RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

Fourth Right and Honourable

Hello everyone. Yes, I know. The events of this log happened AGES ago. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do more frequent (and less out-of-date) logs from here on in. The log has been broken into discrete segments, so only read what interests you (as most of you would have been there for those events). Everyone should definitely read the segment on Lev, however. -Skewed

Alas, but I have been most lax in the recording of recent events. What would my father say of such piecemeal and haphazard record-keeping? Ah, I am in sore need of his counsel in these troubling times. But never again will I hear his voice, never will I learn more of his wisdom. Karj, you thrice-cursed spawn of a runt troglodyte and a mind-addled goblin! May hour eyes rot and your beard be consumed by mange, may your skin taste the thousand lashes of fire, may your arms be torn from-

A long spray of ink mars the page, as if the writing implement had broken. The writing continues further down the page.

Curse you forever, but such anger gets me nowhere, I must calm myself, and order my thoughts. As it has been awhile, I think I shall separate each event in my mind, and see what I can remember of each.

The Lizardfolk

Reading back I see that last I wrote of Theren stealing his way across the trees to the camp of the filthy lizardfolk. Despite a tense moment when a broken branch caused one of the warriors to investigate, Theren’s stealth allowed him to gain the lean-to without incident. The same could not be said for Zepher, however, who fell loudly and attracted their attention.

Battle was joined in the usual fashion, and giving a blow by blow account would serve no purpose here except to fill these pages with dross. Sae to say it was a difficult battle,w ith enemies in all directions and a dangerous slime-creature that the lizardfolk had kept in a pit.

After the battle, we rested in the cave that had housed the lizardfolk shaman, which was regrettably filled with bones of various creatures, including humans, and a couple live iguanas. There was also precise stacks of gold coins, arranged in the geometric configuration peculiar to the malicious tribes of the Nentir Vale. While I knew that the supposed ‘Curse of Nature’ activated by placing these coin stacks along the ley lines was nothing more than superstition, Amos had no wish for any of the coins, and the dwarf was as untrusting as he is untrustworthy, so we divided the coins amongst the rest of us.

After some difficulty in restraining Amos, and finding a peculiar bone totem in Theren’t pack )which was summarily disposed of), we rested and set out to find Concorde and continue our journey. The creature was near death when we found it, but after a bit of healing we could continue on our way.

Harkenwold Village

Soon we were accosted by a voice, that of the leader of the elf squad that had earlier accosted us, before being scared off by the dread bear. With extreme confidence Zepher assured us that the elf was not a threat. Thus Kat spoke with her, reporting that she had left the clan secretly to thank us for the bear warning, as well as for eliminating the lizardfolk in the area. Impressed by our heroics, she made us a gift of some herbal tincture to cure Theren and ¬_the dwarf_, both of whom had worsened during the night.

Upon finding the road we made good time, ‘til we came upon a strange sight. A skeleton, eyes aflame, freshly tied to a tree beside the road. Unlike the usual mouldering barrow-guards, these bones still clung to glistening wet flesh, and Zepher informed us that this skeleton had likely been flayed but recently. The bones bore no battle sign, but we could feel a dark energy, that very same that stole the vitality of Mosook the hobgoblin in the Twisting Halls. The sorry creature was cut down and despatched before we continued over a crest to the village.

As we approached it was painfully clear that not all was well in the village. The well had burst, the green had been churned into a black mess and the wreckage of tables and other furniture was piled high upon every door. There was movement, human figures trudging too and fro, but all were the frames of listless skeletons, batting idly at the doors and debris. There did not seem to be that great a threat, but of course, ‘tis never the overt threat that kills you.

No sooner had we charged the town with sword and magics than a great scintillating flare fell into the town, driving the skeletons into a fury. They began tearing at the doors of the town, and we could hear the screams of terrified townsfolk within. We charged into battle, but it was not just skeletons we faced. From the well clambered the quick-rotted corpses of former adventurers, and from the roofs burst most fearsome flaming skeletons. Yet that was not the worst of it. Not for me. For one of the decaying faces from the well was all too familiar. This shambling horror was Mikal! Mikal who I had shared a fire with, who I had fought beside, who I had befriended. Even in death he did not forget who he was, calling again on Erathis, though she strike him down as an abomination. This next shames me to speak of, but it must be said. As the battle raged, and the others struggled to save the innocent townspeople, I did not aid them. I could have rushed to the townspeople’s aid, burst them from their prisons and spared them the blades of the skeletons. But I did not. I was too focussed on my one time companion, wheedling, cajoling and finally threatening him. I told myself I was providing a distraction, that I was preventing from using his foul perversion of magic, but in my heart of hearts I know that I was merely obsessed with the death of the dead, rather than in rightly preserving the life of the living. The others did things I would not agree with, things I would consider foolish. But how can I judge them, when I am so sorely lacking. What will happen if this situation arises again? Is it better to remove evil from this world to prevent further suffering, even if innocents must die for it? I know not the answers.

Travelling to Daggerburg

After the battle at Harkenwold and a small rest period, we decided to journey to Daggerburg keep. Theren had disappeared with Lev, but left us with a trail to follow. There was some difficulties, making a welcome distraction to my heavy thoughts. Eventually after some small happenings on the road Lev veered off the track to the ruins of a once great tower, now a sunken hole full of near-solid black oil. According to his excited ravings, the only drains once in a span of years, revealing the treasures and fiendish puzzles that lay within. I shall not speak overmuch of this, save to say that we all revealed ourselves to be following Lev, and that we could only manage to recover two of the many treasures that lay beneath the oil. Lev immediately claimed one of these, and it looked as if a fight may have been in the offing. Eventually he was persuaded to guide us to Daggerburg, at the price of the treasure he held and my oath of protection.

Lev Strikes

That night I set up a watch roster between myself and Kat, one of us to keep active watch, and the other to trance, while still keeping an eye on the campsite. Lev had decided to camp separately. I was in mid-trance when I noticed something amiss. Lev, crouched down before me, easing the treasure out from under my gaze. A quick glance around the camp showed everyone sleeping soundly, including Kat. It seems that our cousins the elves are more different than I had at first thought. It hardly matters, despite being interesting, but I wonder why Kat would not have corrected my error, unless she was merely embarrassed about having to slumber like a mortal.

Thus I was alone in having to resolve this situation with Lev. As I had only become aware of him when he was already upon me, he had the advantage. However, he merely relinquished his hold on the treasure before glaring at me furtively from behind his armoured shoulder, which he presented to me. Not wishing violence, I attempted to talk to him, and managed to extract a promise from him that he would not again attempt to steal the treasure from me. It seems I had also scored some small victory over the prejudice that roils in this land, for he no longer seemed to hate me for my race alone. In fact, he suggested to me that I should use my appearance to gain entry to the lavish eladrin estates in Fallcrest. We each returned to our rest, after Lev asked me for a promise in turn. He beseeched me that I not reveal his attempt on the treasure, for while he accepts me he is unsure about my companions. As I had already sworn to protect him on our journey to Daggerburg, I saw no harm in the thing. I wonder, though, if I made the right choice. I have no wish to lie to my companions, even if it is by omission. Nevertheless, I have sworn and I shall not become an oathbreaker. All that I can do is accept responsibility for my foolishness, whatever the cost may be.

Fey Stamp

The next morning, however, I fell victim to a strange affliction. The world around me blurred, seemingly overlaid with another, more vibrant land. This other land seemed to have an almost painful clarity. The light was brighter, strong colours unabashedly blazing wherever the sun fell. But the shadows, oh the shadows were deep, they pulled at the mind with their tendrils of darkness. My companions became vague and insubstantial. I think they tried to speak with me, but I could barely hear their muted murmurs amongst the knife-edged whistling of the wind. I followed them as best I could, for although there were a few glaring discrepancies I had to navigate, the otherworldly land I was travelling in seemed a reflection of that I normally inhabited. Or rather, the world I normally travelled in seemed as a pale and washed out reflection of that I was now travelling in, a place I had known only for seconds at a time. I was in the Fey.

The Fey, what might have been my home, had my father not fled with myself as a babe in his arms. I know not how I came to be following the ghosts of my friends through the Fey. I had stepped through before, but ‘twas for mere moments, not for hours on end as it was now. However, it seems I was not truly in the Fey, for I could still see my companions and their world, and I passed unnoticed by many of the Fey denizens. It was beautiful, and I perhaps now understand why Eladrin seem aloof. If one had lived in such a place, with such colour and verdant life all around them, how could one come to terms with the gray bleakness of the human world? I do not condone whatever else my kind has done, but perhaps I begin to understand this.

I was not alone in my wanderings, however. I felt another, a presence that followed me as I followed my friends. It worried me, at first, but after several hours nothing untoward happened and I began to relax. This presence seemed more curious than anything else, and when I began to play my lute the presence followed me all the closer. I could feel it, in the back of my mind, trying to communicate with me, whispering in the back of my mind. Slowly, slowly and image took form in my mind. This creature, whatever it was, diaphanous and ephemeral , soaring amongst the highest winds, screaming with the thunder and falling with the rain. Almost, almost I understood what it was like to be this creature. It was then that I felt it. I could feel a great shout well up within me and burst from my throat. The creature roared exultantly along with me.

The rest of the day went much like that, with me playing and my friend whispering, now and then both of us roaring triumphantly together. It was tiring, mustering the energy for that, but my voice is a hardy thing, and I feel I could do it many times a day, if necessary. Soon enough my companions came to a dark edifice of stone, and the presence that had travelled with me fled.

In Daggerburg

After a short time in the stone edifice the blurred and indistinct forms of my companions became agitated, and with a sudden wrench that left my head spinning I was cast out of the Fey and into a fray. My companions were in the midst of battle with a band of hobgoblins! I will confess that in seeing such an enemy all prudence was tossed out the window. I rushed into the fray, fuelling my shout with the rage within. Perhaps the Fey had weakened me, perhaps my sudden expulsion had disoriented me, or perhaps I thought only of their destruction and not my own preservation. Whatever the reason, in attempting to use my newfound power I was impaled upon the foul ‘goblin weapon, leaching my lifeblood onto the cold stone. The battle raged on around me, as Zepher came to my aid. I saw Amos, blades flashing. Then I saw Kat blast the goblin warchief with power, sending him running hysterically into a pit in the floor, the sickening sound of splattering blood and snapping bones echoing back to we who stood above. But it was not this that horrified me. It was the blood-red motes of light that streamed from the corpse and into Kat’s sword, it was the shiver that took her as the sword drank, and then the unholy vitality that lightened her limbs and gleamed in her eyes. There is a term for what happened there, and I am loath to speak it of a friend, but though it seems like a goodly while, I am reminded how truly little I know of these people to whom I have entrusted life and limb.

The hobgoblins fled after the death of their leader, but not before another was cut down and fed on by Kat and her unholy sword. After this, we all split up to investigate the keep. Obviously meant to defend from outside attack, there were also makeshift barriers across many doors leading further into the keep, as if to keep something in. Likely more of the dead had been snatched from the grave and sent a-walking. While the others investigated a storeroom I found upon the desk of the warchief a map of the first floor. This goblin seemed remarkably intelligent for its kind, for the map was covered in their crude script, detailing the undead attacks on the barricades, the ranks of rank hobgoblins that had been lost, and the chief’s plans to retake the keep. Amos helped me decipher the map, for his knowledge of the Goblin nouns was far greater than I. I shall have to ask him about that at some point.

The storeroom was filled with garbage, all piled high against two walls. I came in just in time to see one of them lift a dwarven corpse from a barrel by its braided hair. I kept my distance, for it likely smelled in death as it did in life. A note on the barrel informed us that something called the Stormtower is being rebuilt in Fallcrest, under the jurisdiction of a town guard by the name of Nathan Ferrengray. It also informed us that this particular vermin had stepped into a trap on the King’s Road.

After some dithering about our varying levels of knowledge, we squeezed ourselves through the cracks in the corner, pliant and compressible due to having drunk water from the fountain in the storeroom. We squirmed our way through the thin cracks, occasionally seeing tracks of wizard and man when the way opened up enough for us to see tracks as more than narrow marks on the ground.

Eventually we emerged in a lower level, following the tracks to a collapsed section of the hallway. The rocks seem to have been tumbled from the ceiling on purpose, though whether to keep something in or out I could not say. Zepher and I began to investigate the other side of the collapse when we heard the distinctive sounds of battle. That fool dwarf had wandered off and triggered the guardians of a crypt. To be fair, the blasted thing does despatch them rather well. That is no excuse for being foolhardy, however. Eventually the waves of animated bones pouring one after the other from the sarcophagi lining the walls forced the issue and thus everyone slipped through the collapse and into the other crypt.

Sir Keegan

The crypt was dark. Not in a tangible way, nothing solid that could be dispelled. The torches and sunrods we held still cast the same light, but their light seemed dimmer, the shadows they cast longer. A single sarcophagus dominated the room, the lid carved in the likeness of some ancient warrior. No sooner had we stepped close than the lid flew from its place, sending a great cloud of dust billowing around us. Standing ready was a tall skeleton, the blazoned emblem of Bahamut upon its breast. With a strident voice the skeleton questioned us, stating that its would protect something called the rift at any cost. Amos informed us that the skeleton must be near a century old, and further told me the tale of Sir Keegan, the knight in command of Daggerburg who went mad and murdered all of its occupants. Such a story, it makes me wonder what else I may have missed while in the Fey. Nevertheless, I have some small knowledge of the portals between realms. If there is a rift in Daggerburg, it would be a gargantuan source of shadow energy, enough even to allow access to the shadow realm. For certain something that must be protected at all costs. However, there is danger even in that. Stand too close and who knows what may reach out and snare you, and Sir Keegan himself is an example of the virulent madness such rifts inevitably spread.

In a most strange turn of events, Sir Keegan showed himself to be rather enamoured of Fenstrom, believing him to be a good man whose only goal is to seal the rift forever. Zepher and Theren attempted to tell him the truth of the matter, only to be met with increasing hostility. I convinced him that with my knowledge of such rifts I was capable of closing it, but the skeleton was suspicious of the others. In an odd twist of events, it was the dwarf who finally convinced Keegan that he should trust us. I suppose even the foulest of creatures can have the sweetest tongues, the better to lure in unsuspecting victims. The dwarf spouted some waffle about his god, which is to be expected. What worries me is his purported knowledge of healing, especially of the mind. It is well-known that healers and others who know intimately the secrets of the body and mind are the most skilful in breaking them.

Keegan was less knowledgeable than I would have liked about what faced us ahead. Meanwhile, Amos asked him about his sword. Keegan regaled us with the tale of Acris, and became quite eager to have it away from his corrupted grasp and once more into honour. He was unable to give it away easily, however, and wished it to be pried from his faltering grip after his honourable death in battle. I was not alone in wanting to grant this lost soul his wish, so battle was joined with the mighty Sir Keegan!

Battle is battle, wherever you go. This one was no different, so I shall merely recount things of note in this record.
Firstly, perhaps by watching me or through some addle-brained idea of his own, the dwarf has decided to try his tongue at song. Needless to say it pained both my ears and my sensibilities. In addition, despite his vaunted use as a healer, were it not for my hurried reminder he would have neglected to heal Kat when she was sorely wounded. Much as I am worried by her and her sword, she is nevertheless a companion I am loath to lose. Unlike the dwarf himself.
Keegan was the most odd skeleton I have ever encountered. In addition to his intelligence and his ability to speak, he was filled with a corrupted black ichor which he sprayed over a wide area. Those sorely wounded who were unfortunate enough to stand close to him had their blood stolen until they were weak with its loss.
Perhaps it was because we were finally engaged in a fair and honourable fight. Perhaps it was the challenge we faced. This time, above all others, Amos showed his true skill as a swordsman. ‘Twas he who wounded Keegan, ‘twas he who landed blow after mighty blow, and ‘twas he that finally expelled the poor skeleton’s soul from his mouldering bones and laid them to rest, claiming the sword Acris.
Not all is well, however. Not to my mind. Keegan was unsure of how quickly the madness of shadows took him, be it weeks or perhaps even months. But he was a knight, supposed to be a paragon of purity and honour. How quick then, for the shadow to corrupt someone who has not dedicated their life to such ideals? I speak of Zepher, who during the course of battle turned on the dwarf and laid him low, even as we all battled Sir Keegan. I will be the first to say that I wish nothing to do with the dwarf, and that I have no doubt the world would be better without he and his ilk. Yet, despite what he is he has done nothing overt against me, and I know better than to fight amongst ourselves when there is a greater enemy. With regards to Zepher, I am not sure what I wish the truth of the matter to be. Either contact with Keegan corrupted Zepher and goaded him to attack a companion, or he is so petty and cowardly that being unharmed, having the skeleton pushed close to him by the dwarf’s magic caused him to spitefully strike at the dwarf. But perhaps it is merely madness, for even now Zepher talks to himself, and is now jumping upon the dwarf, then tearing the golden pendant from around his neck and throwing it at the dwarf. Strangely, the gem that once graced the chain is gone, and the gold seems less than it once was.
A mystery that shall not be solved soon, I fear. Now we must return Sir Keegan’s bones to their rightful resting place, and continue on our way.

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DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 3

Onward the party pressed, assembling in the tomb they discovered. It was pitch black until the sunrods filled the chamber with light… but something was a bit strange. The light seemed ever so slightly weaker, as if a dark mist filled the room. Thinking of shadow energy, Theren looked at his armor. Faint tentrils of shadow collected over his leafy arm as he held it out, and slipped under the leaves. It was drawing in the shadow energy. Zepher, impatient after waiting for the skeleton bashing in the other room to cease, strode up to the massive sarcophagus. With a blast of dust, the lid flew off and with startling agility a skeleton within the coffin stood up. He was dressed in tarnished plate armor, but the sword he held looked as new as the day it was made. A symbol of Bahamut was on his chest, which the religiously trained in the party recognised as a symbol of quite old vintage, about a hundred years ago. “The rift must never be reopened!” croaked the skeleton, with a tense, alert stance that belied decades of military training. “State your intentions, or prepare to die!” The party withheld their own attack and started to speak. Theren whispered to the startled Zepher, “Keegan.” The skeleton turned to Theren, surprised. “Yes… I am Sir Keegan.” {This was a skill challenge, requiring 4 successes before 3 failures.}

The conversation started poorly, as Zepher explained that their intention was to peacefully pass through in order to find a wizard named Fenstrom. The skeleton knew the name… “I know of Fenstrom… what say you about the man?” When Zepher went on to explain Fenstrom’s crimes, Keegan took offense, saying “You lie like fiends! Fenstrom is this Keep’s only salvation now. He knows how to seal the Shadow Rift and toils away at it even as corrupt thieves like you sneak around looting this place!” The party tried to bluff their way out of this misstep, but did not convince Keegan, who grew more suspicious of them. The offense was deepened when Zepher tried to prove he was also a helpful wizard by using prestidigitation show of flames, which unfortunately aggravated a skeleton with a murderous past who was not fond of fire. However, the party recovered with its knowledge of religion and arcana, Jorn and Bastian holding their own in a deep conversation proving that they knew how to deal with shadow rifts, were devoted to Pelor, an ally of Bahamut, and had the best of intentions. Jorn also diagnosed the onset of the madness that set Keegan on his murderous course, and which, he said, might soon affect Fenstrom. Soon Sir Keegan was won over.

The mood lifted, they talked a while. Regarding Fenstrom, Keegan said: “As a leader of many men for many years, I have learned how to judge character. Bahamut has blessed me with true sight into the soul of men. Fenstrom tells me the truth. Even if you do not believe me now, I know you also have good judgement. You will see that he wants nothing more than to close the Shadow Rift. I could not possibly be wrong about him.” Amos openly admired Keegan’s sword, a fine blade with platinum and diamonds, set with a dragon’s head on the pommel. Keegan said, “This is my sword, Aecris, an implement given to me by King Elidyr when I was knighted. But I realise now… I don’t deserve to wield it. Perhaps it can be used to fight the things that emerge from that accursed rift. Here, take it.” He started to hand it to an amazed Amos but then held back. “But no. I swore to King Elidyr that I would hold Aecris in battle until it were pried from my dead hands. Though my hands are dead, I am not defeated. I ask you—face me in an honorable fight. Cut me down as a warrior for my king, not leave me here to slowly rot as a mad traitor. Defeat me in the height of my prowess, then take my sword and lay my bones here in my sarcophagus. I will never rise again, and my spirit can at last make its slow way through the valleys of penance… to where, I do not know. But I will leave this Keep with honor. I warn you, I slew many a beast, many a monster, and yes, in the end, many a knight. I must fight you to my utmost. But if you choose to leave me as I am, I will not harm you. Perhaps after my horrid deeds, I deserve to be deprived of Aecris, trapped in my mouldering armor for eternity, guarding the Shadow Rift.” It was clear the party had a choice: to hurry along to the confrontation with Fenstrom, taking the sword from a disappointed Keegan, or they could engage in this fight, learning much about battle {gaining XP}, and fulfilling Keegan’s wish. In weighing this, the party realised it was long past the 10 minutes that Wizard’s Escape usually lasted, and they still felt squishy. So Theren was apparently correct that this effect will last quite some time. But it would not last through an extended rest, almost certainly. This meant that if they wanted a rest, they would need to retreat to the room with the magical basin, then drink from it again to resume their quest. But the dungeoneers in the party knew that dungeons like this one have a tendency to repopulate, and when they came back through, places that used to be empty, or cleared of enemies, might not remain so. A tough call—they could preserve their strength {their daily powers and healing surges} and push on the the end, catching Fenstrom before giving him much more time to prepare, or retreat and rest at least once before the final battle, perhaps facing extra enemies as they repenetrated the dungeon, and facing Fenstrom after another day of his preparations. That can be decided later, however. For now, they decided to fight Keegan as he had requested.

The battle with Sir Keegan was epic. He was a very strong and durable foe {a solo enemy, designed to take on an entire party alone, with action points and lots of HP} who used his skill with the longsword to hit hard while his plate armor protected him. Once he was bloodied, he started oozing a corruption from his bones which he flung off in waves of necrotic energy. Unlike most battles though, this one was almost merry, as Sir Keegan became more cheerful and vital even as he was further damaged. This was the final fight he wanted to be known for. As he neared destruction, a ghostly form of a fleshy body faded into view around him, as his spirit prepared to depart, showing the ghostly image of a warrior in his prime. On his last legs he faced Amos. “Finish it, ranger. Put me to rest.” Amos complied, slicing the knight down the middle, shattering bone and armor. Aecris clattered to the floor and Amos took it up. {The party split XP: 300 for the skill challenge, 875 from combat = 195 each.}

The party laid the bones to rest in the sarcophagus. Meanwhile, Zepher decided the Chain of the Virtuous Minotaur was not serving its purpose well. He was simply not well aligned with Pelor, and thought that Jorn would be a more fitting wearer of the chain. Zepher mentally proposed this to the chain, who seemed rather hurt at first, but then grew interested in serving a priest of Pelor without the prickly undertone of its relationship with the wizard. However, this transition was fraught. Details aside, suffice it to say the chain ended up corroded and broken into pieces—gold links which Theren helpfully picked up to sell later. Thus the party lost one of its more unusual members. Perhaps some research will reveal more about just what that was all about.

Down the cracks the party went, into the dark. It was more of a descent this time, definitely going deeper into the earth, following the thin trail left by those who came here before them. Soon they found themselves dropping down into the end of a narrow corridor, with a crunch: the 10-foot high corridor was piled with bones at this end, at least 5 feet deep, trailing off down the corridor. They turned out to be mostly human bones, some elven and dwarven. As they later discovered, the room they were entering was a service corridor in the back of a mausoleum, and they reckoned that this is where remains were shoved after they had lain in state long enough for their friends and family to have forgotten them—the old dead shoved aside to make room for the freshly dead.

This unpleasant beginning was made all the more creepy by the oppressive darkness here. The air seemed thick with a dark mist, making lights dimmer and sight short. {All lights only cast bright light in their immediate square, then continued as dim light for half their range, to a maximum of 5 squares.} This was surely shadow energy, and it made everything gloomy and sullen looking. The party looked at each other warily as expressions were made more wicked and sinister in the shadowy light. Theren noticed that the tendrils of shadow were more visibly filtering into his armor. His armor did not seem to be different in nature, but it certainly was thirsty for this energy.

On the north side of the corridor was a row of thick crystal windows, each about two feet tall and four feet wide, with thick copper frames. Through these windows they could see burial urns, set in glass cases, with a matching window on the opposite side. This corridor was thick with dust and cobwebs and dead insects, and clearly two sets of footprints were in the debris. Fenstrom’s boots had walked there at many different times going back at least several months. On top, fresh, were Lev’s boot marks. Both sets had recently paced up and down the whole corridor a few times, near the windows, on which were many finger and hand marks. Clearly there was some way out of this service corridor. The party began to methodically search the walls and windows to find an exit.

As they did, they saw a bizarre sight. In the dim light cast by their spells and sunrods, they could see the far side beyond the cases holding the urns. It was a wide corridor. This one contrasted their surroundings: it was very clean, with no dust and cobwebs. Then, moving westward down that corridor, they saw through the glass a skeleton. It was hovering off the ground, and moving its arms and legs randomly. It saw them through the glass and made swimming motions toward them. But as if carried in a current, it kept moving sideways, and soon vanished from sight. Small spiders started dropping down from gaps in the ceiling in that corridor, spinning new webs. A few moments later the skeleton moved by again, this time moving eastward, again trying to move toward them but carried sideways. Just before it vanished from sight it looked like it turned a corner and started moving north before vanishing into the gloom. Theren thought to look for the spiders and they were gone. A moment later, though, once again, small spiders dropped down from the ceiling, making webs.

Meanwhile, Bastian found a cleverly hidden latch under one of the panes and the pane swung open, hinged on the top. He slid inside, next to the funeral urn, and found on the other side a clearly visible latch that opened the far pane. After sticking a hand ahead uncertainly, he stepped into the wide corridor. The party soon followed, except Theren, who stayed back in the total darkness to become stealthy. In fact, thanks to the dark shadowy mist’s affinity with his armor, he was even stealthier than usual {+2 to visual stealth checks while in this dark mist}. Jorn checked the contents of the urn as he passed and found only ashes and bits of bone.

The wide corridor ran west into the darkness. Along the northern wall were a few more windows, behind which lay skeletons in a burial pose, swords laid on their chests, armor rotting on their bones. The corridor also ran east then bent to the north. At the bend was a vertical window, which had been smashed in. But behind this window was a solid stone surface. They approached this curiosity. Snagged on the shards of the glass was some fabric. It was a scrap from material exactly like Lev’s pants. At the base of the wall, nestled in the corner, was some silver. It was a two pieces of silver jewelry.

Now to the north the corridor vanished into the darkness. Lined up on either side were standing sarcophagi. The first one on the right side was burst open, some of its pieces on the floor. The party was unsure about heading north. Then, just visible at the edge of the dim light to the north, they saw the skeleton again, still hovering off the floor. It swam toward them, but then a force slowly pulled it back into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Jorn had started moving east, and fulfilling his wish, the window in the north wall burst open as he approached. A blast of shadowy mist swept out from the cavity behind the glass, and instantly reformed in front of him, as the skeleton, standing, with its sword drawn. A lance of Jorn’s faith shattered it.

The rest of the party then saw the skeleton start moving toward them. It was still making swimming motions, but now was moving faster than before. It came right up to Bastian and stayed there, now swimming in place, looking the tiniest bit blurry. Zepher, finding this most curious, and having tried but failed to detect anything magical about this phenomenon, stepped around Bastian to the side of the skeleton. But as he did, his body and face pressed into a wet, sticky, snotty substance, like a vertical wall of invisible jelly. He jerked back in surprise, but the wall shimmered and became faintly visible as a vast, dimpled surface filling the whole corridor from floor to ceiling. The skeleton was behind this wall—and soon Zepher was too, as a globby pseudopod emerged from the wall and stuck to him, then sucked him in. Zepher was surrounded by a thick jelly, filling his eyes and nose, and burning like acid. He immediately tried to struggle free {using Escape, and rolling a 20} and managed an impressive backflip up and out of the grip of whatever was surrounding him. He was again on the good side of the wall, certain that he narrowly escaped a nasty experience.

Here is where we leave the party for now, uneasy, mystified, and surrounded by thick, maddening gloom…

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Penetrating the Perimeter
Theren's Log

Well it’s a short update. We picked up where we’d fallen asleep that morning. I don’t know why but Bastian seemed to be all fugged up, phasing in and out of reality. It might have something to do with the fact that he tried to stay up late or something? I didn’t quite catch what was going on because I was trying to make sure Polly was okay. Amos woke up in a pretty good mood and we decided to find some proper food for Polly while the others were getting packed up. On a positive note Polly doesn’t seem to be running away as often and isn’t as bitey. I think she is growing fond of me.

Oh yeah I don’t think it matters much, but Zephyr mentioned that he thinks my new armour set feeds on dark energy. I mean I know a bit about dark energy myself, and of course I realised it as soon as I set eyes on the suit, but it’s nice to have a wizard backing up your theories.

Anyway, once we FINALLY managed to get Lev out of bed, he took us to Daggerburg Keep. I can’t believe we are finally here. Forget days it feels like almost a year since we started out to get to it (five years if you count the time I have had to put up with Lev). Almost no sooner had we seen it than we all realised that it was the dreaded Shadowfell Keep, which is a much better name than Daggerburg anyway.

The ghost stories flew thick and fast about a mythical figure who used to preside over the keep – Sir Keegan. He went mad and slaughtered everyone, including his child and wife. He is said to still haunt the place. Personally I don’t believe in ghosts, but with a necromancer around who knows what we might find? Of course stupid Stormy would just have to have a haunted ruin as his hide out. He said that he would be preparing for us, but I bet he’s just spending the time pasting some extra black rhinestones onto his robes, and sticking up some spider webs and skulls to get the right levels of tackiness.

Anyway we entered the ruins and proceeded down some stairs. I had a look about for traps but there didn’t seem to be any. We then reached the bottom of the stairs and saw some really ferocious looking gobbos. I shot at one and it died superquick, but unfortunately it gave away the element of surprise. Almost no sooner than I had turned and told Amos to stay with Lev he flew down the remaining stairs, across the room, and straight into a pit. To be fair though, he didn’t know it was a pit at the time. From his girlish screams the rest of the party kinda figured there were a bunch of rats down there with him.

Well we all rushed in. There was nothing else for it, was there? Zephyr did some pretty amazing fire spells… or at least, they would have been amazing if he hadn’t accidentally set Amos on fire as well as the rats and pretty much everything else.

Zephyr

I took on the leader of the hobgoblins, naturally, and kicked him in the face. Kat was also doing her thing, holding off a handful of fighters. She did a weird thing to the ground around her and made it, excuse the term but there is no other way to describe it, butch.

Theren kicking arse, er, I mean face

Meanwhile, a terrible wailing pierced my eardrums and gave me a terrible headache. The rats down in the pit seemed struck by it pretty hard too, and started bursting like overfull bladders, alllowing Amos to escape the pit and join the rest of us above-ground.

Amos and a rat pit

Later on someone told me it was Jorn singing. I think it must have been this that finally summoned Bastian back to our realm, because he came in singing.

Jorn Singing

Anyway the fight went on as many of our fights do. Amoss missed a lot, someone else finished off my kills, Jorn played with some torches in a corner, Bastian mocked a few things and Zephyr worked up some righteous mage-rage, although it manifested in an attempt to whip the backsides of our foes with a rope as they were fleeing – which came off as a little more kinky than righteous. Whipping aside, we found a room with some junk all strewn around, including dead dwarves in barrels and notes about job offers. Bastian found a map for level one of the keep. I didn’t look at it because I am a MAN. And MEN don’t get lost or ask for directions, even if they are temporarily misplaced. We also realised that the gobbos we just killed (and whipped) had been barricaded into these few rooms of level one, as though they were trying to stop something from within the keep from getting out. More than a little ominous as far as things go.

What was of great value, however, was a fountain – I knew it must be the one Lev had been talking about. Oh yeah and Lev had buggered off. He disappeared mid battle and although we heard him once or twice we couldn’t find him after that.

I don’t know, something in the hours and hours of listening to Lev’s ranting must have clued me in, because I realised quickly that if water was put in there, then it would be imbued with magical properties to make the drinker able to fit into tiny spaces. I also realised that although it would usually only last ten minutes or so, that while we were in the keep it would last much longer. The others were not as bold as I was so I tried it out and slipped into a damaged wall to prove it would work. I need to find Lev before he does something stupid and gets himself killed.

I am writing now from within the wall, seeing as the others have yet to get their act together and join me. It is difficult, because a) it is quite dark, and b) my writing equipment is almost two dimensional. Poly does not like being stuck in the wall. Hopefully we will soon find and slay Fenstrom.

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DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 2

Here is an especially quick log entry by your harried DM—I am getting ready for the next session!

It was still 26 Patchwell (see timeline). The battle with the hobgoblin warchief continued. Bastian shook off his fey storm and joined in. {Aerro was back for this session.} Once the party killed him, the remaining hobgoblin soldiers declared, “Our chief has fallen! All is lost!” and ran to escape. Despite a few parting blows from the heroes, they went up the stairs. Zepher tried to follow them but took a wrong turn in the ruins, losing their trail. Disappointed, he returned. But the party enjoyed their victory. {This awarded 800 XP to split 5 ways=160 per party member, since most of the fight was with only 5 members. As usual, everyone ends up with the same amount of XP.}

Exploring the three rooms connected by corridors, the party found that the exits beyond this small area were barricaded from the inside with pieces of bedding and scraps of armor covering places where holes were apparently punched and scratched through from the other side. The religiously attuned in the party sensed the lingering signs of the undead—apparently they had been trying to break into this final redoubt formed by the goblins. Looking at the desk of the warchief confirmed this: On the table was a Map—Shadowfell Keep Level 1 by Warchief, with the chief’s crude goblinoid notes (very unusual for a hobgoblin to write at all) about time and number of various attacks. The Goblin speakers recognised the terms as goblinoid terms for the undead, in particular goblins raised as undead, as well as a word that meant “old crypt skeletons”. It looked like they were beseiged for a few days, with attacks mostly coming from the southwest and east, though the warchief was afraid “if they find the secret doors the torture room will be overtaken”. A basic journal told a story of being leader of the guard for Fenstrom in “the headquarters”, till a change two days ago: undead began to attack from the lower levels—this matched the time that Fenstrom was away. The hobgoblins retreated to this room and blocked the doors, and had been fighting them off ever since. However, last night—about the time Fenstrom probably returned to the Keep— the attacks stopped, and the chief was planning how to retake the headquarters.

Meanwhile, others in the party went into a storage room, which was screened at its north end by a hanging curtain pinned with seven thick rat tails. The room smelled of death and was filled with flies. Soon they discovered a barrel with a body inside—a dwarf male, and fetid with decomposition. On the barrel was tacked a note, in Dwarven. It read, “My dear son— There is a call for master dwarven masons to rebuild a tower to the west of Fallcrest. It’s only to be made to human standards, but they should pay well, since the “leaders” of this city seem to sleep on piles of coin. Find others in your guild, who surely have also heard the call, and caravan with them to Fallcrest. Stay safe. Ask among the town guard for Captain Nathan Faringray. He heads up the job to rebuild the Storm Tower. With my love, Father.” Written on the note with a fine script in Common was the addendum: “Nurg’s crew got this one when he fell behind his group caravan on King’s Road. Bring to Hammerfast on next trade run, to trade for ransom. Dwarves want to bury their own.” {Did the party take the head of this dwarf or something? I don’t recall.}

Digging through piles of hastily opened crates and barrels, apparently rifled by the hobgoblins as they mounted their defence, they found a free-standing basin with runes engraved along its inner edge. With arcane examination, the party seemed to discover the following, though some disagree. {Remember that per the house rules, failing a knowledge-type check by more than 5 leads to certainty about a falsehood.}

  • The basin imbues water with ritual powers.
  • It was designed to have some kind of largely benign effect, somehow.
  • The basin is dry but has signs of having recently had water in it.
  • The wall next to it is badly cracked. It is old earthquake damage, of the kind that probably tumbled down the keep walls above ground.

They poured water into the basin, and again discovered and debated the following:

  • The water has magical energy.
  • When drunk, the drinker feels odd and squishy, and can go through the cracks by experiment.
  • This has the same effect as the Wizard’s Escape ritual: For the ritual’s duration, you and up to eight allies can squeeze into and through spaces that a Tiny creature can squeeze through, allowing them to fit into crevices, under some doors, and through most barred gates or walls. An affected creature must still squeeze to fit into a space it could not normally enter. How this ritual manifests varies from caster to caster: It can allow creatures to squeeze their body as though boneless, to step through half-dimensions, ripple into and out of smaller shapes, or anything else.
  • This effect lasts much longer than usual, but under certain conditions.
  • The effect will last about six hours, as long as you stay in the Keep.

The party guessed that Lev came back here during the fight, used this basin, tried to dry it off to hide its purpose, covered it back up with debris, and squeezed through the cracks. Though the party is miffed at this turncoat, some, including Theren, still think he should be rescued if he gets into trouble.

The cracks led in several directions, but one way was cleared of the dust from the rubble, apparently having been walked on in this strange thin state. It led down, then roughly south. There was a wet smell and water dripped from above. It was unnerving to go through here knowing time may be short, like swimming through an underwater tunnel hoping you find air before you run out of breath. The crack went up and opened into the floor of a 5-square-long-2-wide hallway which had a door at the west end, but no tracks in the dust led that way. The tracks led right up to a collapsed section where the roof has caved in, but the gaps in the cracks are small enough to squeeze through thanks to the magical effect. The dungeoneers in the party realised this section had been deliberately collapsed.

However, some in the party could not contain their curiosity and went west. This opened up into a crypt with an air of sanctity and reverence, glowing with a cold light. Jorn entered, admiring the dome overhead showing Bahamut, and the murals on either side showing knights kneeling in prayer. There were altars to Bahamut on either side. But this admiration was interrupted by an attack by many skeletons, bearing the symbol of Bahamut on their chests. Though relatively weak, they were numerous, and Jorn and Amos were dragged away by the other members of the party who were eager to get back on the trail. {This encounter awarded 500XP, to be split 6 ways=83 per party member.}

This side trek done, they squeezed through the collapse to find themselves in a quiet tomb, pitch-black until their sunrod blazed forth. Tracks in the dust led to stairs leading up to a dais on which was a large stone sarcophagus. Cracks led from the wall to the floor underneath it—a way forward. Simple enough, just pop around the sarcophagus and down the cracks, easy as pie…

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DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 1

When the party awoke in the morning, it was 26 Patchwell (see timeline). Bastian said the night passed without incident, and no harm had come to the one of the tower treasures he had kept under his feet as he meditated. Lev was sleeping soundly. {Bastian was played in absentia because Aerro was not at this session, though he let the DM know what he did for his watch, and what his stance would be in various possible scenarios. To explain his passive nature during the session, the DM made up something about Bastian undergoing a period of strong alignment with the Feywild, rendering him confused and unable to act, but safe since he was phasing in and out.} Bastian told the party that he realised that the promise they extracted from Lev did not preclude Lev from turning them in for the reward. Adding to his already substantial caution, Jorn did not show himself to Lev.

Zepher took a closer look at the silver coffer (see tower treasures for its description). Theren impulsively stuck his finger in its fine grit and stuck it in his mouth. His tongue got tingly and numb. Zepher detected {with an Arcana check} that the grit had magical properties, and he read a perhaps sentient nature. Living grit? Theren tried to spit it out. Zepher guessed it might have an effect of a mental nature. Kat looked closely at the grit and coffer and with great insight {a natural 20 on Dungeoneering} deduced that this grit was left over from what must have been a number of acorn-sized rocks, rough and jagged, as if mined from the ground. The ore had been a shiny black metal. This grit got knocked off its jagged edges as it knocked around in the box.

They dwelled on what they knew of the history of each of the art styles of the two treasures. What they saw of Lev’s chalice reminded them of a style that was hundreds of years old, and regarded as far too austere for today’s tastes. It had hard, almost cruel lines and edges, very masculine and powerful. The kind of thing that old northern mountain clans might have put on a bear’s head rug in front of a blazing fire surrounded by elk heads. On the underside was an engraved letter A, in an old, severe script. The coffer was very different in its origin. It was probably made recently and matches a style that the more learned in history and society recognised from a similar piece they had come across and studied in their endless adventurer’s curiosity. This ornate silver coffer likely came from Fallcrest, from the house of a very rich family. Fallcrest, as shabby as it has been for decades, had an interesting turn starting about five years ago. The high, rich society there, largely Eladrin, had started coming into great wealth, and bought up all the available goods and luxuries, including the strongest guards and best builders. Their mansions have become much more lavish, and there is talk of long, expensive, wild parties there. Meanwhile, the lower classes of Fallcrest have become even more downtrodden as supplies and labor for the basics of living have become stretched by the unnatural demand of the upper society. Meanwhile, Fallcrest has been falling into even more disrepair, with the Lord Warden no longer mixing with the people as he used to, and the city guard and council spending all their time fixing up the rich Eladrin neighborhoods—called so by tradition, though many humans and elves have recently moved there too. This coffer, with its tight clasp, probably held something very valuable, to be displayed and dispensed in an ostentatious way, probably at a party. It might have held very expensive food, or drugs, or magical reagents for a ritual, or the like. On the underside is an elaborately filigreed symbol. If it is a Common letter, it is so ornamented and stretched into curlicues it’s hard to say what letter it is.

The party, led by Lev and followed by Jorn, went down the Cavendor Town road for an hour or so, then Lev led them due west into the thick, old forest. They followed what might have been a road many decades ago, but which was now almost entirely hidden by trees and undergrowth. They marched, wary for attacks by bears and goblins, all day. Though they saw occasional goblin tracks, none seemed especially recent.

They came to an abrubt boundary where the trunks of hundreds-of-years-old trees were replaced by mounds where stumps of those trees had long since rotted away to give life to undergrowth. Younger trees, all less than a hundred years, had filled in what must have once been a cleared radius around… Daggerburg Keep.

As they approached, the ruins of this Keep became visible through the trees in the darkening dusk. The trees got thinner, as did the underbrush, and even the grass. They realised the riot of evening birdsong had been left behind them. It seemed that life was avoiding this place. There was something especially dark and cold about the gloom of the evening, the shadows unusually thick and the light from Jorn’s disc not carrying quite as far. Since the ruins ahead seemed unoccupied, they ventured into this lifeless zone around the fallen walls. It was as they stepped onto the surface of a faraway moon. It was just dirt and stones, no moss, no bugs, no rodents—ending in a tumbled, arid ruin of a Keep. Looking at it, some of the party recalled books and stories of a place called The Keep on the Shadowfell, and realised this was one and the same as what was now called “Daggerburg”. They recalled stories about the keep. It featured in several prominent ghost tales. The learned poo-poohed the idea of the place literally being in or on the Shadowfell, which was a rare and truly terrifying sight, a shadow world overlying our own. And true enough, this keep before them, though dark, was still part of the material plane. Tales said this used to be a prominent outpost for Fallcrest, watching one of the roads through the Nentir Vale, before the fall of the Nerath Empire about a hundred years ago. After the fall and the subsequent Bloodspear War, when the orcs and goblins swept through the Vale and blew out many of the lights of civilisation here, the Keep was stretched for resources but still vital enough… until a grim incident. Sir Keegan was the commander of the Keep, so iconic that back then it was often called Keegan’s Keep. He had gained his fame by defeating a shadow dragon that plagued the area—and some said this was his downfall, because he did not kill the dragon but banished it to the Shadowfell, from where it plotted its revenge. Then again, a reference to the Shadowfell is a sure way to spice up any story. In any case, it’s agreed that about 80 years ago, Sir Keegan went mad. Some stories say it came on by degrees thanks to the influence of the Shadowfell infused in him by the dragon; some say he snapped suddenly when his wife was caught having an affair with a soldier (or two!); some say he had been replaced by a demonic impostor. In any case, on a rampage he killed his wife and children and many others in the keep: solidiers, spouses, and children. Some barricaded themselves and others fled to Fallcrest, which sent a garrison to take control of the place. They fought mad Sir Keegan. Some stories say they killed him and buried him. Others say he was wounded and fled deep into malignant catacombs below the Keep, which predated—or perhaps even necessitated— the Keep’s construction. Not much is certain. What was certain was: the place, when seen by one’s own eyes, was creepy. Ghost stories are fun to mock until you find yourself walking into one…

Jorn had revealed himself, sending Lev into a paroxysm of greed and accusation. Concorde was soon tied up in the forest for safekeeping. So the party was ready to continue. A trail of goblin tracks in the dirt made plain where to find the entrance. The ruined stone and rotten timber (again, strangely bereft of bugs and fungus chewing them away) had been excavated to reveal a stairway down into the gloom. Down these stairs the party crept quietly.

At the bottom of the stairs was a well-lit room. Hiding in the dim light spilling forth, they spied, undetected, a hobgoblin on guard on the far side. The readied and attacked. The party can fill in the details from their own journal but some high points were: Amos charged forward and fell into a hidden pit, then was attacked by a swarm of rats. Kat bottled up a corridor against two fierce hobgoblin soldiers, holding them back like the shore against crashing waves. Zepher flung spells to lay waste to rats and minions, and help Amos jump out of the pit, bleeding from a thousand bites. Theren laid down some heavy damage by kicking the hobgoblin warlord in the face and stabbing his prone figure. Jorn kept his companions alive, and changed the lighting conditions to mostly suit the party. Lev “snuck around to get them from behind” in the dim light, and was not seen again.

The fight rages on, but the party seems confident that this clutch of hobgoblins will fall. This they expected—the very troops Fenstrom has organised. But the hobgoblins fight with unusual desperation, and a glance down a corridor reveals that the door at the end has been heavily barred from the inside… as if to keep out something far more threatening than adventurers.

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Overwhelmingly Obstinate Oafs
Theren's Log

Well we are finally on the way to Daggerburg Keep! I feel like so far all we have done is stuff around, get people killed, and other people accused of murder. We set out on our adventure to fix a problem but I can’t help feeling like now we have even more on our plate than if we’d stayed at home. Ah well, such is the life of an adventurer! Of course, being one of the greatest adventurers it is only natural that I will be embroiled in some of the greatest stuffing around as well.

According to the others, when I left they ran into a little girl from the village- Rosetta. She had gone searching down the well and found a pile of dead, mangled goblins. Sounds like if she didn’t have a lot of guts before she went down there, then she would by the time she got back. Guts and a hobgoblin hand or something. I could say something here about a five finger discount but I think that’s been done to death – rather like the goblins.

So it sounded a bit like the group could have gotten to Daggerburg Keep through that well. Naturally, they instead decided to follow me as faithfully as a cart attached to a horse, rather than go with what sounded like a fast, safe route. Their ability to choose the long way round every time is verging on uncanny. Who knows what crazy minor quests we would have been distracted with if I hadn’t run off with Lev? Probably rounding up lost chickens, or delivering magic hot-spring water before it goes cold, or something.

So I was walking the road with Lev and HOLY PELOR’S GLOWING BALLS is he annoying. I nearly had to gnaw my own leg off to keep from strangling him. He just would not shut up about money, and treasure, and naked elf chicks. I think he’s been reading too much of those penny dreadfuls, like ‘Orgoo and the Party of Massive Proportions.’ Some of the woodcuts in those are quite crude, and I know because I studied them at length… to give them a full artistic critique.

After a while the rest of the party caught up with us ‘cause Lev was walking so slowly, despite dumping half of his gear on me. It’s okay though because I in turn dumped it on the road to create a good trail to follow. Luckily Lev was too interested in being a boring chatty bastard than in looking behind us to see if we were being followed.

Eventually we stopped for food and he asked for his rations back. I tried to convince him that adventurers eat iguanas, and he seemed more than ready to give my Polly a nibble, but in the end I pretty much had to tell Lev I had been chucking his food out. I offered to go back and retrieve it but he wouldn’t have it so he ate some of my food instead, and I didn’t get to have a secret rendezvous with the party. Some time during lunch he noticed Kat staring at us from the nearby bushes and I had to convince him that I didn’t know her.

pretty spy for an white guy

Back on the road to Daggerburg, Lev found one of those damn posters. He started talking about collecting the reward and asking me pressing questions about the group, suddenly realising that Kat must have been the ‘Kord worshipping elf’. I think I managed to convince him I didn’t know much about what the party was doing or where it would go. Mentioned they were all newbs who wouldn’t know their arse from their elbow, and hence would be easy to track – this set Lev at ease, along with the promise that we would track down Yawn later. I figure I’ll deal with that when it happens, I am pretty awesome at ad-lib plans after all.

No sooner had we cleared that up than we saw some red star over the sun, and Lev went nuts and started babbling about being chosen. As far as I am concerned the only thing he has been specially chosen for is a number one ranking on my list of people who need a boot up the arse. Still I couldn’t let him run off and get killed or I’d probably never find Daggerburg.

He lead me to some super stupid looking well and babbled a bit more before jumping down into a weird cage thing. I don’t know. I could see treasure but at this point if I could have found Daggerburg Keep by myself, I would have gladly left him down there. He demanded that I jump down into another of those stupid cage-room thingies. It didn’t look terribly safe, but it was clear he wasn’t going to explain anything before I got down there, and equally that he wouldn’t be coming back up until he’d finished whatever business he was about.

Reluctantly I jumped down. Grabbing at the bars to ease my fall, I discovered that they were so cold that they actually hurt my hands. Slippery too – there was no gripping them. Remind me to pay Lev back some time for that. There was a whole deal with rising mud/oil stuff, and solving a puzzle in time. Something about Cavendor and Naan-bread or something. I wasn’t paying much attention and I got knocked around the head a few times by a wooden golem so everything is a bit hazy. Still it was either that or try to make some icy stuff into a dagger shape with my bear hands, which would have just made me grizzly.

Lev really sucked at remembering trivia about plants and magic. Whenever we got a question wrong or failed a task, the walls would try and whip us, so in some ways, seeing Lev fail so frequently was a little like a soothing balm to my soul. I may have lost some of my vitality being flayed alive, but I gained more than its equal in renewed patience and good humour. Here is a picture I drew to preserve the memory forever – it was really funny, so whenever I need a good laugh I’ll just flick back to this page in my journal – look I’ve dog eared it for quick reference :)

Lev is totally whipped

At one point the desperate cries for treasure seemed to entice down other members of the party – or perhaps it is just that, like some predators can sense blood from kilometres away, they can sense gold from a day’s march away. It was pretty convenient though, I thought Lev was going to have a heart attack or something when he realised he wasn’t going to be able to get the treasure without further help. Luckily Zephyr dropped down into Lev’s room to take over the arcana, and Bastian dropped into the only remaining (and so far empty) room. Zeph was pulling some pretty sweet moves out as well, despite landing hard. He was wearing a spiffy new cloak, not as colourful as his last one.

Zeph new robes, doing some arcana

Anyhow, together we were doing pretty well, but I quickly realised I would need help in my own room. There was a lot for me to do in a very short space of time, so I gave out an eagle cry, knowing that Amos would not be able to resist leaping down into a deep and dangerous pit in answer to it. He almost landed on me but I forgave him when he took over wrestling the wooden golem to give me a break.

White men can't jump

In the end we stuffed up a few too many times and ended up with only two of the treasures. D’oh. Lev managed to grab one of them for himself and refused to let it go. While we were waiting for the weird rising mud/oil to push us up and out of the well, we tried to corner Lev and force him to take us to Daggerburg. It looked for a while that he was going to run away, but after a lot of persuasion, and talk of treasure, we gained Lev’s promise to take us to the damn place.

I only see trouble ahead of us. Lev is more pain than he’s worth sometimes, and I can’t believe I ever counted him as a friend. He’s probably just going to get himself killed – how inconsiderate! I hope he knows that if he dies, his revival is going to be at the end of a very long waiting list of things to do.

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DM log-- to Daggerburg Keep

Here is my basic log, to establish critical facts and set up wiki pages. Remember that I will leave out many details that others in the party would be wise to record, either in this log, or in personal notes!

Theren took off with Lev, unseen by the party, but leaving clues and a trail for them to follow.

A girl of Harkenwold named Rosetta came up to the party (minus Theren, whose absence was just being noticed). She was a budding adventurer, but only 14, and rather shaken. She revealed she had gone down the well from which the zombies had emerged. She found that it had been tunnelled into from a cave chamber, the entry to which was well known to her, nearby. In the cave she found what the party identified as piles of hobgoblin flesh, largely without bone. Many tracks led in and out of the cave, including “weird” goblin tracks coming out, and a few bootprints. The party realised that the skeletons they fought were hobgoblin skeletons.

Having found a mark Theren left near the well, the party followed him and Lev. Lev once looked back to see Kat, the advance scout, spying on them, but he did not think much of it. However, after he found one of the Wanted posters for Jorn’s capture, he started putting pieces together, realising that Kat might be the elf described on the poster, and Theren’s party was the wanted crew. Theren effectively bluffed not really knowing any of the party well. Lev had gold coins glinting in his eyes as he thought of getting a reward for Jorn’s capture.

Lev and Theren had gone west along a cart track running along the south bank of the White River, then turned south down the once grand, now unkempt road leading to Cavendor Town. Just as the sun was setting, Lev noticed a bright red star positioned over the setting sun. Consulting his notebook, he whooped in triumph and ran off into the woods. Following him, Theren came upon the shaft of a long-fallen tower at the top of a hill. It had been made of red brick, and must have fallen many many years ago. {Failed Dungeoneering meant a more exact time could not be deduced.} The square shaft, about 40 feet across, went down many floors, but the bottom of the tower shaft was filled with a strange black liquid. The tower’s walls above the level of the ground had long since crumbled away. Lev said usually the liquid was all the way to the top, and only very rarely did it lower like this.

On the north wall of the shaft were three tile mosaics, each showing a hand on a blood red background. With an old fashioned script these each bore a name: Nen, Abanfyl , and Cavendor. The Nen hand was skeletal. The Abanfyl one was gauntleted. The Cavendor one was fleshy, with a large ruby ring.

Set into the north wall below the mosaics were more than a dozen little nooks, each one shut with strong bars. In all but the top two nooks glinted golden treasures: cups, chains, mirrors, trays, necklaces, circlets, and more. They looked very valuable.

In the shaft, near the south wall, were three tall barred cages. Each cage was about five feet across, square, and the bars went all the way down to an iron platform flush with the black liquid. On the platforms were tables and mechanisms, hard to see well by looking down on them from a distance even with a sunrod’s bright light. Each cage was lined up with one of the mosaics.

Lev babbled about the treasure, and rashly jumped into the middle cage, before the Abanfyl mosaic. He bid Theren jump into the Cavendor one, assuring him that there was no danger. Theren did so, knowing Lev would not shut up or leave until he complied. Before long, others in the party caught up and helped.

Between Lev’s babbling, various historical remembrances by the party, and seeing how this huge tower puzzle operated, the party has deduced or at least guessed at the following. This puzzle has stood here as a test for many decades. It harkens back to a time centuries ago, before the invasion of the Nentir Vale and the fall of the old empire. At this time, three powerful families vied for power in the vale. One was Cavendor, the same line that Immil came from. One was Nen, a family line which seems to no longer exist—Lake Nen to the northeast of the vale is the only current sign of their existence, though some say the entire vale’s name owes to them. One was Abanfyl, a name matching a lake far to the north, among the snowy mountains. These families each had their strengths, and decades of Machiavellian contest between them resulted in many intrigues, minor wars both military and economic, and a rash of spectacular murders. Awash in money and noble power, these families did all they could to ascend over the others. Abanfyl won this struggle, and remains in power, though as reclusive as they are, the family name is still hardly known by ordinary people. There are rumours that they head a vast conspiracy of power that secretly controls Fallcrest, the entire vale, and perhaps even beyond. Their center of power is in the forbidding reaches of the northern mountain ranges. This puzzle seems to both commemorate and instruct as to how Abanfyl came to power. A booming voice instructed the party as they laboured to change the mosaics through a series of steps. Apparently, the secret to power was a family of great robust health, who then found a source of great wealth, who then developed a strong set of mannerly customs, traditions, and laws, who then built upon that a knighthood of strength, wealth, valour, and discipline. However, to avoid corruption and downfall, these elements all needed to be acquired in that order: for example, a family with a strong knighthood could not then be infused with wealth. The knights would dominate the wealth and cause resentment among the mercantile class. A family without health, who had great wealth, needed to have that wealth stripped away in order to focus them on the basics of survival, away from the temptations of material excess. And so on. The mosaics symbolised how to methodically strip these strengths away from families and transfer the strengths to the others, always in the proper order, until Abanfyl ended up with all of these superiorities.

The party had to prove their worthiness and understand the weaknesses of each family by various demonstrations of skill. To strip Nen required a show of strength against that family’s weaknesses: knowledge of religion and the diplomatic arts. To strip Abanfyl, one had to attack its weakness in knowledge of arcana and the natural world. To strip Cavendor, one had to take advantage of its weakness in raw athletic might and endurance of hardship. By proving mastery of these skills, those in the cage needed to use the mechanisms there. The Nen cage had scrying spheres in which one could talk to spirits in a contest of speech. The Abanfyl cage had tables with arcane and natural symbols which needed to have ley lines of power arranged to show their relationships. The Cavendor cage had a mechanical golem to wrestle, and a pool of freezing water into which one had to reach and form, with bare hands, an icy dagger. {This was a skill challenge, where each cage had two skill tests. When passed with a skill check, that cage’s mosaic could move its topmost attribute to another mosaic. If failed, barbed whips would flay the failing person.}

At first, the black liquid was rising very slowly. Once all three cages were occupied, however, it began to bubble and rise faster. It became a race against time. The platforms floated on the liquid, which Lev said was extremely dense, enough to walk on and make anything float on it, even gold. Once the liquid covered a nook containing the treasure behind the bars, nothing could retrieve it.

The rising liquid prompted the rest of the party to help out. At first, they were reluctant to reveal themselves to Lev, for fear he would not longer lead them to Daggerburg. However, weighing up the merits {and with some prompting from the DM, who reminded them that they had been prepared to look for Daggerburg without Lev’s help before Theren decided to leave a trail} most of them jumped into action. However, Jorn never showed himself, for fear of Lev turning him in for the reward. Once engaged, the party set about solving the puzzle pretty quickly, with a few wrong moves costing precious time. When they solved the puzzle, the Abanfyl mosaic showed a gauntlet, and the other mosaics showed skeletal hands. They had reproduced history. The cages opened and the bars over the treasure nooks slid down into their brick enclosures. Four nooks remained, but the top two had already been looted long ago. Lev ran and slid on the black goo to grab one of the treasures, and the party converged on the other one. Lev seemed to intend to run off with the treasure, but the party tried to convince him otherwise. It was not right {against their alignment} for them to attack him outright, but after a failed sleep spell by Zepher, diplomacy by Bastian won the day. Lev made Bastian promise that once they all got the Daggerburg loot, they would pool together both of these treasures with the loot and split it up fairly with everyone, including Lev. Lev agreed.

{This skill challenge awarded 700XP, split 6 ways. (Relatively useless NPCs like Lev are not included in XP splits.)}

The tower treasures were impressive. Lev’s was a large two-handled goblet of wrought gold, set with rubies. The bottom was engraved with a large A in an old, severe script. Though of austere lines and ornament, it was very heavy, and looked to be worth at least a few hundred gold if sold to the right vendor. Bastian’s was an equally valuable silver coffer large enough to hold a few double handfuls of coins, or whatever it used to contain. It has nothing in it but a faint, strange smell from a scant layer of fine grit in it. It was a different style, very baroque and ornamented, with a clever sliding mechanism to keep the lid closed. It had inlays of pearl and onyx showing scenes of some kind of rich courtly life. Closer examination and research would reveal more about these, and perhaps help them fetch a higher price from a sophisticated collector.

The party camped nearby for the night. Theren warned the others of Lev’s thievery, so they set up shifts. Kat volunteered to go into trance for the first four hours, then stay awake for the rest of the night. Bastian agreed to stay awake for four hours, then go into trance for the next four, keeping the treasure close at hand. For the first four hours, Lev fought off sleep, then walked off into the forest with his treasure, stating that he did not trust Bastian or any other eladrin. {This next part had to be reconstructed, since I later read that elves don’t trance. Only eladrin do. Whoops! So I will play it as though Kat thought she had learned how to trance, but did not manage to fight off sleep.} Bastian went to Kat to remind her to come out of trance and keep watch. However, Kat was sound asleep, and had been for hours. Bastian tried to convince her to wake up, but Kat kept rolling over, and Stek snored. Knowing that Kat would not be at her best {unable to get the benefits of sleep} if he insisted on waking her up, Bastian decided he had to take his chances and go into trance, keeping the treasure in front of him, propping up his feet. It would take a master thief {who could beat Bastian’s passive Perception, and take a -5 to the Thievery roll due to the treasure’s closeness to Bastian} to steal the treasure.

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A Strange Afliction
The odd story of Kat and Stek

4e dn d  skeletons by ralph horsley Love this image by Ralph Horsley!

Entry Four

Much has passed since I last recorded my thoughts and I must say that I am struggling to remember most of the events which have occurred in the last few months. I am recording the brief patches which I can recall here today to clear my thoughts on my Malady. Perhaps it was Vilmas Tea or maybe Jorns concoction was poisonous after all. (Rumor has it he did kill Immil after all) Whatever the cause ever since Peque returned to the Dragonborn I seem to be plagued by a recurring vision of an enraged dwarf warrior whom rages into battle often just as I am about to join my fellow travelers in the fight. I am all ready to battle and then bam I am immersed in some strange vision of a mad dwarf kicking down doors and running through skeletons. I feel this is some strange initiation into the Hall of the Valiant by Kord himself, although this insufferable dwarf is most certainly taxing my confidence in my choice of Gods to follow, his courage is most impressive.

I am growing fond of my fellow travelers even the dwarfs whom until now seemed to wave the flag of all that is good and just. It makes me smile to think that Jorn is perhaps a little less goodness and light that he first believed. I bet Immil was surprised, perhaps next life he will not be so fast to banish a warrior elf that could have perhaps saved his life. (chuckle). I digress of course, the real Jorn would never have killed Immil, however it does amuse me to ponder the possibilities. Almost as amusing as watching an Eladrin and a human rogue keeping company like they were long lost cousins. Rescued by elves, befriended by elves, healed by elves, there will be no stopping Theren soon as he will have more elven friends that human ones.

I spoke to Keyenna when she supplied us with the remedy for Theren’s Swamp Fever, even her knowledge of healing shed no light upon my strange malady. Although I am very grateful for her remedy for my friends, Keyenna still has me questioning her convenient appearance as we approached Harken village. Even fellow elves have my distrust these dark days. Particularly, as it was not long after our meeting, that I was once again taken into the madness of a dwarf taking on a skeleton army inside the local inn at Harken Village.

It will be interesting to see what the others can share with me about the skeletons in Harken Village.

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Neighbourhood Nightmare
Theren's Log

It has taken me some time to collect my thoughts on what has passed since I last wrote. I will attempt to record this history as well as I can, but I cannot vouch for the accuracy of my log, due to the disturbing nature of events. In any case I will start where I left off – with the swamp fever.

The swamp fever seemed to pull me down with leaden weights to the burning abyss of the underworld, such was the heat of my fever, and the unwillingness of my limbs to move. I am certain it must have been an extra potent dose to strike me ill as I am usually so full of vigour. Never the less I tried to put on a facade of wellness, as the others all seemed to have recovered (if they were ever actually ill at all).

While walking we were sprung upon by an elf that had earlier attempted to bring us to a vigilante court. I sensed her far in advanced but felt she did not bear any ill-intent. Indeed she claimed to be the leader of her clan, but she had snuck away without their knowledge in order to bring us healing potions for the fever. Yawn and I were grateful, although I think some of our more cautious party members did not think drinking the potion wise. Still I was ready to try anything at that point felt it would be rude to refuse, and so drank my potion in full and urged Yawn to do the same. The relief brought by healing was immediate and extremely welcome – whatever the elf may have done in the past I am willing to forgive and forget.

Along the road (which we found shortly after our meeting with the elf) we came upon a curious sight. A skeleton tied to a tree. It was struggling futilely against its bonds, seemingly out of energy. Amoss wished to kill it in a fair fight, so I (seeing that the skeleton posed not too much of a threat, even to Swiftblade) undid the rope and stood back lest Swiftblade’s flailing cause me damage. The skeleton was promptly dispatched and we went on our way with nothing worse than a feeling of foreboding.

We would have done well to observe those instincts, for as we came upon Harken village, we saw a terrible sight. The folk in town were all barricaded into various buildings, and outside were a hoard of the same skeletons. They seemed similarly un-energetic, but at the same time they did not move from their posts outside the barricaded doors. There were skeletons everywhere. They looked as though they had come from fresh corpses, and that their impatient master had seared off their flesh in as quick and efficient a way as possible. Fearing the worst, we charged in, hoping to free the village from this blight. It was agreed upon that we would save as many people as possible.

As we engaged the skeletons in fight we noted that they were quickly dispatched, but just as we were beginning to feel as though we might quickly destroy the creatures, Zephyr threw one of his spells. Instantly, almost as if in reaction to the spell, a flare shot into the sky, and the skeletons began to beat at the doors and claw wildly at the wood. With their sudden vitality it was obvious that the barricades would not hold up for long.

We quickly realised the inn known as ‘The Lantern of Erathis’ contained the highest number of innocent people, as the screams issuing forth from it were nearly deafening. I admit that for all my battle prowess and experience on the field, the sounds of the screaming villagers chilled my blood, for I knew that they would surely die without help – all the people that I’ve known for my entire life.

With a burst of adrenalin I killed the skeleton guarding the back door of the inn. Steak, who had torn himself from his usual perch, leapt forth and barged the door down like a torpedo. He ran in, and from inside there was a banging and clattering as Steak barged about like a fly in a bottle. I can only assume there were attackers already inside and that he was slaughtering them in short order (for it is always short order with Steak, due to his being a dwarf, although there is the old saying ‘all men are the same height to an axe wielding dwarf’). In any case, the villagers started flooding out of the inn and fleeing to the safety of the forest.

While I was at this task, Swiftblade ran ahead, as he is wont to do. As he stepped close to the well, something ghoulish came out of it. An arm, quickly followed by the long-dead body of an adventurer, brought into a semblance of life by evil power. Seeing the zombies, Zephyr and Yawn ran to his aid, and the three of them forgot the skeleton attack almost entirely. I was left with Bastian, and one of the many zombies now crawling up from the well singled us out. It looked like an adventurer of some sort, and acted as though it knew us. I was primed and ready to stand back to back with Bastian and defend the village, but then I heard the splintering of wood, and I realised The Snake Head had been breached. Those drunkards wouldn’t know how to build a fortification if their lives… well. Never mind.

I wasn’t too late yet, however, and with a burst of speed I ran towards the skeleton, crossing the village centre almost entirely in my haste to save the occupants of The Snake Head. It is a tavern where a number of my friends have been known to spend their days, and by god I was not about to let Lev and his friends die at the hands of skeletons. Unfortunately I was too late for one of them, but seeing my desperate running, Zephyr used his magic to destroy the skeleton. I was glad, and quickly ducked into the pub to find Lev. Unfortunately I realised only then that he had already made his escape. At the time I was just glad that he had suffered no harm, but now I wish I had never wasted my time trying to save him. If only I knew then what I do now.

Hearing the sounds of crashing from nearby, I climbed out of the open back window, only to see a skeleton tearing at the door to Zumtleheath’s house. All about, chaos had descended. Now that I was outside, I could see that flaming skeletons had appeared on many of the rooftops, and the village was starting to look like a disaster zone. I had to put that out of my mind, though, for I was the only one of us still trying to rescue the trapped villagers.

Levelling my crossbow at the skeleton I let fire, but despite my confidence that I would easily dispatch this creature, I missed. At the time I think I blamed magic. It broke down the door and, shaken by my failure, I attempted the attack again, only to fail a second time. Seeing that time was running short for Zumtleheath, I ran towards the skeleton, determined to destroy it before it could get its hands on the kindly herbalist. I still remember how she used to remark upon my speedy healing when I was a youth, and how she would assist the villagers that had injured themselves, or caught a cold. I desperately wanted to keep her safe, but even as I loosed my third attack, I realised that I had failed her. I think we both realised it at the same time. As she locked eyes with me, the attack went wide, and the skeleton, ignoring my presence, promptly decapitated her before my very eyes.

At the time I thought I had been bested by powerful magic, and I blamed the others for not helping me in saving the villagers. I have since come to the conclusion that it was indeed my own fault – my overconfidence – that allowed a mere skeleton to avoid my attacks not once, but three times. I must train harder and become better, which is what I have resolved to do. I will not be appeased by small gains in power any longer! I must be strong enough to protect all of the people in Harken Village, at the very least.

I would have given up then and there, and stayed staring at Zumtleheath’s head, but I realised that there was still work to be done, and still people to be saved, even if they were only my own group of adventurers. I killed the skeleton but derived no sense of satisfaction from the deed, for I had already failed when it really counted. Revenge truly offers no sustenance for the soul.

From there I climbed onto the roof of the building to gain a better vantage point. The battle looked to be desperate. Swiftblade and Yawn were both extremely charred. Bastian was trying his best against the zombie I had left him with. He seemed to be trying to reason with it. Surprisingly, Zephyr didn’t look to be too damaged. Without my usual enthusiasm I felled first one flaming skeleton, and then a zombie. Leaping down to get a better aim at the last flaming skeleton I took a fireball to the chest and burst into flame. Despite this I carefully took my shot and finished the thing off. At about the same time, the others killed off the remaining enemies.

I stood for a while, vaguely trying to dampen the flames, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Zumtleheath, and her expression just before she died. Eventually the fire was very large, and I was almost as well cooked as a pig on a spit. Luckily everyone came over and began to help put out the flames. The fight was over. We had bested the undead, but I felt a bit like a zombie myself.

Later at Ernst’s house, the old man spewed a torrent of vitriolic abuse at Zephyr. Despite my state of shock, I spoke up in Zephyr’s defence, fearing that if matters were left to him that he would only make matters worse. Thankfully the other villagers heard sense in my words, and Ernst was hastily chastised for his unfair accusations.

At The Lantern of Erathis, the folk we had managed to save gave us what little riches they had and explained that before we arrived Fenstrom had charged the army of skeletons in. Despite their vivid descriptions of magic falling everywhere like rain, and the terrible attacks of the undead, very few people had actually died at that time. Only Koogan the cleric, had been killed outright by Fenstrom, and Ercullum’s body had been snatched, just as Fenstrom had promised. These clerics of Pelor seem to be dying left right and centre. Their mortality rate is rather shocking.

At the pub I didn’t join the drinking or celebration, but soon who should come to my side but Lev? He wanted to congratulate me but I wasn’t in the mood. I was too busy trying to place the blame for Zumtleheath‘s death anywhere except myself. Lev must have snuck past that skeleton, so he was high on my list, especially when it became obvious that he had only been hiding under a table afterwards, concerned only about himself. I didn’t have the will to call him out on it at the time, however, and when he offered to tell me a secret out of the crowds, I followed. I wanted to hear anything that might take my mind from the battle. I left my share of the gold and coins for whoever would take them, for I no longer have any wish to take money from villagers, as they will need all the wealth they can get to repair the village.

Lev explained in private that he knew of a fountain that Fenstrom used to create the strange flattening effect that allowed him to slip through the cracks in walls. Lev then suggested that we should leave immediately to infiltrate Fenstrom’s lair. I knew immediately that it would be suicide to leave the group behind. I tried for a moment to reason with Lev, but he did not want to share any treasure he might find. Seeing that he would not easily part with his information, and recalling how slow all of my companions tend to be to decide upon any course of action, I decided to take Lev up on his offer. We needed directions to Daggerburg Keep, and I am confident that I can leave a trail for my fellows, whenever it is that they stop looting my village for valuables and sundry, and get back to the quest at hand.

I did not check up on my parents, for they live a fair distance away. Besides which, if they were slaughtered, I do not think I wish to see that just now, and if they are fine then they might have a small matter of 100 gold pieces that they would like to talk to me about I would be wasting time to visit them, when time is very scarce.

On another note, Lev seems different. Perhaps it is just my new experience at adventuring, but before now he was always one of my friends, and role models, but these days he just seems… seedy and untrustworthy. He attempted to steal my golden chain, although he did give it up when I called him out on it. I am not sure what to think but perhaps I will keep a close eye on my valuables while I am with him.

I wondered briefly where Kat had been during the battle, and it was only when I quizzed Stek on the matter that he revealed that he and Kat somehow share a connected conciousness. For some reason I had never noticed before, I just thought Kat had a rather large backpack.
stek and Kat

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DM log-- back to Harkenwold 3

I reckoned a little update in mid-break would keep everyone in the mood. This DM log is being written in a holiday house at Lake Tahoe, California. My brain is very relaxed, which you’d think would result in especially brilliant and lengthy prose. Let’s just see about that.

In the morning of 25 Patchwall (see the timeline) the party, including Concorde, gathered itself for the last push northward toward the King’s Road. They followed the creekbed and passed up the spot where the fallen bridge gave them some trouble just a few days before— though it seems like months. While in the thick of the forest they were hailed by a lone elven voice: Keyenna, the leader of the band that ambushed them the evening before. She called Kat Rosie over for a peaceful conference. Kat returned and related that Keyenna was here without knowledge of her clan, who would not understand why she was helping a band of outlaws, the reputed killers of Immil. But the elf leader acknowledged that the party’s warning about the approaching dire bear saved lives—though it came a bit late (this said with some vexation), the warning came all the same, and gave them the head start they needed to outrun the beast. In thanks, Keyenna gave Kat some tinctures made from a local plant which should cure the river fever that was so badly slowing Theren and Jorn. This did the job well, and soon the party made very good time, boosted by their talents for fast travel.

When the party found the cart track following the south bank of the White River {note: this was King’s Road in previous log version, but that road is north of the river, and the party did not cross the river}, they headed east, continuing their fast pace. They joined the King’s Road and headed south. As they got near Harkenwold, they saw a grisly sight: tied to a tree facing the road was a skeleton. As they approached, its head lolled weakly and a faint fire glimmered in the bony sockets: it was undead. Unlike most animated skeletons, which are dry and crusted with grave dirt, this one seemed freshly made. It was blasted of its flesh, bones still shiny with damp blood and marrow. An arcane reading revealed that it still glimmered with the same dark energy that withered Moosook. This likely was Fenstrom’s work, using the chaos shard that he took from Malareth. Those in the party of a bent toward justice insisted the skeleton be freed to fight fair. This exchange was very brief, with one blow shattering its bones and draining it of animate energy. {It was a minion.}

The party crested a hill to see Harkenwold’s village center, its humble thatched roofs basking in the weak autumn sun:

As they grew closer, however, things looked less bucolic. The streets were empty, with hasty barricades of wood against the doors. At each entry, figures slowly swayed: skeletons, of the kind they just met on the road. They were at the doors of the village center’s small buildings, but not breaking in. They were only occasionally scratching at the wood and shuffling by the boarded-up windows through which movement could be seen.

The party decided stealth was not possible and instead mounted a charge into the square to fight the minions. As soon as they did, a crackling, sparking star fell from the sky, slowly, pulsing with smoky light. The skeletons looked up at it and instantly changed their behaviour, clawing fiercely at the doors, pulling away the barricades and hammering at the wood. Frightened screams emitted from the buildings’ many inhabitants. Now the skeletons looked like they were breaking in with fervour, and there was not much time before they would succeed. The party decided quickly which building to save first: the inn, which sounded like it held the most people, as well as Baron Stockmer. Saving that place would save the most lives (and just happen to win the largest amount of monetary gratitude). Kat Rosie fell to the ground insensate when the charge began, but Stek hit the ground running, and barrelled through the skeleton assaulting the door, and into the inn. Soon its inhabitants were escaping. The other buildings were not faring so well. In danger was the Snake’ Head, where Theren’s shady acquaintance Lev spends most of his time—he would be a good source of extra firepower. The peacekeepers’ barracks might contain someone who could help defend the party. And the herbalist Zumtleheath had her little shop under attack, and she could be heard calling out in distress. Though she was no fighter, she might give some kind of healing or protective advantage.

Amos, as is his wont, charged into the middle of the fray without any protection from a defender, and was quickly beset by a new problem: a group of four zombies climbed up out of a well and set upon him. Fortunately Stek soon barged out the other side of the inn to absorb the blows. These zombies looked like they were recently killed and raised adventurers—the backpacks were the giveaway—and held the hilts of long-since-broken weapons. One of these deceased adventurers was Bastian’s previous party-mate Mikal, a discovery that chilled the bard to the quick. This zombie seemed to remember a bit of its former role and tried to call upon Erathis to attack the party. Erathis having no truck with the undead, the lance of faith instead struck Mikal, but the resulting chaotic blast also endangered others. Bastian used his diplomatic skills, then an intimidating mein, to remind Mikal of his previous devotion to goodness and wholesomeness, and this made the zombie pause in its attacks twice.

Soon a new complication arose as, with a burst of flame and smoke, two figures stood up on opposite rooftops. These were skeletons ablaze with a fire that soon spread to the thatched roofs they stood on. They hurled flaming orbs at the party, often setting them on fire. The buildings they were on soon burned with enough ferocity to cook their screaming inhabitants.

Meanwhile, Theren was determined to save Lev to get his help. The skeleton minons were still breaking into buildings and ravaging those inside. Dispatching the skeletons hammering at the door, Theren entered the Snake’s Head only to find one terrified (and drunken) patron, who explained that Lev had just escaped out a window. Theren moved on to rescue Zumtleheath, but was a shade too late and his sword swung a bit too slowly to fell the surprisingly fast skeleton who broke down the halfling’s door. Just before Theren could dispatch the abomination, the skeleton minion decapitated the screaming, terrified woman right in front of Theren. It was a grim and horrid scene. Though the party was instrumental in saving many of the village’s helpless residents and they all fought well, the death toll rang loudly.

Once all the enemies were dead, the victims related what had occurred: earlier that day, just hours before the party arrived, a horde of skeletons swarmed into town. The panic and mayhem was great, but the party realised that nearly nobody had been killed in the fracas, as if the skeletons were ordered not to kill but to herd the villagers into barricading themselves. This they did. Meanwhile, Fenstrom had swept through town, firing necrotic spells and cackling with glee. Again the party realised this seemed more designed to terrify than to kill. However, when they went to the little temple of Pelor where the cleric Koogan had kept the body of Ercullum, they discovered that Koogan was a direct and pointed victim of Fenstrom’s. The wizard had charged in, swinging a horrid rod capped with a skull, hitting Koogan square in the face. The body of the cleric showed that the face had been blasted off, stripped right down to the wet bone underneath.

As for Ercullum, his body was gone, having been carted away by skeletons under orders of Fenstrom. In its place was Ercullum’s very agitated uncle Ernst, who blamed Zepher for inviting all this trouble. What demonic spell had been cast on Ercullum’s body? It was showing no signs of decay at all! This must have made it the ideal target for a wicked necromancer to turn into a zombie. Ernst was inconsolable.

The people had huddled in the barricaded buildings for hours, jumping at every scratch at the door and leering skeletal face in the window. Fenstrom was nowhere to be seen or heard. Then the skeletons all began trying to break in, and the heroes made their assault.

In the aftermath, the party received the gratitude of the many rescued townspeople, who gave them all the earnings they could spare from the festival sales. Also most gratified was Baron Stockmer, who reverently gave them three gems which had been passed down through his family for generations. Popping up in the celebrations was Lev, who said that he had escaped in order to get a better vantage from which to fire his crossbow. Theren found this hard to believe. Lev buddied up with Theren and said he had something important to tell him. Theren took up Lev’s invitation to talk somewhere privately. As he was ushered into the Snake’s Head, Theren saw Lev slyly lift a gold chain from Theren’s pack. Theren ignored this and brought it up later, to Lev’s amusement. Lev wanted to offer Theren a chance to take advantage of something he heard Fenstrom saying to Moosook. Daggerburg Keep was riddled with shortcuts that only Fenstrom could use, by somehow using a fountain in the Keep which allowed Fenstrom to slip through cracks in the walls, and thereby passing up most of the Keep’s fortified defense rooms—it turned out that Fenstrom hated interacting with his guards. Lev proposed that he and Theren “ditch the losers” in the party, set off as a pair, get to Daggerburg (Lev knowing where it was, and refusing to tell Theren), and make off with Fenstrom’s loot as the wizard was distracted by the rest of the goody-goodies assaulting him. Theren agreed with this plan, privately planning to leave a trail of clues to allow the party to follow him and Lev to their destination.

The party resolves to get to Daggerburg Keep next. Fenstrom must be repaid for this horrific assault on their home town, seemingly designed to infuriate them into a howling revenge. The best way to figure out the nature of the trap is to spring the trap. With all speed they head for Daggerburg, before Fenstrom can prepare his defenses any further.

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