Session 12 (27th 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 and the whole of the Shadowed Keep sessions 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 ethereal figure of the murdered child turned it’s red rimmed eyes, full of hate, pain and fear on Hederas and asked in a voice between fright and anger “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Hederas sensing the mental state of the spirit explained that they had come to investigate the happenings at Ironwolf Keep and the fall of Valentine and his family. At the mention of the fall of the keep tears welled up in the eyes of the child and his sobs started anew. Hederas’ empathy and compassion was evident in his approach and calming the ghost down he got the story of how the keep was attacked and as he tried to reach his mother in the next room he was overcome by attackers who murdered him in a brutal fashion. When he became aware of himself again he found he was trapped alone in his room trapped with his decomposing body and little to think about but his final moments and the loneliness and pain. At the mention of trying to reach his mother the group thought of the skelleton on the bed in the room next door and Hederas wondered if the reuniting and burying the remains of the mother and child would lay the spirit to rest. Eager to learn details of the keep Hederas decided to try to gather intelligence before suggesting such a course of action. Unaware of the occupants of the tower he told them that originally his attackers and others like them looted parts of the tower but that it had been a long time since he had seen anyone. He identified himself as Einaar, the child of Valentine and Kaarina Ironwolf, and when Hederas mentioned the possibility of reuniting his remains with those of his mother he begged for him to do so. He obviously longed to be buried with the remains of his parents but was terrified of the crypt where he could sense something that frightened him lurking. Einaar was very thankful of their offer and when they mention trying to find the profesies lent to Valentine he mentioned that he overheard his parents discussing a secret entrance to a vault on this floor. He didn’t know where this entrance was other than on the floor they were on but he mentioned his father boasting of a terrible guardian that would meet any trying to loot it.
Carefully the group gathered Einaar’s remains, noting as they did some horriffic details of how he had died, and carried them into the other bed chamber where the skeleton they deducted was of Kaarina lay. Einaar’s ghost followed them and was noticably calmed by the act of moving his remains to join those of his mother. As Elrohir carried the blackened goblin and orc remains from the room and disposed of them the rest of the party descended back to the great hall and the skeleton of the warrior surrounded by fallen enemies there. Assuming this to be the remains of Valentine they gathered these and reunited them with Einaar and Kaarina.
Both entering and leaving the hall something nagged in the back of Dvadi’s mind, something to do with the stonework didn’t feel right to him. Returning to the bedchamber where the family’s remains now lay suddenly he realised that there was a problem with the dimensions of the rooms of the keep and that the hall and the tower were longer than the corridor and rooms that should have run alongside them. When put together with Einaar’s knowledge of a secret entrance to a vault the group quickly came to the realisation that the entrance must be along one wall in this bed chamber.
Searching this area initially didn’t reveal anything, however with Dvadi’s certainty about the rough location of a passage they worked tirelessly over the flagstones until Armitage finally found a way to lever up one edge of a flagstone in the end of which were crafted recessed handles. Carefully they lifted this flagstone which hinged on a cleverly designed and balanced mechanism to reveal a dark and narrow stairway spiralling downwards.
Cautious of the tales of the guardian of the vault, the group descended into the dark void carefully checking the stairs and walls for traps or mechanisms that might catch them out. The thick layer of dust on the stairs and the thin cobwebs on the walls and ceiling reinforced their assumption that nothing had come this way for decades. After a long descent which dropped them by Dvadi’s reckoning well below ground level, a flickering light could be seen coming from further down. The silence was absolute, the sound of their heart beats were loud in their ears and even their breathing sounded loud to them as they crept the final stairs to the bottom. Beyond the bottom of the stairs a long thin room opened out, the undisturbed dust of decades covered the floor lit up by two torches that burned each side of a solid looking door. A carved demonic face leered at them from the keystone arched doorway, lit in the flickering light of the torches it almost seemed alive at first. Armitage focused on the room opening his mind for arcane energy within the room particularly around the room. Both of the torches have a faint aura of magic around them confirming them as everburning torches however more surprising were the stronger auras of enchantment and conjuration that were glowing from the carved demon face above the door. Hederas cast his mind back to his time spent in the libraries of Irori at the temple and those books that held information about demons and their kind. None of the pictures of demonic beings in his memory were a particularly close likeness of the carved face before him, indeed the face struck him as being generic in it’s design rather than resembling a particular entity.
Checking carefully for traps Armitage and Elrohir moved forwards towards the door, leaving Hederas and Dvadi at the bottom of the stairs for support if needed. As the two companions reached nearly the middle of the room a droning sound started to emanate from the demon’s mouth. Growing quickly in volume the sound quickly filled the parties ears and brains, painfully pressing in on their ear drums, filling their ears and piercing their heads. Elrohir realised almost immediately that Armitage’s gaze was fully on the demon head and a glance behind him showed that Dvadi was also slack jawed and limp limbed, obviously both had succumbed to some kind of magic. Catching Hederas’ eyes Elrohir charged the remaining distance to the door and using both hands swung his longsword hard into the carven face. The impact of the blow ran down his entire body and jarred his joints. As Hederas shook Dvadi to try and waken him from his trance Elrohir stepped back from the door. The air at his feet hazed with a purple glow which quickly resolved itself into a small being made completely of fire. Jumping backwards reflexively as the creature struck at him Elrohir took a blow to his side and realised as he felt a wave of heat that only by the skin of his teeth had he avoided being set on fire. Focusing on keeping the creature at bay using his sword the elven ranger came close to striking the creature himself but never quite making it. The burning creature had it’s attention almost completely on it’s fight with Elrohir as Dvadi charged from the back of the room swinging his battle axe with both hands. The mighty blow cleaved the creature, the dwarf felt his axe slow as the resitance of it’s inorganic being met with his blade. The axe passed completely through it’s body but felt completely unlike any other blow he had experienced. The flaming creature became noticably dimmer at the blow and was definitely badly affected by the attack. Behind them Hederas had been calling on Irori and as his companion’s axe finished it’s swing a divinely conjured deluge of water appeared immediately above the elemental crushing it to the floor where it vanished back to the plane that it had been summoned from.
The sound from the demonic face continued to pulse in the brains of the group and Elrohir again slammed his sword fully into the head, sparks flying from his sword on impact but the sound continued unabated. Hederas awoke Armatige as the Dvadi, feeling his blood boiling in his veins, released his anger into a double handed swing of his axe into the carven face. Dvadi’s blow, even with all his mighty strength, fuelled by his rage, still did little noticeable damage to the carving.
Bellowing to one another above the almost physical sound that left them feeling as if their skulls were being crushed it was decided that Elrohir should inspect the door and see if there was any way to open it. The lock of the door seemed well made but not obviously trapped however as Elrohir inspected the carved face from which the deafening drone was sounding he at the back a small raised block of stone. Borrowing Hederas’ quarterstaff and standing as far back as was possible he pushed one end into the mouth and felt this stone block move back. Immediately the sound stopped and as the last echoes bounced of the walls there was a loud click from the door lock itself. In the sudden silence all four found themselves staring at the lock. Hederas stepped forwards, turned the door handle and then, slowly and carefully, opened the door. As the door moved slowly towards them, the dark crack growing suddenly there was a loud crack and Elrohir leapt out of his skin as the demonic mouth snapped shut on the end of the quarterstaff splintering it and removing nearly an inch from the tip. This sudden and unexpected surprise took their attention from the door and when they looked back in the reflected torchlight a large and dark room could be faintly seen beyond, with alcoves set in the walls.
Hederas took one of the magically burning torches from it’s sconce and tossed it into the room to better illuminate the space. In this new light a dusty chamber nearly thirty feet in length and twenty wide could be seen. A beautifully constructed and engraved long sword and a large round shield embossed with the face of a wolf on it were in a large niche at the far end of the room where several chests were in the other four alcoves on each of the side walls. Elrohir remembered seeing the same emblem of the wolfs head on the shield before them previously on the keystone above the main door to the building as he slid in through it with arrows and quarrels ricocheting off the stones around him. He wondered aloud if they’d found the shield and sword of Valentin Ironwolf who had built the keep. In the centre of the room were a collection of bones and what looked like a human skull, it didn’t appear to be enough to be a whole skeleton and it’s location in this place seemed odd. The threat of the “terrible guardian” came back to the group and they felt their stomachs tighten with trepidation about what more they may need to face.
Recovering what was left of his quarterstaff Hederas pressed the flagstones in front of him while Armitage inspected the doorway itself. Nothing seemed to be obvious so Hederas stepped carefully into the room onto the flagstone he’d checked and turned to inspect the wall directly behind where the carved demon head was. As Hederas looked above him at the featureless wall over his shoulder his companions saw the bones on the floor start to move. Smoothly and silently the skull rose, huge fangs glinting wetly in the light, eye sockets glowing dimly, atop the spine of a snakes skeleton.
Pushing past his comrade Elrohir charged towards the swaying thing in front of him swinging his longsword in a wide arc. As the thing swayed away from the sword stroke the blow hit one of the long spikes attached to each vertebrate and glanced off it without seeming to do considerable damage. At almost the same moment Dvadi charged alongside his elven comrade and, blood rage taking hold, judged the swing of his battle axe to coincide with his attack. His blow collided with the back of the skull and shattered a chunk of the bone there. The mighty blow however did not even slow this adversary down and it wheeled on the dwarf ducking and dodging smoothly and with frightening speed. While Elrohir and Dvadi dodged and feinted with this hellish creation Armitage quietly moved around the combat, analysing the thing’s movements. At the moment he judged best he stepped forwards and swung his mace towards the back of the spine. At the exact moment that he struck the thing lashed out at Davdi, who barely managed to block it with the handle of axe, and the blow went wide.
Hederas, unsure of this thing’s true nature, called on Irori to drive away the spirit of the dead. He felt the divine power of his god surge through him and flow out in all directions however he could sense that this had no effect on his foe.
Elrohir and Dvadi continued to lock weapons with the slient thing, Dvadi catching it another hefty blow as it dodged a wild swing from Elrohir. It’s response was to start to sway and dance in a way that all found difficult to look away from. Dvadi, Elrohir and Armitage all became fixated by it’s dance, swaying in time with it and leaving Hederas alone unaffected. The cleric shook Elrohir awake who as he came round fought off another attack, his longsword glancing from the top of it’s skull but seeming to do no damage to it. Sliding around the blade it sank it’s glistening fangs hard into Elrohir’s upper arm. Through the pain of the bite itself the elf could feel poison in the wound trying to slow him down, shaking off it’s effects but noting them, he continued to press his attack trying to keep attacks away from Dvadi as Hederas moved to waken him. Dvadi came back to his senses to the sight of a moving skull with huge fangs in front of him, his clumsy almost reflexive axe stroke went wide allowing an opening that the thing took advantage of. Dvadi, as Elrohir before him, felt the poison inside the wound but as his primal rage grew he too shook off the effects. Hederas swung his aspergillum in a wild but futile attempt to strike this foe as he circled around towards Armitage.
Elrohir, Hederas and Dvadi all continued to press their attack however again Dvadi was wounded as he over extended during an attempted strike. This time as he tried to recover and catch his foe with his reverse swing he felt the poison slow him and then stop him completely. Still fully concious through his paralysis he remained aware of the situation around him. Elrohir pushed the creature back with a ferocious attack which allowed him to grab Armitage and pull him backwards, waking him from his trance in doing so. As he released the halfling he ducked under another vicious attack and as it recoiled from it’s strike. Armitage took his opportunity and struck hard at the base of the thing’s skull. The skull fractured under the blow and the spikes attached to the top several vertebrae shattered. The blow also drove it forward into another of Elrohir’s sword strokes, the sword slid between the spikes on several vertebrae biting hard into it.
Reeling from these blows the constructs smooth motions were getting less and less fluid, it’s skull far less securely still attached to it’s spine. Even in this condition it managed a mighty bite, savagely sinking it’s fangs into the top of Armitage’s head and the halfling crumpled unconscious to the floor. As it released it’s grip Hederas brought his aspergillum once more into the base of the skull. This time the blow connected and as the thing swayed back from the impact and it’s jaw unhinged and fell to the floor, followed by the skull itself toppling from the spiked spine and rattling on the hard granite flagstones. Slowly at first but with gathering speed one vertebrae after another separated as the magic left it and fell into a pile of broken pieces on the floor each rattling with it’s impact, the sound echoing around the room.
Hederas and Elrohir caught one another’s eyes, their faces revealing their relief as the turned towards their disabled comrades to lend them aid.