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Friday, 6th June, 2008, 04:15 PM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Lazybones's Keep on the Shadowfell/Thunderspire Labyrinth
Greetings to my regular readers and other ENWorlders. I am continuing my newest story that started with a run through Keep on the Shadowfell, bringing in some new characters for Thunderspire Labyrinth. As I did with my original Travels through the Wild West story hour, I decided to write a story using the new 4e modules as a way to help familiarize myself with a new rules system and setting.
The thread begins with Keep on the Shadowfell; go forward to page 8 to go straight to Thunderspire.
Thanks for your support!
Prologue, Part 1
The road was quiet, approaching desolate, a few hours out of Winterhaven. A brisk wind, cool if not quite cold, blew down out of the north. There was little to see save for the trees that flanked the road to either side. The road itself was frequently lost in the twists and turns that were necessitated by the natural contours of the terrain, but it wound steadily upward into the hills. The forest had started to reclaim the road, but the weeds and scattered brush that marked the packed earth had not yet thickened to the point where they became a real obstacle.
Five travelers were making good headway on the road, moving with purpose. They were armed, all of them, and scanned the surrounding woods with wary eyes as they followed the path deeper into the hills. The two in the lead were warriors, but a more mismatched pair would have been hard to find. The one on the right was a dragonborn knight, armed with the customary straight sword and shield, and clad in heavy plate that had obviously been constructed specifically to fit the irregular outline of his frame. His companion was a dwarf, clad in the heavy shirt of glittering metal scales favored by his race, and armed with a maul that was almost as tall as he was. The two kept pace with each other, but did not engage in casual chatter.
About ten paces back with them, another two men were engaged in quiet but earnest conversation. One was clad in armor like the first two, but wore no helmet; his facial features identified him as a half-elf as clearly as the sunburst sigil at his throat marked him a priest of Pelor. The man he spoke with was likewise almost certainly a magic-user, his exceptionally-cut and obviously expensive garments decorated with the small pouches, belt loops, and potion crèches that were the common adjuncts for wizards. He too wore a medallion, a silver disk marked with runes, but his seemed more for decoration than for utility. A long quarterstaff marked his pace, one iron-shot end stabbing into the ancient ruts of the road with each of his long strides.
The last member of the group walked off to the side, a small envelope of empty space separating him from the others. He was a halfling, clad in plain but functional leathers, a brace of knives tucked into his belt, with another slung in a holster riding low on his left thigh, within easy reach. Because of his size he had to walk two steps to each long stride by his taller companions, but he seemed to have little difficulty keeping up with the brisk pace. He seemed troubled, though, distracted, and spent much of his time scanning the surrounding forest, his dark eyes shaded under the lip of a faded leather cap that had clearly seen many days.
“Ho, Jayse, what troubles you?” the cleric finally said.
The halfling slowed his steps until he was walking abreast the priest and wizard. “I don’t know, Kevan,” he said to the cleric. “Something about these woods is... not right.”
The wizard snorted. “There are threats real enough standing against us, Master Feldergrass. There is no need to manufacture spooks and wraiths to frighten us.”
The halfling glanced up at him; he had to crane his neck to meet the tall man’s eyes. “You hired me for my knowledge of these lands, m’lord Zelos. I know these woods, and I’m telling you, there’s something at odds here, something new.”
Kevan nodded. “What would you suggest, Jayse?”
The halfling drew off his cap and ran his fingers through his brown hair, which was starting to run to unkempt. “I don’t know. Maybe it would be a good idea to fall back to Winterhaven, recoup our strength. After the kobolds...”
“Those little yappers were but a nuisance,” Zelos interrupted. “Hardly worth the title of ‘brigands’ given them by the village folk. They might have been threatening enough to a farmer worried about his herd, but not for seasoned travelers like ourselves. That ‘ambush’ was a trivial distraction. Marak barely needed to earn his pay, what with our spell-power and the fast sword of Sir K’thar. And your daggers were used to excellent effect, as I recall, Master Feldergrass. I trust your wound is not still bothering you?”
The halfling rubbed his shoulder, and shook his head. “No, and I thank you again, Kevan, for your healing magic. But... well, I knew this wizard once before, and we had a priest in our village, and doesn’t your magic... well, run out?”
The mage laughed. “Fear not, Master Feldergrass. While it is true that certain powers may only be utilized once per day, Kevan and I have plenty of magic still in reserve. Anything we meet today will find that we are far from helpless, I assure you.”
The cleric placed a hand on the wizard’s arm. “But Ahlen... maybe our companion has a point. Those kobolds might have just been a test, to gauge our capabilites. There may be a greater danger ahead of us.”
“Indeed, my friend, I have no doubt that there is. Or have you forgotten why we have come here?”
Kevan colored slightly. “I have not forgotten, nor has my commitment wavered.”
“Good. No, I am sorry to have questioned your motives. We are all dedicated to stamping out the foulness that has taken root here. But that is all the more reason to press on. If the kobolds were in fact allies of this death cult, we need to find them before a warning may be spread of our coming.”
“That is... logical,” Kevan acknowledged.
The wizard looked back down at the halfling. “And we will rely on your knowledge and skills, Master Feldergrass, to keep us alerted to any threats that may lurk in these woods.”
The halfling nodded, although he still looked dubious. He opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off at a call from up ahead. The dwarf and dragonborn had reached a bend in the trail, and paused to wait for them.
“What is it?” Zelos asked, as they joined them. K’thar merely pointed.
The trail continued its winding course up ahead, but they could see what had alerted the warriors. Between a break in the hills, maybe a few miles distant, they could see the familiar outline of walls atop a flattened hilltop. Even at this range they could clearly note the poor condition of the site, but the ruins could only be their destination.
The Keep on the Shadowfell.
“We’ve made good time,” Zelos said. “We have plenty of daylight left; let’s move out.”
The warriors nodded and started forward along the trail. Jayse Feldergrass started after them, but slowly. He frowned, looking around at the surrounding woods. To the left, the ground sloped upward off the road; the remains of a fallen tree, moist with rot, marked the boundary between path and forest. Up ahead the road continued more or less straight for a good fifty paces before turning again to the left. Nothing out of the ordinary.
No. It was quiet. Too quiet; even the birds had stopped their chatter. The halfling felt the hairs on his arms rise; all of his experience and woodslore whispered something is wrong here. He wasn’t Jaron’s equal in woodcrafting, but he’d spent enough time in the forest to know its moods, the subtle rhythms that filled the woods like the beating of a heart. And here, it felt as though that heart had skipped beating, and was quiescent, silent, waiting.
He turned back to the wizard even as he heard a new noise, a faint whisper like a sudden breeze. But the warning he’d been about to issue caught in his throat as he saw the wooden shaft jutting from Lord Zelos’s shoulder, the bright red fletchings shaking from the force of the impact.
For just a moment, a fraction of a second, he froze. Then another whispered hiss ended with a second bolt striking the wizard in the throat. The missile went through the man’s neck, and for a moment Jayse though that the shot had missed, until a fountain of blood, startlingly red, erupted from the vicious wound. He’d only hesitated for a split-second, but it felt as though he’d been standing there for an hour.
“AMBUSH!” he yelled, but as more bolts slammed down into them from above, he knew it was already too late.
Last edited by Lazybones; Thursday, 3rd September, 2009 at 01:05 AM.
Friday, 6th June, 2008, 05:05 PM #2
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
- Raleigh, NC USA
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ø Block Jon Potter
Up to your old tricks?
Killing off the wizard first in 4E too, I see.
I've been following your story hours for quite some time, and it's fair to say that I'm looking forward to your take on KotS more than I am the actual module* itself.
Is that wrong?
*And I think I just indicated my age by calling it a module, didn't I?
Friday, 6th June, 2008, 11:16 PM #3
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Way to go, Cliffhanger King, you've done it again!
Love the characters: their personalities (what we've seen so far), dialogue and even their names.
What's with killing wizards in 4e? They're no longer the same nuisance for you the story-writter that they were in 3e
Unless you're used to the tactic through repetition in Doomed Bastards
Sunday, 8th June, 2008, 05:05 PM #4
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Prologue, Part 2
Kevan grabbed Zelos before he could fall, dragging the crippled mage into the shelter of the rotted log on the side of the road. As both men all but fell into the shallow cover, Jayse could see that there was a bolt jutting from the cleric’s leg, a few inches above his left knee.
Another bolt thudded into the dirt between the halfling’s legs; that was enough to propel him into action. He leaped forward and dove forward, into the cover of the rotten log. A bolt narrowly missed him, its steel head slicing through his trousers and leaving a slight stinging sensation in its passage. Jayse risked a quick look out from behind the log, darting back into cover before his movements could draw another shot.
The sniping seemed to be coming from further up the hillside, where the archers were apparently quite well hidden, as he saw nothing other than bushes and trees.
He glanced up the road toward the warriors, and saw that the dwarf and dragonborn knight had their own problems. A small group of enemies had emerged from around the bend up ahead, and were coming steadily closer. The group included three humans and four goblins, all heavily armed and armored. The men were big, taller even than Zelos, but it was the smallest of the three that drew Jayse’s eyes. That one’s eyes were shaded within a helmet decorated to look like an animal’s skull, but somehow the halfling could feel the man’s stare brushing against his, and it sent a cold dagger of fear into his innards. K’thar had rushed to engage that one, but the other two men—each almost as large as the knight, and armed with huge axes—moved to block him. Marak had engaged the goblins, who were darting in and around him, trying to get in a hit through the protective scales of his armor.
A soft chanting from Kevan drew his attention back to their more immediate situation. The cleric had wrapped his hands around the unconscious wizard’s neck, and a blue glow was shining between his bloody fingers. Jayse remembered how the priest had healed the wound he’d taken in the fight with the kobolds, but he hadn’t been as critically hurt as the wizard had been. Ahlen Zelos’s eyes popped open, and he drew in a startled breath as the healing magic repaired the grievous injury to his throat. Another bolt thudded into the log, its head bursting through the rotten wood a foot from the cleric’s head, but the half-elf did not flinch.
“There’s a group of goblins and men, down the road,” Jayse told him. “Marak and K’thar are facing them, but there’s seven of them.”
The cleric nodded calmly. “I will be just a moment.” He closed his eyes for a second and touched his sigil, as if drawing upon some reserve of power. Jayse felt a sudden sense of well-being touch him through the fear that had come with the start of the ambush. Zelos, fully conscious now, started to get up, but Kevan held him by the shoulders, keeping him under the cover of the log.
“I guess I’d better see if I can distract those archers,” Jayse said, drawing one of his daggers. His leg barely hurt any more, but he wasn’t looking forward to stepping out from the shelter of the log. He rose to a crouch, preparing to dart out of cover, already thinking of the best way to get up the hill without getting shot full of bolts.
As he did, he caught sight of what was coming up the road behind them. He hissed a warning.
Kevan heard and turned his head. Five more goblin warriors were closing in, almost casual in their advance. Their leader was a fat brute, his gut bulging out from under his armor, but he looked no less dangerous for it as he lifted a big club and pointed it at the three of them in their tenuous cover.
“I will teach them the folly of their actions,” Zelos said, his voice still rasping painfully in his throat. He lifted a hand and summoned his magic. A burst of fire erupted from his fingertips, which he launched at the onrushing goblins. The scorching burst would have hurt several had it connected, but the two goblins in the front rank dodged nimbly aside, and the flames shot harmlessly between them. They lifted their javelins, chattering excitedly in their raucus language, but it was clear that facing a mage gave them pause.
Jayse lifted a dagger to throw, but Kevan stopped him, putting a hand on his. “You have to get back to Winterhaven, warn them about what’s here,” the cleric said. Kevan had pulled out the other bolt from the wizard's shoulder during the healing, and still held it, the red fletchings catching Jayse’s eye. The snipers up the hill to their left had stopped shooting, perhaps wary of risking hitting their allies, but Jayse could hear the sounds of battle from up the road, indicating that Marak and K’thar had joined battle. He didn’t have to look to know that the odds there were as bad as they were up here.
Kevan still held him with his eyes; the cleric even managed to smile slightly. “Go.” He said. “We all have our duty.” He dropped the bloody bolt and hefted his mace as the goblins hurled their missiles and charged toward their position. He deflected a javelin with his shield, and several others shot past them, quivering as they stuck in the rotten log or flew overhead to shatter on the rocks of the hillside beyond. The goblin leader lifted a crossbow and shot Zelos in the side, the impact of the bolt knocking the mage hard back against the log. The goblin warriors lifted their spears and charged in the wake of their attack, and Kevan rose to meet them, springing to his feet with a roar that invoked his patron god. He flinched as a bolt streaked down and caught him in the back, piercing him through his armor, but he still met the first goblin with an invocation of power, knocking the foe back a step, clutching his eyes against the power of the half-elf’s healing strike. Kevan channeled the backlash of that release of power into Zelos, easing the hurt of his latest wound, but it was clear that the mage’s grasp on consciousness was tenuous at best.
Jayse did not hesitate any more, although his heart pounded as he leapt up and ran across the road. One of the goblin warriors tried to cut him off, but as the creature lunged he abruptly spun and shot out his leg. The goblin, unable to change its momentum, stumbled and flew headlong into the tangled brush at the side of the road, cursing in its guttural language as it fought to extricate itself. Another bolt whizzed past, but Jayse was already running again, darting into the cover of the trees. He heard a sound of exploding flames behind him, accompanied by goblin screams, but his full attention was on dodging the low-hanging branches and gnarled roots that filled the forest around him.
He only paused once, at the top of a low rise that gave him a chance to look back at the road. Leaning against a tree, his view partially obscured by the trunks between him and the road, what he saw caused his gut to clench. K’thar was lying in a pool of slowly spreading blood in the middle of the road. Both of the human berserkers were crouched nearby, obviously wounded but in far better shape than the fallen paladin. Marak lay against the bole of a tree at the side of the road, wounded but conscious, disarmed and guarded by a pair of goblin warriors. A goblin lay on his back near the rotting log, but Jayse saw Kevan, on his knees, securely held in the grasp of several other goblins. Blood covered the half-elf’s face from a wound to his scalp, but he was able to look up as the enemy priest, the one who’d caused Jayse such a thrill of fear when they’d locked eyes, approached. He didn’t see any sign of Zelos.
Jayse knew that his position was precarious, but he felt bound to the tree, as though it was the only thing keeping him from falling over. He could only watch helplessly as the two men exchanged words. He was too far away to hear what was being said, but he clearly saw the evil cleric make a slight motion with his hand, and just as clearly saw the fat goblin smash his club into the back of Kevan’s neck. The cleric’s body went limp, and the goblin kicked the priest in the back, knocking him forward to lay sprawled out upon the road.
The halfling heard the warning hiss too late as a crossbow bolt slammed into the tree trunk, its steel head pinching the flesh of his elbow against the wood. It penetrated through the arm of his coat, pinning him to the tree. Jayse barely felt the pain as he struggled to free himself. His efforts gained urgency as he caught sight of several small, dark forms moving through the undergrowth toward his position, closing in from the left and the right. Finally he gave up and slid out of the coat, tearing his skin more as he pulled free, and ran. He clutched his wounded arm to his side, feeling sticky blood running down to his wrist, over his fingers, finally dropping onto the forest floor to mark his path.
Naught to be done for it now; he grimaced and kept on running. He wove between the trunks, taking a roundabout route that would eventually lead him back to the road. Goblins were tough little bastards, and could keep after him for quite some time, but he knew these woods, and he and his brother had hunted in them almost since they’d been old enough to hold a bow.
He glanced back now and again, but did not see further signs of pursuit. He did not stop again, but pulled out his kerchief as he ran, tucking it up his sleeve to slow the bleeding of his injured arm. No sense in making it too easy for them.
He reached the top of a steep incline that was negotiable by a wide culvert filled with weathered stones, the course of one of the many seasonal and temporary streams fed by the spring rains. It offered the best route down, and he made it quickly, jumping from rock to rock with ease despite his throbbing arm. He was getting his second wind, but it was a long way to go to Winterhaven, especially with goblins on his trail.
At the bottom of the culvert, he came up short as a figure appeared suddenly in front of him. His eyes widened at the sight of her. “What are you doing here?” he blurted out.
“I thought you and your friends might have a bit of trouble,” she said. Her eyes lifted above him, back up toward the top of the culvert, sharpening. “Look out!” she warned, lifting her bow and drawing the readied arrow back to her cheek in a smooth, practiced motion.
Jayse spun, looking for goblins. He saw nothing, and realized his mistake too late as a terrible pain blossomed in his back. He staggered forward, a dagger fumbling from his fingers, and fell to his knees. His last thought was that he’d never get to pay his brother back for the pony he’d borrowed from him, and then he was falling forward, and then... nothing.
Monday, 9th June, 2008, 03:56 AM #5
Lama (Lvl 13)
Great to see you starting another story hour already, Lazybones!
From the looks of it though, I am inferring that few, if any, of our " heroes " were meant to survive the prologue, hehehe...
Monday, 9th June, 2008, 03:29 PM #6
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Originally Posted by Cerulean_Wings
Still, having played through KotS, I'm looking forward to seeing this one through. Especially some of the nastier combats...
Tuesday, 10th June, 2008, 01:25 AM #7
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by Kaodi
My books haven't yet shipped (from reading the main forum it looks like I'm not alone, and quite a few folks are peeved at Amazon), so it may be a little while before I get back to this one. Besides, I still need to finish Rappan Athuk.
Wednesday, 11th June, 2008, 01:39 PM #8
Novice (Lvl 1)
Hiya Lazybones- just checking in and saying hi, I just started a KotS SH myself. I like your writing style, you have a flair for scenic description.
Wednesday, 11th June, 2008, 03:06 PM #9
Superhero (Lvl 15)
Originally Posted by Lazybones
Aye, i'm peeved at Amazon, and now i'm getting peeved at Overstock.com, whose shipping date has already passed. I too am running KotS in the near future so i'll check in here to see what changes you make, and which ones i can steal!
I'll probably post my own one of these days, but it won't be the cinematic style of yours; it will be a shorter play-by-play with a nod to game mechanics, with a healthy dose of art and photos.
Wednesday, 11th June, 2008, 03:12 PM #10
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Originally Posted by Dr Midnight
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