6th Campaign - The Crystal Caverns
21st Day of Earth Wakes
The ancient and battered northern Andorian stronghold of Venthar Keep dominates a river island with a command of all of Northern Andoria. The Keep itself showed signs of a siege – several toppled towers are being rebuilt and several curtain walls had been pierced and are being filled by skilled human craftsman and dwaerim (hill dwarf) stonemasons. The proud Andorian locals quickly make clear to visitors that Venthar Keep had not actually fallen to the ogre magi’s minions during the Second Ogre War 35 years ago. All peoples of ‘Lith (Tarmolith) know the legacy of the massive Second Ogre War which ended in a costly victory for the combined Movran / Andorian / Ranthyrim forces under the command of the legendary Hrothgar the Wise. Had Andoria fallen the world quite possibly would be under the Ogre Magi’s tyrannical rule.
History aside, the banks of the Elissian River, where Venthar Keep strategically watches the scenic and important river, is teaming with activity. It is The Greening (spring) and ten-day festivities across ‘Lith have just been completed. With Greening Festivals long completed and hangovers recovered from, it is time for work – tilling fields on the long lots of the Ellisian, clearing roads of winter debris, and the notable gathering of Merchants for the first snows of the Sakend Mountain Passes to clear. Merchants from the coastal trade cities of the V’adel and the Southron Reaches of Andoria prepare to race for the Sakend Passes to bring their trade goods north to trade at Shimmerhold, Highvale, Bar Thoz, and to the “barbarian” peoples of the Movran Plains and Tundra.
It is well known that the Sakend Mountains’ passes are often raided by gnolls which have infested the Sakend Mountains for time immemorial so gathering of Knights of the Vale from V’adel, mercenaries hired by wealthy merchants, and Andorian knightly escorts typically gather at Venthar Keep upon The Greening. Disturbing rumors have catalyzed a massive mobilization of the famed military machine of the Andorian Knights – the ancestral defenders of the Andorian people. As such, more so than usual, military units gather at Venthar Keep and spill into the surrounding towns that support the fortress.
Into this mayhem a clandestine worshipper of Heironeous, a travel-worn Elanthyrim Elf, a Dwaeradim mercenary, a skilled swashbuckler, and a mountain dwarf seeking to explore the south converge upon Venthar Keep. These would-be heroes come to Venthar Keep seeking adventure, wealth, or following their own paths. Having just arrived the adventurers barely have time to take in the towns surrounding Venthar Keep before they are inundated with rumors.
The Ogre Mage’s armies are gathering on the Blood Strait!
Another Ogre War may be eminent though only 35 years has passed since the last, a descendent of Hrothgar the Wise – one named Hrothmir the Untried – has called a Plains Rialla (gathering of all Movran tribes) and has convinced the Movran people to gather for war and travel south!
Hrothmir seeks to plunder Andoria and V’adel!
Hrothmir seeks to invade Ranthyr as the Movrans have done in the past!
Hrothmir is coming to the aid of Andoria as his grandfather before him!
Hrothmir is coming to slay King Calaster and take his seat. Did you know that Hrothmir is half Andorian?
Somehow the Ogre Magi’s forces have bypassed Ranthyr and are raiding the North!
The Minotaur League masses their legions at Tel Okt Tel Mar and are preparing to advance south armed with dwaeradim weapons from Shimmerhold!
The Elves of Ranthyr are in the throws of Civil War!
The Ogre Magi have infiltrated the Andorian Military as they had the Andorian Nobility during the Second Ogre War!
This last rumor heralds the unfortunate arrival of Andorian Knights, squires, crossbowman, and even several members from the famed Andorian Order of Bards. To a man all visitors are arrested and brought to Venthar Keep for screening. The party, little prepared for a military arrest, is captured along with throngs of other visitors and politely but curtly escorted to a massive hall in Venthar Keep. There they are ordered to stand in a line with hundreds of merchants and other travelers. An Andorian Knight wearing the sigil of Andorian Eagle clutching a lance and shield (denoting his rank as a Lord Knight) enters the hall, quickly looks over each suspect, and notes a few individuals who are taken away by his attendant knights and squires. To each of the would-be heroes he asks them to remain a little longer – he has something to discuss. He then turns to the remaining suspects and dismisses them.
The party is escorted into a plush waiting room and served Andorian Sapphire Wine – an uncommon and strong southron vintage. Their host, who introduces himself as Lord Knight Ator Sildaris, carries a Starsword – an ancient blade crafted from the remnants of the destroyed Andorian home world (or so Andorian history claims). Kerian suspects that Lord Knight Ator Sildaris may be a King’s Templar – a secretive order of knights loyal to the king and clandestinely worshipping Kiri-Jolith, The God of Honorable Combat. If this is the case, healing supplies may be available from the King’s Templar in the future should they openly reveal themselves to the party. Lord Knight Ator Sildaris has seen potential (Kerian suspects divine aura readings by a cleric or paladin) in the newly gathered adventurers and offers them employment with payment for services rendered coming directlyfrom the coffers of the Andorian Knights. The party accepts and they are asked to quickly deal with missing shipments of supplies and weapons from the Andorian Peninsula that have been disappearing en route to Venthar Keep via the Elissan River.
The party accepts the job and opts to travel by horseback instead of by boat. They quickly find tracks and follow them into the bluffs overlooking the river. A bandit sentinel spots them and they are ordered to flee. A fight breaks out and the party is quickly victorious. An initial hail of arrows ricochets off an outcropping of rocks and one arrow is deflected out of the air by Jherek’s parrying sword. During the fight, Kerian unleashes the divine powers of Hieroneous. The magical wards of protection woven by the cleric shield the swordsman Jherek from an arrow that would have struck a killing blow in his neck. The dwarves are nonplussed by the magical display (having seen clerical magic often in subterranean Dwaerhearth) and quickly dispatch their remaining foes. Kerian stabilizes the bandit leader and the criminal is brought back to Venthar Keep where Lord Knight Ator Sildaris allows the party to gather supplies from the Keep’s stores (an amount equaling 200 gold pieces value for each party member).
22nd Day of Earth Wakes
The party awakens in a small guest barracks in Venthar Keep. A hearty breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, bread, and cheese is served along with another summons to Lord Knight Ator Sildaris’ war room. In the familiar chamber with a magnificent view of the Elissian River the party waits for the Lord Knight. The chamber is occupied by Hin – a secretive sorcerer. Hin had been rounded up in a similar manner as the rest of the party but had not been singled out by Lord Knight Ator Sildaris the way the rest of the party had the previous day. Instead he had been hand selected by a mysterious cloaked half elf as he was having his aura examined by the King’s Templar (as had the party the previous day). The adventurers don’t have time to ponder this stranger before the arrival of Sir Ator Sildaris who is accompanied by the mysterious half-elven woman.
Lord Knight Sildaris explains that, having proved themselves against the Kisvin Raiders on the Elissian River, he has another request. He asks that the heroes escort Brigantia Knowlern to the historic town of Tarn high in the Sakend Mountains on the scenic shores of Lake Aerydeen. This mission would be difficult as the snows where just now melting and the pass into the mountains would not have been scoured clear of hazards by Andorian patrols. It quickly becomes apparent that Lady Brigantia is a member of the Andorian Order of Bards – and likely a direct emissary of King Calaster. Her mission, regardless of its nature, would normally be supported by a contingent of powerful knights. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons the Lord Commander Tercival Bywater, supreme commander of Venthar Keep and the surrounding region, has not authorized a proper escort. Loyal to the king and, apparently, a long time friend of Brigantia, Lord Knight Ator Sildaris has turned to the party to act as escort.
Lady Brigantia explains that she will be meeting with emissaries from the Movran Plainsmen (representatives of the enigmatic Hrothmir the Untried). Hin, the secretive sorcerer, has been asked by Lady Brigantia to join her escort – she claims that a powerful Andorian Bard has seen him in the “legends of the future”. This very strange proclamation is accompanied by her secret revalation that she will not be meeting with Movrans but representatives of The Heartgrove – a faction of sylvan creatures that follow the will of the influential Ranthyr Heartgrove (a council of Treants that advocate the interests of all sylvan creatures of Ranthyr). She explains to Hin that this must remain secret until she knows she can trust her traveling companions.
23rd Day of Earth Wakes
The party departs from Venthar Keep on the 23rd Day of Earth Wakes and makes their way toward the massive bridge across the Elissian River. Halfway through the day they turn north and make their way toward the hill towns and the mountain pass leading toward Ironwall and Tarn. Before nightfall they enter the town of Hillcrest, purchase supplies, and inquire about the road ahead. They meet the grizzled veteran Adolen – the Constable of Hillcrest. Adolen, a Movran Plainsmen, served as a scout during the Second Ogre War. When asked to tell of a tale from the war he describes the exploits of a dwarven mercenary band from Dwaerhearth (for the benefit of the Dwaeradim party members). Later, the party learns of several hazards they may have to face – wandering monsters, washed out roads, dangerous spring torrents, potential avalanches, and the dreaded Fresh Kills Gnoll clan whose raiders had been spotted hunting in the region.
24th Day of Earth Wakes
The party leaves Hillcrest (having bought supplies and local alcoholic beverages for the road). Halfway through their journey they start to hear the yips, howls, and barks of the gnolls echoing throughout the hills. The 24th Day of Earth Wakes passes without mishap for the party.
25th Day of Earth Wakes
The party awakens cold and is anxious to be on the road once again. The terrain is beautiful – the first signs of the Greening (spring) are touching the mountain foothills. Before noon the road begins to wind steadily upward. Just before evening, the party is alerted to the sounds of screaming humans and barking laughter of gnolls. Fearful of leaving the hapless human victims to the devices of their gnoll tormenters the party rushes to the sounds of violence. The party ambushes three gnolls and their pet wolf. The battle is brief but bloody and the party successfully saves several hapless hunters. One skilled huntswoman – Tilmara – has been eviscerated by a gnoll spear and lies dying. Calling upon the might of Hironeous, despite the risk of alerting the local population that he is a pariah and user of magic, Kerian heals the dying hunter. Tilmara’s entrails literally pull back into her wound and she is immediately saved! Instead of turning on Kerian his miracle is heralded with favor (not thanks to Kerian’s kind, powerful, and convincing words). The hunters promise to keep Kerian’s secret safe and should the party ever return to Hillcrest they would have fine winter cloaks waiting for them.
Reward: Masterwork Winter Cloak (+1 saves versus exposure effects).
26th Day of Earth Wakes
The party again awakens early and makes their way deeper into the Sakend Mountains. Nearing mid afternoon, Doggle the Dwaeradim notices a series of runes. These glyphs are crafted by an expedition of Dwaezak’hun – the venerated Valeguard and announce that a dwarven outpost is nearby! What the Valeguard is doing so far south of the Howling Vale eludes the party. Alert to the presence of a dwarven outpost, Doggle finds it fairly readily. The party cautiously approaches lead by Crunokt.
They soon start hearing bizarre snippets of dwarven! The dwarven language doesn’t make sense! It is random sentences spoken without context – dwarven curses, bawdy statements, and other random dwarven sayings. Unsure how to react Crunokt advances… and is ambushed by two Jinkin. Jinkin are the dreaded fey menace of dwarven society – the gremlins are as vicious as they are evil, often sabotage dwarven mechanisms and are capable of cursing items when they are in numbers!
The party quickly clears out the dwarven outpost including a vicious Nuglub – a powerful and extremely evil gremlin. The party discovers a magical hammer (after unloading a hex cast upon the weapon on a nearly dead Jinkin) and evidence of dwarven mining activity. Strangely, no mining operations exist near the outpost so ore-laden stones must have come from elsewhere.
27th Day of Earth Wakes
The Party is tracked by a war band of gnolls through the Greening rains. Opting not to take shelter in a ruined town (a legacy of the Second Ogre War that devastated the region) the party presses on utilizing the divine energy of Heironeous to power their weary limbs. Eventually the gnoll war band ambushes the party at an outcropping of boulders and a terrible fight occurs. The party is nearly defeated and all suffer grave wounds before slaying all Fresh Kills gnolls.
28th Day of Earth Wakes
The Party continues to travel swiftly, once again utilizing the divine energies of Heironeous to press ever onward. Despite being exhausted the party reaches the safety of Ironwall. The massive magical structure looms over the party – no wonder the Movran and Andorian armies were able to hold the pass during a winter campaign against the Ogre Magi’s minions during the Second Ogre War! The party is welcomed by a patrol of Andorian Knights. Being the first to make the dangerous journey the small taxes on the road are waved by the Castellan of Ironwall. The party opts to make their way to the Traveler’s Stop Inn – a few hours journey away from Ironwall and the barracks there.
En route, the party finds a ravished bugbear (obviously grievously wounded before it died). Now dead at the hands of gnoll raiders and their wolf companions the bugbear’s story is a mystery. The mystery isn’t even pondered until the gnoll raiders are driven away and their manic wolf minions slain. During the fight, Sir Cage Blunnde, an Andorian Knight, and a kindly innkeeper named Ostler Merinwaite assist the party (though they arrive too late to really help directly). The party recovers a strange dagger with magical properties in the bushes near the gnolls – it was obviously dropped (thrown?) their by the bugbear. It becomes readily apparent that the bugbear was disguised as a human and had been making his way to the Traveler’s Stop Inn before he was slain.
29th Day of Earth Wakes
Upon reaching the Traveler’s Stop Inn, the party orders breakfast (it is that late) and rooms (for the day). Weary, some of the party opts to rest immediately. Others stay in a crowded common room of the Traveler’s Stop Inn and drink local Elderberry Wine. Greening Celebrations continue in the mountains, as there is little to do but wait for Greening thaws and the arrival of merchants making their way to the North Pass to the Moonshelf and Movran Plains.
Lady Brigantia Knowlern immediately befriends a traveling Maester of Antiquities – Phoenius Krane. Lady Knowlern claims him to be a famous scholar. Meanwhile, with several party members resting in rooms above the common room an angry mercenary confronts the sleepy swashbuckler and dwarves. Grelm – a swordsman of the Black Company. A pale Ice Elf named Nirashi and a fat scholar named Pudge accompany the swordsman. Rudely claiming the dagger (how they knew the party had it is unknown) a barroom brawl quickly breaks out with fat slaps from Pudge, missile kick to the nuts by Nirashi, and a thrown table from Grelm. The party is swiftly victorious with Grelm going down in a chokehold to the dwarves and Sir Cage Blunnde intervening and threatening to arrest everyone involved. During the fight a rare and priceless shroud Maester Krane was showing to Lady Knowlern is incinerated.
Sir Cage Blunnde orders all involved confined to their rooms. Taking the dagger for safekeeping Sir Cage waits until his orders are followed.
Later in the evening a trial occurs and the mysterious news that the dagger in question has been stolen. Sir Cage is furious and several party people present at the inn are taken into custody. Crunokt is accused of being seen outside the Knight’s room along with Grelm, Huckaby Trent (a farmer), Estelle Winterbloom (a pretty young woman), and Lork (a gnome). Evidence is given and refuted (mostly by Kerian) until it is unsure who may have stolen the dagger. Sir Cage explains physical evidence – sticky marks on his pillow (under which the dagger had been hidden). Later, Doggle finds additional evidence – small claw-like scratches, mud, and hay near the Knight’s window. Doggle and Sir Cage opt to check out the bard where they are attacked by a massive owl! Doggle subdues the beast but it is promptly slain by the suspicious knight. With the death of the owl, Lork – the gnome accused – screams and falls into a catatonic state!
It is ultimately confessed that Lork is a sorcerer and that the owl was his beloved familiar. He had used a spell to put Sir Cage to sleep and the owl had stolen the magical dagger. The dagger was then found on Lork’s person. In any other society Lork would serve time for thievery. In Andorian society his use of magic warranted a death sentence. Lork was taken away and locked in a cell at the Andorian Barracks at Ironwall. All other suspects were released and the question of the dagger’s owner once again came to fore.
30th Day of Earth Wakes
Journey, destruction of the Black Company, recovery of druidic vestments
31st Day of Earth Wakes
return to the Traveler’s Stop
32th Day of Earth Wakes
return of the dagger, talked with Sir Cage, talked with Estelle Winterbloom, attacked by gnoll cleric and undead, elist Estelle’s help to rescue Lork the Gnome (scheduled to be executed for his “sorcerous ways”). Doggle travels back to Ironwall to sell weapons to the Andorian Knights.
1st Day of Flower Blooms
The party encounters the Andorian prison train destined for Tarn’s square – were Lork the Gnome is to be executed and burned. Hin uses a disguise self scroll from Estelle and convinces an Andorian Knight to investigate gnolls (a reasonable bluff). The party then ambushes an Andorian prison train after using enchantments to befuddle the remaining guards. The party makes it look as if Lork’s spells were to be blamed for the “charms” and left ample trace of gnollish shenanigans. Lork is freed and escapes into the wilderness.
2nd Day of Flower Blooms
The party arrives in Tarn. They are disturbed by the staked bodies of twenty-two citizens leading into the town. They are ushered into safety by Estelle’s familiar – an angelic Silveshnee.