By the Books

The End of the Keep
Finally done with that place

Winterhaven, Day 8-9 (campaign day 13-14)

 (To tell the truth, I waited too long to fill in this post, so it's gonna be brief.)

The party killed a bunch of hobgoblins, a ghoul, a gelatinous cube, and some other random assorted monsters before sliding down the blood soaked chains to the Portal room, where Kalarel worked feverishly to break the wards sealing this world from Orcus's portion of the Shadowfell. The battle with Kalarel was mostly easy for the group although they lost their cool in deciding which of the enemies to target, and there were a few moments where the group was quite scattered. But in the end, Kalarel was defeated and sucked into the Shadowfell by a shadowy tendril.

Remmeke used the mirror from the artifact dig site to repair the weakened elements of the seal, and the party headed back to Winterhaven. There they were given a heroes welcome, replete with speeches in their honor, shoulder-carries, and their monetary reward. As the festivities were winding down, Remmeke noticed a young man taking notes from the back of the crowd. Seeing that he was watched, he saluted Remmeke and slipped out of the town walls. 

After the ceremony, Remmeke was approached by Bairwin Wildarson, who asked if the group was still interested in doing some courier service for him to the Seven-Pillared Hall in Thunderspire Mountain. Remmeke said that he was, and Bariwin told him that he needed a box (about the size of a dagger case) carried to a contact in the Hall who woulld then trade another item to the party to return to Bairwin. He made it clear that the box should not be opened. Remmeke's response was that the box might wind up opened if the party weren't paid enough, and Bairwin angrily took the box back and said that he would find a more trustworthy courier.

The party headed back to Fallcrest to report back to the priest of Pelor and to do some shopping for the ritual necessary to create magic items. (Should take us up to campaign day 18 or so.)

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Samuel and the "Goblin"

Winterhaven, Day 7 (campaign day 12)

The characters leave their hiding place and prepare to head back to the stairs down that they earlier passed over. When they passed back through the entry room to the Keep, they notice a humanoid figure hidden in the shadows behind one of the columns. Parin moved around the area, and got a bead on the hidden figure. Loosing his missile, he sneak attacks the figure causing it to cry out in pain that "the goblins have found me and killed me, and I haven't yet found Remmeke." Remmeke recognizes the voice as that of Samuel, the gate guard. Rushing forward, Varrin stabilizes the wounded guard. Samuel then relates that he came to the ruined keep, looking for Remmeke and his friends, even though the townspeople told him they would be dead. The village's own dead have risen from their graves and attacked the town, and Samuel risked his life by running to the keep to bring back the adventurers, only to be nearly slain by a "goblin." The party makes haste to the graveyard.

 At the graveyard, they find a horde of skeletal archers, a massive undead hound, and Ninaran, the elven huntress who claims to have raised them all. A blue magical circle pulses outside of one mausoleum, and the dead attack. The fight goes well for the characters, even though they find themselves chasing undead all over the graveyard. They finally corner Ninaran at the graveyard fence, and when she climbs over the fence to escape, Parin implaes her on his dagger through the fence. On her person, they find a note written to her by Kalarel that instructs her on how to perform the ritual to raise the undead and gives the order to finish the adventurers for good. It also gives the pass phrase to the lower levels of the keep:

I received your report on the adventurers. Next time you see them, put an end to their meddling. Mix the blood of ten people with the elixir my messenger brings. Then trace the following pattern on the ground of a graveyard and pour the liquid into the lines. That should supply you with a force to thwart them. I'm very close to completion; see that I'm 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

The party heads to Winterhaven to make sure that the town is safe, and they find the guards battered but victorious. Bairwin Wildarson, owner of The Grande Shoppe, pulls Remmeke aside and tells him that he's impressed by the party's growth since their early defeat at the hands of the kobolds. When they get done with their current mission, he has some business in The Seven-Pillared Hall that he would like them to attend to.

The party, although somewhat exhausted from their battle, head back to the keep and down the stairs. There they find a number of hobgoblins guarding the way into the rest of the dungeon. The hobgoblins demand to know the pass phrase, and the characters gladly supply the phrase from the note. Then Balgaron, the fat goblin who had escaped death the day before with the group, stepped from the shadows and laughed, "That's the false pass code! It means they've killed Ninaran, and besides these are the same ones who tried to kill me yesterday." The lead hobgoblin laughs and tells his troops to move in and show these goblins "how the big boys get things done." In the ensuing melee, the party – mainly Parin and Remmeke – narrowly avoid death a number of times. They finally defeat the hobgoblins, the goblins, and the pet spider. Battered once again, they head back to their hiding place, hoping that the creatures who walked by their room the night before remain as unobservant as they have been….

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Leave No Stone Unturned

Winterhaven, Day 5 continued

With his sword at the throat of Torinn, the skeletal knight demanded to know why the party was there. In turn, he asked each person about their motives, their abilities, or their backgrounds. Each person answered to the best of their ability: Torinn explained their presence and his worthiness as a paladin of the Raven Queen; Remmeke the Learned filled in the knight on the history of the area since his demise and the new dangers brought about by the re-opening of the rift; Varrin the Wise proved that he was a priest of Pelor by reciting the doctrine of his church; and poor Parin started to describe his ability to slay undead, but Remmeke reminded him that their questioner was also undead, and then Parin stumbled for the right words. Torinn stepped in and talked of the rogues abilities, and Parin provided a demonstration of his sneakiness by vanishing from sight (aka bluff and stealth).

Satisfied, the knight revealed himself to be Sir Keegan and explained his predicament. Having died with enormous guilt on his souls, he rose again from his death and found himself bound to his own crypt. He can feel the seals on the rift weakening, but is powerless on his own to stop it. The party says that their mission is to stop the one opening the rift, but they would be glad of any help that the knight could give them. The knight then offered his sword, Aecris, to Torinn, and wished the party good luck in their quest.

 

Heading back to the entry room, the party went through a set of doors and down a short stairwell. From ahead, they heard goblins arguing, so they chose to enter a hole in the hallway wall that went into a natural cavern. In the cavern, they were set upon by large rats and a strange yellow-brown ooze that split apart when it was near death. The party was victorious, and in the aftermath, Remmeke found a concealed door that led to what looked like a panic room, stocked with a musty bedroll, some rations, and a couple of sunrods. They also found a pair of bronze double doors, greened with age, with "Do Not Enter. No Really." written on them. For the moment, they decided to heed the warning.

Further into the caverns, the group found strange, small tunnels burrowed through the rock. They found the creators of the tunnels when small insect-like reptiles came rushing out of the holes and surrounded the scouting Parin.  The fight against the creatures was quick, but not before the party realized how sharp the claws of their opponents were. 

With only one other option in the caverns, the party decided to open the bronze doors. In the room beyond was a small underground pond with an island in the middle, and on the island gold pieces and other bits of treasure glittered. As the group neared the water, a bubble of foul-smelling gas erupted from the pond's surface, causing Torinn to reel with disgust. Then a blue amoeba-like creature burst from the water and attacked. In the fight that followed, the party survived, mainly by using range to keep out of reach of the creature and blast it from the entryway. (We also finally looked at swimming rules, since Parin took a tumble into the pond.) In the loot, the group found three pieces of parchment. One was a map of the surrounding countryside, with Winterhaven, the burial site, the kobold cave, and the Keep clearly marked.

The second piece had a message saying:

"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 third piece had another message written in the same hand:

"Greetings, Kalarel,
I have recently learned of your actiity in the area and 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 Thunderspire in need of slave stock. If you are interested, send an envoy back to me. My messengers will show the way.
Chief Krand of the Bloodreavers"

 

After the fight, the group locked themselves in the panic room and took a well-deserved rest.

Winterhaven, day 6 (campaign day 11)

The party emerged from the panic room and went into the room where they had earlier heard the goblins arguing. Apparently, the argument was a longstanding one, because they seemed to still be at it. Their room looked like an excavation site, with small ten foot high pillars of the original floor scattered about the room, connected by small planks. The majority of the room was a dirt hole, with one ramp leading into the room. The party had the element of surprise, but in a lengthy discussion of tactics, lost it. However, the combat was relatively easy, with the only difficult part coming when Torinn and Varrin attempted to run across one of the planks and wound up falling into the hole. In the rubble afterwards, the party found a dirt-encrusted holy symbol of Bahamut.

Onward, and the party headed to the last exit from the dungeon's entry room. In this room, they heard voices behind a door, but decided to go through another door, a decision that would come back to haunt them in the next battle. In the next room, they found two goblins gambling and a large bell on the table between them. Remmeke used his mage hand to steal the bell, and the party attacked. One goblin ran for help through a curtain and before long, the party was swarmed by goblins led by a fat goblin. Just when the fight seemed to be under control, the running goblin returned with help from the room the party had left behind. A well placed Sleep spell from Remmeke kept the battle under control, but many a party member was bloodied or knocked down before the party finally won. 

After this battle, the party headed back to their panic room, and in the night, they could hear deep, guttural voices talking outside their door. (The party gained enough xp to put them at third level at the end of the session.)

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Into the Keep

Winterhaven, Day 4, continued

As they enter the town, Samuel-one of the gate guards-pulls Remmeke aside and tells him that Bart-the guard Remmeke had earlier spoken with-was talking about how the party had been asking about people leaving. Samuel tells Remmeke that he did see Ninaran the hunter leaving right as they were closing the gates a couple of days before. 

The party heads to Lord Padraig and gets paid for their slaying of the kobolds, with Parin bringing a bundle of kobold ears as proof. They also tell Padraig about the note they found in Irontooth's stash, but Padraig refused to believe that such an evil cult could be operating in his town. He does, however, suggest that they talk to Valthrun the Prescient about the rift mentioned in the note.

At Valthrun's tower, Valthrun slips from his tower to go to the inn with the party and discuss the rift. He tells them that the rift is to the Shadowfell, another realm of shadows and death, and specifically to a site consecrated by Orcus that exists in the Shadowfell. The ruined keep north of town was built by the Nerath Empire as a way to seal the rift and keep an eye on it. When the Nerath Empire left the Nentir Vale, the keep was left on its own for some 20 years. About 80 years ago, the captain of the keep, a knight named Sir Keegan, went on a murderous rampage, killing his wife, children, advisors, and a number of soldiers before he was penned in the crypts and killed. (Rumor is that his ghost is occasionally seen walking the ruined ramparts.)  Valthrun is much more worried by the news of a cultist of Orcus trying to open the rift, and he leaves at once to pressure Padraig for the money necessary to pay the adventurers to look more deeply into the matter. (Varrin argues that he needs no such payment, but the other group members eagerly assent that they need money to help.) A short discussion later, and Valthrun returns to tell the group that Padraig has offered 250 gp to the group if they find proof of such a cultists's operations, and they kill him. He also tells them that the flower seller in the market is sometimes seen going to the keep, while most of the townspeople stay away.

Remmeke has a brief conversation with Ninaran in the inn. She reacts with surprise to Remmeke's return, saying that she is "surprised they survived." When pressed for more knowledge about death cults in the area, she claims ignorance, and Remmeke finds no semblance of lying in her speech.

Winterhaven, Day 5

The party talks to the elven flower vendor, and she confirms that she goes to the keep sometimes in the morning…always in the morning because the goblins are less active then. She confirms that she has indeed seen goblins on the keep's hill, but she has never seen the ghost of Sir Keegan. She also knows that Ninaran sometimes heads up the path towards the keep, but she's probably just going hunting.

The party then heads up the path themselves. At the keep, they find that wildflowers do indeed flourish in the area outside the keep, but within the keep, vegetation is noticeably absent; only a few struggling vines penetrate its perimeter. A path has been cleared through the debris to a stairwell entering the keep's lower level. The group heads down the stairs and enters a large pillared room. Remmeke quickly notices a carefully concealed pit trap in the middle of the room, and when Torrin removes its cloth covering, they find a swarm of rats in the 10' hole. A well placed scorcing burst from the mage sends the rats scurrying, but they quickly regroup and start swarming up the sides. As Torrin madly tries to slice the rat horde with his sword, the other party members are ambushed by crossbow wielding and javelin throwing goblins. In a long battle, involving a one-on-one fight between Varrin and a goblin in a locked room, a swarm that just won't seem to die, the party finally is victorious. They finally pin the last goblin under a bed, and while the goblin fires bolts repeatedly into the legs of Torrin and then seemingly disappears, Remmeke scorches the beds into pyres and the goblin is slowly cooked by his own bed.

A short rest later, and the party heads through a pair of doors and down a stairwell into a cold, rotten-smelling crypt. In the next few rooms, they trigger a strange trap that seems to sap their life and send them running in fear and a number of zombies. The zombies are easily dispatched. In one corner of the crypts, they find another staircase down, but Torrin convinces them that they should more fully explore the upper areas before going lower. In another corner of the crypts, Remmeke finds a secret door that leads to a seemingly empty room. Taking a leap of faith, Torrin and Varrin step through a shimmery wall at one end of the room and find themselves in a secret armory, with more zombies. Again, quickly dispatched, the group finds a strange riddle on the wall, and when they give its answer, a suit of rusted armor regains its former lustre, and Torrin claims it as his own.

Heading deeper into the crypts, the party finds a long room lit by starlight at one end and rimmed with sarcophagi. Torrin rips open the lid of one of the sarcophagi, but finds that there is no empty space behind the lid, only solid granite. However, when the party starts to pass through the room, the sarcophagi burts open and armed skeletons pour out. The party valiantly strikes down the undead, but the sarcophagi keep spewing forth more skeletons, and finally Varrin notices that in the far end of the hall are two altars to Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, with strange writing on them. Torrin reads the Draconic script  and finds that the words implore him to pay homage to the great dragon. He does so, and the skeletons turn from the battle and return to their coffins. In a secret compartment in the altar, the party finds four small silver and platinum dragon statues. Parin fashions one into a necklace and wears it. The rest are stored in the party stash. 

In the room at the end of the hall, the group finds a single sarcophagi. When Torrin attempts to open it, the lid shatters into dust, and an armored skeleton leaps out, pointing his sword at Torrin's throat and demanding that "The rift must not be opened. State your business now, or die!"

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Kobold Hunting
Irontooth's Only a Goblin?

Winterhaven, Day 3

Our adventurers set out from Winterhaven to find the kobold lair. Shortly after leaving the town, however, they were once again set upon by kobold ambushers. As they attacked, they yelled out "This is for Isnaak, Garzak, Zzigniz and the others!" During the fight, which went hard against the group, the kobolds cheered each other on, reminding each other that death here was preferable to death at the hands of Irontooth. The battle went against the group for most of the fight, but they were finally able to pull out a victory in the end (but not without blowing most of their dailies).

They opted to return to Winterhaven and rest for another day rather than chance facing another ambush. Upon their arrival in town, the townspeople were rather shocked to see such brave, well-equipped adventurers come back into town, bloody and dented, less than an hour after their departure. Weathering the sidelong glances and behind-the-hand smirks, the adventurers rested up. Remmeke asked around town about anyone seen leaving the town before or at dawn, but the guards said they hadn't seen anyone. 

Winterhaven, Day 4

 Rested again, the party headed out towards what they hoped was the kobold lair. Around noon, they finally heard the rushing water of a waterfall and some stealthy reconaissance by Parin revealed the entrance to the lair behind a waterfall and guarded by about 10 kobolds. Hoping for the element of surprise to be on their side for a change, the group skirted to the edge of the cliffs and tried to sneak towards the kobolds. Covered by the sound of the rushing water, their approach was unheard, but Varrin's movement through the underbrush resembled an elephant charge, and one of the kobolds saw their approach. He wasn't able to sound the alarm though before the group was upon him. In the next few rounds, the party easily dispatched the guards, renewing their confidence in their ability to kill kobolds.

Through the waterfall, the group found a cave and more kobolds. Over three rounds, the party whittled away the kobolds, and then Irontooth, a dual-battle-axe-wielding goblin and his lieutenants entered the fray. Over a few more tense rounds, with Parin playing jack-in-the-box, popping up from healing only to be beaten down again by Irontooth, the party fought. They finally prevailed, with Parin throwing shuriken at the slowed, enraged goblin.

In his stash, they found a mound of gold and a suit of dwarven chainmail. They also found a locked scroll case, which Parin picked. Inside there was a note from someone named Kalarel written to Irontooth:

"My spy in Winterhaven suggests we keep an eye out for visitors to the area. It probably does not matter; in just a few more days, I'll completely open the rift. Then Winterhaven's people will serve as food for all those Lord Orcus sends to do my bidding."

To which Remmeke replied, "I think we should leave Winterhaven."

(The party heads back to town.) 

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To Winterhaven
Session 2

Winterhaven, Day 1 

The second session found the characters staring down the kobolds from the first session. The battle on the road went quickly, although the characters were surprised to learn that these kobolds threw fire instead of glue and were much harder to pin down, especially the ones with the dragonscale shields.

In town, the characters headed for the nearest inn (Wrafton's). There they met Salvana Wrafton, the inn proprietor, and a few of the locals, including Eilian the Old, a taciturn huntress names Ninaran, and eventually even Lord Padraig, the lord of Winterhaven. The group asked questions about hints of a death cult, and only Ninaran proved helpful, telling the group that she had "seen some men in black robes going up behind a waterfall with some kobolds."

They also spread the word about the kobold attacks. This got them in conversation with Lord Padraig who said that he had been worried about the kobolds for a while, but  the townsfolk didn't see it as a major concern. However, he would gladly pay the group 100gps if they were willing to track down the kobolds' lair and take care of the problem. The party agreed.

On the front of finding Douve Staul, the party also ran into a number of roadblocks, with many people seeming to have never heard of him. The innkeeper, Salvana, did vaguely recall him, but she said he went out one day and never returned. Eilian proved more helpful, recalling that Staul had been looking for a burial site that he thought contained a dragon. Eilian gave the party the same directions to the burial site that he had given Staul. 

In a brief walk around town, the characters also noted the major locations of the town: market area, stables, smithy (where the paladin ordered a bastard sword to be made in a week), a tower belonging to a sage named Valthrun, Bairwin's Grand Shoppe, the warrior guild, the temple to Avandra, and Lord Padraig's area. Unfortunately, most of the shops were closed. 

Winterhaven, Day 2 

After a good night's rest, the group headed for the burial site, figuring that Staul would be the easiest quest to finish. There they met a group of diggers led by a gnome named Agrid. While poking around the site, the party relaized that Agrid and co. may not be entirely helpful, and their suspicions were fully realized when a halfling leapt from hiding and pelted the paladin with bullets.  In the melee that followed, the cleric spent a good bit of time in a pit, Agrid lead the rogue on a merry chase around the dig site, the wizard was dogged by the halfling who seemed to avoid most of his spells while maintaining a constant barrage of sling bullets, and the paladin dealt with a guard drake and the four human diggers. In the end, though, the party was victorious, if rather wounded. They found Douven Staul stuffed in a trunk with the digging supplies, and he was quite glad for the rescue, telling the players that he believed this was the site of a dragon burial, but all he had found were bones, and no treasure. He gave the party his wife's locket as payment for his rescue. 

The gnome Agrid was also quite forthcoming with information, giving the group a mirror that he had unearthed and telling them that a dark robed man going by "K" had hired him in Fallcrest to come to the dig site and look for the mirror. The party stffed the guard drake in the trunk and marched the gnome back to Winterhaven where he was promptly imprisoned for kidnapping and theft.  

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In Medias Res

The first session was played a couple of weeks ago, right after the rule books came out.

The adventure began with the players headed to the town of Winterhaven—either because they were sent by the emissaries of the Raven Queen to find Douven Staul or because Marla of the Church of Pelor sent them to investigate rumors of a death cult operating in the area, depending on the character.

 The party consists of four male characters: a dragonborn paladin of the Raven Queen named Torinn, an Eladrin rogue named Parin, an Eladrin wizard named Remmeke the Learned, and a dwarf cleric named Varrin the Wise.

 The party was walking along the road to Winterhaven when 4 kobolds came charging out of the underbrush. In the brief moment before battle was met, the characters remembered their first encounter with kobolds, only a couple of weeks prior:

FLASHBACK 

Descending into the dungeons of a long-forgotten Nerathian keep, the party (brought together by familial ties, religion, and a quest from Fallcrest religious authorities to bring back a dragon hide stolen from a caravan which was sent to Fallcrest by Douven Staul to honor some agreement between Pelor and the Raven Queen) entered a dark cavern dominated by a pit filled with a greenish ooze. Before they could really get their bearings, they were set upon by kobolds, which were quickly dispatched. Further investigation of the dungeon found more kobolds and more ooze. Some of the more interesting rooms included a crypt with trapped suits of armor that fired poisoned darts; a strange gaming hall where kobolds played a game of Skull-Skull, attempting to knock skulls off tombs and stick them to a giant pendulum-like stone covered in a sticky goo; and a trapped room where the characters almost lost their first member to a darting drake, a kobold wyrmpriest, and a rolling boulder trap. However, their greatest danger came in the final room, where they faced Szartharrax, a young, but no less dangerous, white dragon. With the defender and the striker down, the cleric managed to deal the final blow to the dragon with his massive warhammer. The characters recovered the hide, some magic armor, and some coin…

FLASHBACK OVER

Back on the road, the characters turned their concentration away from their first adventure, and back to the kobolds at hand, hoping that there wasn't another dragon at the end of the line… 

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