Flawed Creation

Game 13: Return to Irongate

The following morning, the party returns to Scumbler with the news that they will accept the mission to return to Irongate and retrieve the scepter from the burial vault beneath the Keep. Both Scumbler and Ystan seem relieved at the news, and preparations are made for the group to depart Nulray, along with Arameekos, in a few hours.

The return path chosen takes the PCs past Byrnehold, where they stop to speak with Adrian Byrne, the younger brother and marshall of the community, and inform him of what they learned of the changes at Irongate. Adrian tells them that he he already aware of this, and that his brother has been involved in some particularly tricky negotiations with a new delegation from Irongate, attempting to remain on good terms without directly allying with the large city.

The group leaves Byrnehold and travels northward along the Kendrichee River, encountering a large force of about 20 or more individuals, some mounted, some on foot. Their obvious leader dismounts and steps forward, introducing himself as Mellett, formerly of Irongate. He tells the party that his holdings and possessions have been siezed, and that he and his followers find themselves nearly destitute, and that they must regrettably request any coin held by the party. The PCs refuse, of course, and things begin to get tense, when Arameekos steps forward and tells Mellett that he should seek easier prey. The displaced noble questions why he should take the advice of an innkeeper, when the tiefling suddenly disappears, only to reappear again behind Mellett. He grabs the noble, then the pair again vanish. They reappear a few seconds later, smoke billowing from both and Mellett’s clothes smoldering, while his skin shows signs of being burned. He drops to all fours, in great pain.

Several of his followers break and run at this point, with the rest looking unsure. Vindurinn uses prestidigitation and his fey step ability to mimic Arameekos’ recent movement, and the remaining host flee. Elhara steps forward to heal Mellett, and Lucan tells the noble to relinquish his weapon and armor, and that they can do this the easy way or the hard way. Mellett states that he will not do so, and stands to defend his few remaining possessions. But of course, the combat was against all of the PCs, and so did not last long before Mellett, gravely wounded, was forced to yield.

Rational thought then snuck up on the party, winning initiative and pummeling them in a cascading barrage of coherent ideas. They realized that, due to his number of followers even as a renegade, Mellett must be charismatic. They also learned from Arameekos that he had been loyal to Lord Ystan. So they decided to let him retain his weapon and armor, with the promise that he go to the community of Fairflow further downriver, and await any more refugees from Irongate. He would form any of these willing into a force to come when called by Ystan. The noble drew himself up straight and gave his solemn word, before being rejoined by his followers and continuing south.

The journey resumed as the group now traveled westward along the foot of the Northern Rim. They saw a lone man sitting at a camp, who rose and left when he spied them, without saying a word. Arameekos rode his horse into the camp and dismounted, hitching his mount and seating himself upon a log. The PCs followed suit, with most trying to get come rest. Night came, and the party was awakened by several more individual arriving who seemed to be known to the tiefling. Cloyingly-scented hoods were placed over the heads of the characters as they were led for nearly an hour, frequently spun and turned to prevent any tracing of the route. Finally, the hoods were removed, and the PCs found themselves in an alley not far from A Wicked Grin, where they went and took rooms.

The next morning, they went to the servant’s entrance of Ystan’s Keep, where they were met by someone who had been waiting for them. The servant led them to her superior, who in turn led them to to burial vault and unlocked the door before leaving. The PCs entered and saw the object of their search on a granite stand before them, in the antechamber of the mausoleum. It was encased beneath a clear housing, and since glass in this era is transluscent and not transparent, this had to be something else. The scepter was of brass and silver, 32" in length, and appeared to be fairly heavy.

It was about this time that Lucan brought up the possibility of availing themselves of the opportunity of procuring other treasures which might be found among the sarcophogi, an idea which was quickly denounced by the other party members. One would think that such recurring comments and actions would make his fellows begin to question the character of the ranger.

A search of the stand revealed numerous small holes, as if for the discharge of gas, and the PCs removed tapestries from the wall and wrapped the granite in hopes of countering the trap. Kyden also found a small pressure switch which would activate when the clear top was removed. He slid one of his narrow thieves’ tools between the top and the switch before Lucan and Kesriel removed the top, preventing the switch from triggering. The possibility of a second triggering mechanism beneath the scepter was mentioned, and a discussion followed on how this might be dealt with.

Eventually, Kyden handed control of the tool holding down the switch to Vindurinn, and all characters except the eladrin left the room. Vindurinn then grasped the scepter and, using his fey-step ability, joined his companions with the scepter, leaving a cloud of gas seeping up from behind the tapestries wrapping the granite stand. The adventurers made their way back to the servant’s door to make their escape, but as they neared the door, they turned at the sound of rushing feet to see four keep guards and one spellcaster in pursuit.

Game 12: Recall

The characters continue through the complex, eventually having nowhere to go but down to the lower level. There, they come into a large room with a number of tables used for torture, and steps at the far end of the room lead to a raised platform upon which rests an ancient, ornately carved chair. On this chair is seated a skeleton in the cracked and faded garb of a torturer, and the figure is fairly difficult to see due to the webbing covering it.

The ceiling to the room is high overhead, and nearly completely obscured by the spider webs some 20’ above the floor. All of the characters look, and Elhara notices movement among the webbing. The ancient ruins have shifted at some point, and groundwater has slowly made its way inside over the countless years. As a result, many of the pits and lower areas of the chamber have completely filled with foul smelling water, and the air is quite humid. When the characters attempt to set torch to the webs, they find them too wet to burn. Their actions do, however, attract the attention of the spiders lairing above, and a few of them drop down while the remainder scuttle across the webbing to reach them. Due to where each of the arachnids was at the time of the encounter, the party seemed able to deal with them easily enough, despite any ongoing poison damage.

A few rounds into combat with the spiders, the action seemed to gain the attention of some other creatures within the large room, and several viscous forms flowed from the water-filled lower areas to where the characters battled and began oozing forward. This proved to be a much for difficult fight for the PCs, who were reluctant to expend their most potent and damaging powers, in the belief that the skeleton seated at the far end of the chamber would somehow prove to be their toughest foe. At one point, Kyden was engulfed gy the green slime, while Kesriel was repeatedly struck by the gray ooze, weakening her bones. Eventually, the sole surviving ooze slipped back into the water, and the characters continued their exploration of the chamber.

Six arcane portals were also located within the room, each of these encircled by a stone border etched with flickering runes. Although no one could immediately make out the writing, Vindurinn was able to deduce that they were flickering because the magic which empowered these portals was very old and was fading, becoming unstable. With paper and charcoal stick, he copied the runes surrounding each of the portals. Several members of the party next went to the figure seated upon the chair, which had still not stirred since their appearance within the chamber. The skeleton’s garb, one of studded leather, was obviously that of a chief torturer, and designed for maximum mental anguish, but was otherwise unremarkable. What was remarkable was the headdress it wore. It was shaped in the likeness of a spider, with the body of the spider covering the crown of the head. The legs of the arachnid extended down to the jawline in the front, the base of the skull in the back. Vindurinn was able to determine that it was indeed enchanted and allowed for the control of a given quantity of arachnids, insects, and other such vermin.

With their exploration of the ruins complete, the party retraced their route and climbed the rope, replacing the disc made by the elves hundreds of years ago. They then went back to the surface and camped with Irongate’s token force for one final evening before heading out again once more for Bale’s Retreat. Vindurinn was hopeful that the information gleaned in the ruins would be sufficient to grant him honorary membership into the Eternal Order of the Quill.

On the journey to Bale’s Retreat, the group received a message in the scrollcase they had received when initially dispatched from Irongate, only the second they had ever received. It was unmistakably in Scumbler’s scrawled handwriting, and read, “Go immediately to the community of Nulray and speak with the one known as William the Vain. Ask to speak with the elven fletcher.”

Not believing that a slight delay would cause any harm, the party continue to Bale’s Retreat and undergo the by-now familiar process of entering the city; asking for Keltos at the gate, and waiting until evening for him to arrive to vouch for them. As hoped, the information about the portals was enough for Vindurinn’s membership into the Guild. He was able to purchase rituals at a reduced cost, particularly the Enchant Item ritual, which made his party member all squeal in excitement like a bunch of schoolgirls. I think Lucan even threw his panties at him, but I can’t be sure about that. They also took this opportunity to acquire certain items and sell off others.

Leaving Bale’s Retreat, the rode south along the Taralandar River to Nulray, where they asked at the gate to speak with William the Vain. After nearly an hour, William approaches the gate, huddled in his cloak against the frigid wind. Looking somewhat less than enthused at seeing the characters again, he says, “You again.” It is obvious that he is beginning to view every appearance of the PCs as another sleepless night spent by the door of the inn.

Lucan tells him that they need to board their horses at the stables by the inn then speak with the elven fletcher. William’s posture immediately straightens and he replies, “Very well. Follow me.” He leads them into the town where they take care of the horses, then across the footbridge into the slums, among a collection of run-down houses with faded whitewashing. He points out one and says, that is the one you seek, before withdrawing to find shelter from the wind.

The PCs approach and knock, and a small spydoor opens, revealing an eye, around which the skin is scarred and pulled taut from a long-ago burn. The smaller door closes and the larger door swings open, admitting the group. They enter to see Arameekos, who shuts the door behind them. A short distance away, Scumbler is speaping with a bearded human who appears to be in his early 30s.

“It is good to see you again, my friends,” says Arameekos. “Though some faces I recognize, others I do not.” Introductions are made for Lucan and Kyden, who hadn’t met the tiefling previously, though the hin was certainly aware of his standing in the city of Irongate. Elhara’s disdain for the smuggler and innkeeper was evident, and he seemed almost amused as he commented on this. Although he passed the time with small talk, he gave them little information, preferring to leave this to Scumbler.

After a short time, the two men at the small table finished speaking, and the bearded gentleman withdrew into what appeared to be the only bedroom of the small home. Scumbler waved them over and thanked them for coming, informing them that their report on the occurances at Edenhall had set off events within Irongate which led to this point. Apparently Jendis Sloan, the Lord’s chief advisor and High Priest of Erathis was dissatisfied with Lord Ystan’s measured approach and launched a successful coup, one which was completely unexpected.
It is unknown where the loyalties of many of Irongate’s most powerful players lie, particularly the Brass Masks, whose support could be critical for either side.

When asked why they came to Nulray, it is learned that Mother Zubota, the large tiefling woman who rules the power base in Nulray is Arameekos’ half-sister, and he is quick to emphasize the “half” part.

Although Ystan is technically no longer a Lord, and they are not beholden to him, Scumbler has one more request to make of the PCs. He would like the to go to Irongate, into the family burial vault beneath Ystan’s Keep, and retrieve a scepter. When asked if it is magical, he assures them that it is not. When they ask why it is wanted, he informs them that it has long been in the Lord’s family, and that it is desired that it should remain with the bloodline. The PCs inform Scumbler that they would like time to think on this, and he agrees to await their answer in the morning. They return to the inn, accompanied by William, who remains by the door all night.

Game 11: Ashes and Anguish

It became obvious that the elderly scribes were commited to purchasing with their lives the much-needed time to secure their knowledge, and that there was little the PCs could do to convince them to turn any of it over to the forces below. As the party prepared to depart the solemn scene at Edenhall, the scribe who had been tending the priest of Kord approached and informed the individual they had been speaking with that the priest had been given a tonic, one which would render him useless for the upcoming fight, and probably for several days following. If, as suspected, the attacking forces were indeed professionals, they would not slay a helpless figure.
Elhara was somewhat distressed by this.

Dust still rose from the ruins of the last defensive gate, and the party said their final goodbyes, recognizing the finality of the situation. The old scribe joked that this group of old men might still have some surprises left, and the group began the twenty minute trek back down the mountainside. As they neared the foot of the mountain, they could see the forces amassing for their final assault, and they went in search of whom they believed to be the commander, attempting to delay the inevitable. They were unable to buy time, however, and the troops began the climb at dawn.

Vindurinn sends word via the scroll tube to Scumbler about the events.

Still having the intent of exploring the nearby ruins, the party crossed the road and began to pick their way among the weathered stones, finding few areas which might possibly conceal anything of interest. Only a short time had passed into their search when the area of the mountain up by the monastery became alight with orange fire, and the screams of the attackers could be heard echoing off the stone face.

The characters resumed their exploration and went through several small basements, though nothing of any particular interest. Finally, they came across a larger underground structure, one of several rooms connected by winding corridors. These had long ago been stripped bare, save for the largest chamber, which contained four stone statues placed equidistant around a heavy stone disc on the floor, some 8’ in diameter, secured with 4 metal hasps. There was an insignia etched upon the surface of the disc, as well as elven script. For some unknown reason, Lucan, the ranger, recognized the symbol as that of the evil deity Torog, while Elhara was able to translae the script as reading “Below is the domain of the King Who Crawls”. Elhara also recognized the statues as dedicated to Pelor by the insignias upon their shields, though unlike every other one she had ever see, these were facing downward, directly at the disc. A discussion followed, with Lucan wanting to move the disc and venture beyond, while everyone else urged caution, some even suggesting travelling to the nearbly elven community of Astonei.

Eventually, it was decided to go into the High Forest and see if a representative of the elven people could be found, so the group left the ruins and made the short trip into the largely coniferous forest where Elhara called out, not really expecting a response. Shock and disbelief were apparent when an elven woman silently stepped out from the brush, but although she answered any questions put to her, she seemed unconcerned about the events at Edenhall and had no knowledge or curiosity of what lay beneath the ruins. She suggested that some of the more knowedgable elves at Astontei might better be able to help.

The group made the four day ride to Astonei, and there found a sprawling community in the trees, at varying heights, all connected by bridges of woven rope and wooen planks. They inquired into the reason for their visit, and were directed to an elf named Lyethon at the Circl of Studies. As they made their way, they noticed that no point along the various paths was granted shelter from the multitude of elven archers located about the community.

Eventually, they approached Lyethon, who suspended his conversation with several other elves with the arrival of the newcomers. They told him of their find, and he in turn told them of the history of the statues and the disc, that both had been placed there by his father when he had been a young man to protect against the lingering evils of that place. Evils both prized by Torog and Jubilex.

Armed with this information, and with the fact that the eveil has been in decline for nearly three hundred years, the young adventurers spend one night in Astonei before beginning the return trip to the ruins. Upon their arrival, they see that the bulk of the force has departed, leaving only a small contingent behind, most of whom seem to be camped where the larger force had previously been. Elhara notices a glint of metal high on the mountain’s face, one which she almost instinctively knows to be the reflection off a Brass Mask, one of Irongate’s Prefects.

As the PCs introduce themselves to the soldiers and try to get information, they learn that the scribes had managed to secret their works away in an extradimensional pocket, and that the Brass Mask is attempting to somehow find the key to access that space. When asked if there were any survivors or prisoners, they are told that there was but one, a man found in a torpor so deep as to be likened unto death. A description was given, and this was determined to be the priest of Kord whom had caused such an unusual reaction in the priestess of Pelor.
Depsite the priestess’ protestations that the actions by the forces of Irongate against the sages were unacceptable, and the party’s attempts to encourage the sages to barter for their lives by parting with their tomes and scrolls, Elhara now quickly turned on the man who actively came to the defense of those sages, and gave a sworn statement attesting to the storm priest’s actions on behalf of Edenhall.

Returning to the ruins, the PCs returned to the stone disc, where it took the collective effort of most of the party to move the heavy barrier and reveal the darkness beneath. A glowstick revealed a scene which made the priestess recoil. The area which could be seen was home to a multitude of spiders, insects, and centipedes, which crawled along every surfece. After Lashing a rope around one of the stone statues, the adventurers lowered themselves down, one by one. Literally, no step could be taken without causing a crunching sound underfoot.

The smaller creatures proved more of a nuisance than a threat, but the group did encounter a pair of giant spiders and a large beetle, which they dealt with successfully. As the moved through the complex, the constant chittering noise grew louder, and they came to an area where a series of steps led down into a large room filled with a unknown depth of the crawling vermin. A pair of monstrous centipedes were in this room, feeding on their smaller kin, and Lucan produced his bow and shot an arrow into it. The creature reacted by charging the ranger, drawing attacks from both Kesriel and Kyden. The poor beast, which was simply trying to feed, was killed in short order.

Game 10: Faith and Battle

Continuing through the narrow confines beneath the ruined temple, the party encounters more undead, some corporeal, some not, and some able to hurl viscous globs of necromantic energy, but these were all succesfully managed. Further into the complex, among the constant din of crying and sighing, a woman’s screams echo through the corridors, the source of which cannot be far away. The party has yet another encounter, and are unable to rush to the victim’s aid. As they fight, an occasional scream sounds out, one of terrible agony.

After dispatching the latest foes, they continue on to a room which is much larger than the rest. Inside, a burning brazier boasts a number of red-hot irons, and upon a nearby table is the writhing form of something barely recognizable as human. A large, red-skinned demon stands over her, bringing his cleaver down and mercifully ending her life when he sees the characters. As the adventurers begin to enter the room, they notice two swarms of disembodied hands moving in a mocking semblance of life. Vindurinn casts one of his more powerful spells, and both the demon and one of the swarms fall to the ground, helpless for the moment. The ranger and rogue moving in and deal a significant amount of damage to their targets, which awakens the demon. He stands, but is soon knocked prone again by an attack, accumulating more damage. The combat was well fought by the party, and they came through it with no worrisome moments.

A chest was found inside another room, but though the container was quite large, it held but one item, an oval semi-precious stone about an inch in length. The stone did radiate a slight glow deep from within, though no one in the group knew what it might be. Once the ruins were cleared, the characters removed the bodies and spent the remainder of the day digging graves, over which Elhara eventually gave remembrance and blessing. They had removed any valuables from the corpses, and had gone through the homes, correlating belongings with families so that they might be returned to any relatives still in Nulray.

They then proceeded to Bale’s Retreat, discussing along the way the best method to return the money and goods, especially considering their somewhat cool relations with Mother Zubota.
They reached Bale’s Retreat and again asked to speak with Keltos, who again admitted them into the city. They asked the dwarf if he had a means by which he could communicate with the sgae, Roderick, whom they believed to be their safest contact in Nulray. The dwarf said that such a thing could indeed be managed, but the message would have to be very brief. The group declined, opting instead to take the chance of returning to the smaller community to return whatever items they could. Before they left, they asked Keltos if he knew about the strange stone which they had found, and while he didn’t, he could check with his contemporaries. It was eventually identified as an “Anchor Stone”, something which keeps demons or other extraplanar creaturese tethered to a particular area in any given plane. The party left the stone in the care of the dwarf, who was to see that it was placed within Bale’s Retreat’s own extradimensional portal.

The group rode once more to Nulray, asking the guards at the gate if the could speak with William the Vain. A short time later, he met the party at the gate, and they explained the particulars of their situation and their desires. He granted them entry into the community, again cautioning them to keep their activities limited to the inn. There, they met up with Roderick, who knew everyone and was familiar with the many families, and they asked if he could get in touch with those families they had identified from the splinter community. William said that his network was better suited to such a task, and thet it would take a shorter amount of time.

One by one, the family members arrived to take possession of their loved one’s valuables, and their was understandable grief and sorrow. Sometime during the afternoon, Mother Zubota and Broken Korvis came into the inn, and Mother expressed her dismay at the events which claimed the lives of so many and lamented their leaving the protection offered by Nulray. She did not, however, seem particularly surprised by the events. After the heroes returned what treasure they could, they expressed a desire to stay at the inn for the evening before riding out the following morning. This was agreed to, and William once more took a position by the door, where he remained all night.

The party rode north again, stopping at the shops outside of Bale’s Retreat only long enough to rest and reprovision before heading out to the next closest set of ruins on the map provided by the dwarven sage. These ruins were shown to be about two and a half weeks away, with Coldfel being the only community in between. The adventurers stopped in Coldfel, a predominantly dwarven city, to reprovision and spend a night indoors. The inner hold of the city was off limits for any non-dwarf, but visitors were free to move about the outer hold. The inn was large and crowded, and there was something of a buzz about a recently arrived performer to the city. When she came out to play, the characters recognized her by her flowing red hair and scarlet outfit, Abigail Hart. Realizing they were out of Iongate’s jurisdiction, they decided not to approach her about the questions raised before they left Irongate.

The party continued westward along the foot of the Northern Rim, and when they came within sight of the weather-worn ruins they sought, they also noticed a large force gather not too far beyond. As they rode nearer, they could see that dust and smoke came from the mountains to their north, and that this appeared to be some type of military force, though no banner or insignia was to be seen. They continued to approach and were met by a small force which rode out from the larger, though there was no sign of agression. The heroes mentioned their desire to scout the old ruins, and that the events here did not concern them. Permission was needed from the leader of this force, and together they went into the encampment.

From this vantage, the characters could better understand what was happening. A twisting path was cut into the mountainside, often switching back upon itself, through a series of seven gates which were obviously meant as defenses. The six lowest gates lay in cold ruin, while the highest showed signs of just having been defeated, and was the source of the plume of dust and smoke. Above, high on the slopes, was some type of large dwelling, which was marked as Edenhall on the map given by Keltos.

As they rode by the camp, they noticed a large area set up to treat the many wounded, and healers were rushing about frantically between them. It was then that a familiar face was recognized, the Priestess Reyna of Erathis, who had given the adventurers their introduction to their quest. After a brief exchange to refresh the priestess’ memory, Elhara asked if there were anything she could do to help. Reyna became emotional at the scale of the suffering, and not wanting to see anymore bloodshed, she asked if she would speak to the men and women of Edenhall to simply walk away and keep their lives.

Meeting with the commander of the force, they gained his permission to scour the ruins, but also asked if they could speak to the inhabitants of Edenhall, so that they might be spared. The commander said that several attempts had been made already to convince the scribes to leave their writings, but had each time been met with refusal. However, he would not deny them one last chance to save their lives, and if the newcomers thought they could convince them so, they were welcome to try. He said that the final push would be mad at dawn, and no quarter would be given then.

Adopting the accepted signal for parlay, the party headed by foot up the slopes, navigating the treacherous terrain and crossing wooden bridges where the stone walkway had been demolished. It was full dark when they reached the top, and the door to Edenhall opened. The characters were surprised to be met by a group of the elderly, none younger than sixty summers or so. One man spoke up immediately. “We have not changed our minds. Our works will not be yours.” The party expressed their relative neutrality in this situation, asking only that these people spare their own lives, and they were welcomed inside. What they found was disturbing, a collection of defenders who were obviously on their last legs.

When asked what could be worth their lives, the party was told that Edenhall collected and stored information from the previous age, with the intent that the knowledge should never be revealed. It had the power to do great good, and thus should not be destroyed, but could also wreak great ill. Before the attackers could reach it, these clerics, wizards, and academians would buy time with their lives in order to secure it. Vindurinn asked if they could just make an offering, but the spokesman shook his head, saying that anyone willing to go to these lengths would not be satisfied with a token offering. There did seem to be some doubt whether the defenses would hold long enough to secure or destroy their tomes and scrolls.

Just then, an injured defender stood from where he lay and began fastening his armor. He took up a mace in a hand which could barely support its weight, and staggered to the door despite the protestaions of the person tending him. As he crossed into the feeble light given by torches which burned in wall sconces, his face became visible for a second. He was significantly younger than the rest, spattered with blood, and his hair and beard were unruly, but a holy symbol of Kord identified him as a worshipper of the storm god. When Elhara caught sight of this individual, she blanched, the color draining from her face to be replaced by a look of shock and horror. This was noticed by her companions, but she declined to talk about it.

Game 9: Back on Track

Provided with the name of a sage and a letter of introduction, the adventurers depart Byrnehold on horseback, traveling the road which parallels the Taralandar River. On the way to their ultimate destination of Bale’s Retreat, they stop at the walled community of Nulray to rest and reprovision. Nulray is open to travellers, but like many other places, they record the names and places of origins of those who pass within her walls. The character all freely give their names, and then their origins as either Irongate or a protectorate of that great city.

They enter Nulray and take rooms at the one only respectable inn, and while they are there, they meet an elderly gentleman named Roderick the Sage. They engage the individual in conversation and find him to be amiable, though somewhat scatterbrained and rambling. It is learned that a splinter community broke off from Nulray in the past year or so, after the new town rulers took power, and have erected a fledgling community on the fringe of the Plainsedge Woods, about two days to the west. He mentions that his former aide is one who had moved and that his research is now taking much longer, since she was more familiar with some of the more exotic languages than he. The older man excuses himself and ambles out of the establishment.

Shortly thereafter, the door opens again and in walk a pair of individuals from the rain. The first is a tall, lean human male, who pulls back the hood of his cloak to reveal aquiline features and long blond hair, which he frequently combs his fingers through. The second is a large, muscular orc, whose carriage suggests the ability to snap into violence at any time.
The orc strides directly to the table where the party is sitting and takes immediate notice of the two female members, showing particular interest in the Kesriel, the breelan warden. He makes a comment which is not understood by any of the party, and his human companion chuckles.

The human softly introduces himself as William, known to many as William the Vain, and the orc he identifies as Ruhk. He states that the party are obviously the recent arrivals who hail from Irongate, and mentions that the town leaders wish an audience. When the party asks when, he tells them that now would be an opportune time. Wanting to clean up from their travels before meeting with any officials, the women leave to freshen up first, and when they return, the men follow suit. When the leave the in, the party is led by William the Vain and tailed by the imposing orc.

They cross the footbridge high above the river to the west side of the river, the area recognized as the slums, and through a series of narrow roads which end in a cul-de-sac. A tavern dominates the muddy cobblestone courtyard, and it is into this that the group is led. The atmosphere is rauckus, and the party seats themselves at a table while William goes to fetch the village leaders, leaving Ruhk to look after their guests. After a few moments, the door to a back room opens and William returns, accompanied by two others. The first is a large tiefling woman uses a gnarled walking stick to aide in moving her considerable bulk. The second is a wild-eyed, hunchbacked dwarf, wearing a holy symbol about his neck which identifies him as a follower of Asmodeus.

They approach, and the tiefling lowers herself into a chair while the others stand a short distance away. In a harsh, raspy voice, she introduces herself as Mother Zubota, and the other recent arrival as Broken Korvis. The dwarf’s appearance and introduction prompts a comment from Elhara, the usually demure priestess of Pelor, who makes some remark about serving an evil god. Korvis bristles, replying in a wheezing, high pitched voice that regarless of his god, his faith is no less valid thatn hers.

Mother Zubota rolls a cigar and produces a flame from her red-hued fingers to light it, before coming to the reason for her summons. Bluntly, she says that a diplomatic envoy from Irongate came to Nulray several months ago, speaking sweetly of the benefits of allying with Irongate. She tells the party that she wasn’t interested iny any such arrangement, and that the diplomats left here with her foot planted in their backsides. Now, there is the arrival of another group hailing from Irongate, and she finds such coincidences disturbing. She mentions her desire for the characters to prove that they are not spies by paticipating in a simple ritual to be performed by Broken Korvis. No one in the group finds this agreeable, and they refuse, at which time Mother asks thenm to confine their activities to the inn itself, and not step outside except to leave the town. This was obviously more than a request, and the players agree.

They accompany William and Ruhk back to the inn, after which the orc soon departs. William, however, takes a seat by the door, where he remains until the party leaves the following morning. On their way out of the community, Kyden strikes up a conversation with William, who himself had always been soft-spoken and had never shown any hostility. Despite the conditions of their stay, William says that there was never animosity, and that Ruhk had indicated a willingness to become more familiar with Kesriel. Kyden, excercising discretion, decides not to share this information with his breelan companion.

On the road once more, the group make their way north to Bale’s Retreat, a city nearly as large as Irongate, which also sits in the Northern Rim and is protected by a stone wall. They pass an inn and several shops which lie outside the walls and proceed to the gate, where they learn that horses are not allowed into the city. They return to the large inn, an establishment with the somewhat whimsical name of {The Outside Inn]], run by a woman named Rosalind. They take rooms and board their horses before returnin, by foot, to the gate. They learn that Bale’s Retreat is a closed city, and that travellers are not allowed inside unless on official business and vouched for by the concerned party. They inform the guard of their desire to meet with Keltos, and will return in a few hours after a runner has been dispatched and returned with word.

Again, they go back to the inn to relax for a few hours before returning to the city gate, where they learn that Keltos has agreed to meet them at the gate at six bells that evening.
Eventually, they meet Keltos, a stocky, well-dressed dwarf who admits them into the city and invites the characters to his favorite alehouse. They accept, and find the chosen establishment to be higher end, offering ale and wine to the more affluent and well-learned. Over drinks, they tell Keltos of their interest in ruins, and that they had heard that he was a person knowledgable in such things. He admits that it isn’t his primary field of study, more of an interesting hobby. Ragardless, he promises to provide them with what information he can.

The following day, the characters go to the Eternal Order of the Quill, the organization to which Keltos belongs, to meet with him. They find that both he and his colleagues are preparing to attend a dedication service, to which Keltos invites the characters. It is at this time that he explains the history behind the city of Bale’s Retreat. Elhara is somewhat mortified to learn of this arrangement.

After the ceremony, Keltos presents the party with a map of several ruins, and explains to Vindurinn, whom he recognizes as an intellectual, that the Eternal Order of the Quill, an organization dedicated to preserving records, offers opportunities to become honorary members. All that is needed is to make a somewhat arbitray sounding “contribution of note” in the form of some lore or artifact which the Order finds useful. In return, membership allows greater and easier access to rituals, spells, and other such services.

Keltos tells the characters that they rode past the nearest ruins when they came from Nulray on the way here. There are the ruins of an ancient, if small, temple west of the Taralandar in the Plainsedge Wood. The party thanks the dwarf and retraces their route in search of the old temple. The discover a relatively new community surrounded by a wooden pallisade fence, which they assume to be the splinter community which had left Nulray. There was no one to be seen in the watchtower, and the gates were closed and their was no response to their hails. Kyden scaled the wall for a look, and saw signs of an epic struggle but no dodies. Dried blood coated the ground and had splashed upon the walls of the small dwellings. The hin lowered himself to the inside, followed by Lucan, and together they opened the gates for the others.

A further search revealed more evidence of violence, and they found an old, weathered ruin in the rear of the community, worn nearly to the ground by time and the elements. A stairways leading underground had been revealed when the stones clogging it seemed to have either been removed or cast aside. With caution, the adventurers descended into the darkness. A cacophany of wailing, sighing, and screaming came to their ears, though seeming without source or direction. At the bottom of the stairs, several dozen corpses had been piled, all with their hands removed as if by some sharp blade. The party made their way further along, to encounter several undead creatures accompanied by a carnage demon. Battle was joined, and while the heroes suffered appreciable damage, they were able to best their adversaries.

Game 8: Into the Plains

Just over a week since their encounter with the kruthiks lairing within a field of wandergrass, the party Sees a group of individuals approaching from the southwest, a ragtag band of mixed genders and races. There are 12 in all, but only three are mounted, the rest traveling on foot. A human on horseback calls out how surprising it is to come acroos others in the expanse of the Great Plains. The two groups stop and talk, and the players learn that this band is headed for Irongate, having heard that they are looking to employ men and women for a force of arms. The PCs confirm this, stating their own Irongate roots, and the human presses them for any information they can provide.

The PCs are told in turn that this group has recently come from the community of Mulhk, though few of them hail from their originally. They had been crossing the plains for about two months, as evidenced by their scant provisions on their pack horses, and haven’t seen much but endless seas of grass.

The mounted human extends a hand to Kyden in parting, and tries to pull the hin from his pony in an unanticipated move. Kyden manages to slip his hand free and maintain his balance, and combat was joined between the two groups. Several of the members of the attacking force fell easily, but combat with others was more difficult, and all the while four archers fired arrows into the fray. An enemy wizard focused his attacks on Elhara and Vindurinn, the rear line combatants, and was soon felled for his efforts. The two humans who had been mounted also eventually fell, but a nossul warrior proved exceedingly tough, inflicting a bad wound upon the ranger, Lucan, and dropping Kesriel with a particularly brutal attack. Kyden approached the nossul from behind and, with combat advantage, killed the warrior with his attack. Two of the archers tried to mount the horses and flee, but all were killed by the party. The PCs searched the bodies and found a surprising amount of gold and gems, leading them to believe that these individuals made coin by whatever means necessary.

After another three weeks of travel, they encountered a group of seven creatures with the bodies of horses and the upper torsos of men. There were four adults and three juveniles, and all but the youngest carried either saddlebags or parcels secured to their backs. Three of the centaurs broke off and rode toward the PCs, declaring their peaceful intentions if the same were granted. The centaurs, it seemed, were also headed to the goblin trading caravan, not only to trade but for the games which had recently become an annual tradition. The two parties joined up and traveled together for over a day before sighting the motionless caravan.

The caravan was stopped and tables had been set up by the goblins, as well as by the few non-goblins who traveled in their company. Several members of the party wound their way among the tables, looking at the wares displayed upon them. There was quite a wide selection of goods, from weapons to ceramic teasets, and it was a matter of speculation how the goblins came by these goods. Among the eclectic collection, Kyden and Lucan saw a holy symbol of Erathis, which had been worn by the cleric of their original, ill-fated group, as well as items belonging to other members. It was all Lucan could do to master his anger.

That first night, the group camped in close proximity to the centaurs they had traveled with. The hin rogue used the cover of darkness to attempt to look under the skirt of the largest vehicle, where it was said that any prisoners would be found. He successfully used his small stature and the high grass to get next to the immense wagon, and indeed did see nearly two dozen captives chained to the frame of the vehicle, and being watched by four hobgoblin guards. With this information, he attempted to leave the area, but was spotted by a hobgoblin patrolling the vicinity. With relative ease, Kyden managed to elude the guard and make his way back to camp, where he informed the others of what he had seen.

Several options were floated for freeing the slaves, with Lucan bent on freeing them all, not just those they had come for. It was pointed out that such a large-scale endeavor was beyond the group’s capability, and that such an act would have to wait. Ultimately, it was decided that Elhara, being the most diplomatic, should speak to the goblin trading boss to purchase the Byrnehold citizens back from the caravan.

The following day, the priestess approached the trading boss, and attempted to bring up the purchase of items not currently on display. The goblin spread his arms in an all-encompassing gesture and said “All is for sale!” Elhara delicately suggested the desire to purchase individuals, and the trade boss grabbed the nearest goblin and asked, “How much you pay?” It was then that Elhara admitted that she knew of the prisoners beneath the wagon, and her desire to purchase several of them. The goblin nodded, and headed toward the skirt of the vehicle, rapping his staff against the frame to alert the hobgoblins of his arrival. He pulled the cloth aside and admitted the priestess, who winced in revulsion at the stench.

The were many captives of many races, but Elhara recognized two faces that the dopplegangers had duplicated back in Byrnehold. She approached them and asked which of the others was the apothecary, husband to Treva. They pointed out the individual, and Elhara told the goblin trade boss that she wished to purchase these three. Negotiations followed and a price was settled upon. As the prisoners were being released, pleas of desperation and anquish came from the other captives, who implored the priestess to free them as well. Their cries were heartbreaking, yet she could only purchase the freedom of four others. With the seven newly freed individuals, she left the area beneath the large wagon, the cries of those left behind following her.

Elhara attempted to nurse her charges back to some semblance of health, while a few of the other party members participated in the games held by the numerous centaur tribes who had gathered. Soon, they purchased a wagon and made the journey back to Byrnehold, where the missing were greeted by their fellow citizens and the party was recognized as heroes. The following day, a public ceremony was held, with Lord Byrne expressing the gratitude of the entire community and honoring the PCs. The funds used to buy the slaves were reimbursed, and as a boon, Lord Byrne gave the party the name of a sage, Keltos, who resided in Bale’s Retreat, as well as a letter of introduction. Keltos was knowledgable in the field of ancient civilizations and ruins, and could perhaps be of assistance in the PC’s original mission.

Game 7: Deceptive Appearances

While staying at the Byrnehold Inn awaiting their audience with Coomander Byrne of the Black Legion, the adventurers are approached by an older man whose bearing is proud and upright. He introduces himself as Berrin Hastings, the carner of Byrnehold, and he asks if the adventurers were the ones who explored the ruins found to the north. When they answer in the affirmative, he tells them that he has a matter he would like their assistance with, one that he cannot take to the Black Legion. Soon to meet with Commander Byrne, the party informs him that they are pressed for time at the moment, and ask if they could speak later that evening. He agrees, and the group leave to meet with Byrnehold’s marshall.

The meeting is uneventful, with the party filling in the Commander on the details of their excursion in the ruins, and their theories to its significance.

They return to the inn and once again meet with Berrin. He explains the sensitive nature with which he is concerned. He was appointed an assistant three years ago, one who was to become his eventual successor, a young human named Theros. For over two years, he was capable and conscientios in his duties to manage the community’s grain stores and assess amounts to be collected. He took a wife and built a home, recognizing the promise of his new career.

About four months ago, however, Hastings noticed a change in his behavior, the young man becoming secretive and irritable. Believing it may be due to marital troubles, Hastings said nothing. The assistant’s performance of his duties suffered greatly.

Recently, upon taking inventory, Hastings noticed that nearly a ton of grain was missing, and he was afraid that Theros might have had something to do with it. He was reluctant to take his suspicions to the Black Legion, for even an allegation of this type could ruin a man, even if he were innocent. If he were guilty, it could mean banishment or worse.

The PCs agreed to look into the matter, asking for a fee of 500 gold, at which the carner balked, saying that he was a simple public servant and that such an amount would leave him destitute. The party suggested that 300 gold would suffice, and to this the silver-haired gentleman agreed.

Kyden began tailing the assistant between his home and work, careful to remain out of sight, and at one time followed the human as he left work at lunchtime and strolled to a particular house near the grain silo, in which he seemed to take an unusual interest.

After Theros had returned home for the evening, his wife left and walked to the apothecary, from where she did not immediately exit. Elhara and Vindurinn went to the same apothecary the next day, and managed to coax a story from the owner, a human woman named Treva. She said that her husband had disappeared several months ago, and that an unknown man said that he would eventually be returned to her, if Treva allowed the use of her shop to certain individuals. She then said that Theros’ wife, Ginna, and a farmer named Old Webb occasionally entered her shop, spent a few minutes in the rear, then left by the back door. After inventory of her merchandise, she was certain that nothing ever had been taken.

With this new information, Kyden now had three individuals to follow; Theros, Ginna, and Old Webb. He followed Webb out to his fields, and then back to town when the man made an unusual mid-day trek with a small parcel. He saw the farmer duck into a narrow alleyway and transform into Ginna, unfurling his bundle and donning a skirt and shawl.

Armed with this information, they took it to Commander Byrne, who immediately ordered that Theros, Ginna, Webb, and Treva be detained. After a few days, Berrin Hastings returned to find the characters and provide them with an update. The body of Old Webb was found buried in his barn, covered in limestone, and a narrow shaft had been dug which led to the catacombs beneath Byrnehold, and subsequently to the grain stores. One of the dopplegangers had been killed in combat, but the other had escaped, and poor Treva was indeed telling the truth of what had occured to her and her husband.

The events coincided with the arrival of the goblin trading caravan some months ago, and only such a large group could be responsible for the theft of the grain.

Hastings was still concerned, though, for no trace of Theros or Ginna was found, and Treva’s husband was still missing. Hastings had heard that the goblins often used whatever means necessary, including slavery, to move their caravans along, and he believed that the missing townfolk might be found there. However, since it had been two month since the goblins departed, they were no sufficiently far from Byrnehold that it was doubtful if a rescue effort would be launched.

Hastings believed the goblins next stop to be south of the Ruins of Adarr in the Great Plains, and that is where the PCs said they would go, intent on freeing Byrnehold’s citizens.

While traveling into the plains in pursuit of the goblin trading caravan, the characters encounter an enormous patch of field grass, nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding grasses, which dulled the senses so much so that those affected entered a mindless stupor. Certain creatures are known to lair within such fields, waiting to attack hapless prey, and the kruthiks which dwelled here soon swarmed the party. One by one, the PCs snapped out of the stupor and were able to intelligently enter combat, but Kesriel, the breelan warden, Seemed particularly affected by the grassy hazard, and she was incredibly slow to react, sustaining a fair amount of damage before doing so. Ultimately, the party killed all of the kruthiks but one, which burrowed into the earth to escape before Vindurinn’s magics affected the creature and put it to sleep.

Game 6: The party reborn

NOTE: This session marks the introduction of two new characters. Lucan, the breelan ranger, replaces Talerion, whose player expressed a desire to change characters. The hin rogue, Kyden, is being run by a new player who fills the slot vacated by the player who ran the sorcerer, Bradleton. The ending to the previous game has been changed somewhat.

The tide had begun to shift in the combat against the skeletal warriors, and it seemed as if the characters would triumph. However, the initial confusion caused Talerion and Bradleton to become separated from their companions, if only by a distance of thirty feet. Still, it was enough to allow the undead swordsmen to surround them. Bradleton was the first to fall, struck down by several particularly effective swings of the rusted weapons. Now facing their combined foes alone, Talerion was overwhelmed, and he, too, was felled.

After the battle, and realizing that nothing could be done for their fellows, Kesriel, Elhara, and Vindurinn once more focused on the unopened stone door. Kesriel was able to move the stone peg, responsible for unsealing the door, along its slotted path, and the combined efforts of the three survivor was required to push the door open. Inside, they found a circular column inscribed with the strange writing they had seen earlier, as well as four more mortar encased corpses, though the level of detail given to these was greater than those of the skeletal warriors. One of the casings had broken open when ceramic ceiling tile had fallen upon it, revealing the corpse, who held in its crossed arms a battle axe. This weapon was determined to be enchanted, and Kesriel claimed it as her own.

With this subterrainian level explored, the trio returned to the surface, but not before respectfully interring their fallen comrades and Elhara’s prayers. It was nearing nightfall, and the surviving party members prepared to camp, as Vindurinn sent a report of the events to Scumbler back in Irongate. The following morning, there was a message in the scroll tube to return to Irongate promptly, and to wait at the Billeting Office until summoned by Scumbler. It took nearly a week for the return journey, and then a wait of another few days before their presence was required.

During that time, two other individuals arrived at the Billeting Office, a breelan named Lucan, and a hin named Kyden. The party recognized these persons as being from the other adventuring company sent out at the same time as they, the city’s residents who had boarded the hin water vessel for a trip down the Kendrichee River.

Soon after the newcomers arrival, Scumbler called a meeting in which he informed all that, since both parties had suffered significant losses, they would now form one group. It was learned that the other party’s leader, a confident young man born to privelage and power, had led his group to intercept a moving goblin caravan in search of items or information. These caravans, while willing to deal with virtually anyone when they have stopped, are known to be fiercely protective while in transit. The party’s leader, assured that an exception would be made on his behalf, soon found his group confronting the hobgoblin soldiers who trailed the caravan, and only the hin and breelan managed to escape with their lives.

After receiving an updated letter of service signed by Jendis Sloan, the newly reformed party heads north to see Armand and procure suitable mounts, four riding horses and a pony for the hin. They purchase supplies and leave Irongate once more, riding south on the road which runs beside the Kendrichee River. They were also accompanied by their pack mule, whom the adventurers had affectionately named “Thunderhoof”.

They rode for six days before sighting some unusual seeming activity in the fields north of Byrnehold. A plowman had harnessed his three draft horses to a large ring recently uncovered in the field, and was attempting to pull free what was believed to be a circular door set into the buried stone. It was believed that the community of Byrnehold was erected above subterrainian ruins of a previous age, and that this doorway may lead to a similar find. The thick rope broke with the strain, and the doorway was examined and a new plan suggested. An acidic compound was applied to the corroded metal ring surrounding the disc, and more horses and rope were used on the second try. With great effort, the doorway broke open with such violence that the pulley and heavy log tripod were destroyed.

Just then, four riders approached from the direction of Byrnehold. Three were obviously members of the Black Legion, Byrnehold’s military, so named for their black horsetail plumed helmets, and the fourth was soon discovered to be Lord Ambrose Byrne himself. The Lord expressed interest in the occurances, and stated that it was the purview of the Black Legion to secure any ruins. The plowman responded by saying that he was searching for new land to till, and that this area was beyond what was widely accepted to be the area claimed by Byrnehold. His Lordship cooly countered this argument, and it seemed as if the plowman was about to captulate to the Lord’s wishes.

Before this could happen, Elhara commented that, if this were truly the case, then any discoveries would be free of the Lord’s contention. Lord Byrne, who was said to be firm but fair, acceded to this argument, and asked to be informed of developements. He and his contingent then rode off.

It took little effort for the party to convince the simple townsfolk to allow them to explore the underground area, and they were soon lowered by rope into the darkness. The initial exploration revealed little, just what appeared to be an ancient prison of sorts, with only remnants of the old iron bars, so badly were they corroded.

A portcullis had come down further into the complex, somehow becoming cocked in its track, so that a narrow gap was created at one end under which one might slither. Kyden, the hin rogue, immediately volunteered, being the smallest and slightest of the group. Unfortunately, he became snagged on the corroded grate, and while the disturbance was minimal, it was enough to dislodge some of the stonework overhead and cause it to crash down. Most party members manage to dodge the hazard, but Kesriel was wounded enough that the cleric, Elhara, tended to her injuries.

Continuing under, the hin scouted ahead for a short distance, and saw that the complex continued on. The others shouted for the farmers to throw down a servicable piece of the shattered tripod, and with this they broke the rivets and pried further open the corner of the portcullis. After all had passed through, they continued as a group to a point where three seperate staircases lead downward, each terminating in a large cell. Slow moving water was dribbling down one of the stairs, and some great shifting of the earth had split the staircase and opened a crevasse on the far side of the cell, whose door was partially open.
The water at the bottom of the stairs was roughly 6’ deep, and when the characters approached, two rubbery tentacles came through the gate, which a portion of the creature’s body could be seen above the water beyond.

The two breelan, Kesriel and Lucan, waded into the water to engage the creature, while Elhara, Vindurinn, and Kyden remained further up the stairs and attacked with spells or ranged weapons. The creature, tough as it was, was finished in short order, and the group crossed the foul, inky water to the narrow crevasse beyond. The water trickled through the opening, causing the stone of the naturally formed opening to become slick, and there were also scraps of rotting meat to be found near the edge.

The group traversed the increasingly steep crevasse, ultimately lowering themselves into an enotmous cavern on the far side. An exploration of this area revealed the crumbling ruins of an ancient keep, which the party investigated. On the first floor, they found a stairwell leading up, which was choked with debris. They found a wooden ladder on the far side of the keep leading to the upper floor and ascended, mapping out the upper level of the old keep. They found the top of the same staircase they had viewed from below, though it was clear of any obstructions. This oddity caused some concern, and Kyden stealthily descended the stairs to look around. The layout was identical to what he had seen earlier, but as he neared the edge of the ruins, he spied several light sources, of varying sizes, out in the cavern, and numerous figures moving around them. He returned to the group to report his findings, and they all then descended the stairs to venture nearer the fires.

With utmost caution, they moved to a distance where they could better make out the figures through the smoky haze. They noticed humans, gray-skinned dwarves with spiky hair, and elves with black skin in what appeared to be some sort of marketplace, complete with tables of goods, as well as pens containing both animals and humanoids. They recognized the dwarves to be duergar, members of the dwarven race who hailed from the shadowfell, and who were known to engage in human trafficking. All were clueless about the dark skinned elves, but the sight of the duergar was enough to causes the party to withdraw and have a look about the far side of the cavern. They found a wide tunnel leading further into the bowels of the earth, one which hadn’t existed in the cavern before the descended the stairs of the keep.

Vindurinn surmised that they had crossed into the parallel plane of the shadowfell, and the group made the difficult journey back the way the had come, back to their native plane. Two of the farmers had remained topside, and used the draft horses to raise the characters. After much deliberation, it was decided that this potential threat was too great not to inform the government of Byrnehold, and the soldier who had remained behind was sent for the commander of the Black Legion.

A short time later, Adrian Byrne arrived with a dozen men on horseback, and listened to the adventurers story. He immediately took charge of the situation, ordering his men to seal the opening. As it was now night, and the party had nothing else to accomplish here, they headed into Byrnehold in search of lodging.

Game 5: The Ruins of Hedra-Inktu

The corpse found in the ankheg lair was so badly mauled and damaged by acid that little was salvagable. The party members were able to recover two small metal vials, which turned out to be potions of healing, items which the unfortunate human had not had time to use. There was also a scabbard at his waist, though no accompanying weapon was to be found.

After spending the remainder of the afternoon and all of the following night recovering from their wounds, the party continued their exploration after Elhara’s morning prayers. They cleared several stairways leading underground, finding little of interest. They were beginning to get the impression that the ancient inhabitants of the city had not all perished in a sudden act of destruction, but rather had been able to effect an organized withdraw from whatever had claimed the city, taking with them nearly all of their possessions.

As they moved about the ruins, the party came across signs of a days-old struggle, and saw a longsword lying upon the ground, obviously the weapon of the ankheg’s latest meal. The bard examined the weapon, and found it to be magical, but his dabbling in the arcane arts left him ill prepared for further identification, so he asked the wizard, Vindurinn, for assistance. The learned eladrin examined the weapon at length, determining its unique properties. Since Talerion was the only party member who used a longsword in combat, he claimed it as his own.

One particular stair led to a large underground chamber which still had a few stone bookcases standing, though most had collapsed with the passage of time. The floor of this area was sloped, as if due a land shift of some magnitude, and groundwater had pooled and become stagnant over a large area. Stone repositories of various size were set upon the ground around the perimeter of the oddly shaped room. After attempting to move one which was surrounded by water, it was discovered that they were all affixed to the floor. Closer inspection showed that each side and the top were each individual pieces of worked stone, and that they fit nearly perfectly together. Regardless, they were still sealed with mortar, and a dagger was used to scrape this away and pry the lid from the container. The water had managed to permeate the container, and the paper it had once held was now utterly destroyed, causing the water inside the container to become cloudy as it was agitated.

The party made a circuit of the room, opening each repository in succession. None of those where the floor had been flooded bore anything useful, and even the majority of those where the floor was dry had allowed in air over time, reducing the contents of the containers to worthlessness. Four of the repositories, however, had manage to protect their contents from the ravages of time. In one was a set of magical cloth armor, stitched with runes of arcane power. Two of the others held silver amulets, which were easily identified by Vindurinn. The last container was somewhat larger, and held two tall stacks of papers. Although the ink was nearly completely faded, the wizard was able to tell from each of the top sheets that this was a written record or history of this place. The bard attempted to move one of the sheets, which crumbled to dust beneath his fingers, and no such attempts were made again. The lid was replaced, and a message sent to Argo Scumbler by means of the enspelled scrollcase concerning this matter.

Some time later, the group were in the process of clearing another stair opening when a number of beasts within were disturbed, A swarm of rats and two dire rats emerged from below and frantically began attacking the warden and the bard. Mere seconds later, several winged creatures with long proboscises flew out. Most retreated for the safety of the surrounding trees, but two turned in mid-flight and targeted the PCs, causing ongoing damage as they drained blood from their victims. The warden was in a bad position, partially down the stairs, her retreat cut off by the rats. Ill fortune struck the party, resulting in this battle being more difficult than it should have been, but in the end they prevailed. The rest of the day yielded nothing of interest.

The following day, they discovered another underground chamber of immense size, though still not as big as the building which served as Skrignak’s base. A large stone door initially blocked the way, but the stone facade on the surrounding wall had fallen away, revealing the stonework locking mechanism within, and the party was able to pass with relative ease. Six massive stone columns supported the vaulted ceiling overhead, though some stone had still crashed down over time. Another doorway rested in the far wall, over 200’ away, and the side walls contained horizontal openings which contained shapes made of mortar or terra cotta. A great many of thes had crumbled and fallen away, revealing the skeletons of soldiers within. After moving closer and not being able to identify the faded raiments, the party headed for the door on the far side.

The door was similar to the one the had recently come through, although the facade here was still intact. There was a per protruding from the wall and several slotted paths it could follow, so the characters had a good idea of how to open the door. The warden, the strongest member of the group, pulled upon the peg with all her might. It moved grudgingly, but as it did so, numerous cracking noises could be heard from the room behind them. They turned to see nearly twentl skeletons armed with rusted longsword emerging from their earthen cocoons, those that had not been compromised by the passing of the ages. Four skeletal archers appeared on the upper tiers of each side, and the characters fought for their survival against overwhelming numbers.

The skeleton warriors seemed to be destroyed easily enough, their bones dry and brittle, and the adventurers began to take heart. The archers fired their bows, and their bone arrows did minimal damage when they hit. When they missed and shattered upon the stone, however, a new warrior would spawn there, creating a replenishing army for the party to fight. Things appeared dismal at first, with the party’s original plan proving too dangerous. A few shouted comments brought about another strategy, and the tide began slowly to turn. The warden and cleric climbed the stairs to one of the upper tiers, pressuring the archers themselves. After a grueling encounter, the characters emerged victorious, though battered and worn down, their resources nearly depleted.

NOTE: Beginning next game, the bard will be replaced by a ranger, and another player will be joining. The ending to this encounter will be altered to accomodate this, so the next entry in the Adventure Log will begin with the revised conclusion to this combat before continuing on.

Game 4: The Goblins of Hedra-Inktu

NOTE: The previous defender, a human battlemind named Abel, has been replaced with a female breelan warden by the name of Kesriel.

After leaving their goblin guide, Ras, the party continues eastward to the ruins known to the goblins as hedra-inktu (land’s breath). They arrive in the northwest corner of the ancient city, and begin a deliberate, systematic search. The buildings along the outskirts of the city are nearly completely obliterated, but the buildings further within the ancient civilization are in somewhat better shape. Ther are still a number of standing walls, or at least portions of walls, and a few of the buildings still possess an upper floor which haven’t collapsed with the passage of time. They find nothing of interest or value, however, as this section of the city seemed to have been picked over thoroughly by the goblins.

Each party member makes an appreciable contribution to the effort, whether it be navigating the ruins, avoiding encounters with goblin sentries, or clearing rubble to aid their search. Eventually, however, as they near the center of the ancient city, an area housing the goblin encampment, they draw the notice of a patrol, which sound an alarm before closing in. The members of the party take no offensive action, instead opting to parlay with the diminutive humanoids, and learning that the entirety of the ruins, and anything to be found in them, belongs to Skrignak. Other goblins soon arrive, and the party is encouraged, by word and spear, to march toward the center of the city, to the largest building in sight.

Numerous goblin children shadow the goblin captors as they lead the party to a hobgoblin, who briefly questions the party before ordering them placed in an improvised cell, the cellar of a building with a latticework of saplings secured over the stairwell. There they are told to surrender their armor and weapons, and they are reluctant to do so. Several goblin spellcasters descend the stairs and work their magics, leaving each character feeling a prickly sensation on their skin and a knowledge that if they move from their current locations, they will suffer physical damage. The cell’s only other inhabitant, a hin male, suggests that the characters might do well to comply. Eventually, they do surrender their weapons and armor.

They learn that the hin’s name is Pellin, and that hye was captures in an area of the ruins yet untouched by the goblins. An unfortunate collapse occured when he and his party were exploring an underground area, killing one of his companions and seriously wounding another, which happened to be his cousin. A large goblin patrol came to investigate the disturbance and came upon them when they were tending to the fallen. Apparently influenced by the gasses which emanate from the ground in places, their fighter foolishly rushed the goblins, and was killed in the subsequent battle. Another of his party, a male human, ran away, terrified. Pellin had been a captive for about a week, and had learned nothing of his cousin, who was also taken.

For three days, the characters were held in the cell. On the second, the hobgoblin came to the barred opening, accompanied by an agitated goblin which Pelling identified as a Hand of Maglubiyet, and an old, blind goblin shaman. Pellin spoke little goblin, but was able to infer that the Hand of Maglubiyet was advocating death for the prisoners, while the shaman mentioned his visions, in which an outsider would be key to Skrignak’s ultimate victory. Since it was unknown who the outsider might be, he suggested the release of all of the prisoners. Skrignak, the goblin commander, was away at the goblin enclave of Mah-Luk-Tor, and it seemed the decision fell to the hobgoblin, who must be his lieutenant.

The following morning, the lattice was pulled aside and the prisoners ordered to come up. Their possessions were on the ground, and the hobgoblin told them to gether their things and leave, much to the obvious displeasure of the Hand of Maglubiyet. The bard tried to strike deal which would allow them to search the untouched southern end of the ruins for the goblins, but that idea was rejected, the hobgoblin saying that the Nightling’s sweep of the ruins would continue upon Skrignak’s return. Asking about Pellin’s cousin, they learned that he had died of his injuries and that the corpse had been disposed by the goblins.

Parting ways with Pellin, the adventurers leave the city, heading the way they came, but circle around to the southern section in order to fulfill their duty to Irongate and search what area they could. Half a day was spent searching, with a great deal of effort required to clear the rubble. Unexpectedly, they came across a pair of ankheg who were excavating a new nest, and the party faced it’s toughest challenge to this point. After the battle, it was discovered that the female ankheg was gravid, and Elhara deduced that, given this, and the fact that it was springtime, the female was constructing a burrow in which to lay her eggs.
A search of the lair produced the corpse of a human male, mostly eaten and damaged by acid, whom they guessed was Pellin’s panicked comrade.


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