The Chain Made Whole

Session 4: The Ruined Keep

Before setting out from Winterhaven, the party had made a point of asking around about the keep – though mostly they learned there was little to be told. A stronghold from the days of now-fallen Nerath, the keep had a dark reputation and was mostly ignored by the townsfolk. There were sinister rumors about the keep being the site of a murder – and a coven of witches, a pack of demons, and so on.

It had apparently survived the fall of Nerath more-or-less intact, though whatever tragedy befell the keep seems to have emptied it out not long after. An earthquake had ruined the majority of the keep, causing it to collapse in upon itself a little more than a century ago – after it had already been abandoned. Valthrun knew no more than that.

Gravity to Raif: Resist This

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Session 3: Things To Do In Winterhaven When You're Dead

There are some things you just want to wake up to. The sound of bacon sizzling in a pain. The smell of a fresh-made pot of coffee.

The garbled incantations of a kobold wyrmpriest, letting loose wild shrieking invocations to Orcus, while brandishing a ceremonial dagger? Not one of those things.

This session began with Garrett and Malyce regrouping about a quarter mile from the scene of the slaughter, after they’d realized no one was chasing them. A brief discussion ensued, with the pair of them agreeing that – with only the two of them, and both of them injured – they were in no shape to mount a rescue. Garrett was interested in putting his stealth skill to use, however, and decided to double back and scout out the area to figure out what they’d be dealing with. Malyce came along, not wanting to split up again.

Meanwhile, the more heavily armed and armored members of the party awoke piled atop one another outside the cave, in the cairn they had spotted earlier. The kobold wyrmpriest stood over them, shrieking invocations to Orcus under the stern supervision of Irontooth. Finding that the kobolds, in their haste to sacrifice the PCs to the demonic lord, had not even bothered to strip them of their weapons, the three of them launched a counter-attack. Garrett and Malyce, hiding in the nearby forest, opened up supporting fire as the remaining kobolds and the battle-maddened Irontooth surged into one another.

The day was won, though Cas – who had been the most hurt and wearied of the band – was nearly felled (and I don’t mean “knocked out” – I mean she was 1 hit point from permanent death), before Irontooth managed to be overwhelmed. Their rewards, however, went far beyond what Lord Padraig had promised – in the cave, they discovered a suit of +1 dwarven chainmail, a not-insignificant hoard of coins, and a letter penned in the goblin tongue.

The letter advised of a spy in Winterhaven, who would be keeping an eye on the “newcomers” – and an instruction to eliminate them, should the opportunity arise. There was further references to being “near completion” at the “old keep.” The letter was signed Kalarel.

A Quick Pit-Stop

The party didn’t linger too long back in Winterhaven – only a couple days, to collect their reward from Lord Padraig and report that the kobolds were apparently being press-ganged by some goblin warrior. His lordship seemed surprised by the news, and uncertain about how to react – kobold bandits and goblin raiders were beyond the typical problems of a small farming village.

The party, meanwhile, had more to do and no time to wait. Cas set about convincing Thair Coalstriker to reforge the suit of +1 dwarven chainmail found in Irontooth’s chest into +1 dwarven plate armor – the pair had already bonded earlier, given their shared heritage (both having grown up in Hammerfast, the dwarven settlement to the east). Raif killed time by offering his muscle to the smith, mostly working the bellows and delivering heavy loads of tools to outlying farmsteads. IV assisted Sister Linora tend to the local graveyard, burying the recent dead (there were a few, and the sister was grateful for a strong adventurer to do the digging) and tending the grounds. Garrett lounged in Wrafton’s Inn, keeping an eye on the locals, while Malyce did some arcane research in Valthrun’s semi-derelict tower.

When the armor was ready and the party had finished their town business, they decided to head out for the burial mound in hopes of finding Douven there.

The Burial Mound

A friendly gnome, some sketchy humans, a pair of rottweiler-sized lizard-things, and a shadowy figure lurking just out of sight? What could possibly go wrong?

Elian the Old gave the party the same directions he’d given Douven, and they found their way to the old burial mound easily enough – though they discovered was more of an excavation than anything. Agrid, the gnome, greeted them with friendly words and generous smiles – guessing they were friends of Douven’s and inviting them to come see what they’d been working on. Asked where Douven was the gnome just laughed, made a joke about his own lousy cooking, then pointed to the woods on the other side of the pit with a mention of the latrine.

It might have worked, but Garrett – suspicious jailbird that he is – smelled a rat and called for an Insight check, putting the group on edge. Agrid, seeing that the jig was up, made a run for the nearest slope with Cas in hot pursuit, while the seedy human minions and guard drakes made for the rest of the party.

Raif fended off the pair of scaly dogs, knocking them down the steep sides of the gravel embankment, while Cas went after the gnome. Garrett and Malyce kept to the high ridge overlooking the pit, sending spells and crossbow bolts sailing into the fray.

When the shadowy onlooker entered combat, it was to unleash spells from a distance – massive claws erupting from the earth to tear and grasp at the heroes. IV was the first to taste the dark sorcery, frozen in place – though not the last. Malyce, when she got close enough to see the figure clearly, identified it as a Spectral Apparition – a sort of construct created by dark sorceries, and almost always requiring a blood sacrifice. A splinter of a caster’s soul, given form and a semblance of life and sent forth to do its creator’s bidding.

Despite the challenge, the heroes overcame – finding Douven trussed up under a tarp. The aged adventurer thanked the part by gifting them with the +1 amulet of health he wore. He further advised them that the gnome apparently reported to one named “Kalarel” (who had sent the apparition only recently), and that they had been looking for something in the mound. Douven had also overheard that there was a problem with “Keegan” and that what had thusfar been unearthed was being transported to the keep. Thanking the adventurers again, Douven set out on the road for home.

Returning to Winterhaven, the adventurers discovered Lord Padraig and Valthrun had been in discussions regarding the increased kobold activity and the revelation of goblins apparently taking up residence in the old ruined keep to the north. Padraig offered the party a further reward to investigate what was going on up there, which the party accepted before heading out.

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Session 2: Nowhere to Run

Run For The Hills

This session, we kicked things off with a skill challenge – something brand-new to a couple of our players. Basically, when we’d left things off before, a kobold had made a run for it – and now our heroes needed to cut him off before the entire kobold lair was roused and made ready for defense.

The majority of this challenge involved Nature, Endurance, and Perception checks – with a little Athletics tossed in for good measure. Our heroes tracked the kobold, keeping a brisk pace through the woods while – on one occasion – Raif climbed a tree to get a better view of where their quarry was headed.

The little bastard didn’t stand a chance. The party cornered him in a clearing a half-mile shy of the kobold camp, and put an end to him once and for all.

The Kobold Lair

The kobolds who had been harassing Winterhaven for the past several weeks had made their in a large cavern, the mouth of which was hidden by a waterfall. Outside the cavern, more than a dozen of the vermin milled about, with the largest of their number sticking close to some sort of arcane cairn that pulsed with a strange light.

It didn’t take all that long for the band of adventurers to turn the outer camp into the site of a slaughter. Malyce unleashed cloud after cloud of whirling force daggers – eviscerating the kobold minions who made up the largest batch of foes. Raif ran into momentary trouble when he charged through the thick woods, aiming to isolate a lone kobold slinger – but found himself stumbling into a cunningly hidden slink, whose spear dealt the warrior a nasty blow. A brief game of hide-and-seek ensued, but the party won out in the end. Sadly however, the slink’s distraction allowed the slinger to slip away unscathed – joining his allies inside the cave.

The foes outside dispatched, the band sought next to head inside.

Enter Irontooth

Four of our heroes pushed their way forward into the cave – Garrett, meanwhile, held back and went looking for another way inside. He discovered a side passage, but unfortunately found his way blocked by a pair of wicked-looking denwardens and the party was forced to push forth through the front entryway without their rogue.

With the slinger’s warning, meanwhile, the rest of the party discovered a bit of a meat-grinder was waiting for them – as spear-bearing minions and skirmishers charged the moment they crossed the curtain of water and mist. They fought valiantly to push deeper into the cavern, but found themselves stalled beneath the sheer weight and volume of their attackers.

The battle continued in this fashion, with the party slowly driving the kobolds back and narrowly eking out an advantage – when the victory they were fighting so hard to achieve was shattered by a snarling bellow coming from deeper within the cavern.

From one side of the deeper caves came the denwardens that had thusfar kept Garrett out of the fighting, accompanied by a wyrmpriest hissing chants and invocations. From the other side stormed a goblin, a battleaxe gripped in both hands and a large, rusted helm on his head – too large a helm, in fact, for the visor fell too low making it appear as if his entire lower jaw were made of ugly iron.

Screaming incoherent rage, the goblin launched himself into the attack, smashing forth into the front line (composed of Cas, Raid, and IV). Garett, knowing the time for stealth had passed, came around the side to strike from behind – slicing into kobolds wherever the opportunity could be found.

But Irontooth was too strong and ferocious, and had come upon a group both split and worn down. Though the kobolds had suffered many losses, they rallied behind their goblin leader and overwhelmed the invaders. One by one Cas, IV, and Raif each fell. Realizing discretion was the better part of valor, Malyce withdrew back through the waterfall and Garrett snuck back through the side corridor he had found earlier, slipping into the woods.

Their companions lay defeated, beaten and bleeding on the cavern floor, at the mercy of a band of savages.

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Session 1: Seeking Winterhaven

Seeking Staul

Our first actual play session, the party becomes acquainted with Lord Nathan Farringray, a fixture of no small importance in the large town of Fallcrest, who has a job for them. Frankly, he seems more than a little eager to get a couple of them (the dark elf, goliath, and minotaur specifically) out of the town – their people aren’t exactly fixtures of the community, and he’s hoping for a little time to smooth ruffled feathers over.

It seems an old adventuring colleague of his, Douven Staul, set out on one last hurrah over a month ago – investigating some old map he found purporting to reveal the location of a dragon’s treasure hoard. Farringray was embarrassed to admit he’d not paid much attention at the time – Douven has a tendency to get worked up over nothing, and Farringray expected him to return in a few weeks with nothing to show for his latest “quest.”

But that was some time ago, and Douven’s wife has been growing increasingly agitated. The increasing reports of bandit activity on the roads have Farringray growing increasingly concerned as well – Douven is more explorer than adventurer, and he’s not a young man anymore. While he doesn’t know exactly where Douven was headed, he knows his old friend intended to stop in the farming community of Winterhaven to see if there was any information to be gleaned from the locals.

The coin offered isn’t much, but the patronage of an influential noble has value – and so the party agreed to take on the case.

Kobold Attack!

It took little time for the party to discover who (or what) was responsible for the reports of brigand activity on the road: kobolds. The little reptilian buggers tried to swarm the party on the road, though they got more than they bargained for! No traveling band of farmers and merchants, the party made quick work of their enemies and then continued on to Winterhaven.

A Town Besieged

A much smaller community than Fallcrest, the residents of Winterhaven aren’t any more inclined toward an odd bunch like the party – but with only a dozen or so guardsmen (and almost all of those just farmers with spears), no one at the gate sought to press the point. The party found lodgings at Wrafton’s Inn, chatted up the patrons there (including Salvana Wrafton, Elian the Old, and Ninaran). They also met Thair Coalstriker, the local smith, and Valthrun, the village scholar.

Talking to Elian and Valthrun gave them a few tidbits as to where Douven might be – apparently what he (and Elian) thought was a dragon’s hoard was actually just a large burial mound, from centuries ago when the Nentir Vale was uncivilized and barbaric, before the coming of Nerath. The party also spoke to Lord Padraig – who convinced them to put their hunt for Douven on hold, briefly, to help the village fend off the kobold menace. He was able to give them a general idea of where the kobolds seemed to be coming from, and offered them a reward.

The Hunt begins

It didn’t take long for the party to find some more kobolds to mash. Not an hour from Winterhaven, they came upon a band setting up an ambush – whether for merchants, or for those no-good heroes who killed their brethren, there was no telling. Once again, the party proved too much for their assailants and overcame them – but with a twist, this time. One of the kobolds (the skirmisher) saw the writing on the wall and booked, evading harrying ranged attacks and disappearing into the woods. Cursing, the party set off after the slimy bastard – knowing that if he beat them back to the camp, they’d find their foes ready and waiting for an assault.

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Session 0: Character Creation
Getting Started

Our first night, the group got together to talk about party composition and roles, backstory, and roll up some new characters. They didn’t know much about what they’d be doing – they were simply aware they would be traveling to a farming community at the behest of a Lord in Fallcrest. Further, to speed up creation, all players were limited to content from the Player’s Handbooks I, II, and III only.

Here’s what we came out the other side with:

  • Cas (human paladin)
    An avenging paladin in the service of Bahamut, Cas wades into battle bearing her greatsword and the holy radiance of the Platinum Defender. Raised by the dwarves of Hammerfast, she is generally regarded dimly by her brothers and sisters of the faith as her over-zealous and ruthless disposition seems to make some of them uncomfortable.
  • Garrett (human rogue)
    A brawny rogue, Garret matches a swift blade with a cunning mind – always looking for the best angle. Run afoul of this knave, and you’re likely to get a short sword in the belly for your trouble. A recent guest of the Fallcrest Gaolers Guild, he was sprung loose by one of the town’s ruling elite – for a price. There’s little percentage in running afoul of an influential noble, and so Garrett is willing to go along for the time being.
  • IV (minotaur runepriest)
    Marked from birth by his ivory white fur, IV was left for dead in the ruins of the ancient minotaur city of Ruul – an offering to the Raven Queen. Few of the offerings left on that ancient altar survive their youth, but he did – the fourth to ever leave the shattered city and enter the world a champion of the Raven Queen. Beware the weight of his maul, lest it send you to join his goddess on the other side.
  • Malyce (drow wizard)
    A control wizard, Malyce command the arcane might of fire and frost – and carries a grim, dark legacy. Not all those who leave the caverns and cities of the malicious drow do so intending to cast off Lolth’s dark yoke – some are driven off, exiled. Like Malyce, the spawn of a dark elf matriarch and a cursed abomination with a thirst for blood. (Note, statistics-wise Malyce is an Eladrin)
  • Raif (goliath fighter)
    A guardian fighter from the western foothills, Raif storms into battle accompanied by the symphony of his battle axe ringing against his shield. With flesh as hard as granite and a heart guided by the teachings of Kord, this battle-hardened warrior has come to the civilized lands following his destiny writ across the star-filled sky.
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