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.
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?

1 comment:

Wedge said...

A refreshingly combat-light session, this was the point at which some of the backstory for the Keep (a mixture of stuff from the module and embelishments of my own design) came to light. There were rumblings of discontent at the impassable magical barrier, but well, I expected that. :)

I'm still having trouble interleaving Skill Challenges with the normal day-to-day activity of the group in town. I wanted the research into Keegan's descendants to be a broad-stroke Challenge using lots of different resources and skills, bit the process of conducting the challenge led the players to reach their own conclusions. I won't reveal yet whether they were right or wrong (hi guys!), but it's an interesting side-effect of layering a new set of mechanics over familiar investigative territory. I feel a blog article coming on...

Anyways, we have yet another new player starting this week (awesome!), which means I might even have to start turning people down soon. Who'd've thunk it.