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Autumn Frontiers

Returning to Delen as Conquering Heroes
Autumn Frontiers, Session 11
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Unfinished Business at the Ruined Monastery
Autumn Frontiers, Session 10

The party—Prometheor, Trekhart, Atabraxes Stormcrow, Jalez and Kez—scaled the high cliffs of the Cradle Bluffs and beheld the mystery of Naspers: a circle of standing stones that radiated foul power. Strung on chains between the stones were the gruesome remains of several human bodies. In the center of the circle, a singular block of solid rock appeared out of place in the grassy hillock. Over the lip of the cliff, some 100 feet below, the river burbled quietly as it snaked through the grim swampland.

The adventurers didn’t tarry in the strange region, for they felt its raw, untapped power gnawing at their own magical energy. They quickly gathered what artifacts could be found: 4 obsidian skeleton keys from the fabled Darkwater Keep, as well as a map showing the location of the hulking ruin.

They spent the night near the circle of standing stones and encountered a trio of traveling druids, but were otherwise unmolested.

The next day the party headed back to Naspers and loaded up their loot, including a prodigious amount of silver coins and other valuable items. They set off on foot for Delen, intending to return and take a well-earned rest, but they were sidetracked when their journey took them near the ruined monastery that had claimed Everitt’s life.

The barbarian Atabraxes, consumed with rage and vengeance, led the party into the depths of the dungeon in an attempt to root out the evil that festered there. This led them into a confrontation with a giant purple worm that burst through the dungeon floor and swallowed Atabraxes whole! Only the concerted efforts of his fellow adventurers saved him from a grisly death (and subsequent digestion).

Exhausted from their efforts at exploring the monastery, the party camped for the night in a room near the entrance to the ruins. Giant spiders boiled up from the gaping hole in the floor and sought to defeat the rogues, but they fought back and slew the beasts. Thus their safety was ensured for another night…

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The Mystery of Naspers
Autumn Frontiers, Session 9

The morning dawned cold and gray, and the three adventurers—Prometheor, Jalez Vul Duru and Atabraxes Stormcrow—awoke at their camp on the Crandar Moors.

The night before, the three heroes had led a group of refugees in a desperate battle against the Blood Kin Orcs. Now they prepared to continue their quest east, through the gloomy swamp and on to Naspers itself. They were joined by a half-elf named Trekhart who had journeyed south from Delen to meet up with the adventurers. He too was intrigued by the mystery of Naspers, and together they pushed deep into the swamps.

Following the keen tracking skill of Trekhart, the heroes stumbled across artifacts that must surely have come from the refugees’ escape from Naspers many months ago. Broken equipment, children’s toys and discarded clothing spoke of a chaotic, disorganized retreat from the village.

After several hours slogging through the brackish swamp, the four adventurers came upon Naspers itself. The village was composed of perhaps a dozen wooden and stone structures. The buildings stood atop sturdy beams sunk deep into the marshy ground. These stilts kept the huts elevated 15 feet above the murky marsh that had encroached into the village.

The adventurers spent most of the afternoon exploring the ruined village, uncovering some small treasures and learning more about the fate of the refugees in the months leading up to their flight. That night they camped in one of two guard towers that looked out onto the silent swamp.

It was only when they moved into the great hall early the next morning that they ran afoul of the ghoul pack that had stalked them since the day before. The fight was brutal and nearly one-sided, but for Prometheor’s inadvertent sacrifice. The noble holy knight, having been laid low by the ghouls’ paralyzing touch, relinquished his grip on Rhianna’s Kiss, his blessed longsword. The ghouls immediately grasped the blade and fled into the darkness, buying precious time for Stormcrow and Trekhart to barricade the ghouls inside the great hall and escape with their two unconscious colleagues.

Once the group had rested and healed, they laid plans to ambush the ghouls in the ruined village. This they accomplished with ruthless prejudice; then they prepared to spend their second night in Naspers.

The next day, Atabraxes Stormcrow used his arcane magic to transform into a mighty raven. Soaring high above the dark swamp, he soon spied the river bluffs where the remains of holy pilgrims were rumored to be strewn about. The four adventurers made for this escarpment with all haste, pushing through the evil bog and reaching their destination at midday.

The four adventurers climbed the bluff and beheld a great circle of standing stones. Between these tall rocks they saw the tattered remains of several bodies strung from ropes and chains. In the center of the stone circle was a larger chunk of rock, different somehow and covered with mysterious runes.

The party had found Naspers and the gruesome charnel ruins atop the bluffs, but the mystery had only deepened…

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Battle at the Riksen River
Autumn Frontiers, Session 8

Stunned at the loss of Everitt, the adventuring party spent many days contemplating how to best continue on to Naspers. This effort got a boost with the arrival of Atabraxes Stormcrow, a barbarian northlander with a very curious connection to Everitt. Three adventurers (Prometheor, Jalez and Stormcrow) then decided to resume their quest to Naspers, hoping to reach the mysterious village and put to rest the rumors surrounding its demise. This time, however, they wisely avoided a direct route into the swamps.

Instead, the three heroes chose to track down the surviving villagers from Naspers. Rumor had it they had had fled west many months ago to seek shelter in the Crandar Moors. Surely these fearful folk would have more knowledge of their erstwhile home?

The adventurers’ route took them across the Great River to the untamed lands past its western bank. Atabraxes Stormcrow was the first to find evidence of a savage culture that prowled these wild landst. Heavily traveled foot paths and gruesome totems indicated that a race of fearsome humanoids laid claim to the western wilderlands.

The adventurers eventually came to a large, slow-moving stream, which they knew from their map to be the Riksen River. The stone bridge that spanned its breadth had fallen into ruin, but nevertheless the three heroes were able to ford the river and continue south. After several more hours of arduous travel, the party came to the Crandar Moors—a windswept vista of grassy hills dotted with small copses of trees. An hour later, the group came across the refugee settlement itself: a collection of crude tents, cookfires and latrines, inhabited by some 60 former residents of Naspers.

The group met Yinivax, the gnarled, aging leader of the band. He explained the history of Naspers, how decades ago the village had been a thriving town full of prosperous residents. Then, some thirty years ago, a small marsh nearby had slowly begun to encroach on Naspers, swallowing up farmlands, paved roads and eventually cloaking the village itself in mist and gloom. A curse fell on Naspers. Babies were born deformed; strong men died young; crops failed. Still the villagers held out, Yinivax said, “Until the dead walked out of the swamp.”

The villagers fled in terror, seeking refuge in the Crandar Moors. They struck a tenuous peace with the Blood Kin Orcs, who ruled the lands from the Eslohen Forest to the north. But the three adventurers had carelessly violated this agreement when they struck down the gruesome totems that lined the river bank.

After much discussion – knowing an attack was imminent – the adventurers decided to meet the Orcs in open combat while the bulk of the villagers escaped to safety. The battle was joined at a river crossing, and the invading Orcs were beaten back with the help of a brave contingent of fighters conscripted from the villagers. The refugees (presumably) continued their escape north to Delen, while the three adventurers continued south, skirting the edges of the vast, trackless swamp.

They camped in the Moors overnight, watching warily from afar as unseen figures carrying torches swept up and down the length of the river ford, as if searching for something…

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The Marshes of Despair
Autumn Frontiers, Session 7

After a bit of dithering in Delen, the four adventurers (Prometheor, Everitt, Jalez and Balthus) departed, hoping once again to reach Naspers and unlock its secrets. They chose to cross the Great River and head south, plunging headlong into the region’s thick swampland. It took the party nearly a day to journey to the swamp’s northern borders, where the land grew spongy and soft, and moss grew thick on the rocks and boulders.

The swamp itself was shrouded in mist, and indeed the clouds quickly gathered, threatening rain on the four adventurers. Still they soldiered on. Gloom closed in as twilight fell. Soon the rogues were stumbling through knee-deep muck, keeping a wary eye on the clouds. Earlier that afternoon, Everitt had spied dark shapes speeding through the clouds high above their heads, as if watching them. Mindful of this distant threat, the adventurers pressed deeper into the swamp. The light rain intensified, becoming a frigid downpour that drenched them to the bone.

Soon the characters stumbled onto a low, broken stone wall that ran roughly east-west. Following it east, the four heroes came across a stunning sight: a tall, spindly tower reaching high into the steel-gray sky. Great holes were gouged in its side, and the whole structure appeared to be slumped haphazardly in the marshy land. The party quickly decided to seek shelter inside its walls. The original doorway was almost completely submerged, but Everitt the enterprising thief found a way inside.

As the heroes squirmed in through the opening, a dire threat made itself known. Lurking in the belfry of the tall tower was a group of stone-skinned gargoyles. The vile beasts launched themselves at the invaders, resulting in a fierce, desperate battle in the tower’s depths.

Though the four adventurers fought valiantly, Everitt was greviously wounded. He fell the ground, still clutching the enchanted Curnithan tuning fork that gave off intense illumination. Drawn to the light source, the gargoyles fell on Everitt, smashing his body again and again into the rubble of the tower. His blood stained the rocks. He was dead.

United in grief, the heroes fled the tower, dragging Everitt’s broken body with them; Jalez’s arcane magic dispatched one of the gargoyles during the escape. They plunged into the swamp with only a vague idea of where they were going. Soon, shambling zombies loomed out of the mist and rain, drawn to the chaos of the retreat. Only the holy faith of Prometheor and Balthus pushed back the undead horrors.

Deeper in the swamp, Balthus’s horse Bluebell was attacked and poisoned by a huge, voracious spider. This multi-legged beast was quickly dispatched by the paladin, and the four heroes were astonished to discover a hollow tree that was mercifully dry and vacant. They spent the night there, sheltering from the horrors of the swamp.

The next day, rejuvenated but still mindful of Everitt’s sacrifice in the ruined tower, the party made its way back to Delen. The swamp had proven to be more than a match for the four explorers—but they were determined to return and plumb its secrets.

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Go west, to the Great River
Autumn Frontiers, Session 6

The five adventurers (Prometheor, Kez, Everitt, Jalez and Balthus) awoke the next morning in Castle Curnitha. The morning was bright and cold; autumn was slowly giving way to winter, and the paladins at Curnitha implored Balthus to stay and help them stock provisions for the cold season. He declined, choosing instead to join his newfound friends on their quest south. After some discussion, they decided their best chance at finding the route to Naspers would be to make their way to Delen, a large village situated on the banks of the Great River.

Knight Commander Lucius Pentus, the captain of the few remaining paladins at Curnitha, offered wise counsel as to the best route to Delen. “Head west, to the Great River, and then follow it south,” he said. “That is the way to Delen.”

And so the party set off. The sky was clear and the wind cut through their heavy cloaks; winter was indeed close at hand. The route west cut through the Faris Hills. In the early afternoon, Kez spotted dark shapes high in the sky, circling the party. He attempted to drive them off, to no avail. At the same time Everitt, who was traveling ahead of the main party, came across a ruined village. Bodies clad in the livery of the invading army were strewn about in the grassy valley near burnt-out huts and shacks. The bodies had been savaged by an unknown foe.

The party moved on, reaching a high bluff overlooking the Great River’s east bank by dusk. There they bore witness to a mysterious phenomenon; as the sun set, a shimmering curtain of green energy rose silently from the river, cordoning off the west bank from the party as far as the eye could see. The five adventurers later learned that this magical enchantment was meant to protect the lands near Curnitha and Terish De’Carn from the savage beasts who dwelled across the Great River.

During the night, the party heard a commotion and was drawn back to the abandoned village. There, in the light of Prometheor’s sword, they saw two large ravens lifting corpses out of the ground. These dead husks, having been animated by arcane energies, then lurched forward to attack the adventurers!

The battle was brief but intense, and one of the black ravens escaped into the night. The next day, the party continued the trek south, following the east bank of the Great River. At midday, they came across a barge crewed by stout men. Words were exchanged, and the boat’s captain agreed to ferry them the rest of the way to Delen.

At Delen, the five adventurers gained decent lodging at the Spitted Boar, a tavern of mild repute. They eagerly washed away the filth of the last two weeks in the tavern’s bathhouse before enjoying a pint of ale in the common room. Naspers was the topic at hand, and the adventurers sought advice on how to get there and what they might expect to find. All present agreed that Naspers was a cursed place, having been consumed by the fetid swamp that surrounded it, and was a place best left forgotten.

This did not sit well with the five rogues, and they made plans to quest for Naspers in a week’s time.

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Slavers at Castle Curnitha
Autumn Frontiers, Session 5

The four adventurers, guests of the Sounding Sword paladins, prepared to spend a well-earned night behind Castle Curnitha’s stout granite walls. Sage Vilmon, an elderly paladin who still wore his chainmail with pride, consulted his books and prepared a salve for Jalez’s wounded arm. Everitt, Prometheor and Kez bedded down in the castle’s great hall with the few holy knights who remained.

As night fell, Balthus the paladin returned from a sojourn to the east. He had trailed a band of slavers near the Darkwater River, gauging their number and harrying their flanks before returning to Curnitha to report. He brought with him several rescued villagers, innocent souls who could scarcely comprehend the fate they had narrowly avoided.

Balthus proved to be a warm-hearted comrade, and the four adventurers accepted him into their rank. Night fell, and the heroes drifted off to sleep near the great hall’s roaring fireplace. After dark, Kez and Everitt crept out to explore the drafty, expansive halls of the mostly abandoned castle.

Just before dawn, an alarm bell rang out. Guard on the wall had spotted intruders moving through the ruins just beyond Castle Curnitha’s portcullis. In truth, the castle itself was just one part of a much larger fortress that spanned the breadth of the valley they found themselves in. The rest of the complex had long since fallen into ruin, and centuries ago a small river had flooded these lowlands, creating a shallow marsh punctuated with half-crumbled towers and ruined battlements. It was in this treacherous terrain that the Sounding Sword paladins had spotted their quarry.

Balthus, Everitt, Kez and Prometheor pledged to sally forth and confront the enemy; Jalez, sleeping off the effects of his healing salve, remained behind in the castle itself. Everitt and Kez crept through the swampy terrain to close in on the intruders. Soon, they were close enough to hear voices—the miscreants proved to be a party of slavers from the same band that Balthus had confronted. They were snooping around the flooded ruins, perhaps seeking an underground passage into Castle Curnitha!

Kez and Everitt, together with a helpful bear, attacked the slavers. Back at the castle walls, Prometheor and Balthus leapt astride a warhorse and galloped across the marshy plain to lend their swords to the fray. The four adventurers quickly dispatched the slavers, but not before one tumbled into a vertical chute fashioned out of brick that led down into a dim, watery tunnel.

After a brief discussion of tactics, the party followed the slaver down into the depths. There, in the neck-deep water of the ancient flooded passageway, they fought and subdued two more slavers. They discovered that the marshy plain was riddled with forgotten passageways and flooded tunnels leading into the depths of Castle Curnitha…the paladins would never be safe until these warrens were thoroughly explored and sealed off from snooping raiders.

The four adventurers made their way back to the castle and snatched what little rest they could as dawn stole across the sky. It had been an eventful night, but more trials and tribulations were sure to come as the party continued its trek south, to Naspers and beyond…

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Traveling the Faris High Road
Autumn Frontiers, Session 4

The four adventurers huddled in the darkness of the cavern, feeling the chilly, ankle-deep water swirl around their feet. Their unseen attackers snarled and hissed — but wisely stayed outside the glow of the party’s torchlight. Realizing that Jalez was greviously wounded and that they were likely outnumbered, the other three adventurers decided to withdraw from the caverns and lure their foes — goblins, yes, and two vicious gnolls — into the ruins of Tora Norrith.

They retreated through the cramped hillside tunnel, helping Jalez as best they could and emerging a few minutes later in the gloomy lower level of the ruined drum tower. The party immediately set about preparing for combat, but their pursuers never showed. In fact, nothing emerged from the tunnel throughout the night, and when dawn broke in the morning, the party encountered a gang of villagers from Terish De’Carn, intent on continuing their work rebuildiing the crumbling curtain wall. After warning them of the goblins and gnolls that lurked in the hills, the rogues surveyed the landscape, looking for signs of their quarry.

Everitt spotted a small stream coming out of the hillside a quarter mile to the north; this stream led to a small, fortified opening cut into the side of the hill and braced with heavy oak beams. It appeared to be the mouth of a tunnel. Once inside, the party found out that it did indeed lead to the same cavern complex that linked up with Tora Norrith. Cautiously the four heroes delved into the caves, but this time they did so unmolested. Their adversaries had packed up and fled, evidently. All that remained was evidence of the goblins’ camp and a few artifacts. Further investigation revealed a series of rectangular storerooms carved out of the rock of the hillside; these were mostly empty, but the party made note of them in case they ever returned to Tora Norrith.

Outside, the villagers were laboring mightily to rebuild the wall, one stone at a time. Here the party decided to split up. Kez elected to remain at the work site and craft a cloak from the hide of a dead tunnel wolf. Prometheor, ever the pure-hearted stalwart, chose to pitch in and help the villagers with their tasks. Jalez, now conscious but nursing a crippled arm, and Everitt opted to return to Terish De’Carn, stock up on essential supplies, and return to the camp site before nightfall.

In Terish De’Carn, Jalez used a portion of the group’s hard-won money to purchase some much-needed provisions from a helpful merchant named Sturgis. He and Everitt then headed to Garron’s blacksmith shop — but the one-armed forgemaster’s eyes grew big when he saw Everitt. “You must leave,” he said firmly. “Mercenaries from the Vogales Peaks have been sent out with orders to find and capture you. I don’t know who you angered, friend, but they’ve come to collect on that debt.”

A visibly disturbed Everitt wisely headed into the hills around the village while Jalez finished up his business in Terish De’Carn. Together the two rogues returned to the ruins of Tora Norrith west of the village and relayed this troubling news. The party decided to proceed to Naspers and follow up on ghastly rumors that both Prometheor and Jalez had heard about holy pilgrims traveling in the area.

The party struck out across the wilderness, moving quickly through the Faris Hills and onto the Faris High Road, an ancient, overgrown thoroughfare that meandered along hilltops and ridges, heading generally in a southerly direction. They stopped for the evening after logging nearly a dozen miles. That night, as they camped atop a rocky promontory, the party heard the telltale sounds of a lone horseman approaching from the south along the road. The rider galloped into the flickering torchlight, revealing himself to be a mail-clad swordsman in a blood-soaked white tunic. The device on his tunic showed a pair of stylized trumpets. The rider sagged weakly in the saddle but still managed the vigor to raise his sword and challenge the four adventurers. “Identify yourselves or stand aside,” he announced through gritted teeth.

The party learned that he was Angmar, a paladin of the Sounding Sword order. A small contingent of the holy knights was based in Curnitha, an old castle just a few hours south. Their mission was to safeguard travelers along the Faris High Road and look after the dozens of isolated villages in the wilderlands. In fact, Angmar had set off just hours ago for Terish De’Carn, but he had been waylaid and fatally wounded after a brush with some vicious army deserters — the same group, no doubt, that had ambushed the four rogues several days ago near Tora Norrith. Working together, Prometheor and Kez healed Angmar of his wounds. In gratitude, he gave them directions to Curnitha and bade them speak to Knight Commander Lucius Pentus, the holy knights’ leader. Then he mounted his horse and continued his solitary journey to Terish De’Carn.

The next morning, the party set off for Curnitha. Following Angmar’s directions, they found the sprawling castle near the terminus of the Faris High Road. It was a huge place, built of stout red granite blocks and festooned with towers, bridges and battlements. But as they learned from meeting with Lucius Pentus, the Order of the Sounding Sword was severely depleted, its knights spread too thin in the wilderlands. In recent months, calls of assistance from far-flung settlements had only increased as winter crept across the lands. Lucius Pentus was particularly concerned about The Wilds, a vast, trackless forest many days’ ride to the east. Paladins returning from that region spoke of strange, baleful fires that burned in the ruins of a once-great castle on the edge of the haunted woodlands. Lucius Pentus also expressed concern about the Clarion Citadel, a smaller outpost west of Curnitha that was manned by a small group of paladins. Their regular reports had grown sporadic of late.

The party told Lucius Pentus of their desire to travel to Naspers and investigate the murder of holy pilgrims in the swamps around the village, and they requested aid for their comrade Jalez. Lucius pledged help for the wounded wizard — but only on the condition that the adventurers make contact with Naspers’ villagers and return them safely to Curnitha to weather the coming winter. The deal was struck, and the four heroes retired to Curnitha’s cold, spartan quarters to spend the night. Outside, the autumn wind howled fitfully…

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Exploring the Ruins
Autumn Frontiers, Session 3

Mere minutes after the oil-fueled conflagration died down in Tora Norrith’s lowermost level, the wary adventurers returned to plumb the dank, shadowy depths. A full-fledged thunderstorm lashed the hillside around the ruined castle, sending rainwater streaming in through the gaping holes in the tower’s floors and ceilings and helping to snuff out the flames.

The party spent the better part of an hour exploring the bottom level of the keep. The circular chamber was approximately 100 feet across, strewn with great boulders and heaps of stone masonry from the half-collapsed tower. The ruins of two great siege engines — bolt-throwing ballistae, by the looks of them — were found moldering in the dark. Nearby, Everitt found a simple iron lever mounted on the inside wall, and with effort he managed to operate the adjoining mechanism, causing a 15-foot-long wooden shutter to swing open. Outside, lightning flashed and the rain streamed in through the newly opened portal. The wooden shutter, it seemed, was intended to allow the ballistae to cover the approaches to the half-finished castle — but like so many things in Tora Norrith, their utility had been lost to the gnawing sands of time.

A shallow, slow-moving stream cut through the lowermost level of the tower, babbling quietly over the mossy rubble and disappearing into a small opening in the hillside. As the party moved to investigate it, Jalez stooped and retrieved a curious magical device, which would later prove to be a fabled scrying stone, intended to help translate the many different dialects used by the dwarves of The Vogales Peaks.

The party now faced a decision. Having expended precious resources during the exploration, they were now exhausted and in need of rest. It was nearing midnight, and rain still poured through the leaky keep. The adventurers decided to seek refuge in the corridors of the curtain wall itself.

As they moved to make camp in the dry, dusty upper corridor, Everitt and Kez wisely began crafting makeshift torches to replace the party’s dwindling supply. Jalez spent some time studying his new scrying stone in an attempt to decipher the Dwarven runes they’d spotted earlier. Prometheor moved to the collapsed opening of the curtain wall, where he could stay dry and still keep an eye on the surrounding wilderness.

Hours passed. Near the end of Prometheor’s watch, a flicker of movement atop the keep’s towering battlements caught his eye. A dark, sly shape appeared for a moment, then it was gone. But that was enough to put the paladin of Rhianna into full “purge” mode! Rousing his sleeping comrades, Prometheor drew his sword and moved to into the second level of the drum tower.

The party burst through the oaken door, and at precisely that moment, lightning flared across the stormy sky, illuminating the scene in the stone tower in striking detail. Two pallid, hunched humanoids were clambering down a length of rope that led up to the battlements atop the keep. They were clad in ramshackle armor and had rusty blades clenched tight in their teeth; their eyes glowed a dim red in the darkness. Goblins!

Prometheor moved quickly to attack, felling one of the foul creatures with a flurry of powerful sword blows. The second goblin reacted quickly, fleeing down the stairs that led to the lowest level of the keep. Everitt, in an attempt to head off the fleeing wretch, leapt down through one of the gaping holes in the floor. But he landed badly, stumbling to his knees, and was immediately set upon by two snarling tunnel wolves — voracious creatures bred and twisted by goblins to be long and lean, perfect for plying the trackless tunnels that make up goblin warrens.

Kez mustered his magic and cast a powerful spell on one of the wolves, temporarily gainings its animal trust. He then ordered it to attack its brother, and the two animals began fighting furiously in the darkness of the keep’s lowest level. Determined to catch the fleeing goblins, the four adventurers pursued their quarry through a dank, root-choked tunnel that led through the tower’s stout stone wall and deep into the hillside. The small creek flowed through the center of the cramped corridor, and the low ceilings meant that even the venerable Jalez Vul Duru had to crawl on his hands and knees through the passageway.

Eventually, though, the tunnel opened up into a large cavern. How large, exactly, was unknown; the darkness was total, and the party’s torches did little to penetrate the blackness. The small stream at their feet flowed into a large, shallow underground pool. As the group took their first tentative steps into the trackless cavern, a cacaphony of snarls arose. It sounded as though an entire swarm of goblins lurked just beyond their flickering torchlight!

Rather than retreat, the party moved deeper into the cavern, sloshing through knee-deep water and fighting off marauding goblins. Crossbow bolts fired from their unseen adversaries flew thick through the gloom. One lucky shot cut deep into Jalez’s shoulder, causing the wizard to fall insensate to the ground. This added burden did little to improve the party’s situation in the caverns. Huddling behind the cover offered by Prometheor’s broad shield, the four rogues desperately sought to plan out their next move. In the darkness, the goblins hissed and howled…

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The Ruins of Tora Norrith
Autumn Frontiers, Session 2

Night was falling when the party began to investigate the ruins of Tora Norrith. Prometheor and Jalez chose to creep slowly through the lower of the two tunnels, while Everitt and Kez (the two more agile adventurers, to be sure) clambered up the jumbled piles of stonemasonry to enter the upper corridor.

As Prometheor and Jalez moved deeper into the gloom of the tunnel, the floor sloped down, and soon the two rogues were ankle-deep in brackish black water. Venturing deeper, Prometheor found himself set upon by a pack of vile, wriggling black leeches the size of his arm, but the holy fires of Rhianna purged these vermin before the astonished eyes of Jalez. At the end of the subterranean corridor, some 30 feet from the rubble-strewn entrance, Prometheor and Jalez encountered a heavy oaken door banded in iron. Acting without thinking, Prometheor worked the latch to open the door — inadvertently triggering a trap that flooded the lower chamber, flushing the two miscreants back out into their campsite in a torrent of water.

Up top, Kez and Everitt moved warily down an inky black passageway that was a mirror image of the one below — albeit drier. With the sun now fully set, the two adventurers lit torches and crept down the shadowy hallway, encountering no threats but discovering several copper cauldrons full of black oil. They were joined shortly by Jalez and Prometheor. Thus united, the party moved deeper into the corridor and encountered a door, very much like Prometheor’s own portal on the level below.

This time, though, the door was blocked by a partially collapsed wall, which the adventurers dealt with the old-fashioned way: with shovel and pickaxe! After half an hour of backbreaking work, the four cleared the rubble away and prepared to open the oaken portal. Suddenly, a wail cut through the dim hallway, coming from the direction of the camp. The party rushed back to the mouth of the tunnel, only to find their two bandit-henchman gone and huge humanoid footprints sunk deep into the earth around the campsite. A light rain began to fall, and ominous thunderclouds loomed on the horizon.

Back in the tunnel, the party successfully opened the door and stepped through into the middle level of the three-tiered stone drum tower. By torchlight, the adventurers explored the circular chamber, noting the huge holes in the floor and ceiling, and the heaps of broken masonry that indicated the keep’s state of ruin. Runes and etchings were carved into the pillars and doorways; Jalez deduced that they were of Dwarven origin. By casting ropes, the party was able to clamber up to the third level, which was open to the sky and ringed with battlements.

The rain intensified as the party moved down to the lowest level, strewn with huge heaps of broken stone covered in thick moss. The rubble was teeming with giant beetles, four feet long and gleaming black! Protected by Prometheor’s stout shield, the group quickly fought their way up the stairs to the second level, where they devised a trap to pour burning pitch rom the nearby cauldrons into the beetles’ sanctuary below. But the beetles had plans of their own — several of the the gnashing insectoids swarmed up the stairs and lashed out at Jalez, even as the wizard prepared to unleash his fearsome spells.

Only quick thinking from Kez and Everitt kept Jalez alive long enough for the adventurers to follow through with their plan. They dumped the oil through the great holes in the stone floor and down into the lowest level, setting this fuel ablaze with a single torch. The beetles hissed and snarled as their carapaces cracked open and burned. Within a few minutes, the raging inferno had died down, and the adventurers eyed each other warily before heading down once more to investigate the lowest level…

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