Campaign Journal #19
A Record of Events by Uriah Orlok
Iounday, Aprantus 26, 1017 A.G.
Keeps & Skulls…but don’t keep the skull and leave the Keep after you’re through.
Waking up in a dungeon wasn’t surprising to me anymore, but I preferred the slowly increasing luxury of my room in the Septarch’s Tower over some underground mage’s refuge. There was some great news this day as Ungus came back to us in terms of being able to use all his cleric faculties. He said that he has cleansed his shadow magic from his repertoire and has repented from his past misdeeds. With the divine boon to our group, we decided to teleport straight to the cemetery Serago brought up earlier. The teleportation took ten minutes and, during that time, we ate a breakfast served by Tantron’s magical servants. Mari dismissed Tantron right after we arrived and, as Serago warned, undead neared our position.
We could see five orc skeletons and one humanoid one seemingly attached to a skeletal horse, which we referred to as the rider. There was also a still-living rat-man that came at us from atop a mausoleum. Peli shot first, dropping the first orc skeleton. A nearby one met the same fate from his enchanted great bow. The three of those left came at me with rusty long swords and one managed to hit me. Bastian missed hitting a skeleton, and then Mari readied herself for the battle before striking a skeleton down. Another was brought down by my blue bolt. The rat-man ran at me, gnashing at me with its teeth. The rider came at us at a run, trying to attack Ungus, and failed. Ungus said a few choice words and cast radiant energy at the rider, causing radiant sparks, and pushed the rider away from him. Peli shattered the last orc skeleton for us and then Bastian was told to stay put by Mari as she gave the rider a solid thwack with her maul.
I wanted to be away from the rat-man so I started to retreat towards Peli. In the process, he hit me, so I eased the passing of his blood, so reaching me would be more difficult. I suppose seeing this, the rat-man went for Mari and missed. The rider tried to attack our knight too and missed. Ungus lit up the rider with radiant light, dealing damage this time around. Peli moved up and missed the rider twice. Bastian then bloodied the rat-man at Mari’s command. It was Mari’s turn to miss the rider and I hit the rat-man with stone blood again. The rat-man missed an attack on Mari again and tried to flee. With his back to Mari, she slammed her maul into him, killing the dirty rat. All bluster, no muster, the rider missed Ungus this time and moved away from us. Ungus tried to attack the rider with his staff, but the horse proved too fast for the elder dwarf. Ungus moved up and hit the rider with radiant light again, but Peli just shot an arrow through the vacant torso of the rider. Mari charged the rider next and hit it with a mighty overhand strike. Seeing victory at hand, I moved up with my allies and hit the rider with stone blood, killing it, when I would have been satisfied with just slowing it down.
Ungus saw wagon tracks leading to one of the mausoleum and we went to investigate it. Peli opened the doors to reveal a gypsy or gnomish style cart and I could tell it was of unusual fey origin, particularly tinker gnomes. The cart itself was covered in black canvas with a stylized red “Я” on it. I used my mage hand to remove the canvas and there were many large black wooden boxes within, all empty except one that bore a letter with a broken seal. It was Ungus who found this and saw it was address to Murdergrave. The letter explained that this was the first shipment from an ally that was the foremost of Red Tinkers. This one was known to me, but not his name. This particular Red Tinker, from a race of evil gnomes known as spriggans, was given a castle in Goblyndor for his efforts like crafting dangerous items for his patrons. The letter also told of an evil cleric, named Kalarel from Sarthel, and a tiefling, named Lividius, were being sent to Murdergrave to aid her in opening the Rift. If we just knew the name of this tinker, we could disenchant the evil items he has made. Then, as my suspicions have made me think before, Lord Vhennyk was mentioned again as the one working with Captain Redthorn of the Iron Circle. This Lord Vhennyk and his minions had to be defeated, and soon, if the Nentir Vale would survive long enough to be home to another human empire…as is my goal in life.
Besides the wagon tracks, there were footprints of various size leading up to the Keep itself. In this region there were no plants growing and exposed stones were scorched. It was obvious that the ruins of this place were moved around to make a path between the cemetery and the Keep. As we prepared to enter a clear place of evil, Ungus gave Bastian a potion and a packet of eyesting. Serago stopped us to explain that Nynga might not know about Kalarel and Lividius, a known thug and murderer, being sent to her if she didn’t receive this letter. We then hatched a plan to get to Murdergrave’s location the fastest and with the least amount of fighting. I felt that getting out might not be so easy. Based on past experiences, there were likely man Moonspawn within as well as undead. Ungus would impersonate Kalarel, I would impersonate Jeras, Nevitash would impersonate Lividius after we created horns for him, and the other three would be our prisoners.
Getting through the first door was easy and we started towards the entry hall where we announced ourselves to the lone goblin receptionist. However, before we could convince the goblin to lead us further into the Keep’s depths, Ungus and Nevitash were in front and stepped into a concealed pit with a swarm of rats. The goblin announced that intruders, then disappeared around a corner. That left us free to deal with the rats and get the unlucky pair out of the pit. Soon after, goblins appeared in three different corridors around us, including their obese leader, Balgron. Ungus and I convinced them to take us deeper. We were taken through safe passages on one level, then passed off to the hobgoblins in the lower section of the Keep. We walked through the hobgoblin barracks, turning down an offer to have our prisoners tortured along the way, until our escort stopped near a section of the Keep called the Ghoul Warrens. Our escort left us alone this time to deal with the ghouls ourselves because they thought we were necromancers of course. I locked the doors behind us with an Arcane Lock ritual so that the goblins and hobgoblins would not be able to reinforce their allies. Our “prisoners” released themselves of their bonds so they could help us in the fight ahead.
This next room we entered had four statues and the two closest to the next set of doors we would have to pass through were holding pitchers of water. We carefully proceed, but Ungus accidentally set of a type of flooding trap that filled the space between the statues with water. He would have drowned if I didn’t quickly deactivate the statues that were holding the water back from the rest of us. We hesitated again at the double doors that we assumed were the entry to the Ghoul Warrens. I informed the Company what ghouls were exactly and the group didn’t seem so confident in facing them. We decided to let them filter through the double doors so we didn’t get surrounded by them as has happened before when dealing with the undead. Mari opened up a single door, which had a large room filled with fourteen zombies, of which two were meatier than the others, and a ghoul. There was also some clay figure, but we hardly saw him during the battle that transpired.
The ghoul charged at Mari, but missed. Ungus said a hymn that invigorated us and hurt the ghoul. Mari readied herself like usual and leveled the ghoul, chunks of flesh flying from it. Peli shot the prone ghoul and hit it just once. That is when the clay creature appeared and disappeared down a set of stairs. I centered a stone blood spell behind the ghoul and down two zombies behind it. A meatier zombie came at Mari, but missed slamming into her. Another of its type went past Mari, getting hit in the process, after knocking the other door open and attacked her, missing though. A zombie came up, trying to pass through its allies, and Mari batted it away. More came up to the double doors then, but couldn’t get in. The ghoul stood up and clawed at Mari, immobilizing her, but she only had the intent to stand her ground for our sakes. Ungus tried to light up the ghoul with radiant light, but failed. He tried the same thing again right after and succeed that time. Mari attacked the ghoul with her hammer and managed to knock some limbs off as it collapsed to the ground for good.
The (hopefully) only ghoul of the Ghoul Warrens defeated, Peli shot the closest meaty zombie and I followed that up with a force orb that killed a few zombies and hit a meaty one. The pair of meaty zombies both tried to slam Mari, but they missed. More zombies moved in, one got through the doors, but my staff connected with its skull before it could do any harm. Ungus hit the closest meaty zombie with what he calls a “Lance of Faith” and then Mari crushed it with her maul until it lay still. Peli hit its pair with three arrows in total to finish it off. That left just four zombies; I killed three of them with fire and, for the last one, a blue bolt left the room quiet. As part of our routine, we gathered and burned the bodies, unsure of exactly how to proceed next.
Our surprise and planning likely in ruin, we proceeded down the stairs and saw another large set of double doors. Serago spoke up to say that he enjoyed traveling with us, despite some issues along the way, and state that he wanted to bestow excess energy upon me as a reward. The temporary boost allowed me access to my full spellbook for the rest of the day. With that said, Ungus threw open a door and we saw blood flowing around massive columns in a room that seemed to be lit by the columns’ blue-green light. On the east wall, opposite us, was a dais with a prone female elf, Greenleaf, and a female tiefling who held a knife over her. A sack of slashed bodies was also by the dais—sacrifice victims for the dark rituals no doubt. There were two large humanoid figures with their lips in constant prayer. The little clay-man from before was hovering over a pit in the center of the room. Four chains, anchored in the ceiling, went down into the pit and were likely the main way down there.
Ungus tried to get Peli to shoot this clay-scout, but as soon as Peli reached for an arrow the battle was on. Nevitash fainted again thanks to his suffered concussion days ago. Mari went down the corridor, entered this massive chamber and had a dagger thrown at her. The clay-scout disappeared down the pit to warn its master, Kalarel. Nynga called her vampires to attack, four of five went to attack Mari, but only three hit. Their necrotic energies weren’t as effective against Mari thanks to the enchantment I put on her armor. The fifth vampire went near the helpless Greenleaf to probably slay her. Nynga said, “Greenleaf…all green leaves turn red…” She went on, but I didn’t bother to remember it all. Peli shot a vampire by Mari and it fell in a heap. His second arrow dropped a second vampire. I entered into my furious state and then went closer to Mari so I was in range to hit the vampire by the dais with a magic missile. Ungus rallied us to fight, knowing that our moment of glory was at hand. For permanently closing the rift here would put our names in the history books; a few of which I would write, I’m sure. The chanting humanoids revealed themselves to be berserkers when they attacked Mari, one from range and the other with a greataxe. Nynga moved up next to the axe-hurling berserker. Mari hit the berserker that was closer to her, perhaps remembering the devastating effect the last one we encountered had, and then stepped back from him. Another dagger came at Mari, hitting her. Two vampires attacked Mari with claws, one hit her, but it was surprised to have no effect on our knight. Peli shot the greataxe-wielding berserker and bloodied it. The berserker’s response was attacking Mari. I tried to kill two birds with one stone blood spell, but only one vampire fell to it. I slowed the berserker as well, but it wasn’t going anywhere. I finished the last vampire off with a blue bolt.
Ungus sang a quick hymn to boost us and hit the berserker with some effect and moved next to Mari. The berserker hit Mari again, but she absorbed much of the greataxe’s force. A handaxe was tossed at Ungus next. Nynga, close enough to us then, launched necrotic tendrils at Mari, which left her feet seemingly tied to the ground. Mari missed one swing with her maul at the berserker, but her backswing caught him and she crushed him. A third dagger came at Mari so Peli moved so he could see this attacker, a hood-wearing gnome, and managed to hit it with one arrow out of two. I moved so I could use my fire on the three remaining enemies in the room. I then hit Nynga and the remaining berserker with an ice knife attack, bloodying them in the process, and hit the gnome with a blue bolt for good measure. Despite being bloodied by me, the berserker wasn’t close enough to hurt anyone in his rage. Nynga came up and hit Mari, but hardly did any damage to her, and the necromancer was surprised that Mari stayed on her feet. Mari let out a yell and caved-in Nynga’s chest cavity. Her last words, between terrible sounding breaths, were, “The good knight killed me!”
The gnome moved up, around the corner from me, and missed a dagger attack. Peli shot the berserker; wasn’t satisfied and shot two more arrows at him, one hitting. I hit the gnome with a blue bolt to kill it, but that triggered it to blind me somehow. Despite my lack of vision I focused on the area where the berserker stood and hit him with a stone blood spell to kill him and end the battle. My blindness wore off and I saw Ungus examine the pit. Then he went to relieve Greenleaf of her bindings. Greenleaf said that she was sent near the Keep as a scout for Farren, but was betrayed by another elf. She was captured, tortured, and was about to be another sacrifice if we hadn’t come when we did. She then said that below they were sacrificing four of Dythan’s Legion and that she wanted to fight. We did not take the time to look for the spoils from our battle because time was of the essence. That and the fact that it would do us no use if we couldn’t close the rift anyway.
We gathered around the pit, and Serago said that he might have to be tossed by Peli to reach the correct location for the ritual. Ungus tried to slide down the chain, but the slick metal did not allow the elder dwarf purchase and he fell hard to the room below, despite the splash of blood he made in the shallow pool. I fell into the pit on purpose and then used feather fall to descend like an angry deity who had children to punish. I had time to look around as I fell and saw the massive black portal, held in an arch, to the Shadowfell that dominated the northern section of the room. Tendrils were straining against a membrane—tendrils from some foul creature and I knew that it was best to stay away from it. Runes were carved on the floor in front of the portal and were likely where Serago needed to be for his ritual to begin. The southern wall had a massive statue of Orcus, while the eastern wall had smaller one and a different pit. Around the pool of blood where the bodies of four dragonborn that were pinned to a post with daggers on their arms and legs. The direction I wanted to seize was west, where an altar stood, a black book atop it. Behind this was Kalarel with his clay-scout nearby. All around me, though, were eight skeletons with short bows and a type of undead creature I have yet to come across
The blood pool barely touched the souls of my boots when I teleported across the room to reappear near Kalarel. I summoned my spectral hound, a sturdy mastiff named Goliath, and then hit Kalarel and his pet with a staff-enhanced acid mire spell. Mari landed in the room still on her feet and charged a skeleton to blast it into pieces. Peli was next and brought down one of the two skeletons he shot at. The portal seemed to whisper and pulled Mari close to it. Then it tried to attack her, but Mari evaded the tendrils. Six arrows came at Ungus and Peli, and then Serago said that he needed to be in the runed circle. Kalarel felt the effects of my acid mire and teleported to the circle near Mari so he could use a necrotic attack on her. The clay-scout flew up and missed an attack that targeted my mind, but I was too resolute for that nonsense. Ungus stood up and one of the dragonborn was still alive turned to say that he recognized Peli. It was Catullus who spoke and he said he wanted to be freed so he could fight. Ungus saw that it would take some effort to pull the daggers out that held Catullus off the ground. Greenleaf entered the room last and failed to help Catullus. The creature that was unknown to me, later Ungus said was a wight, came from the eastern part of the room, attacked my allies with some blast and reassembled one of fallen skeletons. Such a feat would mean the skeletons were almost useless to take down while the wight was still active.
I hit the clay-scout with a stone blood spell and the clay scout hardened, fell to the ground, and then began to dissolve in my acid mire. Mari had Bastian come down to join us, then she charged the wight with her maul, but the wight’s blast left her weakened and the maul wasn’t as effective as usual. Peli teleported to the circle and shot a powerful firestorm arrow at Kalarel, but did not hit him directly, but the fire burst effect still hit the dark cleric a little. Portal tried to attack Peli next, but missed and it failed to draw him in at that time. Seven skeletons shot at Peli, Mari, and Ungus, drawing blood from our cleric. Kalarel tried his same necrotic attack Peli, but missed. Then he touched Peli with some effect, but it was unknown to me. He continued to do this to others he was near as the battle wore on. Ungus drank a potion and said a healing word for his own benefit. He tried to use his sacred flame attack on the wight and failed. He tried it a second time and failed again. Greenleaf, having been pushed back from wight’s blast, came closer and charged a skeleton between me and the rest of my allies to break it apart. Another skeleton came back into the fray thanks to the wight after he blasted my allies again. I hit the wight with a blue bolt; Bastian missed a skeleton he was near—failing to come through on Mari’s orders. Mari attacked the wight, but it stayed on its cursed feet. Peli, having been pushed out of the circle, shot both Kalarel and a skeleton, which fell for a second time. The portal clawed at Peli just before six skeletons shot at Ungus and Mari, but they didn’t hit often. Kalarel launched another necrotic ray at Peli. Ungus should have thrashed the wight with a turn undead spell, but his focus seemed to be off thanks to his rough start in the battle. The wight seemed to fall slowly, but still fell to our cleric at least so we could mop up the skeletons. Ungus tried to free Catullus, but failed. Greenleaf charged and took out another skeleton. I let my acid mire fizzle out so I could be in better position to hit Kalarel with attacks, yet I missed a stone blood on him. Bastian dropped a skeleton with his next attack and then Mari took out another.
Peli was finally able to put Serago down in the runic circle and then back away from the portal to shoot Kalarel a couple of times. The portal missed clawing a Peli, but drew him into the membrane. Just three skeletons left, they all shot at Mari and all missed. Kalarel launched his necrotic ray at Mari again, with Peli helpless of course, to weaken her. Ungus tried to use his healing ability to help with the ritual, but failed. I shuddered at the thought of us failing to aid Serago just two more times. Sealing the rift was the only hope for the long term safety of the Nentir Vale. Ungus then failed to help Catullus again and failed to bring down a skeleton. Greenleaf, Bastian, and Mari took out the last three skeletons. Peli’s armor enchantment, thanks to my ritual work, allowed him to teleport out of the portal. Ungus was next to be pulled towards the portal, but the portal missed clawing him. Kalarel launched his ray at Ungus and touched him. Ungus moved far away from the portal and Kalarel hit him with his skull-topped rod in the process. Ungus then said a healing word for Mari’s sake. Greenleaf tried to pull a dagger out of Catullus’ arm, but withdrew only an empty hand. She tried again and managed to give the dragonborn some relief. I force orbed Kalarel, and then Mari had Bastian move away from the portal for his safety. She pulled out her long bow to hit Kalarel. Peli used his last firestorm arrow and one regular one on Kalarel before drinking a potion. The portal’s whispers pulled Greenleaf towards it and successfully clawed her to pull her into the membrane. Kalarel stepped out of the circle only to hit Greenleaf with his rod. Ungus had fallen due to the necrotic effects of being hit by Kalarel’s ray, but he regained consciousness soon after and played dead to avoid being attacked again for the moment. Greenleaf heroically wriggled out of the membrane and missed her attack on Kalarel. I hit Kalarel with a blue bolt and, while my allies were distracting the dark cleric, I was doing most of the ritual work to ensure our overall success. Peli missed Kalarel right before Greenleaf was completely lost to us by being pulled deep into the portal. Kalarel moved back inside the circle and hit Peli with the necrotic ray again. Peli fell to the floor, but was still breathing. Ungus said a hymn for the benefit of himself, Mari, and Bastian. He then pulled out some of his Stonevein Stout. I acted as I had before and hope my allies would last until the portal was sealed forever. Mari missed shooting Kalarel this time and the portal pulled her, but it couldn’t claw her. Kalarel hit Mari with his ray and weakened her yet again.
Seeing his defeat at hand, Kalarel said something and then ran into the portal. The black book on the altar turned to dust and then Ungus ran to Peli’s side. I sent a magic missile in the portal’s direction at my frustration at the fleeing coward and continued to help with the ritual. Mari ran back from the portal, fearing Greenleaf’s fate—and nearly that of Peli. Catullus too struggled to free himself, but finally did. Ungus gave the stout to Peli to wake up the Eladrin. Sweating the effects should I fail, I gave the final aid to Serago’s ritual and the portal turned into a solid wall. Serago’s skull then exploded, fragments going across the room.