Saturday, November 1, 2008

Something Strange on the Way to the Keep

After refreshing themselves and breaking camp, our heroes set off for the Shadowfell again. But after about a five mile trek in the increasingly rugged landscape of the foothills they came across a curious site. Off in the distance about a half mile a large crater was visible. A quick debate decided it was worthy to investigate and the entry trail of the impact of whatever had caused the crater allowed for easy entry.

The dark violet clouds overhead still boiled as they picked their way through the cedar, juniper and occasional pine. But once near the crater all trees and larger vegetation was absent. Long ago blasted away by the impact of something decidedly large. The crater walls piled up a god ten to 15 feet high and the crater itself covered a good 100 yards in diameter.

Our heroes, approaching warily, in battle formation, were initially startled by two dragon-like drakes that perched atop the crater walls on the right side, eyeing them hungrily. But no attack was forthcoming and they were hailed by someone from inside the crater itself! A weaselly looking little gnome dressed in bright colors, other than for a drab and dirty apron, a trowel in hand beckoned tot he party. "Come down inside! You really have to be much closer to appreciate what we've found!" And then peering intently back toward a pile of what appeared to be charred bones in the crater's center. A cursory glance around showed four human workers holding shovels, picks and rakes. They looked tired and uncertain of the newcomers. Atop the cliff leaning against a pile of large boulders stood a green cloaked halfling, casually picking at his nails and seeming somewhat bored.

Initial caution and distrust were set aside as the gnome seemed genuine and friendly; and our curious band truly wanted to know what it was in the center of the massive hole. Entering a little less cautiously now, the party approached the bones. And bones they were indeed. Dragon bones. Even a casual glance by the well schooled wizard of the party Draconis showed them to be Red Dragon bones and ancient ones at that. But long since dead. Piles of dirt had been dug out and raked away from the center to expose the prone skeletal form of the ancient one. Curiously dark runes had been uncovered as well, either etched or marked upon the solid granite of the crater floor.

However, too quick the Drakes surprised the unaware party as they peered at the curiosity and in a flash one had rent Draconis into unconsciousness. And the other snarled and snapped at Sedecei. The gnome quickly aimed a concealed crossbow and took fire at the party. While the halfing rained down slings from above. Before the party could close the distance the gnome had taken cover behind the human rabble and then disappeared. The halfing had concealed himself as well. The party took several blows as the two thieves took pot-shots at the hapless party trying to quickly scurry up the sides of the cliff walls.

Before Anyone could get to them either the human diggers ran away to the back and by the time our party reached the top only the gnome and the halfling were left, slowly weakening the party as they took aim from above. But Draconis thought quickly and set afire to the brush pile the gnome was shooting from. Within seconds Narumata, Silver and Sedecei were there as well and spying the hidden nose of the crossbow they rooted him out. Running as quickly as his little scurrying feet would allow the gnome took for the hills. Narumata would have caught him too if he had not faded away into invisibility.

Barkel and Dean fared no better as they first sought to coax the halfling out his his hidey-hole with a few well placed sword thrusts. But as he exited, giving up his dagger in the process the wily little fella slipped beneath Barkel's grasp, defied a divine challenge, taking damage in teh process and scurried out past the lake and away into the hills.

Once regathered in the pit the party considered the situation. Several players searched under the waxed tarp to find two bound and gagged persons. One, the dragonborn warlord Rhogar. The other an aged man by the name of Douven Stahl. Wasn't this the same Douven Stahl that Darkiss and Matthew had been searching for?

The elderly gentleman allowed the party to keep his amulet of health and gave them some critical information. One, the dragon bones and runes in the center of the put had some part to play in the unfolding drama of Shadowfell. The other was that he had a feeling perhaps Iuz the ancient demigod, long disappeared from the realms of the Gods, demons and men, was behind this growing sinister plot. He dared call Orcus a "minor" demon lord in comparison to Iuz to boot. However the parts fit together the plot was thickening indeed.

The curious thing was that some of Douven's story did not seem to match up. These details were caught quickly by Draconis and Narumata, who called him on his inconsistency. He seemed to shrug the matter off, but still his story did not match up. Narumata recalled the strange mage Valthrun at Winterhaven, the only inhabitant left alive and whose tower-home was the only building left unburned in its siege. This he asked of Douven, who seemed shocked that Winterhaven had been destroyed and befuddled that Valthrun was somehow implicated. He sought to reassure the party, but still they held lingering doubts. With nothing solid to convict their judgements to Douven's or Valthrun's guilt still they allowed him to leave and consider the ancient ritual center uncovered in the center of the pit.

Here a long and complex debate ensued with bitter opinions on both sides. Evidently according to Akmeinos and Draconis the runes were from a ritual designed to blend the effects of teleportation magic and a reincarnation magic. Power runes of reincarnation, new worlds, teleportation, journeys blended in this great magic square the eldritch that was definitely tied to the two scrolls the heroes had recently discovered. Had the kobolds stole the scrolls from this site, even perhaps from the thieving excavators? Perhaps Douven had known. Perhaps even now that was why he was so eager to leave. To find the scrolls and the kobolds. For he new nothing of the party's possession of them.

The party argued on: was the spell to bring this ancient red dragon to life? Why was the dragon even there? Perhaps the scrolls would teleport them to the very keep they now searched for. If, as the runes made clear, the scrolls were read simultaneously would anything happen at all? In then end 9 of the party entered and removed a great deal of the dragon's bones to ensure he did not raise. They read the scrolls, but nothing occurred. Had they ruined the magic by removing the bones? Had they lacked the full ten people required by the teleport scroll?

They would waste time no longer. They packed the scrolls away and reformed their march back towards The keep and the future.

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