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.