Cheap Whiskey

Cold & Vengeance
The Beheaders face the outlaw Kelson and the traitor Brackus and are confused by a new foe.

November 17th. The night’s rest was filled with more unsettling dreams by Baal, Theren and Morthos. The morning was cold. Theren tried hunting for a couple hours without success. They rationed out food from the Basket of Everlasting Provisions and headed out along the path the army had left behind.

They were a few miles west of the Cloak Wood when they saw a wagon clumsily crest a hill up ahead. They hid in a grove of trees and watched. They observed the wagon was being pulled and pushed by sixteen kobold minions while a leader with a quarterstaff rode on top of the wagon and six armed guards surrounded it. Four of the guards carried spears and two had longswords. The guards were in scale mail and they and the leader had a single large black dragon scale each embedded into their chests like breast plates. Their eyes swirled with a red fiery light. The wagon held three large crates.

The Beheaders ambushed the kobolds and the battle proved tough. The guards were quite fierce and the minions swarmed around several of the party members. In the end the Beheaders took one minion prisoner and killed all the rest without taking a casualty. The crates on the wagon bore the symbol of the platinum dragon although the kobolds had attempted to deface them. One crate was marked as the property of Gardmore Abbey. Rudy thought the Abbey might be a ruin near the Gardbury Downs. Something about the name rang a bell but he couldn’t place it.

The kobold minion was intimidated and pleaded for his life saying that the crates were filled with great wealth from the ancient Arkhosia Empire and they were welcome to it. He and his comrades were the vassels of a black dragon called Droghorrah who lived in the Witchlight Fens. The Beheaders told him they had killed Droghorrah and he protested saying that the “pact-bound” would have known if it were true. He quickly gave up his protests, however, and agreed it must be true.

The kobold told the Beheaders that his kin had entered an agreement with some other kobolds, humans and dragonborn to attack Gardmore Abbey and recover the ancient treasures of the paladins of the platinum dragon who once resided there. The “pact-bound” were promised they would get half the treasure to bring back to Droghorrah, their goddess. The army had killed some people guarding the Abbey including a dragonborn paladin of the platinum dragon.

Torinn killed the kobold and they opened the crates. At the top of each crate were bags of silver and copper coins which appeared they could be from the ancient Arkhosia Empire. Beneath the bags the crates were stuffed with rudimentary items and equipment. It appeared the kobolds had been cheated out of their promised half share.

While Theren was considering how much room was left in the bag of holding and the group discussed where they should go, a couple of them noticed Caustrex the Gray fly high overhead until she disappeared over the hill the wagon had come over. The Beheaders believed they should get to a town before the weather got too severe. Winterhaven and Fallcrest were the closest towns and the King’s Road led to both. The army appeared to be heading toward the King’s Road so they decided to continue along the path.

They climbed a wooded hill while following the army’s path. On the northern side of the hill was spacious horse ranch. It appeared the army had overrun the ranch and set up camp for at least one night. A large grassy area with a pond was surrounded by fenced fields. A dirt road looped aside the fences and small barracks and stables were scattered along the road – some of them ruined and burned. Several campfires had been set up in the grassy areas. At the far northern end of the ranch a house and barn stood near some small corn fields. Smoke rose from the chimney of the house. Nothing else stirred among the littered grounds of the ranch.

The Beheaders snuck through the woods to the rear of the house and Theren crept to a window. He saw a tall thin figure standing near the fireplace in the one room house. HE HEARD AN UNNATURAL BIRD CALL COME FROM THE CORN FIELD AND HE RETREATED BACK TO THE OTHERS WHO WAITED BY A short stone wall at the edge of the woods. They spotted the curtains move in one window and they crept to the other side of the building as a group. Rudy called out to whoever was in the field to show themselves. The front door of the house opened and the voice of a woman asked them to come in. Theren, Rudy and Torinn entered the house and the other three waited outside the door.

By the fireplace an eladrin woman stood wearing a white, leather, hooded cloak and holding a silver hilted longsword with a red glowing blade. Her features were sharp and hard. She was tall and thin. She did not look strong but her posture was confident. She assumed they were the Beheaders and introduced herself as Hildren. She knew they were hunting for Kelson and Brackus. They questioned her about the army they were following and told her about the kobolds they had killed. She said the army had raided the ranch and used it as a camp before moving north through the Vale. She admitted she knew Kelson and Brackus. She said the army had woken up the people of the Vale and many were flocking to Fallcrest and Winterhaven. She liked this because she believed the people of the Vale needed to unite against the threatening Lords of the East. She promised that the Lords of the East would soon spread their domination to the Nentir Vale and the Coastal Provinces. She claimed Hammerfast had already broken into cival war, being infected by the influence of Lord William Invidia. She encouraged them not to toadie to the likes of Invidia or any of the other Earls. She spoke of the Hand of Naaresh threatening Bridgeblock. Rudy had been told by Enubrius the Bronze that the sheriff had sent a paladin from the order Light Of The Sun to search for the temple of the Hand of Naaresh. Naaresh was raiding villages and forcing people to join their army.

Outside Barnoble and Morthos heard someone coming through the cornfield toward the house.

Inside Hildren told Theren, Rudy, Baal and Torinn that it was unfortunate that some of her associates could not see more than what was right in front of their noses. She hoped the Beheaders, like her, could see the larger picture. The more the people of the Nentir Vale fought among themselves the easier it was going to be for the Lords of the East to conquer them. She encouraged the Beheaders to leave the Vale and concentrate on fighting the Lords of the East.

Outside, four human bandits emerged from the cornfield with Sgt. Brackus. One of the men was one of the Fallcrest garrison. Brackus wore scale armor and carried a two handed sword. He had a symbol honoring Tiamat afixed to the chest of his armor and his eyes glowed red.

Inside Theren asked Hildren if she was with them or against them. Hildren attacked. Outside Barnoble and Morthos were facing off with Brackus when Morthos was attacked from behind by a black cowled man. Most of the Beheaders in the house were trying to get to the door so they could attack Brackus.

Rudy attacked Hildren. She struck him with her longsword which errupted in a burst of flame. The fire damage was absorbed by Rudy’s Invulnerable Coat Of Ahrnd but the blade cut him deep. As soon as he was hit the two of them disappeared from the house.

The bandits had dropped torches in the cornfield and the fire spread fast. Brackus was slashing at Barnoble and Torinn with his great sword. Morthos was wounded and fighting off the black cowled man who was the outlaw Kelson. The battle waged back and forth. The Beheaders were dealing out damage but were getting bloodied. The bandits fell but Kelson dropped Morthos with a cold stab of his short sword. Brackus was bloodied when he knocked Torinn unconscious. Barnoble brought down Brackus. Theren and Baal felt a ripple of snakes across their brains and took psychic damage from an attack by Hildren who was between the house and the barn. Kelson dropped Baal and Theren shifted away from Hildren and dropped Kelson.

Barnoble and Theren were the last two Beheaders standing but they could no longer see Hildren who was around the corner of the house. They heard the barn door creak open and something large emerge. They peeked around the corner and saw Hildren on the back of Caustrex the Gray. The blade of her silver sword no longer glowed red.

“Leave the Nentir Vale to those who can properly defend it.” Hildren warned, “The real threat is Lords of the East. Focus your energy on them.”

Then Caustrex flew off. Theren raised his bow to fire at Hildren but found he could not release the arrow because of the risk that he might hit the dragon. Morthos and Baal were both bleeding badly. Theren ran to Morthos’ side and Barnoble to Baal’s side. After some difficulty they were each able to stop the bleeding but both fallen comrades would need time to recover. Torinn was unconscious but would be on his feet come morning. They found Rudy behind the house. He was unconscious but not mortally wounded.

The Beheaders had defeated Brackus and Kelson but not located the stolen goods of Teldorthan and Lord Invidia. They would need some time for rest and recovery. It started to snow.

View
Ambush Drake
The Beheaders rest is interrupted.

Shortly after setting up camp and eating, most of the Beheaders were sleeping. Theren kept watch the first two hours. During the second hour, the camp was attacked by five ambush drake. Baal was bloodied in the fight but all except one drake were killed.

View
Leaving The Fens
The Beheaders search the fens.

The Beheaders found the lair of the black dragon they had killed. A chest contained gold, gems and a +2 resounding flail.

They climbed along a ridge to get a good look at the swamp while they travelled. They witnessed some giant rats running through a small valley. Some small black dragons (wyrmlings) ambushed the rats and dragged many into the water – breaking their necks. There were atleast seven of the wyrmlings.

Theren spotted a troll.

They came upon a hill in the middle of the fens where five heads were propped up on posts. One head had been burned with acid, one poisoned, one burnt with fire, one electrocuted and one frozen. The heads were from five of the Fallcrest garrison men. A circle and runes were drawn on the ground around the posts. A sacrificial ceremony to Tiamat had been performed here.

The Beheaders came across an area where ten campfires had recently burned. There were many footprints and it appeared a small army had travelled north.

They ran into a halfling wearing hides and carrying a hand crossbow. The halfling told them he and his friends watched an orc chieftan earlier in the morning kill a young black dragon. He said the orc carried a spear and was called Rugus Doombringing. He was going to bring the dragon’s head back to the other orcs as proof he was the chieftan meant to unite the clans and take them on a rampage. The halfling, named Dupree, wished them farewell by saying, “May Ao, keep you in the balance!”

He said he had seen some dragonborn, kobolds and barbarians further south moving toward this area. That was four days ago.

The Beheaders followed the army’s tracks and travelled most of the day. Near nightfall they came to the edge of the Fens and were attacked by a shambling mound. They killed it.

View
Hounds Of Shadow
The Beheaders attempt at rest is interrupted.

While the Beheaders tended to the dead and looked for the young black dragons lair Theren noticed the drakes they had seen earlier were still stalking the party. A chilling howl echoed from the east across the Fens. The drakes were spooked and ran off. Taeran Woodsinger said the howl was the shadow hounds that had persued them from the graveyard at the edge of Harken Forest. The Beheaders dragged the dead dragon’s carcass to the top of the hill and set up camp.

Theren and Barnoble took first watch and soon the party was attacked by six shadow hounds. The hounds bayed and deafened most of the Beheaders temporarily. They targeted Taeran Woodsinger. The elf tried to escape but was torn apart by the beasts who teleported short distances to surround him. One of the hounds grabbed Taeran pouch. The Beheaders focused their attacks on the dog with the pouch and the hounds ganged up on Barnoble and knocked him unconscious. The hound with the pouch was killed along with another and both hounds dissipated into shadow. The pouch fell to the ground and another hound retrieved it. When that hound was killed and disipated like the others Theren picked up the pouch. The three remaining hounds surrounded him and when he tried to retreat they nearly killed him. Rudy helped Barnoble regain consciousness and then helped stabalize Theren. Soon all the hounds were killed and Morthos took the pouch. Inside he found a large emerald with a strange rune cut into one side. Baal examined it. He believed the rune was a religious symbol but wasn’t sure.

The Beheaders rested the night and everyone reached 6th level.

View
Hunting In The Fens
The Beheaders are determined to find the outlaw Kelson and the traitor Sgt. Brackus.

The Beheaders continued south keeping a few miles from the Nentir River as the letter they found at Kobold Hall instructed. They were being stalked by some sort of drakes with small wings that acted similar to a wolf pack. Only Baal and Morthos got a look at the creatures. After a few hours they ran into a group of three elves and a pair of gray wolves. The elves had been chased out of a graveyard at the edge of the Harken Forest by some shadow hounds. They had crossed the Nentir River in an attempt to lose them. They had been running all night and morning. They joined the Beheaders in their search for their enemies feeling they would be safer with a larger group.

According to the letter from Kobold Hall, a strong scent would lead the Beheaders to the outlaws’ “friend in the fens” as they travelled south. They soon caught wind of a grotesque smell of rot and general foulness. Along to path to find the source of the smell they battled a couple carrion crawler. They basically dispatched the creature with ranged weapons before they could cause any serious harm to anyone. The source of the smell was a stagnant, murky pond at the base of a hill. The pond was filled with refuse and decomposing animal and humanoid corpses. The pool also turned out to be the lair of a pair of otyugh. The Beheaders took down the otyugh without taking any casualties and found some treasure on a corpse in the mouth of one of the creatures.

The Beheaders were confused because the letter’s direction had led them here and there was no sign of Kelson or any outlaws. Theren annd Morthos scouted around the hill. From the top they saw a little wildlife but nothing of much use. As they discussed where to go next, Theren caught sight of a young black dragon spying them from the top of the hill. The dragon attacked. The battled proved difficult. The dragon used it’s breath weapon a few times at the beginning of battle along with its frightful presence. Then it engaged the Beheaders in combat using its aura of darkness to provide concealment. The two gray wolves, two of the elves and Hugh from Fallcrest were all killed during the battle. The Beheaders all sustained some wounds but all were on their feet at the end of the battle. The dragon tried retreating at the last minute but Morthos delivered the killing blow with a throwing star. Taeran Woodsinger was the name of the remaining elf.

View
A Pact With A Dragon
Baal sacrafices his Staff of the War Mage to complete a pact with Caustrex the Gray.

Pinned down in a hole in the side of a cliff the Beheaders discussed how to deal with the gray dragon lurking outside. Theren kept an eye on the young, female wyrm who sat for a moment on a ledge watching the hole one hundred feet above. The dragon soon got up and flew out of Theren’s line of sight. There were no sounds in the cavern outside. Theren joined the others deeper in the small cave to talk about their situation.

The Beheaders talked about Barnoble teleporting to the outcrop above and distracting the dragon while the others attempted to climb up. Only one rope remained hanging from the outcrop. The acid from the dragon’s breath weapon had disintigrated the other ropes. Climbing the rope quickly to the top was a dangerous proposition but climbing the sheer cliff wall to the outcrop might be deadly. It would be harder and slower. The Beheaders could ensure one other member of their group would reach the outcrop quickly by using the boots of climbing. As they talked they heard rocks smashing on the outcrop above. The dragon was getting restless. It was hard to imagine a scenario where an attempted escape wouldn’t result in at least one of the Beheaders falling to their death.

“Dragonslayers?...” a voice echoed down the throat of the cave, “You are dragonslayers, right? How long are you going to hide in that hole?”

“That’s right,” responded Theren, “We’ve killed many dragons and you might be next.”

“Many? I wouldn’t call ssssSzartharax, many.” The dragon replied.

“Ah, so you knew her?” Theren asked.

“Szartharax was young and stupid.” The gray dragon explained, “Whites are an inferior breed. I will not allow myself to be killed by you. Your lives are dust as compared to mine. The elves may be able to relate somewhat but I am still young and have lived through three generations of humans.”

“And what is your name.” asked Theren.

“I am called Caustrex the Gray.” she replied.

By conversing with Caustrex, the Beheaders learned that she was restless. She did not like the confined space of the cavern. She was being paid by someone who wanted them dead and she was in a hurry to be done with the task. She offered to give them a head start up the cavern shaft if they gave her a magic item. She insisted she would still attack but they would have a chance to get into a better position for the fight. She also wanted them to agree that any fallen comrades’ equipment would be left for her to claim for her horde. This conversation did little to entice the Beheaders to leave the safety of the cave. They did have an everful basket of food. Caustrex asked about the staff Baal carried. She would give them a good head start for that item.

The Beheaders took a break from the conversation and schemed a way to trick the dragon into giving Theren a good target to unload some arrows into. They left Baal’s old staff by the cave entrance and Theren waited for the dragon to show herself. Caustrex was offended by the Beheaders idea that she was some sort of inferior creature who could be fooled by such simple tricks. Conversation resumed between the Beheaders and Caustrex after a while. The dragon softened her insistence that she would hunt them all down. The Beheaders learned that she was nearing adulthood and would be looking for a lair soon to raise some wyrmlings. She agreed to let them go if they gave her the staff. The Beheaders didn’t trust her and suggested that she would probably attack them anyway. Caustrex responded that she was in possession of a ritual which could bind her and the Beheaders in a pact of peace. It would require the blood of all the participants in the ritual and the dragon proposed that Baal look at the ritual and cast it himself if the party agreed.

After looking at the ritual, Baal explained to the others that if they took part in it, Caustrex and any of her offspring would be incapable of knowingly causing physical harm to the Beheaders and any of their offspring. The Beheaders and their offspring would likewise be incapable of harming Caustrex and any of her offspring. The Beheaders were suspicious as to why she would make a pact with beings she considered “dust” compared to herself. She explained that she had been refering to the relative short lifespans they had compared to hers.

“I have fought you once and found you are more capable than most humanoids. Perhaps one day you will rule the humanoid kingdoms of this land and your children after you.” Caustrex offered, “A pact with the more powerful humanoids around could be useful to me and my future generations.”

The Beheaders agreed to the pact and all took turns contributing their blood to the ritual as did Caustrex. Baal found that the power of his staff was necessary for the ritual. Upon casting the ritual the staff deteriated into residuum and burned away. The dragon crept to the edge of the outcrop and prepared to take flight.

“So,” said Theren, “Those people above, who want us dead. What will you tell them? That we fell to our deaths?”

“Something like that, I guess?” she replied and then took flight and was soon gone from sight.

The Beheaders climbed up the cavern shaft and after a couple hours reached the top. On the way the found the ruined body of one of the Fallcrest men. It appeared the man had fallen. Perhaps, Sgt. Brackus was pushing them to move faster.

At the top, the Beheaders emerged on a hill with a twisted tree whose roots dangled over the edge of the hole to the Underdark. The Nentir River could be seen a couple miles to the east. The marsh ground was covered in a thick mist. Hills of higher marshland and rock emerged from the mist in a wide area. Far to the west, Theren noticed some unidentifiable unmoving figures on a hill. Further to the west the marshland rose gradually probably giving way to the plains south of Winterhaven. To the southwest was a large hill covered in long swampgrass.

Theren found a couple tracks on the northern side of their hill. After rereading the letter to Wyrmpriest Smerzi, the Beheaders decided to follow the directions which told them to travel south and stay a few miles west of the river. Shortly, they ran into a group of spider-like humanoids called Ettercaps. The Ettercaps surprised the Beheaders and caught three of them in some webs but the battle quickly turned in the Beheaders favor and in the lair nearby Morthos found a Staff of Fiery Might which was woven into the webbed walls of the lair along with many of the Ettercaps past victims.

View
Pinned Down
An enemy is among the Beheaders and Caustrex the Gray returns.

The party is stuck in a hole in the side of a cliff with a young female gray dragon lurking outside. Sgt. Brackus and seven of the Fallcrest men were left above on the outcrop where the adventurers had camped. The eighth Fallcrest man, Hugh, is with the Beheaders in a small cave beneath the outcrop.

Minutes ago, the Beheaders, Brackus and the Fallcrest recruits had been preparing for the climb to the surface. Morthos and Theren had begun scouting the cavern walls with Barnoble. Baal was mingling with the recruits while Brackus organized them. Hugh had been gathering ropes from where the party had ascended. Rudy and Torinn stood with him. Suddenly, Baal noticed Torinn give him a knod and he nudged Hugh. Hugh immediately burst into tantrum.

“I don’t know!” he shouted, “Stop harrassing me!”

Hugh pushed Torinn. The dragonborn stumbled and fell over the edge of the shelf. Sgt. Brackus and the Fallcrest men looked up as Hugh began wrestling with Rudy and the two of them tumbled over the side as well. Sgt. Brackus and Baal ran to where the three had fallen. The outcrop dropped off into blackness. No one could survive a fall from such a height.

Everyone gathered on the ledge. The four remaining Beheaders were confused. Theren wanted to climb down after his friends. Brackus lamented on the loss of their friends but insisted they still needed to persue the outlaw Kelson. The Beheaders huddled together and discussed a general feeling of distrust about Brackus and his men. They suggested that were they to move on they should have the sergeant and his men lead the way. They proposed this to Sgt. Brackus. He agreed to take the lead but reiterated that the Fallcrest men were inexperienced and would not fare well in the front ranks. He said Torinn had questioned him about the fight with the dragon and why he and the men had not provided support. Brackus insisted that the men would have been killed quickly in such a battle.

Before they moved on Morthos wanted to be lowered down over the ledge where Rudy, Torinn and Hugh had fallen. He couldn’t convince himself that they were gone. Barnoble, Theren and Baal prepared a rope. Sgt. Brackus and the Fallcrest men started went to where they would continue to climb the long shaft to the surface. As Morthos grabbed the rope and backed toward the edge of the outcrop, he looked up and saw a shadow flying down toward the four Beheaders. He yelled and whipped out a throwing star as the gray dragon quickly decended. The star went flying wildly as the beast swooped down and spewed its acidic sticky ooze at them. All four were struck by the breathweapon which pushed them all over the side.

They slid over the edge covered in a burning, sticky film. Theren and Barnoble made athletic swings on the rope and found a smaller ledge underthe outcrop. Torinn and Rudy were swinging off of ropes attached to the outcrop and they saved Baal and Morthos from falling. Hugh, the Fallcrest man, was poking his head out of a small hole in the side of the cliff. He helped Morthos and Barnoble into the cave. They were still trying to rid themselves of the burning ooze stuck to them. The others quickly scrambled into the neck of the cave as the dragon swooped back toward them. The dragon hovered in front of the hole and the party retreated in deeper fearing another breath weapon. After a moment the dragon flew out of sight and they heard Sgt. Brackus shouting outside.

Theren kept watch in the shadows inside the hole. He saw the dragon land on a ledge on the opposite side of the shaft about one hundred feet above. The dragon lay down watching the hole. Inside, Hugh explained what had transpired over the last couple of days.

“When we set up camp in that cavern in the Underdark, Brackus gathered the men together while you slept. He told us that our families back at Fallcrest would be in danger if we did not listen to him. His plan was for us to attack you, the Beheaders, once you were severely weakened. He didn’t trust our abilities enough to try to kill you while you slept. He said there would be a big battle the next day with a dragon and he would have us attack you if things went right. You obviously fared better than he expected because he held us back.

“We didn’t want to go along with him but most of the men were afraid for their families. Once we reached this outcrop, I scouted about. I’m a pretty good climber and I found this little cave and attached some ropes while everyone slept. My plan was to convince at least one of you to make Brackus believe we had died in a fall and then we could sneak behind and thwart Brackus before he led you into a trap.

“So, now we are stuck in this hole. That dragon knows we are in here so I have to believe Brackus knows as well. It would be hard for them to get down here but if that dragon hangs around it is going to be hard getting back to the shelf above where we could possibly stand against the beast.”

Barnoble could teleport to the outcrop and Morthos could assure reaching the outcrop using his boots of climbing. Anyone climbing up will be vulnerable to the dragon’s breath weapon. If someone falls they will die.

View
The Gray Dragon
Before the Beheaders begin their trek to the surface they fight a dragon.

Sgt. Brackus and the Fallcrest men searched the cavern on their side of the river and reported to the Beheaders that it was a good place to set up camp. The cavern had a shelf cave forty five feet above. One of the Fallcrest men explored this cave and reported that it had been used as a camp sight a few weeks ago. There were old ashes from a campfire and some trash.

The river contained some pale white fish and there was evidence of fish bones and some faded tracks along the shore. Other life in the cavern consisted of small lizards and insects. They set up camp and Sgt. Brackus and the Fallcrest men agreed to take all the watches so the Beheaders could get in a good rest.

When the Beheaders awoke Sgt. Brackus told them there had been no incidents during the night. Everything had been quiet. The Fallcrest men had picked up most of the camp and were ready for the Beheaders to lead the way. They crossed the river to where the natural stone pillar was splashed with yellow paint. At shore level, there was a passage that led in sixty or seventy feet to the cavern wall. The wall on the southern side of the passage was sixty feet high before it opened onto a ridge. They could make out the ridge due to a light growth of phospherescent fungi on the ceiling. The passage wall on the northern side rose thirty feet to a ledge and deeper past this ledge they could see another outcrop another fifteen feet higher. Theren climbed the northen side and Morthos climbed the southern side. Theren had a little difficulty with the climb. Morthos had his boots of climbing so despite Theren having a shorter climb they reached the tops at the same time.

The sixty foot high ridge that Morthos was on rose slightly to a dark cave. The ridge was ten to fifteen feet wide where Morthos stood. There were many shadows. On the thirty foot ledge Theren was on, there was a large natural column that extended to the ceiling of the cavern. On the eastern side of the column was a passage. On the western side of the column was a wide outcrop fifteen feet higher than where Theren stood. Beyond that outcrop Theren could see yet another higher ledge. In the passage east of the column, Theren noticed two kobolds hiding in the shadows.

“Kobolds!” Theren called out.

The two kobolds sprung from where they crouched and three others came running from deeper in the passage. Theren quickly brought one down with a shot from his bow. Morthos turned and fired a shurikan from where he stood on higher ground and another kobold minion fell. A wyrmpriest and two minions were remaining and the wyrmpriest was inciting the two others into a frenzy. Rudy, Torinn and Barnoble began climbing up to the thirty foot shelf. Theren had shifted along the ledge away from the kobolds. The two minions ran to the edge to meet Torinn and Rudy who were nearing the top. The wyrmpriest vomitted a spray of acid onto Theren but missed him with a force orb.

Up on the sixty foot ridge, Morthos had backed away from the edge when suddenly five kobolds sprang from the shadows and surrounded him. They swarmed around him stabbing with their spears. Morthos wounded one and Baal killed it with a spell but the others brought Morthos down with viscious stabs. They then began taunting Baal, telling him that he was next.

On the lower ledge, Torinn and Rudy killed the two minions. Barnoble attacked the wyrmpriest and Theren fired at a kobold on the ledge with Morthos and killed it. Two kobold dragonshields then jumped down from the outcrop above Torinn. One landed on him – knocking him to the ground – and the other missed and bounced on the floor with a grunt. Torinn struggled with the dragonshield. He tried to throw it over the side of the ledge but it fought fiercely. The other dragonshield got to his feet and engaged Rudy. Rudy hit it with a warlord power that allowed Morthos to heal with a surge. He was still unconscious but no longer in immediate danger of death. The three remaining kobold skirmishers on the higher ridge flared small wings and leaped off the edge toward Baal. Baal unleashed a fireball and the kobolds were bloodied and smoldering when they landed and attacked the wizard.

Suddenly, from the passage east of the natural column on the thirty foot high ledge, a menacing creature the size of a large warhorse burst from the darkness propelled by large wings. The beast was covered in gray scales. It’s head was horned and the scales of its beard hung down like fangs. It had a long barbed tail and fierce claws. The frightful presence of the young gray dragon stunned Torinn, Rudy and Barnoble for a moment and it spat a wad of ooze at Barnoble and Theren. The breath weapon knocked each of them back ten feet and the acidic ooze began burning their flesh. The wyrmpriest was caught in the blast as well and he perished as it dissolved his rough skin.

Down below, Baal finished off one of his attackers which left two skirmishers and they wounded him. The dragonshield on Rudy missed but the one on Torinn managed to stab the dragonborn warrior. Theren fired and hit the dragon which lunged at Barnoble who was closer. It sunk a claw into the eladrin soldier and missed Rudy with a swipe of its tail. Barnoble recovered from the frightful presence and struck the dragon with a dizzying blow. The strike brought the creature down to the ledge floor. The blade of Barnoble’s sword was stuck into the creature near the point where it’s wing met it’s back and the eladrin wrestled to hold the dragon from springing back into the air. Baal and the skirmishers warded off each others attacks.

Rudy struck the dragonshield he faced and Torinn finally tossed his attacker over the side of the ledge. The kobold hit the ground thirty feet below but slowly got back on his feet. Theren hit the dragon with a splintering strike. The dragon clawed Barnoble again and missed Rudy with it’s barbed tail. With a villian’s menace, Barnoble twisted his sword and the dragon roared in pain. A magic missle from Baal brought down one of the skirmishers but the dragonshield who had been thrown down by Torinn attacked him along with the remaining skirmisher.

Rudy brought down the dragonshield he faced. Torinn joined the fight against the dragon and struck it with his great axe. Theren used his split the tree power and fired two arrows at the kobolds attacking Baal. The arrows found their marks and the two kobolds fell dead. Barnoble was still keeping the dragon from taking flight. It missed him with a claw attack. Rudy, Torinn and Theren directed attacks on the dragon. Rudy missed and was struck by the dragon’s barbed tail. Torinn hit the gray wyrm and bloodied it. The dragon immediately spewed another acidic ooze at Barnoble and Theren. Theren dodged the blast but Barnoble was thrown back ten feet and the dragon was no longer immobilized. Theren hit it with another arrow as the dragon retreated. It flew up past the ledges and outcrops into the darkness above.

Sgt. Brackus and the Fallcrest men came up from the river and joined Baal. Theren climbed down from the thirty foot ledge and climbed up to where Morthos lay. After a few moments he revived the tiefling rogue. Everyone took a short rest. Beyond the top of that ridge the cavern started to decend further down the river.

Using ropes and taking their time the Beheaders climbed the ridges in the direction the dragon had flew. Sgt. Brackus helped the Fallcrest men slowly follow. On an outcrop seventy five feet above the river the Beheaders found a small pile of booty consisting of three bags of mixed coins, a backpack holding two gems, some coins and a metal headband which had a magical enhancement that improved the wearer’s acuity. There was a toppled stack of fifty silver bars and a wine cask covered by an elven cloak. The elven cloak had a magical enhancement which improved the wearers defenses and stealth ability.

The battle had beaten up the Beheaders but the day was still young so they climbed. The cavern was a twisting shaft they led up into blackness. They climbed to a ledge fifteen feet above the pile of booty and found a ridge that swirled upward along the cavern walls for a few hundred feet. Soon, however they had to take out ropes and grappling hooks and climb from shelf to shelf up the shaft. It was grueling and slow. Sgt. Brackus and the Fallcrest men followed but were even slower. After a days worth of climbing the Beheaders were exhausted. They found a good sized outcrop and made camp. There was still no sign of daylight.

View
A Passage In The Dark
The Beheaders pursue Kelson down a passage thru the Underdark.

The kobold wyrmpriest & skirmishers and the dragonborn warrior were dead and the Beheaders searched their bodies for clues. They found nothing useful on them. They wondered where the dragonborn had been hiding. They heard Sgt. Brackus call down the stairs and they filled him in on what had happened. He said the eight young soldiers had surrounded the ruins and found no one trying to escape as of yet. The Beheaders joked about bringing the Fallcrest men into the ruins and using them as fodder in their further explorations. Brackus took offense.

“These soldiers are green,” he explained, “Lord Kamroth could not afford to send more experienced men with all else that is going on in the vale. The men outside are not much more than boys. They can stand guard or defend a crenallated wall but they are not experienced explorers. The Lord Warden is hoping they can learn something from your company. I’d be grateful for any assistance you could give me training them. They are recent additions to the garrison. All have family, home at Fallcrest, depending on them.”

“Bring your men down here,” Torinn suggested to Sgt. Brackus, “I’ll wait here for you and the Fallcrest men while the others search the rest of the ruins for Kelson.”

Brackus departed and Torinn waited. Theren, Morthos, Barnoble and Baal searched the rest of Kobold Hall. In the next room, they found a chest containeg a few gold pieces and some silver pieces mixed in with shiney stones and poor quality gems. Morthos discovered a secret panel in the small chest that contained a map and a letter written in draconic. He shared the papers with the others but none of them could speak draconic. Morthos ran the letter back to Torinn and he translated it.

Wyrmpriest Smerzi,

Return to the lair of Szartharrax. Chop through the ice. Find the closed barrier. Open the barrier. Watch for Kelson from Fallcrest. The barrier blocks a passage in the dark. Kelson will go through the passage in the dark.

Wait for the new moon. Recruits may arrive. After the new moon, take the minions through the passage in the dark. The passage in the dark leads to our Friend in the Fens.

Use the map and follow these directions:

The passage in the dark goes deep. Travel for a day. It will be slow. When you hear rushing water, look for a storage cave. Take the boats. Continue down the passage in the dark. Reach the Svartjet River.

Use the boats to go down the river. Just follow the current. It will be fast. Pass through two large chambers. Avoid other creatures. Pay the fish man if he sees you.

Stop in the third chamber. Find the western passage marked with yellow paint. Take the passage to the surface. It will be a days climb.

At the surface, climb the tree to the top. The Nentir River can be seen a few miles to the east. Travel south – keeping the same distance from the river. You should pick up the scent. As long as the scent gets stronger you are going in the right direction.

Obey our Friend. Praise and sacrafice to the Goddess!

~ Your High Priest of Greed and Destruction

The Beheaders led Brackus and the Fallcrest men down the long stairs deep beneath Kobold Hall where they had slain Szartharrax not much more than a month ago. They found picks, shovels and other gear laying around a large hole in the ice below. Some ropes were secured and hung into the hole where an iron barrier had been removed. They decided to camp and rest before following Kelson down the passage in the dark. During the night Rudy arrived and found his mates down in the lair.

Morthos, Theren, Rudy, Torinn, Barnoble and Baal went down the hole first. After fifty feet Morthos dropped a few feet onto a large rock. he held his sunrod aloft and found the rock was surrounded by a tenfoot span of water on all sides. A passage exited the small cave on one side. Suddenly, Morthos noticed the water rippling and he called out and drew a throwing star. The rest of the Beheaders quickly dropped down. Morthos unleashed his star and Theren fired an arrow and Baal cast a force orb into the rippling water. The water exploded and a poisonous vapor filled the room. Everyone except Baal was temporarily immobilized and weakened by the vapor as a blue slime rose from the water and slammed a fist into Morthos. A portion of the slimey fist detached and stuck to Morthos burning him with acid. Some of the Beheaders attacked while also trying to recover from the effects of the vapor. The attacks ripped chunks of the slime off the main mass and pieces that could not quickly reattach dissolved. The slime slithered onto the rock among the Beheaders and erupted. They all were at least partially injured by the burning acidic slime. After the eruption the slime quickly gathered itself back together. The Beheaders were now recovering from the vapor and everyone unleashed attacks. They ripped and splattered much of the creature and it immediately erupted again burning all the Beheaders with acidic slime. It sent another slime fist at Morthos which knocked the tiefling to the ground seeing stars. Rudy assisted Morthos and the Beheaders killed the blue slime after the next round of attacks.

After the battle the Beheaders waded across the waist deep water to the passage. Brackus and the Kallcrest men followed. The passage was fairly steep and care had to be taken to avoid falling. The travel was slow. For the first quarter mile the passage had been dug but eventually the tunnel appeared naturally formed. After six hours of descent they faintly heard rushing water. They soon found a large cave in the passage wall and found four long canoes. The Beheaders took two boats and Sgt. Brackus and his men took the other two. The sound of rushing water grew stronger as they travelled further down the passage. Soon the reached the Svartjet River. The passage continued beyond the underground river. They got in the canoes and started down the river. Travel was much quicker now. The trip down the passage had taken seven hours and had been about a five mile climb. On the river, the Beheaders travelled a mile in ten minutes and came to an area where another passage intersected the river. This passage was ten feet above the water on both sides and the Beheaders light source revealed eyes from multiple creatures peering down at them. They passed quickly.

Soon the Beheaders entered a large lake-filled cavern. The water went on beyond their light source and the water’s current had greatly subsided. They floated quietly for a while. Stalagtites hung from the high ceiling and here and there a stalagmite emerged from the water. Occasionally, a natural column stretched from the water to the ceiling. After a while, they saw some dim light moving ahead. They heard some strange grunting and croaking coming from the light. As they came closer, they saw the ceiling was covered in phospherescent moss above the water that spanned between two passages. The dim light they had seen came from a low lit latern attached to the bow of a sea vessel four times the size of their canoes. Two dark, white haired humanoids were being dropped off on the shore by one passage. Three other white haired humanoids stood across the water by the other passage. Two held chains which were secured to a giant insect-like humanoid. The creature had antenna and large pincer-like mandibles. It’s hulking body was a mustard brown color and it had thick forearms which ended in huge brutal claws. The third dark humanoid held a staff with a shiney stone directly in front of the beasts eyes. The beast stood docile with all of its attention on the stone.

The creature piloting the sea vessel was a hulking form with large fish eyes. It moved its vessel into the middle of the lake and turned toward the Beheaders canoes. It began grunting and croaking and waving it’s thick arms at them. The Beheaders spoke to the creature as they came nearer but it did not appear to understand. It made hand gestures and croaked more urgently. Suddenly but briefly, Theren, Morthos and Baal saw a large creature swimming in the water near their canoe. They did not get a good look at it as it submerged just as it caught their eye. It appeared to have a rough hide covered in algae and seaweed. The creature in the sea vessel was very agitated. The Beheaders could see him a little better and he appeared to be a giant humanoid fish. He held a crossbow in one hand and raised his other palm toward the Beheaders in a “stop” gesture and let out a deep grunt.

The Beheaders stopped their canoes and this seemed to appease the creature. They tried to ask it what it wanted but it just motioned at their boats, shook its large head and made the “stop’ gesture again. It swung it’s vessel around and guided it to where the three drow elves waited with the umber hulk. They appeared restless. As the fish creature turned Rudy suggested they move on and find where the river exited the cavern. Brackus and the Fallcrest men hung back in thier canoes but stayed within sight. The Beheaders began rowing. The fish creature immediately turned his craft, raised his crossbow and fired a bolt which struck Theren.

The Beheaders rowed more fiercely, trying to get the fish creature close enough to engage in melee combat. Theren fired his bow but missed. The fish man fired the crossbow and hit Theren, again. All the while the fish man managed to keep his vessel at a safe distance from the Beheaders. Rudy was sitting in the rear of a canoe he shared with Torinn and Barnoble. Suddenly a huge crocodile covered in plant growth lunged out of the water past the stern of Rudy’s boat. One of the drow waiting for the water taxi shouted a strange language and the fish man looked toward him. The crocodile submerged again.

“Why don’t you just pay him?” suggested one of the other drow, “Otherwise, I think he’s going to kill you. Not that I care, but I’d rather not stand around here.”

“What does he want?” asked Theren.

“I don’t know.” replied the drow, “He usually accepts 10 gold to ferry someone across.”

The Beheaders agreed to pay the fish man. The drow spoke in their strange language to the creature and he lowered his crossbow and made the “stop” hand gesture. The Beheaders stopped. The fish man kept one eye on the Beheaders while he picked up the drow and umber hulk and took them across to where their companions waited. He then guided his boat over to the Beheaders and their negotiations led to the Beheaders surrendering the small chest of booty they had found at Kobold Hall.

The four canoes passed and found their way to where the river exited the cavern. They took the river down a few more miles, through a second smaller cavern and then stopped when it appeared they were entering the third cavern since their journey down the river. They had travelled long and would need to set up camp and rest before climbing up to the surface world. The Beheaders pulled up on the right side of the river where their was a clearing. Sgt. Brackus and the Fallcrest men pulled up on the opposite side where ther was a clearing as well. Some rocks crested the water up ahead. They were large to be an obstacle but there was room for the canoes to pass if the Beheaders decided to float further down. Besides the two clearings where the canoes had stopped there were other open areas, higher up in the cavern walls. On the Beheaders side, a large natural column was splashed with yellow paint.

View
Rudolph Harmony and the Harkenwold Villagers
Rudy escorts Farrah Goldleaf and the Riverbend Survivors back to Harkenwold.

Rudy departed with Farrah and the Riverbend Survivors early in the morning. Farrah rallied the women and children to action. Rudy took a friendly, casual approach with the villagers. He and Farrah discussed politics and philosophy while travelling. They got along well. By mid-day they approached an area known as Raven Roost. Farrah explained that it was a frequent hangout of bandits and other outlaws. Rudy told her of the Raven Roost Performers he had met near Winterhaven and she was familiar with them.

As they entered the Roost, which was a crude fort made of a few felled large trees and a pit in the midst of a clearing, they found five dead human bodies being picked at by crows. They shooed the birds away and examined the bodies. Four of the dead had dried blood in their ears and from their noses with no other wounds besides some post-mortem pecking by the crows. The fifth had traces of blood in one ear but also a sword wound in his flank and deep gash had ripped his chest open. A few cracked ribs poked through the blood congealing in the wound. Two sprays of blood covered the ground around this body. The five bodies were uniformed in the garb of Fallcrest militia. Where they laid, it appeared that all five had been surrounding their killer. Farrah and Rudy decided to load the bodies into the cart and Rudy would bring them back to Fallcrest and explain what they had found.

They continued down the road and shortly reached the edge of the Harken Forest. Along the road through the woods Rudy soon became aware that their group was being surrounded by denizens of the forest. He alerted Farrah and after hearing a bird call she responded with a series of chirps and whistles. A group of elven archers emerged from the trees. Farrah explained to Rudy that these were members of her mother’s tribe. The elves were happy to see her and addressed her as “Baroness Farrah” with a playful tone. The beautiful half-elf blushed and then explained to Rudy that her full name was Farrah Goldleaf Stockmer and that she was Baron Stockmer’s daughter. Although, her father was an elderly man her mother was still fairly young for an elf. She assisted her father in governing the villages of Harkenwold and her mother patrolled the Harken Forest with a group of rangers.

As the elves escorted the group to the village of Riverbend, Farrah filled them in on the plight of the Survivors and the heroics of the Beheaders. A couple of the elves departed to find Farrah’s mother. In Riverbend, Rudy met Enubrius the Bronze and was reacquainted with Lynn Sysvani, Abilon Azaer, Ardellosia and Bralvuna. They informed Rudy that his house in Fallcrest had been burned down the night of the attack on Teldorthan. They did not get a look at the arsonists but believed it was Kelson’s River Rat gang.

Rudy asked Enubrius his opinion about the new Lord Warden. Enubrius told him that he had had a good relationship with Lord Markelhey but had not known Armos Kamroth. On his trip back from the Rain Valley, Enubrius had stopped at Fallcrest but Kamroth had been busy and only met with Enubrius briefly. Something about the new Lord Warden rubbed Enubrius the wrong way.

Enubrius understood the Beheaders wanted to clear their names and find Kelson who had accused them. The dragonborn priest planned to return to the Arkvana Peninsula soon but he suggested once the Beheaders squared things with Lord William Invidia they should go to Bridgeblock because Makkus Day the sheriff of Bridgeblock could use some experienced adventurers for a mission. Enubrius also said Vyndra Sysvani and Barnoble Eeace IV, who were both council members in the eladrin city Mithrendain, may have work for them in the future but for now they should gain more experience.

Before Rudy left the next day, a garrison of Fallcrest men led by Sgt. Thurmina arrived in Harkenwold. Rudy told Thurmina about the militia men he had found at the Raven Roost and the sergeant took possession of the remains. He said that several groups had been sent out to find the escaped Lady Markelhey and that it looked like the dead soldiers they found must have encountered her or perhaps someone who was helping her.

Rudy was given eight hundred gold pieces for rescuing the villagers but he returned half of it to help the villagers rebuild Riverbend. He was given a riding horse and left for Fallcrest. Back at Fallcrest Rudy found a message for him at the Halfmoon Inn which said the rest of the Beheaders had travelled with some of Lord Warden Kamroth’s men to Kobold Hall looking for Kelson. Rudy followed.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.