The Scales of War
[Intro given to the players at the start of the first session]
The quiet and calm that of The Elsir Vale was suddenly shattered 10 years ago when an organized and blood thirsty hoard, called The Red Hand, swept through the Vale. Bent on the destruction and capture of The Vale, The Red Hand would have succeeded if not for the actions of a brave group of adventurers who stood up to the hoard at the fortified town of Brindol.
The Vale has known several years of peace since brave adventurers stormed into the teeth of the approaching Hand and sent them scurrying back into the darkness. The last decade has brought mild prosperity to the region, with only bandits disturbing the peace.
Lately in Brindol, however, a handful of bandit attacks and kidnappings over the past 3 months have caused the vague shadow of unease to spread among the locals. Word has spread that Brindol council member Eoffram Troyas has put out a call for adventurers to investigate and put an end to the kidnappings.
After several days on the road, you and your traveling companion stride through the gates of the bustling city of Brindol on a warm summer evening. The town is buzzing with activity as people go about their daily tasks and conduct their business. While guided here by a mysterious vision, your path once here, is uncertain….that is until you see The Antler and Thistle Tavern.
“Antler and Thistle mark the Emissaries path where your journey begins.” you mutter to yourself as you approach the Tavern and open the front door……
Inside the tavern the people of Brindol enjoyed mugs of ale and plates of freshly prepared food. Everyone was enjoying the evening after a day of hard work. Samhain and Gothe made their way through the tavern to the bar area where they ordered two mugs of ale for themselves. They were well away of all the eyes on the unlikely pair as they stood, enjoying their drink. The attention of the leery townsfolk was soon refocused as a massive giant of a man stooped through the tavern door. He must have stood 8 feet tall and he carried a pick larger than most men. Behind him was a curious little Dwarf who was barely visible behind the Goliath’s tree trunk like legs. The patrons of the Antler and Thistle parted as the two made their way to the bar and stood near Gothe and Samhain. People began to quickly finish their drinks and make for the door to warn the town guard for surely this group was up to no good.
As the first rounds of drinks were finished and pleasantries exchanged, the door to the tavern exploded inward; crushing those nearest to it. Panic filled the tavern as Orcs flooded in to the taproom, threw flaming jars of oil and began to attack people at random.
Without hesitation the motley crew of adventurers sprang into action and feverishly worked to stop the Orc’s and put out the fires in the tavern. After several harrowing moments, the brave adventurers were able to usher the townsfolk out the back door and put down the Orcs who were hell bent on destruction. The victory was short lived, however, for as soon as the commotion in the tavern died down they could hear the sounds of battle raging in the streets of Brindol.
They exited the tavern to find that the whole town was under attack. Battling their way through town and driving off the invaders, the players learned that several citizens and historical relics were taken in the attack. The town mayor asked the group to track down the invaders and rescue the citizens of the town and return the relics, if they could.
Before they left at dawn, they were met by Eoffram Troyas who introduced the group to Artin, a Paladin from Overlook. He had travelled to Brindol to spread news about Orcs in the vale when he heard of the attack. He will join to group to aid in the investigation and to see if the attack is related. WIth that, they set off and tracked the Orcs to the old Ruins of Rivenroar. They battled through the ruins, killing Orcs and rescuing citizens of Overlook. Eventually, though, they had to take a rest in the cold, dead ruins.
The long forgotten crypt room you have decided to rest in is not the most idea place to camp for a night. It is cold, musty and covered in hard stone. What it lacks in comfort it makes up for in defensibility. With only one set of sturdy wooden doors leading into the room, the party can easily secure the doors and seal the cracks around the doors with cloaks to prevent light from escaping into the room beyond.
“My savior!” Jalissa says as she is unshackled from the walls. Once freed, she rushes towards Runtwold, the first person she saw enter the room and smothers him in an embrace.
“I knew Ioun would send me a savior! I just knew it!”
Jalissa goes on to tell you about how she was taken in the night by a group of Orcs that burst through the gates near her home. She was walking back to her house from the temple when they grabbed her and knocked her out. She awoke as she and the others were being led through the ruins. She knows that Thurann, the 8 year old son of the captain of the guard is being held nearby as she heard him yelling just a few hours ago.
The hours of brutal fighting cause you all to collapse onto your bedrolls in exhaustion. Runtwold and Artin tend to the party’s wounds; cleaning them with water and then bandaging them with clean strips of cloth. Jalissa tags along with Runtwold as he helps to heal you, trying to help as much as she can, though she proves to be more of a hindrance than help. As they tend to your wounds, you all dig into your packs and pull out some of the hard tack trail rations that are a part of your adventurer packs. The rations are tough and bland, but are all you have.
The sunrod the party ignited after their last rest begins to die an hour into your rest in the crypt. It sputters for a moment, the flashing light causing the shadows to dance about the small burial chamber before plunging the room into total darkness.
Jalissa lets out a soft whimper as she grabs Runtwold tightly and pulls herself closer to him. “Oh no!” she cries softly and pleads; “It’s so dark. Please, Runtwold, light another torchy thing before they sneak up on us.”
As her words die out, you are left in the absolute darkness and silence of the long forgotten crypts beneath Castle Rivenroar.
To Jalissa, after, et-hem, holding her for a while in the dark: "I appreciate your fear, but I’m not the kind of guy you should hold on to. This party may have helped me to save you, but I’ve been cowardly in the past. There’s no guarantee we’ll make it out of here alive. Can I persuade you, when we’ve had some rest, to draw up a map of what you know of the nearby area? At very least, we can try and get you to safety.
Samhain says; “This is ridiculous,” and lights another sunrod and places it in the middle of the room. He then takes his bedroll to a corner and tries to get some sleep. “Wake me when it’s my watch,” he says as he lies down to face the wall.
Jalissa turns to Runtwold: “You, cowardly? Nonsense! You rushed into this room without fear of any danger and saved me from those beasts! You’re my hero! I just know you’ll help me and the others get out of here, being the brave adventurer you are. Those motherless Hobgoblins better flee if they know what’s good for them!”
“I’m not sure if I can draw you a map of any use. They blind folded me most of the time and the times I was not blindfolded, it was awfully dark. I can try though. I’ll do anything I can to help you.”
Boreas’s voice booms in the confined room: “Hey lady-friend, he speaks the truth about cowardice. He carries the cowardice of entire people on his shoulders. He and most other small of stature. His people bring about many sadness to my people. They scurry like rats below the ground, scrounge for riches and come to find things they no want.”
“My people, great people. My people walk about the mountains and clouds. We walk the lands of our people. Then the rats come and bring plague to our people. They disgrace our sacred land. I go with my people and find out how rats defile holy ground.”
“We find rats reaching in ground and pulling out ancestors. We fight them. We destroy their equipment and break their bodies. They fight with fire and ice. They corrupt the mountain and trees with their magics. They corrupt guardians that watch over graves and send them against us. My people will not fight. They smash and swallow my people. I not see guardians anymore. I see only abominations. A few of us fight.”
Boreas presents his pick before him. Even In the darkness it glows faintly.
“I rip this tooth from giant maw of mountain and bring it back down into burning eye. I kill mountain. Together we kill all. We return to people – only a handful. We tell our story.”
Boreas looks disturbed and a momentarily shaken until his face is overtaken in anger.
“We not cheered. We not champions. We are hated by people. We are outcasts. Our people tell us that is no life for us. Tell us we should bring end to ourselves at great cliffs. I go with others. I go and sit at fire and look for answers. I hear father’s voice – he tells me how to help my people. I see battle again in flames as nightmare. I wake and find friends gone and this rat come running up.”
A smile slowly opens his small mouth wide in a hardy laugh.
“Ha-ha. He no rat. Ha-ha. He mouse. That’s why I not kill him. He honest about cowardice. Runtwold see vision too, so I think he help me find answers. I go with him here. You safe with mouse here in darkness.”
Samhain gets up and joins the others in the center of the room. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he idly toys with his dagger, not making eye contact as he speaks.
“I, too, am an outcast. When my abilities manifested, my family sent me away, in the hope that I could learn to control the magic, the chaos in me, that I might benefit the clan’s business someday. I am no scholar. I spent years poring over dusty tomes and fragile scrolls, only to fail again and again at what the masters of the tower tried to teach me. Their ancient formulae were nothing compared to the song that rings in my blood. After a time, I quit trying. Why twist my tongue and tie my fingers in knots when my true path lies in simply whispering a few notes of that song, feeling the rush as the Elements burn through me? But no, I can never learn to control it completely.”
He looks up, fear and anger in his eyes as he remembers:
“And then I learned the true source of the masters’ powers. Pacts with demons and devils! My curiosity and frustration overcame my common sense, and I crept deep in the heart of the towers lowest levels, and there I witnessed atrocities to quell the heart of even our large friend there.” Samhain drops his gaze to the knife in his hand again. "So I fled, ran home, only to be shunned by my former friends and family because my magic was seen as too dangerous, too random. No benefit to the clan.
My dreams brought me to Brindol, visions of a… a town in danger. Perhaps, if I do enough good in the world, my family will accept me. I will prove my worth to them, and I will be able to go home again."
Without another word, or looking at his companions, Samhain returns to his bedroll and rolls to face the wall…
After hear the Goliaths speech, Artin, the Dwarven paladin stands and approaches the Goliath: “Runtwold over there may not have a problem with you calling Dwarves ‘rats’, but I will not allow you to call MY people ‘rats’. Perhaps you’ve forgotten all that me kin ’ave been through and done for ALL of the folk of The Vale.” Artin stands tall before tearing into the large man: " Centuries ago, me people were enslaved by your kindred giant folk. Not by your people, but by ‘real’ giants. These savages worked my people to death, all the while plundering the surrounding area. In fact, your people may very well owe your existence to the liking many giant men had for Dwarven and human women. Not that the feeling was mutual."
Artin paced back and forth in front on Boreas as he spoke.
“When the dwarves rose up and fought back against the giants, we struck with a savage fury only a dwarf with nothing left to lose could muster. We lost many men and women in the battle, but I can assure you, they lost many, many more. The giants were sent scurrying back into their mountain holes where they came from.”
Artin is worked into a pretty good rant at this point. His face is red and spittle exploded from his mouth with every word.
“After we had won our freedom, the Dwarves of The Vale created a fortified gate at Bordin’s Watch to prevent these scum and their kin from ever threatening the Vale again. Me father, me fathers fathers and generations before them kept vigilant watch at the gate. Many fine Dwarven warriors have died at that gate defending the citizens of the Vale from attack. The same Vale where the mountains you call home reside.”
Artin calms down and takes a deep breath before continuing: “So, my large friend, think of all the dwarves of the Vale have sacrificed, before calling us ‘rats’. Some of us may take offense.”
He turns and begins to walk away before stopping and turning back to him: “I am sorry about your people, friend. It would sound like we all are searching for …. well….something and the gods have brought us together to find it.”
Jalissa turned to the Goliath as she hugged Runtwolds arm; “Runtwold is not a coward, you big dummy. Whatever he may have done in the past, is just that, in the past. All you can do about the past is work to make amends in the present. He ran in here and saved me. He’s me hero.”
Boreas sits for a moment, before breaking into a broad grin: “Haha. I see I upset little man. Hah. You anger easy, I fear you might boil over. I see now that you not all rats. I am not stupid but I never learn of ancestry and history. I spend time learning to fight. My father did not teach me about people. I hear different stories that sound the same as you tell. I thought that maybe just for children. They make them feel better for being small. Haha…”
“You tell good stories and make me believe that it is truth. I take it back, you not rat. You not mouse. You just small. But you tell good story and swing weapon well. Haha… You make me think of mother when she used to nurse small brothers. That compliment. Brothers fight well. We now family from fights on battlefield. Maybe Jalissa give you milk now if you thirsty. Haha… “
Boreas turns to Runtwold before continuing: “You bring good dog to fight. Dog fight well, better than most. Your my brother in fight and it is only in death does that bond end. Brothers not leave brothers in battle. That’s when we are not family … That means death.”
Artin let out a bellowing laugh and smiled broadly: “You’re a strange man, Boreas, but I like you and it’s an honor to fight by your side.” Artin hoisted the mug of ale he mysteriously produced from his pack and looked around the room to make eye contact will all of his companions: “Here’s to being Brothers in Battle!” I one deft move he tilted back the mug and finished its contents. “It will be an honor to fight at your sides!”
The party then settled in for a long cold night in the damp, dark ruins of Castle Rivenroar. After a fitful night’s sleep filled with the echoes of long forgotten crypt, the party continued their search for the stolen relics of Brindol, the captive towns folks and the answers to how and why they all came to be in the Antler and Thistle.
The party then settled in for a long cold night in the damp, dark ruins of Castle Rivenroar. After a fitful night’s sleep filled with the echoes of long forgotten crypt, the party continued their search for the stolen relics of Brindol, the captive town’s folks and the answers to how and why they all came to be in The Antler and Thistle.
With blades and magic, the adventurers continued to battle through the Ruins of Rivenroar and rescue more of the townsfolk. After a very large battle with a nasty Wight and her undead minions, the party stood battered and bloodied over their fallen enemies.
Samhain conjures a scintillating orb of swirling colors in his hand, looks at Boreas and says “I swear by Avandra’s worn shoe leather, if you don’t stop calling me Baby I’m going to rename you Ball-less.”
“Yay! Yay! I see now. You not baby.” Boreas said. “They are not rats. All of you just small. You must all remember Boreas comes from big people and my people never see such smallness. My people make a big deal about muscle and strength. I see you small people not need such strength. You say words and use magics.”
Boreas kneels, awkwardly attempting to approach Samhain’s height.
“I respect that Samhain. Haha. You still baby; baby brother. Come brother; let us save our strength our work seems to be piling up … Hahaha …little graveyard humor.”
Sam gets a perplexed look on his face, and lets his spell fizzle out. “I… I seem to have misunderstood your intent, goliath.” He looks around at the party, all of them battered and bruised by their fight with the undead. “I have misjudged you all. It also appears that I have been blessed by Avandra’s luck to have fallen in with such cohorts.” He shakes his head, and chuckles.
“Samhain Foamfollower, brother in arms to a half-giant, two dwarves, and a Dragonborn? Ha! Would that I had the wisdom to recognize those who are here before me, offering what I’ve sought from my blood family for so long! Sam, you are a fool! Very well, then.”
He grins, and draws his dagger across his left palm. Holding out his bleeding hand, he shouts, “Come then, my new brothers, and mingle your blood with mine. We will be in fact what I swear here, now. You four are my blood brothers, and I shall spend mine defending any of you. We are a Brotherhood!”
He waits, hand outstretched, slowly dripping his chaos-laden life’s blood, grinning with true affection at the four of them.
Artin kneels over the fallen undead and says a prayer: “May your spirits find the rest they deserve.”
After saying the prayer, he stands and walks towards Samhain. “Well said, friend. It appears that the fates have brought us together and bonded us in the grave of this new threat.” He draws his worn axe across his palm. Clinching his fist tightly to cause a steady trickle of blood to flow, he holds his fist out with Samhain’s. “Brothers in blood” he says looking towards Samhain. He moves his steely gaze to Boreas: “Brothers in Battle” He then turns to Runtwold “and Brothers in Bravery”
Runtwold takes out his field dagger, puts it behind his back as if to scratch it, and draws a line across the top of his scapula and begins awkwardly walking backward toward the outstretched hand.
“Aye, in blood. And from my back, so that if you ever see it, you’ll know it’s not me fleeing. Never again!”
Wounded, Boreas collapses to the ground (just so happened to be coincidentally timed with the slicing of Samhain’s hand. His face and features tormented until moments later you hear a slight snore.
Hearing the thud, Artin turn to see the collapsed Goliath and groans. “Ohh, fer the love of Kord!” He turns and grabs Ball by the hand and hoists him to the sitting position. “My people value strength” he says in a voice mimicking Boreas’s. “Apparently one’s constitution is not so highly valued” he continues.
Once Boreas is awake and in the sitting position, Artin holds his hand, dripping with blood, aloft and says: “Brothers in Battle. Brothers in Bravery. Brothers in Blood!”
“Yeah!” cheers Thurann as Artin, Samhain and Runtwold bond themselves (is Boreas joining them?). Thurann moves to the now dead piles of bones and flesh that were once the undead the party battled and spits on one of them.
“Foul beasts!” he says with distain “You’re lucky my father is not here, yet. He’d have really shown you!” Thurann reaches down and picks up one of the fallen long swords. “Come on! We need to find my dad!” Thurann stands at the edge of the sunrods light, beckoning the party to continue.
Pushing on with great determination and courage, the party battled their way through the last few rooms of Castle Rivenroar and rescued the remaining Brindol captives and defeating Sinruth, the leader of the Orcs. On Sinruth, they found a note signed by someone calling themselves the Emissary. The note read:
The Red Hand will rise again! The other remnants take great cheer in your recent attacks on commerce coming into The Blight That is Brindol.
We’re particularly pleased with your ability to inspire a fighting spirit in others, whether they have true goblin blood or merely wish they did. To be blunt, we think you should have many more soldiers under your command.
Many, many more.
And recent events have rendered some remnants leaderless. With a bold stroke on your part, the remnants would rally to the Red Hand you so proudly display.
As your bold stroke, do this: Attack the The Blight That is Brindol by night. Focus your efforts on their Hall of Great Valor, for it mocks the many hard-won victories by the first Red Hand of Doom. Take from them the spoils of war they shamelessly hang on their walls and bring those antiques back to Rivenroar.
Do this before the moon is next full. And with regard to your previous question, turning over captives to your unliving allies at Rivenroar is perfectly acceptable. War sometimes makes strange bedfellows, and we appreciate how you’ve united such disparate forces under your banner. Whatever prisoners you take from Rivenroar you can give to the Wight.
Fight with the valor of your ancestors, Sinruth. And keep your hands stained red with the blood of the weak!
I will visit you again next month, at a time of my choosing.
Beaten and tired, the party took everyone out of the ruins and set up camp for the night. Boreas felled a wild hog while Runtwold scoured the area for wild root vegetables and spices. With these supplies, Mertala the cook was able to cook up a hearty, thick stew for everyone to enjoy as they rested their battle weary bones before returning to Brindol.
After a day of travel the group entered the outskirts of Brindol proper and news of their return spread quickly. Before they knew it, a throng of children and farmers surrounded the party, cheering on their success.
The group of onlookers only got bigger when the party entered Brindol. Guards rushed off to notify Effram Troyas of the party’s success, while shopkeepers and townsfolk alike came out into the streets to congratulate the party and welcome back the captives.
By the time the party had made it to the town square, nearly half the people of Brindol had gathered around them. Effram Troyas addressed the players, congratulating them on the mission. He labeled them the Heroes of Brindol and made plans for a great celebration to occur this night. The players spent the rest of the evening enjoying all of the free drinks, food and praise they could handle.
With heads that felt like harpies were nesting in them, the players awoke and had their morning meal before heading out to do some shopping.
Artin was called to speak with Effram Troyas and soon the players learned that Overlook had put out a call to arms to all able bodied men and women in the region. An army of never seen before size was threatening Bordin’s Watch and all available arms were needed to protect The Vale.
Perhaps this army was related to ‘The Emissary’ mentioned in the note found on Sirnuth? The players decided to heed the call to arms and set off for Overlook the following day.
While on the road, the players encountered several other adventuring parties, a band of traveling gypsies with a fondness for gambling, as well as spirit that put the players to somewhat of a test and rewarded the players with a trinket that grants them +1 to all rolls when bloodied.
After traveling for nearly a week and fending off one ambush, the players arrived at the grand city of Overlook. The massive city, with its 100ft tall stone walls was like nothing the players had seen. A quick ask around, and the players found a reasonable and clean inn to stay. They were instructed to meet at the gates to High Halls the following day at noon.
The groups set out on their separate ways and meet up at the inn for a meal before heading to bed.
The players awoke, did some more shopping before heading to The High Halls district. When they arrive they found dwarves manning the gate to the district, registering each adventuring party as they arrived. When asked for the name of their adventuring party, the players settled on “The Brindol Brigade.” It immediately became apparent why this area was called The High Halls. Housing the governmental buildings of Overlook, this district was dominated by massive stone buildings that rose 100 or more feet into the air. The streets were a maze of cramped streets while the sky was a thatch worth of bridges that ran between the massive buildings.
Soon they arrived at Caer Overlook; the main building where the council of elders met and would address the players. When all had gathered, a council member addressed the crowd of thousands of adventurers:
“Welcome to High Hall friends. I am Elder Cadrick. I don’t much see the point in bandying words, so I’ll lay it out for you. War is upon us. A great host of Orcs comes from the west. Their intention is clear. They will come through the mountains bent on slaughter. Those they spare can look forward to a short life of slavery. Overlook, and Bordrin’s Watch in the mountains, have long held fast against these raids, but our scouts say never has such an army gathered. Thus, we turn to you brave souls to help defend not only Overlook, but also all the Elsir Vale.
When the Orcs arrive, we’re certain they will come up through the pass. We know this because already there have been attacks from the tunnels below, compromising the fastness. The defenders have fought back the savages, but it’s clear the rest are coming and fast.
So here’s the plan. Durkik Forgeheart will lead the militias and most of you to bolster Bordrin’s Watch. Orc trailblazers infest the tunnels below, so we’ve tasked their security to the Farstriders. One more mission remains, though. We need a group to evacuate the monastery on the other side of the mountains. It’s dangerous work, what with the Orcs and all, but priests need a warning of what’s coming if they don’t know already.
Do we have any volunteers?”
Immediately The Brindol Brigade volunteered for the task of warning the Monastery.
After gather supplied for the arduous journey into the cold and dangerous mountain peaks, the players headed out.
After several hours of travel, the players found themselves hopelessly lost and in the midst of an Orc raiding party. The battle was dangerous, but The Brindol Brigade prevailed. They set out ounce a gain and for several hours back tracked only to become lost again.
[DM’s note: At this point, the players had failed the skill challenge to find the Monastery 4 times in a row.]
This time, they found themselves amongst a caravan of travelers who had succumbed to the biting cold of the mountains. The bodies of the dead rose up and tore into the party savagely. After a long and bloody battle the ghouls were put down once and for all, and the players decided to camp for the night at this location as it offered them a small cave and firewood to use to keep warm.
Sitting around the camp fire tonight stands in contrast to the nights spend in the quiet of Castle Rivenroar. Fierce, cold winds howl with anger outside the entrance to the cave you now find yourselves in. The small fire you’ve built from the remains of the wooden cart found here struggles against the constant breeze that filters into the cave.
Huddling around the fire with blankets pulled tightly against your bodies, you think about what is to come…..
::Thinks of the boy, and wonders how his first days of study are going::
“I fear we may not survive these mountains. Luck plagues us, as if some malevolent deity were putting our lives in the hands of a pair of gambling dice. And yet, there’s something renewing in trying to become part of something larger, of not running away from the things that frightened me — that would frighten us, before. Boreas… I feel I have a new understanding of your strength, having worked more closely with you. Your ram persona is much like the spirit animal, only you become your strength, and I stand apart from mine.
“I do not understand why the populace is so afraid of this Orcish horde. Surely defenses of this magnitude can repel such an invasion. I fear there is something stranger, something more sinister amiss that they are not telling the pawns of their defense force of. What say you all?”
Artin, stands at the cave entrance gazing out over the Vale that stretches out beyond the Stonehome Mountains, his fur lined winter cloak pulled tight.
He turns to the party and approaches the fire. Wringing his hands over the open flame, he says: “You’re correct in your assertion that the defenses of Bordin’s Watch are sufficient to repel such an army. The Orcs we were attacked by on the road to Overlook, and the ones that attacked us just hours ago are part of the invading force. They’re already on this side of the pass.”
“The tunnels that run beneath Overlook and the pass have been penetrated. Our own scouts have confirmed as much. At first it was thought that they were just small raiding parties making their way under the mountains; nothing that hasn’t happened before. But their weapons and armor linked these parties together. They are part of the same force, and if the army that marches against Bordin’s Watch is able to swarm the tunnels beneath the Watch and Overlook and attack from all sides…… well, that’s why the call was put out. Any break in a levy will cause it to fall.”
“Edgar Sumemrfield and the Farstriders were sent to seal what is called The Nexus. It is the control point for all of the tunnels under the Watch. Without access to the tunnels under the city and the Watch, the enemy will have no choice but to throw itself against the walls of The Watch.”
[Sorry, too much booze and too much of a hangover must have prevented me from mentioning the part about evidence of the hoard gaining access to the tunnels. They know about the tunnels, somehow, and will devastate the Watch if allowed to access them in force. The army still marches on the area.]
“It’s odd to be a part of something larger, even if we are but a small unit of the whole. Why do they not simply cave in the tunnels? I know trade is essential to the west, but surely the tunnels can be reconstructed once the orc hordes are repelled?”
(Turns to Gothe) “You know a great deal about striking. I imagine you’re the man I’d want to turn to in order to harass an enemy into submission. What do you think about the plans?”
Done warming his hands, Artin grabs a hock of meat from the fire and walks back towards the cave entrance. As he does, he speaks: “I think ye’ve been away from ”/campaign/exploits-of-the-brindol-brigade/wikis/overlook" class=“wiki-page-link”> Overlook for too long, Shaman. The tunnels are not dwarf made and are not few. There be thousands of passages under there, but there are some strategic choke points that have been rigged. The Farstriders have been sent ahead to secure them by closing the Nexus and preventing the hoard from coming up under Bordin’s Watch." He takes a bite and stares out over the vale again. “Pray to Moradin they succeed.”
After breaking camp the hearty band of adventurers continued to climb their way up the frigid mountains towards the Monastery of the Sundered Chain in an attempt to warn the monks of the impending invasion. To their horror, they found that they were too late. Orcs had made it to the monastery first and had slaughtered all of the men, women and children inside. With ceeth clenched, the group charged the Orcs who occupied the Monastery and cut through their ranks. While they took many wounds in the battle, the damage they dealt was far worse.
Down in the monk’s sleeping quarters the party surveyed the massacre around them.
Samhain looks around at the dead bodies of dwarves and Orcs. He rubs his hands together, sparks and drops of acid dripping between them, his ocher eyes glowing in anger. “This is only the first stage, my brothers. More Orcs are coming, and I promise you they shall pay dearly for the slaughter they wrought here. They think to wreak this havoc on the whole Vale? No, and they will pay for their audacity with their lives.” He spits on then kicks the nearest orc corpse. Shaking his shaggy head, he tries to put his anger aside.
“Stinking savages. I’d say they were planning on using this monastery as a base of operations. And I’m pretty sure they didn’t mount a frontal assault on the gates. My gold is on an entrance from below. Runtwold, Artin, what do you think? You two would know more about how this place may have been built than any of us. Care to take a look around? Gothe and Boreas, we should get the bodies out of here. Maybe a pyre in the courtyard for the dwarves? I say let the wolves and ravens have the Orcs, but outside the gates.”
“A pyre? I think these dwarves have seen enough of fire. Perhaps we should put them in the earth. But perhaps they’re beyond such worries. Such a disgrace. Such a waste. If only we’d gotten here sooner.”
Runtwold looks down, ashamed.
“But yes. We’ll do our best to rectify this failure. I’ll begin trying to find an importance to the architecture.” (Checks the surrounding area).
“Hah! This would not be a problem if these Dwarves knew how to fight better; were smarter than the Orcs. But their arms are small. Their brains small too.”
Boreas finds his smile alone in a crowd of faces of his friends around him. His smile disappears as he peers into Artin’s eyes.
“Dwarves, they small, but not too different from me. When my time comes, I also want to find rest in the ground of my people. If Dwarves want burial here in ground then I can dig.”
Boreas looks to Samhain.
“I think Orcs here have paid. I don’t know if more Orcs need to pay. But I do know that I, Boreas, want to lay waste to Orcs full of strength and not weary from battle. I want to take fight to the Orcs because I want them to see strength. You find reason in revenge. I find reason in sport. You say Orcs are down. Then we go down. I can dig for that too.”
Runtwold picks his way through the abattoir created by the ruthless Orcs and Orogs. As me inspects the architecture of the chamber, he can’t help but to be saddened by the savagery of the attack. Men and women alike were slaughtered where they slept. Very few of the monks even had time to make it out of their beds. The common room used by the Dwarves is of ancient, Dwarven construction. The sleeping chambers cut into the walls are simple, even by Dwarven standards. The 10×10 alcoves contain a simple bed with thin goat wool mattresses. A clothes dresser and bed stand also adorn each room. Scattered about the various sleeping alcoves are small personal items; reminders of the occupants life before becoming a monk.
While the accommodations in the sleeping chambers are simple, the stone inlays of Moradin’s Hammer on the wall of each chamber are not. Stone of various colors and textures are inlaid with astonishing detail into the north wall of each chamber, a symbol of the Dwarven monk’s devotion.
In contrast to the sleeping alcoves, the status that dominates the center of the room is a true testament to the artisan stone crafting skills of the Dwarves. The massive statue depicts a dwarf warrior battling a hydra dominates the center of the room, standing nearly 100ft tall. Standing, gazing at the statue, Runtwold feels a presence by his side. Expecting Artin to be standing next to him, Runtwold is shocked to see the spirit of the warrior depicted in the statue standing next to him. Solemnly, he looks about the room, tears streaking down his cheeks.
“That hydra there killed hundreds of me fighting brothers before I got to her.” he says to Runtwold. A quick look around reveals that no one else seems to be able to see or hear the Dwarf.
Suddenly, Runtwold realizes who he is talking to: the legendary Dergen Fellfist. The statue depicts a famous battle between Dergen Fellfist and a legendary hydra that devoured 300 warriors until the dwarf hero killed the beast in single combat. It’s said Dergan’s bones were interred somewhere in the mountains and, given the statue’s presence; it’s a safe bet that his remains are sealed beneath the statues.
Dergen stares up at the statue for moment, and then turns back to Runtwold: “The five of you are bonded by more than fate; each of you linked to the small one there. Our paths are similar, Runtwold It may not be a hydra you and your companions must face down, but many will die by the dark hands. All will die if you fail.”
Dergen solemnly surveys the carnage in the sleeping chamber before straightening up with resolve. “Avenge our fallen brothers. Show them no quarter for they have given none.” Dergen walks into the base of the statue and disappears. A compartment opens from the spot at the base of the statue he disappeared into.
[I look around at the rest of the party, and see if they’ve noticed the compartment open.]
Knowing the dragonborn’s desire for loot (but not begrudging it), I seek to maintain the sanctity of this gravesite by NOT mentioning that it’s likely the burial place of a great warrior. However, I do draw their attention to the compartment, and explain that this appears to be a shrine to a very important dwarf who stood against a hydra on his own, a man named Dergan Fellfist.
[I wipe the tears from my eyes, and look into the compartment.]
Runtwold wanders the room, inspecting the Dwarven architecture. He stops to inspect the large statue that dominates the center of the room. There must be a draft entering the large camber from somewhere below for the temperature of the room chills.
Boreas’s first sentence barely passes his lips when Artin charges Boreas. In a blur he strikes Boreas in the back of the knee with his shield before spinning to drive the flat of his axe in to the side of his other knee; bringing Ball crashing backward to the floor.
Artin is up in Boreas’ face in an instant. “Greater men have been killed for dishonoring my Dwarven brothers, boy! These men and women were slain while they sleep. Most never made it out of their beds, but all fought the very end. None was weak or dumb as you have so rudely stated. You can start to pay your respects by helping me with my fallen kin.” Artin stands tall and moves away from Boreas. “We’ll lay the Dwarves along this wall here” he says, pointing to the wall with the staircase. “We should clean them up and cover their bodies. Make sure each has its symbol of Moradin in hand for their journey to the Great Forge.”
As Runtwold starts to walk around, inspecting the area, you feel a pulling/tingling through your body. It climaxes just about the point when Runtwold stops and stares at the statue. The room gets cold.
Samhain yells “Runtwold, stop! What do you see there? Can anyone else feel that?”
You see a stairwell leading downward into the darkness under the base of the large statue.
“I can feel it. I think it’s calling us toward these stairs!”
I draw the attention of everyone and point them toward the staircase.
“The spirits have spoken to me, just now, and I have a very good indication this is a benign and helpful entity. We should explore this shrine.”
Runtwold disappears into the dark alcove under the statue.
[To Neal Only] You walk down the stairs into utter darkness. Eventually, you see a soft glowing light and find yourself in a room with a large sarcophagus. The walls are lined with book shelves and the space around the sarcophagus is occupied by tables which are covered in other books, various pieces or armor, weapons and other trinkets.
[To the DM Only from Neal]
If folks follow me down, I suggest that we fan out and examine this for any kind of direction as to the source of the menace and/or the origin of the area. If they don’t follow me down, I begin searching myself, starting with the books, as that would be my area of expertise.
Boreas returns from another chamber with the body of two fallen Dwarves laying each on his forearms. His hands cupping their heads. He moves slowly into the main hall. His eyes looking down into the eyes of the young dwarf male and a young dwarf female. They are both dressed in ceremonial attire from what you would gather was their wedding day.
He carries the two across the hall and into the room that Artin has designated as the burial chamber. Boreas has lot a bit of the swagger that he had when he entered. He is quiet. His steps are careful and his arms move deliberately. These are the last of many bodies that he has carried today. Boreas had discovered these two furthest back in the kitchen of the mess hall. The husband’s body lay slumped to the ground, a kitchen knife driven deep into the Orc near him. His clothes torn and destroyed. Covered in the blood, spit out foot, and Orc piss. The wife lay inside a hidden chamber of a cask untouched in her silk white dress. A small vial clutched between the fingers of her stiff body. Her face frozen in a portrait of anguish and her dress front drowned in her own tears. He lays their bodies solemnly down together in their resting place.
Artin’s eyes at first followed Boreas as they worked together to prepare the grave. Hoping to catch the brute mouth another word or show some disrespect. But found none. Eventually Artin himself is overtaken by the same slow, somber dirge. Artin’s arms are full of holy relics that he places before each of the fallen brothers. He comes finally to the couple that laid out before Boreas. Boreas, with care, pulls the hands of the husband towards that of the wife. Tenderly attempting to open her hand to join her departed husband’s hand he finds her balled fists frozen together.
Artin places a hand on Boreas’s outstretched arm and saids “It is customary to lay them together with hands held when they are sent into the afterlife. But I think her loving husband will not mind if instead we simply have her held for warmth.”
Boreas silently pulls the limp husband against his wife; his arms outstretched and around her snow white dress now soiled in the blood that has covered this temple.
Boreas grabs the low hanging torch from the wall as he stands. Artin laying the last of the holy symbols on the lovers. It is then as Boreas reaches his full height that the torch light pours out onto the ceiling that he is presented with a story.
A story of Dwarves and his people. A story that has been searching for quite some time.
[DM to Neal only]
This is clearly a secret area where the Dwarves, known to be keepers of the region’s deep history, keep their amassed treasures and tombs. The tables are set as places to study the many volumes of books held here. A fine suit of armor is what glows blue: beckoning you. The honorable Dwarf warrior stands next to the armor. “Use it well, Runtwold. May courage guide your hand as it did mine.”
[Neal to DM only]
I kneel before the dwarf.“I’ve lived a life of sin and dishonor. I’m not worthy of this gift, but I’ll seek to, in all of my actions, prove worthy. But I have to ask, brave one, beyond force, is there any way in your wisdom I can stop what happened here from spreading to the lands? These books may offer me guidance, but if you watch over this place, as you have seen the horrors inflicted within its walls, surely you have better insight than I.”
[DM to Neal]
“No, Runtwold, you are worthy. Ever one is worthy of redemption.”
He goes on: “As for stopping this from spreading….all I know is you and your friends hold the key. A piece of chaos lives in you small friend. That is what beckoned me, however, only your bond with the spirits allows you to see me. You big friend also has a role to play for it is he that can strike back at those that plan to spread chaos across these lands.”
“I must go now. May you use these tools here” he sweeps his hands across the table of arms in front of him, “to save the Vale, to save the Realms”
I rise as soon as the glow fades, take the armor, and examine it, putting it on with tender care and a little fear.
(assuming none of the guys have come down) I turn to head back up and inform the group of what I’ve seen.
The high ceiling dome is an elaborate collection of dwarven lettering, runes, and paintings. While the story continues more to the left, Boreas finds him somewhere in the middle.
The evil poured out from under the earth. Filling great halls and drowning the Dwarves that had previously found refuge within the mountains. Those spared were in for a worse fate as they felt the curse of the corruption spread through them. Driven mad they drove blades into brothers. The paintings depicting the birth of Goblins and Orcs from small beasts that unfortunately found themselves caught within the splash and spills of this great evil.
The Dwarves knew better than to fall victim to the vile corruption sealed off parts of their Kingdoms to protect the remains of their Kingdom. Pushing the vile substance up and out of the mountain where it found the unfortunate home in the lesser race of Giants that walked the mountains and the earth. Unlike the Dwarves, the Giants did not run in fear of this taint but instead sought it out. Driven mad they wrought destruction from above. Heaving the mighty peaks that once housed the Gods down into the valley.
The story tells of how this Temple had come to stand against the darkness that had attempted to overtake the peaks. Boreas notices for the first time his forefathers pictured here. Not standing mighty and proud, but wounded and beaten. It was at this temple that they found aid from the Dwarves. It was here the Dwarves healed their wounds and cured them of the taint that surely would have overtaken them. The remaining images of Boreas’s forefathers show the Dwarves leading them away from the high peaks, where the battle raged, to safer hills where they could find refuge
The battle that rages on; depicted in gore and graphic images of the massacre felt on both sides. The mountain landscape torn apart from the inside and from above. One picture stands out to Boreas. That of a large beast akin to that one he had found himself within defending the burial ground of his people. The very beast that he had driven his great sword through soft palette of the gaping maw that sought to devour him. The very beast that was to have corrupted him and outcast him from his people. Casting light around the room he finds fashioned into the stone of a small archway to a small alcove the very fang that he now wields. This one instead is different, this one he finds warm, as if it were radiating to the touch.
Artin approaches Boreas, stoic, yet proud.
“It would appear that I have under estimated you, my large friend. You’re a good man, albeit one who is not very good with words.”
Artin gazed up at the fresco that adorns the ceiling of the large room. As he and Boreas take in the story it tells, Artin speaks: “Aye, this is the story of our people and the birth of the vile beasts, our hated enemies: Orcs and goblins. You see now why your disrespect of the Dwarven folk, while unintentional, angers me. It was the very people you disrespect that saved you from the evils your kin sought. He healed you. Harbored you. And sacrificed our lives to see you to safety. We Dwarves may not be big, or strong like you Goliath, but we are fiercely loyal and honorable. These traits of my people, are the vary traits that haunt our friend Runtwold so. He struggles every day to right his perceived wrongs.”
The fang imbedded in the archway catches Artin’s attention: “By Moradin’s Might!” he exclaims. Looking from Boreas’s weapon to the ancient fang on the wall and back again.
“They’re the same.” He says in astonishment. “This cannot be. Could the evil from long ago have been reawakened? Who would do such a thing?”
As the two talk, the echo of Runtwold talking to someone from deep below the statue is audible.
After laying the massacred monks to rest and saying a few words of prayer, the group continued deeper into the monastery looking the means though which the Orcs entered the monastery and hopefully, for more Orcs to quench their thirst for revenge.
They exited the sleeping chamber and found themselves at a massive set of double doors. With a mighty heave, Boreas pulled the doors open to reveal a short hallway that opened up to a small platform that stood near the top of a massive subterranean cavern. From the platform ran a set of stairs that plunged downward before disappearing in darkness. As the adventurers made their way down the steep stairs, they were set upon by a group of Orcs who were making their way up from below and their drake pets. Unleashing their bloodlust, Boreas and Gothe leapt off one stair platform and landed dozens of feet below right in the midst of the Orcs. The chaos caused by the daring maneuver gave the brave warrior all the advantage they needed. The Orcs and their pets were quickly slain.
Soon, the adventurers found themselves at the bottom of the massive cavern. From somewhere ahead, they saw a flickering crimson glow. Creeping forward towards they glow they came upon a gut wrenching sight. The room was a foundry used by the monastery and as with the rest of the fortress, the floor of this room was littered with the bodies of slain monks. At the back of the room stood a massive Orog and an Orc shouting and beating a Dwarven prisoner. The heroes paid little heed to the other beasts in the room. They unleashed a savage furry on their enemies the likes of which will live on it tales for many years to come. Devastating blow after devastating blow rained down on the hapless Orcs as they fought in vain to even slow down the enraged adventurers. Artin charged through the enemy while Boreas cleaved them in two. Working together, Samhain and Gothe tore into the flanks of the Orcs and reduced them gory piles. Artin dove under a sweeping blow from the Orog leader and came up next to the gravely injured Dwarven prisoner. He set his axe about its deadly work while he used his shield to defend the Dwarf. Soon, Runtwolds spirit companion was by his side and healing magic flowed fourth, revitalizing the dwarf they hoped to save. The rest of the group was soon working the Orog from all sides and fell along with his charges. With the battle won, the heroes turned to the Dwarf they had saved; Kalad. Broken physically and spiritually, he was just a shell of the brave paladin he used to be. As tears streaked his bloodied face, he told the party of how he was down in the caverns, praying in solitude as he often does when the Orcs broke through the lower tunnels. Most has crept past him while he was deep in meditation and unleashed the savage attack upstairs. He sobbed as he recounted how those above had no chance to defend themselves. Once he realized what was happening, he hurried to the forge room and set in motion the monasteries defenses which collapsed the tunnels the Orcs had used. He was then set upon by the Orog and his men whom beat him down and were in the process of torturing him in an effort to find out how to reopen the tunnels when the players saved him. Kalad informed the party that if the Orcs where in the tunnels under the mountains and on the east side of the pass then they could easily overrun Bordin’s Watch and Overlook by being able to attack the fortifications from both sides. With grim determination, he told the players that the Nexus has to be sealed at all costs; the fate of the Vale depended on it. The Nexus, Kalad explained, was an ancient Dwarven device built to act as a last defensive resort in the even the network of mines was breached. Opening the Nexus would open a valve to a deep aquifer causing the network of tunnels to be flooded with boiling water; boiling alive all those within the tunnels. With Kalad leading the way, the adventurers travelled with all haste to the Vents that led downward to the Nexus.
When they arrived at the vents, they found evidence indicating that the Fastriders, who were tasked with sealing the Nexus, had indeed been here, however, their horses were still tied out outside. They should have been able to seal the Nexus and flee shortly after arriving here a day ago, which meant that the Orcs must have made it here first.
Cautiously, the heroes entered the vents and found that they were correct: the Orcs where already here and it appeared that they had ambushed the Fastriders. Just inside the vents, they players came across the body of a half elf they recognized as one of the Fastriders.
What followed was a harrowing battle through several rooms as they made their way to the Nexus. In the control room just before the Nexus, they encountered a strange creature the likes of which they have never faced. The creature was humanoid and almost goblin like in appearance. She has dark grey skin and large milky white eyes set in a head which featured a long, hawkish nose and pointy ears. Samhain recognized this as a Dark Creeper; a denizen of the shadowy plane known as the Shadowfell.
After defeating the Dark Creeper and her Orc allies the party searched their fallen enemies and found two items on interest on the Dark Creeper. The first was a unique brass key. It appeared simple enough but when inspected, it was observed to radiate an arcane aura. The second item of note was letter written to Tusk, the leader of the Orcs. The letter indicated that the dark creepers had been selling weapons to the Orcs in an effort to outfit them for some coming war. Furthermore, the writer of the letter agreed to provide Tusk with tactical information regarding the defenses of Overlook and the location of the tunnels in an effort to help them succeed in their attack. This letter was signed by The Emissary. This was the same one who had signed the letter to Sinruth, the Orc who had attacked Brindol.
After a harrowing and valiant battle against Tusk and the force of invading Orcs for control of The Nexus, and ultimately, control of the Elsir Vale, you find yourself standing among the Vents in the Foothills of the Stonehome Mountains. As you stand there, blinking in the late Fall sun, blasts of superheated, stale air erupt from the many vents dotting the several square miles around you as boiling water from The Nexus fills the caverns running under the Vale. Between gouts of steam, you swear you can hear the sound of a thousand Orcs being boiled alive far beneath the earth.
On foot, you trudge across the foothills towards Bordin’s Watch, knowing the battle to repeal the Orc invasion must be in full swing. After a hard day of travel, the sound of battle can be heard carrying on the wind. Eager to live up to his ancestral pledge to defend the watch at all costs, Kalad (a Dwarven Paladin rescued in the chambers below the Monastery) breaks into a jog up the steep and rock mountain path.
Exhausted, but marching hard towards Bordin’s Watch, the sounds of battle grow louder and more distinct, however, the intensity of the battle is lessening. As the massive gates come into view, the horns of victory sounded. A deafening cheer erupted and spread across the mountain pass!
Seeing your arrival, General Durkik Forgeheart approaches the group. Looking over the party, he says: “Kalad, I expected you to see the monks back to Overlook. What of the monks? What happened to your beard, friend?”
Kalad looks to the ground, his shoulders slump. “Slaughtered” he says quietly. “All of them.”
Tears streak his grime covered face as she continues in a detached, almost vacant way: “They had access to the lower tunnels and swept in while I was deep in prayer. By the time I realized what had happened, it was too late. I collapsed the tunnels before being overwhelmed. Their foul leader Og, beat and tortured me in an effort to learn how to reopen the tunnels. I would have died there, had these brave adventurers not intervened. They can fill you in on the rest”
Kalad turns from the general and walks towards a nearby bluff overlooking the Vale. Kalad stands in silent reverence, looking in the direction of the monastery.
General Forgeheart looks to the party. “Any news on the Fastriders and their mission to seal the Nexus?”
Samhain steps forward to address Forgeheart. “General, I am pleased to report that the Nexus is closed. Unfortunately, we failed in our primary goal. The monastery had already been overrun and the monks killed in their sleep before we arrived. We avenged those ignoble deaths with the blood of every Orc we found in the complex. Kalad convinced us that sealing the Nexus was too vital to leave to one team, and ’tis a good thing he did. We traveled overland until we could make our way in through the vents. The Orcs already had a strong force deep in the tunnels, and we found evidence that the Farstriders had fallen before they could accomplish their mission.”
Sam gestures to the rest of the party; “My brothers and I, by strength of arms and faith, by guile and stealth, fought our way into the Nexus! There, we fought yet another pitched battle on the treacherous catwalks surrounding the chamber, overwhelmed by the Orc’s sheer numbers, and their leader’s vile magics and their war chief’s brute strength But we prevailed, General! As Boreas charged forward to clear the path, Artin held the line, as all true dwarves are born to do, and kept their champion’s attention! Runtwold bravely stood his ground as well, healing his brothers and harrying the Orcs so that Boreas and Artin would not be brought down by the crush of stinking orc bodies. Gothe was able to make it to the control console on the highest platform in the chamber and activate the mechanism, releasing the boiling waters to flood the tunnels, hopefully boiling the foul-spawn alive in retribution for their assault. As the steam and water filled the chamber, we ran for the top, and escaped.”
Turning to his companions, Samhain asks, “Have I forgotten anything, my brothers?”
Runtwold regrets his inability to speak to his adventure at the time he was requested, but he was considering lost relatives and was thereby lost in thought. ;)
When he is greeted by the townsfolk, he becomes even more quiet and withdrawn, considering perhaps that there may be a path of redemption for his earlier failures, and considerably pleased with his ability to contribute to something larger than himself, he feels humbled in the face of what from now until today has been a cruel world.
He ponders the things that he’s seen, the clues, the ideas behind the Emissary, and decides that he has to do something to think, and that thing is unwind, given that he knows a tense mind can produce no magics or fruit of any kind. With that, he excuses himself from the party and sets to some long meditation, and then spends some time walking the city, trying to find anything of use to his brain.
Seeing no one else speak up, Forgeheart looks over the group. He returns his gaze to Samhain and smiles at the eager and excited Halfling: “Ye did not fail in you mission, brave one. It would appear that the Orcs had penetrated through the mountains deeper than we could have imagined. Without the heroic efforts of the five of you, we all would be dead. We owe ye all a debt of gratitude.”
A runner approaches the General: “Sir? Your presence has been requested at the gates.”
“Very well” the General says to the young Dwarven boy. He turns back to the group: “Please excuse me. I have other duties to attend to yet. A caravan of injured is set to depart back to Overlook soon. Feel free to catch a ride with them back to town. I’m sure some of them could use your healing abilities.” With that, the General turns and marches off to the gates and out of sight.
Word of your deeds and the deeds of all involved in the battle have already spread to Overlook by the time you arrive for you are greeted with the fanfare and celebration usually reserved for dignitaries.
People line the streets and hang out of the high buildings that make up the narrow corridors of Overlook, cheering as you and the Dwarves from Overlook make your way to the High Halls.
Once at the high halls, you give the council of Overlook a synopsis of what happened and what you encountered while on your mission. After some rest, a grand celebration is held in Overlook. The entire town is involved and everyone is cheering and congratulating the Heroes from Brindol: The Brindol Brigade!
As you enjoy yourself and relish the glory of your deeds, a few things nag at the back of your mind.
• All of the Orcs you encountered were equipped with the same finely crafted weapons and armor and the hobgoblins that attack Brindol only weeks ago.
• Furthermore, you found a note on the Orc war leader Tusk, indicating that the dark creepers from the Shadowfell had sold arms and tactical information to aid him and his band in their attack on Overlook. This note too is signed by, The Emissary.
• Who is this Emissary? Why is he or are they supplying the denizens or the Vale with weapons and stirring them into battle?
• And finally, what is the odd brass key you found on the dark creeper in the Nexus used for?
After a long night of celebration, Gothe and Samhain staggered into the common room of the Mountain Hearth looking to soothe the hammering in their heads. When their brothers in arms did not join them for a morning meal, the two decided to head out into the city to see what answers they might be able to find to the question of who is supplying the enemies they have fought thus far with the quality weapons and armor, and why?
After asking around, town, the pair discovered that the weapons were not of any make made or sold in or around the city of Overlook. A Dwarven blacksmith directed them to the Blister region of Overlook, suggesting they surely would be able to find a black market for such goods there.
The pair headed to The Blister, a most undesirable part of Overlook, and began their investigation. Like a ghost, Gothe slipped through the crowded, muddy streets of The Blister. After asking around, he located an arms dealer who, recalled similar weapons on a bloke who told him he heard that “someone named ‘Modra” was said to be buying information a few months back, looking for those with experience mining the old caverns of the Stonehome.” The arms dealer then said they could probably find this guy at a place called The Pig and Bucket in the Blister. Samhain and Gothe headed out, searching for any information that could be found on this Modra.
*In an effort to keep this email manageable (and because I don’t remember all that went on) I am listing the information gathered by Samhain and Gothe below.
• The threat of the Orcs might be ended after the siege of Bordrin’s Watch, but word from the fron¬tier is there’s more trouble on the march. Just like Tusk’s clan, the rabble of the mountains is getting their hands on good-grade weapons and armor, and they’re looking to use it. In fact, the far traders coming into Overlook talk of more and more trouble on the roads. They say the Red Hand of Doom was behind what happened in Brin¬dol a few months past, but there’s more cults than that on the rise across the frontier
• “You get all races in Overlook, but the dark ones that pass through the city keep to themselves. More often than not, those you do see are in the company of Lost Ones bodyguards and enforcers.” The Lost Ones, are the most powerful Thieves guild in the city and often hire themselves out as mercenaries and body guards.
• Someone by the name ‘Modra’ was said to be buying information a few months back, looking for those with experience mining the old caverns of the Stonehome.”
o Modra is a Dark Creeper and well known in the city’s underworld as someone who brokers weapons and armor through the Overlook black markets. However, the dark creeper is just the front man for arms dealing in the city. No one knows who’s behind the operation, but rumor says it’s bigger than anyone in Overlook will ever know.”
o Modra met up with a shadar-kai witch a month ago. Some said she was doing a deal for weapons, but she didn’t look much like a warrior.”
o Modra was in the city three weeks past, but he was keeping a low profile. He had a squad of dark creep¬ers with him, must have figured they’d stand out.
o Last time anyone saw Modra was just before the raid on Bordrin’s Watch. I heard he’s been on the run since then. Some job that went bad.
In the course of obtaining this information, Gothe and Samhain made quite an impression on the patrons of the Pig and Bucket. They bought the bar several rounds of drinks and made several friends in the process. While in the bar, the noticed a couple of men eyeing the two of them. They had a round of drinks sent to the table and then asked to join the men who were sitting with friends. Before long whole lot of them were laughing, telling stories and playing dice games for coin. After several rounds of drinks and several dozen gold pieces, Samhain and Gothe made their way back to the Mountain Hearth to share their news with the others in the party.
As they twisted and turned their way through the streets and alley ways of Overlook, the odd pairing of adventures found themselves in yet another narrow alley when a sudden movement caught their eye – a horse tethered to a hitching post stops as they approached. From behind them, a voice called out, “Took a wrong turn, friends. Too bad it’ll be your last” The two men from the bar moved up from where they must have been following the two, battleaxes pulled from beneath their cloaks as they charged in to attack.
It was a bloody and violent battle that left Samhain on the brink of death. (Okay, he actually did die for real, but since it was only the two of them with the odds greatly against them, I allowed him to live.)
A quick search of the bodies uncovered a note on one of the attackers. It contained a hastily drawn sketch of the brass key the players found on the Dark Creeper in the Nexus as well as the following text: “Lost ones – The key depicted above must be recovered at all costs. It is currently in the possession of the Hero’s from Brindol and is of great importance to me. Anything else you find on their bodies is yours to keep. I pay you well for your services and I expect this task to be handled immediately. – Modra”
Gravely wounded, the two made their way back to the Mountain Hearth where they rested and tended to their wounds. While doing so, a female approached wearing brown leather beneath a green cloak and had a longbow strung across her chest. Quickly she said: “I’ve heard word that there’s a group in the city looking for someone named Modra. I ‘m doing the same, though I doubt it’s for the same reasons. Perhaps we should compare notes.”
The young woman is a half-elf named Reniss. She is the sister of Jen, the half-elf Warlock member of the Farstriders. (This is the group that was sent to close the Nexus. You found all of their corpses in the Nexus.) Her sister used a sending stone to whisper the name Modra to her with her dying breath. Reniss has been searching the city for information on Modra as well and heard about the parties inquiries. After exchanging information, she says “I met a dark creeper close to death in the Clean Sheets, looking like he’d been in the fight to end them all. He said he’d been working for this Modra when it happened. For a quart of bad beer, he told me that if I was looking for Modra, I’d better be fast. Someone else is hunting him- someone looking to kill him. The creeper didn’t know where Modra was, but he’d heard him talk about some Tradetown almshouse called the Happy Beggar.”
Samhain and Gothe told Reniss to meet them in the common room of the Mountain Hearth in the morning so they could all discuss the next plan of action with the rest of the party.
The next morning, the entire party met with Reniss and decided that an investigation of the Happy Beggar was in need. A quick ask around revealed it was an almshouse that was run by a married couple who were Paladins that had retired from adventuring some time ago. They run the almshouse as place to serve tea and porridge to those in need while spreading the word of Pelor.
The party headed out to Tradetown and found the Happy Beggar sandwiched between a warehouse block and section of rundown tenements. The atmosphere inside the Beggar was as dingy as the whitewash on the outside walls. In the plain common room sat two dozen miserable-looking patrons, most asleep in their chairs or sipping at cracked mugs. A few appear to be doubling as volunteer staff, carrying steaming teapots from table to table. Behind what would be a any in any other establishment, a dour-looking human woman in white robes boils water at a wood stove. A similarly attired male greeted the party as he limped up a flight of stairs across the room. He greeted and welcomed and told them so sit down and make themselves at home.
The party sat for a while, then moved around the establishment; some offered to help with kitchen duties while others questions some of the patrons about Modra. None of them had heard or seen anyone named Modra except for one battle scared old man who sat in the corner of the common room. He appeared human or half-elf but his face was deeply scared by the ravages of disease, making it hard to discern which of the races he was. Coughing wetly into a grimy handkerchief, he beckoned you to sit as you approached to question him.
The old man introduces himself as Brenat. He looks the party up and down and regales them with stories about how he used to be a brave adventurer as well back in his younger years. When asked about Modra, he replied:
“I know the one you mean. A dark creeper, and none as dark as him, or so I’ve heard. Time was, he used the Happy Beggar as a meeting place, but I’d reckon he hasn’t been seen here in two years or more. I ran him off one time myself. I might not look it, but I fought dark creepers in the mountains as a younger man, sellsword to a dozen lords. Much as yourselves, I’d wager. Adventurers all have a price, eh?”
After answering the rest of their questions he warns the party, saying “Wherever you find this Modra, heed me. He’s a black-hearted one—make no mistake and strike no bargains with him. Kill him quickly before he gets the chance to return the favor.”
The players take their leave and the old man leaves The Happy Beggar. While Samhain helps in the kitchen utilizing the Riverfolk’s legendary cooking skills, Gothe decides to follow the old man. Deftly, Gothe shadows the man as he makes his way through the city before vanishing right before Gothe’s eyes. When Boreas approaches Prashant, the male owner of the Happy Beggar, about the old man, Prashant tells Boreas that contrary to his story, today was his first time in The Beggar and in fact, he was just asking about Modra no more than a half hour ago himself.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Samhain does some poking around and notices a locked door that seems to get little use. Opening the lock, he finds a short hallway that ends in what appears to be a collapsed cellar. Upon further investigation, Samhain and Runtwold see that the stones of the collapse seem to be intentionally laid and conceal a secret passage that has been used recently.
The news of the passage is relayed to the rest of the group and they decide to investigate. The dark passage twists and turns for 30 or so feet before dropping down into a steep slope that dumps all of the players onto their backs in a heap. As they lay there in the dark, getting their bearings, dark shapes swoop down from the ceiling and launch a deadly assault: Dire bats!
The hardened brothers in battle find themselves in a pitched battle that has the party struggling to attack the bats as they swoop in to attack and then flee into the darkness. Eventually, the battle is won and the party surveys the room. Leading out of this natural cavern is a worked passage way with light coming from somewhere beyond.
Looking down the passageway the party sees a set of stairs leading downward. As they approach, a savage howl echoes up the stairs. In the light from beyond, they catch a glimpse of a finished stone chamber with marble flagstones.
Headed by Gothe, the party creeps down the stairs to hide behind several stacked crates as they survey the room. The odd-shaped chamber extends outward in three sections, and it is about 60 feet wide at its end. Though its frescoed walls suggest a sort of temple, it resembles a storeroom now, with boxes and crates stacked in piles.
In the center of room stood an enormous open stone archway. Adjacent to it is a large steel cage on a low cart, somehow obscured in shadow. Within the cage, two fierce hounds appeared to be wrapped in darkness as they snarl and claw at the door. A short figure all in black threatened the snarling hounds with a spear through the bars of the cage. Two more dark creepers pushed the cart toward the arch. Farther along, a tall, gray-skinned female was inspecting a stack of crates. None of them appeared to notice the party.
With surprise on their side, Gothe and Samhain launched a devastating assault on the female. Boreas followed suit by charging into behind the attack and landing a savage blow on the witch. The Dark Creepers by the cage released the two Shadow Hounds and then hid under the cart. Gothe quickly turned their hiding place into a raging inferno when the blasted the area with a gout of flame from his mouth. In the end, the party was victorious. Samhain approached the stone arch in the middle of the room. Through the arch he could see the darkened image of a warehouse. A quick search of the bodies revealed a brass key on the witch that was identical to the one the players found in the Nexus and the one that Modra was so eager to get.
A set of double doors awaited the players. Listening at the doors, they hears the aggravated mumblings and curses coming from the room that lay beyond. Hoping to gain surprise, Boreas kicked open to door to reveal an enormous darkened chamber with walls and ceiling of white marble. The northwest corner of the room had collapsed, a fall of stone spreading out across the floor. To the south, a store arch similar to the one seen in the last chamber, stood against the wall. Another archway stood in the center of the chamber. However, the interior of this arch was obscured by a wall of black mist that roiled and twisted as if blown by a fierce wind.
Another dark creeper stood before the arch in the center of the room. His hands were pressed to the arch as he muttered and incantation then cursed when nothing happened. Suddenly aware of the party’s presence he spun towards the party, and then vanished.
The party entered the room, searching for the dark creeper when words of another incantation echoed across the room: “Protect this place with shadow’s claws!”
Suddenly, the dark mist obscuring the archway was torn through by a flash of white light. Six emerged from the archway, racing towards the adventurers with hateful eyes!
As the party engaged the wraiths, the dark creeper called out to them from his hiding place: “Give me the key and I’ll call of the wraiths. I know you have two, just give me one of them” he pleaded.
In defiance, the party battled on, refusing to give into the dark creepers request. The battle was a violent and bloody affair. The dark creeper soon joined the fray; sneaking into battle landing vicious attacks while the party was engaged with the wraiths or sneaking up behind party members and attempting to pick their pocket for the key. Only one person was known to so desperately want the brass key: Modra.
As the battle raged on, Samhain found himself surrounded and in a dire situation. Seeing an opportunity, Modra snuck up behind the valiant Halfling and sunk his short sword deep into his back. Samhain collapsed to the marble floor on the brink of death. In an instant, the whole area was shrouded by impenetrable blackness. Gothe attempted to lash out at the shrouded dark creeper, but was unsuccessful. In an instant, before others could arrive to help, Modra had found the key on Samhain’s lifeless form, used it on the archway in the center of the room, and disappeared into its inky depths.
Runwold’s faithful spirit companion quickly made it to Samhain’s side and brought him back from brink of death. Onward the party pressed and in the end, they were able to dispatch all of the terrible wraiths.
Now, they sit in the white marble chamber with the shadowy arch. The party still has one of the brass keys on them. They quarry, Modra, has escaped through the portal to whatever lay beyond.
Runtwold’s Dwarven temper flares as he stares at the portal. “The coward. The backstabbing coward. I’ve finally found cowardice worse than my own. The mindless thralls I understand, but to stab someone in the back in the name of evil…”
Runtwold blinks, suddenly regressing to his former self, afraid to go into the portal, afraid of the doom that may lie beyond it. Then he looks at his spirit animal for guidance, finds the strength, and turns to the others. “We should follow him.”
Samhain steadies himself by leaning against the stone arch. “This portal would seem to lead to the Shadowfell. I remember my studies well enough to know it is a plane we may be poorly equipped to venture into. And yet, we must know more about Modra and what plots he is involved in…”
“Perhaps it is not cowardice, but rather wisdom, to seek the means with which to be brave before we act. Surely, pursuing Mordra is the priority, but you have a good point. If we equip ourselves, and ready ourselves for battle instead of what happened here, where we had to improvise below an eatery, we might better prevail. If he slipped up once and we found him, he will slip up again, only next time, we’ll be ready to stay his idle threats instead of being connived when he stabs us in the back.
“What say you, Dragonborn?”
Weirdly quiet and withdrawn since the events at The Nexus, Artin has taken on a rather uncharacteristic appearance. His battle-axe still caked with Orc blood… lending a dull appearance. His beard still mead crusty from The Overlook. His hands still reek with stink of The Nexus walls. While bitter ales and celebration generally turn a warrior dwarf’s mood to light, Artin has sunk deep into darkness.
In the white room (with black curtains) Artin cuts away a piece of Gothe’s discarded skin and chews it like jerky. (It tastes like Halfling.) “Tis the blackest of Fridays… I’m going shopping in the warehouse.” Artin walks away from the portal. And the rest of the party. Dragging his murky axe.
He pauses, looking at his brothers. "Perhaps the warehouse through the other portal contains more clues, but I cast my lot with Runtwold. We must pursue Modra. Question is, do we better supply ourselves first, and risk losing his trail in the darkness beyond?”
After brief deliberation, the party decides that exercising caution is better than wading headlong into the unknown. Leaving Gothe to guard the entrance to the portal room, the rest of the group returns to the Trade District to buy supplies for what is sure to be a dangerous journey.
With pack filled with healing potions and trail rations, the party returned to the portal, activated it with the key, and then stepped through. After a brief and sickening pulling sensation the party found themselves in a room that was the inverse of the one they had just left. Where the walls were once white, the walls of the new room were black marble. The doors and portal that marked the wall of the previous room were now on the opposite walls. A brief search of this room revealed two over turned stools and signs of a struggle. Whoever was involved in the struggle appeared to have left via a short hallway. Following this hallway, the party found themselves standing near the top of a rocky hillside. There, and incredible vista opened up.
The land before them was like nothing they’ve ever seen before. A wide plain of gray-green grass and stunted black trees spreads beneath a sky scoured by fast-moving clouds. The sun is bright above but somehow doesn’t cut the darkness that drapes every rock and every blade of grass in gray gloom. This is the Shadowfell.
From the mouth of the cavern, a wide and well-traveled road ran in a curving line to the north. There, perhaps a quarter-mile away, a military camp spread. Buildings are scattered here and there, with tents and pavilions spread between them. Torches and fires burned brightly against the ever-present shadow, and lone trees and tall stands of gray-green grass were whipped by a hissing wind.
Looming above it all, a rise of black rock to the west is rent by a seething volcanic rift. Black-streaked lava coursed from it to descend into a narrow channel, and a permanent pall of glowing red-black smoke rose above it. Over this molten flow, a great stone bridge was arched. This wide east-west road met the road north from the cavern. North of the bridge, a tall tower stood and a lower building spread in its shadow.
Taking in the sight below them, the group pondered how to best approach such a massive enclave. It was soon decided that waylaying a guard patrol and taking their uniforms was the best place to start.
The group was making their way down the road to get into position to find a patrol when a voice ran out. Two dark creeper sentries suddenly appeared where the shadows of the tall grass had hidden them.
“Hey!” one shouted angrily. “All mercenaries are to stay within the borders of the camps! Next time you go wandering, you get shot, sellswords!” He cursed to his partner and the two of them returned to hiding.
Without a word of argument, the party continued down the road, relieved to know they would not have to sneak into the large encampment.
They approached the frontier of the mercenary camps unchallenged, and a virtual city spread out before them. Beneath patched canvas tents stood open-air taverns, market stalls, apothecaries and herbalists, weapon smiths and armorers, butchers and greengrocers—all doing roaring trade.
Training grounds opened up between the various camps, and soldiers of different races clashed against each other with sword and shield. In the quieter corners, they saw combat casters training—the flare of arcane fire dancing between them. But as they approach, they noticed with surprise that these were not Shadowfell mercenaries for the most part. Though shadar-kai and dark ones were well represented, the fields and camps were packed with Orcs and hobgoblins, ogres and trolls, lizardfolk and kobolds and a dozen other monstrous races of the world.
After securing lodging for a few nights, the party split up to do some investigation into what the nature of the mercenary camp was and if anyone had heard of Modra. Boreas headed to the training grounds and impressed the mercenaries there with his physical prowess and endurance, while Samhain joined the battle mages in demonstrations of arcane might. Gothe took a slightly different approach by trying to impress upon the other guards and other mercenaries how ruthless and terrifying he was. Acting as crazy and gruesome as he could, Gothe made quite an impression on many in the training camp. Runtwold, took a more subtle approach and sauntered into the tavern tent and started asking questions.
After a long day that ended with the party finding themselves in a fight for their lives as a young group Ogres attempted to impress their elders, the party gathered at the tavern tent to discuss what they had learned. The result of their investigation was as follows:
• This is Umbraforge, dominion of Sarshan, a trader of great reputation and even greater wealth. The tower, foundry, and forges are his. The camps are those of the mercenaries and slaves whose services he sells across the Shadowfell and the world.
• Sarshan is shadar-kai, an outcast who made a name for himself as the leader of a legend¬ary mercenary band known as the Black Ar¬row. At their height, the Arrow put so much fear in generals and kings alike that Sarshan would take payment to fight for one group, then take a bigger payment from their foe to stand down.
• Modra is known well in Umbraforge, but for all the wrong reasons now. He was one of Sarshan’s trusted lieutenants before he tried to a broker a weapons deal that Sarshan had already turned down.
• The job that Sarshan refused was some orc king’s raid on a dwarven citadel. Sarshan never makes a sale if it has a chance of com¬ing back to him, and for good reason. This job went bad, they say, and people know that Modra sold the orc his weapons. (You all can assume that this was Tusk’s raid on Overlook. It was Modra who provided Tusk with the weapons and knowledge to attempt to attack Bordin’s Watch from above and below. The attack went bad, obviously, and now Sarshan has found that Morda went behind his back to broker the deal)
• Modra is long gone from Umbraforge and the Shadowfell, believe me. Sarshan’s got a long arm and a longer memory. The creeper would have to be crazy to come back here.
• The foundry is the new jewel of Sarshan’s operations. Its power comes from the fire and shadow driving its furnaces. Sarshan’s sages create beasts of battle there, born killers with magic in their blood.
• It used to be that Sarshan brokered mercenar¬ies mostly within the Shadowfell, but that’s changing. Dark ones and shadar-kai are still his elite troops, but more and more, he brings creatures from the world to Umbraforge for training, then marches them off to places unknown.
• The Shadowfell is only a stopping-off place for Sarshan’s mercenaries. A force of archons from the Elemental Chaos was here not six months ago. I saw githzerai from the Astral Sea in Um¬braforge once. I don’t know what job they took for Sarshan, but woe be to whoever got in their way.
• Sarshan’s slave bazaar is about more than just servants and soldiers. His experiments in the foundry only begin with dumb beasts. He’s building new soldier races there, born from the slaves he traffics.
• Sarshan’s mercenary operations have tripled in size in months past, but it’s not the Shad-owfell they’re fighting in. When his forces are bought and sent on the march, they’re bound for portals to the world. Shadar-kai, dark ones, undead, giants, ogres, trolls, gnolls, Orcs— Sarshan has the armies of two planes on the march. War is brewing in the world, but the forces that will fight it are moving into position in the Shadowfell, unseen.
After an evening of conversation, gambling and more than a few drinks, Samhain and Runtwold excused themselves and returned to their tent while Artin, Boreas and Gothe remained behind to continue drinking.