Friday, 24 October 2008

4ed Campaign -- Session 10 -- 24th October 2008

In which another side of the dwarven coin is revealed, two new friends are made, and the adventurers find themselves last in line for some rich pickings.
Roster
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 2
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 2
Corrash - Dragonborn Warlock (Fey-Pact) 2
Romto - Halfling Cleric (of Pelor) 2
Mord - Dwarven Fighter 2

The party retires to the inn in order to contemplate their next move. They find the patrons within somewhat amused by the presence of a studious-looking dwarf, resplendent in runed plate-mail and carrying a variety of dangerous-looking hammers... as he reads a thick tome, through a pair of wiry spectacles balanced precariously on his nose. This newcomer immediately attracts the interest of both Elumai and Berend, and he introduces himself as Mord TODO, a traveller from the dwarven kingdom of TODO whose love of all things book-shaped has brought him to Wynterhaven in search of new and illuminating scripts.

An amiable evening ensues, although Elumai, commenting on Valthrun as a potential stockist of exotic literature, suddenly finds herself on the receiving end of some kind of message from the absent mage. The first message is cryptic, but the second, received just as the adventurers turn in for the night, takes the form of a promise of important information, and a plea for help to "...open the back door...", which is apparently in the graveyard. Her interest piqued, she gathers her friends, and Mord, disturbed from his nightly studies by the commotion outside, tags along as well.

The graveyard is not as lifeless as they expected. Towards the rear of the cemetery, a strange, diffuse blue light reveals the silhouette of a wiry humanoid doing... something amongst the gravestones. Unfortunately Elumai makes somewhat of a commotion opening the gate, and the figure is alerted to their presence and slips out of sight. Nevertheless, the adventurers decide to investigate more fully, only to find themselves assailed by the rotting undead, risen from their graves, and two zombie-like hounds who had been hiding in the shadows of a nearby mausoleum. The mysterious figure, revealed to be an elf, attacks with deadly accuracy from the shadows using his longbow.

But by this time, the party is adept at handling the baying hordes of the undead realm. The elf is quickly dispatched by Berend and Mord (much to the villain's disgust -- killed by a dwarf!), the zombies and gravehounds are no match for the combined might of Elumai and Corrash's magic, and Romto flits with undisguised glee between the grasping hands of his enemies. At the close, they find the elf -- who turns out to be a woman -- is a familiar Wynterhaven face to them, but not someone they have had anything to do with before now.

In any case, the elf had been busy, digging away at the topsoil of the graveyard to reveal that several of the grave markers had not in fact been signifying the location of the dead, but of an extremely powerful gating portal buried in the earth, the runes of which are the source of the pale blue glow all around them. The party retreats nervously from the enchantment and Elumai utters the words she had been asked to say: "Valthrun the Magnificent!"

After a second or two, the indistinct image of Valthrun's tower appears before them. Through the transparent walls, already fading away, a library of vast and untapped writings brings a tear to Mord's dwarvish eyes, but Romto catches sight of something else: a small dirty-looking boy, dressed in simple clothes, who emerges from his hiding spot underneath one of the tables in the library and runs off out of sight. Quickly, the tower fades to nothing, leaving in its place, Valthrun.

Dirtier and less extravagantly dressed than before, he greets the party with a warm smile, impressed that his escape mechanism even worked at all, although regretful of the fact that he will now have to go looking for his tower, a task which might take him days or weeks. He looks bemused at any mention of the little boy, but confesses he never quite felt alone in the tower in all the years he lived there. Soon though, questions turn to the information he supposedly has, and he informs them of what he knows.

It is not a pretty tale. Valthrun admits that the reason that Riva and his "damned dustboots" came looking for him is that he has been selling sensitive arcane information to all and sundry, something which is, apparently, against the "laws" of the Court of Cloaks... laws, he points out, that he had nothing to do with instituting in the first place. In any case, he admits, it may be entirely possible that he sold Kalarel the secret of bypassing the seals which stopped the adventurers in their tracks on the second level of the Keep. Pressed for the information, Valthrun amusedly informs the party that all they have to do is pledge fealty to Orcus -- with their own blood as a sacrifice -- to be able to pass to-and-fro through the seal as they see fit.

Obviously, the adventurers are none-too impressed with this solution. Valthrun recounts what he knows of Sir Keegan -- a history they have already been told by the man himself -- and reveals that all of his research in the past has pointed to Eilian as a potential direct descendant of the knight, although he didn't unerstand the significance of it at the time. Freeing Keegan from the limbo into which he has been placed may certainly be another way to weaken the seal, since the knight's spirit has been bound there for many years and allowing him to move on to the other side would likely drain much of the power from the desecrated ruin. He sees fit to warn them, however, that Keegan seemed to be involved in several (unproven) scandals in his years as a knight before he was assigned to guard the Keep, and that his reputation was by most acounts not as untarnished as he might have led them to believe.

With that, Valthrun departs (to Mord's disappointment, and to Corrash's relief), leaving only a promise that they are welcome to stay... whenever he's chased down his tower. Amidst the rotting flesh, bone, and general descration of the graveyard, the party decides that a hasty exit may be more politic than attempting to repair the damage tonight and potentially being discovered in a cemetery full of exhumed corpses with spades in their hands. Better, they feel, to blame Valthrun for the whole thing, although Corrash is resistant to the idea of lying, even if he at least understands the concept a little better since he met the rest of them.

It turns out, however, that the dragonborn needn't have worried. The following day, the party is woken by a commotion from downstairs. Padraig is there, inciting the townsfolk into something akin to a mob. Appalled at the damage wrought in the graveyard, and with Valthrun's tower popping out of existence sometime in the night, the mayor has reached the logical conclusion that Valthrun is to blame for heinous acts of necromancy and must be hunted down! He offers no less than 500 gold to anyone who returns the mage to him, dead or alive.

The assembled throng filters out into the street, and the adventurers discover that not every brick of the tower actually made a successful exit: Valthrun's basement, neatly sheared off when the tower disappeared, remains whole and is now in the process of being looted by the townsfolk. Desperate to get their hands on whatever magical artefacts and scripture that might have been left behind, the group tries everything in their power to persuade, frighten, or intimidate them into giving them control of the situation. Their efforts, though, are in vain against the frenzied, avaricious mob. Only the sickly, acrid gas that begins to settle over the area as various bottles and jars are smashed open forces the mob to disperse, and by then, nothing of value remains unbroken or unlooted... except, perhaps, the three leather-bound tomes that Mord carefully recovered from the ground as they were tossed to one side...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

4ed Campaign -- Session 9 -- 12th October 2008

In which an ancient spirit stands in judgement of the adventurers, a desperate plea is heard, and the ramblings of a frail old farmer may hold the key to unlocking the Keep.
Roster
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 2
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 2
Corrash - Dragonborn Warlock (Fey-Pact) 2
Romto - Halfling Cleric (of Pelor) 2

Emboldened by their success against the first group of undead, the party stands ready for the second assault. Their strategy is sound, and the rotting flesh of their enemies is soon spattered about the corridors of the crypt. This allows them to turn their attention to the hallway below.

It's long, with a chamber of some sort at the far end. Eight sarcophagi line the walls. The party engineers a safe way to open one of them, only to find a wall of darkness on the other side, reminiscent of a portal or planar gate of some kind, according to Elumai. A small rock tossed into the coffin vanishes from sight, and the adventurers wisely decide that it is best closed and left alone for now.

The chamber at the end of the hallway is tall, with a domed roof caked in some kind of black patina, like thick dust or soot. Defiled altars stand on either side, and a set of double doors entices to the east. Elumai orders her ever-present Mage Hand to clean the roof, and it does so diligently, scraping thick chunks of blackness away which cakes the floor but reveals a grand mural of dragons doing battle. Corrash reconstructs a piece of scripture from the altars, which activates the mural and washes the entire area in holy light. This is a welcome respite in the otherwise oppressive keep.

Carefully the party opens the double doors. Inside, there is a single room with a massive stone sarcophagus on a raised dais. Carved into the lid is the likeness of a plate-clad warrior, whose noble face and firm jaw are etched in strong lines, and whose hands clutch a magnificent sword to his chest. To one side of the coffin lies a skeletal form, dressed in the rotting, rusted remnants of plate-mail, clutching the very same sword in one hand. As the adventurers approach, it trembles and comes to life, clutching at the stone sarcophagus and heaving itself onto unsteady feet.

The ghoulish figure calls the party to account, challenging each of them to explain what has brough them to this dark place, and what right they have to stand before it. Each in turn answers, with only Berend's quick tongue giving the skeleton any cause to doubt their intentions, but eventually he accepts them into his presence and invites their questions.

The creature offers what information it can. He was once known as Sir Keegan, a noble knight of the Order of the Bright Hand, charged with commanding this fortress. He tells of the Keep, built on a rift to the Shadowfell, but unbeknownst even to its architects, constructed atop a deep and evil catacomb dedicated to the Prince of the Undead, Orcus. The demon spoke to Keegan in his dreams, and much to the knight's eternal dismay, he was weak, and succumbed, unleashing a murderous psychosis on his own family and the knights under his command. All were killed or fled, including his wife and two daughters, although his son, Vigo, escaped. Keegan knows of Kalarel and the cultists who have taken residence in the catacombs below, but even though their designs on the rift are no doubt vile, he admits that he cannot bring himself to judge them for it.

As the will to animate his skeletal remains begins to ebb, Keegan begs the adventurers to bring a living descendent of Vigo before him, so that he may be judged by his own blood, and move on to whichever fate awaits him for his misdeeds. Whether forgiven or cursed, only someone of his own blood can free him from the limbo in which he is trapped. Soon after, the creature collapses, once again no more that a pile of dessicated flesh and bone.

As the adventurers turn to leave, two shadows, black as night, burst into the room and assail Berend. His mind is assaulted with images from Keegan's rampage, focusing on the murder of a little girl in her bed... and so it seems that the spirits of his children are not at rest either.

Deciding to return to Wynterhaven to follow up on whatever clues they can find about Keegan's bloodline, the party nevertheless checks out the other side of the crypt maze, there to find a room with an exploded wall, and an earthen tunnel beyond. At the end of the tunnel is a pulsating violet wall which melts the flesh of the undead remains they toss through it. With no obvious means of ingress, they are forced to turn back, disappointed in the knowledge that the tunnel is the only way deeper into the Keep... and likely, the only way into the catacomb below.

Back in town, Padraig's manor is an obvious source of local history so once again the adventurers pay a visit to the mayor. Unfortunately, he is indisposed, although Lord Riva is more than happy to grant them access to his library if it should cause consternation to the Lord of the manor. Within, some progress is made: Wynterhaven was indeed founded by the remnants of the knights who escaped from the Keep, although the possibility that Padraig himself may be descended from Keegan turns out to be false, as the mantle of 'Lord of Wynterhaven' is nothing more than a title bought by the bidder with the largest purse, or gifted to a favoured friend when the responsibility of running the town must be passed on.

At the inn, the party follows up on these discoveries, but is unnerved to discover that the townsfolk have an almost subliminal tendency to avoid questions about the town's history. Under cross-examination, there are signs of enchantments at work. The possibility that records of donations and other charity at the town shrine, located in the graveyard, may give clues as to who has passed through in recent years lead the adventurers to a woman called Goodrun. She has responsibility for returning donations to the town coffers, and she is none other than Eilian the Mad's wife. This is enough to stimulate suspicion in the group that Eilian may in fact be the person they're looking for.

They pay a visit to his home, a small shack in the midst of his fields outside of town. Goodrun greets them at the door, and talks to them outside lest they should disturb Eilian, drinking off another one of his binges. She has little to offer in the way of information about alms to the town, but she gets increasingly upset at questions about her husband, dropping hints that the reason he drinks so much is to escape the terrible dreams that seem to assault him almost every night. More than that, she does not say, and takes her leave of them just as Eilian awakes from his stupour.

Their suspicions raised, and with a dwarf who won't take 'no' for an answer, the party considers their next move. Is Eilian the one they're looking for? If so, is he of sound enough mind to help them?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

4ed Campaign -- Session 8 -- 28th September 2008

In which a halfling insinuates himself into the party, relationships with dragonborn get a little bit chilly, and the undead walk.
Roster
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 2
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 2
Corrash - Dragonborn Warlock (Fey-Pact) 2
Romto - Halfling Cleric (of Pelor) 2

Things take a turn for the unexpected when Kieran abruptly announces that he doesn't want to continue with the adventurers. Hoping to recruit more help, the party return to Winterhaven and soon engage with a halfling paladin by the name of Romto. Unphased by Corrash's resistance to his proselytising, Romoto admits he's short of pocket (short of everything in fact) and proposes that he joins them for whatever endeavour they may be engaged in. Perhaps less enthusiastically than he would like, they agree.

Back at the Keep, the group delves into a maze-like, underground crypt. Romto immediately makes his presence felt by finding and sidestepping some sort of glyph inscribed on the floor, and the adventurers unleash everything they have on a group of clustered undead, seemingly unaware of their presence until disturbed. While that attack is successful, a terrible banshee-like scream suddenly echoes around the place, and the sounds of ghoulish shambling erupt from all directions...