Heroes of Khemer
For the next several days we are paraded around like heroes in town. While I am indeed most honored, I soon grow more uncomfortable as everyone now recognizes us for our deeds. Mithon suddenly notifies us that he us leaving, stating important business in the Therenwood and will return at the tenday’s end. After what seems like the hundredth congratulation over the last couple of days, I am almost hoping for a dragon to attack the countryside. Thankfully, Mithon returns and we, along with Ian and Azgar are again brought before the Duke. He offers us a great reward for our actions, and Ian requests audience with the court alchemist, while Azgar and Mithon try to secure a plot of land to purchase. I wish no material reward for our actions, but I request an act of mercy from the Duke to set the scales in balance. Humbly, I ask that Lady Vreen be released from the judgment placed against her. I have thought much about this, and I express that I do not feel that her actions were intentional, rather it was ignorance and fear that clouded her judgment. I do not feel her soul is marred by this action, and she is not beyond redemption. While the Duke seems surprised and cautions me on my faith in her, he honors my request and releases her to my care. His concern is justified, but misguided, it is not my faith in her, but my faith in Tyr that guides my request – she will prove her worth to Tyr.
Duchess Esabelle surprises us all, when she asks we take on a mission for her. Her cousin, Count Ethan Houge, who had fallen to conspiracy and deceit, had intentions of reclaiming a castle, on the western border of Allondale. Vraath Keep, which lies deep in the haunted Witchwood forest would strengthen the country and provide much-needed defenses on the border from the hobgoblins coming down from the Wyrmsomoke Mountains. The Duchess says that she will grant me lordship of the keep if we are able to accomplish this task. Even without her offer of the title, I’d of gladly accepted. We agree and the Duchess requests that we accompany her as she travels back to Brindol. From there, we would make to Drellin’s Ferry, and cross into the Witchwood to see our cause completed.
The travel is uncomfortable, to say the least. I have tried to speak to Lady Vreen several times, but she is clearly ill at ease with me. While she is appreciative I have secured her release, she is having difficulty coming to terms with the recent changes brought upon her. I feel it wise, to leave her be, and let her come to accept that this is a new direction of which she can start over. Additionally, I am unsure of how I feel about the Duchess. I’d like to take time to approach her to see where I stand to her, but private conversation is more than a bit difficult in our travels. Every time, we are alone enough to speak candidly, one of us is seemingly interrupted and the moment is lost.
We make good time to Brindol and see the Duchess safely into the city. Once she is safely away, we make preparations to leave the next morn. Much to our surprise, Ian opts to stay here, citing that he has never been in a city this big, and can’t wait to see what kind of trouble he can get in. It take a moment to realize that he does not appear to be joking. He says he’ll meet up with us, if he gets bored, ‘or run out’ corrects Azgar, otherwise he’ll be here whence we return.
We travel quickly and peacefully for several days and are only hours from Drellin’s Ferry when we are ambushed by hobgoblins at a farmstead we pass by. They are not cowardly and fearful, but confident and arrogant as we meet them in battle. As the battle ends, we emerge the victors, their arrogance obviously bolstered by slaying farmers and untrained militia. One of the hobgoblins, wears a tabard with a blasphemous sigil, that of Tiamat, a vain and dark beast worshiped by lowborn curs like these creatures. We cautiously move on to Drellin’s Ferry, taking respite at the Green Apple Inn.
Our reverie is interrupted by Norro Wiston, the Mayor and Lord of Drellin’s Ferry, and Sir Durant, his guard captain. They tell us that the town has been under increasing brazen attacks by hobgoblins, and is glad to hear we have been tasked to end their threat by reclaiming the keep, but is saddened it is due to to the demise of his Lord. He suggests that we confer with a hermit who resides in the Witchwood, a man named Jorr Natherson who may offer us advice. The next morn, leaving Lady Vreen, Courana & Gerodil at the town, we travel into the Witchwood, a wet and inhospitable forest, and following Lord Winston’s directions come upon a clearing, and meet Jorr. He confirms the increased threat of hobgoblins that have been seen in the woods and agrees that they have taken residence in the Keep. We thank him for his information and move deeper into the forest.
A rather flooded causeway slows us down, and we are set upon by a large reptilian predator attacking from the deep water. A hydra, a create justifiably feared, as this six-headed beast attacks us savagely. Rumors of the hydra’s abilities ring true, as new heads grow where they fell moments before. We are unable to coordinate to effectively battle this creature and after we sustain many injuries, the tide has turned against us. We move across the bridge, in retreat, but not before Edward‘s pack horse and Twatage have become his next meal. With us out of range, he retreats back to the deep water, to no doubt feast on his new meal.
After regrouping a way from the causeway, we take stock of our recent predicament. While the hydra was clearly a threat, and he caught us unaware. Since our fight with the beast, only made him stronger, as more heads grew from our attacks, we have left even a greater threat in our wake. Not to mention that much of our gear was on the pack horse, who died on the bridge to the hydra’s savagery. Without such gear, our assault on the keep could be significantly hindered. I’d like to go back and address this immediate threat before pressing on to the keep. Azgar, Hedrid and Edward clearly agree to head back immediately, but Mithon states he would rather return to this after we secure the keep. After some minor deliberation, we agree to return to the hydra. This time, we are ready for the attack and have a plan to rid us of the beast. However, as Tren has often told me, even the best laid out plan is for naught once it is put into action. Mithon’s attempts to lure the beast from his lair proves nearly fatal as the creature sets upon him before he is able to get away. We move in and engage the beast, while Hedrid tends to our fallen comrade. This time, the battle is much different and the hydra lies before us, fallen to sword, magic, hammer & arrow. Mithon jumps into the murk and makes his way to a wagon, discovering a hauberk of chain so fine and lightweight, it can be crafted of none other than mythril. Having secured the causeway, we proceed back on the path towards the keep.
We see the keep up atop a hill some miles away, and could press on to make it by nightfall. However, hobgoblins and their ilk are nocturnal creatures, who can be as active at night as in day, giving them a clear advantage, especially after the exhausting fight with the hydra and the day-long march through this oppressive forest just to get here. Mithon finds a suitable site off the trail and we set for camp, hoping to reclaim the keep in the morn. In the reverie, Hedrid recalls a story he once read concerning the legends of Vraath Keep A dark story where Amory Vraath had inherited the keep and immediately set out and boldly attacked the a band of giants known as the Twisttusks. While he initially returned to the keep victorious, the remaining giants soon attacked the keep in a vengeance, killing the Lord who died in deep the bowels of keep and and now haunts the area still. A disturbing tale, and one that we should not immediately dismiss as pure folly. Thankfully, the night is uneventful and we are left undisturbed. However, Azgar heard sounds of large beasts and unfamiliar humanoid talking pass by down the road, in the late hours, moving away from the keep. Mithon investigates the tracks in the daylight and believes that they are large wolves – dire creatures or even worse, worgs.
We arrive at the base of the keep and it is in quite the state of ruin. The walls show a breach on the South end and the tower’s upper levels have been mostly destroyed. All likely remains of the keep’s final battle with the Twisttusks. The doors are rotted and ajar, half off their hinges. A ramshackle building is just outside the entrance and attempting to open it, almost brings it down on my head. With a resounding crash, that can be heard for miles, our presence is likely no longer a secret. We hear commotion from inside the keep and rush into the courtyard before the defenders can man the ramparts. Once in the courtyard, two worg riders emerge from the sables and attack us with armed riders. We pull back into the stable as a giant minotaur bursts from the great hall and charges at Azgar. Edward and I attack the minotaur from the flank, but quickly get surrounded by hobgoblins. Edward’s inexperience costs him greatly, as a hobgoblin blade fells him with a cry of agony. With Azgar facing the minotaur, I am fighting a score of hobgoblins and a bugbear spellcaster that Mithon is keeping at bay, when I am attacked from behind. A quick glance shows a new opponent has emerged, a manticore, who fires spikes from his tail. Only my armor and shield save me from what would most certainly lead to my downfall.
Azgar and Hedrid kill the minotaur, and several of the hobgoblins have fallen. Sensing that the tide has turned, our remaining enemies flee, with the manticore and sorcerer taking flight. Unable to pursue and with more pressing matters, we attend to our own. It does not take long to determine that Edward has fallen. I offer a quick prayer to Tyr thanking him for Edward’s time, and move on. He will get proper respects and grieving tonight, but I cannot leave potential danger unattended. We search the keep, and find it devoid of the recently vacated tenants. In the tower, we discover a map of the area, with several notes by the hobgoblins. I’m no soldier but this looks to be for an invasion of Allonvale. While this could simply be wishful thinking by a group of hobgoblin bandits, it could also be a serious threat to the kingdom. My friends also seem concerned, and Hedrid suggest that we look into the validity of this – is there really an army of fell preparing to march into Allonvale? In the upper floor, we see a man, likely a farmer that has been staked to a cross a while ago. A simple cantrip casts an eerie glow upon the poor farmer’s corpse, creating a haunting visage that is able to be viewed quite a ways away. Hobgoblin savagery and trickery is all the keep’s haunting turns out to be.
Amidst the ruins of the bottom floor of the tower, I discover a concealed iron rung to a lower level. The small room below seems to be the treasure room of this keep, as well as the remains of Lord Vraath. Several small locked alcoves contain coin in iron coffers, a desk with many papers, including the deed to the keep, an ornamental black dragon skull, and several items upon the fallen lord himself – most notably a sparkling bastard sword that is cold to the touch. A simple phrase in Messanian is etched into the frosty blade ‘Ia’ Rasel’ The Ice Razor. One of the items found on the lord is a staff of great power – able to heal deadly wounds and even bring those that have recently departed back from the void. We quickly use it on Edward and are relieved to see his breath return and eyes open. While we are victorious and the keep has been cleared of the hobgoblins, I feel our work here has only just begun.