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.
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.