Keep on the Shadowfell -- Remixed

Wherein We Meet a Blue Slime, Which is Unpleasant, and then Meet Kalarel, Which is Slightly More So

The NVPA took a short rest while Wil donned his new fancy mithril armor. We then discussed our next move, deciding eventually that we should investigate the “Keep Out” room. Even though Keegan’s ghost had informed us that the room beyond held only the Keep’s water supply, Jett had previously detected magic in the area around the door, and we all thought that was worth a closer look.

Upon arriving at the door, Moirae did another Arcana check and determined that the magical aura she detected was coming from behind the door. The prospect of shiny new magic items drove us to go in and explore.

We examined the door closely and observed a fungus we were not familiar with growing on it. The door was unlocked, so Jett and Venjin pulled it open and advanced into the cave-like chamber beyond. The same fungus carpeted the ground in the short entry tunnel, but it turned out to be harmless.

The entryway opened out into a room almost entirely taken up by a large pool of brackish water. Jett casually mentioned that he can breathe underwater, and found himself designated as our diver; we secured a rope around him and, sunrod in hand, he descended into the pool. The rest of the party advanced to a point about 10’ from the water’s edge and readied attacks.

Jett quickly found that the bottom of the pool sloped downward, dropping off into a sort of well. As he examined it, a mass of blue slime rose up from the depths and spewed out some kind of horrible stench-bomb, which bubbled out of the water and filled the room. Most of the group avoided its effects, but Will was disabled by the gas; for the next few rounds, he could only root desperately through his backpack in search of his “Funk-B-Gone” body spray.

The slime came to the surface and we engaged it. Venjin scored his first hit ever with a javelin, for maximum damage. Jett bravely held the slime’s attention, fighting it from beneath the water—the huge creature bashed him unconscious with its pseudopods, but after some quick healing he got up to fight again. Meanwhile, our strikers went to work. Moirae unleashed various blasts and glows and what-not from a distance, while Merric closed in to strike with his dagger, Kidney-Seeker.

To our collective chagrin, it turned out that he had accidentally drawn his other dagger, Nodule-Seeker. This unfailing weapon did its job too well, rupturing a nodule in the slime’s body that sprayed a sheet of acid harmlessly over Merric’s head and directly onto all the rest of us.

At last we managed to kill the slime, which exploded stenchily in its final moments. Then we—well, Jett, really—resumed our search of the pool. Jett found the wellspring on top of which the slime had been resting, and there recovered some humanoid bones, scattered coins, a shield with an axe-design on it, and a sealed document case.

We opened the document case and discovered a letter written in Goblinese. Wil busted out the Comprehend Languages ritual again, and we soon learned that the letter was a set of orders from what we believed to be a high-ranking hobgoblin Bloodreaver. The letter was addressed to the Bloodreaver who had been the late Irontooth’s boss. Our guess was that the bones we found belonged to the letter’s recipient, but we’re still awaiting results from the CSI team.

We split up the coins and Venjin took what turned out to be the enchanted Razor Shield. Then we sat down for a short rest, at which point we realized how badly beaten up we were (except for Wil). Short on healing surges, daily powers, and item powers, we were definitely not going into Winterhaven at peak strength. But being brave, greedy, vainglorious, adventuresome and vengeful (respectively), we were not about to forgo our mission—not when there were enemies to be bested, robbed, humiliated, and made to pay for their crimes (respectively).

Nevertheless, after we had left the keep, passed through the creepy forest, and reached the road, we approached the walls of Winterhaven with great caution. The farmhouses we passed were all empty, as if abandoned. From a distance we could see, in the dim evening light, that the gates to the town stood open. There were bodies in the road.

We moved off the road into the high grass and sent Merric forward to investigate. He returned with terrible / awesome news: Winterhaven was under attack, as we had been told. Bodies lay in the street everywhere, and the Winterhaven regulars were battling a force of undead, lead by some villain in a horned helm, in the middle of town.

After a regrettably protracted discussion about possible ways we might sneak into town and gain surprise, we decided to do a version of our usual approach: Jett and Venjin would charge in and get our enemies’ attention, while the rest of the group would attempt to sneak in behind us and then attack from hiding. This worked perfectly—except for the hiding part. That didn’t go well at all.

The undead’s leader, noting our completely surprise-free approach, turned to regard us. He then regaled us with some fairly standard super-villain smack-talk—Fools!-I’ll-destroy-you-all, you-will-pay-for-your-insolence-with-your-lives, etc., etc.—and with a gesture caused a pair of ghouls and a pair of famine hounds to claw their way out of the ground and attack us. Then, just to be a dick, he turned his back on us and resumed cheering on the rest of his undead legions as they battled Winterhaven’s militia.

The four newly summoned undead came at us instantly. Jett kept the ghouls busy in melee, while the rest of us focused fire on one dog at a time. We were a little hampered by not having Moirae’s radiant-damage daily available, but we held our own. We also noticed that our successes (or failures) were having an effect on the other battle; as we did well against our enemies, the Winterhaven Regulars did well against theirs. And vice versa.

Wil, Venjin and Merrick scored an incredible hat-trick against one of the dogs, as follows:

1) Venjin is fighting a famine hound. The other famine hound leaps on Venjin from behind, to gain flanking.

2) Wil fires an Arrow of Warning into the hound’s chest as it leaps, doing big damage and granting Venjin an immediate attack.

3) Venjin turns and lashes the hound with a Brash Assault, provoking another attack but also distracting the hound to give Merric a free attack with combat advantage.

4) Merric launches a dagger (Brain-Seeker?) into the famine-hound’s head, killing it in mid-leap.

Awesome sauce.

Kalarel began to notice that we were defeating his undead lackeys, and started focusing his attention on us. He rooted Jett and Venjin in place with necrotic tentacles, scoured us all with rays of dark energy, and just generally messed with our flow. We quickly realized as we started attacking him that “Kalarel” was really just an apparition—not an illusion, but some kind of projection that let him leave his material body while retaining at least some of his powers.

The projection, however, was still vulnerable to our attacks. Especially Merric’s hilariously deadly finishing move: two back-to-back “Shift/Attack/Shift” strikes, which Howard proclaimed must now always be set to the tune of “Yakety Sax” (the Benny Hill theme).

When Kalarel’s apparition dissipated, so did the remainder of his undead force, all falling down in heaps of dust. And that’s where we ended the session.

Wherein The Platinum Dragon Spanks the Bard and We Are Interviewed By A Ghost

After the mini-zombie-apocalypse was concluded, we were left with a choice of two directions to follow. We chose to proceed south, as it involved less backtracking.

We moved through the southernmost zombie chamber into a short hallway, whose walls were covered with more insane rantings—like Glenn Beck’s whiteboard, but less racist. These continued on through a doorway, beyond which we could see a faint greenish light. Merric sneaked forward to scout it out, and quickly reported back.

The hallway opened onto a long east-west chamber with 10 sarcophagi lined up against the walls. They were engraved with the figures of armored men (though the faces were all worn away), and edged with Draconic runes.

The light was coming from an adjoining chamber some distance to the east. This chamber had a vaulted ceiling in which was set a metallic carving of a majestic dragon, thickly corroded from age. The faint glow emanated from this carving. There were also two identical altars at the north and south ends of this room, and on the wall behind each one was a relief sculpture of soldiers in plate armor kneeling in prayer.

Upon hearing Merric’s report, Venjin rejoiced. This chamber, he said, was obviously a temple to the Platinum Dragon: Kral Serefin, the Watcher on the Mountain whose name must not be spoken, so would everybody please stop saying the “B” word right now, thanks so much.

The group headed into the sarcophagus room. Venjin was unable to read the Draconic script on the caskets, so we surmised that the carvings must be some sort of secret temple-language or code. As we headed east to get a better look at the shrine, Wil prepared to conduct the Comprehend Languages ritual in order to determine what the carvings said. While he was doing so, Moirae and Venjin asked Merric to give the altars a once-over to see if any relics or other valuables were stored in them. The search yielded a collection of small silver and platinum dragon statuettes—we each took one, and had one left over for the group fund.

Even with the aid of the ritual, Wil couldn’t make out the writings on the sarcophagi. However, there was Draconic script over the altars that we were able to read—it said something about the Platinum Dragon being “my rock and my refuge … I need only kneel and give praise to him.” Venjin knelt before one of the altars and prayed, but there were no visible results.

After some quick discussion, we decided not to loot the sarcophagi. Instead we turned our attention to a door in the eastern wall of the temple chamber, barred with a heavy plank of wood which had rotted almost entirely away. Merric and Wil took cover behind one altar, and Moirae behind the other; then Venjin and Jett attempted to lift the wooden bar from the door. It crumbled in their hands.

Then the sarcophagi lids burst open, and armed skeletons emerged and charged toward us.

As the quicker members of the group opened fire on the undead, Venjin turned to order one of those close to an altar to kneel before it and pray, as instructed by the carvings. He considered which of them to select to ask aid from the god of Honor and Justice:

  • a daughter of hellspawn,
  • a drunken sneak-thief, or
  • an impious, self-absorbed fancy-lad.

“Fancy-lad” looked like the way to go. Wil skirted around to the front of the altar and offered up what was most likely a snide and insincere supplication; in response, he was smitten by the Tiniest Bolt of Divine Vengeance in the History of the Universe. Which he then whined about for the rest of the day.

While Jett, Moirae and Merric led the attack against the onrushing skeletons, Venjin ran to one of the altars and knelt to pray. The Platinum Dragon heard his plea; the carving in the domed roof shed its layers of corrosion and filled the temple with blazing light. The skeletons then instantly collapsed into heaps of dust, Buffy-style, and the sarcophagi in the next room slammed shut.

With that business taken care of, we turned back to the now-unbarred door and passed through it into a burial crypt. The chamber was empty save for a grand sarcophagus on a raised platform. We were able to see that the top of it was carved with the figure of a reclining man in platemail, his sword upon his chest, and also that there was no apparent lid to the stone coffin—no seam was visible. Once the last of us entered the room, however, the door banged shut, and we were lost in darkness.

At this point, each of us was visited by an apparition of Sir Jerold Keegan, the paladin and graffiti-artist who had slaughtered his family and most of the Keep’s soldiers a century ago. Death appeared to have been therapeutic for him, as he was no longer a homicidal loon-mobile. Instead, he gravely asked what our purpose and intentions were, why we had come to this place, etc. Our replies were apparently all satisfactory, since the darkness lifted and Keegan then appeared to all of us, floating above his casket.

We then had a little Q&A session. Moirae asked Keegan if there was any way we could ensure that the Shadowfell Rift got sealed for good this time, as she had no intention of ever coming back to Winterhaven in this life. Keegan then told us of three enchanted foci—an obsidian sword, an onyx and jet ring, and a silver mirror—that were linked to the rift. We could seal it, he said, by casting one of these objects into the rift. Which was good news, since Moirae happens to be carrying one of them in her purse.

Jett, having developed some sort of fixation on the metal door with the “Keep Out. Really.” warning on it, asked the ghost what was behind it. Keegan replied that the room beyond the door held the Keep’s water supply, but he did not know the reason for the cautionary sign.

Wil then asked if Keegan could provide the location of any items that would be personally beneficial to a bard—namely, himself. The spirit provided directions to a hidden armory that he thought might hold a thing or two of interest to us.

The paladin then handed his enchanted longsword over to Jett to help us in our quest, and warned us that Winterhaven was about to be attacked by the undead—adding helpfully that he could feel the progress of the Rift-opening ritual, and that we still had a few days until it would be complete.

Basically, he did everything but hand over his car keys and write down his PayPal login information for us.

We then set out to save Winterhaven, again, but took a quick detour along the way to explore the secret armory. When we first arrived at the location Keegan had indicated, we saw only a hallway; but the ever-perceptive Merric soon located a secret door and opened it. Past the door was only a small empty chamber. After searching it, Merric detected that the rear wall seemed to be insubstantial.

Pushing us all aside, Wil strode confidently through the illusory wall … straight into the arms of a small group of zombies. After a short delay, the rest of the party then picked ourselves up off the floor and, wiping the tears from our eyes, followed the bard into the hidden armory and did away with the undead.

The armory was filled with the filthy and corroded remains of armor and weaponry. As we looked around, a helmet mounted on one of the walls began to speak, and it asked us to answer a riddle. It was something about a treasure not found in a chest, blah blah blah; Wil and Venjin answered “Fame” and “Renown” at the same time, both of which answers were apparently deemed acceptable by the judges. One of the old suits of armor then shed its dust and corrosion, revealing itself to be a suit of +1 mithril chainmail.

That’s where we broke for the evening. Next stop: Winterhaven.

The Session for Which I Could Not Think of a Clever Title

We awoke in Balgron the Fat’s secret lair minus a healing surge due to horrible nightmares. Which you’d think we’d be getting used to by now—but, y’know, whatever.

After reviewing our options, we decided we could spare an afternoon to go after the Bloodreavers, since their forest hideout was only a few hours away. So we took a lovely little walk through the utterly still and silent forest until we came to a spot where a natural wall of white stone rose at the left side of the path. We knew from Balgron’s directions that we were near the hobgoblins’ camp, so Jett flowed up the side of the wall and stood atop it, in order to try and spot them from above the trees. He was able to do so, however, the inhabitants of the camp also spotted him. An archer sent an arrow sailing past Jett and it clattered to the ground in front of the rest of the party waiting for Jett’s report. Jett made his way back down to the party as the archer made his way up to where Jett had been. Jett came back down with full information RE: the location of the ‘reavers and their hapless slaves.

We made our plan to invade the clearing where our enemies were camped, and proceeded forward. In the ensuing fight against a hobgoblin commander, a couple of soldiers and some supporting minions, we learned that hobgoblins have better defenses when they’re fighting side-by-side—something we would do well to remember in the future (or “going forward,” if you’re a middle-management dickweed).

During Which The Party Doesn't Even Have a Spare Minute to "Thank the Bard," if You Know What I Mean

After some discussion about our priorities, the NVPA (Nentir Vale Provisional Autority) decided to go in pursuit of Balgron, the goblin chieftain, in the hopes that he would have more complete information about the slave-trading hobgoblin Bloodreavers.

We headed back into the section of the Keep with the torture room and focused on the double doors that we tied shut earlier. Merric untied the ropes that held the doors shut, then listened for noises from the other side, hearing a couple of voices conversing in goblinese some distance away from the door. We then sent him through the doorway to do some recon. The halfling returned a moment later, reporting that there were two goblin warriors playing cards at a table in a room about 30 feet down the hall. He also saw a small hand bell on the table, presumably for summoning reinforcements from one of the room’s three other entrances—something we wanted to avoid, if possible.

We decided to try to lure the guards out past the double doors, where we hoped to take them down quickly so we could then surprise Balgron and the rest of his lackeys. Moirae made the quite reasonable suggestion of just dropping some shit on the ground to make a suspicious noise, but other members of the group wanted to take a more Michael Bay-ish direction. So we stacked up a bunch of refuse from the storage room across from the double doors, and we started a fucking fire.

In Which Merric Conceals Himself in an Enormous Rack

After a short rest, we looked around and evaluated our options for proceeding further into the ruined keep. One passage held stairs that seemed to lead down to a lower dungeon level, so we decided to leave that one for later. The other two had more gently sloping stairs—almost ramps—leading only a short way down. One of these ended in a rocky, unfinished passage, while the second one led onto a normal, wide corridor. We decided to follow the second one, and moved on down the stairs.

We came to the end of a hallway with three doors to choose from—two single doors, one north and one west, and a set of double doors to the east. Merric listened at them all, detecting voices on the other side of the northern single door which had a lock on it.

We first opened the western single door as it seemed the least threatening. We found ourselves in a storage room filled with mining equipment and also what appeared to be used implements of torture. Wil helped himself to a coil of hempen rope, while Merric (at Venjin’s suggestion) took some of the remaining rope and tied the handles of the double doors on the east side of the hallway securely shut so no one surprised us from the rear. We then prepared to open the single door to the north. This required us to defeat its lock, which Merric did with a dazzling display of thievery skill (I believe he rolled in the thirties, which we decided meant that he threw his lockpicking tools roughly in the direction of the lock and it instantly opened).

Wherein goblins beat us like the family mule

While the citizens of Winterhaven were throwing us a party, Valthruun took us aside and gave us the results of his research:

300 years ago, a powerful wizard named Karavakos opened up a rift onto the Shadowfell. This dark “parallel universe” is not wholly evil, but it apparently is home to an unholy sanctuary of Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead.

When Karavakos created the rift, an army of undead poured out into our world and attacked the people of the old Empire of Nerath. After a great battle, Nerath’s legionnaires managed to crush the undead forces.

(NOTE: It seems likely that Douven Stahl’s archaeological dig uncovered some of the remains of this final battle.)

The Nerathians sealed the rift to the Shadowfell, then built a keep to watch over and contain it—a “Keep on the Shadowfell,” if you will. They thought that they had put an end to the threat … but they may have been wrong.

Wherein we Perform an Iron Root Canal

There really isn’t too much to say about this session: we didn’t talk to anybody, and we didn’t really learn anything new.

All we managed to accomplish is to save the Winterhaven metro area from the looming threat posed by the foul hobgoblin, Irontooth, and his band of kobold warriors.

Based on scouting reports from Winterhaven, we trudged into the wilderness and eventually came upon a thick stand of trees. Beyond this was a river, fed by a waterfall. We sent Merric in to reconnoiter, and he reported a small force of kobold warriors, seemingly led by a spellcaster who stood inside a glowing runic circle. We planned our routes of attack and went in—and, as always, pandemonium ensued.

Assault on the Finished Basement of Evil

Having solid suspicions that Bairwyn was conducting Orcus worship, including human sacrifice, in the basement of his Grand Shoppe, we snuck into the alleyway behind it after dark. As it got near midnight, we decided to break in and reconnoiter. Once inside, we used the Orcus medallion we had lifted from the kidnappers at the farmhouse to reveal the entrance to the basement.

Merric sneaked down the stairs to get a look at the layout, then reported what he had found…

Sinister Catholics.

In Which Ass Kicking is Planned

Session Two began with us sending Wil into Winterhaven to try and gather some information about Bairwyn, while the rest of us waited in an unused barn outside of town. Eventually, he learned that Bairwyn had purchased the land where his shop now stood from a widow called Old Sarah, after her husband died suddenly. Subsequent inquiries revealed that Old Sarah was not at home, and that no one had seen her around town for a few days. This made us all even more suspicious of Bairwyn, but we weren’t able to learn any more.

We then secured the captured gnome (named Agrid) and marched him back to Winterhaven, where we turned him in to the authorities. We told the gate guards what Agrid had told us about Bairwyn’s alleged involvement in the theft/kidnapping, and Douven backed us up. The situation was passed up to the guard captain, then up to the Lord Mayor himself, Padraig. We were all brought before Padraig, who then summoned Bairwyn, and a sort of perfunctory hearing took place. When it was over, the Lord Mayor threw out our case against Bairwyn due to a lack of any real material evidence, but the gnome was taken off in chains.

The Adventure Begins...

As our story begins, Venjin al-Sokamji (me), a dragonborn warlord, has come to Winterhaven on a mission. A person he trusts has had a terrible vision, a portent of great evil being worked in the ruins of an ancient keep. He is currently seeking the location of this keep, and has decided to assemble a group of stout, heroic companions—seekers of adventure and glory—to help him wipe out the lurking menace that waits there.

He hired a crier to announce his search to the town, and applicants queued up immediately. Venjin decided not to reveal his larger goal right away, so he told the applicants that he was simply taking it upon himself to rid the countryside around Winterhaven of the kobolds and goblins that plagued it. Eventually, three stalwart adventurers joined the company:


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