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Sessions 10/11 (29th September/13th October 2014)

For the second adventure in our Lonely Coast campaign I turned once again to Raging Swan.  This time I went to the brilliant Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands which got amazing reviews and makes for a totally different style of play from the groups previous adventure Retribution.  If you’d like to read the whole campaign’s adventure log it’s posted in order here.  The previous session can be found here.

Note if as a player your GM is likely to run Shadowed Keep On The Borderlands by Raging Swan please do not read any further, the adventure is one that will be wrecked by spoilers.

The party stood in a dim chamber, dead leaves lying in drifts against the wall. Looking around themselves they caught their breath and quietly discussed what to do next. Having decided to visibly leave the keep and return quietly that night curiosity took a hand and it was felt that it might be worth exploring the upper floor of the building before hand.

The obvious location for a staircase to the higher level was at the end of a corridor that ran back along the outer wall. Armitage led his companions carefully up this corridor towards the closed door at it’s end. Nearly at the end of the wall on his left a dark doorway gapped, it’s door lying flat on the floor in front of him. Focused on any possible traps or enemies around this doorway Armitage stepped unthinkingly onto the fallen door to suddenly find himself engulfed in a sheet of flame rising from below him, the stench of alchemists fire in his nostrils. Behind him, and seeing his companion suddenly aflame, Hederas called out to Irori who hearkened to his prayer. As the halfling beat furiously at his burning clothes he suddenly found himself drenched in divinely conjured water that extinguished him and the fallen door that was the source of this crude trap. Regaining their composure the group quietly approached the top of the descending stairs behind the empty door frame immediately noting the crude graffiti scrawled on the wall in blood. Amid the grimly depicted scenes of goblins slaughtering their enemies two familiar symbols stood out. The dripping globe of the Blood Moon Goblins daubed either side of the doors was unmistakable, the memories of the group taken back to the bloodshed in the snowy cloisters of the Priory of Cymer.

Dvadi and Elrohir, with their enhanced vision, peered carefully down the stairwell aware of a faint light, probably distant torchlight, at the bottom. A hurried whispered discussion quickly led to the decision that while all felt the desire to allow their steel to taste goblin blood and put an end to the tribe’s foul taint it made sense to at least ensure that the ground floor of the building was checked to be safe before descending into the fray. Turning aside, they turned their attention once more to the closed door at the end of the corridor.

Having checked the door for traps Armitage carefully opened it revealing an old bed chamber that had, a long time past, been thoroughly ransacked. Finding little of interest in this room the group carefully explored the rest of the ground floor in a bid to ensure that they didn’t find their escape cut off if a retreat became necessary.

Most of the ground floor of the building consisted of rooms that had originally been well furnished bed chambers however these had obviously been ransacked and looted on multiple occasions over a several decades and were empty of almost anything interesting. In one chamber Armitage was attacked by two black vipers with red markings while investigating the broken down remains of furniture. Dvadi and Hederas helped to dispatch both animals, while Elrohir kept watch on the courtyard and tower, as they also did in a further room which housed a nest of dire rats.

Having searched these rooms, a kitchen and several storerooms they finally came to a set of ornate double doors that had been secured with chains wrapped around the handles. No sounds came from within and Hederas took several minutes communing with his god who granted him the divine perception of any undead creatures in the area both beyond the doors and the tower above it. All were pleased to find that no undead blasphemy stalked beyond the doors however this was tempered the news that such a presence lurked in the tower above.

Having checked the doors and surround carefully and ascertained silence in the room beyond the chains were unwrapped and the doors opened. Beyond the doors lay a large banqueting hall with a high ceiling. Tables ran down the hall and at the far end a smaller table stood atop a raised dais. Bones of various human and humanoid origin were strewn across the floor and the ceiling of the dim room was wreathed in thick cobwebs. Faded tapestries hung from the walls and a pair of iron chandeliers hung empty below the web strewn rafters. The party stealthily crept through the room towards the single doorway on the far side that they believed should lead to the stairs to the upper level. Suddenly a movement and faint sound in the rafters attracted their attention just in time to see webs spin down and pin Armitage and Hederas where they stood. As the two shapes of gigantic spiders revealed themselves Armitage returned a sleep spell while Elrohir quickly retreated to the doorway sheathing his sword and drawing his bow. Dvadi lept immediately to Hederas aid heaving at the webbing as the cleric struggled to extricate himself from his sticky prison. By the door Elrohir quickly nocked an arrow to his bow dropping to one knee to get a better angle to his shot. Elrohir’s first shot was released before he fully finished dropping to his knee and the arrow riccoched off the carrapace off the monster’s back. As the arrow left the string another was already in motion from his quiver to his bow and this arrow flew straighter and burried itself fletching deep into the body of the beast just below the carrapace where it’s foreleg met the body. As Hederas shrugged off the last of the webbing Dvadi turned to rip the webbing from Armitage as well, managing to release the halfling. At this moment unfortunately the spider, recovering from the arrow that had pierced it so deeply, squirted webbing at Dvadi, fixing him to the floor.

Armitage ran to the doorway, joining Elrohir there, and unhooking his crossbow. Hederas drew his dagger and started to hack at the webbing that held his comrade. Almost immediately though Dvadi shouted to Hederas to gain cover as he realised he was strong enough to now break himself free. Hederas sprinted through the detritus of old bones as behind him the mighty dwarf heaved the remaining webs from himself. As he reached the doorway Elrohir released another volley of arrows at the creature scurrying across the rafters trying to gain a position to better attack it’s chosen prey. Again the first arrow bounced from the creatures natural armour but with blinding speed a second followed it carving below the thing’s belly barely above the rafter, opening a long wound the width of it’s body. As it’s internal organs began to spill from the soft underbelly of the beast it lurched, it’s wounded foreleg missing the rafter and it slipped from the ceiling plunging the twenty feet to the hard flagstones below. Dvadi cleared the last of the webbing from his axe as the sickening squelch of the impact echoed around the room and with both hands buried his blade deep into it decapitating it.

In the sudden silence that followed the brief but desperate fight nothing but the sounds of their breathing could be heard. Aware that the spell that held their remaining adversary captive in magical slumber would not last long a plan was hatched in the hopes of ending the creature before it could engage them further. Armitage crossed the chamber while Elrohir and Hederas took up positions close to the door but separate from one another while Dvadi stayed close beneath the slumbering monster. Elrohir, Hederas and Armitage shot at the creature near simultaneously while Dvadi waited hoping again to dislodge the lurking presence to where his axe could be of use. Elrohir’s first arrow passed clean through the creature ripping a huge hole through it’s body while his second joined both Armitage and Hederas’ quarrels peppering its abdomen. As the creature spasmed in it’s death throws it too toppled from the rafters landing with a hard but wet smack on the ground where Dvadi’s axe waited to assure its demise was final.

After a rest to regain their composure a thorough search of the hall was undertaken. Various small coins were found during this search however what really drew the attention was the story of battle that the bones of the fallen told. Evidently a great fight had taken place in this room, the bones a mixture of human, goblin and orc told of a horde of monstrous humanoids overpowering the human defenders of the keep by sheer weight of numbers. The defenders had evidently made the invaders pay dearly for their lives, eyes especially drawn to one hewed and hacked skeleton near the centre of the hall, its skull was split and rent in several places and limbs evidently broken and was surrounded by at least a dozen goblin and orc skeletons.

Above, in the rafters, the webbing partly concealed several ominously cocooned shapes which Elrohir felt drawn to investigate further. Borrowing Dvadi’s grappling hook he climbed into the rafters and deftly crossed the beams to the six hanging cocoons. Investigating the four small grizzly packages first confirmed his suspicions and he cut the half eaten goblin corpses down for his companions to search. Of the two remaining larger cocoons the first was of a dark haired man wearing studded leather armour and bearing a more than passing resemblance to the bandits that attacked the group on the road to Wolverton.  The body appeared to only be several days old (certainly more recent than those of the goblins) which caused all to ponder how it was here. Having removed anything breakable from him Elrohir cut it down as well. The last cocoon was taller and slenderer than the one before and, braced as he was for the corpse he was about to discover, as he cut the webbing from the occupant the shock of an elven face peering back at him almost made Elrohir loose his footing. That the short lived races should perish and their bodies need disposing of was something that Elrohir had come to live with as all elves that live among other races have to.  Discovering the remains of the one of the fair elder race was something he would not have expected and would never become accustomed to. Steeling himself to the task he searched the body, finding a fine set of lock picks as well as several potions. He then carefully lowered the body to the floor before following it down.

The doorway at the far end of the hall still beckoned the group onwards and while the undead presence on the floor above was far from inviting it would have to be faced eventually. Armitage and Elrohir carefully mounted the pitch dark spiral stairs keeping their light covered so that only the minimum light necessary for the elf’s eyes to make out the way was exposed.

At the top of the stairway a short landing stopped before a solid wooden door, a shaft of light streaming through the small hole above the latch mechanism. As his eyes adjusted to the relative brightness, Armitage could see through this apperture the small part of an open hallway beyond. The light streamed in from the right and another door stood in a wall around ten feet in front of the one he peered through. What he saw though was not what caught his attention, rather the muffled sound of someone crying close at hand was a shock after the almost tomb like quiet of the interior of the building so far explored. Bringing their companions quietly to the top of the stairs Armitage carefully opened the door. They found themselves stood in an L shaped hallway, lit from each end by shuttered grimy windows looking north and east. Three closed doors led from this hallway, the continuing sobbing came from the middle of the three and while this was that which all felt drawn to it was obviously more prudent to first check those other portals. Both other rooms were empty, one once a nicely furnished dining room the other a bedroom. The bedroom had also obviously been the site of a frenzied fight, three blackened skeletons lay near the door while a fourth lay broken and battered on the bed itself. Leaving these for the moment after a very quiet and cursory look to check there were no living occupants the group gathered by the door of the third room from which still issued anguished sobs. Given their knowledge that something returned from the grave lurked on this floor Hederas carefully opened the door, braced for what he would find.

This once fine bedroom was also the scene of a fight however the only skeleton there was of a small child. It lay on the bed and above it , hovering in the air, was the spectral form of a child in a blood covered and slashed night gown. It’s body was covered in wounds, it’s throat been viciously slashed open and it was from this tragic figure that the sobbing issued. Shaken by the sight that he beheld but aware from his meeting with the ghost of Mariel at the Priory that such unhappy souls are not always evil, Hederas struggled to know how to proceed. Gently he spoke, making himself known to the phantom and as he did it raised red rimmed eyes filled with pain, fear and anger. “Who are you and what do you want?” demanded the child in a voice of bitter despair.