*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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!