The Friday Knights
Session 8- The Keep on the Shadowfell Part 2 The Spy in Winterhaven.
[DM Interlude, time for a player shuffle, which is always a problem when you're writing up the action- several of PCs used in the last session are retired, temporarily perhaps, as new players are available for the game.]
And so hotfooting it from Winterhaven come another two Friday Knights, having caught up at last, only recently arrived from Fallcrest, the first is known to us, Aeolace is back in the action, the second however is a new face- he's called Lucan.
Lucan, Elven Rogue, a dashing young thing with a cruel smile and glinting eyes. He's the replacement for Kullervo, although he'd argue that Kullervo was just warming his place. Lucan is another native of Fallcrest, although he's a slum dweller, unlikely to move in the same circles as Cathal, the other resident of the city. Lucan is played by Jack.
With the changing of the guard, then, Antaurea and Ignaran are sent back to Winterhaven- the Druid and the Eladrin Ranger are... Well, Mike who plays the pair has had to work, and seven characters are too many to take with us.
I know it's unsatisfactory from a narrative perspective but this is the way that games go when players are not always available.
So just to confirm, players for this session are-
Aeolace, Eladrin Wizard Level 2
Astaroth, Human Fighter Level 2
Cathal, Human Fighter Level 2
Immeral, Eladrin Artificer Level 1, after an Extended Rest Level 2
Lucan, Elven Rogue Level 1
The Knights chat a while and prepare themselves for what lies ahead, cautiously- Lucan first, hiding as best he can in the shadows, the Knights head into the Kobolds' lair in search of Irontooth, the Goblin Bloodreaver leader, and the members of the dark cult said to lair here.
They enter a world of pain.
It seems they are expected - the first wave, a smattering of Kobold Minions; screaming, hollering and gesticulating wildly- the wave breaks against Cathal and Astaroth who hold the line.
Behind the Minions, Kobold Skirmishers dash in, spears at the ready, and there are more Kobolds, and worse, coming towards the Knights.
But now Aeolace and Immeral have shuffled through the waterfall, a Scorching Burst suddenly appears amidst the massed ranks of the enemies, it devastates and breaks the second wave. Immeral tosses his Javelin which lands in the rough ground and then sprays out spectral thorns, lashing and cutting through Minions.
Less than twenty seconds later there are only two Minions left standing, one of the three Skirmishers has fallen, another is bloodied. However, added to the Knights woes are a pair of Dragonshields which advance in step, slashing with their shortswords. Behind them a Kobold Wyrmpriest who tosses Energy Orbs into the Knights, and leaps from foot to foot and cackles with glee- the Wyrmpriest is called Pensacola, remember that name, the Knights will.
Then finally stepping into the fray is Irontooth, the Goblin with... you guessed it, iron teeth.
The scene is set, the battle joined, it gets bloody very quickly.
Here comes Irontooth.
Immeral takes on all comers with his javelin, rarely misses, another Kobold Skirmisher falls. Astaroth tries to fend off Irontooth's ferocious blows, fails more often than not, and is quickly bloodied and sinking fast. Cathal is pressed against the Kobold Dragonshields, trying to get through to the Wyrmpriest, but not succeeding. Lucan stays towards the back, either spiralling out daggers from his hand or else nipping in to stab a lone Kobold in the back. Aeolace stays as far away as he can, and flounders a little before coming up with his master plan- Sleep.
Suddenly several of the Kobold feel woozy, it's like they're moving in quicksand, five of the remaining Kobolds, and Irontooth are slowed.
The fight goes on, Cathal is bloodied, Lucan is dragged into a knock-down fracas with the last Kobold Skirmisher and one of the Dragonshields, he's not as effective going toe-to-toe. Astaroth is almost on his knees, on 4 hit points and fading fast. Immarel is needed now, his Curative Admixture Encounter Power to the fore, healing the Knights as fast, nearly, as they are being battered down.
Then Irontooth falls.
As do two other Kobolds.
[DM Interlude- yep, I'm failing saving throws like it's going out of fashion.]
The fight is lost, the Kobolds see into their immediate future- it's pretty bloody, and flee. Alas it's only Pensacola, the Kobold Wyrmpriest that manages to escape the Knights clutches. The chafing Kobold plunges through the waterfall and disappears out into the forest. I wonder if we'll see him again?
In the chaos Astaroth has his revenge, Irontooth, snoozing happily, is however still the target of his attacks- the Goblin finally manages to tear himself away from Aeolace's Sleep spell's grasp. He's not done, and yet... He has nowhere to go.
Vainly, furiously, he battles on, even when he's surrounded he continues to swing desperately- bloodying Lucan and Immeral before he falls- pierced, pounded and thumped.
Irontooth is dead.
[DM Interlude Encounter #20 [1510 XP = Level 7] 10x Kobold Minions (Level 2 Minions); 3x Kobold Skirmisher (Level 2 Skirmisher); 2x Kobold Dragonshield (Level 3 Soldier); Pensacola, Kobold Wyrmpriest (Level 4 Artillery) & Irontooth, Goblin Brute (Level 4 Elite Brute). Until the sleep spell hits it was in the balance, with Astaroth a round from down, Cathal almost down, and Irontooth and Pensacola almost without hurt.]
The lair is searched, and much treasure found- Irontooth has a chest, Lucan has a lockpick, a little later the Knights have the best part of 500 gold coins in their hands, and a suit of well made +1 Dwarven Scale, Immeral confirms with his arcana check.
Lucan arrives just in time to rescue the treasure.
Also in the chest are Irontooth's orders-
“My spy in Winterhaven suggests we keep an eye out for visitors to the area. It probably does not matter; in just a few more days, I’ll completely open the rift. Then Winterhaven’s people will serve as food for all those Lord Orcus sends to do my bidding.”
Signed Kalarel, which makes the Knights smile and nod knowingly- now they're in the hunt.
All they have to do is find out where this rift, “portal”, Immeral translates, is. Best guess is the Keep not so very far away from the town of Winterhaven. This then, it is agreed ,will be the Knights' next port of call, after they return to Winterhaven to tell their tale, and root out the spy.
The mention of Orcus gets their collective attention- Cathal goes for a stirring five minute speech exhorting his colleagues to vanquish the Lord of Undeath and all his scumbling fawning foul servitors- those that understand it are put right in the mood.
Further searching reveals another, very short, note- crudely scribbled on a strip of leather, clearly cut from from a larger piece- the notes simply states, “they're coming!”
The “they” Cathal confirms are “us”, the Friday Knights- clearly Irontooth was warned of their approach- now who have the Knights been talking to?
However the Knights are spent, they rest- sleep, stay put in the cave and get their breath back after the titanic battle with Irontooth and his Kobold army.
[Cathal now has enough XP to move to level 3 after the battle with Irontooth, and after the Extended Rest he rises, ready for more adventure, a more experienced warrior. Immeral is also level 2 now.]
It's early evening when the Knights head back out again, at pace and in silence they travel, back the way they came- towards Winterhaven. They're almost back to town two hours later when they hear some strange noises- screams in the night.
Lucan and Immeral lead the way, through woods and into a farmer's field, lights ahead, from the farm house, and when the Knights get closer still they can see that the front door of the family home has been smashed open.
The Knights spread out, approach at Cathal's signal- a poor imitation of an owl hoot, and head in- the screams continue, someone's in trouble and the Knights are here to save the day.
They get the drop on the Bandits within the farm, who are too busy making merry with the farmer's family- women and children scream and wrestle with their captors, the farmer barks and brays tossed back and forth between two Human Lackeys.
A Magic Missile flies from Aeolace's outstretched hand, Immeral's javelin takes down the two Lackeys playing with the bloodied farmer. Cathal cuts another Lackey down and charges on, Astaroth leaves his greataxe in the back of a Human Ruffian, while Lucan's dagger finds a home in between the shoulder-blades of yet another Human Ruffian.
All is chaos, the Bandits attempt to take hostages but are prevented by the continued flurry of spell and blade, almost in an instant the Bandits are broken. That is, until a huge monstrosity seemingly carved from stone strides into the chamber, the Killinator, a retarded axe-swinging monster of a man- sound familiar.
Astaroth's eyes light up, he slays the Ruffian he is battling and races forward to get his man. Then from the opposite side of the farmer's home a familiar face appears, Jersey Turnpike, the Halfling Slinger the Knights last encountered in the company of Agrid, the Gnome, at the Burial Site.
The few Bandits left renew their efforts, but it's still not enough. A swatting Human Mercenary accompanying the Killinator, leads the retreat. Bloodied he flees, diving through perhaps the only still intact window in the building; he escapes into the night.
But he's the only one, Astaroth goes axe to axe and wins the day, eventually, against the Killinator. Cathal and the others mop up the remaining Bandits; Jersey Turnpike, battered, bruised and bloodied is captured- still alive, and shoved in a sack and kicked for a while, till he goes quiet.
[DM Interlude Encounter #21 [1000 XP = Level 5] 4x Human Lackeys (Level 7 Minions); 2x Human Ruffians (Level 2 Skirmishers); Human Mercenary (Level 3 Soldier); Human Berserker (Level 4 Brute) & Jersey Turnpike, Halfling Slinger (Level 2 Artillery (Leader)).]
The farmer family are made comfortable. Although their home has been destroyed, their lives have been saved- the Friday Knights are hugged, kissed, wept upon and otherwise made to miss their own homes and families. Uncle Astaroth dandles a child on each knee, plays horsey and grins like a chimp.
Except for Lucan, who mooches about the residence, “clearing up”, and helping himself to anything valuable he can find.
Which just leaves us with Jersey Turnpike, the now awake Halfling Slinger, he's turfed out of the bag and taken into another room for a quiet chat. A little while later the terrified Halfling sings like a canary- “it's Bairwin, Bairwin the shopkeeper, he pays us- that's all I know! Please don't kill me.”
Astaroth, still in tears after his welcome from the farmer's family- Uncle Astaroth as he will be forever known, well... he's not inclined to clemency. The man-mountain strangles the Halfling- kills him dead, with the other Friday Knights watching on, not helping.
[DM Interlude- the Friday Knights have a mean streak.]
The Knights have pressing business in Winterhaven. They stay a while longer, give money to the family, actually two years worth of wages and then grab the farmer's cart, now packed with the farmer family and their belongings, and head off to Winterhaven- it's getting late.
Strange, the doors to the town are wide open, and the Knights are off again, all action. Ahead a body flies through the window of Wrafton's Inn, Bairwin the shopkeeper is temporarily forgotten, they leap into action and weapons drawn spill into the Inn.
It's Agrid making trouble, more mercenaries, the locals are trying to contend with them, but are losing the battle fast.
A quiet drink at Wrafton's.
The tide turns very quickly, faced with the Friday Knights again Agrid and his companions do the best they can for a little while, and in cramped conditions- several of the Bandits pick a window, smash through them and flee.
Cathal notices that Ninaran, the Elven Hunter, seems to be subject of a number of the Bandits ire, he dashes in to save her.
The fracas is short and to the point, the Human Thugs are all left dead, the Human Ruffians either flee or are killed, the Human Mercenary is out of the bar in a flash- Agrid himself tries to escape but is brought to a stand still by Lucan's Positioning Strike, like the Halfling before him, he's bagged and beaten.
Soon after, the Inn returns to calm.
[DM Interlude Encounter #22 [749 XP = Level 2] 4x Human Thugs (Level 2 Minions); 2x Human Ruffians (Level 3 Skirmishers); Human Mercenary (Level 4 Soldier) & Agrid, Gnome Skulk (Level 3 Lurker (Leader)).]
The Knights are still in a rush however, they quickly take to beating Agrid, looking for confirmation of their target- “it's Bairwin, it's Bairwin!” Agrid screams.
The Gnome is left in the capable hands of Rond, who has now made his way to the Inn, it seems a good half-dozen of the Winterhaven Regulars are dead. Rond is also informed of the Kobold attack on the caravan on the north road. He promises to take care of this in the morning, when the town is properly secured.
The Knights double across the road to Bairwin's Grande Shoppe, Astaroth kicks in the door and the lot of them charge inside- empty, save the shop's wares, which Lucan takes to searching through, looking for the till float- and anything else he fancies.
Immeral however has found a trap door, stairs down, lights and chanting- something dark and nasty sounding, Cathal grins and leads them in.
Straight into a dark shrine dedicated to the Death Lord, Orcus- Bairwin (possibly) in a cowled robe at the front leading the chant. Two twisted Goblins, Dark Servants, spot the Knights and interrupt Bairwin's ceremony with screeches and shouts.
The fight is joined and, as the Knights move forward, from the walls of the dark chapel come a pair of almost formless shadows- Sightless Reapers, armed with spectral scythes.
The Dark Servants block their passage using their daggers to deliver necrotised slashes and slices, although they're nowhere near as effective as the Sightless Reapers with their scythes- Cathal and Astaroth are almost bloodied in the opening moments.
Bairwin uses Darkness Unleashed, calling on the power of Orcus, and leaving Immeral blinded, wounded and spun back, and out of the action. Then the Knights find their feet, Aeolace's Scorching Burst makes a mess of the Dark Servants who are then cut down by Astaroth and Cathal, who surge forward and onto Bairwin- the Cult leader, the Spy within Winterhaven, or so the Knights think.
He struggles hard against them, limited to trying to block and parry their blows with his Quarterstaff, alas he's not up to the job.
The Sightless Reapers prove their mettle, but are finally taken down by the force of the Knights, almost at the same time that Bairwin is at last slain.
The fight is short but very bloody, the Knights breathe a sigh of relief, the menace within the town is ended, they heal and set about searching the fallen, and the chamber- intent to find further evidence of Bairwin's foul activities.
A Cult Hit.
[DM Interlude Encounter #23 [825 XP = Level 3] 2x Dark Servants (Level 3 Skirmishers); 2x Sightless Reapers (Level 4 Soldiers) & Bairwin, Human Mage Cult Leader (Level 4 Controller (Leader)).]
[DM Interlude Astaroth now has enough XP to get to level 3, after the next Extended Rest.]
Bairwin has in his possession Douven Staul's amulet, the Friday Knights grab this to return to the aged archaeologist. A secret chamber is revealed with a number of books dedicated to the worship of Orcus, also a stash of money and a Ritual Book which Aeolace gets his hands on.
There are also yet another set of orders, once again from Kalarel, it seems the Knights are working their way up the management structure. Cathal reads aloud-
“Your latest shipment of supplies should meet the Keep’s needs until the ritual is finished, which should be any day now. I require more sacrifices however, see that Agrid and his men locate more supplicants. Rest assured that you will be rewarded for your actions on behalf of Orcus once the rift is open. —Kalarel.”
Which fills in the missing gaps.
The Knights head back to the Inn, inform Rond of all that has occurred, and then exhausted head to their beds after a quiet drink. The mood is sombre, there's been a lot of death one way or another.
A beautiful morning puts a slightly better spin on things. The Knights are in a rush to get to the Keep and yet Lord Padraig and Valthrun the Prescient have already left messages, they both need to see them as soon as possible.
Sister Linora is also at the Inn for breakfast, she's been busy all night dealing with the dead and the wounded. And yet she still has a smile for the Knights, and a clutch of Potions of Healing, all she possesses. She knows they are bound for the Keep, and fears it will prove to be an extremely dangerous place.
The Knights head off. First stop Lord Padraig's Manor, the young Lord is smiling and yet serious, concerned that more citizens of Winterhaven, and the surrounding farms, are not in further danger. He listens to the Knights story- the destruction of Irontooth and the Kobolds, it's at this point the Knights realise that Ninaran was only half right about the Kobold lair- there were no Cultists to be found.
Lord Padraig pays his reward and then fetches out two lists of names, names of citizens of Winterhaven that have gone missing in the last month or so- most from surrounding farms. The second list is from Eoffram Troyas, the Knights patron in Fallcrest, it arrived yesterday afternoon - a comprehensive list of those presumed taken in the raid on the city.
All told, 34 innocent citizens have been taken. The Friday Knights are charged with the recovery of the missing- alive; the reward is generous; they swiftly agree to attempt the task.
Lucan, looking over Cathal's shoulder at the list of those taken from Fallcrest, notes his brother's name- Dikkon, but says nothing.
They shake hands with the busy Lord and are swiftly out of the manor and back to Valthrun's residence. The fake sage is quickly to the door and ushering them inside, he has been busy- and he's had some success.
Valthrun with a skull in one hand, and refreshments in the Knights' hands, stands one foot on a rickety stool and recites-
“In shadowed keep of tumbled stone,
A peril lurks, for years unknown,
The Kinslayer's spirit guards it yet,
'Gainst a newfound vile threat.
The Kinslayer once was proud and strong,
Until the Blood Lord came along.
The thing of evil sent dark dreams,
Nightmares wrought of tortured screams,
The vowed defender's mind did bend,
And with his blade he did rend.
Awakened to the awful truth,
Shattered bones of men and youth,
His wife and children, pride and joy,
Mistaken for demons he was forced to destroy.
The Kinslayer fled to meet death alone,
For wicked deeds he must now atone,
And so the fallen paladin must wait,
For heroes to arrive and reverse his fate.
But twisted whispers echo through the halls,
And ghostly blood runs 'long the walls,
None can face those cursed remains,
Fear like water in their veins.
A Blood Lord follower from a cursed line,
Now threatens to awake the unholy shrine,
Dark power craves as men do thirst,
Confining spells to be reversed.
Storm clouds gather with the demon's approach,
And the living dead will soon encroach,
The forces of good will never survive,
For the Prince of the Undeath will soon arrive.”
Which leaves the Knights stunned.
[DM Interlude, the above is taken from Myrhdraak's brilliant conversion H1-3 Demon Prince of Undeath Conversion, which can be found here- http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1089353;
go there, you may have to sign in I can't remember, it's fantastic. I will be using this in further adventures in this series, although I've also added my own twists here and there.]
Astaroth looks confused, perpetually, but more so now. Cathal gets a little of it, Valthrun proves his worth and explains.
It seems the Keep used to be a bastion of the Nerath Empire. That was until it was brought low- broken from within by a traitorous act perpetrated by Sir Keegan, the Paladin leader of the men stationed at the Keep. Sir Keegan awoke, it is said, a man possessed- slew his family and then set about slaying all of his men- he however was successfully repulsed and eventually sealed within the catacombs beneath the Keep. Soon after the Keep was abandoned.
Spin forward a century and the Keep is once again inhabited and heroes are expected, the poem confirms. There's a portal somewhere within the Keep, and some dark follower of the Prince of Death, Orcus, is set to loose a host of Undead into the Nentir Vale.
Gulps, wide-eyes and open-mouths are the order of the day, Valthrun is thanked, the Knights shuffle out- their task better defined, they must be heroes again, they must save the day, save Winterhaven, save the Nentir Vale.
The Knights head back to the Inn, remember to return Douven's amulet to him, the old archaeologist opens the amulet and takes the picture from within, his dead wife, and then passes the amulet back to Cathal.
“Keep it, for luck. You're going to need it.”
Then the old man shuffles off.
The Knights make ready and then head out of Winterhaven, en route to the Keep on the Shadowfell, and there endeth Session 8, with four combat encounters, and another 7946 XP to share about.
Till next time.