The parties met up with Valthrun, who researched the keep and found that it was built upon a rift to the Shadowfell many years ago, specifically an area that allowed undead to come through (and potentially Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead). The keep is now considered haunted, however, due to the take of Sir Keegan, which Valthrun tells the group (according to his scrolls and what he can piece together). When shown a copy of Kalarel’s letter, Valthrun is alarmed and realizes that Kalarel must be at the keep, if he is trying to open up the rift.
The heroes resupply, with Theron purchasing a bigger, nastier sword (a bastard sword), and the party purchasing a stubborn but lovable pack mule named Tug. After resting for the evening, they set out in the morning to find the Keep on the Shadowfell. As they leave, several villagers are there to send them off, cheering for the “Heroes of Winterhaven.”
It did not take long for the heroes to find the old keep road, even though it is covered with scrub brush and hasn’t been used for a long time. Eventually, though, they arrived at a clearing of sorts, where there are no animals, where it is eerily quiet, and where the forest ends. There they see the ruined keep, and decide to proceed down some stairs and enter the keep.
The Tale of Sir Keegan
“The people of Winterhaven avoid Shadowfell Keep. Some leave it alone because all ancient ruins have a disturbing feeling about them, a feeling composed of lingering memories and unknown mysteries. Some say the place is haunted. Others fear the rumors of goblinoids using the place as a lair. Whatever the reason behind its solitude, one fact is clear. Within two short decades after the collapse of the Nareth Empire, Shadowfell Keep was abandoned and left to fall apart and decay. It was on a grisly night about eighty years ago that the commander of the keep garrison, Sir Keegan, put into motion the events that led to the keep’s downfall.
Perhaps the Shadow Rift’s malign influence is too strong to resist. Maybe Sir Keegan was an insane monster driven by demons we may never understand. Whatever the case, at the stroke of midnight on that fateful day, Sir Keegan began to systematically slaughter every resident of the keep. His own wife and children were first to fall to his blade, then his trusted advisors, and finally many of the soldiers under his command. Sir Keegan was too skilled for any one soldier to defeat, yet eventually the garrison managed to respond with an organized defense. Although many brave soldiers died, they managed to drive the mad knight into the passages beneath the keep and finally dispatch him.
The keep became notorious for a time. As one of the last bastions of the fallen empire, there was no one to order it back into service. So, it was abandoned, feared for a time, and eventually, more or less forgotten. An earthquake a few years later collapsed the upper towers and walls, and turned the place into a ruin of tumbled stone. Rumors persist of great treasures buried beneath the keep, yet few have dared explore the passages over the year. Sir Keegan’s ghost is said to roam the corridors beneath the ruins, wailing in grief over the tragedy of his life. The people of Winterhaven avoid the place, and the mere mention of Shadowfell Keep is considered bad luck by many of the farmers and villagers.”
The Guard Room
As the party descends the stairway into the keep, they notice that it consists of finely crafted stone, possibly the work of dwarves. A breeze chills their bones as they take each step down, and the flicker of torchlight spills from a room at the bottom of the stairs. They can detect a fairly strong smell of unwashed bodies, and they can hear some chattering squeaks as they descend the stairs. As they advance, they notice — and are noticed by — a spear-wielding goblin. Malkyr acts first, and decides to close for melee combat. Unfortunately, Malkyr discovers that he has fallen into a cleverly-designed pit trap, with chattering rats down in the hole. Before they can set upon Malkyr, however, he shadow steps out of the hole and back to safety. The goblin throws a javelin at the group, and as they begin to position themselves, more goblins arrive — two armed with crossbows, and another spear-wielder. Theron slashes at the first goblin, drawing blood, quickly followed by Merrick with a darting strike. Niall has no love for goblins, since his father was killed by them, and channels his rage into a powerful strike on the goblin warrior, his craghammer crushing into its trachea, and it collapses with a gurgling death. Aramil is able to shock one of the sharpshooters, while Malkyr brings up shadows to claw at the second spearwielder while he attacks with his drow long knife. The goblins try to fight back as best they can, but they are clearly overmatched. Malkyr and Merrick each stab the warrior, while Theron slashes at one of the sharpshooters. Aramil fries the spearwielder with his lightning attack, while Niall delivers a crushing uppercut blow to the groin of the second sharpshooter, who was huddled behind an overturned table. Finally, while Theron and the others are distracting the remaining sharpshooter, Niall brings his craghammer down on the back of the creature’s skull, ending its life.
The party searches the area, and finds that each goblin was carrying a small amount of gold and silver. They toss the bodies into the pit with the rats, and head east down an adjoining hallway.
The Excavation Site
As they approach, they can hear several goblin voices. None of the party members can speak goblin, and while the exact words are difficult to distinguish, it sounds like an argument. As the heroes enter the room, they notice that it looks like a disaster area. Here and there, remnants of the original floor stand like short towers protruding from a depression. Narrow wooden plans connect the patches of the original floor, and a few goblins toil in the room, attacking the floor and walls with shovels and picks as they argue amongst themselves. The arguing soon stops as they notice the heroes, and without any discussion, they decide to attack, picking up crossbows. One of the goblins is on the far platform, and he gives a whistle. On cue, two guard drakes, who were roaming the excavated floor with the other two goblins, start to make their way towards the group up a dirt ramp.
Merrick acts first, and quickly throws 2 daggers at one of the goblins, hitting with one. Malkyr gathers shadows around the form of the goblin, forming into a noose with which he pulls the goblin towards him. The goblin doesn’t appreciate Malkyr’s deadly attack, and shoots at him, but Malkyr ducks at the last second. Meanwhile, the other 2 goblins both shoot at (and hit) Niall, who grits his teeth. Although the bolts don’t pierce his armor, they still hurt and will probably leave nasty welts. The drakes now charge up the ramp, one attacking Theron with a bite, and the other trying to chomp on Niall, but just missing. Aramil conjures up a rain of molten metal that burns the first drake, and Niall puts everything he has behind a mighty blow with his craghammer, injuring the drake badly. Theron slashes at the wounded drake, which roars in pain.
Since the goblins seem to be focused on the others, Merrick decides to run across the wooden planks to the next platform, hoping to get a drop on the far goblin sharpshooter. Unfortunately, the planks are narrow and flexible, and Merrick loses his balance and tumbles to the ground floor of the excavation site — he swears as his tries to pick himself off the ground, since he’s now an easy target for the goblins. Malkyr, on the other hand, deftly runs across the plank with the skill of an elf to the next platform, and again conjures up a shadowy noose on the injured goblin. Before he can escape, the noose is around its neck, and while the goblin clutches its throat and tries to free himself of the deadly shadows, it cannot, and slumps to the floor, greeted by death’s embrace. The remaining two goblins both take aim at the party, one shooting at Niall, and the other at Malkyr (in retaliation). The wounded drake, in a rage, lashes out at Theron (he delivered the last hit), saliva flying from its slathering jaws as it closed on the Theron’s mailed arm. But that proved to be a critical mistake, because Niall was guarding Theron, and with a bash from his shield and a swing of his hammer, crushed the drake, which released its grip in its death throes.
The remaining drake snapped at Theron, but missed, but was able to avoid Niall’s follow-up swing. Safe from danger, Aramil tries to fry the goblins with an arcing bolt of lightning, but amazingly, the goblins dart out of the way, the lightning leaving scorch marks in the wall behind them. With the drake pinned down between two mighty warriors, the heroes make quick work of it. Niall’s hammer rains blows on the drake, and as it howls in pain, Theron sees an opening and swings his bastard sword at it in a devastating arc. The drake’s head, severed from its body, flips in the air once before landing next to Niall.
The remaining goblins appear to be worried, but they are trapped in the room and cannot escape. Merrick gets to his feet, and stabs at the goblin, hitting it in the shoulder, and then twists his rapier to inflict more pain before the goblin is able to slap it away. With the goblin off balance, Merrick kicks his leg out from under him, sending the goblin to his knees. Malkyr, seeing an opening, sends more deadly shadows towards the goblin. What the goblin sees in those shadows is not clear, but it must be horrific, because the goblin screams in terror before the shadows snuff the life out of him. The remaining goblin, uninjured, gets off a shot that grazes Malkyr. But as he reloads, the party unloads on him: a shocking bolt flies from Aramil’s fingers into the goblin, who grunts in pain. Niall drops his hammer, pulls out his crossbow, and shoots the goblin, while Theron hurls a javelin at him and Merrick throws a dagger. The goblin manages to avoid death from those blows, but he puts himself in a terrible position. As he looks back towards Malkyr, he sees the drow’s terrible smile as a bolt flies from the little hand crossbow and buries itself in the goblin’s throat.
Searching through the remains and the rubble, the group finds some gold and something decidedly more valuable: a small triangular slab that appears to be made of some deep green stone, mottled with flecks of black and covered in runed etchings. Malkyr picks it up, and notices that while the slab fits in one hand, seems far heavier than it should. Aramil explains that it has magic powers that make attacks more deadly, and Malkyr manages to attune himself to the item (Devastating Ki Focus +1).
After their search was finished, and finding a dead end, the group returned to the guard room, and decided to head west, through the double doors, which they found unlocked.
Crypt of Shadows
Upon opening the doors, the heroes found no lighting in this area, so Aramil activated a sun rod, revealing a set of discolored stairs leading down into cold darkness. As they descended the stairs, an overpowering odor of damp rot filled the air. Although the party was trying to be stealthy, Niall could not conceal the noise made by his heavy armor. Turning a corner to the south, the group noticed three zombies shambling around in a small room, two of which looked like they were freshly killed, while the other looked to be barely hanging together. The zombies, smelling and hearing the group, looked northwards, and began shambling towards them. Niall shot the rotter in the head with his crossbow, and it went down in a heap. Before the zombies could reach the party, Aramil brought down a rain of molten metal on them, burning their rotting flesh. As Theron, Merrick and Niall advanced into the room, they discovered other rotters lying in wait! Theron quickly decapitated one with a swing of his sword, while Merrick, thoroughly disgusted with the zombies, thrust a rapier through the rotter’s eye and into its brain. Four zombies remained, two rotters, and the two “fresh” zombies. The rotters both attacked Niall, but he got his shield up to ward off their attacks, and kept them at bay with his hammer. The other zombies, however, grabbed Niall and Merrick, as they tried to eat their flesh. Niall, covered from head to toe in armor, was a lot less concerned.
Niall was ultimately able to break free from the zombie and hit him with his hammer, and Malkyr shot it in the brain with his hand crossbow, killing it. Aramil conjured forth beguiling strands that killed one of the rotters, and injured the other zombie. Theron and Merrick both took struck at the zombie that attacked Merrick, and when it attacked Merrick again, Niall crushed its skull. Ultimately, the group dispatched the zombie menace.
As they explored further to the west, they discovered a number of strange runes on the floor, which they avoided. The heroes found another clutch of the walking dead, and Niall jumped over the rune and attacked a fresh-looking zombie. Malkyr and Aramil attacked the zombies with crossbow and magic, while Theron followed Niall, jumping over the rune, and attacking with his sword. Merrick attempted the same, but stumbled and landed right on the rune. When he did, a throat-tearing scream exploded from the floor, and it really bothered everyone except Merrick, and they all fled to the south, leaving Merrick alone with all the zombies. They swarmed him, and he took many wounds, and looked to be in a real spot. Some of the zombies were killed by the remnants of Aramil’s spell, but several remained. Merrick screamed out to the heroes, who recovered from the effects of the magical rune. Niall charged into battle, killing one of the rotters, and then whirling around and smashing the brains of the fresh zombie. With only two zombies remaining, Aramil took deadly aim with his signature spell — lightning arced from the rotter to the zombie, and both of their brains were fried, saving Merrick. Theron tended to his wounds, and the party took a short rest to take stock of their situation.
Total money spent: 70 gp (40 on Tug, 30 on bastard sword).
Total loot claimed:
Money/Valuables: 65 gold, 51 silver
Weapons/Apparel: 80 crossbow bolts, 5 javelins
Miscellaneous: Devastating Ki Focus+1
XP Earned: Total = 2130 (426 xp each)
625 (Guard Room – 2 Goblin Sharpshooters, 2 Goblin Warriors, 1 Rat Swarm)
625 (Excavation Site – 3 Goblin Sharpshooters, 2 Guard Drakes)
880 (Crypt of Shadows – 10 zombie rotters, 4 zombies)
Next game date tentatively scheduled for May 12, 2012.