Raiders of Oakhurst - A memoir of Erais Gunterson

Colmarr

First Post
Welcome to my first Story Hour. Hope you enjoy it.

This story hour details our 4e adventures using the D&DXP pregenerated characters (obviously I was running "Erais the Sunlord") to run through Olgar Shiverstone's fan adventure "Raiders of Oakhurst".

As such it will contain spoilers for that adventure.

STORY FINISHED: 8 August 2008
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Colmarr

First Post
A chill wind was blowing in from the east as Oakhurst first came into view. At the time it was a welcome reprieve from miles and miles of deserted, wind-swept countryside. Looking back on that moment, with the benefit of hindsight, I feel as though something more spectacular should have happened as the little town appeared at the bottom of the hill below us.

We had been travelling north along the Great North Road for days and Kronos Keep, with its comfortable beds and readily accessible taverns, seemed almost a distant memory. Little did I expect that when I answered Amaunator’s call my first experience of adventure would be chapped lips and chafing blisters in newly-heeled boots.

However, He is wise, and I soon had ample demonstration of that. Nearing the outskirts of the little town, we could make out a clamouring mass of people in the town square surrounding a sacred statue of the Sun Lord. My hackles rose to see an aged man climbing onto the statue and I began to stride forward in rebuke, only to falter when I realised he was attempting to clean a red substance from Amaunator’s person.

A similarly aged woman, stooped and shrill of voice, stood at the base of the statue, decrying his efforts and condemning him for his devotion when “more pressing” tasks remained to be done. She gesticulated wildly around the square, pointing out broken windows and scattered debris. The old man, whom she referred to as Olvar, ignored her imprecations and continued his work. An amused crowd watched on.

I strode to his defence.

“Why do you harass this man for serving his Lord?”

Seeing my brandished holy symbol, the woman turned and, muttering to herself, scuttled away to the north. Olvar looked down at me and beamed the smile of the besieged. He clambered down from the statue and greeted me warmly, my companions taking in the damage to the small town.

Before we could ask what had happened, a member of the crowd stepped forward and introduced himself as Teren Oakhurst, mayor of the village and proprietor of Teren’s Provisions. He welcomed us to Oakhurst, and apologised for its current state. Even as he spoke, I could see his merchant’s eye assessing us, and it was not long before he asked whether we might be able to assist Oakhurst with it’s current troubles.

“Of late we have been beset by attacks. The red-eyed devils come in the night and raid the village, breaking windows and taking our livestock, while all we can do is hide behind barred doors. They show little interest in attacking the townfold directly and at first we had hoped that they would grow bored and leave us alone. However, they attacked again last night and this time they painted the town and the statue with chicken’s blood”.

I glanced in outrage at Olvar, who nodded sadly,

“And to make matters worse, we have not heard from some of the outlying farmers for many days now. I fear they have been the victim of attacks, but we cannot risk sending townsfolk out to check on them”.

Teren, perhaps sensing that he had piqued our interest, asked us for assistance. As if on cue, two men rode into the square and announced that they were heading north to check the farms. Teren shook his head sadly.

“Young men,” I called to them, “stay a while and discuss the situation with us. Perhaps we can be of assistance.” But they either did not hear or chose to ignore me. They rode north out of town without a backward glance. I cast a blessing at their backs, wishing them the Sun Lord’s protection and guidance, before Teren tempted us into the village’s inn with an offer of breakfast.

The Sleeping Dragon consisted of a large common room, filled with tables, connected to a cluttered kitchen. A flight of stairs led to an upper floor. At that time of the morning, the inn was largely deserted. A well-dressed man lounged against the bar, entertaining two striking serving-women. An eladrin male occupied a table against the far wall, keeping to himself. And behind the bar was Mathwyn Freiland, proprietress of the Sleeping Dragon.

Mathwyn was a sturdy but not altogether unattractive women, and she called us to the bar with great delight. We accepted her offer of food, and she flapped frantically at one of the serving-women, “Lassie, fetch our guests some breakfast”. Lassie pouted at the young man with whom she was so obviously absorbed, but soon disappeared into the kitchen. While she was gone, the other tavernmaid introduced herself as Laurel. Mathwyn introduced the young man as Korvald, and nodded towards the eladrin in the corner, “That’s Picard, a local hunter”.

Tira’s head turned slowly to study the brooding eladrin, but he made no sign of acknowledging her, or our, presence. With a shrug, my half-elven companion turned back to the group at the bar.

“Are you here to help us with our trouble?” Laurel asked.

We nodded, and asked her to outline what had happened. Teren hovered nearby, seemingly anxious that the focus had moved from him.

“Oh, those devils have been causing us such trouble!” Laurel sighed, and Skamos’ eyes flashed with interest. My tiefling companion had long had a fascination with devils and demons, no doubt flowing from the curse that taints his blood. He moved closer to Laurel.

“What do these devils look like?” he asked.

“Oh my, I haven’t seen them!” she gushed. “But I’ve spoken to people who have. They have tails, and nippy teeth! Picard knows about them. He’s seen them before out west. And Korvald,” she paused to rub a hand gently across the young man’s chest, ”says he’s seen them before too.”

Tira turned and took two steps across the room towards Picard. “Please, won’t you join us?” she asked, her voice dulcet. Picard glanced up briefly and shook his head, then returned to his meal. Tira studied him a moment longer, then spun to rejoin us with a flick of her auburn hair. As the hunter showed no interest in helping us, we gathered around Korvald instead. He patted Laurel on the backside and she jumped away with a giggle then disappeared into the kitchen.

We moved with Korvald to a table, and he produced a pack of well-worn playing cards. “So, you want to know about the little creatures?” he asked as he shuffled. I nodded and he began to deal. I recognised the deck as Three Dragon Ante, a game I had seen in taverns and on the docks, but one that I had never personally played. Korvald threw two silver pieces into the centre of the table and paused, looking at each of us while his hands seemed to shuffle the cards of their own accord.
 
Last edited:

Colmarr

First Post
“I’m not sure you wan’t to gamble with Corrin”, I suggested.

Korvald smiled. “Oh? Why is that?”

“He’s a servant of Tymora, goddess of Luck”.

Corrin laughed and waved a hand at me dismissively.

“Oh, ignore him”, the Halfling laughed. “My Lady is the goddess of bad luck as much as good.” Corrin reached into his pouch and tossed his two silver pieces onto the table. Tira’s coin followed next and then Skamos’. I frowned, weighing with my hand the meagre collection of wealth in my pouches. Still, there was nothing for it. I threw my coins onto the table.

Korvald’s hands flashed as he dealed out the cards. “They’re nasty little beggars, these creatures. All gnashing teeth and grasping little claws”. He played his cards almost absent-mindedly, obviously pleased to have an attentive audience. “They’ve attacked the town a few times now since I arrived 5 days ago. The previous raids were minor, a few sheep or goats. A bit of wanton property damage.”

He paused in surprise as Skamos laid the winning card in front of him. The tiefling waved a crimson-tinged hand in the air and his winnings began to slide across the table one coin at a time, dropping into his waiting purse with a muffled ‘tink’. Korvald shrugged, and laid out two more silver pieces, scooping to gather up the remaining cards.

After everyone had contributed their stake, he dealt out a new round. “From what I can tell the main problem is the outlying farms. There are more than a few of them around, both north and south of Oakhurst, and the village doesn’t have the militia or even the population to patrol and protect them. No one knows what’s happened to the farmers, and the lack of news seems to be getting to people.”

It was Tira’s turn to smile as she laid a Gold Dragon face up on the table. “My my”, Korvald said as the warlock leaned forward to scoop up the small pile of coins. As she did so, I couldn’t help but detect the faint smell of earthy pine that seemed to follow her everywhere. She laughed at Korvald’s abashed expression, then shrugged.

Again the cards were dealt, but this time Korvald tossed five silver pieces into the centre of the table. “Shall we raise the stakes?” he asked with a grin. One by one, my companions matched his wager, until only I remained. I was painfully aware of the lightness of my purse, and that I had already wasted four silver pieces on a game I knew nothing about. I shook my head resolutely. “It’s too early in the day for gambling”.

Korvald shrugged and dealt the next hand. “I’m not sure why the little beasts would want to desecrate the statue”. I could not help but notice that he had not used my Lord’s name. “There’s nothing to gain for them, and a whole lot of risk involved in coming into the centre of town. A bad bet all around, if you ask me.” He paused for a moment, studying his cards, and then laid a winning combination out in the centre of the table. He glanced around at us, then scooped the impressive pile of silver into his purse.

“There’s not much more I can tell you I’m afraid, but I’d be more than happy to play a few more rounds with you if you’d like.” I was about to shake my head no when Corrin spoke up. “One more. I sense that Tymora’s eye is upon us”. The halfling tossed seven silver coins onto the table, and I gasped in surprise. Skamos frowned, and fingered his coin purse thoughtfully. Tira’s coins clattered onto the table, and Skamos frowned again. “I’m out”, he muttered.

Korvald smiled. “Fair enough. Let’s play” he said, and dealt another round of cards. The conversation died away as each of the three gamblers focused on their hands, no doubt determined to pocket the small fortune that rested in the middle of the table. I took the chance to look around. Picard still sat brooding at his table in the corner, although I sensed that he was paying more attention to the happenings at our table than he let on. Teren and Mathwyn talked in quiet whispers at the bar, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Every now and again, Teren would glance our way before turning to the proprietress and whispering fervently.
 
Last edited:

Colmarr

First Post
The game of Three Dragon Ante seemed to go on forever, with first one player and then the next in ascension. I lost track of the scoring at some point, and from then on the game seemed to me a blur of flashing cards and strange words. Eventually Tira threw in her hand and growled in disgust. She slumped back in her chair. “I’m out”, she said.

Corrin and Korvald stared at each other across the table, and the sudden silence at the table drew eyes like moths to a flame. The diminutive paladin slowly laid his hand on the table face down. “Shall we leave it to the Lady to decide?” he asked. Korvald glanced down at his hand and, surprisingly, appeared to think it over. Then he too threw his cards onto the table face-down.

“What do you have in mind?”

Corrin pointed at the deck of cards. “One draw each. Highest card wins.”

Korvald smiled, and gestured in invitation for Corrin to draw first. The halfling calmly reached across the table, never taking his eyes from his human opponent. He flipped the top card over, and a silver dragon stared back at us. Corrin leaned back and crossed his arms.

Korvald stared at the dragon for a moment, a frown creasing his face. Then he folded his arms and looked around the table at each of us in turn. Finally, he shrugged. “Tymora be a Lady, eh?” He reached for the deck. Only to have Skamos block his hand before it could reach the cards.

The wizard motioned for Korvald to pause a moment, and waved his hand over the deck. The top card immediately began to glow with a dazzling intensity. I shielded my eyes, and looked instead at Korvald, who seemed stunned by the sudden turn of events. He glanced at Skamos, who merely shrugged and held out a red-tinged hand, inviting Korvald to draw his card.

The noble tentatively reached out and picked up the glowing card. Then he flipped it over with a practised flick of the wrist. It tumbled once and then settled face-up, showing the five-headed visage of Tiamat, evil queen of dragons. Korvald crowed with joy, and lunged forward to scoop up his winnings.
 
Last edited:

Colmarr

First Post
Corrin glanced at me and smiled. “Like I said. Goddess of luck; good and bad”.

Laurel reappeared from the kitchen carrying four plates heaped with steaming food – eggs and ham and bread and cheese. My mouth began watering as soon as I saw the contents of my plate. It was only when the first hunk of bread was halfway to my plate when Teren spoke up from his place at the bar.

“We would like to offer you employment”.

Tira looked up from morosely studying her suddenly lightened purse. When she spoke, her voice held none its usual melody and charm. “On what terms?”

Teren whispered with Mathwyn again for a moment, and the sturdy innkeeper nodded. I was quickly beginning to suspect that the true political power in Oakhurst rested at the bottom of a tankard of ale. Teren walked over and stood at the head of the table.

“The people of Oakhurst would like to hire you to scout the surrounding regions, locate and deal with these devils before they can do any more damage to our homes. We can afford to reimburse you 40 silver pieces each, plus a weeks’ stay in the Sleeping Dragon’s best rooms.”

And in that moment I knew that Amanautor’s had not called me from the safety of Kronos Keep for naught. Less than a week after leaving my cloistered life at the temple behind, I was already serving his will. The people of Oakhurst needed heroes, and He had led our motley band to the village at just the right time. I could not help but smile, and in that instant my faith and love for the Lord of Light grew more than it had in all of my years at His Haven in Kronos Keep.

While I was absorbed in self-reflection, Tira turned to Korvald and invited him to join us in our endeavours.

“Me? Oh, I don’t plan to go scouting around in the mud!” he chuckled, scooping up the discarded Three Dragon Ante deck and replacing it in its leather slipcase.

“You’re not afraid, are you?” The musical lilt was back in Tira’s voice in an instant. I could have sworn she batted her eyelashes at him.

“Only for these new boots,” Korvald retorted, and rose from the table.

Teren took the opportunity to jump back into the conversation. “So you will help us?” I glanced around at my companions, who met my eye willingly. I turned to the mayor of Oakhurst and nodded.

In the corner, Picard tutted.

“Excellent!” Teren exclaimed. “I shall go and tell Olvar immediately”. He hurried from the inn and the door swung shut behind him. Korvald watched him go and then bid us farewell, ascending the stairs to the sleeping quarters above.

Tira rose from her seat at our table and moved towards Picard. She pulled out a chair and sat down opposite him, heedless of the fact that he had not invited her to do so. “And what do you know of these creatures?” she asked him.

He glanced up from his meal, and then placed his cutlery among his half-finished repast with a sigh. He studied the four of us briefly. “There will be a lot of them. They are pack hunters. When you track them down, be prepared to be outnumbered”.

I paused with a chunk of fried ham halfway to my lips. It hadn’t occurred to me that we might need to track these creatures. It seemed so obvious now, and I doubted that any of my companions had the ability to do so.

Tira seemed to have an affinity for the wilderness, so much so that she somehow seemed larger when under the open sky and outside comfort of civilisation. But she had never demonstrated an ability to implement that affinity in any practical way. Despite her half-elven blood, she seemed to have grown up entirely within human society.

Corrin was more at home when things got rough, no doubt a result of his nomadic heritage, but we had first met him in a crowded bar and at no stage since had he displayed any great affinity for the natural world. He was perhaps the most coarse Godservant I had ever met.

And Skamos. Skamos possessed a wealth of information about history, magic and the natural world. He had on the journey north sometimes taken grim, almost malicious, satisfaction in proving that fact; pointedly informing us that the green pines along the road were of the pinacae family and pinus genus. Whatever that means. He had also been responsible for picking our campsites, pointing out the good locations that were sheltered from the wind and rain. But, and I write this with the greatest respect for my friend, he was not the most observant of people. I didn’t think we could rely on the tiefling to track these creatures for us.

“Tracking is not our forte,” I confessed. “Any assistance you might be able to provide would be appreciated.”

Picard snorted. “You can’t track?!” Then his demeanour seemed to soften and he rose from his chair. “Very well, come with me and I will show you what I have found.” I glanced down at my half-eaten breakfast, feeling my stomach rumble with protest at the thought of leaving it behind. But then I pushed those thoughts aside. Amanautor had brought me here for a reason. I could not serve his will sitting in an inn feeding my face. Skamos likewise pushed his plate away. He fidgeted with his bracers for a moment and then rose from the table.

As Tira, Skamos and I followed Picard from the inn, Corrin was still seated at the table trying to cram as much food into his mouth as he could. When we reached the door, the others passed through and I held it open, waiting for the halfling to join us. Corrin stared at me with desperation, his hands cupping his plate as a drowning man might cling to driftwood. Then he abruptly stood up and walked away from the table. I smiled at him, and then with a start realised that he still had his plate in his hand. He scooped up a hunk of cheese with a flourish and waved it at me as he passed, taking his food and the plate with him. I glanced worriedly at Mathwyn but the innkeeper only chuckled, setting her ample bosom in motion. Grinning sheepishly, I ran a hand through my tussled hair and let the door swing closed behind us.

Picard took us on a short rotation of the village, pointing out the tracks of the raiders where they had crossed the river to the east. According to the eladrin, a large group of the creatures had then gone north, towards the halfling village of Waymoot. Another group had continued into Oakhurst, where they had wreaked the havoc that we had already seen. Then that group had itself split, with some of the creatures heading south towards the outlying farmsteads. The rest returned to the east.

“Why would they have gone east?” I wondered aloud.

Picard shrugged. “Who knows? There are a few things out that way. They were probably headed for the old tomb or Cragg’s Keep.”

“The old tomb?” Tira asked.

The hunter nodded. “It’s an ancient tomb in the foothills to the east. The locals say that it’s full of treasure. And of course haunted. They say that many have gone to investigate it but none have come back”. His tone made it clear that he put little stock in the rumours.

“And Cragg’s Keep?” I asked.

“It was a small fort in the mountains twenty or thirty years ago, but it’s nothing but ruins now. And like any ruined structure left alone in the wild for long enough, it seems to have attracted new inhabitants. People claim to have seen creatures roaming the ruins at night, although what people were doing at Cragg’s Keep at night I don’t know”.

He turned to the south. “There are a few big farmsteads to the south. Ubler owns the big sheep farm and I think there’s another farmer down there that grows some sort of crop. When Lassie wasn’t curled around that fop Korvald’s finger, she mentioned that no one’s heard from the crop farmer for a while. It might be worth checking out.” The ranger ran a hand through his wispy hair and squinted into the morning sun. “Best of luck, friends. My breakfast is probably cold by now.” He flashed a hesitant smile at Tira and then returned to the Sleeping Dragon, leaving the four of us standing in the street.

“So, which way first?” I asked my companions.

Corrin gulped down a mouthful of bread. “We should head to Waymoot. If these creatures went that way, the villagers will need our help”.

There was obvious truth in what my undersized companion said, but I could not help but think that he would not be so keen to head north if Waymoot were a human village. I also felt it unwise to launch into a headlong pursuit of the largest group of these creatures before we had some measure of what they were, their motives and their capabilities. I said as much.

“Erais is right”, Tira agreed. “Picard told us that the smallest group was the one that headed east. We should head that way first and see if we can find them. It’s our best chance to get some good information about the raiders.”

Although Corrin continued to plead Waymoot’s case, we eventually swayed him around to our plan. He shrugged disconsolately. “Ok, let’s get going then.”

“Not just yet”, I replied. “I want to speak to Olvar first”.

I crossed the village square and made my way up the steps into Oakhurst’ shrine of Amaunator. I found the old man kneeling before the altar, and laid a hand on his shoulder. He jerked as if struck.

“Oh! You startled me, brother” he grinned ruefully as he struggled to raise, grasping my offered arm with relief. “What can I do for you?”

I told him that we had decided to investigate the old tomb to the east, but that before we headed off, I had a question for him. “Who was that woman that was harassing you when we first entered town?”

He jerked again. “Sybil? Oh never you mind about her, young’un. She’s harmless”.

Despite myself, I bristled at being referred to so. I gathered my composure and he moved around the shrine tidying and cleaning. “How can you say that when she demanded that you abandon your devotion to Amaunator?” I asked him.

He stopped fussing over a crooked tablecloth and turned to regard me solemnly. “Don’t judge her too harshly, brother. There is history between us. I had feelings for her once.” He exhaled dispiritedly. “But I don’t want to talk about that. History is history.”

I moved closer and tried to meet his gaze. “Indeed, but sometimes it helps to revisit the past”.

He did meet my gaze then, and his searching eyes were like flint. Finally he shook his head, grey hair wavering in the light coming through the shrine’s stained glass window. “No. I don’t think so. Not here. Not now. Maybe some other time, when I know you better.”

His back was suddenly straight, and his normally relaxed visage a study in stone. I knew I would get no more from him on the subject. I blessed him with the sign of Light, and he favoured me in return. And then I returned to my companions, and we set out for the tomb.

It turned out to be a stone mausoleum maybe 10 feet high and 50 feet long, swathed in carved icons. As part of my training for Amaunator’s clergy, we had studied the rise and fall of religions. Rector Bermensch maintained that it was to remind us that others had come before us, righteous and proud, only to fall into extinction through vice or hubris or sloth. I recognised some of the mausoleum’s icons, but I could not recall from where. They had not formed part of my formal study, so they could not be from any religion that had been active in the last two hundred years.

We scouted around the outside of the tomb and found a small campsite covered into three-toed tracks. Obviously the raiders had camped here, but there was no indication that they had entered the tomb itself. We gathered at the stone doors to decide what to do. I am ashamed to admit that, although we had no valid reason for entering that seemingly sacred place, our curiosity got the better of us.

Skamos used his magic to make Corrin’s shield glow with an intense white light. We drew our weapons and readied ourselves as the paladin stepped forward.As Corrin pushed on the massive stone door, it swung open on impossibly fresh hinges. And then we were bathed in fire. It happened so fast that I did not even see where it came from, but fortunately Corrin and I both had our shields up as the door opened. The flame trap scorched our skin and blackened our armour, but the fire was gone as quickly as it had appeared. In the sudden quiet afterwards, we were all still standing.

Corrin patted himself down, as though making sure he was all still there, and then stepped across the threshold into the tomb. From my position behind him, I could see inside. The mausoleum was brightly lit, despite the absence of any light source that I could see.
 

Colmarr

First Post
Corrin paused, uttering a prayer of blessing, and then I saw why. The ceiling inside the mausoleum was 50ft high, despite the building itself being lower than that. Obviously powerful magic was at work here.

The halflings looked back at us as we moved slowly through the doorway and fanned out. To either side of the long chamber stood a row of columns, leading towards an impressive humanoid statue at the far end of the tomb.

Behind me, I heard Skamos say, “It is Belazemon. The human that millennia ago united your race with the eladrin in this area against a common foe.”

And suddenly the tomb made sense. Its grandeur. Its martial majesty. The powerful magic that had shrunk the space inside the mausoleum and kept it brightly-lit for millennia. Only a great hero would have warranted such a resting place. And yet there was something not quite right about the chamber as well. A feeling of ill-will permeated it. A sense of foreignness like oil on water filled the expansive chamber. And, as if to confirm my suspicions, the corpse came into view.

Sprawled in front of Belazamon’s statute, but off to one side so that the columns had initially hidden it, was the body of a human male. The figure was covered with old wounds, and the lower half of its right arm was missing. Corrin stepped forward to investigate.

I do not think I will ever forget what happened next. There are milestones in every life; firsts that mark your passage through time. For many those firsts are the everyday incidences of life: birth, puberty, marriage. Your first child. For others, the soldiers and hunters, they are more violent: your first kill, your first face-to-face confrontation with a foe intent on killing you. And rarer still, for the truly unfortunate or more likely the adventurers, there are other milestones. Such as your first encounter with the undead.

From behind the columns, two animate skeletons clattered towards us, rusted longswords held high. Although draped in rusted chainmail and wearing failing conical helms, I could clearly see that their supporting musculature had long ago decayed away, leaving only brown stains on their bleached bones and the occasional flapping tendon as evidence that they had once been living, breathing beings. A pale blue flame flickered in each eye socket, somehow more dreadful than if they had been empty.

At that moment, my courage and my faith wavered. Amanautor had called me to adventure, but here it seemed that death itself was arrayed against us. We were, after all, only mortals. What victory could we hope to win against a power that could send the dead against us?

Fortunately, Corrin felt no such doubts. The halfling charged the nearest skeleton and lunged at it with his shortsword. The tempered blade slid off one of the undead’s ribs with a screeching like chalk on slate, and skeletal warrior in turn battered Corrin’s shield with its blade. Behind me, Skamos and Tira threw their powers against the foe; arcane missiles and eldritch energies slamming into the skeletons, while I stood in shock.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I regathered my composure. The second skeleton was moving to flank Corrin, and part of me was relieved to realise that my pause had lasted much less time than I had thought. I rushed to guard Corrin’s rear, bringing my shield up to protect him from the skeleton’s descending blade. The monstrosity turned on me then, and its jawbone hung low. Even as I parried its blows with my shield and looked for an opening to trade attacks, I realised that it was trying to scream a battle cry. However, with no vocal cords, it could not make a sound.

Corrin and I traded blows with the skeletons for what seemed like an eternity, as dark crackling energy and silvery bolts of force flashed past us to strike at our foes. Eventually we managed to force the skeletons closer together, and Skamos called down a column of fire that engulfed and blackened them both. Ribs fell from one of the skeletons to be ground underfoot, and the other seemed to be visibly slowing.

As I swung my mace low in an effort to get under my foe’s guard, I felt Amaunator’s holy symbol pulsing warmly in my left hand. And then I realised my folly. In the confusion of battle, I had forgotten than my training at His Haven had included specific prayers for use against the undead. I held the shining symbol aloft, calling on Amaunator’s blessing and directing it against the skeletons. I commanded them to begone.

Both skeletons were seized forcibly by the power of my faith, and hurled towards the back of the mausoleum, ankle bones screeching along the marble floor. Half of one monstrosity’s face came away in a bust of divine light and an arm was blown clean off the other. But still they rose and began to return to the fray.

And then Skamos stepped forward. He raised his blackened wand, gestured at the nearest skeleton, and uttered a single word. A spinning globe of crimson hurtled from his hand and smashed against the undead’s ribcage, exploding the monstrosity in a cascade of bone shards and shattered armour. Just as the skeleton broke apart, a shard of crimson force speared out and took the other skeleton in the neck. The bolt smashed one of the vertebrae there, and the skeleton’s head toppled from its shoulders. The creature stood motionless for a second, and then collapsed with a clatter of falling bones.

And the only sound was of our heavy breathing.

“Praise be to Amaunator”, I gushed.

Skamos was already pushing past me towards Belazemon’s statue. “Praise be to us, you mean.” He replied. His blasphemy took me by surprise, and filled as I was with battle lust I almost rose to the bait. Then I remembered the Tiefling’s decidedly non-religious bent, and that I had long ago decided to accept it as the price of his companionship. As Rector Bermensch had told me many times as a novice, “No one is converted by words alone. The deeds and devotion of the faithful are the weapons of our Lord.”

I pushed down my annoyance and went to join Skamos at the base of the statue. I found him reading a plaque on the statue’s plinth. "Belazemon the Great Uniter, Laid Low by the Sword of Vrix. Look on His Legacy with Pride, and Know Ye All That Remains is His Gift."

Around the statue’s neck hung a golden amulet with an opening in it, as though it were missing a carved gemstone. And above the statue was what appeared to be a closed trapdoor in the ceiling. Unfortunately there was no way we could physically reach it and nothing we tried with the statue produced any visible effect.

Skamos and Corrin meanwhile had searched the corpse at the base of the statue. While he was admiring a fine dagger that the deceased man wore in a sheath at his belt, Skamos handed me a fine golden locket. Flicking it open, I beheld the painted face of a young woman. On the inside cover on the locket, the name Sybil was engraved. Thinking back to my conversation with Olvar, I studded the cameo of the woman closely. Although the painting was clearly of a much younger Sybil, I was certain that it was the same woman as the crone that had been harassing Olvar when we arrived in Oakhurst. I snapped the locket shut and slipped it into my belt pouch. I would discuss it with him when we returned to town.

After investigating the outside of the mausoleum thoroughly, we decided to next investigate the southern farms. We returned to Oakhurst to avoid getting lost, but skirted the village before heading south to the Ubler farm.
 
Last edited:

Colmarr

First Post
There we finally confronted the raiders, and learned just how horrible a threat the little town faced.

The Ubler farmstead was a small livestock property an hour south of Oakhurst. It was only a mile west of the Old North Road, and as the farmhouse came into view I was shocked to remember that we had seen it from the road that morning. I had thought it seemed a pleasant place away from the cares of Kronos Keep. It had struck me as the sort of life I might have found myself living but for luck or fate. Or that I might retire to once my days of adventuring ended. It certainly didn’t occur to me at the time that within hours my feelings would change so drastically.

We initially approached the farm from the north, but as we reached the rickety fence around the homestead itself, we pulled up short. I’m not sure who noticed it first, but we were soon all aware of it. Something was wrong. It was Skamos who announced what we were all feeling. “It’s too quiet”. He was right. Occasionally a bird would twitter or call in a nearby tree, but there were none of the other expected sounds of farm life. There were no whinnies from the barn on the western side of the homestead and no livestock visible in the sheep pen. The house itself was shuttered and still, and there was no sound of movement within.

We made our way as quietly as possible around the house and approached the farmstead from the other side. A small vegetable patch had been haphazardly uprooted, some of the produce left to wither in the sun. A small stone well stood nearby. The well’s winch had been played out so that the rope hung freely down into the shaft, and the grey stone was streaked and smeared with a stain the colour of rust. A shiver ran up my spine, and I was certain that the Raiders of Oakhurst had been to Ubler’s farm.

They launched their ambush when we tried to enter the farmhouse. A small dog-man, 4 feet tall and wielding a spear half again its height, pounced from around the corner of the barn and launched its weapon at Tira. Fortunately the weapon went wide, and the dog-man yipped in aggravation. Others appeared, and more spears flew out toward us. And then one burst from the thatching on the farmhouse’s roof, its shortbow already nocked and drawn. Whatever luck or divine providence had protected Tira was not with Skamos, and the dog-man’s arrow buried itself in the tiefling’s shoulder, causing him to cry out in pain.

I’m proud to say that I did not freeze against the dog-men as I had in the tomb. And nor did the others. Despite the element of surprise, we made short work of the raiders at the farm. There were four of them in all, three spear-wielders and the archer on the roof. Corrin burst into the farmhouse and ran through a dog-man cowering inside. Skamos and Tira between them unleashed a mystical barrage against the dog-man archer the likes of which I had never before seen and its lifeless body tumbled from the roof to lie crumpled at our feet. The other two turned to run, but magic is faster than dog-men, and Skamos left them broken in the dirt.

My fears about Ubler’s well proved to be justified. After treating Skamos’ wounded shoulder, we searched the farmstead. The horses in the barn were long-dead, their sides torn open and buzzing with flies and maggots. There were sheep in the small pen, but they too had been butchered. And in the well we found the remains of the Ubler family, rammed into the shaft so roughly that Ubler’s corpse had formed a sort of blockage on which the other bodies rested, barely five feet below the winch. Their deaths had obviously been violent, and it was hard to maintain my composure as we retrieved the bodies and buried them behind the house. We placed Ubler and his wife side-by-side. Their teenage son was buried next to them. But when it came to the toddler, a little girl, we paused. It seemed so unfathomable that she had been killed, so pointless. But it had happened, and we were left to clean up. Eventually, I uttered a short prayer to Amaunator and we buried the little girl with her mother. At least she would not be alone in death.

After we laid the Ublers to rest, we rounded up the dog-men and burned the corpses. However, before doing so we searched their possessions. The weapons and armour were of inferior quality, and they joined their owners on the pyre. In the pouch of the dog-men’s leader we found a stone arrowhead, and a wide-bladed dagger of the same material was found under the rag belt of another dog-man.

Skamos turned the stone objects over in his hand and scratched absently at his ear while the rest of us stood nearby covering our noses with scraps of cloth taken from the farmhouse. Neither the stench of burning flesh nor the heat of the leaping flames seemed to bother him at all. When he looked up, he jumped to see the blazing pyre nearby. Then he slipped the arrowhead and dagger into his belt pouch. “It’s either some new type of flint, or an off-colour obsidian”, he said.

“Is that helpful to us?” Tira asked from behind her smoke-cloth.

Skamos shrugged. “I have no idea”.

When the fire had burned itself out, we returned to Oakhurst. My companions headed to the Sleeping Dragon, whilst I sought out Olvar in the shrine. I found the old priest sitting in the vestment room, thumbing through an old copy of Amanautor’s rites. He looked up when I entered, and a brief smile lit his weathered face. It did not last long. He was horrified when I told him what we had discovered at the Ubler farm. Then I showed him the locket we had recovered from the tomb, and I thought that I had killed him.

His body went rigid, and his breathing stopped for what seemed an impossibly long time, the finally he reached out and gingerly took the locket from me. The tension faded from his body and he sagged slightly in his chair. He cradled the locket in his gnarled hands for almost a minute and then looked up at me sadly.

“This was my brother’s. He went adventuring. This was his picture of Sybil. We were all young then, and I encouraged him to go. I wanted Sybil for myself.”

“Olvar, I’m sorry. If this locket belonged to your brother then I’m afraid he’s passed away. We found his body in the old tomb to the east. We did not know it’s significance at the time, and we left it there.”

I’m not sure what reaction I expected to that, but I certainly didn’t expect him to nod.

“I knew he would die, and I still encouraged him to go. I thought with him gone, Sybil would be mine. No wonder she hates me.”

I stood there silently. What could I say to such a frank admission? Olvar had clearly been carrying his guilt for a lifetime and nothing I could say could affect his pain. When he looked up again, there was fire in his eyes and something else that I initially did not recognize. He abruptly stood up.

“I need to take this to Sybil. Maybe then I can make peace with her. Maybe. Maybe!”

He seemed rejuvenated, and as he hastily gathered up his cloak and traveling boots I finally recognized the look that I had seen in his eyes. It was hope. He wished me a rushed farewell and bustled out of the shrine. As I closed the front door behind me, I silently wished him luck and whispered a prayer of thanks to Amaunator. I had been away from the safety of Kronos Keep for less than a week, and already I had made a difference in someone’s life. It was a remarkably rewarding feeling to know that the product of my toil had meant so much to him.

When I reached the main room of the Sleeping Dragon, my companions were seated at the table in the corner with Picard. The eladrin was leaning back in his chair, both hands self-indulgently stroking his bulging belly. A small stack of empty plates decorated the table in front of him.
 

Colmarr

First Post
As I joined my companions, I saw that among the clutter on the table was the stone dagger and arrowhead. Picard was speaking as I sat down.

“There are only a few places in the area where they might have sourced the obsidian. There’s Hidemountain to the south, the Stone Table to the north, or Cragg’s Keep to the northeast. Wherever it came from, I’d suggest you stay clear. These things travel in large numbers, and you’d be putting your lives in danger to take them on in their home territory.”

Tira regathered the stone dagger and arrowhead, sliding the former under her belt and handing the other to Skamos. “We’ve fought and bested them once already”.

“Oh? How many were there?”

“Four”, she replied confidently.

Picard snorted contemptuously. “Four is a small group for these things. There’ll be many more than that if you continue to seek them out.”

“Nevertheless, we must.” I said, and Picard shrugged.

He looked at Tira appraisingly. “I wish you all the best of luck.”

Having investigated the old tomb and the farmsteads to the south, there was really no logical place for us to go next other than Waymoot. Corrin was desperate to set off, so we ate a hearty lunch and then began the trip north. Corrin was eager and driven, which easily made up for his shorter legs, and I found myself struggling to keep up with him. Waymoot was approximately five hours north of Oakhurst along the Great North Road and more than once during the journey I found my brain lulled by the monotony of marching feet. At those times, I couldn’t help but think of Picard’s words.

Part of me wanted to dismiss the eladrin’s warning as cowardice or bluster, but he had not done wrong by us yet and I had no reason to suspect that his information was insincere now. That in turn meant that we were undoubtedly heading into enemy territory with no clear idea of the numbers or resources of the dog-men. It was an unsettling thought. More than once I turned to Tira or Skamos to discuss my fears with them, but stopped.

The half-elf seemed self-assured and her confidence was infectious. Each time I looked to her my fears melted away for a time, and I no longer felt the need to raise my concerns.

Skamos on the other hand seemed almost entirely pre-occupied with some internal train of thought. His feet moved surely and steadily, but his eyes did not seem to take in our surroundings and I knew it would be hopeless to try to interrupt him long enough to have any meaningful conversation.

I did not try to voice my concerns to Corrin. The paladin had always proven to be a doughty warrior, and with so many of his kinsmen at risk I knew he would have little time for my fears.

With no one to talk to, there was little for it but to push my concerns down. Amaunator would see me through.

Our first glimpse of Waymoot was of ugly smoke on the horizon, a dark smear rising into the dusky sky. When we drew closer, we could make out five or six houses clustered around a larger central building. The structure was completely burned out. Its roof was almost entirely gone and half of the eastern and northern walls had fallen in when the heat of the fire became too much. Waymoot seemed deserted. Or dead.

As we made our way into town, it became clear that a battle had taken place there. Discarded and broken weapons littered the streets, together with the corpses of the fallen; both halfling and dog-man. It appeared that the villagers had formed a last stand in the burnt-out building. Seventeen charred corpses, adult and child, proved that it had been unsuccessful. Corrin stood in the collapsed doorway and stared at the dead, his breathing frighteningly shallow. I could not bring myself to stay so near that charnelhouse, and I turned away.

Skamos was standing a short distance away and beckoned me over. When I joined him, he waved his ebony wand towards the east.

“Some of the villagers are still alive. Or at least they were when the battle finished.”

He lowered his wand and pointed it at the ground at our feet. Clearly visible there were multiple tracks made by halfling feet. Here and there I could also make out smaller prints made by children, and overlaying them all were the three-toed tracks of the dog-men.

“They were taken prisoner?” I asked, horrified at the thought.

Skamos nodded.

When we informed Corrin of our discovery, he insisted that we set out immediately in pursuit of the dog-men. I wanted to do so. I truly did. But I recognized that it would soon be dark and that we were far from expert trackers. It would have been madness for us to begin a pursuit in such circumstances. But we did it anyway. Corrin could not be persuaded to wait until morning, arguing that we did not know how much of a lead the dog-men already had. We had seen the savagery of which they were capable, and he passionately reminded us that the Waymoot villagers’ lives now rested almost entirely in our hands. Skamos, ever practical and stoic, argued longest against setting off into the deepening darkness, but eventually even he could not dissuade Corrin from his planned course of action. None of us were willing to let the paladin set off alone.

Unfortunately, our efforts were stymied by the close of day. We managed to follow the dog-men’s tracks for a little over an hour before we lost them in the dark. Even Corrin was forced to concede that we could go no further, but he refused to return to the relative safety of Waymoot. We took what shelter we could from a gentle culvert and spent a cold and uncomfortable night in the foothills.

As we clustered around our meager fire prior to retiring, Skamos retrieved from his pack the silver dagger he had recovered from the body of Olvar’s brother. I had forgotten all about it when speaking to the old priest.
 


Colmarr

First Post
Olgar! Good to see you here.

I'm a little bit behind at the moment (we just finished Cragg Keep in-game), but I'm enjoying writing the journal and am definitely enjoying playing the adventure. Thanks for all the hard work you put into it.

Contrary to the OP, both the DM and I have decided that we're enjoying RoO enough that we're going to keep going until we finish it. Keep on the Shadowfell can wait until we have the PHB in our sweaty hands...
 

Colmarr

First Post
Skamos turned the blade over and over in the firelight. Occasionally he passed a hand over the weapon and muttered under his breath. Finally, he slipped the dagger back into its sheath. He stared into the flames for a long moment before he realized I was watching him. He smiled then, and nodded. He silently mouthed “It’s magic”, and then turned back to the fire.

We rose at first light and scoured the area until we found the dog-men’s tracks. We followed them eastwards for hours, until eventually we crested a hill and caught sight of Cragg Keep. The ruin was largely intact, a classic keep-and-wall structure atop an imposing hill. The keep itself was small by the standard of the regent’s fortress in Kronos Keep, but it seemed larger than it was; its size magnified by the barrenness of the surrounding countryside. The windows of the keep were crumbling and the shutters hung loose. More than a few had fallen away altogether. The flagpoles about the gate were bare. Were it not for the halfling and dog-man tracks leading up towards the keep’s imposing portcullis, I would have thought it abandoned.

While we huddled behind a nearby rise and debated how to approach the keep, something flashed in my peripheral vision and I glanced to my right just in time to see a hare bound across a narrow animal trail. I took a step closer to peer into the bushes that the rabbit had disappeared into. The creature was long gone by the time I moved close enough, but fate or luck caused my eye to come to rest on something far more interesting. In the middle of the trail was a dog-man footprint, faded with age but still clearly visible, facing off to the southeast and seemingly following the animal trail around the base of the hill.

I revealed my find to the others, and we gladly delayed thoughts of approaching the keep’s front entrance. We followed the new tracks around the hill until they disappeared into a bush. Corrin motioned for the rest of us to stand back, and then he stepped into the foliage. We heard him rustling about, moving further away from us, and then abruptly he returned.
“There’s a narrow tunnel back there”, he said. “It leads back towards the keep. You three will need to crawl to get through.”

“What’s a secret tunnel doing buried at the base of the hill?” I wondered aloud. “Is it safe for us to use?”

Skamos peered into the bushes. “It’s not unusual for these types of fortifications to have secret entrances and exits. That’s how Abraxus Farstrider held Eastwall Keep against the Red Skull horde in 1432 YCC. The human and dragonborn defenders used the tunnel -”

“Yes, I know that”, I interrupted him. “What I meant was, do the dog-men know about this entrance, or are we going to find them waiting for us at the far end?”

Skamos shrugged, but Corrin spoke up.

“Judging by the cobwebs in there, the tunnel hasn’t been used for some time. If they know about it, they certainly haven’t done anything to maintain it. Or block it.”

We discussed our options for a few minutes. No one really liked the idea of venturing into a cramped dark tunnel with enemies potentially waiting in ambush at the far end. But ultimately we all agreed that approaching the keep via the main path and trying to enter through the portcullis or over the walls was an even less attractive proposition. Corrin offered to go first, but Skamos argued against it and suggested that he should take the halfling’s place.

I stared at him in open-mouthed shock. The tiefling was one of the least physical people I had ever met. He was arrogant and sometimes bad-tempered, but he had always relied on his arcane abilities to justify and excuse his temperament. I had never seen him undertake physical work, and I doubted that he had ever done a day of manual labour in his life. He was protected only by robes, and carried only a dagger for protection. And he was volunteering to go first?

He noticed my surprise and grinned, his teeth a striking match with the curving horns jutting from his brow. “Oh, believe me; I am aware of the danger of being the first into the tunnel. It’s not a risk I take lightly, but I am the only logical choice. Although I might not have your or Corrin’s impressive armour, my night vision is far superior to either of yours. And I am far stealthier than any of you. A legacy of growing up in the slums, I suppose. If our goal in using this tunnel is to achieve some measure of surprise, I think it is I that should go first.”

Tira laughed, and then gestured towards the entrance to the tunnel. “Be our guest!” she said. I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t fault Skamos’ reasoning.
 

Colmarr

First Post
The tunnel burrowed into the hill for almost a hundred feet before it came to an abrupt end at a stone block. Ahead of me I could hear Skamos whispering to Corrin, and then the paladin turned back to me. His features were illuminated by the phosphorescent glow from the sunrod tucked into his belt.

“It’s a door”, he whispered. Skamos hears whimpering on the other side. We’re going to open it. Be ready.”

I passed the message back to Tira, who nodded once. She was smiling, and again I could only wonder at her limitless confidence.

As Skamos pushed open the stone block, sounds of muffled panic filled the tunnel. Skamos and then Corrin rushed into the newly revealed room, and I heard them urgently shushing whoever it was making the sounds. I hurried forward and moved out of the tunnel, grateful to finally be able to stand up.

The small room at the end of the tunnel was barely large enough to accommodate us. Dank stone walls rose almost fifteen feet above us, ending in a wooden roof fitted with a hinged trapdoor. There was no latch or handle on our side. The wood was old and ill-fitted, and I could see light above.

I turned towards Skamos, and found him placating a small group of halflings. Their clothing was soiled and torn, and their faces were black and brown with soot and dried blood. One child’s face was so swollen that his eyes were completely closed. He huddled against the side of a middle-aged halfling woman, who clutched at him protectively while never taking her eyes from my tiefling companion. The boards above us shook slightly as someone or some thing moved noisily across them. A gravelly voice shouted down at us in a language I didn’t understand, but thankfully the trapdoor remained shut.

Corrin rushed to Skamos’ side, and the presence of another halfling seemed to make the difference. The women and children quickly fell silent, although they continued to cast fearful glances towards the trapdoor above. Whatever it was in the room above us seemed satisfied, and harrumphed loudly before moving away; its booted steps causing fine dust to trickle down onto us.
 

Colmarr

First Post
The older halfling woman jumped to her feet and wordlessly began to chivvy the children to stand. The other adult captive stood more slowly, gently guiding the bruised child to his feet. The matriarch began to herd the children into the tunnel. The first blanched visibly when presented with the low dark ceiling and enclosed space, but she pushed insistently at the youngster’s back until he gathered his courage and set off up the tunnel at a run. The others followed faster after that and we soon had all of the prisoners outside at the base of the hill.

We led them back toward Waymoot for fifteen minutes, before leaving them in a sunny clearing. Sofia, the elder of the two women, assured us that she could lead the others back to Oakhurst from there. Skamos handed her his dagger before we parted ways, and she gripped it with a white-knuckled intensity that made me pity any brigand or animal that attempted to cross her before they reached Oakhurst.

She grabbed Corrin’s hand as we turned to head back towards the keep.

“Do not go back there. There is nothing more you can do!”

The paladin patted her hand and flashed his disarming smile. “We can handle ourselves, Sofia. We must go back; to look for other captives.”

Sofia’s voice turned flinty then. “There are none. They are all dead. Do not add your bodies to the tally of these beasts.”

Corrin placed his hands on Sofia’s shoulders and looked the grey-haired halfling in the eyes. “We have faced the dog-men before and bested them. We will avenge your kinsmen.”

Sophia barked out a laugh. “I do not doubt you could best the kobolds. I killed one myself when they came for Waymoot. They overwhelmed us through numbers alone. But there are others at the keep. Vicious orange-skinned monsters. They were the ones that burned down the town hall and butchered most of us who escaped the blaze. They’re more organized than the kobolds and infinitely more skilled. Do not underestimate them.”

Skamos raised a hand subconsciously and touched one of his horns. “Hobgoblins,” he said.

Corrin nodded, but maintained his placating pose. “We must go back. This assault must not go unpunished, and these invaders must be taught to fear our lands. We must.”

Sofia sighed. “Men,” she muttered. Tira placed her hands on her hips and struck a pose of mock outrage, and Sofia smiled for the first time since we met her. “Sorry dear. Very well, go if you must.” She reached out and patted Corrin’s cheek. “Be safe”, she said, and then she turned and led the other halflings towards Oakhurst.
 

Colmarr

First Post
We watched the ragged band of survivors until they were out of sight, and then hurried back to Cragg Keep. Fortunately, the dog-men that Sofia had called kobolds and the hobgoblins didn’t seem to have noticed that their prisoners had escaped, and we snuck back through the tunnel without incident.

Standing in the dank pit beneath the keep, we held a whispered conversation as we decided how to proceed. The pit was too deep to reach the trapdoor individually but the only other option seemed to be to try to assault the keep via the main gate. Eventually, I hoisted Skamos on my shoulders and he slowly lifted the trapdoor until he could see into the room above. Then I lowered him again.

“There are four kobolds up there”, he reported. “They seem to be bored.”

Corrin gave a vicious grin. “The let’s wake them up, shall we?”

I boosted Skamos again, but this time instead of easing the trapdoor open, he threw it up with both hands. It banged loudly against the wall, but Skamos had already seized the lip of the opening and heaved himself up into the room above. I saw him gesture at something out of sight, and there was a flash and roar of fire.

Corrin had retreated to the far side of the pit, and now ran at me. I formed my hands into a step for him and when I felt his weight in my palms I hoisted him upwards with all my strength. The trapdoor was six feet above us and Corrin was only four feet tall. His outstretched fingers brushed the underside of the floor above us, but not high enough for him to grab a hold. With what seemed like agonizing slowness he fell back to the floor across the room from me, and I realised that Skamos was alone with 4 kobolds above.

“Oi! Pay attention!” Tira shouted, and I turned to see her standing nearby with one lithe foot held out to me. I formed my hands together and she half-leapt onto them. I lifted with strength drawn of panic and she easily grasped the edge of the trapdoor and swung up to aid Skamos.

Corrin and I looked at each other as another fire burst went off above. The halfling was gathering himself to try again when suddenly rope dropped down into the pit. We looked up to see Tira staring down at us. The rope was wrapped around her hands, and she jiggled it invitingly.

“Men!” she said.

Corrin was up the rope in a moment, and I followed shortly after. The room above was roughly twice the size of the pit. An open doorway divided one wall, and a rotting staircase leaded to another room above us. Otherwise the room was empty but for the kobolds. Skamos had managed to kill two of them while we made our way out of the pit, and Corrin quickly managed to push the other two back and give Skamos and Tira room to breathe. Their spells proved decisive, and the other two kobolds were soon sprawled on the rotted floor.

Then we heard bellowing from above us. Even as booted feet moved towards the steps leading down into the room, Corrin was moving to the base of stairs and then upward. Tira followed swiftly, and I did my best to keep up.

When I reached the foot of the stairs Tira started to move upward, only to come to a stop as a hobgoblin appeared above us. The creature was massive, fully six feet tall and weighing at least two hundred pounds. Its clothing was poorly kept but for a scarred but solid suit of leather armour adorned with metal rings, teeth and other talismans. Even as it moved into view, it was roaring incomprehensibly and saliva sprayed from between its two prominent fangs. It swung a dark-metal greataxe in a heavy overarm sweep, and Corrin barely managed to catch the deadly on the edge of his shield. The force of the blow drove the paladin down a step.

The berserker pressed its attack even as Tira and I leant Corrin our magical aid. Our spells scored great wounds on the hobgoblin’s chest and face even as Corrin stabbed out at it from behind his shield. But still the beast pushed the halfling back. It kicked out at Corrin’s shield and I watched in horror as the paladin tilted off balance, leaving himself unguarded.

Almost without pause, the berserker reversed its angle of attack and the greataxe came rushing at Corrin’s head from the side. Somehow Corrin managed to duck out of the direct line of the swing, but the greataxe connected solidly with the pauldron of his plate armour and the force of the blow lifted the halfling bodily and threw him against the stone wall. Corrin’s head struck with a sickening thud and he fell limply to the ground, sliding a few steps down towards us before he came to rest.

The beserker jumped over his prone form before it had even come to rest, and I watched in horror as the hobgoblin rushed towards Tira, its greataxe behind its head as it prepared for another massive swing. Simultaneously, I heard the crack of sling stones striking nearby and saw more kobolds gathering outside the room. One of the stones struck Skamos, who swore loudly. Another hobgoblin appeared at the top of the stair, aiming a crossbow down at us.

I remember thinking we were all going to die.

And then somehow Tira’s dagger was in her hand, extended out towards the descending berserker. The seemingly impotent blade passed through the chestguard of the hobgoblin’s armour and buried itself up to the hilt in the beast’s flesh. The hobgoblin’s body slammed into Tira, but the half-elf somehow stood her ground, face-to-face with the frothing-mouthed creature. Then its eyes glazed and the greataxe fell from its lifeless hands. Tira pushed the corpse backward with a grunt, and then turned her attention to the crossbow-wielder above.

[sblock=Author's Note]That's actually how it happened in game. Corrin was felled in one hit by a crit from the beserker that did 20+ damage, and the beserker then moved to attack Tira, only to be felled by a dagger attack that rolled high damage combined with Warlock's Curse.

When Corrin fell, I did seriously think we were looking at a TPK, and there was much rejoicing as the beserker died. I think I'll remember that moment for quite some time.
:) [/sblock]
 

Colmarr

First Post
At the same time, Skamos flung his arms out towards the kobolds massing in the doorway. A pillar of fire engulfed them and their angry yapping turned to stomach-churning screams. When the fire disappeared, their charred corpses toppled to the ground.

With his reinforcements dead, the remaining hobgoblin fell quickly, and I rushed to Corrin’s side. I manhandled his armoured body down the stairs until he was laying flat on the wooden floor and then, kneeling down beside him, I grasped my holy symbol tightly in both hands. I closed my eyes and reached out with my soul, feeling for the divine signature of Amaunator. When I found it, it flowed into and around me, filling my senses with impressions; the scent of roses, the brilliance of sunset on Kronos Bay, the feel of silk. Amaunator’s power surged through me, and I willed it to flow towards Corrin. Through closed eyelids, I saw it rush towards him and swathe his head in a current of light. I opened my eyes in time to see the ugly purple bruise on the side of Corrin’s face fade and then vanish. The paladin’s eyes flickered open and he looked up at me and smiled.

“Well, that was a close one, wasn’t it?” he laughed, and jumped to his feet.

I stared at him for a moment, questions forming on my lips. Was he well? Did he know that he had almost died? How could he be so flippant? My eyes caught on the symbol of Tymora around his neck and I remembered his devotion to the Goddess of Luck. And it answered all of my questions for him. Corrin’s luck had been tested, and it had prevailed.

The halfling patted me gratefully on the arm as I rose to my feet.

“Thanks, Erais. I’m glad you were here”. And then he turned and climbed the stairs.

At the top was a small room cluttered with detritus left by the hobgoblins. Tables and chairs were scattered haphazardly around the chamber, and a tattered rug lay askew in the middle of the room. Despite the seeming chaos, it was the table standing upright against one wall that captured my attention. A bruised and battered halfling was pinned to it with daggers; one through each hand. He sagged in semi-consciousness, his weight threatening to pull the weapons clean through his flesh. Other daggers were embedded in the wood around him. Clearly the hobgoblins had used the poor halfling for sport, and a dagger in his left shoulder proved that they had hit at least once.

We carefully removed the daggers and sat him down with his back to the wall, then I channeled Amaunator’s blessing and did my best to heal his wounds. Although the curative magic healed his more grievous injuries, ugly welts on his arms and back and a nasty bruise on his chest remained. He looked around at us with wide eyes and his mouth worked open and closed without making a sound. I could not think what to say to him, and even Corrin’s attempts at communication went unrewarded. Eventually we decided that Tira and Skamos should explore the remainder of the keep, and Corrin and I stayed with the halfling.

I removed my pack and pulled my healer’s kit from it. I opened the wooden box and selected essence of Heartdragon and Morningrose. I rubbed the salves liberally on the halfling’s wounds and bound them with sanctified dressings. He watched me mutely the entire time, his legs pulled up under him as though he might flee at any moment. When I was finished, I packed away the healer’s kit and returned it to my pack. Then I glanced at Corrin and stood up.

“Thank you for saving me”, the halfling whispered.
 

Colmarr

First Post
I smiled, first at Corrin and then at the injured halfling; pleased that we had been able to break through his terror. Then I stepped out of the way so that Corrin could talk to the prisoner. The two halflings conversed in muted whispers, but I overheard enough to learn that other than the captive and the prisoners we had rescued from the pit, the entire population of Waymoot had been wiped out. Kobolds and hobgoblins had come and gone from the keep in the previous few days, so obviously there were more of them hidden somewhere nearby.

When Tira and Skamos returned to join us, they reported that the rest of the keep was empty of friend and foe. Tira held up a small piece of stone. It looked as though it had once been part of a jar or a vase. Skamos was carrying a small clay pot with a stoppered lid.

“It’s obsidian,” Tira said, holding up the fragment she carried. “Same as the dagger and arrowhead we recovered from the farm. There’s a lot of it throughout the keep, but not enough for this place to have been the source of the stone. I’d guess it’s somewhere nearby though”.

She tossed the fragment to me and I plucked it out of the air. The stone was smooth and curved, and had obviously been part of a well-made container. The edge where it had been broken was serrated and sharp. Tira was right. It was the same dark grey colour as the items we had taken from the kobolds at Ubler’s farm. I struggled to remember what Picard had told us about the likely obsidian sources in the area.

Tira beat me to it. “If we’re looking for a source of obsidian, the closest one to is Stone Table mountain. Or at least, that’s what the eladrin said”.

Skamos nodded. “So,” he said, “I imagine we are heading there next?” He was focused on the clay pot in his hands more than the conversation.

The rescued halfling whimpered, and I turned to him hurriedly.

“We will take you back to Oakhurst first. We will make sure you’re safe.”

He sank back down against the wall, either satisfied by my promise or too tired and numb to take further action on his own behalf.

“Besides,” Colmarr said. “We don’t have the supplies for a trip to Stone Table. We need to go back to town anyway”.

I made the injured halfling a fortifying cup of Bitterleaf to give him strength, and then we set out for Waymoot. Despite his wounds, the prisoner showed remarkably tenacity and barely slowed us down at all. Despite my and Colmarr’s best efforts, we could not elicit his name. I could tell from the grim set of his jaw that he was keen to be as far from Cragg Keep as he could possibly be, and I did not think he would stop before he reached Kronos Keep.

When we reached Waymoot, however, he turned off the main street and led us into the ruins of a two-storey building. Its roof timbers had collapsed inside the walls, but after shoveling some dirt and mortar out of the way, a wooden trapdoor was clearly visible in the floor. The injured halfling pointed to it with a visibly shaking hand.

“That’s where we kept our food stores. You’re welcome to them. They won’t do us any good now.”

His voice cracked towards the end, and I could tell he was close to tears. Corrin moved to comfort him, but the halfling moved away. His face became a grim mask again.

“Thank you all for saving me. I am going to Oakhurst now. You don’t need to help me any more. Stone Table is there.”

He pointed to the north, and turning to follow his finger, I could barely make out what he was pointing at. Nevertheless, once he had drawn my attention to it, it was unmistakably the mountain for which we were headed. Unlike the lesser peaks to the east and west of it, Stone Table Mountain rose high into the sky. Its peak was missing, sliced off horizontally as though by some giant weapon.
 

Colmarr

First Post
Our ascent into the mountains was surprisingly uneventful, if arduous. The journey north from Kronos Keep to Oakhurst, although long, had been relatively flat and had not prepared me for the sustained physical exertion of climbing into the foothills. My blistered feet, still not comfortable in my new boots, ached constantly and the pain was a subtle urging in my mind to turn back. I pushed such thoughts aside. We had uncovered the monsters’ lair, and I was certain that we could cleanse it and restore peace to Oakhurst.

We reached the base of Stone Table mountain in mid-morning, and looking up at it took my breath away. Snow crowned the mesa at its top, and I uttered a prayer to Amaunator that we would not have to climb all the way up there. Skamos must have heard my whispered imprecation, for he turned to me and confidently pointed out that reptilian creatures like kobolds were unlikely to lair in such cold conditions. He gestured to a cluster of cave entrances barely a hundred feet above us and predicted that we would find the entrance to their domain amongst those caves.

He was, as usual, right. Fortunately, the slope at the base of the mountain was not so steep as to force us to climb. It rose sharply enough that it was necessary to keep one hand free for balance, but we were otherwise able to make our way up to the caves without much difficulty. Although I kept an eye trained on the cave entrances at all times, I saw no signs of habitation or sentries. It was only when we reached the largest of the cave entrances and ventured inside that I knew we were in the right place.

The cave smelled fetid, akin to wet dog’s fur, and even my limited knowledge of the natural world was sufficient for me to know that the air in the cave was unusually humid. Tira stepped into the breach and sniffed the air dramatically. Then she smiled at each us. “Here we are,” she said, and then she drew her wand and made her way inside. Corrin hustled after her, the light from his hastily lit torch causing the fragments of obsidian in the cave walls to sparkle like rubies. Skamos and I hurried to keep up.

At the bottom of the passageway was a small cavern dominated by a flowing stream and a firepit, around which huddled two kobolds. A grand brass gong hung on a wooden frame near the entrance, but it appeared unattended. Corrin and I nodded wordlessly to each other and charged into the room. As we crossed the threshold, I caught sight of another kobold standing in the corner near the gong and Corrin moved quickly to attack it; interposing himself between the creature and the alarm. I followed behind him, taking up position in front of the gong to ensure that the other kobolds could not reach it while Corrin was distracted.

As it turned out, my precautions were unnecessary. Skamos brought a pillar of fire down from the roof that engulfed the fire pit and the two shocked kobolds standing next to it. They died without a sound. The third kobold yanked on a rope hanging from the ceiling, and caltrops clattered to the floor in the cavern, glittering menacingly in the light of the fire. The kobold then yipped loudly and darted around Corrin, heading for the entrance to another cavern. I marshaled Amaunator’s essence and flung a lance of faith at it, and the glowing spear took the beast in the back. The kobold lifted momentarily from its feet before crashing awkwardly back to the ground. It did not move again.

Unfortunately, its excited yipping seemed to have drawn attention to our incursion. Answering yips echoed from caves to the east and west, and within seconds five more kobolds moved into the cavern. I rushed to block one entrance whilst Corrin stood face to face with the three enemies on his side. Despite the disadvantageous terrain, we quickly took a lethal toll on the creatures, and the last two turned to flee. Corrin finished his last opponent with a throwing hammer before it could escape, but a sling-wielding kobold managed to dodge around a corner and disappear into the darkness.

I could hear the creature yipping loudly as it fled, and I sprinted after it. Behind me, I heard hurried footfalls as Tira and Skamos gave chase. “Wait! Wait!” I heard Corrin yell, but I was not willing to let the kobold escape to warn its fellows. “Keep up!” I yelled back to him.
 



Colmarr

First Post
As I rounded a corner in the passageway, I skidded to a halt before a narrow opening in the wall to my left. The fleeing kobold was nowhere in sight. Its yipping echoed from the uneven stone and I couldn’t locate the beast via sound alone. I stepped up to the opening and peered in, careful to keep as much of my body behind the stone as possible.

Inside, more than 20 kobolds huddled in a small cavern littered with furs and food scraps. The adults were smaller than the ones we had encountered so far, and I assumed that they were the females of the tribe. Kobold children, if that is what they are called, huddled around their legs, yipping piteously. A mass of fear-filled eyes stared back at me.

Skamos and Tira slowed to a halt when they saw me standing in the passageway, but Corrin flew past me. He ignored the room into which I was looking and took off along the other branch of the cave. “This way!” he called. Tira moved to follow him, just in time to see the floor swing open beneath his feet. The paladin gave a startled yell, and then disappeared from view. The trapdoor swung shut above him.

I turned in alarm and, the female and young kobolds instantly forgotten, ran to Corrin’s aid. Tira, however, did not even slow. She leapt across the trapdoor and disappeared around the next corner in pursuit of the fleeing kobold.

As Skamos and I pried open the trapdoor and dropped a rope down for Corrin to climb out, Tira staggered back into view. Blood trickled from her hairline down into her mouth, and a shimmering globe of force took her in the chest as I watched, lifting her from her feet and slamming her into the cave wall. She staggered towards us and collapsed upright against the uneven rock. “Ambush,” she whispered.

A moment later, a kobold carrying a spear bounded around the corner. I watched the wretched creature spring towards us, and knew that Skamos and I were in no position to intervene. Our hands were full of rope, bearing the weight of our plate-armoured paladin. Fortunately, Tira was by no means out of the fight. She gestured with a blood-slicked hand at the onrushing beast, and a blast of eldritch magic caught the kobold in the shoulder. The spear went clattering off into the wall, and the creature howled in agony as the warlock’s hex stripped away skin and bone. It fell writhing to the ground, and did not get up.

Urging Corrin to hurry, I reached out to Tira with my magic, sending the power of Amaunator to mend her broken flesh. The blood stopped trickling from her scalp, and she rose from her slump against the wall. She smiled at me momentarily as kobold yipping sounded in the room beyond.

“Get him out of there,” she said simply. “I’ll keep them occupied”. And then she ducked around the corner again, firing bolts of dark energy as she went. I started to call out to her, to warn her against going back, but at that moment Corrin put all his weight on the rope and it was all I could do not to be pulled into the pit with him.

The paladin clambered up the rope with a nimbleness that belied the enormous weight of his armour, and without a word, he dashed around the corner after Tira. I heard his battlecry of “Tymora be with me!” echo through the passageway.

Skamos and I glanced at each other. The pit trap was situated in the middle of a three-way intersection in the cave complex. We had come up one corridor and Corrin and Tira had disappeared down another. The third went off a short distance in the opposite direction, but then curved around and looked as though it joined the same cavern. We dropped the now-defunct rope and charged down that passageway, emerging into the cavern where our companions were locked in battle.

Tira stood resolutely near the entrance, firing bolts of energy at the opposing kobolds, while Corrin had forged ahead and engaged a shield-bearing warrior. Tira’s wounds were bleeding again and I knew she could not take much more. As I came into view, a robe-wearing kobold gestured at her and uttered a phrase in their yipping speech. Another globe of force, like the one I had seen moments earlier, flew from its outstretched claw and narrowly missed Tira’s head. It slammed harmlessly into the cave wall, but visible waves of energy radiated from the impact point. The kobold priest growled in agitation, and its bone necklace clattered with its movements.

Tira responded in kind, blasting the priest with black energies, and then she ducked out of sight around the corner to avoid the kobold’s return fire.

A second shield-warrior moved toward Skamos and me but the tiefling was faster. He pointed with his wand at the robed priest and shouted arcane words. I expected to see a bolt of force or pillar of flame, but nothing seemed to happen. Then I saw the shield-warrior slow, as though its legs were not responding to its desires. The creature glared at us, but behind the malice in its eyes was a bone-deep weariness. It turned to engage Corrin half-heartedly. The wyrmpriest sagged slightly as though weighed down by its adornments, but then it shook its dog-like head and straightened up.

The wyrmpriest threw both arms in the air and screeched, and waves of force radiated out from it. The two shield-warriors attacking Corrin seemed to take heart and their darting blades stabbed out again and again at the halfling. Fortunately, the paladin’s armour held firm, and the kobolds’ stone weapons for the most part clattered harmlessly against his plate and shield. The priest gesticulated at Skamos and me, and one of the shield-warriors disengaged from Corrin and moved towards us.

But it was too slow. The priest was vulnerable for just a moment when its two bodyguards were distracted by their attacks against Corrin, and Skamos and I made good use of that time. My lance of faith took the kobold in the stomach and it doubled over in pain even as motes of light danced in the air around it. Skamos seized on that illumination and with a wave of his hand sent a crimson globe of force across the cavern. The orb crashed against the top of the wyrmpriest’s skull, which shattered under the impact. The beast slumped lifelessly to the ground, even as a shard of crimson force stabbed out and took one of the shield-warriors in the back.
 
Last edited:

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top