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The beast appeared at the gate dragging a mountain goat. They launched their attack. Artan and Lorco hit it with fire spells. Lorco, a Fireball, and Artan an Aganazzar’s Scorcher. The bear was then trapped in the gateway by Kalista’s summoned dire wolf. It did not fight long before they killed it. Dressing the large carcass took some hours and they returned to the Secure Shelter to rest. Lorco agreed to go to Muddy Cape and hunt clams with them but he had to cut Dalldra in for a share as well as pay for her services – albeit at half-rate.
Overland the journey was tough. Exposed to the dastardly cold north west wind that came straight off the sea ice they took comfort that at least it wasn’t snowing. Digging about with their one shovel they found a clam after an hour. Then Kalista used Locate Plants and Animals and it was easy to find another score of clams. In all they had three pearls and it was deemed enough clam meat for Madam Lim.
When they returned to Vrim it was only three days to the full moon and Don’ needed to be ready to fulfill his role to the Fey.
It was Lord Tovran who added the complication. They should have known by the serious looking man with the scars and the old wound of a shallow fractured cheek bone, Sheriff Daeus.
“You may have heard that Sheriff was investigating something to the east. That much I know was being talked about. What you may not know is that he has found a troubling thing. Tell them, Daeus.”
The Sheriff complied and let them in on what had happened days ago. A young girl had wandered in from the east frostbitten and alone. She claimed that people had been rounded up and taken by the cult of Ath-Voarnus. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and those who fled were butchered from behind. They had found abandoned farms and buildings. No livestock and a few bodies in the snow. Then they had run out of food and had to return.
“I ask you to aid Vrim again and help us rescue these people, or at least put an end to this cult’s raids on Vrim’s citizens.”
“We have just enough horses,” Daeus said quietly to Lord Mikhail.
On the ride out the next morning they asked about Herath. Daeus had seen a man briefly but assumed it was one of the few lone trappers who lived on the margins. He didn’t try and talk to the man.
Cultists had moved into the area and at first kept to themselves. Then they had become aggressive at getting people to convert. It was the little girl, the lone survivor from the nearest village, that had told Sheriff Daeus the background. Many had fought on the fateful day but the cultists cut them down and that cowed the rest of the villagers. All were marched eastwards, with every last scrap of food and feed, for the livestock. Each village was bare of people and food. Corden, Villyme and Puldup; the farthest. Don’s tracking was superb, as always, and he followed the trails as well as a bloodhound might. They past no campsites but when the reached the fifth bridge, a marker of the furthest reaches of the fief of Vrim, they found heavy destrier’s tracks – as if the horse wore barding.
“A knight?” Don’ asked Daeus.
“Perhaps invaders. Maybe the Livruss and Kulvuss left a contingent behind.” The sheriff mused.
They weakened the fifth bridge, removing recently added bolsters, and did the same at the bridge near Puldup – hiding the material in the woods underneath snowdrifts. Then they rode hard back to Vrim as was promised by Tovran so that they might deal with the Fey in the Lutemakers Woods. The lord understood the need to Don’ and his peoples’ craft guild, and thus livelihoods. The Dwarves had secured the promise of the guildmaster to aid them and continue to provide a beast each full moon. All that left was to deliver the beast Lord Tovran had provided. As he left the area outside the stables Lord Mikhail announced that Daeus would be going with the party, and that Lady Varnia Sipran would also be attending – now that the Sipran family were back in their castle.
“Is she bringing the shield guardian?” It was an innocent enough question from Kalista.
“They have a shield guardian? Why was it not used when their keep was attacked?” Tovran was angry, infuriated actually. He stalked off muttering venom about letting innocents die.
It was the end of the 98th day since they left Felk Bay, that they dined with Lord Mikhail Tovran’s family and retainers, but not Lord Mikhail, who sent his apologies at being in a mood most foul that he would not be polite company. Freyald has many tales to sing, though, and regaled them with a long epic ballad from Iron Claw; Hadramyr the Griever. It didn’t help the feeling.
The players have encountered the “diversion”: a sword demon. A feararkh blade from the Pale of War. It has been giving them a serious smack down. All the foreshadowing of its power was ignored by one player and the rest stuck with them anyway to try and keep Felghanis alive.
Fate Points were burned! No-one has more than two left after starting with four each.
I think they can salvage it without spending more and technically they can’t spend more since the Fate Point wasn’t intended to ignore a blow and stay in the fight. It was intended to keep the PC alive after the blow and use the narrative to explain why they didn’t die. Good example is Kellor after being struck by Thiridea’s poleaxe. It certainly looked like the dwarf had his head smashed in but when they checked him Kellor was alive, unconscious and missing his ear along with a swath of skin off the side of his head – making the mess they thought was his skull’s contents.
Unfortunately I was caught up in the excitement and fear of the confrontation with the Feararkh and allowed, if not encouraged, the use of the Fate Points in that way. And to top off the bad GM’ing brought in Fenris as a TPK preventer (god mode Sue?). I reneged on that and ret-con’d it after the session ended. It was fairly pointed out to my face that was what I had done and although it cut a bit it felt good to “undo” it.
Given the party are in a bad tactical situation I have to think of some narratives to save the day.
1) The fate points already spent will still do what they were meant to. OOC explanation will be made up front to clarify how FP are intended to work and what the IC ramifications are going to be. That is PC’s will be “saved” by the FP already spent but still go down and look dead. In future that is all that FP will be able to do.
2) Intervention: there is a caster within the keep, Lady Murelle, who could intervene and possibly save the party.
3) Aftermath: FP based survival has the characters “wake up” to the aftermath.
I don’t know what’ll happen, and I have a few more ideas that I won’t list, but I’m hoping to get it back in the good zone after my GM stuff-ups.
The trial should be fun. There’s a bit of a twist in that for the players that will put them off balance and realise that the NPCs are actually thinking & strategising. Also one of the PCs will gain a visit in an uncomfortable way. I’m hoping to arrange a one-on-one time before the main game so this can take place. It’s possible that they party will try to intercept a creature they can’t handle so it will be likely that Fate Points are required.
But this is conjecture. The main thing is that a reveal is coming up which should really make it a bit more confusing about the main plot element, yet brings the realisation that much more is at stake than they realise.
Probably too much information but I have to put it up anyway.
Clash at the Barrow of Kentos
When the party asked if they could take the book, again, a voice rolled out of the sarcophagus, “Until my tomb is safe you cannot touch the book.” They ran to the sounds of battle to protect Kentos’ tomb.
Two martial scours and a turn-specialist, who managed to destroy two wraiths, were leading the attack on the Barrow of Kentos.
Felghanis used his Blindness spell to devastating effect on the attacking Scours. He took a hit from an oversized crossbow bolt from a sniper. After the first of them was downed the other two ran but the sniper kept on. One of the Scours fell to his knee in surrender claiming a rich cousin, a Cardinal no less, when it appeared this “Thiredea” they kept calling to for help was not forthcoming.
The leader of the Scours, and sniper, closed on the party as they took the three other Scours prisoner. She tried to imperiously take charge of the situation expecting her authority would be enough out here in the wilderness to make the party do as she said. They quickly blocked Thiredea and met her words with harsher ones. It was straight after this that battle began again. Aenir and Kellor quickly flanked her and landed two hard blows. She erupted into the form of a werebear and began raining heavy damage about her with a poleaxe in one hand/paw.
Herath was downed, as was Felghanis, and Kellor looked like the side of his head was smashed in, by the time they brought Thiredea down. Kellor’s wound turned out to be a nasty but non-life-threatening one. His ear was ripped off with bits of his helmet and scalp. The party were grateful.
It was a long session primarily focused on the battle – which was split in two chapters. Thiridea turned out to be a capable enemy but ultimately out-numbered and with her massive strength quite damaged by Ray of Enfeeblement, she succumbed. It went down pretty much how I had hoped except I expected the martial scours and the turn-specialist to get inside the barrow. All the plot information will be put together next session.
Kallista’s player was quick to spend a Fate Point to save Kellor when I put the option on the table. It was almost a race between Don’s player, too, for the privilege. I thought that was great. Players invested in their party and their NPC companions helps keep the energy of the game in good shape.
Chris’ journal is here and goes into more detail:
I don’t know how many prepared modules I’ve tried to run that are too structured to allow any deviation. They are reliant on having two dungeon walls as railroad tracks to keep the party on the plot. Often the plot is not even revealed. Prepared modules are without assistance in how to join the main events together and that is why my new product in the works will attempt a different structure to what is on the market.
Thinking about the structure of a campaign guide being presented as "Event Points" and a general sequence of those points – then adding in various ideas and scenarios to link each event point. Kind of like boxes that line up but need constructed linkages to get between each box.
The assistance that is lacking in modules is the linkages. Often they are contrivances if they even exist. It seems implicit that players are railroaded to the next scene and that really shatters free choice. Sure, a GM can adapt a game so no matter what they choose the players end up at the next scenario and there are ways that is done badly. What I hope to achieve are a bunch of linkages that are not awkward or tyrannical.
For instance: the Kiltayre campaign was intended that the players get to Dwarftown and have questions about the next line of the prophecy-rhyme.
Five swords of bone
The party would try to research it with libraries and Gather Info. checks in the taverns and inns, leading them to either the Iron Tower or the mouth of the Greywynd River. However, one of the players steered the group into the arms of the Church and then confessed his necromancy thinking he could win them on side and prevent his Uncle from achieving a nefarious plot involving armies of undead. So I had to improvise and it wasn’t the best, but it did work, and get them to the Iron Tower. Sure it involved a demon ship of stone that was manned by the Amorrensis Trade Guild, already foreshadowed through the Uncle’s journal, and got them to the Iron Tower as well as introducing an antagonist (Fenris “Nightwolf” Morgane).
What I’m driving at is that not every conceivable scenario can be presented in a module, let alone a full campaign guide, but background information and methods which do link important event points together ought to be provided. GM’s will be able to wing it without relying entirely on their experience and have the back-story related information to make better improvisation which is on-theme with the game to date. Hopefully my vision works out.
So many ideas in such a short time. The characters have heard of a town on the other side of the Greywynd Woods. A Sealer Nomad settlement on the shore of Jelno Bay. This will, hopefully, be a good lure to get them headed in that direction. Quite frankly I’d not expect them to do anything else. A place to get real food, real beds, and some company as well as news of the war – and possibly an update on what happened in Felk Bay after the invasion of the Rett barbarians.
The settlement has really sprung to life with lots of ideas creating lots of information and plots. Plots coming out of my eyeballs. But ultimately all those plots are a distraction from the main one.
The battle at the Barrow of Kentos will be a good decider on how the next segments play out. It has a lot more gravitas than might be perceived. And there’s some awesome twists I’m bursting at the seems to share, but can’t until the game-session reconvenes.
Instead I’ll just list a few rumours that can be encountered once they’re back in civilization:
- Dwarven miners have discovered a new vein of silver on the edge of the glacial shelf (East)
- Bizarre monsters have been encountered in the Queens March Heath (South, near the Scarred March)
- The boss of the Sipran Guards is conspiring to overthrow the leader of the Southern Keep (Sipran Patriarach)
- Lady Lande Tovranen’s new songbird is actually a polymorphed dragon
- A sidhe court has been seen in the woods outside town (SW)
- The chancellor of the watch is conspiring to overthrow the Sipran family patriarch
- Rewyn the goldsmith was killed by goblins in the hills outside town
- The old monastery on Highgate Hill is haunted by ghosts
- Bizarre monsters have been encountered in the Scarred March (part of the near High Plains)
- Cyne the merchant deals in magical weapons, but they’re all cursed
- Lady Enora Sipran, is also the master of the Shadow Knives (assassins)
Exciting stuff for the GM and hopefully the players.
May have an illustration and map to be posted, soon.
Fionnghal was excited as Don’ awoke. The fey-touched dog reaching into Don’s thoughts said, “Close tower. We moving.”
Don’ knew that meant they had to be ready in case this lone person was hostile. Fionnghal didn’t have the smarts to figure that out but given this person was feeding the dog scraps of meat and offal that he’d hunted he at least had a soft spot for stray animals.
They prepared an ambush at the top of the cut-stone stairs which led up the rocky butte to the stable’s area. Don’ gathered a few heavy rocks and Kallista was surprised at the doughty lad’s strength. They waited, looking, whilst Felghanis scratched away on some salvaged parchment.
His writing was a little poor from long days of not handling a pen but Felghanis managed to assemble a lot of his notes from the lost journal in a tight small script. His Uncle might even be watching, now. Felghanis recalled his experience after being struck by the lightning trap. He hadn’t shared what he saw; his near-death experience, but it still haunted him.
The amethyst column thrummed with mana. It had a sliver of what it could potentially hold and that felt like enough energy to raise a mountain. The others were stuck in the passage fighitng the steel dog, but the column kept drawing Fel’s attention. What was it about this incredible thing that kept pulling him back?
The sounds drifted away as he began to see something within the faint purple glow. An image; there but not. In two places and neither of those places was really in the column. An arc and a dome, and a rim around the bottom… it was the bell of Thulemon.
“Oh my god,” Fel cried out and rushed forward.
There was a thunderous crack and then, nothing.
“Felghanis?” Uncle asked, surprised and annoyed. “What are you doing here?”
The room was so dark he could barely be sure he was there and Fel struggled to make out anything.
“We weren’t meant to meet again like this, nephew. You need to go back.” Uncle sounded disappointed and a bit angry.
“Go back? Where? Where am I?”
“Just go back Felghanis.” To Fel’ it sounded like Uncle was very annoyed. Like something he had hoped he could put off was now a pressing urgency.
“But where? How?”
“Can’t you feel them calling for you?”
“No! Who’s calling me?”
“Your friends. They are bringing you back. Go to them. We’ll meet again later.”
“But how? What’s happening? What have you got to do with the bell?”
“Go back Felghanis. The bell is outside of even the Saint’s reach. Rejoin your friends.”
Fel’s breath rasped in his chest and if he was conscious there would have been great pain. He rested and was given care by his friends. Kallista fussed over him and tended his wounds. By morning Fel was well enough to stand and help forage for food, but he bore the scars of the lightning bolt that killed him – burns and stitch-marks over the left side of his torso and up his neck. It did kill him because the phylactery was gone. Nothing left of it but some black ash.
Absently, Felghanis scratched a message on the parchment, “Uncle, if you can see this message, send me a sign?” It was a long shot but worth taking, Felghanis felt.
“I see him,” Don’ called out.
The figure seemed to just appear at the base of the rocky butte atop which perched the Iron Tower. Fionnghal broke from trotting along in the man’s shadow and sprinted up the stairs. Happy little whimpers escaping as he rushed back to Don’. Much happy licking from the dog and pats and ear rubs from Don’ as they were reunited after weeks.
The man who approached looked tanned and rangy. He was dressed in ragged bone-scale armor and wore his hair long. Carrying some spears and a longspear he gave the impression he was a hunter in his element.
“State your purpose,” Don’ yelled out.
“Let us meet, face-to-face, and talk. I don’t yell out to shadows,” he said without breaking his stride.
The whole party stood to face the newcomer. Weapons were held in their scabbards, or points upward, in uneasy tension.
“I seek an end to spring and the Old Mountain has said this is the first place to look,” Herath, the hunter said after they realised there was no enmity or deception happening.
“We’ve been through the whole place and found that the winter is some books of Fimbulwinter. There is meant to be one in Kentos’ Barrow, to the east, near the mouth of the Greywynd River,” Felghanis said.
“Then it’s true what Old Mountain said,” Herath growled. Then he launched into a rhyme.
Iron mount once held bell of the dead
Where giant-slayer rests his head
Lost titans wait for ice’s return
The tree and tear must surely burn
Or spring’s last breath will pass us by
Find the way while the chance is nigh
“The titans are returning? Oh that’s just great,” Felghanis crowed. “Now who is Fenris working for: the Hrimpursar, or the Church?”
“Or someone else?” Don’ asked.
“Who is Fenris and why are you so afraid of him?” Herath asked bluntly.
They retold their story to this point, the trip on the stone ship, everything. Herath listened carefully and never interrupted. “What kind of power is that?” he asked once they were done.
“Birthright, ordained, or some kind of pact,” Felghanis said miserably. Then his tone lifted, “If we are to travel together we should start now.”
They agreed and continued on their journey, chatting and sharing information as they walked.
Rocky beach the color of dark clay led them east. The forest was thick once back from the high-water mark, and high enough that the tree-roots weren’t exposed to salt water. It was the Greywynd Forest according to Fel’s map and they kept looking for signs of Garren. Those territorial markers of skulls pinned to trees by long arrows. They didn’t see any and that made them nervous.
Picking up the trail of a bison herd the party moved into the forest. The bison were down from the high plains to find food in the harshest winter for decades and the party needed meat. The hunt was quick with Fionnghal’s fey power, Entangle, launching roots out of the ground to seize three bison. One escaped and the party only slew one more. They would have more meat than they could carry otherwise.
Don’ and Herath had barely finished packing the meat when everyone became aware of the smell of wood-smoke. They looked about and a pall was rising to the north. Disturbed they returned to the beach, which was frozen firm, and trekked north towards the smoke. As they closed on the source of the pall a pinned ogre skull was spotted and they sought cover.
It was Aenir who suggested they prowl forwards to see what was going on. Herath joined him and the dwarf surprised the tribal hunter with his stealthy movements. Felghanis made it moot as he rustled and grunted along after them. They came to a small creek, frozen over, and it seemed to be a border for the burning settlement. Humpbacked structures had mostly burned to the ground.
Bodies of Garren littered the spaces between. Hacked and left sprawled in dark stains of blood in the snow. Among the tall wiry Garren were some thickset goblinoids with dark skin: Hobgoblins.
“We’ll find their camp and kill’em all,” Aenir said with a snarl.
Herath spotted something moving. Like a hemisphere of darkness it glided through the village and away from the men laying on their bellies in the snow.
“There,” Herath whispered, pointing it out.
“Blakh,” Aenir said, shaking his head.
They returned to the others to report.
Felghanis led the argument to go into town for survivors and Kallista quickly jumped on board. They gathered together and entered the town. So many dead. Even the giant beetles the Garren kept as livestock had been slain in their pens. Just speared, until they bled out, by the merciless hob’s.
Finally they found a survivor but it was one of the hob’s, barely alive.
It was Kellor who hefted the large creature on to his back and carried it back. He wasn’t gentle but neither did he try to injure the hob and push it over the abyss’ edge.
Back at camp Kallista saw to its wounds and by morning it was awake. They interrogated it, dismissing Felghanis’ overtones of using torture, and found out that there were two camps, with three Blakh between them. The Hob’s and the Blakh had been in the woods for three days and this was the second village of Garren they had razed.
“It is orders, for the glory of our people,” the Hob, Breakfinger, answered.
Bound tightly but kept warm the Hob was left laying on the ground while the party planned their next moves. As the day drew to a close and camp was established they were in good spirits. The weather had been clear and the sun warm on their faces. Greywynd Woods were no longer a dark threat that hid Garren behind every bole.
The next morning they travelled on and the dwarves insisted that Breakfinger carry all the meat Felghanis had preserved. With lots of food available they spent the day walking and gathering firewood, whilst keeping Breakfinger in their sights.
The day after that Breakfinger started making a fuss and nodding ahead. Slipping his gag down they heard him say, “The camp is ahead at the river mouth.”
Wisely Felghanis asked the hob to draw a map. It held up its bound hands and when let loose it drew a crude map in the sand with a stick Fionnghal had been idly chewing. Four tents on the edge of the river mouth with three trenches. Guards picketed in pairs, too. The camp looked well defensible and the party had Breakfinger lead them around it – a mile out to avoid the patrols which the Hob’ said were to half a mile. It worked.
They made it to the river which was frozen over in a thick sheet ice. Herath tested the ice and pronounced it safe to cross. Once over the river it dawned on them how can they find a barrow in a forest.
“I recall the Codger saying they used to plant trees of certain types on top of barrows. Not sure which types, though. Usually thought to be protective,” Kallista said.
“We need a view,” Don’ said.
Herath found a tall tree and asked for a rope. He used it to scale the giant fir and once high in its branches he could see the distant Hobgoblin camp. The two figures of the guards he could just make out right where Breakfinger said they’d be. To the west he could see a long barrow. The trees on top of it were giants and darker, and more dense, of needle than the surrounding fir and birch.
“I’ve seen it,” Herath said once back on the ground.
Everyone was nervous about revealing anything more in front of Breakfinger. They whispered and decided to let the Hob’ go free, here. Breakfinger backed off about 20 yards then ran for his life. He was out of their sight and ear-shot within seconds. The party was still for a few heartbeats.
“Alright. Let’s go and I’ll cover our tracks,” Don’ said.
They did a sterling job and before much time had passed Herath led them to the barrow. It was long, some 100 feet or more and five giant silk yew trees had grown over the mound. Their massive roots could be seen, thick as a man’s leg, over the side of the barrow. At the southern end a mossy slab of stone was mostly concealed by roots and shade.
“Looks like the door,” Kellor said and strode towards it.
Kallista brushed the moss of the slab revealing a worn carving of a figure carrying a long spear in old-fashioned mail armor.
Don’ took his crowbar from the pack and started to pry at the door but couldn’t make it budge.
“Here, lad, let me,” Kellor took the crowbar from the young man and worked the slab loose. “Grab it here and pull.”
Together they opened the slab. A gasp of air rushed in then a small puff of dust escaped. The darkness inside had the party staring for a brief moment in total stillness.
Kallista said firmly, “Lux!” The top of her staff burst into white light and they entered, Don leading.
As soon as Don’s foot fell across the threshold an inky form seeped out of stone-slab sarcophagus at the end of the small chamber. It began to form a figure, just like the small statue on top of the casket.
“What-for you enter the tomb of Lord Kentos, giant-slayer, servant of Davinus?”
Don’ took to one knee almost instantly in a sign of humble respect. “We seek the return of Spring, and the book of Fimbulwinter we believe will aid us in that.”
The form, now almost solid, in a long chain hauberk, carried a bone white sword that seemed flecked with ice-crystals. It levelled the blade at Don’. “You may enter but touch nothing save the book.” It warned. Then it faded away back into the rough stone casket.
There was little to say. Felghanis had studied the apparition with Detect Undead and it was strong; at least the match of any two of them, possibly more so. Pressing inwards the great roots seemed to cling to the walls, adding strength to the structure. They passed two more stone-slab sarcophagi and standing in them, through the stone, were two more apparitions of what must have been Kentos’ shouldermen. Each warned the party, levelling one of the bone swords at them, and let them pass.
The final chamber was larger than the others. A tall stone column split the entrance and was carved with runes. Felghanis took a rubbing and as he did managed to translate a phrase that was repeated a few times in the passage.
“Three deer?” he asked aloud.
“That matches the seerwoman’s vision,” Kallista said excitedly. The fact she was in a tomb of active spirits seemingly dismissed.
Beyond the column a great spear, glowing with magic, was lain across a large ornate stone casket. It lit the room well. Behind the casket, in an alcove of stone, a tall statue depicted a fierce warrior some seven and a half feet tall. On his hip was a satchel, part of the carving of stone, holding a large leather bound book.
“That must be it,” Felghanis hissed.
Don’ and Fel started whispering on how to beseech the spirit of Kentos for the book when Fel suddenly inspired dropped to one knee, hands outstretched.
“Lord Kentos. We seek the book of Fimbulwinter to find out how to stop it from taking over our lands. To bring back Spring, and prevent the return of the Hrimpursar.”
His words had barely finished reverberating from the stone when the clash of steel echoed from the entrance to the barrow. A battle had started and they were already in a tomb.
Session 11 really put the rudder on the party, I felt. The books of Fimbulwinter show the means of what is happening. It’s the motive and whom that remain unanswered. This is a good thing because can’t have it all revealed in the middle; it ruins the climax of the tale.
What’s coming? The players are likely to head to Kentos’ Barrow. Greywynd River, and its surrounding woods, is the territory of Garren. They’ll risk encountering the Wood Wraiths and all that entails.
My feeling, as GM, is that we’ve regained some cohesion with the main plot and put the direction back into the group (in-game). It’s looking good for the next few sessions.
Felghanis healed well and in combination with the rest of Kallista’s reserves he was fully recovered in the morning. The phylactery had worked and it renewed hope in the Felk Bay people. Still, the Iron Tower beckoned and the dwarves did not want to leave without fully exploring the structure. They assembled and once again pressed into the rust-streaked tower.
Back in the room with the tall amethyst crystal, the site of Felghanis’ fall to the lightning bolt, Kallista attempted to disable the trap. She tried to Dispel Magic, but on both counts she failed to break the inherent resistance of the node. Unwilling to risk the lightning bolt they went back up.
The double trap doors revealed a large cellar come stoe-room. It was mostly full of junk but a small fireplace held scraps of bloodied bandages. Searching around the fireplace it became apparent to Don’ that one person had camped there, judging by the disturbance in the dust. The rest of the cellar held junk: scraps of timber, iron, masonry and chain. Most of it was unusable save for the larger pieces of iron and the chains.
Being more thorough than last time they carefully searched each level. There were a few odds and ends in the detritus that could be sold for a handful of coppers or maybe a silver or two but no-one wanted to bother with that kind of thing. All that remained was everything above them at that point.
Aenir belly crawled up to the door way and peaked in at the things. They were still there and behind them he saw the racks of weapons, bundles of arrows, and an armor stand far to the right. Suddenly the things were moving towards him he almost leapt back from the doorway.
“It saw me,” he said as he rushed back.
They made a quick plan and Felghanis tried to take control with Command Undead. Unfortunately the thing was too strong. Aenir threw his flask and oily slick gel covered the area the things were standing in. One fell over with a thud that was far too light to be a stone sarcophagus. The other seemed to retain its balance easily. A crocodile appeared, care of Kallista’s Summon Nature’s Ally II and began to attack the clawed sarcophagus things. They fought back and soon the crocodile was barely alive, pierced with the lashing claws. Kellor dashed past, focusing on defense, and from range managed to hit one with a flask of alchemist’s fire. It burned but did little to break the undead’s body. Fel was unsure what to do next. His Command spell was failing over and over and there was little else he could affect undead with in his arsenal. To melee them would be suicide for the young necromancer. Another summoned creature appeared to fight alongside the crocodile. This time a wolf. They fought but the creatures were too strong. Kallista sealed the doorway to clawed sarcophagi with a Shape Stone spell, enough stone to fill the doorway almost a foot thick, and that allowed them to get past.
Up through the tower they went. The next level was a series of small lodging rooms. One of which was recently used as a camp for 5 people, according to Don’. They found no sign of injury in the remnants and pushed on. Above was once luxurious lodgings with painted wood panelling and servants quarters. It was faded now and the furniture had mostly frayed and warped to be almost useless. It was different to the levels below. The walls were interspersed with tall narrow windows that were glassed in. There was little of note here, though, so they went up to the next level.
At first glance it was once a large library, the shelves now empty and damaged, but the three bodies, tabards bearing the mark of the Church of St. Fergus covered fin mail, in pools of congealed blood showed a battle had ended here. They carefully entered with Kellor at the head holding his large shield at the ready. No foes were nearby. Relaxing a little they spread out and Kallista found a fourth body. It lay before a broken steel dog, like the one that was still trapped in the clay far below.
“Unlike the others his neck was broken from behind, most likely, and this dagger wound shows he was stabbed for good measure,” she said to the others.
“A competent ambusher,” Aenir grumbled, now wary.
On the walls, around the whole storey, was a frieze depicting many scenes of a man carrying a long spear and five shoulder men bearing large kite shields.
“This tells a tale,” Felghanis said looking at it like it was a puzzle to be solved.
Around the other side of the central column a magic circle was marked on the floor and in it a bookstand of stone, no longer held a book.
“It holds no magic other than abjuration,” Fel’ relayed.
An arch led to another stair, this time ending at a cold-iron door. Much like the one far below; now concealed under the stables. However, this was not locked and it opened on to the battlements at the top of the tower. Wind buffeted them and the dark grey sky seemed to reflect the distant sounds of crashing waves some 150 feet below. Each of the gaps in the battlements was very tall, at least 12 feet, and rather wide even for the largest of men. Glancing back at the door they realized it was set in a very large dais, stairs to either side leading up. On the dais stood two large statues, some eight feet tall, made of steel and wood that seemed posed as if guarding an empty bell mount.
“Shield guardians,” Felghanis whispered. “Very dangerous constructs.”
“Are they active?” Kallista asked, suddenly wary.
“Almost certainly,” Fel’ answered in hushed voice.
They adhered to the better part of valor and returned to the library where Felghanis and Kallista attempted to decipher the frieze. It took them at least an hour and it was mostly Fel’ who figured it out.
“Ah, this is the tale of Kentos, the giant-slayer,” Fel started. “He fought the Hrimpursar to retrieve three books of Fimbulwinter. Each book was one third of the ritual that the frost titans had used to make Kiltayre to their liking. Kentos retrieved the last in a battle with a Hrimpursar elder, but fell in battle. His five shouldermen raised a barrow on the site and interred him within. The other book was kept here. This was the tower of Davinus and Kentos was his vassal. It doesn’t say where the third book is.”
The party looked on quietly. So much had fallen in to place.
Kallista faced the dwarves, “Aenir, Kellor. You have been honorable allies and we’ve not told you something important.”
They were quite, listening patiently.
“Before we were gaoled by the church we were on a quest to find what was making the winter’s longer, and stop it.”
The dwarves broke into wide smiles.
“I’ve not been on a quest for sixty years! It will be great to be alongside you.” Kellor said.
“Aye, it’ll be like fighting the goblins all those year ago. When Dwarf Town was at its lowest and the greenskins attacked. They were some battles.” Aenir reflected on glory days.
“We’d be honored to join you in this quest. The winters have indeed been getting longer and harsher.”
Kallista shook hands with them, in the dwarven way, and they both beamed at the gesture.
Good will was all around when Don’ brought them back to reality. “We should search these bodies and find more food while the sun’s up. There’s bound to be more fish out there.”
The bodies were well equipped. Fine chainmail, masterwork weapons, and an enchanted footman’s mace.
Kellor examined it and his eyes widened, “This is metalline. It can mimic the properties of silver, adamantine, and cold-iron. A very useful weapon. With this we could defeat those things in the armory.”
“If we can isolate one of those things we can take out the other one.”
“When I open the doorway again I can make a small wall for cover.”
“If I can just bend their will then one of them can be forced to fight on our side,” Felghanis’ frustration at his previous attempts leaked through.
“It’s worth trying,” Kallista said.
The discussion went back and forth and finally their plan was agreed.
Everyone readied themselves at the sealed doorway and waited for Kallista’s cue. She worked the clay and her magic and the doorway surged into the room making a low wall.
Don charged in and landed a heavy blow on the first clawed sarcophagus. The mace was fully effective. Kellor followed suit and his axe bit into the thing.
Felghanis reached out for the thing’s will and sought to seize it. With a cry of victory he had it solidly bound to his commands.
The battle raged. Aenir’s tanglefoot bag failed to glue the other clawed sarcophagus to the spot but it slowed the thing down greatly. The sarcophagus was some kind of image projected over the thing, concealing its true visage.
Kallista summoned a dire wolf and it proved very effective, tripping the uncontrolled undead allowing everyone a solid blow whilst it was down. And then it was destroyed.
“We can’t have this thing following us around, Fel,” Don said gesturing at the controlled clawed sarcophagus. “Make it stand over there. We’ll destroy it.”
Fel grumbled, “It aids our party. Look how strong it is.”
“It’s abomination!” Don’ yelled. “Just do it, now.”
Fel complied, however much he cursed to himself.
They arranged themselves and simultaneously attacked the thing knowing it would immediately defend itself. Kallista’s summoned dire wolf seemed to be its main target and it turned on the summoned creature almost felling it right there. Kallista healed the dire wolf. Aenir struck the thing and tumbled out of reach. Kellor’s axe bit deeply and Don’ seemed to lose his mettle, missing entirely.
The dire wolf, suddenly ducked in a snapped the undead’s leg off, dragging it to the ground in a rattle of bones. Within a few heartbeats the sarcophagus image decayed away leaving a horrid form of a boneclaw.
“What a strange thing to do,” Felghanis said. “Cloak them in that illusion. For what?”
None had an answer for him.
Aenir had drifted over to explore the rest of the armory. A case had held a dagger but it was recently removed. The dust on the glass only disturbed a few days past.
Felghanis came back to the present and helped pick out the items that were enchanted. There were a few. A chain shirt, breastplate, light shield, longsword and shortbow.
The longsword’s scabbard bore decorative motifs of thunder and some runes were etched on the hilt. The shortbow was runed, too, with marks of lightning.
“Seems this is worth a lot more than that old door,” Felghanis said with a cynical smile.
They set about gathering food with what was left of the sunlight. Fishing was slim but they caught enough for a few more days. That night they lodged in the same room as the Scours from the Church of St. Fergus had some days before. They closed the stout door and saw a circle of protection had been etched. Its magic had been gone for days but it helped reassure them that this was the best place to stay.
“Five fingers of stone,” Kallista said.
“That was the Hand of Gulresh,” Fel answered. “We found that.”
“What about five swords of bone?” Kallista asked.
“Wait…” Fel went into his memory. “I saw something about that upstairs.”
They gathered and went up with torches. Fel pawed over the frieze until he found the panel.
“Here. The five shouldermen of Kentos were rewarded with swords crafted by their lord. That’s Kentos. They were made of the thighbones of Hrimpursar and enchanted in hardness, rewarded to his shouldermen for their loyalty and fearlessness in battle.”
With the small coal fire burning a warm red-orange Don’s thoughts drifted to Fionnghal.
“Two-legs shared food. Travel with two-legs. See tower. You at tower?”
“Yes and we’ll be here for you tomorrow, boy. Take care.”
Don’ fell asleep thinking of finally being united again with his faithful companion.