Heroes of Khemer
A muggy and uncomfortable night at the goblin outpost becomes an equally muggy and uncomfortable morning. The sun has just barely peaked from above the swamp, and we are already drenched in sweat and covered in bloodsucking insects. I am approached by Jorr, and from his posture, I can tell this is going to be a troublesome conversation. When he confirms that I am, indeed, letting our goblin prisoner go, he demands to know why? The fact that I gave him my word is lost on poor Jorr and he is so enraged at this, that he storms off back into the tower.
One of the guards on the tower announce the approach of a caravan from the north. The caravan stops short of out crossbowmen’s range and a single man approaches – a dwarf from his squat stature. We meet him on the road and he identifies himself as Thissag of Clan Coalhewer, a Runepriest by trade – currently employed as a guard to the caravan returning to Brindol. We let them enter and rest while we update them on the impending threat to the vale. Thissag now seems more interested in our quest than seeing his payment earned by safely delivering the merchants safely back to Brindol, and asks if he could accompany us into Rhest. He certainly looks capable and we can use the help, so we quickly agree and prepare to embark into the Blackfens.
Shortly after that, we release the goblinoid prisoner and have him head east, away from his companions lurking in the Fens, when an arrow from the tower drops him no more than 60 paces from me. Looking up at the tower, I see Jorr, silhouetted with his bow in hand. Behind him, out of sight on the tower I hear the chuckle of several men. I know that Jorr has a personal vendetta against the goblin races, but I am shocked that he openly defied my instructions that he live. Worse yet, his actions now breed dissent within my camp. As I storm back into the keep, I hear Quinwyn behind me, trying to talk my ire down. He assumes I am to kill Jorr or some unjust action for his transgressions. That is not the case, he will not be slain or unjustly punished from my ire – that is not the will of the One God. I reach the top of the tower and Jorr stands before, his anger equal to that of my own. I ask him to defend his actions, and when he has offers nothing to justify them, I instruct Sargent Hersk to put Jorr in custody until our return from the Backfens. Jorr is shocked, and I wonder why. What response did he expect? My orders were clear and he openly and intentionally defied them. The men behind him are now sheepishly avoiding my gaze, so I make my intent clear to all of them. They are under my command, and my orders will be carried out. Any man unable to follow that, best make haste with the caravan heading to Brindol, for this will not happen again. They snap to attention and fall in line as Sargent Hersk dutifully takes a still defiant Jorr away.
Without Jorr, Quinwyn takes point and navigates us through the swamp. Travel is slow and treacherous, as sinkholes and lakes seem to materialize from out of nowhere, forcing us to back track or move around them often. As nightfall approaches, Quinwyn points to a small hill, a potential dry spot for us to camp for the evening. Unfortunately, a body of a immense owl, partially decomposed, lies on the hill, causing us some caution. As we discuss it, we notice that Ian has heedlessly approached the hill and has neared the fallen bird. We move to join him, when a large creature bursts from underneath the bird and leaps at Ian. A large, reptilian creature with wings edged with what looks like a bony blade, charges at Ian, who is unsuccessfully retreating away from it. We reach the base of the hill, only to have two more of these creatures spring from the underbrush at us cutting off from our companion.. They leap like frogs and we have a difficult time keeping ourselves protected from their bladed wings. Ian’s scream is cut short from the hill and we rally together to face these creatures. Cyfiawnder bites deep into these fiends and they shriek with agony and we turn the tide and eliminate them. I tend to Ian, who’s wounds were not as bad as we feared, and begin to question what these creature were. They reacted to Cyfiawnder like infernal hellspawn, but this is no creature I have heard of. Not have any of my allies. We clear them off the hill and investigate this large owl. While partially eaten, it appears as it may have been a mount of some sort.
Shortly after we clear the bodies, we are surprised to see several more of these owls circling above, each with an armed Elven rider. They land on the hill and start speaking to us in Elven. While they seem guarded they do not seem overly hostile, just defensive. As I do not speak Elven, Ian sidles up to me and translates that they are called the Tiri Kitor and reside at a place they call Starsong Hill deep in the Blackfens. This owl belongs to a rider whom they have been searching for. Kishra produces a ring he found in the gullet of one of the reptilian creatures we fought and they claim it was Lanikar’s, their ally who must have fallen to these creatures, they call Harrowblades. Sensing we are not simply mercenaries with ill-intent, they thank us for dispatching these creatures and insist that we accompany them to Starsong Hill to speak with their leader, Sellyria. I am admittedly somewhat unnerved at the prospect of mounting one of these creatures, but as the party moves to do so, I have little choice. I am somewhat jealous at Ian and his fearlessness on the owl, he seems perfectly at home – as does Quinwyn and Kishra for the most part. The only one enjoying this as little as me is Thissag. He looks over at me with a look that indicates he’d much rather have his feet on the ground like me.
A short ride later, as I find myself unable to determine any direction or distance from my high perch, we approach a large hill deep in the Fens surrounded by large trees. It is quite breathtaking as we circle around to land. As soon as we have all landed, the owls move on and we are lead to a large tent, nested deep in the trees. An elderly elven woman approaches us, and I am again rendered useless as I do not speak the tongue. Ian, again translates. She is identified as Sellyria, the matriarch of Tiri Kitor. Along with her is a teary-eyed, yet, beautiful elf Trellara, who’s brother was the fallen rider, and Killiar, the apparent commander of the owl-riders who escorted us here. After much talk, I am told we are guests here, for our assistance against the Harrowblades. We have informed them of our mission to confront whatever evils skulk in the sunken city of Rhest, as they seem reluctant to head to Rhest themselves, as it is a dangerous area that they have learned to avoid. They will have a funeral ceremony here tomorrow and we are all welcome to attend. After an exhausting day, I quickly succumb to a deep and restful slumber.
The next day, we are invited to tour their city while they prepare for the funeral. I visit a few shops and purchase an outfit for the service as well as a cloak and broach of elven design. I am surprised to find myself unable to answer an elderly elf whom I purchased an intricate silver jeweled necklace from when he asks me it is for my lovely lady back home – I tell him that I do not have one. With a smile one makes when they know a secret, he replies “If you are buying this, you most certainly do.” My discomfort was short lived as Ian thankfully showed up for us to move on and get ready for tonight’s funeral.
That evening, we attended the funeral for Lanikar Nightshadow. The mood was not as somber as I expected but surprisingly lively and peppered with tales of his adventures. A worthy challenge to Ian’s impetuousness at the least, Lanikar seemed as formidable some as he was frustrating to others. Food and drink were readily at hand, and the tasty berry wines seemed to have conspired against me, as was told I acted boisterous and uninhibited, and may have caused some embarrassment in my recounting my being saved by Kishra and Quinwyn’s as a compliment to the prowess of the elves. Ian summarized it as acting as a drunken lout. Sometime during the evening, I vaguely remember Quinwyn telling us that Trellara has decided to accompany us to Rhest to avenge her brother’s demise. As the morning arrives, I wonder if that was actually happened or if it was a product of my stupor last night. I now longer consider that a false memory as she standing next to a smitten Quinwyn and is prepared to leave with us in the morning.
We take a raft up the river to Rhest and are told be on guard for lizard-folk who now populate this area. They have become a recent thorn in the side of the Tiri Kitor, possible due to the evil machinations in the city. We pull to shore before we reach the lake that has engulfed Rhest, as this place is heavily patrolled. Ian, Quinwyn and Trellara scout around the lake looking to see if there is a gap in their defenses we could use to sneak through. It would be a long 10-minutes of travel to get to the remains of the city that is above the waterline if the lizard-folk spotted us. While they are gone, we take stock of where we need to go – Almost a mile in the lake, sits the tops 2-3 buildings connected through makeshift wooden walkways. We spot a skiff of lizard-folk approaching the island and move out of sight once they get there. A loud roar is then heard and the lizard-folk flee from within the buildings and embark on the skiff in great haste. It is noted that several more of them entered just moments ago than leave now. Shortly after, the large black dragon Regiarix, emerges atop the building and flies away with it’s rider, Saarvith.
After a few hours our scout return, and state that over a dozen little lizard-folk ‘villages’ are all along the coast, so it would be unlikely that we could proceed unnoticed, so we decide a ruse may work in our favor. We acquire one of their skiffs and some of their rags to pull over ourselves in hopes that a cursory examination would make us appear to be one of them. If we can get there and take out whatever lies there before Saarvith returns, it would benefit us greatly. As we near the makeshift landing, we are spotted by several ogres, but they do not see through our disguise and don’t waste another moment of consideration on us. As we land, Kishra immolates the unprepared ogres atop the central building while Ian, Quinwyn and I clear up the patrol. The element of surprise gone, we move quickly atop the building. Ian and I descend to the lower level of the building, while the rest of the group hold off archers firing from a nearby building. We descend stairs into a darkened room when we are set upon by an ettin and a Red Hand spell caster, who unsuccessfully tries to charm Ian. In turn, Ian eviscerates the priest and turns his attention towards the ettin. An idea strikes me, and I use a scroll to dominate the simple mind of the ettin, turning him into an ally for the moment. We return to the surface in time to see Regirix and Saarvith return. They raze us with acid and lethal shots from Saarvith’s bow forcing us to retreat back down the stairs and regroup. A scream followed by a horrible crunching sound weighs heavily upon me as as I realize that Trellara did not make it safely down here before the dragon caught her. Ian and Kishra suggest a bold strategy and imbue me with the powers of flight and speed in order to counter the dragon’s flight and we set to face them again.
Enraged with the death of Trellara we fight with fierce determination and hold nothing back. The controlled ettin faces off against Regiarix, soaking up the brunt of many powerful attacks that I fear would have felled us, and within moments, Saarvith falls from his mount’s back, as Ian smugly looks down from atop the dragon’s back, bloody short swords in hand. Perhaps sensing an inevitability of his demise, the dragon took to the air to flee. However, the might of us overpowered Regirix and he falls into the lake to rise no more. Momentary concerns of Ian who was on the Regirix’s back were quickly dismissed once he swam out from under the building. With their master’s slain, the lizard-men skiffs quickly turned away and the goblin archers fled. Having the battle won and no immediate threat, I commanded the ettin to flee from here, and he jumped into the lake and swam away.
We quickly checked the lower rooms of the central building and made several startling discoveries. Past the ettin, was the dragon’s horde – a large cache of coin, gems and jewels, likely recovered from the submerged ruins of the sunken city. On an armor stand was a meticulously cared for breastplate, helm & banner, all bearing a rising sun, customary iconography for a Rhestaloran devotee of the One God several hundred years ago. Lastly, a small chain necklace that pulsed with evil is uncovered. This item causes me grave concern – not something I can easily dismiss. From the room where the cultist emerged we found a small coffer containing assorted coins and jewelry. The final room, seemed to be Saarvith’s private quarters, contained a chest with payment for his soldiers and a small ornate empty box and a note to Saarvith from Ulwai talking about hiding a small trinket from someone known as the Ghostlord of face dire consequence. It vexes me that we have yet to find the source of these Harrowblades, so perhaps the answer still awaits elsewhere in Rhest. For the moment we rest and take stock of this small, yet costly, victory, then we need to press on in to make sure this are has been purged from evil.