A Kind of Homecoming

Desecration of the Shrine of Kelemvor Part 3

With a shriek of rage, the bat-winged woman encased in archaic armor, lept back, her hooked talons crunching in the muddy gravel on the floor of the ancient cistern. The party spread out and approached her carefully, weapons at the ready.

Undead demon woman 1500xp
3 Undead Scarab Swarms 500xp
1 Rift Hazard 250xp
Total XP 2250xp

Rassimohn busied himself with patching his gravely injured friends, their wounds putting his field medic training to the test. Sharat lay pale and unmoving, raw, open wounds covering his body where the vicious scarab beatles had burrowed into him. His breath was ragged and Rassimohn knew from experience that his friend had passed closed to death’s door, though Oghma would not be welcoming his priest into the afterlife this night. His eyes looked over to Elestrynna, leaning painfully against one of the massive columns that supported the low, vaulted ceiling while Jai checked her bandages one last time. The eladrin caught his glance and nodded sharply – she also would survive her wounds. They were not as serious as Sharat’s and her fey kind healed quickly.

The party (those that could still move) explored their surroundings following the hard won fight. The body of the bat-winged zombie woman had decomposed rapidly into a pile of rusting armor and quivvering flesh and dozens of broken emerald bodies of the wicked scarab beetles lay scattered around the muddy floor. In the corner, a small squatters camp lay on a dry spot. Amongst the dirty blankets and rotting food were two incredibly ornate books, each with dwarfish character deeply etched into their leather-bound covers and copper & silver chasings. Inside, the pages listed hundreds of dwarfish names, each crossed off.

“They’re books of the dead, I think.” said Theros, as he stepped forward. “Ledgers recording the names of their ancestors.”

“Why have the names been crossed off?” asked Jai, as he flipped the pages. Near the end of the book, the lines were marked with great force with a broken quill. Ink blots marred the beautifully illumniated pages and the last pages were torn violently from the book. Inside the back cover, scrawled in bold, broken letters was written:

ALL GONE.  WHAT HAVE WE DONE?!

Meanwhile, Elestrynna had stood and was peering carefully at the massive stone blocks that made up the walls of the ancient cistern. Sharat, finally waking, coughed painfully and nodded his thanks to Rassimohn as he propped him up against a pillar. “What do you see, Elestrynna?”, he croaked.

“Words. Carved into the blocks – it looks like they were scavanged from some other structure. They’re written in Old Nar.” The eladrin wizardess moved quickly about the room, finding numerous stones with their writings covered in thick mats of moss and algae. “Correlan’s bow – look at this: ‘Qu’antocar’. These writing mentions Qu’antocar! The place where Dagvor the Lost built his observatory! I’ve been searching for it for years! I must know what these writings say!”

While Elestrynna scanned the walls, the others gathered up Sharat and a collection of dwarven treasures scattered amongst the detritus in the corner. Gold and precious jewels glinted off chalices, boxes, and jewlery of dwarf-make and a beautiful suit of dwarfen scale mail and armored boots.

2000 gp in dwarven objects d’art
Coruscating Scale Mail +2 (AV2)
Dwarven Greaves (PHB)
Rope of Slave Fighting (AV)

With goods in tow, the party climbed carefully out of the cistern, alive and very grateful that they were. Elestrynna came last, swearing that she would be back as soon as possible to continue her translation of the inscriptions.

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Desecration of the Shrine of Kelemvor Part 2

The party pushed on further into the catacombs beneath Fallcrest. Theros led the way, slipping through the shattered wall, carefully stepping over fallen blocks of stone and the shattered bones of the dead. Beyond was an ancient passageway, the walls lined with niche tombs filled with dusty bones hanging thick with cobwebs and worse. The pulsating emerald glow illuminated the long hallway with a sickly light, revealing a trio of humanoid figures. As Theros slipped into the shadows, marking the forms that stood at the end of the hallway, the rest of the party stepped through the rift. Sharat, priest of Oghma, shouldered his way to the front with a lantern held high over his head, throwing its pale yellow light on the dusty walls.

“Look out”, growled Jai, noticing the figures at the end of the hall for the first time. He raised his shield as the two skeletal archers nocked arrows to their bows…

1 Bleak Necromancer 200xp
1 Deathdog 500xp
2 Skeletal Archers 400xp total
2 Specters 400xp total
Total XP 1500xp

With the last of the undead crushed and shattered by their weapons, the party pushed on into the ancient Narfellian catacombs. Around the bend in the hallway was a fissure in the floor where it had crumbled away into a room beneath. Up from the crack came the pulsating, greenish light and the sickly, queasy feeling that accompanied it. Theros crept forward to the edge of the rift and saw a large, low room beneath. With a quick nod, he dropped down into a huge, low space with a forest of thick, squat pillars supporting a low, vaulted ceiling. A skim of water and muck covered the floor and the walls were perforated with small openings with water trickling out of them. At the far end of the room, some 100 feet away, was a twisting, writhing apparition of emerald light and swirling fog about 20 feet long and reaching from the floor to low ceiling. In front of the fog crouched a woman, but not an ordinary woman – large, boney bat wings spread from her back and scales covered her lower arms and legs. A set of small horns grew from her forehead and ornate armor of copper and bronze covered her torso. She crouched on the floor over a dismembered corpse, and tore from it a limb before peeling off a strip of flesh with sharp fangs, gulping it down as the dark blood ran down her chin and chest.

Theros grimaced and motioned for the others to follow him. One by one they dropped through the broken gap in the ceiling and spread out across the room.

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Desecration of the Shrine of Kelemvor
Part 1: End of the Party

Hazan Razorscale??! The same dragonborn in commanded of the relief force from Ironspur that left the Monastery of St. Wynfrith to burn? A ghost, a very bad ghost, from the past had appeared again. The party sat in stunned silence as Viscount Istvan and his entourage said their peace and left.

The celebration banquet slowly fizzled to an end. Lord Protector Markelhay quietly exited the room without so much as a word, drunken revellers sought happier places to carouse, and those that were more sober drifted away and pondered the implications of the night’s events. Always very distant, the hand of the king in Helgabal now seemed very close indeed.

Part 2: Karnak’s News

The party soon left the evening’s revellry, each deep in their own thoughts, and made their way back to their rooms at the Fallcrest Inn. On the way, Karnak made an unexpected detour to the House of the Sun, the former temple of Torm and Ilmater that had been abandoned shortly after the orcish invasions nearly a century ago. There, Karnak revealed that he had decided to end his adventuring days and stay in Fallcrest to establish a new temple of Kelemvor in the old structure. A financial partnership between he and Lord Protector Markelhay was making it possible and the obvious trouble Fallcrest was having with the undead clearly indicated the need for Kelemvor’s attentions. In addition, Sharat had agreed to tend to a shrine to Oghma that would be located in the same building, bringing the presence of the god of knowledge to Fallcrest for the first time. The other party members, though shocked by the news, congratulated the two and the rest of the evening was spent exploring the abandoned temple and its grounds. Karnak offered up the empty dormatories of the old temple as a new home for the party, allowing them to move out of the nearly permanent home at the Fallcrest Inn, which was cause for more celebration!

The next day, after the hangovers wore off, the party set about cleaning up the long abandoned dormatories next door to the temple and a few days later, moved in. Repair work on the temple began right away, as a pack of masons, carpenters, metalsmiths, and laborers arrived to begin the remodel of the neglected temple.

Part 3: The Dragoons Move In

Meanwhile, the presence of Viscount Istvan’s Royal Dragoons was being felt around the town. While Karnak and Sharat busied themselves getting the repairs to the temple started, the rest of the party spent their time about town, watching the town watchmen steadily being replaced by soldiers in the blue and white tabards of King Frostmantle. Royal troops appeared at the town gates, on street corners, and walking beat in Low Town. Theros went to observe the encampment of the Royal Guard battalion and saw them digging in deep, building earthworks and cutting trees for log structures, turning the field that was home to the Swiftwater halflings only a few days ago into a muddy military camp. Clearly the Dragoons were settling in for a long stay in Fallcrest. When he met a few of the halflings, including Thannigan Swiftwater, they said that most of the Swiftwater families were heading south, leaving Fallcrest for more pleasent places down river.

A few members of the party attempted to contact Lord Protector Markelhay as well, hoping for an audience or at least some information on what was transpiring. But despite their best efforts, Markelhay was unavailable, busy with the arrival of Viscount Istvan and his troops.

Part 4: Karnak Heads Out

Map of the Western DunwoodAfter about a week of being busy around town, the party had finished moving from the Fallcrest Inn and into their new rooms in the temple dormatory. One evening over tankards of ale, Karnak informed the party of his need to take the wagon and make a trip to Tellerth, the largest town on the western verge of the Dunwood. There was an ironworker there that he needed to commision some work from for the new temple and he expected to be gone for at least a week, perhaps two, while Sharat continued to organize and run the temple remodelling work. The next morning, goodbyes were said and Karnak rode out of town under the watchful gaze of the Royal Dragoon guards stationed at the city’s River Gate.

Part 5: The Temple is Overrun!

In the wee hours of the morning on the third night after Karnak departed for Tellerth, a frantic knock came on the door of the temple dormatory. Rassimohn was the first to respond—his lifetime as a soldier, vagabond, criminal, and cutthroat making him a light sleeper. At the door was a townswoman, draped in a heavy shawl against the night chill and her face a mask of worry. “My husband Andrei, sir, my husband is a worker at the temple.”, and at this she pointed at the temple that stood dark and quiet in the moonlight just a short ways down the road, “He’s a mason, sir, and he hasn’t come home tonight. I was worried, so I came from Low Town to find him and when I came to the temple… It. It’s wrong, sir. I’m worried. Something is wrong with the temple. Can you help?” With these words, tears ran down the woman’s face.

Chillborn Zombie

By this time, the others had arrived at the door and heard the woman’s story. With curt nods, they went to gather their gear while Sharat calmed the worried woman. When they were ready, they left the woman safe at the dormatory building and went to investigate the temple. The streets were quiet and things seemed in order until they came to the massive ironbound oaken doors of the temple. The queer, detatched sensation emanating from within clearly indicated something was wrong. The heavy hoar-frost and frigid cold coming off the doors was all it took for the party to recognize the presence of the Shadowfell. Something was indeed amiss in the Temple of the Sun.

Bursting through the doors, the party found the sanctuary bathed in pools of moonlight. There, bathed in the light and surrounded by glittering clouds of ice and frost, shuffled two frozen, walking corpses, entrails and flesh hanging from their bones. The undead! Defiling the new temple of Kelemvor?! The party rushed to the attack!

1 Osteopede 700xp
2 Chillborn Zombies 500xp total
3 Devourer Initiates 600xp total
Total XP 1800xp

As the chittering, howling, screeching osteopede finally fell dead in a heap of bone, ichor, and blood, the party approached the wide steps leading down to the crypts beneath the temple. A pulsating, thrumming aura of unease emanated up from below. Elestrynna pursed her lips and spoke,

“I believe it’s a portal – likely one that leads to the Shadowfell – but it is unstable. It’s, how do I put it? Decaying. If I’m correct, it’s collapsing.”

Wiping the ichor from their weapons, the party descended the steps and entered the crypts below the temple. The wrought iron gates that once sealed the tombs were battered open, but the chain and lock lay intact on the ground, as if they had been taken off before the gates were damaged. Beyond the gates, a crumbled wall in the crypt exposed a tunnel leading into the network of catacombs beneath the city. A sickly emerald green glow emanated from the opening, pulsating in sync with the waves of unease that surrounded everything. As the party advanced, they noticed a crowbar lying partially buried in the rubble of the collapse, looking as though it had been used to break down the wall and create the opening. Did somebody open this passageway intentionally?

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Prequel - The Monastery of St. Wynfrith Part 2

There were no survivors that day, or at least that was how it seemed at first.

As the last of the defenders of the Monastery of St. Wynfrith fell under a burning assault of elemental fire and earth, the slashing knives of goblin soldiers, or the brutal slam of a huge hill giant, Elbemon Lafeyahr, knowing that the inevitable had come, threw caution to the wind and sallied forth from the besieged Scriptorium. Leading a small group of the last surviving defenders, they desperately hacked their way up to the monastery cloisters in a hopeless attempt to save his son and any others that may yet live. But one after another fell as they fought their way up the hill until only Elbemon remained standing. Blood streaming from a dozen wounds, he rushed into the shattered courtyard littered with the bodies of goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, and arcane elemental creatures of fire, ice, earth, and chaos. They were not the only that had fallen, though. Among them lay the broken and battered bodies of the defenders – and among them was his son. But all was not still – giants, elementals, goblins, and hobgoblins prowling the courtyard, picking over the still warm bodies turned and saw him. Knowing now that he was the last, Elbemon, last of the Crimson Feyahrs, gripped his notched sword one final time and prepared to make an end of it. But, like so much else this day, it was not to be. Knives of ice and stone pierced his body from behind, knocking him to the flagstones with their force. As he fell, a grey cloaked figure, lean and shapely, her hands still outstretched in an arcane gesture was revealed, hovering on a whirlwind of wind and snow. Elbemon lay bleeding, breathing his last in a spreading pool of blood as a massive hill giant lurched across the courtyard to him, raised its spiked club, and brought it smashing down. It was the final blow of a final battle.

“The Scriptorium is ours. Get what we have come for and let us be gone before the soldiers arrive. This has taken far too long already.”

With that, the cloaked figure flew off and the other marauders, elemental, giant, and goblinoid made their way out of the cloisters, leaving it to the still, icy clutches of the northern winter.

Hours pass. A phalanx of riders with the twin falcons of King Frostmantle blazoned on their heavy woolen cloaks appear from the freezing fog that blankets the hills and gallop up the hillside to the burning buildings of the monastery. The riders lower their lances and chase off the few straggling goblins still looting the homes and storehouses, sending them running back into the mountains. At the head of the riders is a dragonborn encased in steel and mounted upon a massive destrier. He leads a few riders through the shattered gates of the cloisters and surveys the wreckage of battle within. “See if any are still alive”, he snarls. The soldiers spread out, cautiously stepping around the massive corpse of an ogre in a puddle of rapidly freezing blood, and begin to go from body to body. “Sir! Lieutenant Razorscale! This one…an eladrin? She’s still alive!” Soon, a handful more are found with the breath of life still in their bodies. With a surprised snarl, the dragonkin barks, “Then take those that still live and let us be gone from this place. Set torch to what remains.” He turns, but pauses for a moment as his foot knocks into a body lying face down in a pool of frozen blood, its back impaled by fragments of rock and ice. He reaches down and lifts the head to see the face. A toothy half smile splits his face and he lets the head fall back to the ground and walks away.

Rassimohn, Sharat, Elestrynna, Trek, Jai, and Theros: The only of the 60 defenders of the Monastery of St. Wynfrith that survived the three day siege. They were taken back to Ironspur and nursed back to health only to be victims of trumped up charges leveled against them. Not two weeks after returning, all six were convicted by a military tribunal of luring the marauding giants down from the Galena Mountains and inciting an attack on the Monastery. The remaining Crimson Feyahrs and their friends were found guilty of dereliction of duty, wanton destruction of royal and sacred property, and breach of contract and locked in the dungeons of Ironspur for six months. There they remained, forgotten by all except a dwarven paladin of Kelemvor.

Little did the six survivors know what their future held in store for them…

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Prequel - The Monastery of St. Wynfrith

The Galena MountainsThe year is 1474, five years before the current events in Fallcrest. It is deep winter and the sun rarely shows its face in the far north. Dark snow clouds race across the sky and freezing fog clings to the dark, black forests that drape the ice-rimed peaks of the Galena Mountains. The Crimson Feyahrs, often called just “the Reds” for the red shields they bear, are assigned to the garrison in Ironspur, a dwarven mining community tucked into the northern reaches of the Galenas. They are under the command of the garrison commander Colonel Tomas Balinth, a fat, lazy, incompetent slob from a prominent merchant family in Helgabal. The Reds have been tasked with patrolling the Galenas south of Ironspur, watching for goblins, giantkin, and worse things that often came down in search of easy prey among the mining camps and small villages scattered in the foothills.

While on a routine patrol in the foothills of the Galena Mountains about three days ride from Ironspur, company scouts pick up the trail of a marauding band of goblins and giantkin. Elbemon Lafeyahr, commander of the Feyahrs reacts quickly and dispatched riders to warn the nearby monks at the Monastery of St. Wynfrith and to the garrison at Ironspur, calling for aid.Monastery of St. Wynfrith The company’s baggage train head for the Monastery while the Reds ride off in pursuit of the raiders. For two days, the Reds pursue the goblin band deeper into the mountains before catching up with them in a blind valley near the Vaasan border. There, Captain Lafeyahr lays plans to draw the marauders eastward, out of the deep valleys to where the Reds can link up with the Ironspur garrison to crush the goblinoids. Things, however, go horribly wrong. The goblins and giants have laid a bloody trap for the mercenaries and hours before the Feyahrs launch their attack, giants, ogres, and hobgoblins rush into the mercenaries’ camp and slaughter dozens. Those that survive the ambush find themselves fighting a terrible, running engagement that lasts two frozen, nightmarish days and nights, fighting desperate rear-guard actions while retreating down from the mountains to St. Wynfrith’s.

When the harried mercenaries arrive, they are horrified to learn that their baggage train also fell victim to an ambush to days ago, just a few miles from the monastery’s walls. There are almost no survivors. But the final straw does not come until Captain Elbemon and the last of his men straggle into the monastery, hoping to hold out until the Damaran regulars arrive from Ironspur. But it is not to be. The exhausted rider arrived back from Ironspur just hours before and reports that Colonel Balinth has refused to move his garrison in winter. “Too cold”, he said. “Too far”, he said. “Too much trouble.” There are no longer any doubts or illusions in the minds of those that remain. Two separate ambushes have practically wiped out the Crimson Feyahrs and now they have been abandoned by their employers, left to face certain death on a frozen, forgotten battlefield.

The gates close moments before the goblins, giants, and other strange, arcane creatures arrive to invest the monastery and lay siege to it. Elbemon spares one final messenger, sent through the enemy lines carrying a last, hopeless plea for aid from Ironspur before the goblins and giants launch their attacks. For four days the Reds, the Brothers of the Crimson Poppy, and a few, brave villagers trapped in the monastery repell attack after attack in the driving snow and freezing fog. But on the fourth day, fiery magic rains down and the walls of the monastery are breached. Unless, against all odds, the garrison at Ironspur arrives, a last stand by the few surviving defenders is all that remains before the end…

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Help Arrives from Helgabal

With the dramatic events of the past weeks finally seemed to come to an end, the party seeks some much needed rest. The town of Fallcrest itself seems to exhale and lapses into a kind of torpor. Sickened townfolk slowly recover their strength after the diseased rain, and the Porters and Swiftwater clan’s ongoing fight comes to a sullen halt, both sides content to lick their wounds and let each other pass peacefully on the street. At least for now. Lord Markelhay is often seen about the town, lending a hand here and offering up alms and comfort to those in need. His reassuring presence around town does much to calm the fears raised by the spirit master, One Eye’s goblin army, and the shocking appearance of the dracolich above the town.

Ten days pass as Fallcrest attempt to right itself. After some days, word comes back from the front that after leaving Fallcrest, the dracolich was spotted above Sevenwinds Pass but never returned. When scouts were sent up to the pass to investigate, a great slaughter was seen. Numerous encampments of goblins, orcs, and hobgoblins were wiped out and hundreds of the goblinoids slaughtered. The survivors appear to have fled back to the north, deeper into the Giantspire Mountains. Miraculously, it would seem, Fallcrest appears to be out of danger from the armies being raised by the illusive Garuk One-Eye.

At last, there was no longer an excuse for not celebrating. On a moment’s notice, Lord Markelhay declared a day of celebration and threw open his personal cellars to the townspeople. Great casks of ale and beer were hauled down to Low Town and High Town was hung with garlands of spring flowers. Musicians wandered the streets and taverns threw open their doors, letting their patrons spill joyfully out into the streets. After the darkness and gloom of the previous weeks and months, Fallcrest at last seemed safe—though few were willing to think much on the nature of their salvation. Spring had arrived in more ways than the simple changing of the season!

At the castle, Lord Markelhay hosted a feast for the most prominent townsfolk: merchants, priests, landholders, and more, including the adventurers who were responsible for the defeat of the spiritmaster. The celebrations at the castle and across Fallcrest went long into the night.

As the party at the castle was beginning to wind down and many partygoers had slipped into a drunken sleep under the tables, a sweaty and winded officer of the town guard slipped into the hall to speak with Lord Markelhay, who was seated at a table in the front of the room. After some hurried words, Markelhay nodded sharply to the officer and dismissed him. Moments later, the large doors at the far end of the hall slammed open. Through the dark doorway strode a burly, armed and armored dragonborn bearing the royal blue and white colors of King Yarin Frostmantle. Behind him came a handful of armored soldiers in tabards of royal blue and white and carrying the banner of King Frostmantle. Finally, striding casually in from the night came a richly dressed man with a gold and silver chain of office hung around his neck, and the royal seal of Damara on his tabard. He walked across the room and stood before Lord Markelhay’s table.

Markelhay was the first to speak, bowing his head in respect. “Welcome to Fallcrest, Viscount Istvan. My town is glad to have you in it.”

The viscount smiled lazily. “It is King Frostmantle’s town, Markelhay. You rule it only by his pleasure. Your king in Helgabal has heard your request for assistance against the goblins that are agitating against our kingdom, and he has sent me and a batallion of his soliders to help defend these holdings. This is Captain Hazan Razorscale of the Royal Guard, who commands these loyal soldiers. We are in need of shelter and provisions. I shall also need a place to stay and set up my command post. See that it happens, and happens quickly, Lord Markelhay.”

Lord Markelhay smiled and nodded. “Of course, Viscount. We are honored by your presence. You may have rooms in the castle and I will instruct my watchmen to provide for your troops.”

“Good”, said Viscount Istvaan. “In the morning we have much to discuss. Some of my men will be taking over the duties of your watchmen about town, which will allow them to join your armies already in the field. I have also heard of some of the, ah, chaos that has plagued your streets as of late. We will be putting an end to that. Your troubles have now ended, Lord Markelhay. Your king has heard of your need and has provided.”

With an oily smile, Viscount Istvaan turned and strode from the hall, leaving Lord Markelhay and the other partygoers in stunned silence.

Help, it seems, has arrived. But what kind of help is this?

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Denouement

Vigilance

  • after killing the Spiritmaster, they find one particularly compelling item on his person—a crown of cold forged steel, set with a single brilliant cut smokey quartz. no-one needs Elestrynna to tell them that considerable power resides within.
  • Rassimohn finds himself strangely drawn to the cold crown and, with no particular objections from anyone else in the group, claims it for his own.
  • only time will tell the true nature this artifact…

Reunion

  • the ghostly dwarven apparition is still there, hovering and wandering about the battlefield. Karnak tries to communicate with the spirit, but it does not communicate. it does, however, seem able to follow the Paladin when encouraged to do so.
  • upon emerging from the catacombs and the smuggler’s tunnels, the heroes are relieved to see that the town has not been razed by the Dracolich—but where is it?!?
  • with spirit in tow, Karnak and the others make their way to Hightown and to the abandoned temple. sure enough, the crazy dwarf is still there, shaking his fist at the sky and at passersby—until the group approaches and it suddenly goes stock still.
  • with an eerie sense of inevitability, the spirit floats towards the dwarf and the dwarf stumbles towards the spirit. with a wrenching woosh that the heroes can feel deep in their souls, the two merge into one. the dwarf’s eyes briefly lose their crazy unfocused quality, before he collapses to the ground, unconscious but very much alive.

The Fate of the Orcs

  • over the next several days, news trickles in from the mountains where the Nentir Vale’s soldiers are arrayed against the coming orc army. amazingly, a dragon flew over the human army into the mountains, directly in the direction of the orcish horde.
  • fearing that their enemies had just been horribly reinforced, Markelhay’s general sent scouts into the passes to discover the truth of the matter—and fought absolute carnage. Orcish bodies lay strewn about everywhere, horribly torn asunder.

Kedrun Blackforge

  • while Karnak and Sharat were intially caring for the crazy dwarf, a representative of the Dwarven ambassador arrived at the Inn and offered (well, sorta demanded) that the dwarf be given into his care and transported to the Keep.
  • with no particular reason to say no, they gave up the still sleeping dwarf into the custody of the ambassador’s people
  • when they tried to check up on the dwarf at the keep, they were initially given the run-around by the ambassador. fortunately, the Lord’s steward had taken a liking the group and managed to sneak them in to see the dwarf, who was now awake and preparing to travel back to Hammerfast.
  • in a sunny room in the back of the castle, the group finally gets to talk to the previously insane dwarf whom they rescued.
  • introducing himself as Kedrun Blackforge, the dwarf seems genuinely confused as to how exactly he arrived in Fallcrest. they last thing he remembered was working at his smithy in Hammerfast and meeting with one of the Ancestor Priests. (in Hammerfast, reverence for their ancestors is a big part of their cultural and religious heritage)
  • as the group quizzed the dwarf, Karnak and Rassimohn got a sneaking suspicious that the crusty older dwarf was not being completely honest with them. and when Rassimohn let slip about the cold iron crown they took from the Spiritmaster, they spied a sparkle of knowledge hidden in the wizened eyes of the dwarf.
  • but despite their further inquiries, Kedrun was not forthcoming with further information. despite the Paladin and Warlord’s considerable charisma, they felt a bit outmatched in the presence of this canny blacksmith from Hammerfast…
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Final Confrontation

A Dracolich? ! ? !

  • as the group carefully makes their way through the catacomb tunnels they hear a heart-stopping roar up ahead. the tunnel shakes and loose dirt and stone falls from the walls and ceiling as something huge approaches.
  • the heroes are huddled in the mouth of a smaller tunnel that connects with a much larger tunnel leading to the south, at the end of which can be seen the faint glimmer of sunlight. down the tunnel from the north, blocking out the entire tunnel with its size comes an impossible creature, a creature only told about in stories of legend and nightmares of the insane—a draconic form, dripping with torn flesh and reeking of the tomb, a DRACOLICH pulls itself along the narrow confines of the tunnel, barely large enough to allow it to pass.
  • before the heroes can even contemplate a course of action (gods help them, good thing no-one decided to attack the creature), the Dracolich spies them in the shadow and speaks, with a voice of tombstones scraping together, “you’re not part of the bargain little ones. perhaps we’ll meet again and I’ll get to eat your souls”
  • with that, it slithers to the south and with a burst of sunshine, bursts through the vines hanging over the tunnel opening, taking flight over lowtown. it hovers in the air briefly, stretching its wings after the close quarters of the tunnel and flies at speed to north-east.

The Spiritmaster

  • to the north, the group can hear voices. the Spiritmaster and several more servants are bustling about, now that his ritual is complete.
  • without a lot of preamble, the heroes attack! although they’re too late to stop the Dracolich, they’re not too late to make the Spiritmaster pay for what havoc the creature is no doubt wreaking upon Fallcrest.
  • the Spiritmaster immediately summons his spiritual retinue, but this time takes an extra step; commanding them to merge into a horrific construct of souls, a Damned Choir screaming and shrieking with the agony of lost souls.
  • together with two particularly competent looking dwarven bodyguards, the Spiritmaster is a formidable enemy. when the going gets tough, he even coerces some spirits of the catacombs to rise up as Wraiths and attack Theros and Elestrynna who were pelting destruction from safely behind Jai and Karnak’s defensive wall.
  • interestingly, one of the Spiritmaster’s retinue does not join in the fight. a ghostly form hovers nearby to the ritual circle floating aimlessly about, not focussed on anything in particular. in the heat of the battle, it’s tempting to strike down the ghost and move on, but Karnak recognizes the spirit—it looks just like the crazy dwarf they might on the steps of the abandoned temple in Fallcrest.
  • although things are touch and go for a bit, the heroes eventually prevail. the Spiritmaster is last to fall, and as the group surrounds him to deliver the killing blows, he rails against them in frustration. “You ungrateful humans! This is the thanks I get for helping you. I should have let the orcs have you and your filthy city.”
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The Smugglers Den

Settling Accounts with the Tiefling

  • in the narrow confines of the smuggler tunnels, the fight is tough and without quarter. the Hammerfast dwarves are intent to prevent the heroes from advancing. the fighters with shield and hammer, have a nasty habit of shield bashing their opponents into the ground and the crossbowmen are brutal against anyone not in cover.
  • but the heroes are just as determined, gradually pushing the dwarves back.
  • Serim Selduzar enters the fray with his Imp, both of them teleporting and sneaky, with poisoned blade and poisoned tail.
  • Rassimohn thinks that he has the tiefling stuck, after a particularly clever move with his glaive shifts the battle so that Selduzar is suddenly surrounded by Jai and Karnak—but the tiefling vanishes again, teleporting to safety and they can hear running footsteps leading away
  • meanwhile Trek, under the cover of his Gloaming Shroud has snuck into the smugglers store-room. an underground river to the north makes enough noise to help mask his approach, and Trek takes advantage of his stealth to backstab an unsuspecting smuggler.
  • unfortunately, Trek has overestimated his advantage, as the rest of the smugglers converge on his position. which might still have been manageable if Serim Selduzar hadn’t appeared just then.
  • with Trek between him and the ladder of escape, the Tiefling wades into the fight, nimbly coordinating with the other smugglers to pin down the pesky halfing
  • fortunately, the rest of the heroes arrive just in time before Trek is gone for good, and the Selduzar is not able to make good his escape. with no more teleporting tricks up his sleeve, the treacherous tiefling is finally struck down.

Into the Catacombs—AGAIN?

  • after catching their breath, the heroes look for where the Spiritmaster could be. knowing that time is running out… if the Souleater is to be believed, another ritual is under way and they could already be too late
  • on the other side of the underground river, a small path can be seen leading east and north and a ladder disappears up into the darkness
  • at the top of the ladder, a tunnel continues, slowly giving way from dug out stone and dirt to the now familiar ancient stonework of the catacombs. looks like they’ve discovered yet another entrance to the catacombs of Fallcrest
  • it’s pitch dark, and careful to not let their light sources give them away, they carefully make their way foreward, when they begin to hear the echo of chanting up ahead.
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Sandercot's Provisioners

Fighting the Rats where they Hide

  • it’s clear that the River Rats are tangled up with the Spiritmaster somehow, and the Sandercots are tangled up with the River Rats—time to pick up some provisions, and hopefully some information
  • approaching the Sandercots Provisioners, the shop seems shut-up tight; not surprising considering that the town has barely begun to recover from the effects of the diseased rain. Karnak keeps an eye out front, while Rassimohn, Jai and Elestrynna go ‘round back.
  • standing idly near the back-door, a couple roughians stand guard, talking quietly and only vaguely watch the surrounding woods.
  • Rassimohn approaches and the Warlord tries to Diplomatically start a dialogue, however at the first sign that the guards are going to call for help… “THUNDERWAVE”
  • Karnak stands watch out-front, as he hears his allies starting trouble out-back. when noises and flashes of light appear though the windows of the main shop room, Karnak charges and, not too gracefully, dives through a window to find his friends across the room, squared off against River Rat thugs, and several unconscious bodies scattered about. these mooks stand no chance against seasoned adventurers.
  • from a back-room, however, emerges a more serious individual: Marken Sandercot, with several more substantial bodyguards in tow.
  • although Marken is no push-over, he’s still no match for the heroes and as the tide turns against him he does something surprising… calling out for help, he’s answered by the appearance of a impish devil!
  • the Imp flies directly towards the back-room and Jai fails to connect with a thwarting attack to stop it. the Imp flies down a trap-door and, no doubt, warns whoever is below.
  • knowing that he’s beaten, Marken pleads for mercy. until then, the heroes had been attacking with non-lethal intents, not knowing the extent to which the River Rats where in bed with EVIL… at the appearance of the Imp, the group is sorely tempted to issue judgement right then and there, but they refrain and instead tie up Marken and his goons and question about the trap door and what lies below… “SPINED DEVILS and THE TIEFLING!”

Devils in the Basement

  • with the River Rat upstairs dispatched, the heroes head downstairs, knowing that whoever (or whatever) is there knows that they’re coming…
  • but in the storage room below: it’s empty. well, except for a crossbow trap that pops out of a barrel and starts firing. cursing Marken for not mentioning this, Karnak charges the device and pummels it until it stops functioning.
  • there’s no apparent exit from the room. “Marken, what the hell?!?” to which the rogue explains about how to open the secret door. “now he tells us”
  • Jai and Karnak open the secret door and find what they were looking for: the room beyond is heavily populated with more River Rats, several horribly prickly looking Spined Devils, a familiar Tiefling: Serim Selduzar, and lastly a man that Jai recognizes as Kelson, the head of the River Rats
  • Jai stands in the doorway and takes the brunt of the initial assault from the enemy, before Elestrynna fires a FIREBALL into the narrow confines of the room ahead. Ouch, the River Rats drop like burning flies—but the Spined Devils appear to shrug off the bulk of the fire damage.
  • with the bulk of the enemy line in ruins, the heroes advance into the room, still taking shots from the devilish artillery in the backline. also something strange… standing behind the others, Kelson exhibits an uncharacteristic aptitude for necrotic magic, firing paralyzing bolts of energy—ack, could it be the Spiritmaster in disguise!
  • as the tide of battle turns against the villains, Selduzar and the Imp turn invisible. “this was not in the bargain, Kelson, or whoever you are. our arrangement is concluded” to which Kelson replies, “flee if you must, cowardly Tiefling, but leave your develish pets to finish what you can’t - and warn the others at the river”. with that, Kelson’s image shimers and is replaced by a dwarven figure in robes - although a different looking dwarf than the one the heroes faced in the catacombs.
  • the remaining River Rats try to flee, but the Devils and the dwarf remain to fight. as the battle progresses, Elestrynna identifies their foe as a Souleater—a creature similar to the Spiritmaster, and quite likely in service to the latter.
  • although the Souleater is a formidable foe, the heroes came through their fight with the River Rats relatively unscathed and they are still fresh to the fight. as the Souleater faces the inevitable, he collapses and with his dying breaths says “you’re too late, you ungrateful humans. my master’s ritual is no doubt complete.”

Meanwhile Topside

  • meanwhile, Trek has been following his own leads… knowing that the Sandercots are smugglers of questionable goods, he also knows about a shack in the woods north of the Provisioner’s shop and Trek decides to investigate
  • sure enough, he finds the shack, but while he’s staking it out, he hears voices: some of the River Rats are coming along a path from the south. They’re in a hurry and saying something about a Half-Elf and an Eladrin and needing to warn the others—sounds like his friends have started the fun without him.
  • Trek jumps the ruffians and makes short-work of them with his daggers, and before they could flee to the safety of the shack. Skulking up to the shack himself, he spies another River Rat standing guard near a trap-door. Trek successfully dispatches him as well, without alerting anyone.
  • poking his head into the hole, he sees a storehouse of sorts, with piles of crates and barrels, all laid out along the rushing water of an underground river. There are several River Rats there, loitering about.
  • as he’s watching, though, there’s a ruccus from a doorway to the south, yelling and screaming and a commanding voice tells some of the River Rats to come with ‘him’, whoever that is. the remaining River Rats take up defensive positions behind crates, all watching the southern doorway intently.
  • activating his Gloaming Shroud, Trek slinks down the ladder into the room.

The Underground River

  • the rest of our heroes catch their breath and head north out of the basement of the Provisioners building, following a tunnel to the north. along the twists and turns, they can’t see too far ahead… when suddenly crossbow bolts come whistling through the darkness, then a strange thump-thump-thump: a wooden rolling sound.
  • a barrel comes rolling down the tunnel towards them, jostling and sloshing along, and a piece of firey cloth sticking out of a knothole. with a bump and a crash, it hits rock and explodes, sending a firey explosion to fill the tunnel.
  • Jai braves the flames, leaping through to engage the crossbowmen in the shadows—to find the enemy are dwarves, in the livery of Hammerfast and no-doubt in the service of the Spiritmaster.
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