Ashes of Nerath

Raiding the Keep
Days Overdue: 6

After their initial incursion, the group was sealed into a portion of the dungeon by an enterprising group of goblins with some left-over blasting materials. After fighting their way through a kruthik nest, the group was able to find a tunnel to the surface, where they reentered the keep, much to the surprise of the goblin guards. Upon breaking into a torture chamber, the group discovered the gnome, Agrid, strapped to a table, begging for death. Locked in a nearby cell was a goblin named Splug.

The group released Splug, who told them all he knew of the place and offered to be a porter for them, but was very hesitant to actually go up against Kalarel. He directed them to Balgron, the commander of the upper levels. After a failed attempt to infiltrate the goblins, Balgron escaped on Nil’s horse. Needing a rest, and to resupply, the group decided to head back to Winterhaven.

When they arrived, they found an attacking force of zombies and kobolds. With the group’s assistance, Winterhaven was able to repel the attack, capturing Balgron in the process. The group turned Agrid in to the authorities there, and upon hearing that the undead came from the nearby graveyard, the group set out again.

Upon arriving, they found a magic circle scrawled in the dirt in the middle of the graveyard, pulsing with sickly blue energy. They went in to investigate, and upon doing so were ambushed by Ninaran at the head of a group of skeletons. The group took Ninaran alive back to Winterhaven, where they questioned her concerning their father and Kalarel. She was uncooperative, but they did manage to ascertain that Kalarel would soon complete the ritual. They also ascertained that Douven’s amulet was given to her by Kalarel, with specific instructions to sell it to someone passing through to Fallcrest. She also noted that the buyer approached her.

After resting up and taking Ninaran’s equipment so that Sid could take her form and impersonate her, the group returned to the keep. Exploring another nook, they found more undead guarding a tomb and a shrine to Bahamut. This tomb turned out to be that of Sir Keegan…the man who slew his family and most of the order of Bahamut in a fit of madness almost a hundred years prior. After convincing him they weren’t here to grave rob or reoppen the rift, he gave them some advice to check the shrine for a hidden compartment. Being bound to his crypt, he was unable to help, but he gave them his sword, Aecris, in the hope that it might make the difference.

They went to check the shrine, and found five small platinum statues of Bahamut. They seemed to have properties of some sort of luck charm, but the group was unable to ascertain precisely what they did.

The group pressed on, going down deeper into the keep. They were greeted by a hobgoblin guard station. Sid attempted to impersonate Ninaran, and everything went well until they learned that Kalarel was hours away from completing his ritual to open the rift, and as such, weren’t taken directly to him. Throwing caution to the wind, the group attacked. After a hard fight, the group emerged victorious and pressed forward, disregarding side rooms in an effort to get to Kalarel before he completed his dark work.

After getting cut off from the group by a trap, Nil found himself surrounded by shambling undead. He quickly ran down a corridor and put his back to a corner, and was able to hold off for a little while, but ultimately fell to the last two zombies left standing in his wake.

When the group finally caught up, they discovered an unconscious Nil about to be eaten alive by a ghoul. They put a stop to it immediately and revived their brother.

Resolved to end this, they threw open the doors to the inner sanctum, and found not Kalarel, but one of his lieutenants and a group of vampires and crazed cultists. Blood flowed in great streams from an altar towards a pit in the floor, situated in the mouth of an engraving of Orcus’ symbol. Chains suspended from the ceiling, slick with blood, hung down into the pit.

The group cut their way through the cultists, knocking the lieutenant unconscious. They now stand on the brink of the pit leading down to the Rift.

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More clues, and unearthing a cult.
Days Overdue: 4

The Stauls managed to track down the elf huntress, Ninaran. After questioning her, she revealed that she had only met Douven once several years ago and had no idea who had sold Douven’s amulet. When pressed for an explanation as to why many had pointed at her as a likely candidate, she pointed out they were probably just sore over getting trounced in back alley brawls when they got touchy-feely.

Having few leads, the group decided to check out the Dragon Burial ground.


One month earlier:

Tharien was at a secluded temple of Ioun in the north, where he served as a paladin; a defender of the temple and a guardian of their scholars when they traveled abroad. The temple received a letter from Douven, who was an old acquaintance of theirs, indicating that he needed help with an excavation south of Winterhaven, and to keep it to themselves.

After a long trek they arrived at the site, and Douven was there waiting. Over the next week they worked, digging various spots within a small area but finding nothing, until finally someone struck bone.

Soon after, Douven began acting strangely. He would sleepwalk in the night, wandering around the camp and whispering to himself in an unfamiliar tongue. When he was awake, he couldn’t remember sleepwalking, but seemed to have terrible dreams. When asked, he refused to speak of them.

Finally one night when Tharien’s watch came up, he looked around for Douven and couldn’t find him. After an hour of Douven being missing, they began to organize a search party. Just at that instant, droves of goblins attacked from the dark, led by a halfling and a gnome. Those in the group who weren’t slain were taken captive and eaten over the next several weeks.

During Tharien’s captivity, he was kept gagged and blindfolded, forced to listen to the screams of his comrades as they were gutted and cooked. During this time he overheard a few snippets of conversation between the gnome, named Agrid, and a woman with an ice cold voice. They would occasionally mention someone named Kalarel, though he wasn’t sure who that was. He did, however, recognize the name Orcus.


Present:

The Stauls arrived at the excavation site at night. Taking stock of the scene, they saw several goblin workers, a halfling, and a gnome. In the pit, half unearthed and roped off, was the skeletal remains of a dragon, one rather larger than Szartharrax. One goblin was watching over a bundle, in which something moved periodically.

Unsure of whether or not these people were friends or foes, the group remained hidden while Sid went down to introduce herself. The gnome, introducing himself as Agrid, seemed amicable enough. When asked what was under the blanket in the corner, kicking, Agrid explained it was one of their own that had tried to steal some of the finds from the site for himself. When asked about Douven, he claimed to have heard of him, but never met him. At the mention of his name, the form under the blanket kicked.

Sid asked for permission to ask their prisoner a few questions of her own, and Agrid agreed, subtly motioning for the goblins to arm themselves as he led her over to the prisoner. Before they got there, Nil shot Agrid with a magic missile, and Agrid vanished. The fight was joined in earnest, though the Stauls were able to free the prisoner, Tharien, and won with ease.

Tharien, remarkably restrained for having just been freed from his ordeal, demanded answers from Agrid, who gave them freely. He really had never met Douven, but had been hired to come here and take over the site by Kalarel, a man who had a hideout in Shadowfell Keep When they arrived, Douven was gone. All he knew was that Kalarel wanted the mirror buried next to the dragon.

The group checked out the mirror, and found that it was large and circular, framed in a strange black metal and adorned with runes in Abyssal. Sid was able to decipher that the mirror’s function was that of a key of some kind, but to what she wasn’t sure. On the other side of the mirror, the glass is a distorted, smoky black, and it gives a headache to anyone looking at it. It almost seems as if there’s something within the glass, brushing against it.

While they were occupied, Agrid escaped and vanished. After exchanging information about Douven, Tharien and the Stauls decided to take the mirror back to Winterhaven and try to figure out what to do with it from there.

Once back in Winterhaven, they spoke to Valthrun the Prescient, who was taken quite aback to see this mirror and learn that there was indeed a dragon buried at that site after all. He was bothered even more to hear about Orcus and Kalarel hiding out in Shadowfell Keep. He finally told them everything that he knew about the Keep’s history.

At one time, a cult of Orcus had a lair at that site. They were subsequently purged by an order of paladins of Bahumut, with the blessing of the Nerath Empire. Upon the site they built a keep in order to maintain watch over the portal and ensure that nobody ever reopened it. However, shortly after the Nerath Empire fell, the garrison commander, Sir Keegan, went insane and slaughtered his family and most of the commanding officers before being driven deep into the tunnels beneath. The reason he lost his mind was because there were things on the other side of the portal that were still able to exert influence over mortal minds.

The Stauls, concerned that a similar fate may have befallen Douven, made arrangements to have the guard ramped up at Valthrun’s tower while they went to Shadowfell Keep to assess the threat and deal with it, if indeed a cult of Orcus had taken up residence once again. And with any luck, they would find Kalarel and get him to tell them where in the hell their father was.


“If you see someone in need, help them out. It’s good karma.”—Douven Staul, raising his kids right.

“The great thing about karma is that it takes many forms; food, drink, money…and favors. Of every sort.”—Douven Staul, getting fresh with the local ladies after halting an inter-dimensional invasion.

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On Douven's Trail
Days Overdue: 3

The party cleared out Kobold Hall in the Cloak Wood. It was infested by kobolds of the Skull Kicker tribe, who were being overseen by a white dragon named Szartharrax.

The party managed to slay the dragon and returned home with the spoils.

Finally, the two weeks went by since Douven’s departure, and the foster siblings sat waiting for him to return. Nightfall came, and still he was nowhere to be seen. When they awoke, he had still not arrived. Thinking perhaps that he meant two weeks from the day he left, they waited one more day. The next morning, their foster father was still gone. Douven was never late. Ever.

Worried, they went to Teldorthan. When they arrived, the found a man recently arrived on a caravan from Winterhaven who was trying to sell Teldorthan an amulet…one they recognized as belonging to their foster father. They set upon the man, pinning him down and demanding to know where he found it.

Terrified, he explained that a woman in Winterhaven had sold it to him at a steal, and he was trying to sell it at a profit in Fallcrest. He didn’t know who Douven was. The group demanded that the man come with them to identify the woman. Teldorthan managed to talk them down, explaining that what they were about to do was tantamount to kidnapping and possibly murder, since they were probably headed directly into trouble that this man wasn’t equipped or trained to deal with. The group grudgingly relented. Teldorthan urged them to fetch their gear while he got horses ready for them. If their father was in trouble, time was of the essence.

The group rode to Winterhaven, encountering a group of kobolds along the way. This city was apparently having problems of its own with the vicious beasts. The guards at the gate directed them to Wrafton’s Inn if they were looking for Douven.

After speaking with the proprietor and an old farmer named Eilian, they learned that Douven had arrived a little over two weeks ago, stayed a night, and departed the next day, headed south. According to Eilian, Douven had asked about a dragon burial ground, and Eilian had drawn him a map. The group acquired another map from Eilian. They also learned of an elf huntress named Ninaran who might match the description of the woman who sold the traveler Douven’s amulet.

After speaking with Lord Padraig, they learned that Winterhaven is suffering from kobold attacks on trade routes, but they have little manpower to do anything about it. He indicated that if the group were able to help them, they would not find the town ungrateful.

After speaking with Valthrun, the group learned that a likely place to find artifacts from the Nerathi Empire would be at the keep off in the distance, but that Douven had never consulted him on it. When pressed for more information on the keep, he grew withdrawn, urging that some things are better left buried.


“Love all, trust a few.” – Douven Staul, raising his kids right.

“But always cut the cards.” – Douven Staul, always thinking about the next hand.

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The Story So Far...
Campaign blog

The campaign opened in Fallcrest with Douven completing a training exercise with the group in which he was blindfolded and unarmored. After several near misses, they were finally able to draw blood on him. Satisfied that if they could do that then they would be able to handle a modicum of danger on their own, he dismissed them for the day to do with as they saw fit.

Nil, Sid, and Rolina visited the Lucky Gnome. Nil sought to make some money repairing broken furniture, while Sid sought a gig performing. The proprietor, Kelson, agreed on the condition that Sid brought in the trained tiger she claimed to have.

Nil went to Teldorthan’s Arms, seeking more of the same employment. He found it, and when he inquired about other work, Teldorthan mentioned that he might have something, having noticed that Douven had been training them up. Perplexed, Nil asked for an explanation, and Teldorthan explained that it was obvious that Douven was training them to be more capable than the average person. He mentioned a shipment of dragon scales had been taken during a caravan raid. He needed them to complete a commissioned work. He told Nil to bring his siblings if they were interested, as retrieving the scales would probably require all of them.

Rolina went to the Septarch’s Tower to buy ritual components. After conversing briefly with Nimozaran, the conversation turned to problems with kobold attacks. He said the attacks had been more coordinated as of late, indicating that an actual figurehead had arisen in their ranks, one with an agenda.

Back at the farm, Douven told Thothum that he would be leaving soon to go check out a lead on a pre-imperial relic. He said he would be back in two weeks, but that he wanted him to keep an eye on the others and to help get them out of trouble if it happened. Thothum promptly forgot most of the message and went off in search of the others.

The group spoke to Teldorthan, and they settled on a fee of 225 gold to track down his green dragon scales and return them.

The group met back up at the Lucky Gnome, where Rolina shape changed into a tiger. The group went in and performed, acting as a group to perform “dangerous” tricks with illusory fire. A full scale riot erupted when a “volunteer” from the audience was pushed forward to wrestle the tiger. Kelson couldn’t have been happier and asked them to come back next week.

On the way back home they passed over the Five-Arch Bridge, and Sid disguised herself as Douven for the trip to avoid paying the toll. After a brief exchange of words with Sergeant Thurmina, Sid suspected that Douven might have some kind of physical relationship with her.

Upon getting home, the group ate dinner with Douven, who confirmed that he would indeed be departing soon. He promised to be back in two weeks, and gave the group his blessing to go deal with the kobold raids.


“If you have the power to right a wrong, but choose to do nothing, you become complicit in that evil.” – Douven Staul, raising his kids right.

“Or it might mean you’re a god.” – Douven Staul, waxing philosophical after a few glasses of brandy.

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