Legends of the Nentir Vale

Return to Winterhaven
Meeting with Lord Killian

Around dusk the party began making its way towards Lord Killian’s manor. They were greeted at the front steps by Dalton Kelfem who escorted them inside to the banquet hall. In the middle of the room was a fire pit, which had meat roasting over it. The fire pit was surrounded on three sides by a giant beautifully carved wooden table. The table was covered with many types of roasted vegetables, fruits, cheeses, bread, wine, ale, and roasted meats. From the middle of the table Lord Marcus Killian stood and welcomed the party to take a seat and begin feasting. Killian waited for all of the party to be seated before he returned to his seat. Once seated Killian took a bone from the table and threw it to the floor next to him. His wolf walked up took the bone in its mouth and went to lay by the fireplace located behind Killian. Killian then took up his glass and made a toast to the party thanking them for saving Winterhaven and blessing them on their future endeavors. After the toast Killian turned towards Zoltan and said, “You wished to discuss some business with me?”

Zoltan says to Lord Killian “Yes my party and I do wish to tell you of our adventures to the place of Orcus and all we have discovered.” I will then go on to explain in detail how we carried out the mission. “My party and I fought most bravely to halt the evil Orcus. For she had servants with much zeal and great power! One of which I am troubled to tell you was Leovan. This once noble follower of Pelor was deeply troubled by the death of his wife and when Pelor failed to answer a prayer of resurrection Orcus began to make her way into Leovan’s thoughts. He sought to bring back his wife by any means necessary. Orcus promised the resurrection if Leovan used his powers to summon her to this plane.” I will then go on to attempt to comfort him and offer my services as a holy man of the gods. “I understand the thought of your towns priest tuning away from the faith to do evil can be troubling. Leovan was in distress and I am truly sorry for all events that have taken place. I would like to offer my services as a holy man of St. Cuthbert of the cudgel, I want yourself and your people to know I am more than happy to take over some responsibilities that Leovan has left behind.”

Marius gives a meaningful nod towards Narrows, then untangles his lanky frame and stands.

“Lord Killian of Winterhaven, on behalf of my friends and in honor of your wise rule of the northern Vale, we would like to present you with mighty Aecris – the sword of Lord Beliard himself. May it be a token of friendship between us, a symbol of your strength, and a reminder to all that evil has no place where you rule.”

Killian says that he is deeply saddened by this news. He and Leovan had been good friends for many years and he cannot believe that this is what became of him. Killian again thanks Zoltan and the rest of the party for their bravery and noble deed of ridding the world of such evil.

As far as Zoltan’s offer of his holy services Killian respectfully declines. He says that he and his family are worshipers of Bahamut, and that the majority of the town are loyal worshipers of Pelor. Killian says that the news of Leovans treachery and death will be shock enough to Winterhaven and he does not feel as if the town will be acceptive of another deity at this time. Killian says that he will send out news via raven to the neighboring towns that they are in need of a new priest of Pelor.

Killian takes up the sword from Marius and stares at it’s beauty. So this is the sword of the mighty champion of Bahamut Sir Beliard. This is the blade that he used to cut down the evil Orcus cult, and legend has it this was also used to brutally murder his family and loyal followers. Killian sets Aecris down on the table and goes silent. He stares at the reflection of the fire dancing around on the blade.

He turns and looks over at Marius. I accept this blade as a token of our friendship. From now on this will be a symbol of the power of House Killian and strenght of Winterhaven. It shall be known that evil will not be tolerated in these parts and that it will be dealt with most severely.

Killian says that he is going to be all members of the party honorary members of the Wolves of Winterhaven. If this offer is accepted he will knight each member of the party with Aecris. Each accepting member will also receive a silver pin of a wolves head that signifies members of the Wolves.

Lord Killian Zoltan addresses. "Lord I understand your wanting for a man of Pelor for the people. And you I understand are a noble servant of Bahamut. My brother is also one of Bahamuts faithful followers. He has heard the call from Bahamut and recently fell in battle fighting against Orcus. Bahamut has been quite generous in giving him a way back to this life because his work is unfinished. He shall be back and better than ever in a few days. I am sure he has great tales to tell if Bahamut and his power and will share with you and your people on his return.

“Ahh… my lord. I… we are honored by your offer. I have no doubt that several of us will accept without hesitation. But I… while I pledge my friendship to House Killian and the goodly folk of Winterhaven, wearing a badge just won’t sit right with some of us. You’re a noble man, good and true, but kneeling and such just isn’t in my nature, and I don’t want to make any promises I just know I won’t keep.” Marius makes eye contact with the Lord of Winterhaven during the last two sentences… not defiantly but with honesty and resolve.

Christopher states, “Great Lord of Winterhaven, I too must decline the great honor of your knighthood for I am pledged by rite to another kingdom and must not be put in the position of conflicting allegiances. That being said, I am honored and as long as your quarrel be not with the noble people of Brightwind, do not hesitate to call for my aid in any hopeless fight against tyranny!”

Killian to Zoltan. I am sorry to hear about your brother falling in battle, but it is a great honor to have heard the calling of Bahamut. I would much like to meet your brother once his transformation is complete.

To Marius. Ah my boy no hard feelings, I respect your decision. A man must choose his own destiny instead of having others choose it for him. You remind me a lot of myself when I was younger.

Over the course of the rest of the meal Killian says that regardless of if anyone from the party decides to become honorary members of the Wolves that the party will always be welcome in Winterhaven. He writes up a letter of writ for each member of the party stating that unless stated otherwise by the head of House Killian that they are to always be welcomed in Winterhaven without question, also they are to always be provided a place to stay and a hot meal to eat if needed.

Killian will also gift each member of the party 150 gold regs. He says that he knows that it is not much of a reward for saving Winterhaven but it is all he is able to give at this time. Due to the Orcus cult being involved in the kidnappings and attacks over the past 3 months trade to Winterhaven all been pretty much no existent. Now hopefully that will change and the trade routes will be safe to travel once again…or at least as safe as they used to be.

“My lord, we’ve been away from Fallcrest for several days… have you had any ravens from them?” asks Marius.

Why now that you mention it Marius I did receive a raven from Fallcrest only but a few days back. The raven was from Lord Faren Markelhay head of House Markelhay. If you did not already know Faren is the Lord Warden of Fallcrest. In his letter he discussed his plans for a council to meet that he is calling The Father’s of the Vale. Apparently this letter was sent to the heads of all of the prominent houses of power in the Vale. Lord Markelhay is wanting to make the Vale into more of a kingdom with a central point of government instead of all the towns and villages fending for themselves. He is calling this meeting as a result of the trade routes being so dangerous over the last 3 to 4 months which began to cripple the economy of Fallcrest and the rest of the Vale. This council is set to meet on the 1st of Yellowsky.

Marius: (under his breath, in response to the idea of the Fathers of the Vale) that conniving sonofa…

(pauses, listening to the rest of Lord Killian’s explanation)

My lord, there are men of ambition in Fallcrest. RUTHLESS ambition. Be on guard for the freedom of your people. A ruler in Fallcrest will not care about the needs of a farmer from Winterhaven – Unification talk’s nothing but a power grab.

(Marius sits back down and rubs his forehead in frustration, then leans over and growls to Narrows quietly) Come a day there won’t be room for naughty folk like us to slip about at all.

(Narrows mutters quietly to Marius) “When there ain’t no room for the naughty, Mate; we got’s to become the ruthless…” With this he rises and draws himself up to his full height. He SEEMS surprisingly taller than you all remember. (In a voice and manner reminiscent of Christopher Lee as Saruman), he speaks thus: “My Lord. No doubt you can infer from my appearance that it has not been so many Winters that my forebearers sat upon the throne of Vor Rukoth. Because of this, there are many who doubt my motives. Even those with the gods-granted power to look into my very heart have called me ‘rape baby,’ and worse [shoots scornful look at Zoltan]. I hasten to accept your offer of knighthood, that I may be judged more slowly in this land; that I may more quickly execute your will, M’Lord. As you know I have skill in establishing companies, levying murage and amercements. I have established merchants bets. If it please you, M’Lord, let me be your Factor that I may help to reestablish trade in the region. I do NOT expect your full trust; this would be a foolish expectation of course—but pick whoever you deem to oversee me and I shall make Winterhaven wealthy once more.”

Killian addressing Marius: I go into this council with cautious optimism. I assure you that I will always have Winterhaven’s best interest in mind when making any decision. I want to see what all Lord Markelhay has to say before I make any rash judgement.

Killian addressing Narrows: I do know your kind and know that for the most part people tend to shy away from having any type of relations with them. I on the other hand try not to judge a man by what he is, but instead by the actions that he performs. It seems to me that you have been of service the this group of adventurers and therefore you have been a service to Winterhaven. Since it is your will you will be knighted and become an honorary member of the Wolves of Winterhaven. I trust that you will uphold your vows to honor the laws of the town and to protect it’s people when you are able.

I will also take you up on your proposition to help rebuild the wealth of Winterhaven. You will report to the House adviser. He has been with the family since before I was born. His name is Aist Yashar and I think you will be very interested to make his acquaintance.

Marius: My lord, I shall be at your service when your company arrives in Fallcrest. If you require information, or if my friends and I can be of service before then, it might be best to have Valthrune send a raven to Nimzoran the Green in Fallcrest or to use other arcane means to contact us.

Killian is very appreciative of Marius’s concern for the people of Winterhaven. He tells Marius that he will keep him in mind as a local contact that he can trust in Fallcrest. Killian says that if he is in need of Marius’s services he will find a way to contact him.

What Now?
Orcus cult defeated

Marius will collect the armor he left with the wizard near Winterhaven, and then invite Narrows back to Lowtown with him to start undermining the River Rats and the other gangs and to help Narrows launch his own endeavor.

Marius will also hope that there’s a little bit of jingle in his pocket to try and acquire from his old master some minor magic items that might be of use.

Of course, we will begin by making sure that all the evil that Leovan, that foul pretender, brought into the Keep has been rooted out — every corner and every crevice AFTER we carefully carry the lifeless body of mighty Kovas to the altar of Bahamut and beg the Platinum Dragon to breathe life back into our fallen friend.

“Yes Kovas is my main priority” says Zoltan. Then give to the church of St. Cuthbert an appropriate amount. Then I will go to the church of Pelor where Leovan once was to offer up prayers for the people there and any assistance I could be there. I also need to make a trip to Fallcrest as well to tell the woman of her dead husband and give back her ring. Oh and the prisoners I shall take back to their respective homes.

“This church thing is a sweet racket Leovan made out like a bandit! Maybe I should become a priest…” states Marius.

“The priests act just like the gods they worship, they pretend to care and then disappear at the first sign of danger.” Astolpho exclaims!

Zoltan fires back, “They do not disappear at danger. The weak fall out of distress for their people. It is holy men like myself whose responsibility it is to help those lost souls find what they are looking for. What they need.”

Christopher will sharpen his sword, and seek more adventure they he may become strong enough to reclaim what is rightfully his…

Journal of a Madman
Writings of Orcus

While the rest of the party is doing all this heavy lifting of bodies and what-not, Narrows kicks his feet up and read some of this journal he found that once belonged to Leoven who turned out to be the Orcus cult leader.

Most of the journal entries are personal. Leoven writes about how his wife Lilly was killed in a kolbold attack on the city of Winterhaven 3 years ago. Being a devoted priest of Pelor Levoen prayed and begged Pelor to bring Lilly back from the dead. Leoven’s prayers went unanswered which enraged him. After dedicated the majority of his years to the church of Pelor, now in his greatest time of need he is ignored. Leoven denounced Pelor and began searching for ways to resurrect his wife. Leoven came across some ancient texts regarding Orcus and a buried Orcus temple. The more he uncovered about Orcus the more darkness crept into his heart. He converted his faith and began to worship Orcus. Orcus agreed to resurrect his wife in return for Leoven opening a rift to the Shadowfell which would allow Orcus to cross over into this plane. Over the next few years Leoven began planning to gather an army to help him open the rift.

Narrows also find spells and rituals written in the abyssal tongue. You map sketches of the most of the interior of the underground portions of the Beliard Keep, as well as the Orcus chambers. There are transactions listed where gold had been paid to members of the Black Briar Gang for weapons. It has a small list of names, Enelya Nolatari: Winterhaven Spy, Irontooth: kolbold enforcer, Grakas (gnome): cultist apprentice, Zannan (human) cultist apprentice, Urthadar (half-orc) Black Briar Gang contact.

Lastly Narrows find this note:

Combination. Must be pulled in the following order.

Blue – TGW, Red – FoF, Yellow – OMPoP, Green – BSW & Purple – CoW.
actually make this change Yellow – OMRS

A Familiar Face
With an Insidious Agenda

The party delved deeper into the bowels of an ancient underground temple dedicated to the worship of Orcus. Descending even deeper into the nightmare they climbed down chains covered in blood the they reached the inner sanctum of the long forgotten temple. They found themselves standing in a giant pool of sacrificial blood as crimson streams cascaded down from the floor above. At one end of the chamber stood a cloaked human, clad in armor and carrying a skull-capped rod chanting a low droning prayer. Before him was an alter made of bone upon which sat the half decayed corpse and a woman. At the opposite end of the chamber a yawning black portal dominates the wall. Something strains against the darkness within, as if the were a thin film keeping back a vicious clawed beast. A set of blazing runes had been inscribed on the floor before the portal. Black smoke like arms wind there way from the mouth of the portal across the chamber toward the chanting human and are seemingly being inhaled by the corpse lying on the altar. Delvin shoots the human with a magic missile which disrupts his concentration and the arms of smoke dissipate. The human opens his eyes and screams “Noooo, what have you done!?”. The half rotten corpse of the woman begins to gasp for air and starts to contort in ways a body should not be able to. Her eyes open and they are completely pitch black. Her body levitates off of the altar and then she sprints towards the party. The cloaked human grabs an amulet around his neck and disappears.

The corpse of the woman charges directly towards Zoltan but suddenly comes to a stop. There eyes meet and Zoltan feels as if his heart has been pierced by her icy black stare. Zoltan then hears the dry raspy voice of the woman speaking, but her mouth does not move. It feels as if her voice is surrounding him. Zoltan goes to reach for his war mace but is unable to move. It then dawns on him that the voice is in his head. Kovas takes up his long spear charges past Zoltan towards the creepily still woman. Zoltan then hears the woman demanding him to attack the dragon shaman. Zoltan draws his war mace, rears back to bury his mace into the back of the head of the shaman but is able to fight it off. The voice pounds in his head again commanding him to strike. It takes everything that Zoltan has in him to resist, his arm trembling dangerously close to the back of Kovas’s head. The woman is then hit by a magic missile from Delvin, and takes a spear to the shoulder from Kovas. Narrows fires off a crossbow bolt in her direction but it unable to connect. Marius begins to charge in towards her being careful not to slip in the streams of blood crisscrossing the floor. Getting frustrated with the resistance of the priest of St. Cuthebert the woman breaks off her stare and charges Kovas slamming him in the chest with her fist. The hit knocks the breath from Kovas and he begins to feel extremely weak. Narrows fires off another crossbow bolt which connects. Marius comes up to flank the woman and buries his sword deep into her shoulder. Zoltan shakes his head trying to keep the voice from echoing in his ears. Zoltan moves up and attacks the woman with his war mace. Seeing that the woman is being surrounded Narrows moves in as well hoping to overwhelm her with sheer numbers. From the middle of the chamber Delvin cast a spell on the woman which causes her to scream out in pain. The woman takes a few more hits from the party and suddenly transforms into a thick black gas. The gas swirls around the party and then disappears. Marius turns around in time to see the gas transform back into the woman. She charges Narrows leaps into the air and pins Narrows to the ground. She opens her decaying mouth dripping bile and saliva onto Narrows face. Two giant fangs then protrude from what is left of her gums and she tries to bury them into Narrows neck. Narrows is somehow able to muster enough strength to hold her off long enough for Zoltan, Marius and Kovas to come to his aid and pry her off of him. They furiously slash and bash her with their weapons. The woman then grabs her head and screams in pain as if something is attacking her the the inside. The corpse of the woman then falls to the floor and what skin she has left begins to melt off of her bones. Black smoke then began to seep out of the orifices of her face. Narrows pulls out a flask of oil and douses the quickly decomposing body lighting it ablaze.

Kashyr notices the priest of Orcus appear inside the magic rune in front of the portal. He attempts to throw a javelin at the priest but loses sight of him as the he is enveloped by darkness. Kashyr strafes to his left until he has line of sight to the priest. He tries to get as close as he can to the human when a black tar like arm reaches out from the portal and almost grabs him. Feeling as if he might be out matched Kashyr decides he better retreat so he casts a spell and a thick grayish white fog begins to bellow up from the ground where he is standing. Delvin notices the commotion behind him and fires another magic missile at the priest. A blast of magic energy crashes into the humans chest. He looks in the direction of Delvin holds out his hand and utters a few words. Delvin’s eyes begin to burn and water. He tries rubbing them to relieve the pain. He blinks frantically but his vision is now extremely blurry. Delvin fires off a few more magic missiles at the blurry outline of the figure he believes to be the Orcus priest. Unable to distinguish what is going on around him Delvin lays down prone on the floor hoping that his vision will being to clear up.

Time froze.

There are moments in an adventurer’s life that they will never forget. The howling of the wolves from the level above. The crash of armor into stone as Astolpho lost his grip on the blood-slick chains and plummeted at least forty feet. The hideous contortions of the woman on the altar, before she levitated herself off of it and raced at them more quickly than any human ought to move. The vanishing of the priest who had been chanting in a tongue too awful for mortal ears to comprehend.

But none of those things made time freeze for Marius like Zoltan’s heart-broken shriek of grief and rage. The three of them — Zoltan, Kovas, and Marius — had closed to engage the priest, after a blow from his clearly-enhanced fist had struck Kashyr to the ground. Bahamut’s healing power radiating from Kovas was the only thing that kept the young raptoran from crossing over into the Skies Above. Marius twirled his spiked chain, aiming a blow at the legs of the wretched priest of Orcus, when black arms of smoky, tarry vileness reached out of the portal and wrapped themselves around Zoltan! Changing his target in a flash, Marius wrapped his chain around the arms and gave a mighty yank — but his chain only slowed for a moment and then passed through the arms, which kept pulling the young cleric of St. Cuthbert closer to the maw of Orcus.

With a desperate cry of power, Kovas wrapped his arms around his twin brother, dug his heels into the stone floor, and flexed backwards! The arms dragging Zoltan seemed to tremble for a moment, their inexorable might momentarily frustrated. Marius spun to the left and lashed out again! The priest of Orcus shouted in anger as the duskblade’s chain yanked his legs out from under him. His head hit the stone with a vicious crack! Magic missiles zinged into him from Delvan’s wand. Zoltan’s warmace hammered into his ribs. Knowing he was thwarted for the moment, the priest focused all his considerable power into one last spell! He reached up from where he lay, wrapped his hand with its nasty black nails around Kovas’ ankle, and uttered words of magic that froze Marius’ soul.

The mighty blond warrior of Bahamut collapsed to the ground without a sound.

Crypts of Beliard Keep
Tale of a Fallen Hero

Deep within the underground crypts of the Beliard Keep the party found the tomb of Sir Beliard. Upon a raised dais sits an ornately carved stone sarcophagus with relief images of the might platinum dragon around the sides. Carved on the lid is a human warrior in plate armor with a sword laid across his chest, the point toward his feet. The lid reads “Here lies Sir Beliard”.

When Narrows approached the sarcophagus the lid explodes in a fury of dust and debris. A humanoid skeleton girded in plate armor rises from the cloud of dust. It holds aloft a longsword that is inlaid with platinum and has a line of three white diamonds set into the flat of its blade and a pommel carved to resemble the head of a noble dragon. In a deep commanding voice Sir Beliard says “The rift must never be re-opened!” “State your business or prepare to die!”

The party explains there business in the keep. Sir Beliard then proceeds to ask them a series of questions to determine if they are to be trusted. After the questioning Beliard beliefs them to be trustworthy and offers his sword Aecris to Narrows as help to keep the rift from being re-opened.

Christopher asks Beliard about his past. Beliard says that over a century ago an Orcus cult built an underground temple here. Inside of the temple they tried to open a rift to the plane of Shadowfell to call Orcus to this plane. Sir Beliard and his commanders fought and destroyed the cult. To try to keep the rift from being re-opened Beliard built his keep over the underground temple and swore to be its protector for the rest of his days.

As the years went on shadow crept into his mind until it finally overtook him. One cold dark night Beliard awoke from his sleep in a cold sweat. Unable to control his actions he took up his sword and killed his wife in her sleep. He then went to the chambers of his two children and murdered them in their sleep as well. Beliard then proceeded to walk through the keep murdering his servants and commanders. He was finally driven into the bowels of the keep where he was killed by his last remaining commanders.

Beliard is now unable to leave the confines of his crypt as his soul is eternally bound to this place as punishment for his nonredeemable actions. He can only offer up his sword Aecris to help the party.

Around the Fire
Tactical Discussion

Shadows slipped over the small clearing where Paracelsius had led the group. A small fire crackled quietly, just enough to chase off the worst of the early spring cold. After dinner, Marius stretched his gangly legs and dug a battered, deep-bowled pipe out of his pack. He knocked it against the scabbard of his dagger to empty it out, then scraped it clean with the tip of the blade. A bit of firm packing later, he pulled a burning stick from the campfire and brought it to the fragrant pipeweed. Moments later, he leaned back and blew several rings of smoke up towards the moon.

“Gather ‘round, gang. We need to talk. That mess at the cemetary was nearly an unmitigated disaster, and it was typical of our way of doing things. We are going into something bigger than any of us have ever faced… I’ve been doing some thinking on our ride here, and I think we can do better at working together.”

Gesturing with the still-glowing stick, Marius points first to Narrows and then to Paracelsius’s wolf. “What’s his name, anyway?” Then he smooths out a spot of dirt clearly lit by the fire.

“When we’re moving? When we expect trouble? We need Narrows and the wolf out front, scouting for us.” Two marks in the dirt, far enough away from the fire that they’re almost in the dark. Then, a hands-breadth back, Marius draws a diamond in the dirt.

“Okay – here is the heart of our team. We stick together, we move together. Christopher, I know you’ll want to be the lead point of the diamond. I will watch your left side. Let Astolpho and Zoltan take the right side, and put Kovas on the tail of the diamond. He needs to be in the middle for his powers to be most efficient.” Finally, Marius pops a couple more marks behind the diamond, close to the fire.

“Casters to the rear – we need as many of us between you and the bad guys as possible. What do you think?”

Narrows just nods…then he stares…then he blinks.

“Now, Narrows, listen — there’s something in this for you, too. When you spot trouble, let the wolf come back and warn us. Once we engage with them, you’ll have a clear shot at backstabbing them!” Marius says.

The monotonous grinding of Christopher’s whetstone against the edge of his great sword stops abruptly. “That plan sounds well and good my friend, but how am I to know it is not I who will receive a knife in the back from the dark one? Or any one of you?”, he says in a half jocular, half accusatory tone. “It is obvious we are all great adventurers worth our salt in and out of combat, but I struggle to see why I should trust any of you to guard my back. Fate has certainly brought us together for some purpose, a shared goal or higher calling? The acquisition of riches? Glory? To reclaim something lost? Or discover something not yet found? Tell me brothers, what brings you into the company of strangers and compels you to stay?”

Narrows stares into the fire for a moment, blinks, and replies: “Coin, Gov…Coin.”

Marius spits in frustration, then throws his smoldering drawing stick into the fire. Staring at the ground, he growls, “I have a man to kill.” After a long, heavy pause, he continues.

“I have a man to kill, but I can’t kill him yet. Until I can, I’ve got no answers for you. I’ve got no rudder. If the wind blows northerly, I go north. Maybe that ain’t a man to lead… Hell, I don’t know. I’m spun about. Mind’s all fogged up with these ‘red woman’ dreams.”

A heavy hush falls over the group at Marius’ pronouncement. He plants his pipe firmly between his teeth and stares into the fire. The others look at one another, wondering who will speak next…

The Elf Cloaked in Black
Something foul in the air.

The party agreed to help carry the caskets of the deceased members of the Fletcher family to the Winterhaven graveyard. Upon entering the graveyard the sky grew dark and a slight wind began to blow. Then each coffin shook violently upon the shoulder of those who carried them. Fearing a possible ambush put down the caskets and took cover behind them. To the parties horror a legion and of undead zombies and skeletons began to surround them for every part of the graveyard. Marius took two flasks of oil and threw them upon the coffins and then set them ablaze with a jolt of electricity emitted from his fingertips. In the midst of the battle Marius spun around and to his horror he saw Benjamin, now undead and on fire. For the body only having been dead for a few days it looked a lot worse than it should have. The body almost looked like it had been deflated as if the life force had been sucked out of it. Marius put Benjamin to rest once and for all with a quick swing of his sword, removing the head from the body. Alhanna was now also undead and her body was found crawling on the ground close to the coffins. Her body too looked to be deflated like her husband Benjamin’s. Her legs had been charred down to the bone. Zoltan ended her misery with a blow to the head. Finally near the end of the battle in the graveyard young Rachael, standing just over 3 foot tall, was found standing motionless with a blank stare on her now thin and elongated face. Marius walked up to her and reared his sword back to deliver the final blow but was able to make himself do it. He struggled with this a few more times until final he closed his eyes and put his sword through her tiny skull.

The party killed the archer and the rest of the undead. When searching the archer they noticed that it was wearing a black cloak and a black chain shirt. When the body was flipped over the hood of the cloak was removed from it’s head revealing a female elf with the ram’s head painted over her face. Upon closer examination Marius recognized the elf to be Enelya Nolatari, the ranger that the party had spoken with at Wrafton’s Inn the first day they arrived in Winterhaven. They searched her body and found the two pieces of vellum.

Vellum #1:

I received your report on the adventures from Fallcrest. They are beginning to become a thorn in my side. They have already slain our enforcer Irontooth and his kolbold minions. They are getting too close and must be dealt with. I have provided you with the instructions you will need to raise a force to thwart them. Time is of the essence as I am very close to opening the rift. It is of the utmost importance that the adventures are kept away from the keep, as I must not be disturbed within the final hours of the ritual. If you fail me may Orcus feast upon your flesh for all eternity.

Vellum #2:

You will need a fresh blood sacrifice from three vessels. Use the blood to paint a circle with the rams head inside it on the ground. You will then need to kneel inside of the circle and recite the following in the abyssal tongue. “Lord Orcus, demon lord of the Abyss, Prince of the Undead, I call upon your unlimited power to raise broken bone and rotten flesh. I sacrifice the blood of these three so that their souls may forever be enslaved to you. In return I beg that you raise the dead around me, giving me command of them so that I may destroy a group that threatens your inevitable return from the Abyss to rule over this world.”

After Marius beheads the young biter that was once Rachel Fletcher, he stabs his greatsword into the earth, grabs Leovan the priest of Pelor by his robes, and SLAMS him into the closest crypt.

“What in the Nine Hells are you playing at, kneeler??? Who paid you to lead us into this filth?”

The priest winces in pain from the arrow that is protruding out of his shoulder. Then very calmly Leovan replies.

“Young lad I am very sorry as to the events that have just transpired, but I do not have any idea as to what you are talking about. It is my responsibility as the priest of the church of Pelor here in Winterhaven to make sure that it’s people receive a proper burial. I was out here all day yesterday digging the graves for the family myself as the usual gravedigger has been missing for over a month now.”

He gestures over towards the mausoleum where Marius can see that there are three freshly dug graves.

Leovan begins again.

“I am just one man and I am not able to carry these coffins here by myself. That is why I asked you and your companions for help. You all seem fearless and good with a sword as you all have said that you have been traveling the roads around Winterhaven and have not been killed or captured.”

“What good did your god do for these people???” Marius roars, gesturing toward the dismembered bodies of the restless dead. “Keep your ‘sorries’… Maybe we should send you along with them! Let you give your sorries to them face-to-face!”

Marius, in a red rage, reaches up and lays his hand on the arrow shaft, and begins to press down… “Give us one good reason why we should trust you. Quickly.”

Leovan grits his teeth through the pain and places his hands on Marius’s shoulders.

“Boy now is not the place nor the time for aggression such as this. I can only pray to my god for mercy and guidance, I cannot command him to do my bidding. Do not think that you or this family are the only ones who have suffered. Many have already suffered and many more will continue to suffer, unfortunately such is life.”

Leovan removes his hands from Marius and walks past him over to a cracked moss covered gravestone. The priest lays his hand on top of the stone which simply reads…Lilly…Loving Wife.

In the blink of an eye, the fury melts from the face of the young adventurer. In its place is left the face of a heart-broken teenager in over his head.

“I’m… I’m sorry, sir. I…” Marius’ voices trails off and he moves to search the remains of the archer who had nearly killed the priest.

He rolled the body over on its back with his boot, and knelt beside it. After a few moments, he called out, “Delvan, come look at this armor for me. I think it may be magical.” Rummaging through the elf’s cloak, he finds two sheets of vellum written by the person who had written the last note they found.

“Leovan, could you look at these for a moment?” He carried the papers over to the priest. “Please forgive me – I had no right to speak to you that way. But these papers speak of a keep, and it must be close by. Where could it be?”

The Red Dragon Inn
You never knew what you might see...

A beam of sunlight shot through the east window of the barn loft and blasted into Marius Levant’s head, igniting the headache he had known he would have after last night’s entertainment. That sunshine, though, was why his hammock hung where it did; when he had business that required daylight attention, he could leave the window uncovered. Otherwise, the heavy canvas drape would have been blocking out the dawn rays, and he would have been snoring contentedly, and this blasted headache would be hours in his future.

He rolled out of the hammock and stretched, then reached for his water skin and took a long swallow. Then he doused himself with the remainder of the skin’s content and ran his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. Wincing, he gingerly poked at a lump he didn’t recognize.

“I guess I shouldn’t have had that last shot after all! Have to ask Kelson about this one,” he muttered before shrugging into his armor’s chestpiece and tugging it neatly into place. Studded with bronze rivets, the breastplate and shoulder protectors were creased in several different places by folks who had a different opinion on the value of its owner’s life than Marius did. After tugging on his boots, he stepped towards the window and gazed out at Lowtown in all its squalor. From this vantage point, he could just see the Septarch’s Tower off to the southeast. Between there and here, though, squatted several shabby hovels, leaning against one another like a family of sad drunks just trying to carry each other home. But there wasn’t anywhere to go, he mused as he looked to the north, to the bluff that divided Fallcrest into Hightown and Lowtown. Oh sure, there were a few closely-watched trails that connected the cleaner, more prosperous and respectable heights to their dirtier, shadier cousin – how else would the porters’ guild keep its river of dirty coin flowing from the pockets of their members to every official in town?

But his eyes narrowed and his thoughts reddened as his eyes fell on the mansion whose gables he could just see over the edge of the bluffs. Yes, there was another reason he had chosen this particular loft for his home, wasn’t there? “Oh yes, it all comes down to CHOICES, to DECISIONS, doesn’t it?” he spat before turning away from the window and reaching for a leather strip to tie back his thick hair. He had business for Kelson in Hightown today… So he’d better look at little less scruffy than usual.

Marius unhooked a spiked chain from its place on one of the ceiling posts and wrapped it over his shoulder, clipping the larger link in the middle to his shoulder and tucking the spiked end into a special leather pouch on his belt. Throwing his heavy grey cloak over his shoulders, he grabbed the odd hat he’d taken with him from his last residence, tugged it on, and headed to the Red Dragon Inn.

The Red Dragon… Clean and classy in some places, rough-and-tumble in others, there were Red Dragons up and down the river and even farther away than that. You knew whether a place was important, or just some backwater wide spot in the road, by whether they had a Red Dragon Inn. Marius mused on which came first, the Inn or the importance, as he rode the early ferry across the Nentir River. There were four main trails up the bluffs – East, Straight, West, and Over-the-River. When he had a bit of coin to spare, or had special business in Hightown, he ferried over the river and caught a wagon headed up to the west side markets. Easier to remain unnoticed there than on the quicker, more direct route. He tugged off his distinctive hat as the wagon rumbled slowly across the wooden bridge that spanned the Hightown Nentir. No sense giving the clowns on guard detail something obvious to stick in their puny little brains for later. But he pulled it back on after he hopped off the wagon and strolled into the Red Dragon. Kelson said that his contact would need it to recognize him. Pushing through the doors, he stopped (as usual for a Red Dragon regular) and scanned the message board. The management encouraged folks to post items of note, odd jobs, and even had a scroll tacked up for travelers to make their mark and let others know that they’d passed this way en route to wherever. Marius shook his head as he saw a note from the Arnlief Exchange and Emporium, looking to hire some sellswords to deal with bandits harassing their stock caravans. Arnliefs were good people, and Marius did what he could to keep Kelson’s greedy gang otherwise occupied, but this might be trouble worth looking into.

“Pot of tea, and some bread,” Marius growled to the serving lass he passed as he moved to a table near the back, turning so he could see the door he’d entered through. He shook out a few coppers and laid them on the table, then gently took a scroll from the folds of his cloak and began reading. His eyes scanned over the top of the scroll from time to time, watching for… nothing in particular. But the script on the paper grabbed more and more of his attention, so he was startled when the dwarf yanked out the other chair at his table and nearly transformed it into kindling as he landed in it.

“You got something for me?” he grunted in Dwarven.

“Maybe,” Marius replied carefully in the same tongue. “What do you have for me?” The dwarf tossed a book on the table, and Marius grabbed it eagerly. TALES OF HONOR AND VALOR, from the pen of Winslow the Red and collected by Thatian Stonebard, the cover read in a fine script. Marius gently riffled the pages and found the note tucked inside. Careful not to read the note, he closed the book again and tossed a small pouch of regs to the dwarf.

“This is a fine tome, and rare besides. Much appreciated, good dwarf. Would you like to share some of my breakfast? I can order some salt pork as well.”

The dwarf shook his head and rose. “Must be on my way. Don’t lose that or it will be your head, Reader.”

“No kidding? Thanks for the tip!” Marius laughed, a loud and merry sound that hardly fit his sour face and disposition. He tucked the book away in another folder of his cloak and stood, getting ready to leave. Then his eyes widened and his jaw dropped a little as he saw what, or rather, WHO was strolling up to the message board. Purple skin with a slight sheen to it, a glitter in its eye, and a rakish grin shining out from under an odd little helmet (bronze, maybe?)… Is that a SPELLSCALE? What in the Nine Hells is one of those doing out here in the middle of nowhere? Well, not as middle-of-nowhere as Winterhaven, but still strange to see such an uncommon sort of creature. But that was the Red Dragon for you – you never knew what you might see.

Marius arched an eyebrow and eased a little closer to the board, as he saw a big human, heavier but a little shorter than himself, moving towards the little guy, who was reading the Arnlief note with interest. The human shoved the spellscale, who was fully a foot shorter and much lighter, into the wall and took his place.

“Let me get a look at this! Ha! Just the kind of work a fellow like me is looking for! See ya later, scrappy!” the man guffawed as he pushed through the doors and out in the street. Marius wasn’t quick enough to work out the device on the obnoxious fellow’s shield, but the sword on his hip looked like more than a toy. By then, two more humans, a burly pair who also almost matched Marius inch-for-inch in height, had approached the board. One, wearing the symbol of St. Cuthbert around his neck, was helping the young spellscale to his feet while the other, a heavily hooded fellow with a few strands of long blond hair left uncovered, read the note.

“Zoltan, look at this! Says a merchant here in town needs help, and will pay solid coin. Want to check it out?”

“Hey!” The spellscale piped up in a high-pitched but friendly voice. “I saw that first! Come on now, that other guy is already trying to get the job… Now you guys are going too!?”

“Why don’t we all go… Together?” the priest replied, dusting off the protesting spellscale. “I bet it’s the kind of job that will need more than just one or two people.” The three of them headed out together, but not before Marius noticed a strange bulk around the little fellow’s shoulders. Did he have a pack stashed under his cloak? Was he some kind of hunchback? Curiosity thoroughly aroused, Marius slid out the doors behind them and kept them in sight as he, too, headed for the Arnlief Emporium.

Pete, a grey-haired man of about sixty, sat at the counter at the Arnlief Exchange and Emporium, riffling nervously through some papers that lay scattered there. He was supposed to be checking Lisbet’s count against the shipping records, but he couldn’t focus. He bolted up from his stool and began pacing behind the counter.

“What will we do? Oh what will we do?” he muttered over and over. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the front door swung open and slammed into the inside wall. A man strolled in, sword at his hip and a shield strapped to his back.

“Hey there, buddy! My name’s Christopher, and I’m here to speak with Lisbet Arnlief. Saw her advertisement on the board at the Red Dragon, and here I am! Tell her all her problems are solved!”

But before he even finished, another trio burst through the door, led by a shorter, slight-built fellow with… Pete’s eyes widened as he saw PURPLE skin… what kind of creature has PURPLE skin???

“No way! NO WAY! My name’s Delvin Skycharge, and I saw that note FIRST. I’M here with my friends Kovac and Zoltan, and WE want to work for Mrs. Arnlief!” Completely at a loss for words, Pete’s mouth opened and closed like a fish several times, before another voice spoke from behind the trio.

“Perhaps, Pete, you should go tell Mrs. Arnlief that she has business with us?” Marius said quietly. The clerk nodded several times, still looking a bit lost. He turned towards the storeroom, but misjudged the doorway and bounced off of the doorframe. Delvin’s giggle made Pete jump again, but he finally stopped, gathered himself, and hurried into the back. A few moments later, a human woman with a pale, freckled face and flashing blue eyes stepped forth. She looked to be in her fourth decade, but not too far into it, and her curly red hair showed only a little grey.

While Marius leaned against the entryway, the other four all started talking at once. After a few moments, she spoke sharply. “Gentlemen! Please! I am Lisbet Arnlief – please come with me and we will see if you can be of any use to us.” She led the group back into the warehouse area after patting Pete’s arm gently. The creaks of wood and clanking of metal could be heard from farther back in the shadowy warehouse, but Lisbet led them towards a lit room with a large table and several chairs. She stood at one end and gestured for her visitors to sit. From the corner, another elderly gentleman stepped forward.

“Well-met, worthy sirs. Might I offer you any refreshment? A bite to eat, perhaps?”

ALE! Tankards of ale would not go amiss for my brother and I,” the priest ordered happily, while Christopher asked for some fresh water. Marius took a large pipe of meerschaum from inside his cloak and signaled questioningly with it to Mrs. Arnlief, who nodded her permission. After that, he leaned against the back wall, filled his pipe with aromatic pipeweed, and lit it from a nearby candle. Puffing quietly, he listened as she explained her situation.

“Gentlemen, let me get right to the point. My husband Ronald left Fallcrest several days ago, leading a caravan of goods to Harkenwold. He should have sent a raven three days ago. We lost the last two caravans we sent to Harkenwold, and he wanted to accompany this one to find out what was going on and put a stop to it. He knows his way around, and like anyone in shipping, we’ve learned to deal with our fair share of brigands. But he’s never been this late before, and he always sends word when he arrives.” She paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, “I think he’s been captured.”

“Well, ma’am, lucky for you that I saw your notice!” Christopher blustered. “I can leave right now… although there is the matter of payment that you haven’t mentioned yet.”

“Yes, lucky,” she replied dryly. “First, I need some assurance that you people can even work together… do any of you even know each other??”

Zoltan, the priest of St. Cuthbert, introduced himself and his brother Kovac. “This is exactly why St. Cuthbert has blessed me with strength and power! To mete out justice to evildoers! I pledge my mace to your service — we will not rest until you’ve been reunited with your husband.” Marius rolled his eyes through his pipesmoke and said nothing. Religion in Fallcrest was a joke – why would this guy be any different?

Zoltan continued, oblivious to Marius’ skepticism. "My brother is mighty in battle, and Delvin here clearly has magical power that will help us greatly. We don’t know anything about these two – " he gestured towards Christopher and Marius – “so you should probably just send the three of us. We will get it done.”

Christopher protested, “Do you really want to pay three people to do the work that one true warrior can accomplish? Sure, those two are strapping enough, but size isn’t all that matters in combat. What matters is skill, and skill is what I have. And trusting magic is for fools. None of it is as trustworthy as THIS!” In one fluid motion, he drew his longsword from its sheath and laid it on the table. Marius flexed his fingers and wrapped them around his chain, ready to defend himself at a moment’s notice. He tensed as Christopher turned towards him, and challenged, “What I want to know is what this quiet one is doing here. What’s your name, longshanks? And what’s your business, eh?”

“Marius. Marius Levant. I’ve a bit of skill with a blade, as well as other talents that might prove useful in… all sorts of endeavors.” He leaned forward and blew a bit of smoke towards the ceiling, his grey-blue eyes never leaving the sellsword’s face.

“Stop it, you idiots,” Lisbet said in a tone that brooked no argument. “There’s no time for this. Beggars can’t exactly be choosers, can we? I want all five of you to go and find my husband. I can provide horses and rations, and ammunition if any of you are lacking arrows or bolts. But you must leave today!”

“We can leave right now, my lady,” Zoltan replied. “Let’s go!”

Marius growled a negative. “No. Let us meet at noon at the east gate. I know this road, but I must gather my gear.”

“Unprepared? NOON? Why are you coming again?” Christopher retorted. Marius glared back, but said nothing.

“Then noon it will be. May the gods go with you, sirs, and speed you back with my beloved,” Lisbet intoned.


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