Day 6 (cont)
Lowering down his companions one by one, Kriv watches them enter the pit below the hidden temple. Down in the pit there is darkness and doom, and a bunch of mad scrawling writ in blood on the walls. Some of it is simple raving. Other bits make a little more sense. Something about, “blood of my blood,” and, “until that day…” and the number 333 repeated over and over.
The heroes discover another priest of Orcus performing some rite at an altar. This one appears twisted and dessicated like a corpse. Kevin steps forward to do battle with this creature when a woman falls from a crack in the ceiling and crushes him. It seems this woman is a member of another party who had just the previous day come calling at the Keep, looking for fortune, but had met an ugly end in a lair of chitinous creatures, hidden just above this place. This woman, Maiya, awoke to find herself cocooned withing hard shells secreted by these creatures, surmising they had perhaps put her away for later enjoyment much like a can of ripe peaches. She manages to escape with some arcane trickery and found a hole leading down into a chamber where she heard voices. Seeing as the only other option was to stay around and be dinner, jumping down didn’t seem so bad. She never meant to crush a priest.
In the chamber below the lights come up and it becomes clear that this priest is not alone. In addition to a pair of skeletal warriors, the wounded berserker from the temple chamber above, the clay imp, and a portal of dark swirling energies with some foul being or beings reaching out from the other side, is the necromancer who had visited them the previous night, and spoiled all the food.
It quickly becomes clear that not only is this the high priest of the cult, and that he is attempting to complete the ritual to open the world to the realm of the Shadowfell, but he is also the prior leader of another death cult, and he knows Maiya from somewhere, who identifies him as Kalarel. He gives the group a chance to join him and his plans to rule this realm in the name of the god Orcus. Instead, they decide to kill him.
A brief battle ensues, cut even shorter by Maiya using her arcane powers to blast him into the portal, where he is devoured by the things on the other side. Having been fed the scion of Orcus a foul presence is released from the great statue of the demon prince on the other side of the room and it flies up from the chamber which nearly collapses from great and ruinous powers.
Kevin find the rod of ruin laid at the base of the portal where Kalarel was devoured and picks it up. He is struck blind and nearly dead upon touching the portal. Maiya tucks the rod away for safe keeping. Looting the rest of the room, the heroes climb up through the crack in the ceiling where their new ally fell, and seek a way out of the keep.
They stop to check the other cocoons just in case any of Maiya’s group is still alive. In the process of checking the nest a huge swarm of rats careens through the cavern and is devoured by the creatures in the eastern part of the caverns. These creatures, six legged, chitinous beasts, with glue like saliva and razor sharp talons, emerge from their lair and attack as soon as the heroes get to close to their young. They manage to put most of the creatures down, including a big sucker that looks to be the progenitor of the brood.
They do find one “survivor” from Maiya’s group, but he has been largely digested in the juices of his cocoon and Kevin put him out of his misery. Before he dies his last wishes are that the heroes take his coin and pay his rather large bar tab if and when they ever get back to Winterhaven. Kriv also find a small journal this man, “Dave”, made more than a few entries in while on this ill-fated adventure. Maiya convinces Kriv to hand over the journal and they leave.
On the journey back to Winterhaven, the still blind Kevin get mysteriously separated from the group, and stumbles into a ravine with a cool fresh running stream. His blindness is miraculously cured upon touching the stream’s waters and he sees a raven, leading him further down the ravine. Following what is clearly a messenger from his god, Kevin meets a young boy, named Balun. Balun has clearly run away from the village for unspoken reasons. He claims to have seen his mother in the woods outside the village and is trying to find her. His current course seems to be leading his toward the Keep. Kevin convinces the boy to join him since it is not safe in these parts alone.
Balun will not set foot back in the village for some reason, so Kevin, Maiya, the boy, and Splug remain camped in an abandoned pasture, Kriv and Fey’rel return to Winterhaven. They find the village under martial law, and the citizens on strict food rationing, both by order of Lord Padraig. It seems the kobolds have stepped up their raids and now the village is not likely to see any re-supply until these kobolds are dealt with.
Kriv meets with Lord Padraig and offers to slay the kobold leader for a small fee to which the lord of Winterhaven quickly agrees.
Kriv also find Balun’s father, a drunken and miserable man, who does not seem to care too much about the fact that his son has run off. In fact, he was not even aware that he had run off at all. He is only too glad when he is left to return to his drink, which appears to be what he spends most of his money on.
Bairwin, the Halfling merchant, is pleased to see the adventurers alive after all. Before they leave again, he offers them a small job. He has several small valuables that one of his contacts to the east has offered to buy. He needs a group of well armed and reliable sorts to act as courier. He says his contact’s name is Grelg and he is awaiting delivery at some place on the Trade Road, east of Fallcrest, known as the Seven Pillared Hall. Fey’rel knows this place as it is located on the route of her escape from the Underdark, near the surface. They party agrees to take the job after they rid the village of their kobold problem.
The heroes make their way back up to the Keep assuming they will still find their old adversaries there. They’re not wrong. But first, a strange group of shadow creatures are encountered. When Kevin touches one he is overcome with magical sleep. In his dream he meets the real form of these fellows, or at least one of them. He is a sharp dressed man with dark eyes, and dark hair, and he says that Kevin must kill the boy. Kevin asks for explanation, of course, but gets none.
The kobolds have something new in store this time. Their leader, a large brute called Irontooth, has put his redcap minions to work fashioning a large, 15’ tall, iron man out of suits of plate armor and steam powered boiler engines. They now claim lordship over the Keep and the surrounding lands. Furthermore they have studied to strategies of “The Kriv” and are ready now to defeat him, ending his reign of terror on the kobold tribe.
Well, this time doesn’t go any better for them. Some well placed attacks from the cleric, and this iron man contraption is busting at the seams, ready to fall apart. Irontooth and his skirmishers are routed, and Irontooth himself is slain trying to escape.
When the heroes return to Winterhaven once more, they are rewarded with a feast and celebration. Martial law is lifted and food rationing is stopped. Balun tells his father Jack that he is leaving, to which Jack sullenly agrees. But the whole affair is not without its tragedies. Nearly a score of villagers were killed or are still missing. There are rumors of some perhaps still being alive, sold by the kobolds to slavers. And there is still a rift to the Shadowfell lurking beneath the Keep. Kalarel and the cultists were stopped for now, but that spirit that escaped will surely spell disaster somewhere, for someone.
But for now, Winterhaven is safe, and there is cause for celebration.