“Do not hinder me, newcomers. I am bound by unbreakable bonds to punish the Oathbreaker. The price that was agreed upon must be paid and none can stand in my way. Begone before I must destroy you.”
- With these words, spoken in a voice that sounds as if a chorus of dwarven voices are speaking at once, the ghostly dwarven warrior with his glittering black hammer attacks. His first action is to to send Kedrun flying across the room, where he slams into the stone wall and collapses, unconcious. The party engages the spirit and a fight ensues.
“The debt must be paid. The bargain was broken and I am bound to exact vengeance and collect the price that was agreed upon.”
- These are the last words of the spirit as the repeated attacks of the party scatter its energies and, finally, destroy it.
- Sharat and the rest of the party check on Kedrun Blackforge, who recovers well enough to stand. The meeting between Hamish and his brother, after over 60 years of separation, is tense. Accusations fly as the party and Hamish demand answers from Kedrun on what has happened in Hammerfast, what the Spirit was talking about, and what he may know of the events of three nights ago that led to the raising of an undead army at the Fiveleague House. Kedrun is reluctant to speak, but Jai’s fist, Hamish’s presence, and Elestrynna’s burning intensity wear away his resolve and he cracks, beginning to speak.
- Meanwhile, Rassimohn is oddly silent and distracted. Beads of sweat form on his brow and he casts strangely murderous glances at Kedrun. In his mind, Vigilence is hammering him with intense emotions. “Slay him!”, it says. “He is a slave to the Evil One! Punish him!”. Rassimohn fights against the strong emotions throbbing in his skull and adds some venomous questions to the bevvy of demands the party makes of Kedrun.
- Kedrun, finally broken as the party hammers with with questions, threats, and warnings, speaks:
“It all started about a century ago, during the Orc Wars. We in Hammerfast knew that the Nentir Vale didn’t stand a chance against Warchief Zoggrim’s horde that was already burning and pillaging the villages closest to the Giantspires. King Gareth in Heliogabalus was still recovering from the uprising in Vaasa and was in no position to send aid to the eastern marches. The Vale and everybody in it was doomed. It was in those dark times that Garuk first came before us. He approached the Council of Elders and we listened as he told us that there was a way for us to call upon the strength of our ancestors, and in our desperation, the Council listened to him. Oh, there were arguments and opposition, but Garuk had won Thane Ragnar’s ear and the Well of Souls was built.”
“What fools we were. Our own father, Hamish, stood against this, but he was shouted down. Fear of the orcs made the Council short-sited, and the consequences of the bargain the Thane struck with Garuk were put off to deal with another day. The Well gave us power. Hamish, you know what happened next. Our ancestors were encouraged to submit and be bound by the well, transforming their aid into pure magical force that the Council could channel. With this newfound power, Hammerfast was able to unite the armies of the Nentir Vale and bring the orc horde to a great battle near where the Fiveleague House is today. We won. The Vale was saved. But at what cost? We wouldn’t fully understand the cost until much, much later. But I see now that that is exactly what Garuk had planned all along, and we were but tools for him and his dark master.”
- Kedrun lapses into silence. Questions fly: “Garuk?! What is the Well of Souls? What bargains? Dark master?” The party must know more, so Kedrun, his eyes misting with tears and his face tortured, takes a shuddering breath and begins to speak again.
“What came next was inevitable. I see that now. Each of us did in our own time, even Thane Ragnar, I think. With Zoggrim and his orcs destroyed, the Vale needed to rebuild, and since Hammerfast had not been sacked by the orcs as much of the rest of the Vale had, we were the natural leaders. We spent the energies of our ancestors in this way, then. Rebuilding and recovering from the orcs. But as time went on, we gained less and less power from the Well and more and more ancestor spirits were needed to feed its dark energies. Where once we asked our ancestors to submit themselves to its bonds, the Council instead began to drive them to do so. As the decades went by, the Council grew dependant on the Well and its power and more and more ancestors were sent into its depths to provide power for the Council to use. To maintain Hammerfast’s position in the Vale, to aid in the rebuilding, to help our people. This is what we told ourselves. It must be done. We have no choice.”
“Eventually, they were gone. All of our ancestors had been made to submit to the Well and our power waned. That was when my apprentice, Alrik Uthorsson, began to divine the true nature of the Well, Garuk, and what our eventual fate would be. Alrik came to me and explained everything, but I would not listen. I was too deluded and stubborn. So he settled on a course of action that he believed was our only hope, and when I opposed him, he struck me down. What did he suspect, you ask? He suspected that Garuk was a servant of the Witch King. Zhengyi. And that the Well was a conduit feeding him power, siphoning off the spiritual energies of our own ancestors to feed the lich himself. Insanity! Madness! How could this be true? But I learned later, after you restored me in Fallcrest and I returned to Hammerfast, that…that…that he was right. Alrik was right. By our fear and arrogance, we, Hammerfast, the Council of Elders, have become unwitting servants of the Witch King Zhengyi.”
- A stunned silence falls upon the room as Kedrun quietly sobs the name of the Witch King, Zhengyi. He that was slain over 120 years ago by good king Gareth Dragonsbane and his band of allies. How could this be true?
- But Kedrun has one more thing to say as the party attempts to process his story: “Garuk has returned. He’s here now, at the Well of Souls itself, to complete the devilish cycle and end Hammerfast and, for all I know, the Nentir Vale itself.”