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Session 20 (2nd Mar 2015)

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.

Four figures advance warily from the broken doors of Ironwolf Keep into the muddy courtyard.  The drizzle is getting heavier as the morning wears on and the clouds darken. A shout from the hooded figure standing, bow in hand, atop the watchtower battlements raises their spirits and they increase their pace with more surety in their steps.

Minutes later the group are reunited and swapping stories, everyone relieved that nobody was badly injured in the foray beneath the keep.  A rest is on everyone’s minds as the emotional and physical stress of the morning weighs on them.  First though some sort of plan needs to be made.

Elrohir volunteers to continue to stand guard while the others rest, his spirits bouyed by the knowledge that his companions are alive and safe.

The bodies of the bandits slain in the taking of the tower had not been properly removed and before the main dormitory could be used to rest it was going to be necessary to shift them. Not wanting to risk the courtyard the group spend an unpleasant time carrying the corpses, now two days old, up to the roof where they were piled.

As they work Dvadi finds himself brooding on the tales told of ogres by the old warriors of clan Anvilbeard.  The fury of an ogre unleashed, finding half eaten corpses of friends and kin, showing even in that state signs of terrible tortures.  Knowing how often patrols of veteran warriors had been decimated by battles with these vile adversaries he finds himself turning over in his mind their last battle below ground. Were they just lucky, are they close to being out of their depth?

Arris is likewise lost in thought, trying to balance the euphoria of survival with the dark terror through which he had just lived. Fighting with the Church armies against both human foes and gnoll slavers had steeled him to standing within a field of whirling blades, the smells and sounds of battle overpowering his senses. Those had not been the claustrophobic darkness of subterranean corridors. The reality of the stories his comrades had told him of the battle beneath The Priory is sinking in as he reflects on his recent experiences.

The now heavy rain did not improve the work and having finally finished Elrohir ys goodbye to his comrades as he prepaes himself for sentry duty while the others wearily descended the stairs towards a well earned rest.

Before the companions could even reach the bottom of the first flight of stairs a deep bellow sounded in the courtyard. As Elrohir turned he heard the gutteral sound of the goblin language but from the throat of no goblin. Even the cursed bugbears would have sounded shriller than this deep bellow.

“Humans… humans…”, the voice hung in the air, loud even through the splattering of the rain on the stones.

Elrohir turned and moved towards the edge of the roof, bow in hand. The sight that met his eyes stopped him in his tracks. The ogre that they had slain in the lair of the Bloodmoon Clan had been huge but the infernal beast that stood before the doorway of Ironwolf Keep was vast. Fully ten feet tall this spawn of evil sprouted horns from a huge bald head, his vast belly sagged over his loin cloth, muscular arms and legs hidden by plate armour. In his hand he held an enormous falchion, fell runes etched into it’s blade and spikes running down the back of the blade. Behind him stood three large female goblins holding two near naked men between them, haggard, beaten and terrified. Six more goblin warriors stood ringing them, their eyes burning with hatred, axes held in their hands.

As Elrohir became visible atop the tower the beast roared again.  “Those who dare to challenge the might of the Bloodmoon Clan should fear their vengeance.”

Two of the female goblins forced their captive to step forward, holding his arms wide. Terror wracked the man’s face and he struggled feebly between his captors. The vast figure drew a vicious dagger from his belt and slowly slit the man’s belly open, the scream from his victim rising endlessly in pitch as the knife cut deeply. As his guts and intestines spilled out the goblins let their screaming and spasming victim drop into the mud. Behind them the other captive screamed and thrashed, terror not being enough to allow him to break free of his captors.

Hederas, Dvadi, Arris and Armitage reached the wall in time to see the dying man fall to the floor. Suddenly there was a loud twang from their left and an arrow buried itself deep in the chest of the remaining captive. Wheeling round they saw Elrohir unhurriedly nocking another arrow to his bow as the cries of terror in the courtyard turned to that of pain.

“What the hell was that for?” bellowed Hederas at the elf, amazement and anger vying for attention in his mind. Dvadi, next to Hederas, was simply staring at the elf, unsure of what to think of his actions.

Ignoring the reactions of his comerades the Elrohir called down, “I thank you for the tribute to our greatness.”

“If you’re going to shoot him at least kill him.” called Dvadi.

The elf sent a second arrow into injured captive leaving the surprised goblins holding a corpse.

“Should I put him out of his misery?” asked Elrohir gesturing at the victim of the ogre’s brutality, his screams turning to gurgles as he slowly died.

“If you have enough arrows.” replied Armitage.  Another arrow flew straight to the dying man and having jerked once more he fell still and quiet.  Arris clasped his symbol of Darlen praying for the souls of the dying prisoners as they passed to the next world.

“Do we take the battle to them now or wait?” the elf asked, nocking another arrow to his bow.

“What were you expecting to achieve with that?” shouted Hederas into the courtyard.

The gigantic figure raised his massive sword, pointing it to the companions. “You may stop your comrades suffering but you will still die a slow and painful death at my hand.” he bellowed.

“They were not our comrades.” the cleric retorted.

The ogre turned his attention to the goblins, “See how they cower with fear?”

Hederas walked to the stairs and quickly descended, his companions swapping questioning glances between them.

Dvadi’s blood was boiling with anger at the ogre.  The execution of the prisoner and the obvious delight that the beast took in the pain he inflicted beat in his head, inner voices urging him to take whatever steps were necessary to join battle.  Had it been possible he would have simply jumped to the courtyard and charged.  The best he could manage was an ancient curse aimed at the creatures mother.  His comrades did not understand the giantish language but it was obvious from the reaction in the courtyard that the barb had sunk home.

In the cells in the basement of the tower Hederas addressed the oldest of the captive bandits.  “The goblins in the basement, what was your relationship with them like?”

“That scum?  We’ve been fighting them for months.”

“But you live in the same building?”

“Yeah?” answered Adhearne, as if he didn’t hear the question in the statement.

Hederas’ mind went back to their first impressions of the watchtower.  “So it was them who set light to the tower door?”

“What do you think?” the aging bandit grunted back.

Shaking his head the cleric unlocked the goblin prisoner’s chains and dragged the struggling goblin out of the cell and up the stairs.  “I’m not going to kill you” he grunted in the terrified creature’s own tongue.  Hardly reassured the goblin at least let himself allowed himself to be towed up the tower.

On the first floor Hederas met Dvadi who was on his way to guard the main door of the tower and check it was fully secured.  The dwarf’s eyes showed a blankness as he struggled with the conflict raging in his head.

From the roof Elrohir, Armitage and Arris watched Ruknar and the clan.  Finding his son’s mutilated corpse in the guardroom below the keep had come as a terrible shock.  Discoveing that the tribe’s shaman, his guards and the bugbear mercenaries he’d hired had all also been killed, for the first time since he had killed the orc who had previously ruled the tribe, Ruknar could feel doubt in the minds of his warriors about his leadership. The ogre could feel the insults being slung from the tower, first by the dwarf and now by a cursed elf, challenging his superiority in the clan’s eyes still further.  Raising his falchion he roared and charged the tower, not even feeling the sting of a crossbow bolt as it bounced from him.

Elrohir fired arrows into several of the goblins who paused before following their leader while Armitage pulled out the wand he had recovered from the clan’s shaman waiting to time his one remaining shot for maximum effect.

Ruknar hit the door to the tower with a blow that splintered the massive bar holding it shut.  The tremor of the impact ran through the tower, on the first floor landing Dvadi spun to face the top of the stairs, ripped from his thoughts and certain from the sound that foes would soon storm through the broken door.  Planting his feet he weighed his axe in his hands preparing himself for the onslaught to come.  Yar, the goblin prisoner held by Hederas, panicked at the sound and struggled free of the cleric.  Bolting for the stairs he almost made it past Dvadi when the dwarf’s reflexes took charge, the creature was dead before he reached the third step.

In the courtyard Ruknar drew back howling, preparing to slam the door a second time.  The Bloodmoon Clan had swarmed up to him when Armitage spent the last charge from his wand.  A line of webbing drew a line in the air from the halfling’s outstretched hand to the ogre where it spread at incredible speed binding not only his mighty bulk but almost all the goblins, in thick and sticky bands.

When it had become obvious that the clan would attack Arris had finished his prayers and realised that, as grizzly as it was, the obvious choice was to use the bodies of the bandits to attack those below.  By the time the Armitage had entrapped the clan and their leader the first body was plummeting over the side.  It struck Ruknar and the goblin nearest to him with a sickening wet slapping impact momentarily stunning the mighty foe.  As Elrohir poured arrows down from the top of the tower Arris continued to heave bodies with terrible results.

Seeing the carnage below Armitage quickly dug through his belongings for the scroll case that he knew he carried.  As his eyes scanned the scroll the summoning spell sprang from his lips as if it had been pent up inside his head for months desperate to be free.  Focusing on the largest beast he could think of which the spell allowed him to call the air shimmered above the battlements, twisting in impossible ways.  Suddenly the air snapped back but where moments before there had been nothing instead a large aquatic beast lay tottering on the battlements.  The companions barged it and several hundred pounds of flesh and bone fell into the middle of the havoc below.  A wall of sundered flesh lay piled against the door, only three goblins remained alive and free of the web and at this last terrible impact those turned and ran.  Armitage cast a sleep spell, feeling the last of his magic ebbing from him as he did and the closest of the goblins crumpled.  The last two stumbled slightly but pressed on, the fear of what they had seen overcoming the slightly weakened spell, and they fled into the darkness of the donjon.

Hederas witnessed the final destruction of the clan’s chief from the first floor door to the battlements.  As the final goblins fled he walked out into the pouring rain, scrambled down from the battlements and strode over to where the female goblin lay sleeping.  The pause as Hederas questioned what he should do was longer than the watchers expected.  This was the same man who had returned from the tower with the heads of both the shaman and ogre as grizzly trophies of the battles.  With a sigh he raised his mace and brought it down hard into the head of the sleeping form in front of him.  As the blood flowed into the puddles, the rain flowing down his arms washing the gore from the mace head Hederas was a different man to the one who had only short days ago arrived at the tower eager for the fight.