Relics in the Waste

Choices threaten to divide the party

Though he was bound and helpless, Balgron the Fat proved quite effective at wreaking havoc among the party. Indecision raged as you debated how to handle him. Balgron attempted to convince you that the sealed section of caves actually contained Kalarel’s treasure, and even though you saw through his bluff, you decided to investigate it nonetheless. When you opened the fungus-covered door, you found a seemingly quiet room that had once served as Nerath Keep’s cistern. The pool had since stagnated, and an island in the middle of it contained two decaying bodies surrounded by treasure. Before you could investigate it, a blue slime erupted from the water, dazing most of you and lashing out at the rest. With frequent explosions of caustic slime bathing all of you in acid, you had your hands full with this new jelly. After a few desperate minutes, the slime was dead, and you went to investigate some of the northern chambers of the keep.

What you found there was an empty torture chamber, its inhabitants having been killed in the previous clash in the hallway. In one cell was Splug, a member of the goblin forces that had apparently been thrown in the jail for cheating at dice. Though he offered to help you in return for his release, you did not trust him enough to let him out. Putting Balgron in a neighboring cell, you went to take a rest in his room before finishing your exploration of the caves. As you entered the southern chamber, you saw a pit filled with the body of a kruthik. The chittering and scuttling that echoed throughout the cavern told you that this one was not alone. The walls around you soon overflowed with kruthiks of various sizes, lunging at you with pointed claws and firing poisoned spikes at you from their tunnels in the rock. When they finally lay defeated, you helped yourself to their treasure.

Following this was another critical decision over which the party nearly came to blows. Unsure of how to handle the terror runes you encountered in the northwest section of the keep, Gronnell suggested tossing Balgron onto one of them while he was bound. Lindir was vehemently opposed, taking the moralistic stance that it was not right to subject a helpless creature to potentially fatal magic. In the end, it became moot as Gronnell attempted to leap over one of the runes and landed squarely upon it. An explosive scream erupted from the floor, gripping your minds with magical fear and sending you fleeing. Once you shook off the effects, however, you found the rune to be quite harmless. The next rune, however, proved to be just as dangerous to Gronnell, and he fell under the same effects a second time. Once he was again under his own control, he used his strength to lift the rest of you over the rune, allowing you all to move on.

Beyond the runes, Zoren detected a secret door, which you opened to reveal an empty room. At least, it seemed empty until you realized it was enclosed by an illusory wall. Stepping boldly through the wall, you were beset by zombies that had managed to find the secret armory that was concealed there. With your divine friends making short work of the undead, you looked around at what you had found. The only thing of note was a suit of armor, protected by an arcane riddle. Correctly reasoning the answer, the enchanted suit of armor was yours.

You continued down the stairs to the next level of the keep to be met by hobgoblin guards. They called out a challenge phrase to you, “Shadow seeks shadow!” and you answered with the phrase you had taken from Ninaran’s dead body, “From the ground some magic was found!” This, unfortunately, was a false passphrase, planted by Ninaran to ensure that even her own death would not allow you free access to her master. The guards cried “Intruders!” and kept you pinned in the narrow stair case while their comrades freed a vicious looking spider. As you cut down the guards attacking you, the spider leapt dozens of feet across the room to attack you. Your armor was too thick, however, and your reflexes too fast for it to ever land a blow. The guards, meanwhile, proved to be exceedingly difficult to kill while they worked in formation, shielding each other as they battered you with their vicious flails. Though you took a beating, you eventually emerged victorious over the guards and their pet, and paused for a while to clean the blood – both yours and theirs – from your weapons.

The Gauntlet
What lies in the caves?

Pursuing Balgron through his secret passage, you emerged into a veritable meat grinder of a hallway. Balgron had rallied his forces and laid a trap for you, sealing off two of the hall’s four exits with his underlings. From your left, goblin bombardiers chucked explosive flasks of alchemist’s fire; from your right, a firing squad of sharpshooters filled you with crossbow bolts. Guarding them from attack were guard drakes and a very menacing hobgoblin jailer wielding a red-hot poker that Seiza learned was just as potent as it looked. Bravely you fought, beset from both sides, and soon you made noticeable dents in their numbers. It was then that Gronnell caught sight of Balgron skulking in the cave to the south.

Pursuing your target, Gronnell got more than he anticipated when he entered the caves, as he was attacked by hordes of giant rats, and a menacing ochre jelly began slithering up to engage him from the south. Gronnell retreated, helping you to mop up the remaining creatures in the hallway. Quickly, you re-formed your ranks, and attacked the monsters in the cave. Sora, Gronnell, and Seiza threw their full might at the ochre jelly, battering it about with powerful attacks. Meanwhile, Lindir, Zoren, and Kace covered them from attack by the rats and Balgron. Though the jelly tried to split into two to better attack Sora and Gronnell, persistence on your part meant that it was soon a puddle on the floor. With rats dropping (sometimes literally) left and right, you focused your wrath on Balgron. When he saw how doomed he truly was, he threw down his weapons and begged for mercy. You bound him and debated what to do with your newfound prisoner.

The General
The tale of Bartholomew Keegan

It seemed no matter how many skeletons you demolished, more kept coming. Every few seconds, another coffin would open, and more undead would climb out of them. You managed to cut your way through to the two altars of Bahamut on the far end of the room. Lindir, hoping to appease the dragon god, kneeled and gave obeisance at one of the altars. Silvery light filled the room, and the tomb went silent.

After taking a moment to catch your collective breath, you investigated the room on the far end of the tomb. You found there an elaborate sarcophagus, with a carved lid depicting a regal soldier. Hoping it would go better than last time, Gronnell walked up to the coffin and opened it. When he placed his hand on the lid, however, it exploded in a shower of dust, and an armored skeleton rose out of it with a thunderous roar of, “The rift shall not be reopened! I will not let you retake this place!” This skeleton, it seemed, had motivations different from the rest. After assuring him that you meant no harm and wished as much as he did to seal the rift in the keep, you managed to learn a few things from him.

His name was Sir Bartholomew Keegan, general of the army of the old kingdom of Nerath, a realm which had disappeared with the Old Days. Keegan headed the forces that opposed the invaders that poured from the portal when it was first opened in a struggle known as the Battle of Hell Hill. Though the armies of Nerath triumphed in the end, Keegan had apparently fled before securing their victory, leading to the deaths of many people. He recounted, “That yawning gateway to nothing… My legs were not my own!” Though he was later placed in charge of the keep that was built over the portal, the shame he hid until he died kept him tied to his crypt in unlife. He begged you to do what he could not and seal the rift to the other plane. He gave his sword Aecris to Sora, so that it might go in his place and earn him some form of redemption.

You were thus left with the question of exactly how to find the rift. You headed back north, and stumbled into the quarters of the commander of the goblins, a short, fat goblin who commanded his minions to attack you before fleeing through a hidden door. After an intense battle in the hallways, you rested and prepared yourself, as it sounded like the goblin commander was rallying his remaining forces.

Initial Descent
Ninaran's end, and the keep's beginning

It was almost as if Ninaran was already defeated. Once Zoren arrived on the scene, the elf was unconscious within ten seconds. You tied her to a nearby tree while she roused. When she did, you interrogated her about the keep. She told you what she knew about the keep and about Kalarel; you learned that the priest of Orcus had taken Ninaran under his wing when he found her battered body on the hillside, where she had collapsed after being savaged by a monster in the northlands. And the huntress’ life which had begun so violently ended in the same way as Gronnell snapped her neck without a word. You cut her now lifeless form from the tree, carried her body back to town, and placed her in the care of Sister Linora to be laid to rest.

The next day, you struck north for the fabled keep, in the desperate hope of stopping Kalarel before he finishes his dark ritual and summons the armies of Orcus into the world. When you arrived, the crumbled, moss-covered masonry that you found suggested nothing of the sinister workings taking place beneath it. The whole scene looked almost bucolic, if somewhat neglected. But sure enough, you were greeted with hostility as soon as you set foot inside. Four goblin guards, one pit trap filled with a swarm of rats, and one very surprised Seiza later, you made your way to the next section of the dungeon. This room was completely darkened, and you were only able to pierce the inky blackness thanks to Kace’s everburning torch.

What you saw, however, was little comfort. Terror runes littered the floor, and rather than risk stepping on one, you went south, straight into a pack of zombies. As you engaged them, you heard a bone-chilling scream emanating from the north, and then another. No sooner than you had defeated the first group of zombies, another arrived on the scene, coming from behind you. Using the narrow halls to your advantage, however, you made quick work of these corpses and continued south.

Along the walls of this long room stood ten sarcophagi. For lack of a better idea, Gronnell approached the first sarcophagus he could reach, and started abusing it. After a full-strength blow from his hammer barely chipped the granite, he attempted to pry open the lid, only to be greeted by a skeleton clawing its way out of the coffin, to be joined by nine of its compatriots from the other sarcophagi. The stage is set for your next grueling battle.

Madness at Midnight
The Dead Walk!

You decided to spend your last night in Winterhaven socializing with the townspeople at Wrafton’s Inn. In the middle of your festivities, Sister Linora burst through the doors, shouting breathlessly, “Come quickly! The dead have risen from their graves in the Winterhaven cemetery! The guards are already on alert. Please, go lay the souls of the departed to rest before they attack the town!” She pressed a few flasks of holy water into your hands, and thanked you earnestly before going to warn the other villagers. You roused Zoren, who had been sleeping upstairs, and he told you to go on ahead while he readied his gear and spells.

You arrived to find the graveyard crawling with skeletons. Behind them were two vicious-looking gravehounds, their decaying jaws slavering as they eyed you maliciously. Out of one of the mausoleums stepped Ninaran, Kalarel’s spy. She began flitting from place to place, firing off deadly arrows in rapid succession while her undead allies swarmed you. Skeletons fell before Lindir’s divine onslaught like wheat before the scythe, and though the gravehounds injured him and Gronnell grievously, they soon met their end in your retribution. Finally, it was just you and Ninaran. Will you be able to catch her before she makes pincushions out of you?

Uncovering the Truth

The second half of the battle with Irontooth started with a sickening crunch – the sound of the goblin’s axe buried in Kace’s chest – and a terrifying thud – the sound of Kace’s limp body hitting the cave floor. The sight of Kace’s dying form sent the rest of the party into a righteous rage. As Lindir hurried to stabilize your warlock friend, Sora gave a thundering call to battle, inciting his friends to awesome acts of vengeance. Before Irontooth could raise his axes again, Gronnell slammed him to the ground. With a running leap, Seiza plunged her sword into the goblin’s chest, and finished the job with a dagger in his back as he attempted to stand. With the band of kobolds and their leader defeated, you took an opportunity to rest and search the cave. In a chest in Irontooth’s room, you found not only a magical suit of dwarven chainmail, but also evidence of agents of Orcus involved in a search for a relic that would open some manner of planar rift.

When you arrived at the ruins to the east of the kobold encampment, you found excavators already there, digging up the site of some kind of dwelling from the Old Days, with a spectral apparition presiding over the proceedings. Agrid the gnome foreman called you over, seeming surprised to see other intelligent life in the otherwise wild hills. He mentioned that they were an excavation team employed by a historical society in Naidel to the east, and they were looking for a relic rumored to be in the area. Then he buried his pick in Kace’s shoulder and sicced his guard drakes on you. The lizards proceeded to grievously injure Seiza and Zoren while Agrid became invisible and slinked away. Meanwhile, the specter on the hillside summoned shadowy claws that rooted Gronnel to the spot, draining his life force away. On top of it all, the four human workers charged at the rest of you.

Once your feet were under you, however, your foes began falling on all sides. Sora, despite being bound by necrotic forces similar to those holding Gronnel, incited Seiza to attack one of the drakes, while Zoren incinerated a human minion. With spells, swords, and arrows flying left and right, the battle continued at a blistering pace. Lindir kept you all healed as Zoren and Kace blasted enemies from a distance. Gronnell felled a drake with vigor, and soon set about inflicting the same fate on its mate. Lindir met with some surprise when the specter resurrected one of the fallen humans as a zombie, but a quick dose of holy water put the undead back in its place. After chipping away at the apparition’s health slowly, Zoren finally blasted it into nothingness with holy light. From there, it was merely a matter of finding Agrid. Once you had, a sneak attack by Seiza saw to it that he wouldn’t be ambushing anyone else in this lifetime.

Once the battle was ended, you found a prisoner that had been taken by the excavators: Douven Staul, the very same man that Valthrun had inquired about back in Winterhaven. The archaeologist told you that whatever the excavators had been looking for had been found and already sent back to their master. He said that the man overseeing the whole operation was a wizard by the name of Kalarel, priest of Orcus, and that he had established himself in a keep to the north. He also warned you of a spy in Winterhaven that had informed Kalarel of your presence. The spy was Ninaran, the elf with which Seiza had unsuccessfully tried to speak in Wrafton’s Inn. You hurried back to Winterhaven, but Ninaran was already gone. You received thanks and payment from the mayor for ridding the town of its kobold problem, but after speaking with Valthrun, it appeared that you now had larger worries. The old scholar revealed to you that the keep of which Douven had spoken was once established to guard a gate to another plane that had been sealed in the Old Days. With the disappearance of the Ancients, however, the tower had fallen into neglect and disrepair. Valthrun feared the worst: that this Kalarel intended to reopen the rift and bring his master into this world. “If they’re strong enough to attempt that,” he said, “they must have some very powerful magic, indeed. Be careful.” With those words ringing in your mind, you steeled yourselves and prepared to depart Winterhaven.

The furious goblin with the metal jaw

With a bleating war trumpet, the goblin leader of the kobold raiders, Irontooth, came barreling out of the back of his cavern camp. From there, the battle was swift and furious, with combat being joined on all sides. Zoren started things off well, incinerating a number of kobold minions before they could swarm his allies. With a thunderous roar, Gronnell waded into the cave, beset by vastly superior numbers, but laughing off their attacks all the same. As the casters hung back and picked off enemies with surgical precision, Sora, Gronnell, and Seiza kept the masses of kobolds well-occupied, felling one after the other. Spells flew from both sides, with a wyrmpriest’s fire orb nearly killing Gronnell. Finally, you are left with but one opponent, locked in mortal combat with Irontooth, his twin axes a blur. Will your superior numbers finally best him, or will his terrible blood frenzy prove too much for you?

Friendship and Betrayal

At the peak of your battle with the kobolds on the road, you met with two surprises. The first was your own comrade Mari turning on you, lashing out at Seiza as she screamed mad oaths to Orcus, the god of undeath. The situation seemed dire until an elf burst from trees, making quick work of a kobold and coming to your aid in the nick of time. When the traitorous Mari had been silenced, your new comrade introduced himself as Lindir, a cleric of the forest who was questing to save his native home from disappearing. With your friendship secured, you set off once again to take the fight to the kobold raiders. A tense situation played out as you camped one night, with a pack of wolves circling you hungrily, but luckily they were frightened off before they could attack your sleeping friends.

Finally, you found yourselves near the waterfall encampment of the kobold raiders. Stealthily, Seiza snuck down near their position, and spied hordes of kobolds. With the information you obtained, you were able to stage a surprise attack, catching many of the kobolds off-guard, and finishing many of them before they even knew you were there. The rest soon fell to the teamwork of Seiza and Sora, the accuracy of Kace, Zoren, and Lindir, and the brute rage of Gronnell. When the dust settled, you set your sights on your next target: the kobold base inside the cave that lay behind the waterfall. With the adrenaline of battle still coursing through you, you prepared for your next assault.

Meeting Winterhaven

Having arrived in Winterhaven, you began to ask around with the local populace about relics, kobolds, and all manner of other things. Starting in the tavern, Gronnell and Kace chatted up the extremely sociable Eilian, while Seiza had less success with an elf huntress. Outside, you decided to try your luck talking to Valthrun the Prescient, owner of the great tower in the center of the town. He was most eager to accommodate your curiosity, pointing you toward a ruin in the southeast. Later, talking to the town mayor, you found out that you might be able to kill two birds with one stone by heading south, as he believed the kobolds that attacked you had an encampment near the waterfall on the river Thoss to the south.

It was a three day journey to reach the falls, and so – not wanting to waste any of your provisions – you set out that day. Unfortunately, you had barely gotten outside the town walls when you were attacked yet again by kobolds! With more highly-trained fighters and magical support, these little vermin proved much more of a nuisance than their predecessors. With a spate of bad luck hounding you, you have thus far been unable to provide much of an answer to their attacks. How will the second half of the battle play out?

First Contact
Welcome to Keszyd

You gathered in the relics shop of Lareth Goldbough. He had called you all together for a job. Rumor had spread to Stone’s Throw of a rare relic near the northern town of Winterhaven, and he wanted you to investigate. He offered you 100 gold simply for gathering information, and promised an additional 400 if you brought the relic back in working condition. After a rowdy night celebrating your employment, you set off north the next morning.

An uneventful six days passed on the road, but on the last day – with Winterhaven in site – you were attacked by a band of kobolds! Rumors had been spreading about increasingly frequent kobold attacks on the road, but you now found out just how real – and dangerous – they were. Before you knew they were there, five small kobolds armed with spears charged at Gronnell, who had been walking alongside your wagon. From there, the creatures only multiplied, with three more appearing from the rocks. While Gronnell took the full brunt of the minions’ assault, Sora and Seiza scrambled to help him, while Zoren and Mari worked to fell the two kobold dragonshields on their other flank. Kace took arcane potshots at enemies from under the cover of the cart, and soon the foul lizards were dispatched. With Gronnell in poor shape, you made it the rest of the way to Winterhaven, where you spent the night at Wrafton’s Inn. While entering the town, you heard rumor that the mayor had been trying unsuccessfully to raise a force to deal with the kobold problem. Perhaps you could be of service.


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