-like creatures. At last, they are triumphant, and proceeding with caution against the possibility of pitfalls, raid the treasure the kruthiks have collected. Here, they find more gold and a potion of healing, taken by Mikhal.

The party takes a brief rest to consider their next move; do they proceed, injured as they are (particularly Morgue)? Or do they return to Winterhaven?

Shadowfell Keep, 1st Floor (I)

Far, Lharvion 20, 998 YK (Day 6). Night.

The rest lasts for about a half hour. During this time, Typhus leaves the room, Splug in tow, without a word. The party initially considers pursuing him or trying to discover where he is going, but their attempts to question him are met with nothing. The remaining five members decide it best not to try and pry further, as if travelling with Typhus for the past three days has taught them anything, it is that he is perhaps better off left to his own inscrutable purposes.

After Typhus has left, Mikhal announces that he, too, must depart. Having learned that the keep is in fact occupied (and recently so), and become aware of the presence of dark magic and rituals in this place, he must meet with Theoban Flamerule in Winterhaven to give the report he promised on Lharvion 21. He, however, declares that he will return as soon as possible, and leaves, bound for the surface and ultimately to the town of

The four left in the Keep - Zil'dejin, Tam'elanath, Morgue and Lythanis - decide to press onwards, as they have discovered very little of the happenings in the area, which was their original purpose for venturing within. They decide to investigate the goblin chieftain's room, described by Splug before he left with Typhus. They leave the torture chamber and open the door to the adjoining room.

Here, they are met with a relatively large space sectioned off with curtains. All they are able to see (other than the curtains) is a table with two goblins playing a raucous but incomprehensible game of cards, with an old and ornate bronze bell in front of them, likely left over from the Keep's active era. The party is outside of the distracted goblin's awareness, huddled in the hallway leading to the room, and here, they ponder their next move. Deciding that the bell is likely going to alert other goblins of their presence, Morgue opts to try and take the bell from the table.

He sneaks forward, and is initially undetected by the goblins. He reaches to grab the bell, and successfully lifts it off the table, but as he does so, it clangs, alerting the goblins at the table as well as goblins further within the room, in the areas behind the curtain. A fight ensues. Goblins rush out of adjacent rooms, coming in huge numbers from sub-rooms behind doors and the curtains, and the goblin chieftain (identifying himself as Balgron the Fat) joins the fray as well.

The four are faced with immense difficulty, due in part to their diminished numbers and in part to the overwhelming odds. Though they are able to thin the numbers of the goblins, they are slowly worn down. Their wounds begin to get the better of them, but the goblins continue to fall as Zil'dejin takes the lead, hacking away at enemies, while the others provide varying forms of support. The most powerful goblins are taken down, including Balgron the Fat, but the fight continues thereafter until Morgue, Zil'dejin, and Lythanis have all fallen, and a wounded Tam'elanath retreats further into the chamber to hide from the remaining threats: three goblins, wounded, but alive and furious.

A heavily injured Morgue, seeing the threat the advancing goblins pose to Tam'elanath and, indeed, all of them, is able to lift himself to his feet just inches from death, staggering upright, and taking some of the stress off Tam'elanath by killing the nearest goblin with a well-placed shortsword thrust. Tam'elanath is able to remove the others, and the party takes some time to recover.

In the short term, the injured are treated, and the four search the room to ensure no goblins remain. Once they have done this, they take the goblins' treasure: a respectable sum of gold, and a slightly enchanted magic wand. They set up camp in his fortified chamber, taking advantage of the somewhat-soiled beds and well-lit safety of the room. Here, they sleep off their most serious wounds and injuries.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Entering the Keep

Far, Lharvion 20, 998 YK (Day 6). Morning.

The party awakens again in Wrafton's Inn. The day is overcast and cool, but relatively pleasant. Typhus is the first to wake, and goes to Bairwin's Grande Shoppe with Morgue and Zil'dejin, where he attempts to sell the humanoid skulls he retrieved from the kobold lair. Bairwin explains that he is interested in curiosities, like the dragon skull - not the remains of people. He sends the party on their way. Outside the shop, the party discusses their next move, and the nature of Valthrun the Prescient.

"I don't trust Valthrun," Morgue says flatly. "I think he's suspicious."
"You think everybody's suspicious," replies Tam'elanath, reminding him of the woman they met in Lakeside who first prompted them to come to Winterhaven.
"She was suspicious."
"I agree about the wizard," Typhus adds. "I think that guy is up to something."
"Me too," states Lythanis. "We should be careful about trusting him."

The party comes to agreement: they believe Valthrun is not what he seems to be, seeming suspicious and aloof. They decide he may be a threat, and so forms a bizarre and elaborate plan to contact him about the rib again.

The approach his tower once more, and Typhus lays down the clothes he took from Sil, the changeling who posed as Delphina Moongem. Typhus uses his Mage Hand cantrip to knock on the door, and then uses the same spell in combination with Lythanis' Far Hand power to lift the clothes off the ground in an attempt to make the uninhabited garments look like a human being, assuming that Valthrun will only open the door a crack. The party stands off to the side, behind the door.

Unfortunately, Valthrun opens the door in its entirety, sees the floating clothing and then the party attempting to hide out of his sight. "What... are you doing?" he asks.

"Recognize these?" Typhus asks, gesturing towards the clothing. Valthrun shakes his head.

"They belong to the changeling posing as Delphina Moongem."

"What are you talking about?" he asks in response.


Finally, Zil'dejin enters as the voice of reason yet again. "We're here to ask about the rib. Have you finished studying it yet?"

"Oh. Well, er. No, not yet, exactly, but I'm certain I'm close. In the meantime, perhaps you'd be willing to help out the people of Winterhaven once more?"

"What is it this time?" asks Mikhal.

Valthrun describes the keep just north of the town, along the ascension to the Icetop Mountains. He explains that his historical records indicate that it was built by Karrn the Conqueror (the founder of Karrnath), and that it was built to protect a rift to the Shadowfell, also known as Mabar. He says Orcus, a demon lord, was sealed in Khyber, but about a thousand years ago an exarch known as Doresain tried to breach the rift here and summon an army of the undead from the keep. Paladins of Dol Dorn then sealed him away in the rift, and the keep's original purpose was forgotten, the structure abandoned. But the rift is still there, and Valthrun believes someone may be trying to open it. He mentions that the Winterhaunt is nearing, a time when Mabar comes close to Eberron, which will then weaken the seals on the rift. He believes the Winterhaunt is why the townspeople have been acting so strange, and the attempt to breach the seal is responsible for the hostile activity lately. Finally, he asks the party to investigate.

They are skeptical at first, initially not wanting to hear him out but eventually deciding that this may be the best course of action for the time being. They agree, and Valthrun tells them where to go and indicates he will continue to study the rib in their absence. The party again leaves Winterhaven, this time headed north along a barely-defined path overgrown with vegetation to the old keep.

Before long, they arrive at the ruins of the keep. The structure still stands, though barely. However, the party detects some hints of recent use; a path through the rubble has been cleared, and a staircase has been revealed. Typhus uses a Light cantrip to illuminate the staircase, and seeing no immediate danger, the party descends into the depths.

In the entry room, Mikhal falls pray to a trap and falls into a pit in the ground, but is lifted out by Morgue. After this, they are attacked by goblins, alerted to their presence by the sound of the trap going off. They fight off the first few goblins, and then the party then splits into two; Zil'dejin, Morgue, and Mikhal head forward down towards the south corridor, and Tam'elanath, Typhus and Lythanis head to the east corridor. They are met by different challenges; the former group encounters waiting goblins, and the latter, a very resilient curtain. Eventually, they clear the last of the goblins, and decide to proceed along the west corridor from the first room, and arrive in the torture chamber.

Here, they encounter more goblins and a hobgoblin torturer, apparently in charge of the goblins in the room. They fight these off, and Typhus speaks with an imprisoned goblin in the cells here, who identifies himself as Splug. He offers Splug freedom in exchange for translating the note found on Ironteeth, and though he is not satisfied with Splug's interpretation, sets him free anyway on the condition of unswerving servitude. Splug is glad to be out, and offers what little information he can; he tells the party that the chieftain's room branches off from this one. The party considers going here next, and takes a brief rest.

The Coalstriker Incident

Zor, Lharvion 19, 998 YK (Day 5). Night time.

Returning from the kobold lair, Tam'elanath, Zil'dejin, Morgue, Typhus, Mikhal and Lythanis find the town is strangely still. The townspeople all seem nervous and pensive, going about their last-minute business darkly with their heads lowered. When questioned by Morgue, they can offer no reason; the impatient Zil'dejin attempts to threaten a town resident for answers ("I WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON HERE BEFORE I SHOVE MY FIST DOWN YOUR THROAT!") but this, too, is unsuccesful. The party goes to question Valthrun on the matter, but he does not respond. They move back to Lord Padraig, who rewards them with 100 gold, thanks them for their help, and sends them on their way.

On their way back to Wrafton's Inn, Typhus stops at Thair Coalstriker's smithy once again, this time to sell all the iron braziers as a source of scrap metal. He is joined by Zil'dejin, Morgue, and Lythanis, but Tam'elanath and Mikhal return to the inn to rest their battered bodies. Reluctant to do business with the one who has caused him so much anguish in the past two days, Thair is still able to see the value of the metal and so buys it, albeit at a drastically reduced price. Typhus drops the braziers on the ground, and Thair begins lifting them into a pile of materials in the back end of his small shop.

In an effort to smooth the strained relationship with the dwarf blacksmith (or so he would later claim), Typhus clears his throat, and Thair turns around to see what else he has to say, unwilling to hear but listening regardless (as on the day he arrived, Typhus had an unpleasant exchange with the dwarf in the Dwarven tongue). Typhus looks at him and says, "Allow me to make your forge even hotter." With this, he casts a spell on the unsuspecting dwarf's hearth, which literally backfires and causes it to detonate, ruining his current work, surrounding finished works, the forge itself, and a chunk of the wall that held it.

Thair immediately drops the brazier he is lifting and grabs his warhammer off the wall, completely enraged. Typhus attempts to convince Thair his intentions were nothing but good, but Thair does not listen. He then attempts to intimidate the dwarf, but this, too, fails. Morgue uses his superior powers of persuasion on the dwarf, but it is too late; Thair is blind with rage at the Tiefling who has caused him so much frustration and has now ruined his livelihood. He leaps over the stone counter, hammer raised. Typhus fires an Acid Arrow at him - among his most powerful spells - but it just grazes Thair, who proceeds as though nothing has happened. He cracks Typhus in the skull with the hammer, who staggers under the impact, but fires off a Scorching Burst. Thair appears to be only minimally affected, and smashes Typhus with his shield, sending him unconscious. He then moves to the ruins of his forge to grab a still-glowing coal.

Meanwhile, Zil'dejin - preferring not to get involved - leaves the smithy. Morgue attempts to lift Typhus off the ground, but finds himself unable. Lythanis tries to persuade the dwarf to stop his assault, but again, he does not listen. He returns to Typhus with a hot coal in tongs, and places the coal in his mouth, then stomps on his chest. Typhus, highly resistant to heat and fire, is not particularly affected by the coal, but is nearing death from Thair's savage beating.

Morgue offers a kind of settlement to the situation, perhaps with monetary compensation, and Thair finally slows to consider. He agrees to let Typhus live on the grounds that he may have all the money Typhus is carrying. Morgue takes Typhus' gold and hands it to Thair, who relents. Hearing the commotion calm within, Zil'dejin returns to the interior to see the conclusion. It is at this time that two city guards arrive, drawn by the ruckus.

They ask what is going on, and administer a potion to Typhus, who is on the verge of death. He gets up to his knees, and the four try to explain their side while Thair gives his take, explaining how Typhus destroyed his forge. The guards extract a pair of metal shackles to bind Typhus and take him for questioning, but Typhus casts a spell to make the cuffs invisible (though the guard is still holding them). Lythanis attempts to steal Typhus' money back from Thair by lifting his bag telekinetically, but his satchel is firmly held to his body and he fails. Thair reacts harshly to this attempt at theft, and the guards try to calm him down as he begins swinging his hammer blindly again. While this occurs, Morgue attempts to steal the invisible shackles, but fails because he cannot see them.

Finally, the guards are led to believe that Thair has gone insane, sends the party on their way and are eventually able to put the invisible shackles on the enraged dwarf. The party sees him being dragged out of the forge in the invisible shackles, screaming madly and incoherently in the Dwarven tongue. They go back to Wrafton's Inn to join Tam'elanath and Mikhal and get some sleep.