The Dark

Session 15: The Horned Hold III
Rout & Retreat

8 April, 103 CY (Continued)

The party followed the northwestern path across the crenelated battlements to a ruined room where they encountered vicious wights and a locked iron door. They defeated the undead with little trouble, but were unable to get through the door.

They circled back around, exploring the bed chamber to find the doors there opened into smaller personal bedrooms, one of which appeared to belong to Rundarr. Tolis-Va deftly unlocked the small iron chest under the bed there and found the deceased duergar warlord’s personal wealth.

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Session 14: The Horned Hold II
Reluctant "Heroes"

7 April, 103 CY

The adventurers stirred themselves from slumber a few hours later, having rested fitfully in the guard room. Fortunately, there had been no follow-up investigation into their assault, despite the escaped duergar. They swiftly consumed trail rations to break their fast and then removed the spikes that held the door closed. It was blessedly empty. In the side doors leading off of the south side of the hallway, they found an armory and a bunk room with a handful of cots and filthy personal effects that only an orc could treasure. After a cursory search turned up nothing of interest, the entered the north door and entered a room containing a stone well, from which they drew fresh water for their skins. Exiting this room through a western door deposited them in the large forge from which the second group of duergar had attacked.

Several doors led from the forge, and those on the east wall opened into another bunk room to the south and a bedchamber to the north. The latter room actually contained a bit of loot: a chest under the bed, and a bejeweled skull-scepter hanging on the wall. Tolis-Va recognized it from the drow merchant Gendar’s description. Taking custody of the item, he briefly explained the dark elf’s request for the item’s return as well as the promise of payment when he saw the frowns on some of his companions faces upon hearing the word “drow.” This appeased them well enough, and the group continued its exploration of the fortress.

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Session 13: The Horned Hold
The New Guys

6 April, 103 CY

Tolis-Va sat at his table eating breakfast and awaiting any responses to the flier he’d posted the evening before on the bulletin board downtown. He was barely through his first helping of eggs when two men, a dwarf and a dragonborn, entered the door, each holding on to one side of his posting. He raised an eyebrow at the pair, who seemed to be eyeing each other like unfamiliar cats, and neither of which would relinquish his grip. The ranger sighed and decided to break the ice. “I see you’ve got my flier. What are your names?”

Roxor!” declared the dwarf at the same time that the dragonborn announced “Brother Caex Vethikos, warrior monk of the Platinum Dragon.” They gave each other looks across the table, Roxor muttering under his breath, “Fancy title, boy.”

“I earned it,” responded Caex, nonplussed.

“Fantastic,” said Tolis-Va, barely suppressing another audible sigh. “Here’s what we’re dealing with…”

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Session 12: Reconnaissance
No Quarter

5 April, 103 CY (Continued)

After the party returned to the Halfmoon Inn to prepare for the trip through the Labyrinth to the Horned Hold, Etholin made an announcement. “Gentlemen, it has been a genuine pleasure traveling with and fighting alongside you these last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, my quest draws me elsewhere. I must seek out word of the Cult of Gruumsh if I am to have any hope of discovering my sister’s fate. I know that you are committed to your current course, and I wish you all the best, but I feel I should return to Fallcrest to see if Douven and I can perhaps find anything else out. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me, even though the cult in Winterhaven proved to be a dead end.”

Balasar and Morthos frowned but nodded in understanding. Tolis-Va looked thoughtful for a few seconds before he responded. “The roads are dangerous. I will escort you back to Fallcrest, if that is your destination. Hopefully we will not again encounter the shadar-kai that set upon us on our way here, but one can never be too careful. Aside from which, we can deliver Krand’s head to the Lord Warden and perhaps collect our reward for services rendered.”

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Session 11: The Chamber of Eyes
Breaking Company

4 April, 103 CY

After looting the goblins and hobgoblin (the latter of which had a fancy magic belt), the adventurers searched the nearby bunk and bath rooms. Etholin waxed intellectual for a few minutes about the “half-elemental” statue rising above the surface of the pool at the bottom of a short set of steps. After he was finished, Tolis-Va motioned for silence as he approached a wooden door near the end of a hallway. He heard a small clattering sound, followed by a burst of coarse laughter and angry muttering coming from beyond. After a few moments, he heard more clattering and low, guttural voices. He determined that some sort of game of chance was going on while others behind the door ate and drank.

As he relayed what he’d heard to the others, he noticed the sounds quiet, and a few chairs scooted across the floor within. A voice called out in a language none of the company understood. Syler flattened up against the wall and held very still so as to avoid notice while Balasar flung open the door. Hobgoblins and humans sat at a couple of tables within the small cafeteria. A couple of goblins appeared to be preparing more food in a smaller kitchen deeper within. Coins, gems, and trinkets sat on the near table where most of the men gathered around a pair of bone dice.

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Session 10: Into the Mountain
Freeing Slaves is Bloody Work

2 April, 103 CY

In the morning, the party gathered back together, made a few last minute purchases, and set off to the east along the Old King’s Road. It was a pleasant day, Morthos and Etholin picked up where they’d left off in a conversation about body hair in various species. Balasar tried to follow the thread, while Tolis-Va shook his head with a smile. The elf caught Syler’s attention and gestured with his head that they walk a little ahead, as was usual.

. . .

Towards evening, though they traveled a heavily patrolled road, the ranger felt uneasy. As a precaution, he strung his bow and kept the weapon in hand as he scanned the surrounding area for potential threats. His vigilance proved worthwhile as the party neared the place where the Old King’s Road intersected with the trail that lead north to Thunderspire Mountain. He spotted a pair of shadowy figures lurking near a boulder, weapons in hand. Without hesitation, he drew back his bow and fired a pair of shafts at the nearest one.

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Session 9: Return to Fallcrest
Second Chances and Fresh Opportunities

28 March, 103 CY

The surviving adventurers returned with Syler’s body to Winterhaven around mid-morning. They were still covered in blood and received more than a few terrified looks from the people in the village. The outer gate guards welcomed them back and commented that they’d felt the eeriness of the last several days lift earlier in the morning. When asked where to find a “Spirit Priest,” as Etholin referred to it, the guards directed the group to the Temple of Avandra.

They’d returned on a market day and the open space in front of Wrafton’s Inn was filled with merchant carts and stands, selling a variety of goods. Tolis-Va stopped one of the locals and asked for more specific directions to the temple, and the stuttering man looked nervously over the bloody group, focusing particularly on the dead halfling held in one of Balasar’s arms. The man was visibly shaken as he pointed them to the southwest corner of the walled city. He practically sprinted away after the adventurers set off again.

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Session 8: The Rift
Not Without Cost

27 March, 103 CY (Continued)

The hobgoblin patrol was not up to the task set to them by their commander. They choked the hallway, leaving the party’s ranged combatants free reign to lay down the pain. The outcome was a foregone conclusion. After pulling their weapons free from the body of the last hobgoblin, they once more ascended the stairs and took refuge in the secret armory.

28 March, 103 CY

The party returned to the dungeon’s lower level to discover that all of the hobgoblin corpses had been removed. They cautiously entered the eastern guard chamber and considered their two remaining paths. The hallway to the east and the double doors at the bottom of the steps heading east from the zombie infested chamber far to the south were as of yet unexplored. Syler wanted to go to the doors, but Tolis-Va suggested the nearer course. The others were inclined to agree with the elf. The halfling rolled his eyes and shrugged, taking point with the elf.

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Session 7: Subterranean
Obstacles

27 March, 103 CY

Having decided that they had better recuperate from the battles so far that day, the adventurers returned to the room behind the secret door and rested the night. They woke in the morning, ate a light breakfast, and moved to the stairs that lead down to the lower level. As they descended past the extent of Etholin’s magical light, he moved the cantrip to a stone and tossed it down. It bounced down to a landing and off the wall to continue clattering downward. The wizard moved the cantrip again to Balasar’s armor, and the dragonborn warrior led the others down the stairs.

The stairs descended into a large, torch-lit chamber with what appeared to be an open well in the center. Two human-sized creatures stood near the entrance. Big, pointed ears stuck out from under their helmets, and sharp teeth glittered in their mouths. One of the guards yelled out a challenge phrase in the Common tongue, “Shadow seeks shadow!”

Syler responded with the pass phrase they’d found in the note on the elf spy’s body, “In the ground some magic was found.”

The hobgoblin’s eyes widened, and it yelled over its shoulder, “Someone tell Kalarel that Ninaran is slain!”

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Session 6: Caves and Crypts
Pay Attention

26 March, 103 CY

After another night’s rest back in Winterhaven, the party returned to the ruined keep and continued their exploration of the natural cavern. The southern tunnel opened into a smaller chamber, which emanated a musky, snakelike scent. There was an open pit just before the tunnel widened, and at the bottom lay the unmoving form of a broken, six-limbed reptile. Tolis-Va easily identified the creature as a kruthik, a deadly reptile that tended to live in hives. His keen eyes also noticed shards of what appeared to be a thin layer of flagstone scattered around the corpse. Scanning the chamber by Morthos’s sunrod, the elf also noticed a section of the floor in the first part of the chamber that seemed slightly elevated, as though it concealed something below. He suspected another pit trap. Syler dropped his waterskin on top of the tile, and when it did not break, he left the skin there to mark the location, so that the party could avoid it.

The group moved cautiously into the chamber, noticing very narrow cracks in the walls that even Syler would have to squeeze to get through. Following a tunnel to the west, they came to the edge of a chamber filled with several more of the kruthiks clustered around a small pile of loose coins and other objects. The creatures were six-limbed reptiles with insect-like traits. Silvery chitinous plates covered their bodies and short tails, and each had four limbs that ended in scythelike claws. The creatures had two smaller limbs, which had finer digits close to the body. The heads were vaguely reptilian, and the lower jaws were a toothed plate flanked by serrated mandibles. Most of the kruthiks were no larger than small dogs, but one was the size of a wolf.

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