League of the Western Fall

When Push Comes To Shove
keeping our head above water

After a long rest, if one could call it that, our party set out once again to complete our mission. From the uneasy looks on each other’s faces, it was obvious that our time in this dark place was taking its toll. Crow thinks he heard the voices of children running through the halls while we slept. Jak seemed on edge and eager to get moving.

So we started out and came to a set of double doors. On these door, the words:

IN MEMORY OF THOSE BRAVE WARRIORS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES TO SEAL AWAY THE GREAT DARKNESS
LET NONE PASS

were written in painstaking relief onto the door’s surface.

Without another option, we cautiously opened the great doors, revealing a great expense of darkness into which Jak’s illuminated spear tip did not make a dent.

Having no desire to enter such a room blindly, Crow illuminated a copper coin from our treasury and used his mystical powers to levitate the glowing coin deep into the room, partially revealing its contents, include a colossal statue in the center of the room depicting an armor clad human and two dragon statues, each placed in the two nearest corners of the room. The far end of the chamber remained in darkness.

Approaching one of the dragon statues, Crow was able to read lettering on its base, from which he gathered that those were no mere ornamentation, but had magical properties designed to defend the room from intruders. We proceeded slowly, trying to put as much distance between ourselves and the various statues as possible. Unfortunately, the room was designed to thwart even the most cautious of intruders and Jak’s footsteps once again set a trap into motion.

As the two doors slammed shut, the center statue began to move, swinging its forbiddingly massive sword toward where we stood. Instinctively, our party moved back, attempting to get out of the sword’s range, only to be discover the buffeting force emanating from the dragons, clearly designed to push the room’s occupants into the path of the sword.

Jak immediately pulled out a sunrod in an attempt to discover an escape. With the other end of the room illuminated, Arak made a break for the other end of the room, finding a small area with stairs leading down, then similarly leading backup, surrounded on four corners by pillaresque statues of maidens holding large pots above their heads. As he got to the bottom of the descending stairs, another trap was strung, causing stairs to flatten into a smooth ramp and the pots began pouring water into the sunken area, causing it to quickly fill.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party found themselves knocked to their feet by the dragons and pushed into the range of the statue. Jak starred in amazement as Crow somehow shuffled himself out of harm’s way at a speed one would not think possible while resting on one’s backside. River stood up and made a break for the base of the armored statue, see that if he got up onto its base, the sword may not be able to reach him. He was not successful.

Jak, seeing River’s logic made the same attempt and was successful in climbing up onto the narrow edge at the statue’s base, helping River up on his next attempt.

They both scrambled around to the other side of the statue to find Arak and Crow up to their waists in rising water, preferring to get a little wet than be in range of the mighty statue’s swords. But as the water began to move, it became apparent that the traps was designed to do more that give its occupants a bath.

Seeing the danger his comrades now faced, River grabbed his rope from his pack and tossed it into the pool, hoping this friend’s could pull themselves to safety. Jak attempted to tie the other end of the rope to the statue, with questionable results. Unfortunatley by now, the water had become a vortex, smashing its Arak and Crow against the stonework around them, making something as simple as grabbing a rope an extremely difficult task.

Eventually, Crow was able to get hold of the rope and Arak was able to get hold of Crow that they could now focus the pots. River and Jak also began targeting the pots and soon all four were shattered. The water then disappeared as if it had never existed.

The keep we found ourselves in had now become just as dangerous as the enemies within it.

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Separation Anxiety
And the Portcullis of Doom

Having successfully scouted the room at the bottom of the stairs, Jak described it to his comrades as a large space at the center of which was carved a large 10′×10′ hole. Four men, seemingly guards by their less than casual arrangement, occupied the room.

Having, for once, surveyed a room without alerting everyone in it, the party felt that it was possible to catch these men by surprise and deal with them quickly without being trapped in a confined space. Feeling that their window would not be open forever, Jak began to rush the room, hoping to drop the two closest guard into the hole, presumably followed by this companions. But something went wrong.

Somehow, the guard became alerted to our presence, called out what sounded like a code phrase and without waiting for an answer, repositioned themselves before the party could even enter the room.

Seeing that we were once again being forced to fight in a bottleneck, our party decided to retreat up the stairs hoping to gain a positional advantage. But unlike our previous encounters, the enemy did not pursue us and instead used the opportunity to set up positions in the room below.

Accepting the inevitable, we pushed forward, finding ourselves once again fighting shoulder to shoulder, severely limiting our options, made more awkward by the limited visibility provided by the slope of the staircase. But, as always, our fearless foursome held their own and began pushing into the room.

All seemed to be going well when along came a spider. Seemingly kept for just such an occasion, a giant spider was released into the room and herded toward our direction. With a mighty leap across the pit, the hairy beast was upon us, or more specifically, Arak. Seeing the threat coming, Arak wisely fortified himself against the effect of the creature’s venom, this nullifying the worst of its attack.

Seeing the eight legged menace as the more obvious threat, we concentrated our efforts and leg by leg, reduced the creature to a gooey, hairy, and none to lightly smoking husk, narrowly missing Jak in the process.

Once their little pet was vanquished, the rest of the guards fell as well, short of one that fled the room. Not wanting to run into an ambush without steeling ourselves for another battle, our party took a short rest, searching the main room, a room which appeared to get the guard’s room, and the spider’s pen, but found nothing of value, other than the knowledge that a spider’s web is highly flammable, thanks to Crow’s incendiary curiosity.

Having caught our breath, we continued on, discovering more hallways and connected rooms. As the party approached a large room containing a large wooden table, Jak tripped a pressure switch in the floor, causing a portcullis to come crashing down, thus separating him from the rest of the party. As if waiting for this to occur, several men entered the room, one carrying a very well used spear, clearly the leader of the pack. Feeling the rage burning inside him, Jak summoned the chilling power of the Acanthian Peaks, ice forming on the tips of his obsidian horns, fog rolling out of his nostrils, frost crystals spreading across the room from were he stood. With a clear head, Jak began making his way out of the room, assisted by his comrades from beyond the bars.

Making matters incrementally worse, several enemies also appeared from behind Arak, Crow, and River on the other side of the portcullis. Seeing that his crew was not alone, Jak bolted down the hallway with all his might, drawing upon the images of what happened beneath the falls when their party had been divided. With equal surprise to both enemy and ally, Jak smashed into the rear flank of the foes engaged with the rest of the party. Instantly, the party dynamics began to kick in, River taking advantage of a distracted enemy, Crow and Arak afforded slightly more freedom to unleash their magic.

But, where did the man with the spear go? Jak expected him to be right on his heals! There was no time to worry about what was not behind him for there was much to worry about before him, for Arak and Crow were quickly finding the close quarters far to confining and River, while doing his best to give them the room they needed, was being pushed back against the portcullis. Eventually, the party was able to slay most of the enemies that separated the party, but one individual was proving to be particularly tenacious.

As our party has come to expect, just as the light appeared at the end of the tunnel, an avalanche choked it shut. The avalanche came in the form of the man with the spear, accompanied by a host of new enemies, thus explaining his delay.

Fortunately, slick ice continued to emanate from Jak’s position, thus impeding the progress of the new foes, forcing them to pay much more attention to where they placed their feet and less on their defenses. Sensing that fear was beginning to take hold of the party, Jak let lose an encouraging bellow that echoed off the walls of the narrow hallway, drawing upon the party’s formidable courage, allowing all to ignore the pain of their wounds as River had done for him so many times before.

Forcing the light to appear at the end of the tunnel once more, the party attacked with continued ferocity, pull out every trick and treasure they had, particularly Arak, who’s trick bag seemed to have no bottom! Jak concentrated on keeping the enemies separated from the man with the spear, given that all foes who stood with him proved particularly formidable. River kept continued to punish any who attempted to get past our defenses while keeping the party conscious. Crow even resorted to using his staff for more than just an implement of magic, solidly cracking enemies in the face whenever they dared get too close, which none in the party had seen him do before.

Unfortunately, another first took the form of Jak falling limply to the ground, after delivering one last blow to his attacker, though icy mist continued to roll off his unconscious form. The party continued to pull from unknown reserves of courage, fighting off the few enemies that remained and River was able to provide just enough healing power to get Jak back on his feet.

All that remained of their enemies was a lone archer, fear plainly evident on his face after seeing Jak, the only member of our party his crew had managed to drop, now climbing back to his feet.

With a mix of cowardice and wisdom, the archer bolted toward the room connecting to the stairway from which the party had originally descended. After a short chase, the party decided that pursuit was futile, especially given their current exhausted condition. They were indeed lucky to be standing at all, much less blindly running into the darkness.

So they decided to rest in the room with the slitted door and mend their wounds, for they knew the “Dark Wizard” and the rift still stood before them. Hopefully, when they awoke, their past experience would give them the tools to face the future.

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The Challenging Sir Keegan
Brains: Use 'em or loose 'em.

When last we met Sir Keegan, or what was left of him, he had risen from is final resting place.

Not willing to take our word for it that our intentions were pure, Sir Keegan put our party through a series of challenges in order to determine both our valor and ability to stay alive, putting all our skills to the test, a test that we dare not fail.

Impressive feats of magic were performed, dazzling displays of diplomacy were invoked, and eventually Sir Keegan was sufficiently convinced that we were both willing and able to put an end to a tale that had begun with Sir Keegan himself.

It turns out that Sir Keegan had opened a ‘rift’ in the depths of his keep, letting lose an evil that eventually took him over, resulting in the slaughter that became the stuff of legend and song. Sir Keegan, having seemingly shed this evil influence after his death, charged us with the task of closing this rift. While not part of the original plan, refusing seemed foolish for several reasons, a few of which littered the floor not so far away from where we stood.

Perhaps as a result of Jak’s particularly lack luster performance in the recent challenge, Sir Keegan empowered Jak’s spear with magical properties suited to help deal with the challenges that awaited us, particularly those of the less than alive, but not quite dead variety.

With this, left Sir Keegan’s chambers with the distinct feeling that returning before the quest was complete would be more than futile.

As we made our way from the crypt, we noticed that the bodied of the foul creatures we had presumably slain on our way in were remarkably absent, leaving behind only bits and pieces we had dislodged in combat. As if this were not disturbing enough, we could faintly make out the form of what seemed to be a small child hunched down at the far end of the corridor. As we cautiously approached what appeared to be a disheveled young girl, River attempted to communicate with the clearly distraught child, who seemed not to notice our presence. The girl responded by accusing our party of ‘being mean’ to her friends and then ran into the darkness. We attempted to follow, but our pursuit was thwarted by the mysterious runes that we had avoided crossing earlier.

In a continued attempt to avoid the consequences of treading upon the runes, Jak took a running leap, successfully clearing the glyph by quite a distance, but also leaving his companions in near total darkness, being it was his illuminated spear that was providing the light for the party. Jak broke out a sunrod so that the others could see clearly enough to take their turn in jumping across the rune. The success would be short lived as the next attempt to clear the rune triggered it upon contact, resulting in an ear piercing blast of horror that effected everyone within several yards of the glyph with the clear intention of scaring its target to death.

The sound had an added effect of alerting the decrepit denizens of the dark, for soon our party was up to its ringing ears with more decaying undead fully intent on our demise. This proved rather unfortunate, given half of our part had yet to cross the terror inducing glyph, though Arak seemed perfectly adept at attacking our foes from afar, while Jak and Crow attempted to keep them pinned down in the narrow hallway and River making sure we all remained firmly on the living side of the spectrum. The arrangement seemed to prove effective and soon the creatures lay motionless on the ground.

After taking stock of all our fingers, toes, and hooves and determining that the limbs that lay on the ground did not belong to any still standing, Arak decided to explore the halls, getting the feeling that the terror glyphs guarded more than just a few walking dead. His hunch paid off as he discovered a door to a secret room expertly hidden along a wall (how many of these have we passed already?). The room’s sole occupant was a single wooden chest. With much anticipation, we opened the chest, only to find it disappointingly empty. Having heard many tall tails from the Chicken’s many customers regarding secret levers and other such devices, we attempted to move the chest. The chest proved impervious to our attempts. In an attempt to test for a false bottom, a glint of metal attracted Jak’s attention, which proved to be a metal placard onto which the words “I can only be kept after being given to someone”


After a brief discussion, followed by a not so brief silence, Crow cleverly uttered “A Promise” and the hidden contents of the chest appeared out of thin air. The prize was a dark cloak that appeared almost black, but reflected tones of deep scarlet. Upon closer examination, we got the clear impression that the hypnotically shifting tones of the cloak were more than aesthetic and would make the barer decidedly more difficult to focus on and this harder to hit directly. Subtle patterns embroidered into the lining of the piece depicting fiery skulls also indicated it may give the barer protection from both flame and the foul effects of the undead.

Despite the humorous and subtly ironic image of a giant bull wearing what amounted to a red cape, the group decided that Jak, the party’s front line defense, would be the most appropriate barer of the cloak.

- Headed downstairs towards a torch-lit room. The room is guarded by the hobgoblin mercenaries Ech spoke of.

- J

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Into the Dark
Is that a sarcophagaaaaahhh!!!!!

Having gathered as much information as possible about the Dark Wizard, we decided it was time to make our way past the double doors of doom.

Jak customarily took the point, both figuratively and literally, given Crow had once again illuminated the tip of Jak’s spear as the keep’s torches began to flicker and fade. Having satisfactorily searched for traps and finding none, Jak cautiously cracked open one of the doors, finding it surprisingly unlocked. Cruel fate would once again rear its mocking head as the Minotaur, the only member of the party who has trouble seeing when light is scarce, peered into total and utter blackness.

Suddenly, a flurry of sparks exploded through the small gap in the doorway, not from the gloomy depths, but from behind Jak, starling the already pensive beast, causing him to turn, spear at the ready, only to see the rest of his party staring innocently back at him completely unalarmed. Stumped and confused Jak opened the doors the rest of the way assuming that if something waited beyond the doors, there was no longer cause for subtlety.

As the party proceeded, the glowing spear tip became the sole source of light as the brackets that normally held torches were disturbingly empty. Also disturbing was the foul stench of rot and decay that grew thick as the party descended. Inching forward, we made our way through a series of interconnecting hallways. In several locations among the passages, a mysterious ruin was found intricately carved into the floor. We attempted to discover the possible purpose of these glyphs, but were unsuccessful. Weary of setting off who knows what, our party avoided crossing the ruins, which lead us to a room that appeared to be some sort of burial chamber, as its walls were lined with several stacked stone structures that seemed to serve as a final accommodations for the dead. But there were no dead to be found in this room, a fact that was at once both welcome and disturbing.

At the far end of the chamber was a relief carved into the wall (detail escape me).

Having satisfactorily searched the room, we proceeded to the only other avenue open to use without crossing the seals, which was a passage that appeared to open up and then fade into darkness. Soon after crossing into the room, we were immediately met with several wretched forms emerging from the darkness. They had the appearance of beings long since dead yet here they were, ambling awkward toward our party or possibly towards the light at resting at the end of Jak’s spear.

Judging the intentions of the reanimated dead were not friendly, we attacked the walking corpses with the intent of righting whatever wrong was responsible for raising these unfortunate souls from their final rest (were these the former occupants of the empty chamber we had just left?). We made short work of the ghoulish creatures, especially due to those among our party who’s abilities seemed to be particularly effective against these sorts of horrors.

Proceeding past the gruesome scene and River attempting to ignore the stench of death left on him by a particularly grabby ghoul, we came across the words “Keep out! Really!” crudely painted in red on the floor. Sensing no threat from the graffiti itself, we proceeded past it into a room lined with many sarcophagi standing upright along the walls. We examined them and saw no threat, so we continued down the hallway toward a light coming from around a corner down the hall.

Suddenly, the sarcophagi burst open, revealing skeletal remains that, similar to the half decayed denizens of the dark we dealt with earlier, moved as though alive despite having no flesh to even keep their bones together! Most of them fell quickly, but as soon as one fell, another would appear from one sarcophagus or another. As the bones began to pile up and the skeletal stream seemed unstoppable, we were reminded of the light that was coming from the end of the hall. Having the first opportunity to break away, Jak bounded down the hallway to investigate the source of the illumination, discovering an alter. Remembering River was the sort of person who might be able to make sense of such a thing, he beckoned for the cleric to join him.

River, deducing it to be a alter of Bahamut, who stood on good terms with his diety, Avandra, offered up a prayer humbly requesting assistance and deliverance from the macabre manifestations presently pressing in upon us.

This seemed to hit the intended mark, for immediately the sarcophagi slammed shut in unison, thus cutting off the source of the skeletons. Once the remainder were dealt with, we had time to closer examine the alter, finding a large dome above it that emulated the night sky with stunning brilliance, proving to the source of the light, although the light did not seem to be coming from any spot in particular. River discovered a set of figurines hidden in a secret compartment in the alter itself. Feeling that the relics had significant religious value, River kept them with the hopes of finding a more active community of Bahamut followers, being is was doubtful that any would be returning to this sight any time soon.

Scattered before the alter was yet another disturbing scene. Several solidified remains of what appeared to be hobgoblins sat frozen in their final death pose, all facing the alter. What caused this bizarre arrangement was not clear and we hoped we would not fine out.

We continued on to an adjoining chamber that appeared to be another burial chamber, but this one seemed to hold greater significance given the presence of sarcophagi appearing to belong to members of the Keegan family itself. On the back wall lay a large horizontal sarcophagus carved into the shape of a fully armed and armored human. Given Jak’s genetic attraction to patterns, he went to investigate the shield carried by the carved coffin, perhaps with less caution than would have been appropriate.

As soon as Jak approached the sarcophagus, its lit popped off and a ghostly apparition emerged from darkness within, claiming to be Sir Keegan himself, demanding to know what we business we had disturbing his castle in a manner that suggest we had better have a good answer…

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The Poison and the Flower

We spoke with Harner before heading down into the dungeon to face a barracksful of goblins. Harner kindly informed us that our amulet was one of the Vade Mecium, a rare key that allows travel between the Locuses. We also learned that there are no fixed paths between the Locuses, but that the path is determined by the Vade Mecium. Not having any additional Vade Meciuae handy, this information was not of immediate value. Future possibilities abound, however.

As we headed down toward certain gloom, we discussed our strategy for dealing with the goblins we expected to find. Judging that the dungeon was particularly effective at absorbing sound, we decided that apart from an alarm or a loud noise, anyone in the dungeon would have difficulty hearing what was going on any distance away. Great stealth would not be necessary during this encounter.

We went down to the entrance of the antechamber of barracks, taking the precaution of preparing attacks for any foes that might appear when we opened the door. Chronosophos lent us a helping Mage Hand to open the door. The doorway remained empty, so we invited ourselves through to see what was inside.

Inside we saw a table with a handbell set on top. Around it were a pair of goblins who looked as though they might have been expecting a different species. Chronosophos again used his most handy of spells to steal the bell before the goblins had a chance to ring it, and thus our battle started.

We battled many goblins in several different rooms and came out with bruised ribs and high spirits. Our spirits diminished a bit when our good goblin friend Ech was thrown through a doorway with a rather severe axe wound in his back. Those of our party with any skill in healing did their best to stabilize him. The rest of us went after Segozn, who had inflicted the damage and seemed ready to do more.

Segozn eventually fell, much to our joy, and turned out to be carrying quite a bit of money. We took whatever we could and went to see how Etch was holding up. The prognosis wasn’t good but we did our best to make him comfortable. Since he clearly wasn’t going anywhere, we let him keep his bottle. He asked for Arak and told him was that the dark wizard lay through the black door, emphasizing that light fails in the dark. Shortly afterward his own light failed. We sadly took the bottle that he had been so careful to guard. It was not a happy victory.

On the surface in an interaction of surpassing diplomatic prowess, we learned from Harner that the bottle contained rare goblin wine which would sell for a great price in the market. The wine is made from a highly poisonous and rare flower native to the region of Jak’s village, and while the wine itself is safe to drink, it is simple to transform it back into liquid death. The flower is placed in the bottle by the brewer to show that the bottle hasn’t been opened and that the wine is therefore still safe.

It’s this melancholy air that surrounds us as we prepare to make our way through the black door and into the lower levels where the light is said to fail.

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Of Dragons and Diplomacy
River's Log

We rested there in the secret passageway of the fallen castle’s basements there alongside Ech. The goblins that had holed there way inside this fortress were quite well-equipped and had proven more a match for us than we had ever anticipated, especially given the job description that Mr. Lodestone had given us. Nevertheless, as we rested from our injuries and nursed the headaches we’d gotten from the battles before, we conversed with Ech in order to clear up some of the fuzzier details of the story. We learned, much to our surprise, that we were currently stationed about a two- or three-day’s walk north of Sarra; I wasn’t all that overjoyed about that news, however; that placed us square within the Raglands, pretty much a black spot for all travelers in this day and age.

We discussed everything from Segozn to the Dark Wizard all the way to the man captured by the goblins and supposedly these “guard dragons” that enforced the continued digging within the Dig Room. Dragons? Feh. If all the rumors were true, it would be impossible to fit a true dragon within these narrow corridors. Then again, it was hard to know what was really true with dragons…

The Dig Room was sounding to be the likeliest place to begin our investigation, but before we did so, I insisted on taking a quick peek within Segozn‘s chamber to see if there might be anything of interest there within. Little did we suspect, given Ech’s description, that Segozn’s chamber and the barracks were actually one room! A simple, albeit thick (thankfully!) curtain separated the two, but still the call was much too close for our liking, and we decided to abandon that route for the time being. With that, we entered the Dig Room.

The Dig Room consisted of a series of platforms, which I assume to be all that is left of the rooms original floor, with ten foot trenches dug between them. Narrow wooden planks served as precarious bridges from one platform to another with a few ladders descending into the trenches.

Our entry into the room had as much stealth as a Wolfen hunting his prey at high noon. The goblins were alerted almost instantly; as much respect as I have for Jak, I suppose that’s what you would expect traveling with an eight-foot minotaur. We quickly discovered that these “green dragons” that bossed the goblins around weren’t dragons as I surmised but instead drakes, or at least that’s what I could gather from their foul tongue. Of course, they had their share of firebombs — the reason why we came there, after all — at their disposal, nailing us quickly with those. I valiantly stood my ground against the goblins while my friends took on the drakes, although I was consistently offbeat the entire time; I think being underground for all this time has gotten to me. Nevertheless, we made a cursory search and found quite a lot of nice rewards. Eight firebombs, a bit of gold, and a necklace with Bahamut’s image on it. I took it because I felt Avandra sending me a clear message. I pray that she does similarly for the rest of our merry guild soon.

With that taken care of, we distributed the firebombs and made way for the prison. Crow set about taking a peek into the room using his “Magic Hand” thing he talks about, but as we were preparing to storm their room directly, they heard the creeping noise of the eyeslit closing. Crow seemed to panic and remained in front of the door in order to attack, which put us on the early defensive as we tried valiantly to bash our way into the room where the hobogoblin jailer and his cronies had been playing cards moments before. The fight actually turned out to be mostly successful, and we ended up working well as a team. Our first few fights against these guys had been tough — MUCH tougher than any of our brawls at The Chicken had ever been; then again, those had always been against plastered fools. Yet we had finally learned how to take advantage of our relative strengths as well as how to leverage cover and tactics. Ultimately, we more or less handily won the fight.

After finding again more gold — all in the hands of the hobgoblin, who appeared to be winning — we came across the old man who had once been so foolish — as Ech said — to wander into this castle without any other allies. His name proved to be Harner Goss, and we decided to let him go, but also being cautious just in case he was more of a wildcard than we could expect. (Sometimes, I really wonder how paranoid my colleagues can be though; at first, one of them — Crow was it? — thought he’d run straight into the goblin barracks and rat us out!)

Nevertheless, after giving him some of our rations and water, we decided to take another rest, just in case the barracks turned out to be much worse than we feared. Well, that and the fact that we needed to get Harner out of there, partially for his own good, partially since he practically was refusing to answer any of our questions until we managed to escape the dungeon’s hold.

Deciding that it would continue to remain in Ech’s good graces, I deposited Harner with the others while I ran back to tell Ech of our victory over his hobgoblin nemesis. Of course, he had once again fallen back to sleep, clutched around that bottle. (Really? What IS so important about that? Perhaps one of our next mysteries to solve? After the barracks? I think I’m going to be convinced soon to pry.) Nevertheless, I left some gold for him and returned topside, only to see a poignant awkwardness within our camp. Crow, using his “Secret Whisper” spell (or whatever nonsense he calls it) filled me in of an all-but-failed diplomacy on Jak’s part to threaten Harner. I look at the three of my colleagues with a slight shake of my head before wordlessly going to sleep.

I figure that tomorrow is always another day.

Maybe we’ll be able to finish off quest before we spend too much more time here. Ultimately, we still have to return and give our report to the League of the Western Fall, and I’m hoping that Harner isn’t too good of friends with them; this red armband is kind of growing on me.

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Beneath the Ancient Keep pt. 1
Rats, Runts, and Rest.

Having failed a stealthy descent down the stairs of the ancient keep, we found ourselves staring at a rather unsettled looking goblin staring back at us from across the room.

With inspiring reflexes, River immediately leaped into action, bounding towards the lone goblin, wanting to silence it before it had a chance to alert its comrades. Unfortunately, a large area of the floor turned out to be a cleverly disguised pit into which River disappear from view, only to reappear moments later, frantically batting away several ravenous rodents that had managed to cling to him.

With an evil cackle of amusement, the goblin rapped on the stone walls, sending out an alarm, to which several more goblins soon responded.

Before we knew it, we were once again in the heat of battle, though this time the numbers of enemies were not quite as severe and we had the advantage of cover due to several large pillars surrounding the pit. We also had the experience of lessons learned from our previous encounters.

While the goblins provided quite a challenge, given their reluctance to get close, the rat pack that emerged from the pit proved to be a surprisingly difficult menace, given the challenge of fighting a collection of tiny creatures that moved and attacked as a unit, as opposed to a singular foe. But between being scorched, shot, stabbed, and eventually shoved back into the pit from whence they came, the disease menace was silenced.

Soon, only one foe remained, who chose to flee rather than die like his comrades. Faced with the dilemma of either chasing the wounded goblin into the unknown or regrouping the party, River decided upon the later rather than risk being separated. With the group reformed, we pursued the goblin through the hallways. Seeing that the course the goblin was taking lead back to where they had started, Jak hoofed after it, finally putting the chase to an end.

With one hallway yet to be explored, we ventured to a room containing three doors, an iron door with a sliding viewport, a set of reinforced double doors, and what appeared to be a closet. Having had no chance to recover completely since the brutal battle under the split tower, our party was in bad shape and another battle would be truly pushing our luck. We could hear snoring come from the iron door and the double doors just screamed danger, so the closet door seemed the obvious choice.

Jak tentatively opened the door to find more crates. Exploring further, Jak discovered yet another goblin, though this one was asleep and much smaller that the rest, its only possession being a large bottle which it clutched like a mother holding its only child. Though the sleeping goblin would have been an easy kill, Jak saw no threat and thus could not bring himself to harm the helpless creature. Remembering the encounter with Yesper, Jak deferred to River to deal with the goblin.

This proved to be a good choice for soon, through River’s soothing tone and the sparkle of a few gold pieces, the little goblin, Ech, began telling much of what had been going on below the Ancient Keep, to which he seemed to want no part other than the treasure, of course.

From what River was able to get out of Ech, Balgran was only second in command. Segozn seems to be in charge. And he made mention of a Dark Wizard.

Ech was also very helpful in giving us information as to what lay behind the doors we were reluctant to open. Behind the door with the slit was the prison. The double doors lead to the barracks which held around ten goblins. The double doors by the two beds we had discovered he called the “bad door” where human captives (we presume the caravan crew) were taken. Through the last set of doors was the digging room, where treasure was being dug up, though we suspect that Sergozn may have another more specific goal in mind.

With a magical movement of his hand, Chro silently slid back the security slit in the prison door, behind which we could see three figures around a table, two goblins and a much larger hobgoblin, obviously the source of the snoring. The mugs of ale seen on the table would explain why they did not hear the battle down the hallway. While we wanted to make contact with the human captive Ech said still remained in the jail, we decided to let sleeping goblins lie, given ten other goblins may be in the next room.

Ech also mentioned the existence of some sort of explosive devices at the dig site that would definitely give us that advantage in a fight, so we headed off in that direction. But we were once again reminded of our current condition and the need to rest before engaging in another battle against unknown enemies. Ech proved useful again, showing us a hidden passage that leads to Sergozn’s chambers and eventually to the barracks.

While we were reasonably sure, due to Ech’s description of Sergozn’s movements, that his chambers would be empty, Chro wisely suggested we rest in the hidden passage itself, which while being much less comfortable, provided much more security.

As we prepared to sleep, Ech skittered away, cleverly dragging the bodies of the dead goblin’s into the rat pit. While we get the feeling that the little goblin is not telling us everything, this went a long way towards earning the red band Chro had provided for him, unofficial as it was.

With this we settled in for a much needed rest.

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Now You're Playing with Portals

With so many matters being put aside temporarily for sleep, Arak, Jak, Cronosophosm and I were quick to collapse and find slumber. Figuring that the kobold cave might provide them better protection than outside in the woods, we proceeded to nestle amongst a bale of hay deep within the cavern while we took their respective watches.

Most of the night passed in relative peace aside from Jak’s rather annoying snoring, which thankfully we were able to avoid the brunt of given that Jak graciously volunteered to take the first watch. Arak followed, and then me. Yet during the fourth watch, Cronosophos’, the voices of intruders suddenly sprung to life within the cave itself.

Quietly he gave us all a call to arms despite having woke us before we all were ready. We began to take defensive positions within their corner upon realizing that the intricately designed circle in the cavern’s rear had come alive with light. Yet when Jak attempted to sneak between walls, his massive form ended up being in plain sight from one of the kobolds that had managed their way within.

A battle quickly ensued as the kobolds shouted out “Ambush!” to one other and to ears that (as we had yet to discover) had yet to come. It was suggested, which then Arak and I implemented, a dangerous maneuver to split the party into two different fronts and attack from different ends. Jak and Chro’ began the attack first, doing their best to stave off the early arrivals as we began to attack from the opposite direction.

At first, it seemed as if the strategy might be effective as numbers initially were in favor of the four adventurers. However, despite the incredible power of Chronosophos’ flaming sphere summon to weed out the weaker enemies, kobolds continued to pour out from the glowing gate as the seconds ticked by. And it was only a matter of time before we were completely engulfed by creatures from the other side. Despite our long rest and a very valiant attempt to use all our available strength against them, I was soon engulfed by the masses as I made a (rather foolhardy) effort to reach the portal… and to keep our minotaur alive, and soon thereafter I lost consciousness.

There’s quite a bit I don’t remember after that point, given my unconsciousness and a little bit of light-headedness that came afterward, but I’m told that it was Chro’ that returned the favor from the battle before who came to my aid and kept me from perishing. I’ve yet to truly thank him for that, but time seemed to rush far too quickly afterward once I realized that my comrades were bloodied, bruised, and ready to fall themselves. Were it not for Jak’s sheer persistence, my adeptness in healing, Arak’s (finally!) steady-handed spellcasting, Chro’s flaming sphere of death, and quite a bit of luck from the divine Avandra, none of us would have lived to complete our mission and return to the Chicken. (Avandra only knows what ritual our bodies the heathens would then contribute us to.)

Unfortunately for us, we realized mid-fight that the character named Balgran, who turned out to be a goblin, was killed as we fought for our lives. We lamented this opportunity to learn more of our adversaries, but we certainly didn’t hold Jak to the flames for it. In fact, we were quite grateful.

Amongst the dead we found some amount of gold and silver, a rather curious locket with strange carvings upon it, and a silver key. Chro’ was quick to take the key and try it upon the chest we had found, and we were surprised to find quite a bit more gold — more than even the League was paying us for our mission, or so Chro’ tells me — and a suit of chainmail which was quickly thrown into my hands in an effort, perhaps, that our next encounter might not be so lucky. Well, perhaps getting rid of my hide is for the best; it’s still rather uncomfortable, but if Avandra provides, who am I to question?

With all of our accounts settled within the cave, and after quite a bit of discussion, we eventually all moved into the circle in an effort to find a way to enable the portal so that we might find the hostages from the caravan. The pedestal seemed to do nothing at first, but I realized that the carvings on the pedestal matched the carvings on the floor. Placing the necklace onto the pedestal seemed to be the magical trick for bringing the portal to life, and soon we were wisked away from a location none of us had seen.

The journey to this place was most uncomfortable, but the new locale itself was just as bad; the air was harsh and misty, and it had the faint odor of something unpleasant, though I could hardly describe what. It was difficult to see beyond the throes of the pavilion we arrived at, yet we found a recently used trail — complete with the standard prints of kobolds — leading to the north.

As we wandered, we encountered scraggly scrubs on one side of the road while gravestones littered the other side. Chro’ kept track of their number while I (and perhaps others) paced them along to find that they appeared at very regular intervals. As we traveled, Arak was able to parse the faint lettering of one of the tombstones — the letters “KEEG” — and he was reminded of the Ballad of Sir Keegan that a wandering bard had told him about. Keegan was the faithful guardian of a castle, yet one night he slew everyone within the castle walls before finally committing suicide. With the final count of 93 gravestones (plus perhaps the ones before the split tower we found in a clearing before our encounter at the cave), it seemed as if this legend might actually be somewhat accurate.

Even more convincing was the sighting of a castle — a keep, to be more accurate, though I hardly know the exact difference myself — just off the path. It was quite a large building, perhaps 200 feet to the side, and it was in practically ruins. The towers seemed completely unstable, and the walls looked like they might fall over if you breathed upon them wrong. We did, however, manage to find a stairwell leading down beneath the ground.

Thinking that this seemed to be the only logical place to start looking for the hostages, the four of us tiptoed down the stairs, trying not to make a single sound. Yet our luck proved to be rotten once again as a rock kicked from someone — thankfully, not me! — skittered to the ground, alerting a goblin of our presence.

I must stop writing here as I am weary and can barely stay awake. But fear not, the adventure continues onward, and I or my comrades will continue the tale soon!

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The Split Towers
A Stream Runs Through It

We continue our journey east into the forest.

With no particular trail to follow, we simply continued in the general direction we had been heading, though it was difficult to navigate as the trees began to limit our view.

Eventually, the sounds of a stream could be heard in the distance, so we began to head toward the sound. As we traveled, River mentioned having the sense that we were being followed, though he could not be sure. The feeling persisted, so we attempted to lure the stalker into revealing itself by Jak hiding in a tree as the rest of the party continued east a short distance. But after a few minutes, no follower was seen and we continued on.

We came upon a clearing in which we discovered six gravestones, all of which had been badly weathered to the point of unreadablity, though we could tell they were probably human and perhaps associated with a good deity. No other signs of civilization could be found in the clearing, which itself seemed to be in the process of being reclaimed by the surrounding forest.

As this did not seem to relate to our specific mission, we continued on.

While Jak was up in the tree, he was able to spot a distant structure that appeared to be two towers rising above the tree line. We eventually ran into the stream we had been hearing, which flowed Northeast to Southwest. The stream appeared to be flowing from the same direction as the towers, so we followed it upstream.

The ruined tower

We began so see tracks in the banks of the river similar to what we had seen on the road, so we assumed Kobolds were in the area. This was a hopeful sign that we were indeed on the right track. As we had hoped, the stream lead us straight towards the structure Jak has seen, though it turned about to be one tower split in two by the stream itself forming a waterfall as the water fell from the rocky outcropping on which the tower stood. We also discovered two wagons close to the base of the waterfall as well as horsed equipped to haul them loosely tethered to a tree across the stream. Neither seemed to worse for wear.
High up in the tower above, we could make out the outline of figure in the window, though it seemed oblivious to our approach. We chose not to alert it to our presence as we searched for a way into the tower. A passage, lit with torches, was discovered behind the waterfall leading into the rocks, in which we spotted a Kobald some distance into the passage with its back turned toward us.

Upon seeing the creature, River and Chronosophos began the attack, catching it off guard. Not wanting to squander the advantage, Jak rushed horns down at the unprepared Kobold, with Arak close behind. But we soon discovered that the Kobold was not alone and found ourselves face to face with several more of its companions gearing up to fight back.

One Kobold in particular proved very difficult to get a clear shot on and only when attacked face to face were we able to hit it at all.

The battle continued for what seemed like an eternity. At one point, Chronosophos fell and Jak would have surely followed had it not been for the rejuvenating presence of River and another mysterious force which Jak could not explain. Arak, on the other hand, seemed to be immune to the attacks of the enemies. In fact, we had a hard time recalling if they had attacked him at all, to the point where we began to suspect that they were purposely avoiding doing so! Which was fortunate given Arak’s uncharacteristically bad luck during the encounter.

Eventually, the last of the Kobolds fell and Chronosophos was revived at which point to surveyed the area. We discovered a large chest that we were unsuccessful in opening. We also found a note signed simply “K” eluding to the possibility that those we were looking for had been transported away by some sort of portal. A pedestal that may have been used for such an act was found in the back of the room, though we were unsuccessful in determining its exact function. This all seemed way beyond what we would expect from Kobolds. We also found evidence that followers of the demon, Orcus, were involved.

River ventured out to inspect the opposite bank of the river. Upon returning he recalled seeing a figure among the horses. After the party was informed, Chronosophos attempted to use his magical gifts to whisper a message of greeting before revealing ourselves. The figure immediately disappeared into the forest, too far away for any hopes of successful pursuit.

The only other exit to the room was a staircase ascending into the ceiling, which upon closer inspection revealed a hatch leading to the top of the rocky outcropping, seemingly meant to be hidden from view from those above. We inspected the tower in which we saw the figure from below, but deduced it must have joined the previous fight. It appeared the kobold had spent some time in the tower. Upon inspecting the second tower, we could find no means of entry. This will require further investigation.

Looking over the edge of the rocks, Jak bellowed into the woods another attempt to draw mysterious individual out of hiding, identifying ourselves as the party sent by the league to recover the caravan’s missing members. The figure reappeared and proceeded to gather the horses, seemingly uninterested in Jak.

Deducing that Jak had seen something down below, the rest of the party rushed down to the base of the waterfall to investigate, discovering none other than Yesper, the bartender from the Chicken, now gearing the horses up to the wagons, whom we deduced must have been the one following us.

Eventually we all gathered to Yesper’s location. While River seemed to be able to establish a civil rapport with the fellow Wolfen, information was not forthcoming and Yesper continued to prepare the horses for travel. Jak’s fragile control over his temper began to crack and demanded that the bartender stop moving and start talking in no uncertain terms. Reluctantly, Yesper revealed that he had been sent by K’kiran, the owner of the Chicken, to oversee our mission, insisting that he was the only one among us capable of driving the wagons. It had been noticed earlier that the note we had found was signed “K” and that K’kiran was the only “K” we knew. Yesper’s mention of the name only furthered our suspicions that all was not as it seemed. But suspicion was all we had. No proof.

As Yesper finished up preparing the wagons for travel, we informed him that the mission was far from over, being the wagon’s were in fact empty, that the caravan members were still missing as well as the cargo. For some reason, this confused the shifter, who seemed to be under the impression that we should have found the caravan members in the area behind the waterfall, being he could find no indication that they had left here. Clearly intent on leaving with the wagons, River attempted to salvage what little was left of the limited favor he had gained and asked Yesper to relay the events that had transpired so far. After having to simplify the information so that Yesper could grasp it, he gave River a flask of liquid, and lead the wagons into the woods, even though there was no road.

Jak did not feel right about just allowing Yesper to leave with the wagon’s, as it seemed to conflict with our mission, but feeling his grip over his inner demons beginning to slip and the fact that no one else seemed to see a problem, he let Yesper go.

Now we have no wagons or horses. Were they even K’kiran’s wagons to take? Things are not adding up. This was no simple highway robbery.

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Signing Up with the League
Heroes or Fools?

After a series of rough nights bouncing at The Chicken involving a couple half-giants and other assorted scumbags, the four of us, Jak, Arak, River, and Chronosophos, were enjoying a relatively peaceful end to an evening waiting for the doors to close for the night.

A mysterious Elven woman entered The Chicken. Without introduction, she abruptly informs us that our talents for dealing with strong opposition had not gone unnoticed and that our presence was required at the League Hall, home of the League of the Western Fall, and that none other than Wister Lodestone himself was awaiting our arrival. It was not stated as a request.

With that, she turned and walked out the door.

Not to turn down such an opportunity, we followed her to the League Hall, where we indeed meet with Lodestone. He informs us that a caravan transporting valuable cargo, including a large volume of pricey alcohol, has been raided, as reported by the Gnome caravan master, Arvis, who had survived the attack. Two members of the caravan, the horsemaster and quartermaster, had been captured by the Kobold raiders. Arvis, who followed the Kobolds to their camp, has provided a map describing its location, somewhere southeast of Sarra.

We were given the task of rescuing the members of the caravan and retrieving the missing cargo, all in the name of the League and promised payment of 100 gold pieces upon successful return. Having signed contracts stating our agreement to uphold the standards of the League, we received arm bands signifying our affiliation with the League for the duration of the mission.

With a brief stop back at The Chicken, where arrangements had already been made with the proprietor to cover our sudden departure, we gathered our equipment and began our quest. We took the ferry across the river, free of charge due to our new affiliation with The League, and headed down the South Road.

Traveling through the night, we found evidence of possible Kobold activity along the road. Farther down the road, our suspicions were confirmed as we were ambushed by a band of Kobold raiders.

While Kobolds are nasty creatures, they generally do not put up much of a fight, preferring to cut and run when faced with the sort of threat our party represented. These creatures attacked without hesitation, appearing far more determined to fight than we would have expected and also appeared to be noticeably better equipped than the ragged Kobold of common reputation.

One by one, the Kobolds fell, though it seems as soon as one went down, another would take its place. But eventually, only one remained, who then tried to make a run for it towards the Black Hills.

He didn’t get far. We searched the Kobold bodies and came up with 37 silver pieces, which we decided to give to River as our party’s treasurer.

Given that our directions indicated that we needed to head east soon anyway, we decided to follow the direction the Kobold had taken with the assumption that we may find the source of the Kobold raiders and thus the missing captives and cargo.

While we defeated our foes this time, we get the feeling that our victory had been unsettlingly easy. Was our decision to take this mission be one of bravery or naivety? With the suspicion that much harder times lay ahead, we left the South Road and into the forests of the Black Hills.

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