Shadows Over the Nentir Vale

Sessions 20-24

Sessions 20-24
*
*The Rough and the Smooth

A lot has happened to our adventurers since they last had time to sit down and reflect on the events of the past weeks. Before they had met each other life had been a relatively peaceful affair for them all, where nothing really that traumatic or interesting would happen more than once or twice a year. But now, together, they have experienced a lifetime’s supply of glory and despair in the space of a season, and have managed to slaughter, maim and generally get in the faces of a small town’s worth of monstrous adversaries, evil adversaries, slightly misguided adversaries and adversaries whose last thought on this plane of existence went something along the lines of, “I only went out to buy some bread . . .”

It has certainly been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and at the moment, freezing cold, hungry, stuck on some Pelor-forsaken mountain top, the biting wind whistling around them and only some dodgy dragon-headed flying longboat with a somewhat predictable line in conversation for company, it is safe to say the party have know better times.

In fact, had known considerably better times only a few days before, when they had been feted as heroes and basically given license to strut around and help themselves to anything they wanted. Only fair since, in the time we last reported on the adventuring party, bloodied but victorious at the end of the Battle of Albridge, they managed only to exceed expectations and get even more heroic.

Aided by the surprise arrival of Madran, Mordzan’s brother, found lying wounded among the detachment of the Woodsinger elves who had played their part in the battle. Soon healed, the expanded party moved on to Harken itself, to where the remnants of the Iron Circle had retreated to the castle to lick their wounds and wait for reinforcements from the south, a fact discovered when Mordzan shoots down a messenger bird let loose from the battlements.

Released from the tyranny of Iron Circle rule, the town below the castle is in turmoil, tearing itself apart as villagers turn on each other as accusations of collaboration soon escalate into potential lynchings – fortunately Glaudr retained his gift for the gab and managed to pacify the baying mob.

All friends again, the townsfolk plead for the heroes to free Baron Stockmer, still held in the castle, and point them to the ancient dwarf, Kellar, the local stonemason, who oversaw the recent renovation of the castle. He is only to happy to help, and reveals a secret entrance into the fortress.

Armed with this knowledge, the heroes soon come up with a plan and manage to infiltrate the Iron Circle’s last defence and, in what seemed like weeks of fighting but was in fact only twenty minutes or so, manage to rack up a body count worthy of a poem by the infamous Nerathian balladeer, Sawmise Peckingpower.

On one flank Benedict acted as a meat shield, soaking up enough damage to fell a tribe of Hill Trolls while Thorn blasted away with the full range of her magical blasts and bursts; in the centre the elves shot anything that moved while Makaria toyed with the disciples of Asmodeus in the castle’s desecrated chapel, while on the other flank Gluadr’s sorcerous tendrils aided Bodin who performed his usual combination of charging, falling over, getting up and performing a great deal of smiting.

Needless to say, Madran soon felt at home in the bloodshed, as everyone played their part with sword and spell, and even Nazin Rethorn, who had seemed so dangerous in their previous encounter, soon fell under a welter of blows and sorcerous entanglings, his last words directed at Mordzan and Madran, “Vhennyk has no heirs.” Words cast as he fell beneath the portrait of the Iron Circle leader, Lord Vhennyk, who seemed to bear a quite striking resemblance to the now reuninted brothers.

Although a few of the Iron Circle managed to escape through a magical portal into some hellish dimension, it was an overwhelming victory for the heroes, who release the Baron and are soon feted with honours and gifts and a range of personalised magical items presented to them by Eriyel, the Woodsinger leader.

The celebrations go on for days until, just when life seemed to be nothing but a series of slaps on the back and free beers, the convoy of grain wagons, sent out from Harkenwold to Fallcrest as it has done for many years, returns, still laden with the harvest, the drivers aghast that they could not get through because of some supernatural weather effect that has blocked the area around Fallcrest with oceans of snowdrifts.

“Without the grain, Fallcrest will starve,” declares the Baron.

“and we won’t get our money,” groan the farmers, full of empathy for the plight of their fellow man.

“Unnatural winter!” exclaims Thorn, “Whoopee! It must be the Winter King.”

And so the party discover once again that, while the upside of heroism is being able to flounce about, show off and get loads of free stuff, the downside is that whenever something goes wrong, they are expected to do something about it.

And so, before anyone can say, ‘better wrap up warm, then’, the heroes are on their way, trying to muscle the wagons through the snow, and, when that proves too hard, carrying sacks of grain across their shoulders to at least get some food through to the ice besieged town.

A scene of despair greets them, everything shut down, people scavenging for wood and food, and a tense town meeting taking place by the river where Warden Markelhay is doing his best to impose rationing and the redistribution of resources to keep everyone alive, much to the chagrin of those whose goods would be redistributed.

Just as a riot seems about to break out a strange rhythmic grunt of voices can be heard from above, recognised by Benedict and Glaudr from their several sea voyages to be akin to a sailor’s chanty, which is soon to be revealed as bizarrely true, as a great wooden longboat, its prow shaped into the head of dragon, soars above their heads, its oars pulling against waves of cloud, before it descends to the river bank, spilling out a ghastly rag tag crew of shambling uindead monstrosities, who soon get to work on slaughtering any townsfolk who get in their way while the dragon’s head starts growling about some ice sceptre that’s gone walkabout and if it isn’t returned to the Winter King (whoopee! shouts Thorn) then the ice will never leave and Fallcrest will suffer winter forever.

A tough fight ensues, the heroes gradually getting things under control and pushing the deathly crew back towards the river, cutting them down, seeing them get up, then cutting them down again.

As Benedict gets close to the boat, the dragon’s head turns to him,
“Do you carry the ice sceptre of the Winter king?”
“No” replies Benedict,
A reply that sparks a great bolt of lightning to spear past him.

As Bodin gets close the boat, the dragon’s head turns to him,
“Do you carry the ice sceptre of the Winter king?”
“No” replies Bodin,
A reply that sparks a great bolt of lightning to whip above his head

As Benedict again moves towards the boat, the dragon’s head turns to him,
“Do you carry the ice sceptre of the Winter king?”
“No” replies Benedict,
A reply that sparks a great bolt of lightning to hammer into him

As Bodin gets close to the boat, the dragon’s head turns to him,
“Do you carry the ice sceptre of the Winter king?”
“No”
Uh, wait, actually, yes?” replies Bodin,
The dragon’s head turns and nods its head, as if allowing him to board.

The battle over, the townsfolk start turning into a mob again, looking for someone to blame for their fate, someone who has brought this ‘ice sceptre’ among them and incurred the wrath of the mythical Winter King, a figure thought only to have been some ancient legend from before even the time of the Empire of Nerath.

Obviously suspicion initially falls on to the heroes, until Warden Markelhay points out how ridiculous that must be, considering what efforts the accused have put in to defending the town.

Then the party spot a half-elf trying to creep away, who is captured and, despite Mordzan’s best attempts to shoot first and ask questions later, is kept alive after he drops the strange bejewelled icy rod, obviously the ice sceptre this Winter King fellow is so keen on getting back.

“So who will save our town and return this thing to its master?”, asks Warden Markelhay, staring straight at the heroes, who, in the absence of any other volunteers, and with Thorn quite keen to get back on the trail of her sister, agree to take on the task.

Sitting on the longboat’s now vacant benches, with the dragon’s head humming out a beat to time the oar strokes, the party heave their way into the sky, piloting the craft through an endless storm, risking their lives in keeping the boat flying through the gale as sails are torn, hail lashes at their faces and ropes are snapped.

After an exhausting journey that seems to take them into a parallel universe even colder than the one they have left, the boat descends into a high valley cut into the roof of the world, surrounded by jagged ice-crusted mountain peaks. Sliding along the icy floor, snow cascading around them, the boat comes to a halt in this white hell, some 100 yards from a strange tall obelisk made out of what seems like oval ice encrusted boulders.

Exhausted, hungry and cold, the party stagger out of the boat to meet whatever cruel fate has in store for them.

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Session 18/19

And so, as the battle for Albridge rages around them, the heroes fight off the flanking attack led by another of the Iron Circle’s dark mages, commanding a horde of one hit wonders and some rather nasty little devils, who had the ability to spit out boiling hot (well, they are hellish, after all) balls of tar.

Again, through a combination of finesse, luck and bull-headed charge first, ask questions later enthusiasm, the heroes emerge victorious from the fight, if somewhat charred.

Around them chaos still ensues. Smoke drifts over the battlefield but cannot conceal the fact that the crisis is far from over for Albridge, as the screams of the wounded and the thuds and cracks of axe on shield reveal the point of decision has yet to be reached.

Before they can get their breath back, it is soon obvious that the field is to be won or lost by the heroes, as yet another wave of attackers falls upon them, only this time led by a huge warrior on horseback – none other than Nazin Redthorn himself, the commander of the Iron Circle detachment sent to subjugate the Harkenwold, escorted by another horde of humans and devils.

Alighting from his mount and only momentarily taking pause when he sees Mordzan as if recognising someone, the burly and heavily armoured human wades into the hoeroes, taking mighty swings at them with a triple headed flail, almost killing Benedict and Bodin with a single swipe and seeming to care little for the strikes he absorbs.

Eventually, however, the battering he is getting from sword and spell from those who remain takes its toll and, exhausted, he returns to his horse, badly wounded, and gallops away, but not before Mordzan lets loose what seems an impossible shot at the fast retreating figure. The mad elf’s arrow pierces Redthorn’s shoulder and for a moment it seems as if he might fall to complete an overwhelming victory, but somehow (by one hit point in game terms) he hangs on to the horse and completes his escape.

Shocked by the failure of their leader’s assault and with the arrows of Eriyel’s elven band falling around them and felling many, the rest of Iron Circle force flee the field, with the defenders of Albridge too exhausted to pursue and finish them off.

The battle is over, Albridge is safe. But the butcher’s bill is high – many lie dead on the barricades – the elves and the lads from Tor’s Hold in particular seem to have suffered many losses. And, as Dar Gremath grimly points out,

‘Albridge may be safe for now, but those Iron Circle bandits have returned to Harken and the Baron’s castle, and as long as they hold the castle and keep Baron Stockmer hostage, we will never be free – especially if they get word out to the south and another army of their scum come marching north – we could not fight another battle as vicious as this one, and we are not enough to break the walls of the castle.

‘What are we to do?’

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Session 17

Words of Steel

Scenes of panic and chaos greet the heroes on their arrival in Albridge. Villagers run around like headless basilisks without plan or purpose, while others stand around with the look of defeat already etched on their faces before a sword is drawn in anger.

Although Dar Gremath is doing his best to impose some leadership it seems the brave words spoken by the factions before this point are in danger of proving as empty as ale casks after a hobgoblin wedding. The halflings are looking to get back to their boats, other villagers are threatening to return to defend their homes and even the clans of Tor’s Hold seem to be wavering.

Just as everything seems to be lost a leader emerges from the chaos – It is Glaudr, who stands on a table and begins to speak. Quiet at first, the changeling’s words seem to weave and twist around the crowd like golden chain, pulling them together, hardening their resolve, turning them from shaking spears to hardened veterans like a scene penned by the great bard of ancient Nerath himself, Millwam Haketear.

Before long the party are conferring with Dar Gremath and making plans for the battle ahead, reinforcing the bridge that invaders from Harken seem sure to cross, providing some last minute training and then setting up an ambush at a forward farmhouse designed to disrupt any assault.
Soon night falls and the dark is punctured by a swarm of torchlight in the distance. The defenders take up their positions and the heroes man their station in the farmhouse, waiting for the storm to break.

As dawn rises, so does the dust of a stampede in the distance, heading towards Albridge, but the heroes must rely on the defenders to hold as they are faced with their own problems, as the strongpoint is surrounded by a dozen Iron Circle mercenaries, a couple of ferocious drakes and a huge berserker who leads the charge swinging a massive and ugly looking flail before him.

But even this vicious brute can do little to dent the heroes, as the attackers are soon taken out by swift combinations of magical and martial power, the berserker falling last.
Then, surprisingly, there is silence.

Returning to the bridge expecting to see an assault in progress by the main body of Iron Circle soldiery the heroes see only a herd of cattle, all with torches attached. Realising they have witnessed some sort of feint attack, the heroes are quickly made aware by a panicked messenger that the real assault is taking place on the other side of the bridge. Somehow the enemy has crossed the river and is approaching Albridge from the East. And it is not only humans and drakes that are the enemy now – it seems the heroes must face foes dragged from the blazing pits of Hell!

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Session 16

*
*Promises, Promises

**
With Bodin holding off Yisarn’s minions and the spider almost single handed, the situation looks grim for the heroes, until Benedict and Thorn manage to combine to get Makaria conscious again. While she isn’t up for much in the fighting department at least she is able to shout a few encouraging words from the bottom of the pit along the lines of, ‘Keep going, Stumpy’. This might be seen as outrageously politically incorrect but at least provides the motivation for Bodin to keep smashing away at the skeletons, turning the room into a calcium dustbowl, while Yisarn engages in his own duel with Glaudr and Benedict, slowing them town with tendrils of deathly force while Mordzan the mad picks the lock of the other door just so he can have a go at pit jumping as the floor opens up beneath him, leaving him with a nasty gash in his foot.
At last, exhausted, the battle turns, and with his necromantic surges rippling through the chamber, the party put an end to the evil wizard and return to the elves, bloodied but unbowed, and ready to call in the favours promised for their heroism.
Eriyel is as good as her word and pledges to raise a unit of 50 archers to aid the Harkenwold. She also makes good on her promise to Thorn and, in a ceremony not totally dissimilar to that practiced by their brethren in Lothlorien, the Woodsingers conjure up an image of the attack of the dark elves, confirming that Thorn’s sister was indeed present at the battle, and alive, the assumption being that she must have been captured by the Winter King. Of Mordzan’s father there is no word, although the elf notices a fleeting grimace pass over Eriyel’s face at the mention of his name.
Fortunately for all, so far the families of Benedect, Glaudr, Makaria and Bodin seem remarkably uncomplicated.
Before any more discussion takes place scouts return to camp with dire news. It seems the party made their bargain in good time, as the elves report movement in the town of Harken, with Iron Circle troops issuing forth from the castle, preparing to march on Aldbridge to crush the rebellion. Eriyel promises she will have the archers ready by sundown in two days, but will this be in time? For the party the course is clear as they hurry back to Dar Gremath and what promises to be the battle that will seal the fate of the Harkenwold!

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session 15

Ooops!
**
At first it looks bleak for the heroes as the drakes are released from the cages to start looking for their starter courses. Meanwhile the big goblin on the stairs hides behind his toadies while trying to dominate the minds of the adventurers.

He has little idea of what he is up against however, as soon his toadies fall under the combined weight of Thorn’s arcane power and the blades and bows of the others, soon bolstered by the arrival of Bodin and Makaria.

With some nifty work by Thorn, who manages to cast a spell that slides one of the drakes back into its cage before relocking it with a spectral hand, and some less subtle but equally effective tactics by Bodin, who simply bashes the other drake with his shield until it, too, is pushed back into its prison, the fight is over before it has really begun, and the goblin leader, Snilvor, is left pleading for his life.

He looks for a guarantee for his safety from the paladin of the party and Benedict readily agrees, promising with the oath of Bahamut that he will not kill him. The promise is enough to persuade Snilvor to reveal all – he is the leader of a delegation of Daggerburg goblins sent here to buy scrolls from the undead wizard Yisarn, who must be in the room next door; scrolls that reveal the location of several sacred elven crypts in the Harken forest, the destruction of which would prove a major victory in the never-ending war between the goblins and the Harken elves.

Unfortunately for Snilvor, although Benedict has promised not to kill him, the same does not apply to Mordzan, whose hatred of the goblin tribe that assaulted his homeland remains bright and vicous as he fells Snilvor with one shot of his bow. Meanwhile, on some immortal plane of existence, Bahamut’s lawyers are checking to make sure that Benedict has successfully covered himself against future charges of breaking the Paladin’s Code.

And so the party steel themselves for the fateful encounter with the necromancer. Picking the lock of one of the doors they summon up the last of their strength and charge through the door, to be faced by a cackling undead fiend protected by three skeleton warriors and a massive spider that seems to glimmer and shimmer in the dark light and moves so quickly in its attack it seems the equal of Glaudr in the invisibility stakes.

Undeterred by the deadly opposition the heroes charge in, only for disaster to strike as the floor beneath Makaria’s feet opens up, plunging her headlong into a ten foot deep spiked pit. Meanwhile Bodin gets across the pit but is isolated as he faces the full wrath of the evil forces arrayed against them.

The party are exhausted from the battles that have got them here, low on resistance, low on resources, with Benedict’s healing powers drained by his prior treatment of Glaudr’s brush with death.

There is good news and there is bad news.

The good news is that Makaria still has the power to restore health to the wounded and weary in this vicious fight. The bad news is that she is unconscious at the bottom of a pit.

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Session 14

Session 13
*
*You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours

**
The party is treated to an audience with Eriyel, the elder of the Woodsinger party encamped on the fringes of the Harken Forest. She stays quiet while the party explain the plight of the Harkenwolders and remains patient while both Mordzan and Thorn ask for information about their missing relatives. She has no news of Mordzan’s father but she confirms that Thorn’s sister may well have been a hostage of the dark elf band which attacked the Woodsingers some years ago, led by a vicious warrior brandishing a sword of ice. But nothing has since been heard since the mysterious ice storm that enveloped the invaders and saved the elves.

Eriyel does not commit herself to aid the Harkenwolder’s fight against the Iron Circle, although she does have sympathy with their situation. “I have friends in the valley,” she says, “but there were no volunteers from the Harkenwold to come to our aid when we were under attack, either from the dark elves or the Daggerburg goblins.”

Recognising the virtue in the party, both from the nobility of Benedict and the fact that Mordzan has in the past lent his bow to the fight against the goblins she does think up a counter proposal.

“If we are to risk our lives for the villagers then I ask that you do the same for us first, an undead wizard named Yisarn has taken an underground ruin for his home and has allied himself with the Daggerburg goblins for purposes that can only mean ill times for us. He is located near the ruins of the Dal Nystiere, an old eladrin settlement. We have the means to enter his lair through a portal and were about to take him on ourselves. But if you rid us of this menace, then I can promise a unit of archers in the battle against the Iron Circle.”

The elf also promises Thorn that should they take on this quest then there are powerful but costly divination rituals she can perform that might shed more light on her sister’s whereabouts.

The party readily agree to the bargain and soon find themselves at the portal to the wizard’s lair, guarded by a few goblins asleep on a cart, quickly reduced to ashes by a flaming arrow from Mordzan’s bow. Unfortunately there are more than goblins guarding the stone circle as the heroes are beset by giant spiders. Both Benedict and Glaudr find poison coursing through their veins as they suffer the arachnid bite. Fortunately Thorn is not so vulnerable as her magic charm protects her from such horrible venom.

The spiders dispatched, the party activate the portal with the vial of dragon’s blood presented to them by Eriyel. With a great whoosh they emerge into the darkness of an underground chamber that boasts a couple of cages holding a pair of vicious looking reptiles. The heroes quickly realise that leaving Bodin and Makaria behind might prove their undoing as they see they are surrounded by a gang of goblins and their vicious looking leader who soon recovers his poise to shout at his minions, ‘release the drakes!”

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Session 13

Making Friends & Influencing People

Knee-deep in the gloopy remains of the Bullywugs, the heroes leave the cave to reassure the Halfling lad that he is not to be anyone’s supper. The grateful hobbit introduces himself as Heron, of the Reedfoot Clan, and begs the party to escort him home.
Home, in this case, turns out to be a small fleet of barges that the halflings run up and down the White River. Overjoyed at the return of Heron, who had been captured while out fishing with his friends, the clan treat the party to a slap up meal and promises of aid in the fight against the Iron circle.
Completing their victory tour the heroes then return to Tor’s Hold to tell the village that they are now free from the terror of the Bullywugs and can now look east, to the village of Aldbridge, and to make good on their word to send men to Dar Gremath to bolster the army of resistance. Bran Torsson is only too pleased to pledge the swords of the village to the fight, but asks only for a little time to get his men into shape. But not all is well, as the heroes notice a group of impoverished looking refugees huddled around one of the village fires. Bran explains that they are the last survivors of Marl, a small hamlet burned to the ground by the Iron Circle to set an example to any in the region who might be tempted to resist.
The party leave Tor’s Hold with a warning from Bran that word of the victory against the Bullywugs is sure to get back to the invaders, and that they might soon become the hunted.
It is to Albridge and Dar Gremath that the party then travel, to find disturbing news. It seems the Iron Circle have gained control over Easthill, a village on the eastern edge of the Harkenold, threatening the fate of Marl upon the village unless they agree to provide supplies for the invaders. Dar Gremath’s network of spies have reported that caravans of vital supplies now regularly travel from the village to the castle of Harken. Still flush from their victory against the toadmen the party decide to carry the battle straight to where it might hurt the Iron Circle the most and start planning an ambush.
Secretly transported down the river by one of the Reedfoot barges, and narrowly avoiding detection by an Iron Circle patrol, the party find an ideal ambush site by some ancient elven standing stones and lay in wait for the caravan.
The caravan arrives, the trap is sprung, and before long the supplies are in the hands of the heroes. If the Iron Circle leaders were not aware of the heroes’ presence before, it cannot be long before a bounty is on their head. Highlights include Mrordazn leaping form a tree onto a moving cart to gain control of a bolting horse; Thorn raining down arcane bolts from another tree while Bodin fought off an attempt by the mercenaries to concentrate their efforts against him; Benedict finding out that agility is not his strong suit, although hitting things on the head most certainly is; Glaudr weaving dark webs over the shocked defenders and Makaria decapitating a dog robot. When the team are on this sort of form it is hard to see how they can fail to win promotion to the Premier League of baddy bashing.
Returning with their spoils the party encounter a woodsman from Easthill, one who has not bent his knee to the invaders. Adalbar the hunter is pleased to see some elves in the party, as he is quite the fan of the fey people and shares their love of the forest. He reveals that a camp of Woodsinger elves is nearby and that perhaps they might be persuaded to aid the Harkenwold in their time of need. At this news Thorn’s pointy ears shoot up – for her the Woodsingers mean more than potential allies, they could have news of her sister.

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Session 12

Session 12
*
*The Quality of Mercy

**
The shape within the giant dragon skull is revealed as Gloorpk, the chief of the Mud Hides tribe and he is in no mood to negotiate as he fires off successive bolts of poisonous arcane energy from behind his fortress of bone, while his croaking allies close in for some slimy hand to hand fighting. The source of the noxious fumes within the cave complex is also made obvious when a couple of slithering gray oozes emerge from a pit, sensing fresh meat to absorb.

The fight is a tough one but the party prevail, leaving Gloorpk to plead for his life, offering the heroes his tribe’s treasure in return for sparing him. The heroes are unwilling to countenance such a deal, preferring instead the idea of killing him and then taking his treasure anyway, including the noble Benedict, who did not think Bahamut would mind too much if he indulged in a bit of indiscriminate slaughter.

Thorn, however, takes pity on the frog-like being and persuades the party to agree to his terms. The frog is true to his word, up to a point, and passes over the tribe’s haul, including a shield blessed by Bahamut which Benedict picks up and a mysterious shadow-engraved rod, which leaves everyone cold except Glaudr, who grabs it with a gleam in his eye.

Unfortunately, Gloorpk proves to be a real slime-ball in more ways than one as, from the lip of the cave, he lets loose an earsplitting warning croak to a hunting party of Bullywugs and giant frogs returning to the caverns with a halfling captive.

Battle is soon rejoined, although Gloorpk pays for his treachery with his life while his berserk lieutenant tries to batter his way through the party and the giant frogs munch on the biggest warriors, Benedict and Bodin – the highlight of the fight probably going to the Makaria/Bodin combo with the warlord encouraging the dwarf to make one extra stab at the frog as he gets swallowed for the second time, and the dwarf hitting his target perfectly, causing the frog to gag and release the indigestible Bodin.

With the fall of the berserker the fight is up as the remaining frog and bullywug flee from the cave, rocks and arrows raining down on them as they dive into the swirling White River, leaving only a grateful looking halfling behind them.

It seems that Tor’s Hold is now free of the bullywug menace and the party has delivered a firm blow for the resistance against the Iron Circle and its cruel allies. But will it be enough?

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Session 11

Session 11
*
*The Terror of Toadwallow

After a half day’s march along the southern bank of the White River our heroes arrive in the steading of Tor’s Hold, where they find the descendants of Old Tor Hammerfist, hungry and in fear for their crops and their flocks. At least, that’s what they think they are saying – these people’s rather odd accents make it difficult to tell.

The village elder, Bran Torsson, goes into more detail, describing how a nest of foul Bullywugs have taken hold of a cavern complex to the West and are now raiding the lands surrounding the village.

He was about to join with a couple of other recently arrived adventurers who seem willing to help, but he agrees that if the heroes can take care of this awful threat, then he will readily agree to lead his men to Albridge and to the aid of Dar Gremath in his struggle against the Iron Circle.

At this he introduces the party to two imposing looking figures who have remained quiet for now. A human, Benedict – a devout paladin of Bahamut – and Glaudr, a mysterious humanoid and warlock.
Eager to forge their friendship in heroic deeds, the party head off to Toadwallow caverns where they manage to ambush a couple of Bullywug sentries. Although the stench is almost overpowering and they are attacked by a flight of bloodsucking stirges and a few other toad men, the party soon dispatch the force, aided by the increased firepower and shielding of the newcomers.

Moving deeper into the cavern however, new challenges await. A deep pit, some strange flickering shadows and, in the centre of the cavern, a giant dragon skull and, behind its ancient bony jaw, something is moving . . .

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Campaign so Far

session 3
*
*Previously . . .

The party are searching for Bodin’s brother Argrin Ironseam, kidnapped into slavery, probably by a suspicious character called Kalarel – who may or may not be linked to the disappearance of Douven Stahl – a mentor to Makaria. Meanwhile Thorn still quests for a word on her missing sister.
Their journey has taken them to the graveyard of Col Fen, directed here by the mayor of the village Mara Kres, who seems to be holding something back in her conversation with the party, but who says Kalarel had taken his prisoners here.

In bravely infiltrating the graveyard the party rescue a family from undead horrors, including a mysterious ghostly figure who Mordzan thought might be Kalarel. In their battles with these death-belching nightmares the heroes destroy an evil artefact, a purple glowing skull that seemed, to Thorn, to be part of greater item, but there has been no sign of the missing piece.
All seems to be peaceful in the graveyard now, although there is still one more crypt to explore . . .

Session 4
Previously

Victorious from their battles in Col Fen the heroes now close in on Kalarel and Bodin’s brother. Loaded up with rewards from the Mayor and joined by Barrak Sul, a Harkenwolder kidnapped by Kalarel who managed to escape the slave column, the party find their way to the old and abandoned Coppernight Mines. On the way into the foothills of the Cairngorm Mountains the party narrowly avoid a party of Bloodspear orcs, and overhear their plan to raise hell in the North of the Nentir Vale, seemingly for the purpose of making some sort of distraction – the names Vennyk and Redthorn are mentioned. Fortunately the party manage to stay hidden and the orc patrol moves off.

Arriving at the mines the party finds the entrance guarded by a bunch of kobolds, which they swiftly dispatch in a frontal assault. They discover a ropeladder leading down into the mine – could this be the moment the party have been waiting for.

Session 5
Previously

The party continue their exploration of the ancient mines, discovering strange carvings and tapestries depicting a strange race of dwarven figures with an evil look to them. Driven on by the sound of mining activity the party fight their way through kobold defenders, including a mage of some ability, before meeting the nastiest beast of all, a white wyrm that brings down Makaria in a cloud of freezing breath before in turn being felled by a combination of blows, even as Thorn looked to take pity on it.

Makaria restored, the party finally discover the fate of the captured slaves, as they break in on Kalarel just as he completes a ritual to reopen an ancient portal that the digging had uncovered. Kalarel escapes through the magical gate, but not before Mordzan looses an arrow at him, a wound the necromancer is unlikely to forget.

The session ends with Bodin at last reunited with his brother and the party considering where to go next.

Session 6
Previously

Taking a well-earned but brief rest in Winterhaven, the party say their goodbyes to Barrak Sul, who returns to Harkenwold, and to Bodin’s brother Argrin, who is keen to get back to the family smithing business in Hammerfast.

Thorn continues to pursue leads on the disappearance of her sister, Feylan Azula, and so speaks to Lord Padraig, who knows something of elvish matters. He does remember some tales of the Drow incursions of a decade ago and recommends that Thorn speak to the Woodsinger Elves of Harken forest, who faced the brunt of it.

Bodin and Mordzan spend most of their time drinking ale and telling everyone about their exploits at Wrafton’s Inn while Makaria speaks to Velthrun the sage about the potential whereabouts of her mentor Douven Stahl. Eventually he agrees that the most likely spot would be the site of the last battle of an old red dragon who fell some thousand years ago somewhere to the southeast in the tangled brambled hills of the Gadbury Downs.

‘If Kalarel is after dragon bones, it can mean only one thing, a ritual to open a portal into the deepest recesses of the Shadowfell,’ says old Velthrun.

On the trail of Stahl and his captors, the party are surprised by an attack of vicious Krutik – almost metallic spider-like creatures which let fly with poisoned spines and razor claws and threaten to overwhelm the party. But fortunately the heroes manage to fight them off, despite almost losing Thorn to their deadly attacks. Moving on to safe ground the party rest for the night, waking refreshed and ready to uncover the mystery of the dragon’s burial site.

Session 7
**
The party defeat Kalarel’s minions at the burial site, a gang of villains led by a crafty halfling and overseen by a spectral projection of Kalarel. In rescuing Douven Stahl the party learn the necromancer was trying to get hold of a dragon bone component to create a ritual that might open a portal into the Shadowfell – at least his plans have been delayed.

With Stahl’s thanks in their hearts and his reward in their pockets, the party return to Winterhaven where they recive an urgent message from their friend Barrak Sul, urging the party to come to the aid of Harkenwold, the region to the south, Barrak’s homeland, overrun by bandits!
The party determine to come to the aid of Harkenwold, which is also close to the Harken forest which promises some answers for Thorn’s quest for her sister.

Session 8
**
Before continuing on the Harkenwold the party visit Fallcrest where they take new supplies, have a bath in the falls to the amusement of the lower quays crowd, and tour the city and its alehouses, with Mordzan seeming to want to pick a fight with anyone in his path. The session ends as night falls as they return to the Lucky Gnome, the cheap run-down inn that was the only one that would put up with Mordzan. But, before they get there, alone and isolated on the docks, they hear the sound of many footsteps in front and behind them.

Session 9
**
Ambushed at dusk by a gang of thugs led by a vicious red-headed kneebreaker whose followers copy him by wearing similarly coloured wigs, both as a disguise and an identity, the party are plunged into a desperate struggle when they refuse to hand over their weapons and gold.

Bodin charges at the leader, Mordzin makes for the roof of a nearby building to pick off enemies with his bow and Thorn and Makaria struggle with foes who are upon them quickly. At first the battle seems about to go pear-shaped as both Thorn and Bodin are ensnared in razor sharp nets thrown out by a couple of the gangsters while others attack the immobilised heroes, in Bodin’s case with a brutal looking mace topped off with a metal carving of a dragon. Makaria too is troubled by the ambush by an enemy she thought already dead.

Gradually the heroes turn the battle around as the Thorn and Bodin escape their captors, Makaria heals Thorn and Mordzin does some serious damage with his bow. The highlight of the battle occurs when Thorn pushes one enemy off a roof and then commands it to kill another it lands next to.

But more trouble seems to be around the corner when yet another group of nasty looking thugs enters the fray, only for the heroes to realise that this time they are on their side – it is the landlord of the Lucky Gnome, Gerson, and a few of his henchmen, who seem only too glad to help dispatch the redheaded gang. Indeed, Gerson takes a few trophies – the wigs and the head of the leader – for display in the bar – while Bodin grabs the mace that almost did for him. It looks like Gerson is suddenly a little more powerful in the city, and is grateful.

At last the Heroes head out for Harkenwold. The journey along the King’s Road is mercifully quiet, the party encountering little traffic and no news of what is happening in the area.

Then, as the heroes descend the valley between the two arms of the great Harken forest they spot a pillar of smoke rising from an isolated farmstead. Sneaking up to investigate, Mordzin sees four uniformed men about to torch a farmhouse. The men spot Mordzin, shouting at him, ‘Move along, nothing to see here, this is Iron Circle business.’ And then the elf hears a defiant cry from a woman inside the farmhouse, ‘and their business is robbery and murder, please help me.’

With no time to ask questions, Mordzin returns to his companions, who resolve to mount a rescue.

Session 10
**
The Iron Circle thugs don’t realise the trouble they are in when the heroes charge into the farmyard to take them on and rescue whoever is inside. The fight is swift and brutal, particularly when Thorn torches several of the villains with an explosion of arcane fire.

A woman emerges from the house, along with her two young sons, grateful for the heroes’ intervention. Introducing herself as Ilyana she tells them a sorry tale of the happenings in the Harkenwold of late. The whole region has been overrun by an army of bandits, she explains, calling theselves the Iron Circle. They are led by a brute by the name of Nazin Redthorn. The gang have occupied the castle in the town of Harken, where they hold the Harkenwold ruler Baron Jonn Stockmer hostage, and now armed bands rove across the Harkenwold, stealing and robbing the populace, claiming they are raising ‘taxes’, and burning out and murdering any who refuse to pay, ‘like my poor husband.’

She tells them that if they want to help then there are those who still want to resist, and points them in the direction of Albridge where they should try and meet up with Dar Gremath and the druid Reithann, both of them are trying to resist the Iron Circle in their own ways. And, in response to Bodin’s query, yes, she is sure that there might be a reward and treasure on offer.

In Albridge the party are reunited with their old friend Barrak Sul, who takes them to Dar Gremath. The old fighter explains the situation and outlines his plan, which is to weaken the Iron Circle by attacking their outposts and caravans, hoping to draw them out of the castle in Harken where they can take them on in open battle.

The heroes are keen to go to the castle, and perhaps try and spring the Baron to freedom, although Dar Gremath thinks it would be too strong for them.

The druid Reithann offers a different perspective. Hoping to draw more people to the resistance, she suggests the party go to the village of Tors Hold, where a nest of Bullywugs – evil frog things – are in league with the Iron Circle and are terrorising the locals. ‘If you free Tors’ Hold from that menace, I’m sure we could get at least 30 or so of them under our banner, that would be a great help.’

Nothing like the promise of a fight against evil to get our heroes going, as we leave them marching off west along the northern bank of the White River, looking for some frog-based trouble!

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