Chosen by the Gods

Return to the Cairn

The Stranger

The Freshly Thawed

A Ghost

Wraiths!

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Wheel and Deal

Scouting

After taking a rest and realizing that Berend was not about to get better any time soon, the team decided to continue on scouting. The first room turned out to simply be the room for the wolves with nothing of interest or value. Edlan was easily able to unlock the next door, but something was barring it on the other side. Rather than force it open, Malagar laid an arrow up against it to indicate if anyone were to use the door while the party was elsewhere.

Eldan picked the lock on the third door and Malagar struck off down the dark hallway that lay beyond. He sneaked and studied each door to determine what might be beyond. The first door had a dire warning for anyone who might open it. It was icier to the touch than the rest of the doors, which was saying something. About halfway down the hall Malagar heard a woman’s voice behind a door pleading for help.

“Help me!”

Malagar went back to quickly discuss how to proceed. It sounded like the woman’s voice was fading. The group was wary, but they decided to enter the room. Inside were multiple cells. A rack was in one corner. Inside the cells were mostly dead bodies, however in the other far corner was an owlbear, and in the near corner in a small cell were two women.

“Please help,” said one. The other appeared to be sleeping or unconscious. “The Winter King has jailed us and we will surely die here”.

Surprise!

Amarac went to stand by the cell while Eldan stepped up to the lock. Amarac was prepared to cast healing on the gnomes, but Lia and Eldan were both still highly suspicious. The woman continued to explain that they would stop the Winter King if they had the scepter. Lia countered, “Frankly, we don’t really trust you. You can guide us to him and we will deal with him together.”

The woman’s faced twisted as her illusion faded and two gnomes took the place of the women. “Fine then, we’ll just have to take it from your dead hands!” The other gnome got up and made a call to what the others assumed was the owlbear, and suddenly they heard many clicks. The cells had been unlocked.

The team responded by attacking, but in moments another sound emerged, groans from the zombies rising from the cells. The gnomes multiplied and now there were six of them throughout the room. Quickly the creatures rushed the heroes as some of the gnomes cast spells. Malagar stayed outside of the room, firing arrows in while simultaneously keeping watch.

Uh oh…

Malagar called to the rest as he saw more soldiers coming around a corner far down the hall. Amarac suggested they bar themselves in the room and take on the enemies currently there. Lia tried to incapacitate the enemies but only helped marginally. She went out to Malagar and quickly told him of the plan. They came back into the room as Eldan jammed the lock.

Things were not going well as Berend and Amarac were both suffering hit after hit. Berend dropped unconscious and it seemed likely that others would succomb shortly.

Escape!

Eldan was the quick thinker this time. “Stand down or we will destroy the ice scepter!” he shouted. Lia quickly picked up on the bluff and began whispering (fake) words of magic while waving a hand over the scepter.

“No!” shouted one of the gnomes. “Give it to us!”

“You’ll just kill us,” retorted Eldan. “We will leave this place and upon our exit leave you the ice scepter. The drow will stay to ensure we do not go back on our word.” The entire party was unsure whether Eldan actually meant it. Malagar himself said nothing, seeing the dire circumstances they were in (and he had already used his shroud of darkness power). Amarac chimed in to negotiate the deal, eventually offering that he himself would stay behind.

Eventually the gnomes agreed to the terms. The tieflings outside and the owlbear led while the gnomes, zombies, and other soldiers of the Winter King followed. Neither Eldan nor Lia saw an opportunity to keep the scepter, and even if they did had no way to communicate a new plan. They were forced to hold up their end of the deal. Amarac left as the soldiers took up the ice scepter.

The doors shut and the party was left out in the cold entryway. Lia cast her Create Campsite ritual and the party rested. Lia studied another ritual and the entire party hoped that by giving up the scepter the Winter King would indeed end the Endless Winter. If not, they would have to go back in and hope for a better result.

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Voyage through the Sky

The Undead Ship

It was not immediately evident what the best course of action was. Certainly Eldan expressed doubts about going aboard the ship. There was no way to know who could get on, where it would take them, how safe it would be, if they would be able to return, or how deadly whatever was on the other end would be. Yet the continually falling snow, the ship’s repeated claims of an unending winter, and the whispered pleading of Warden Markelhay convinced Lia, Berend, and Amarac that they must make the attempt. Malagar had his own doubts, but he did not argue. Eldan eventually gave in and they all boarded the ship, including Markos.

The ship instructed them to take oars and row. Most of the party did so, while Eldan manned one of the heavy crossbows and Lia sought to aid in the navigation. The wind picked up and the ship pitched back and forth. Suddenly Berend and Lia both found themselves nearly tossed overboard. Markos left his oar to assist them while Eldan took over his oar, but without 4 people rowing the ship began to descend quickly. Once back aboard ropes controlling the mast whipped loose. This happened several times in fact, and Eldan and Markos took turns tying the ropes again. Berend found himself almost tossed over again as well. This continued for some time until finally the wind died down and the mist cleared enough to see a mountain ahead.

Cairn of the Winter King

The ship landed and everyone disembarked. They were in the mountains staring at the obvious entrance of the Cairn of the Winter King. Marko was trembling. He started mumbling, then yelling about how they were doomed. He climbed up a snow covered rock saying that he was buried there, that he hadn’t actually survived while the others died. He went to dig out one of the many skulls scattered about. The others grew worried very rapidly. Lia and Amarac both tried to calm him down, but they could not get through to him. Eldan and Malagar both fired shots attempting to take the sword out of his hand. One hit causing Marko to stumble, but he caught his bearing and struck at one of the skulls once, twice, and then finally it came loose; so did a rock-side full of snow.

Everyone caught part of the mini avalanche, but fortunately no one was seriously injured. After a few minutes all had dug out. Throughout all of this the ship would occasionally repeat its monotonous message, “Return the ice scepter to the Winter King or this will be an endless winter!” Eldan had grown tired of this. “Shut it you broken down piece of driftwood!” He took a large rock, stepped on a couple of rocks to make his way to the ship, and stuck the rock down into to mouth of the dragon masthead. “Hah!” he said as he began to feel his hair stand. Then a lightning bolt struck from the sky, blasting Eldan 10 feet and leaving a trail of smoke.

“Mmm, burnt halfling for dinner,” chuckled Malagar. Eldan’s eyes narrowed after having been locked wide open by the surprise of the bolt.

“We’re in no shape to confront whatever is through those doors,” said Lia. “We should make camp in the entryway, out of the wind, and recover. Let us set watch.” So they made camp. Marko was a bit dazed but didn’t suffer any further bouts of madness.

An appetizing meal

Nothing happened during the night, and while cold, they were sufficiently rested the next morning. They cleaned up the camp and looked at the door. They agreed to go in carefully. Eldan picked the lock and slowly swung the door open. Inside the sight surprised them, including Marko who had been there before. A large room glowed brightly with candlelight, and a large table in the middle of the room was set with a feast. Three dogs rested in the room near a large merry looking man and a cheerful woman.

“Ho there, come in friends!” boomed the voice of the man. “I am the Winter King and I invite you out of the cold to partake in a feast. You must have been through quite an ordeal out there.”

The woman stood up from her table on the other side of the room and began to make her way to the entrance. “Come join us. Do you brave adventurers have the Ice Scepter? Hand it to the Winter King so the land’s winter may come to an end.”

The whole party was suspicious, but Lia saw right through the lie. “Ready your weapons friends, this woman’s tongue is forked, and the man’s too.”

With that the woman’s face contorted as she lashed out with a magical psychic attack. The dogs transformed into large wolf-like beasts and the “king” jumped on the back of one. Lia was quick though and lashed out with her grasping shards, ensuring the “king” would not reach them just yet. Malagar took aim at one of the wolves that he could see while Eldan and Amarac both took shots at the woman who now was clearly in fact a gnome. As finally the king’s wolf came close Marko spoke in a magical tongue and took control of that wolf. It lurched and the king nearly fell off while it struck at the gnome. The gnome, king, and wolves kept hitting Berend and several of the others near the entrance, but one wolf, then another, and finally the king’s fell. The gnome made her escape as our heroes slew the supposed king.

“Secure the room and check the doors,” commanded Lia. Malagar went to see if her could detect anything beyond the doors as Amarac set out to heal those who were injured. Marko exclaimed, “This looks nothing like it did when I was here last. This table, these lights, it is all different.”

Berend saw the food and rushed in. “I wouldn’t eat any of that,” Amarac suggested, but it was too late. “Oh it has been so long since I’ve had such a feast,” Berend said as he stuffed his mouth.

“Nothing through this door, this is just where those beasts slept,” said Malagar. “I hear nothing through this other door either, and fortunately this time there is no smell, but it is locked.”

About this time Berend began to feel very queazy, and the illusion over the room began to fade. “No. Nooo no no no no no no no!” he exclaimed as he began spitting out as much of the human flesh that was in his mouth. All of the food in the room was no longer. In its place was rotting flesh and corpses. “Oh my…” exclaimed Lia. Eldan, though rather sickened, decided to take advantage of the situation and placed some of the rotting flesh under the pillows of the nearby beds. “See how they like it,” he mumbled.

Amarac came to Berend’s side, but he quickly saw there was little he could do. In fact Berend would not take to healing very well for some time. The group decided to wait a bit longer to give him more time to recover, but ultimately they knew they would have to continue on soon. That gnome had gotten away, and there was no telling how large this place was.

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A whole lot of WTF? going on

Harkenwold is Free

It was late at night, but the town of Harken was awake and celebrating after the rebel militia retook the Iron Keep, restoring it as Harken Keep. Reports came back saying that some of the Iron Circle brigands, as well as a cleric and a mage, had escaped into the night. However Nazin Redthorn was dead and the Iron Circle was broken. Indeed it was time to celebrate.

Then Dar Gremath’s lieutenant, Kathrid, appeared in town with a message for the adventurers. She recounted how a spy had been caught and a message intercepted. The spy Rennis was found with a letter from Lord Vannyk with a bit more information about the task that had been given to Jixin. It mentioned the need to meet with a man named Armos and to convince or perhaps blackmail him in order to gain control of Vestopalk, and that this would enable Vannyk to control the Cairngorn Peaks and the entire western portion of the Vale.

Attack of the Tiefling

The next day celebrations continued. The adventurers were in the local tavern eating and drinking with some townspeople when heavy footsteps were heard outside the door. The doors swung wide as a heavily armored tiefling stepped inside. “You think you can defeat the Iron Circle and stop ”/campaign/nentir-vale-and-beyond-cmd/wikis/lord-vannyk" class=“wiki-page-link”>Lord Vannyk? Here is what we do to those who oppose us!" With that he opened a burlap sack and out rolled the head of Dar Gremath. The townspeople cowered as the adventurers each stood up and prepared to fight. “We will not be cowed by the likes of you,” spoke Amarac. “Ye’ve made a grievous mistake ye fool!” growled Berend.

Even though fully rested the party was unprepared for the battle that was upon them. Lividius the tiefling attacked with burning fire, then disappeared the next moment only to reappear elsewhere. The battle raged through the tavern as the townspeople ran out, one of them too slow and cut down by the licking flames of Lividius’s aura. None of the party was unaffected, and Amarac fell in the middle of the room. The heroes did not relent though. Finally they drew blood from Lividius, though he laughed. Eldan, bleeding considerably, was quite displeased with their situation. He lined up a careful attack, aided by Malagar’s darkfire, and landed a well placed blade in Lividius. However realizing his dangerous position, and not knowing whether Lividius would fall or destroy them all, he made his way out the door. Malagar followed up Eldan’s blade with two arrows. Lividius was more stunned than he would have imagined by Eldan’s shot and was too slow to react to Malagar’s. Malagar’s first arrow went straight between his eyes and only moments later Lividius was fallen on his face, dead (875XP).

Malagar was enraged by Eldan’s cowardice though. Without a moment’s hesitation he spun and let his second shot go, slicing the edge of Eldan’s leg. “What’d you do that for?!?” yelled Eldan.

“Finish the tiefling and tend to Amarac,” Lia whispered to Berend. She walked quickly to the door as Malagar reached Eldan.

“You cowardly insect! You would run away and leave us to die!” Malagar growled.

Eldan replied, “What? I was just getting cover. You see this blood on me? I stuck that bastard good and was just making sure I’d last long enough to do it again!”

Malagar’s anger did not subside immediately, but he did hesitate. Lia spoke to Malagar, “Enough. You heard him, he was not going to abandon us.” She looked back to Eldan, giving him a quick look that told Eldan everything. She knew he was lying, but she would say nothing. She did not approve of his attempt to escape, but the cohesion of their party was too important to risk.

Amarac arose in a few minutes time thanks to Berend’s tending. He searched through Levidius’s body and other than his weapons found a letter from Lord Vannyk. It spoke of his charge to destroy the “so-called heroes” to stop them from their interference. Moreover it told Lividius to go to Winterhaven once his task was complete. There was where the next phase of Lord Vannyk’s plan would take place.

The Snow Falls

Something else of great note happened after Lividius dropped dead to the ground. No one noticed it immediately with all of the commotion, but soon the few stray flakes of snow that fell from the sky grew into a real snowfall. This was the middle of summer and snow was falling. The temperature slowly began to drop as well. The people of Harken quickly grew worried. No one could explain what was happening, though clearly some strong magic was behind it.

Baron Stockmer came to the heroes with several of his top aids and advisers. They told the heroes that they would provide horses and basic supplies, and a substantial discount on any other supplies they might need. They asked if the heroes would find out what was happening with the weather. If it got much worse there would be serious problems for crops. Lia responded saying that of course they would find out what was happening and find a way to put an end to it. They must to go Fallcrest though, both to report to Warden Markelhay and to discover what Jixin had been sent to do. Since this weather was likely Lord Vannyk’s doing, they should be able to get answers to all their questions in the same pursuit.

So the heroes set out less than an hour after their battle and quickly made their way back to Fallcrest.

Lord Vannyk’s Plan and Armos

Upon arriving in Fallcrest our heroes met with Warden Markelhay to tell them of their success in Harkenwold and of their plan to find Armos Kamroth and find out what he was supposed to do for Vannyk. Markelhay knew Armos as a wealthy and smart merchant, but had no idea what Vannyk would want with him. He did know that the Vestopolk that was mentioned in one of the intercepts was an adult green dragon living in the Cairngorm Peaks. Moreover the dragon had recently widened his hunting grounds to Winterhaven. Additionally, a tribe of kobolds called the Greenscales was attempting to side with him.

The team went to Armos’s house and knocked on the door. Armos was very suspicious at first. In fact it soon came out that he knew well that none in the party was Jixin. However it also was the case that he was quite unhappy about being pushed around and threatened by Vannyk. Amarac apologized for the group’s threatening behavior, explaining how threatened they themselves felt by Vannyk’s plans and attempts on their lives. Eventually Armos explained that Vannyk knew his secret, that he was a cleric of Tiamat. Vannyk wanted him to use his powers to control Vestopolk so that the dragon would do his bidding.

Panic in Fallcrest

As their discussion was happening, the team began to hear a commotion outside. They went out to see what was happening. Warden Markelhay was explaining the need to take foodstuffs and begin rationing given the unnatural winter should Fallcrest have any hope of surviving. The merchants were unhappy with this and the people were all very scared. Some of the more nefarious elements were likely seeing the panic and an opportunity to cause trouble or make some thefts and leave.

As the team tried to figure out how to calm the crowd, bolster the position of the Lord Warden, and figure out some compromise between the parties, the winds picked up and Malagar noticed a boat sailing through the air above their heads. He got the attention of the rest of the party. Amarac suggested that everyone should get inside while they investigated. The question of what to do about rationing and the like could be sorted out later. This was a strangely fortunate event, as a riot could have broken out any second.

The Undead Airship

As the people fled in all directions the ship landed in the snow. Skeletons and zombies came over the sides waving their weapons wildly as a voice came from the dragon masthead, “Return the Ice Scepter to the ”/campaign/nentir-vale-and-beyond-cmd/wikis/Winter%20King/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Winter King or this will be and endless winter!"

No one had any idea what the thing was talking about, but people would be slaughtered if the undead were not stopped. The heroes arranged themselves and engaged the enemy. Several fell quickly, but many were not so easily felled. One civilian was cut down by a charging skeleton. As the battle raged and Berend put himself in the middle to protect the people, Eldan danced around sticking and tossing daggers, Malagar circled to find the best shots and Lia attempted to slow or incapacitate those attacking the front line. Several undead got around and almost knocked her out, but with some clever tactics and the aid of Amarac she held them off. In the end only 2 civilians had perished and the undead were no more.

The ship repeated its command for someone to bring forth and return the Ice Scepter. Some people, including the Lord Warden, came forward to discuss the most recent events. “Has anyone here any knowledge of this Ice Scepter?” he shouted. No one came forward. Several townspeople did offer some knowledge of the Winter King. It was said that many years ago he had been a warlord king. One winter his forces decimated several others, taking advantage of the cold. Some believed he was granted some great power, others than he was cursed, but soon after his forces were nowhere to be found. There were rumors that a cairn of the Winter King was located somewhere in the Cairngorn Peaks.

Lia and Malagar both spotted a very uncomfortable looking young man trying to sneak out of the crowd. Eldan took their cue and got to him before he’d gotten far. “What do you know?” he asked, dagger at the man’s side.

The man dropped to his knees apologizing, “I didn’t know. I was lost in the Peaks, my fellows all killed, and I came upon a fortress in the mountain snow. I took… this… from inside.” He slowly drew a scepter from his jacket. “I thought maybe I could sell it. I had no idea it would cause any harm, or that it was why the strange winter had come.”

Markelhay was gravely concerned, but now had some reason to hope. “If you bring this scepter back, the winter will end. You have aided the Vale before, will you do so again and save us from starvation?”

Eldan and Malagar were both very skeptical, but Lia, Berend, and Amarac all agreed that they must do something or all the people in the Vale would suffer greatly. “This man will come with us and guide us so we can return the scepter. What is your name?”

“M-Markos,” the man stuttered. Lia could see through his manner though, and knew he had some ability.

Malagar fell in step beside Lia as she stepped towards the ship, Marko in tow. Eldan held back. “This thing looks way too dangerous. And how will we get back? This doesn’t seem worth it,” he whispered to his comrades.

Would they go at all, Eldan stay behind while the others went? A decision would have to be made soon.

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Invasion of Iron Keep (Part III)

The adventurers attacked swiftly and accurately, taking down a dragonborn before he had a chance to do more than let out a breath attack. As the second dragonborn approached Eldan slipped behind him to get in a position to stab him in the back. Lia and Amarac found it odd that dragonborn, reputed to be honorable and noble, would work for such a heinous organization, but such a situation was not the time to wonder how the warriors had come to be in such a situation.

The human guards in the room were weak and easily disposed of, but more came in through the two doors leading out to the castle walls. Berend sliced his way through two guards and got to one of the doors, shutting and locking it. The guards beyond had keys though and opened the door right back up. Lia and Malagar made them regret that decision, and Berend cleaned up the rest and then shut the door once again. Amarac healed a bloodied Eldan who had put himself in a dangerous situation, and once the guards had stopped coming in he set to closing the drawbridge. The group was now secure in the keep. They took time to rest and recoup.

The next step was to go down the stairs and find out if Baron Stockmer was indeed there. Malagar and Eldan both snuck down quietly and in the shadows. A variety of nasty Iron Circle were there, including an adept and two tar devils. Things got hairy as one of the slaves was struck down, Berend lost consciousness, and several others were close to being struck dead as well. However our heroes persevered and ended the immediate threat.

Eldan picked the locked door and indeed found the baron. They then looked to escape out the eastern gate from the keep, but the Stockmere said that their priority must be to end Nazin once and for all. The adventurers agreed and hatched a plan.

The party went back up to the main floor and found the secret passage up to Nazin’s room. Malagar an Eldan both made their way up silently while the others waited in the dining room below. Eldan opened the door to find Nazin and another adept sitting at a table. Several other tough looking guards were standing around. Eldan took his shot, hitting the adept who howled in surprise, and Malagar nimbly stepped into position and landed his own shot. Both made it down the stairs as Lia stood at the bottom of the stairs ready to slow any enemies as they came.

Here the plan started to unravel. The damage done so far was minimal and Nazin and his troops did not simply rush after their attackers. Lia was unable to do much and Nazin made her pay for standing in a vulnerable position, dazing her with a nasty burst attack. Eventually Nazin descended the steps with the adept and traded shots with the party while the other guards came down the main stairs to surround the party. The party rallied though, focussing on and taking down one enemy at a time. Berend stood his ground and played defense while preventing Nazin from getting in and hurting anyone else.

Meanwhile one of the guards who had come around the back was acting strangely, and Lia quickly surmised what was going on. “Malagar, you know who that is. Take him out,” she said. The guard let out a laugh as his face changed and all could see that the guard who stood there was in fact Jixin. The guard had already been hit by Eldan however and Malagar’s shots were true. Jixin’s laugh and threats were cut short as his injuries slowed him enough so that he was unable to block or dodge the arrows. He dropped to the ground, spitting up red blood which stood out against his gray face.

Now only Nazin stood, and while the party was tired out and many of them on their last legs, Nazin was hemmed in with few options. “You fools won’t succeed!” he exclaimed, “Maloreth will crush you!” Berend, who had been holding back for defense, saw his opening and replied, “We fools ‘ave beaten ’im once, we’ll do it again” before cutting Nazin down for good (1075XP).

The adventurers made sure all of their enemies were dead, and then they collapsed in the various scattered chairs to recover from their many wounds. When they were ready they went up to Nazin’s room and found treasure (450gp, 1200sp) and two magic items. Bracers with designs depicting converging lines, which were found to be Bracers of Archery, were given to Malagar. Lia recognized an intricate golden crown as a Philosopher’s Crown. Everyone agreed that they would be best served by Lia using it.

Additionally in the cache was a piece of parchment. It was a letter to Nazin from Lord Vannyk saying that Lord Vannyk was concerned about the adventurers and wanted them dealt with. Moreover, it made mention of a task for Jixin in Fallcrest that was on hold until things in Harkenwold had been handled. The first part was obviously moot, but the second could be of some use. The adventurers decided to handle the situation sometime after they had a chance to recuperate.

Finally the group left with Baron Stockmer through the eastern gate in order to lead him to safety and recruit assistance from the town to seize the castle. The Baron told the adventurers to hold on to the treasure they had found in return for saving him and all of Harkenwold. A group of rebel militia from the town was already outside and ready to go in. The party went into the town to recover and trade stories so that everyone would be caught up on recent events.

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Invasion of the Iron Keep (Part II)

Old Kellar knew which villagers to go to for assistance, and soon the heroes had a cart and sacks of food. Lia and Malagar got in burlap sacks under the food in the cart as Berend and Eldan drove the cart. Amarac walked beside. They came to the front gate of Iron Keep and were met by arrows sticking out of slits and a stern voice telling them to halt. A captain and two of his guards exited a door and approached the cart. Eldan quickly explained that they were late with the special delivery because of an attack on the road. The rebels were emboldened after the Albridge battle, he explained, but the special visitor would certainly not be happy if the provisions were not delivered for the next day’s surprise visit. The captain, of course unaware of any such delivery, was taken aback, but was reasonably convinced that such a visit might take place. Still, he had his men stab into the cart to make sure no one was hiding inside. Lia and Malagar both bit their tongues as blades came down and poked them each several times. Amaric spoke up saying that it was late and they were all tired, and surely they would save a bit of the good stuff for the captain and his guards if they could just get in a make their delivery. Finally the captain agreed to let them in (625XP), though he told them to go directly to the food storage building.

As the cart moved along Malagar prepared to exit at an opportune moment. Lia was concerned, but she also was able to exit the cart unnoticed. The rest of the team started unloaded and were left alone by the guards who had been leading the way. Then Berend, Amaric, and Eldan joined Lia and Malagar under some trees and looked over at the inviting drawbridge. They assisted each other in timing to stealthily make their way to the stairs and to the drawbridge. The guards inside the keep were completely surprised as Berend turned at the top of the stairs and charged right at them. The others all let out various ranged attacks and the fight was begun!

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Invasion of the Iron Keep

Following the battle of Albridge the heros of the rebellion rested their bodies, but not their minds. Lia concentrated on learning another of her new rituals and the entire team met with Dar Gremath to discuss their next steps. Dar was adamant that they go to [Harken] quickly to take advantage of the defeat of the Iron Circle, to rescue the John Stockmer, Baron of Harken, and to finish off Nazin Redthorn once and for all. He knew of a dwarf in Harken named Old Kellar who had been the master stonecutter during the renovations of Harken Keep, now the Iron Keep, several decades prior. This man would help them plan an incursion.

The next morning the group set off for Harken. Along the way, just before dark, they rested and allowed Lia to cast her Travelers’ Camouflage ritual. She was quite successful in the casting and the entire group and their horses gained a magical boost to their stealth abilities and some resistance to being tracked.

Soon after they arrived in Harken and came to the house of old Kellar. The old dwarf drew the layout of the keep, its secret doors and passageways, where the Baron would mostly likely be held, and where Redthorn would be staying. The group decided that some scouting would provide important information to add to Kellar’s information. Malagar, Eldan, and Lia took the lead to maximize their stealth and perception and easily stayed hidden while determining how many guards manned the walls of the keep.

The group then returned to finish their plans. Many ideas were floated, including the use Eldan to sneak in and open the secret door. However the team ultimately decided that the easiest way to get close to the inner keep was to trick their way in with a special delivery.

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The Battle of Albridge

The rebellion awoke early on the day they knew the Iron Circle would attack. Dar Gremath and the adventurers agreed that they would serve as a rapid response force, assisting and taking on opponents where they were most needed. Their first task was to intercept a large group of Iron Circle attackers on their way into Albridge. They took up guarded positions on a farmstead, Malagar firing from the roof, Eldan sneaking dagger shots from behind a well, Lia slowing and disabling clusters of the enemy from behind a cart, and Velos targeting anything that got close. Berend manned the gate. Besides the poorly trained rabble, a female commander engaged the battle and after some over the wall swipes (including one that tripped Berend) they engaged face to face. Once most of the enemy was dispatched Velos struck fear into the heart of one remaining. It ran but was chased down and slain.

Dar Gremath came by shortly thereafter with no time for congratulations. Another group of Iron Circle, this one with more capable units, was making their way toward a weak line of rebels. The adventurers made their way and came upon a group that included two tar devils with flaming nets, a dark adept, and two brigands. This team was far more dangerous as one devil quickly incapacitated Berend. Lia and Velos both made a move to strike out at all of the enemy. They were successful, but Lia’s gambit led her into trouble as she was caught in the net of the other devil and pulled into dangerous territory. Malagar and Eldan wasted no time in tactically taking the enemy down one by one, and Lia freed herself from the net after her devils had been forced away. The team had opened up the fight and was able to shortly thereafter put an end to it.

The group needed a slightly longer rest, and they fortunately had it. However this time when Dar showed up he was far more adamant. Nazin Redthorn had been spotted. This was both a great potential danger, but also a great opportunity. The group was certainly ready for it. Eldan kept thinking of the great reward he would receive for burying several daggers into the leader of the Iron Circle. He wasn’t much for heroism, but now it could really pay off. Berend and Velos saw a great opportunity to stop a great evil from despoiling the land, while Lia sought to protect her people by putting an end to this grave threat. What Malagar was thinking though was anything but clear. He was proving to be a valuable ally, and it seemed likely that he was an outcast from his people, but why would he engage in this battle? Did he simply enjoy killing and saw this team as good a group as any to join? Was he making up for something? Did he actually care about the people of this land or even just those in this small crew?

These thoughts flitted through the heros’ minds, but foremost was the question of how to take down Redthorn. When they found him along with numerous rabble and two more tar devils, the plan was quickly set: Berend would engage rapidly and with overwhelming force as Lia slowed and took down those on the periphere and the others supported Berend. This plan looked like a good one, but they had underestimated the power of the enemy. While Lia picked rabble off easily enough and Velos, Eldan, and Malagar made good on their support of Berend, Nazin and his tar devils broke through Berend’s defenses on every strike, leaving him unconscious and bleeding. Fortunately he was not in immediate threat of death and the fire one of the devils had started obscured anyone’s view of Berend. The enemy began to focus on the support team, but not soon enough to stop them from bloodying Nazin and taking down one of the devils. The team looked on in surprise as Nazin turned to run to his steed. They had very quickly plugged him with well placed arrows, daggers, and divine strikes, but his strength had made them assume he would come for each of them next. Fortune shown on the group as Nazin overestimated the defenses of those still standing.

The enemy was still about though. Velos and Eldan got burned by the remaining tar devils fire, but they stood their ground. Berend had awoke seconds earlier but had stayed down to appraise the situation. Now he saw his chance as he got up, ran out from one fire, around a tree and charged the devil in the other fire. The devil was shocked and had no time to escape as Eldan struck next and finished him off.

There was no chance to stop Nazin. He got away. But Dar rode in soon thereafter exclaiming that the Iron Circle was retreating. The war was not over, but the day was won. However it was clear that the best plan was to finish this all quickly. As the group cleaned up and recovered in Albridge Dar explained about the Iron Keep (which used to be Harken Keep) in Harkenwold where Nazin had been staying. Fortunately the master stonemason of the major renovation of the keep 40 years 45 years prior was living in Harken and ready to help.

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Defeating Yissarn & Albridge Battle Prep

Battling Yissarn

After a short rest following the defeat and interrogation of Snilvor in Dal Nystere, the team got ready to go in after Yissarn the undead wizard. Two sets of steel double doors were the only clear entrances to the next room. The group found no evidence of traps and picked the door further from the caged drakes to make their entrance. They also used one of the tables to make it more difficult for anyone to come from the other room through the door nearest the drakes. Given the team’s past experiences, they knew it would be wise to prevent the creatures’ release.

Given all the noise the group had been making, they decided to wait quietly for several minutes so that whoever was in the other room would not know when to expect an attack. Finally, the doors were thrown open and two animated skeletons were seen in the room, along with what appeared to be a dragon skeleton, fortunately not currently undead. One of the skeleton wore tattered robes and its hands were sparking with electricity. Eldan entered the room and immediately found himself falling into a 10ft high spike trap that rook up all the room in front of the door. There would be no easy way into this room. Suddenly a large glimmer spider dropped from the ceiling beyond the pit and shot webbing at those in the doorway, blinding and restraining Berend and making difficult terrain for the others who were just out of the blast area. Just as quickly it faded into the background from whence it came. Yissarn shot blasts of icicles and of lightning as our heroes fought back with their own ranged attacks and Eldan climbed out of the pit, fortunately with only minor wounds. However the spider appeared again directly above the team and bit Eldan, wounding him seriously with poison. Malagar reacted quickly casting darkfire to prevent the spider from becoming invisible again. He then shot an arrow deeply into the beast, causing serious damage, but just as soon as the blood began to trickle out the spider disappeared. It could not have become invisible as far as Malagar was concerned, it must have teleported. All the while Yissarn hissed hateful words aimed particularly at Lia. Clearly the lich had a great distaste for elves.

Berend grew frustrated with the ranged battle and so went to the other door, clearing the table out of the way. As the others came over to the other door Berend thought to use the opportunity to climb down into the pit and up the other side. He threw down his bedroll as cushioning, but just as he was about to climb, Eldan grunted in frustration as he failed to pick the lock. Berend returned to the others as he, Eldan, and Velos attempted to bust the door open. After a couple of failed attempts, they took the table and used it as a battering ram. Successful, the group looked to see from their new vantage point. Yissarn was ready though, and his attack pull Velos into yet another spike trap. The spider struck again, webbing the area, and two skeletons took up positions on either side of the trap, blocking the path of anyone wishing to jump diagonally into the room. Velos was seriously injured and Eldan dropped unconscious from his wounds. Berend fought a skeleton around the corner as Malagar, blinded, sought to provide first aid to Eldan. Lia, having waited at the other door in case anyone appeared trying to strike the team from behind, came to join where the fight was happening. Things weren’t looking good as both Lia and Berend took their own major damage, but finally the spider was felled by one of Lia’s lightning bolts after she found cover. The skeletons both fell soon after as Velos cast attacks safely from inside the trap, and then Yissarn was finally struck down by an arrow from Malagar (975XP).

Injured and weary, the team put the table down in the pit over the spikes to create safe passage. They took a rest, healing and raising Eldan to consciousness and health. The group found a key in Yissarn’s robes, as well as a coffer on the bookshelves containing an Eladrin-carved platinum ring, 120 gold, and 3 agates. Resting against the shelves was some interesting plate armor worn by what appeared to be a dwarf skeleton yet to be raised. It fit Berend rather well, and he sensed magic in it which would give him the ability to more readily resist dazing and stunning effects (Supporting plate armor).

Allying with the Woodsinger Elves

Lia took Yissarn’s skull and robe along with the Snilvor’s scrolls and book back to the Woodsinger camp. They were again met by Israfin who led them to Arielle. She was pleased with the defeat of both Snilvor and Yissarn, as well as the intelligence the team had brought concerning their plans (150XP), and agreed to make alliance. However, she had urgent news that the Iron Circle was making preparations to strike at the resistance in Albridge. She agreed to send 50 elves in two days, the expected time when the Iron Circle would be attacking. Moreover, she warned the group, focussing particularly on Lia, that greater powers were at work and that they must be cautious. She told them that Maloreth was still alive and had somehow tricked them both with regards to his death and the destruction of the skull.

Battle preparation in Albridge

As the group had made good time that day, and as matters were quite urgent, they got on the road around 3pm. As they had nearly arrived in the dark just before 10pm, a rider appeared. The rider slowed the horse as she recognized the party, so distinct with a halfling, elf, dwarf, human, and drow. She told them of the urgency of the situation, as Dar Gremath had received news of the Iron Circle gathering its strength to strike at Albridge and the group’s skills were in great need. So they sped up and reached Albridge as Dar met with some of the other rebellion leaders. He filled the group in on the situation and took at least some satisfaction in hearing of the elves’ offer of support. After some discussions as to what would be needed in terms of preparation, the team went to sleep to recover from the long day and to wake up early to start battle preparations.

The group woke up ready to work. Eldan had a particular spring in his step. He had gained some particularly perspective from recent events, including his near death, and was ready to face anything. He started off training some of the front line troops and those who would use some psychological warfare, intimidating the enemy. Malagar used his knowledge of nature to create barriers in the woods and in the town to make the enemy take certain paths into the city and to increase the odds of them showing up where the rebellion wanted them. Berend ran a crash course in battlefield medicine while Lia discussed historical accounts of Iron Circle tactics with the generals. Velos took note of some of the troubles keeping the rebellion leaders from operating smoothly. He used his diplomatic skills to convince them of the benefit of a particular hierarchy operating under Dar Gremath.

Eldan followed up on his psychological warfare approach in consultation with Lia and Malagar to set up decoys and subterfuges based on his knowledge of how to bluff an opponent. This worked in conjunction with Malagar’s efforts to use his knowledge of nature to set various pit, spike, snare, and other traps. All seemed to be going well, though the soldiers were somewhat restless. While some had seen battle, many had not. At lunch time, when most of the army was in the same area, Lia used her religious knowledge to lead invokations to the gods for assistance. This gave confidence to the soldiers, and Lia hoped Sehanine and the other gods were indeed listening to her prayers. Velos followed up on the improved morale, using his diplomatic way to convince certain troops to take some of the grunt jobs and bait runs to lure the enemy down certain paths.

It was mid-afternoon by this time, and mostly things were going well. Eldan saw that some of the Reedfoot halflings would be making tactical movements and could use some pointers in terms of moving more stealthily. Meanwhile Malagar, again making use of the knowledge of nature, realized that it would likely rain during the battle. He thus modified some of the battle plans and unit locations to take advantage of the knowledge. Lia tapped her knowledge of historical battles in the region to figure out how best to use the terrain, however she met with resistance on some points from the generals this time and she realized after some time that perhaps the recent discussions had only made the battle plans poorer. Meanwhile Eldan attempted to intimidate some of the slackers to get them working harder. This demoralized the slackers rather than motivating them, and that discontent affected some of the other soliders. Velos attempted to fix some of the squabbles that were now arising after a long day of preparations, but he was far less successful this time.

The rebellion had made progress this day, but the failures near the end partially undid some of the earlier efforts. The heroes were determined to make up for this when the battle finally came (625XP).

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Meet the Woodsinger Elves

After the bar brawl in Albridge, the team tied up the Iron Circle thugs and decided to do a little interrogation. With some assistance from the others, Lia was able to get one of the cut throats to talk, but it quickly became clear that the man had no really useful information. Apparently though the regulars of the Iron Circle were at least aware of the rumors of a leader above Redthorn. After the interrogation, the team left the thugs tied up south of the river along the road for passer-bys to see.

Before leaving town, the team updated Dar Gremath on the brawl and asked if he had any suggestion for their route to the Harden Forest to request the aid of the Woodsinger Clan. Dar told them that he had just gotten word that Marl had been destroyed just recently. That would be a safer and quicker route since the Iron Circle had moved on, and it would allow the team to drop off some much needed supplies to the survivors.

The team made quick progress on the road and found the decimation of the former town of Marl. A few minutes walk led them to the house of Kurmin, a survivor who was housing other survivors in cramped conditions. Kurwin said that the Iron Circle had come from the northeast and had left to the northwest a week ago, but had no other information of immediate value. The team left the supplies, and with nothing more to be done to help, continued on their way to the forest.

Just a few hours later, before dusk had set, they reached the forest edge. Lia looked around to see where the elves she knew would be waiting were. A voice called out from the trees telling the party to halt and identify themselves. Lia, speaking in elvish, answered for the group and told the hidden elf that they had come with aid and to speak with the leader of the nearby Woodsinger camp. She made clear her trust of the group, but said nothing to suggest that she trusted them with the secrets of the Woodsingers.

An elf finally appeared out the trees and identified himself as Eafwin. He did challenge Lia as he did not recognize her. Lia said she was of the Elm Band, led by Tyndwoor, which seemed to mollify Eafwin for the most part. Apparently Lia had come upon the Oaksong Band, which was good since, Arielle, the leader of the Woodsinger elves, spent most of her time with the Oaksong Band.

Eafwin agreed to bring Lia and her companions into the woods, though only once the others had been blindfolded, and Malagar stripped of his weapons and bound. At this numerous elves appeared out of the trees. Malagar did not look pleased, but neither did he argue. Lia put her hand out and promised him she would take good care of his bow and give it back to him as soon as possible. He accepted her offer and handed his bow and arrows over.

Half an hour later the elves and their “guests” arrived at a clearing. Lia made this out to be a temporary camp. The party’s blindfolds were removed and they were met by another elf who introduced himself as Israfin. Lia had not ever been formally introduced to Israfin before, but she recognized him at least as one of Arielle’s lieutenants. He made the party explain themselves again for added security. Once he was satisfied he turned and an older female elf with green and golden waves of hair stepped into the clearing.

This was Arielle, leader of the Woodsinger Clan. She was pleased to see Lia, though skeptical of any help that might come from strangers, and even more reticent to lend her people to aid those of Harkenwold as Lia and the others requested. She agreed that the Iron Circle may be a danger to the land, but that this was by no means certain yet, and she doubted those of Harkenwold would aid the elves if their positions were reversed. Certainly they had done little to combat the goblins, not that the elves would have wanted such help anyway, Lia thought to herself. Velos and Eldan both argued that any help provided by the elves would gain them honor and a debt of the people of Harkenwold. And all of the party made clear they were willing to aid in the fight against the goblins that Lia had spoke of on more than one occasion.

Arielle finally offered a deal. A new threat had arrived only recently in the woods. The lich Yisarn, an undead wizard, had set up a base of operations in Dal Nstaer, and old Eladrin village. The lich was allied with the Daggerburg goblins. Should the team successfully defeat this new threat, Arielle would have the Woodsinger Clan assist in driving out the Iron Circle from the land. It was agreed.

Malagar’s bindings were finally removed and the team settled in for the evening, discussing the day’s events and going over the details of the next day. They had been giving a vial of dragon’s blood which would enable them to activate the magic of the stones of Dal Nistaer to reach the underground fortress. Arielle did not part with it lightly, as dragon’s blood is quite expensive, but she believed the team would do what they promised, particularly with Lia to lead them.

The next day the party woke up to find one of its members missing. Jixin was nowhere to be found. Malagar tracked him for a short bit until his foot prints disappeared. Clearly he had taken some elven clothes and disguised himself. Where had he gone though? Had he betrayed them? There was no time to think on this for too long, as time was of the essence. The team made their way to Dal Nistaer in two hours, arriving at 10am. There they caught 3 goblins unawares on an abandoned wagon. Likely they had scared off the owner who had taken the horse and left the wagon. Right by the wagon were the stones that would teleport the team. However in the trees around the stones were some large spiders. The team rapidly dispatched the goblins, and made their way into the circle of stones. They were not quick enough to do so and activate the spell before the spiders had made their way into the circle and attacked. Malagar had hoped they would stay away so he would not have to fight them. They were creatures of Loth, who he worshipped. He took heart that it at least appeared that the others agreed not to harm the spiders unless they attacked, but his hopes were quickly dashed. The spiders were frightening and gave the group more of a battle than they’d anticipated by this point, but nonetheless the team was able to dispatch them with minimal damage. Lia poured the dragon blood on the pedestal, runes appeared on the stones around them, and then Lia spoke the words “Dol Nistaer” and they all found themselves underground.

Seeing several goblins the team wasted no time. Though they heard a voice from a loft at the top of the stairs, they could also see the drakes held in cages right by them which would be quite dangerous should they be released. The team reacted quickly and dispatched three of the 5 goblins in just seconds. A goblin emissary, the owner of the voice, came down the steps himself as he heard the death cries of his minions, and was met by Berend who struck him and blocked his path. The emissary tried to retreat, but Berend hounded him and was aided by Eldan. The other goblins were felled and it took little time to knock out the emissary as well.

Upon interrogation the emissary told the adventurers that his name was Snilvor, and he had come to trade some maps to Yisarn for gold and silver. These maps were of elven crypts which Yisarn, who he expected was next door, wished to exploit in some way. Lia asked where Snilvor had gotten the maps, but he said no more, spitting at her. Knowing that they’d extracted all they could from him, she struck him down. The team saw that the loft had glowing runes. Lia recognized the runes as symbols which would exact necrotic damage. The team used their weapons to reach the scrolls on the table and drag them to the stairs. They found the scrolls Snilvor had spoken of as well as an old tome written by an Eladrin wizard full of his arcane experiments. Lia would have to look over these later, though ultimately they would be worth more sold to the right person.

The team took a few minutes to recover from the fighting and prepare to face Yisarn and whatever magics and security he had with him. Hopefully it would be as easy as the other battles had gone, but none of the team expected that to be so.

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