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.