The Unbalanced Scales of War

Kagero’s Journal – Castle Rivenroar

Penned within the journal of Kagero Moontouched

It had been a month of travel before we reached the Elsir Vale. My friends and I were escorting a Dwarf Cleric of Pelor named Thoradin from our homeland to a town called Brindol, which is one of the major trade towns within the centre of the Vale. In order to reach Brindol we had to pass through an area known as the Blackfens, a marshland with unsavoury denizens such as lizardmen and bullywugs. A pack of the latter set upon us in the middle of raging storm and only Thoradin and I survived. We were, however, assisted by a Dragonborn Barbarian who launched a furious assault upon the bullywugs and turned the tide of the battle. Without her intervention we would surely have joined my friends in the afterlife. As luck would have it she was also travelling towards Brindol and joined us for the rest of the journey. Her name is Nala Battlebeard of the Dwarven Battlebeard clan far to the north, apparently she has been raised among them rather than those of her own race.

We brought the bodies of my friends with us in the cart in order to lay them to rest with the Elves of the Mirthwood. Upon reaching Brindol I arranged for word to be sent back home to let their families know their fate along with the elders. I sought out my Father’s old adventuring partner Sol, a human who used to be a famous warrior but has now retired and runs the Antler & Thistle tavern in Brindol with his two daughters Alys and Libby. I was greeted warmly and Sol arranged rooms for myself and my two new colleagues above the tavern. Later that evening Thoradin, Nala and I arranged to meet in the tavern where we ate and discussed what had happened on our journey here. I told them I would be leaving for the Mirthwood the next day for the funeral rites of my friends and that I would return once the ceremony was completed. I then engaged Alys in conversation in order to find out more about the area and to see what the children of the mighty Sol were like. We had been talking at the bar for around an hour as she served customers when a Genasi entered the tavern and approached the bar. I had never seen a Genasi before and her long flowing green hair and deep blue skin took me a little by surprise. She introduced herself to Alys as Jessily Slazer and asked after a Halfling wizard who had been staying at the tavern recently. As they were talking the door burst open and in charged a swarm of Hobgoblins screaming “For the Hand! For Sinruth!” as they tossed bitumen torches towards the bar.

Panic ensured within the bar and a number of the locals fled. Some were cut down where they stood and others escaped up the stairs to the upper floor of the tavern. A couple of the hobgoblins grabbed the nearest people to them, one of which was Libby, and made for the door. I dragged Alys away from the bar and the spreading flames before joining Nala, Thoradin and the Genasi wizard in combat with the hobgoblins. We made relatively short work of them but in the conflict Libby was dragged outside screaming. Sol and Alys both charged out into the night after her grabbing whatever they could use as weapons as they left. The tavern was now engulfed in flames and the four of us rushed outside to give chase though as we reached the street we saw that a number of buildings within the town were alight.

A flood of people rushed past us, screaming as they went, and we turned to see a curious sight. Emerging from around the corner was an ogre with a yoke around it’s wait pulling a wagon. It all seemed very surreal for a moment until we saw that there were two hobgoblins sat on the wagon. One fired a longbow into the fleeing crowd of townsfolk and the other passed the ogre a cask with a burning fuse in the top. The ogre heaved it’s arm forwards and launched the cask towards us where it exploded nearby and spread in a wake of flame. We scattered immediately and launched an assault upon this new threat. It was a difficult fight and thank the gods that the ogre was restrained by the wagon. I leapt up to a nearby rooftop in order to get a better vantage point and was lucky enough to shoot one of the lit casks with an arrow from my shortbow, setting the ogre afire. The town guard arrived and with their assistance we managed to defeat the ogre and the two hobgoblins. After the ogre had dropped we saw that the tavern could not be saved despite the bucket-chain some of the townsfolk had made to try and stop it. As we were rallying ourselves we heard the smash of breaking glass from above and a Dwarf in plate armour came crashing to the ground. He rolled around on the ground to put out the flames clinging to him before dusting himself off and introducing himself as Darrak of the Light, a paladin of the Dwarven god Moradin. He offered his axe in the assistance of the town and in light of the horde assembled against Brindol we readily accepted.

We then headed to one of the three bridges into the town where the majority of the fighting had taken place and helped to fight off the attackers, who were sent scurrying back into the night. We helped the wounded and made stretchers to take them to the Shrine of the Sun which is Brindol’s temple of Pelor. Thoradin worked tirelessly through the night alongside the other clerics by healing those in need as Nala, Jessily, Darrak and I brought in more and more wounded.

In the morning we met with Sol and Alys at the ruins of the Antler & Thistle. They confirmed our fear that Libby had been taken by the hobgoblins and it was not long before we were summoned as a group to meet with Councilmember Eoffram Troyas at Brindol’s central Keep. The surprisingly young Half-Elf greeted us solemnly and informed us that a further seven prisoners had been taken along with a series of relics from the Hall of Great Valor. We were asked to do whatever we could to return the prisoners and recover the relics. In reward we would receive coin and Troyas would arrange for supplies from his own merchant business to be sent to the Shrine of the Sun as a matter of urgency at no cost. He informed us that they had captured a hobgoblin alive and that it was currently being held in the stocks at the market square. We headed down there to question it and Nala excelled herself in squeezing the location of the headquarters from the creature of what was called the ‘Hand of Sinruth’… the hobgoblin army.

They were holed up at Castle Rivenroar which was around eight hours travel into the mountains. We stocked up on supplies and headed out using a crude map that the hobgoblin had scrawled for us. True to its word we found the ruins of the castle after a gruelling trek through the wilderness. It had mentioned that the army dwelled within the catacombs and that it shared its lair with ‘undead horrors’. We entered the catacombs and were not disappointed with what we found.

The catacombs of Castle Rivenroar were a labyrinth of corridors and crypts. We were immediately greeted by four hoblins as we descended the stairs into the first room. Two were soldiers and charged towards us yelling battle cries, two were archers and attempted to pepper us with arrows. Curiously the room was outfitted with a pair of twin braziers on opposites sides of the room, as we engaged the hobgoblins one of the archers opened the centre doors from the room and set the braziers in motion. A great gout of flame erupted from one every few seconds as they moved in parallel down the room. What the previous occupants of the castle were thinking when they built such a contraption I have no idea, though it served a good purpose to us as Darrak and Nala shoved the hobgoblins into the path of the flames. Once we had dealt with the creatures we headed through the central doors and descended a long flight of stairs into what had now become a pit full of deadly mushrooms and held two rage drakes. Once they were defeated we rescued one of the villagers, an old witch by the name of Zerriksa. After some debate and a lot of complaints from her we left some supplies with her and managed to convince her to barricade the door, only opening it if one of us were to return.

Our next port of call was the Von Jallach family crypt to the right of the main entrance. Here we found a couple of goblin backblades, sneaky creatures but no match for my years of training in the arts of assassination. We took them down swiftly while avoiding the glowing runes in this room, Jessily shouted a warning to Thoradin as he made to flank one of the backblades that they would shock him should he step upon them. The alchemist Adronsius was chained to the wall in the next chamber and once we had freed him and administered a couple of healing potions he was ok to move. We armed him with one of the backblade’s short swords and escorted him to the room with Zerriksa. He was able to give us detailed directions to another of the prisoner’s locations and we set off at pace as soon as we were sure they were secured.

The text above third and final exit from the initial room informed us that we were heading through to the Rivenroar family crypt. As I approached the corner I signalled the others to hold and observed around a dozen hobgoblins arguing over something. Two were shoving each other and holding onto what looked to be a cloak while the others jeered them on, forming two clear sides. I waved Jessily over thinking that between us both we could eliminate a lot of them in a short order, though as I notched an arrow to my shortbow she laid a hand on my shoulder and smiled. She reached one hand in the direction of the arguing pair and closed her eyes as she muttered under her breath. One of the hobgoblins drew it’s sword and cut the other down in front of him. Chaos followed as the two groups fought manically and after a few minutes there were only three left. Nala and Darrak charged two of them while I dropped another with an arrow. It was over in seconds.

The door to the north opened and two longbow wielding goblins charged in, however they skidded to a stop when they saw the carnage in the room and turned to run for the exit. Nala was on them in a heartbeat and dropped the first in a single hit, she immediately charged the next one and slammed him into the wall which stopped him from escaping the room. He put up a cowardly defence against the huge Dragonborn barbarian and she devastated him with a monstrous swing of her executioner’s axe.

After gathering what loot we could from the room, including the cloak of resistance that the hobgoblins were fighting over, we pressed on to the north. The corridor here was pitch black and Jessily set a wizard’s light floating off into the unknown. This showed us that the floor was broken in two parts here and shafts led down to the room below, which we guessed would be the mushroom chamber. Ropes hung from the ceiling over the 10ft wide holes and from the stink of the rope I figured this was how the goblins were crossing them. We managed to get everyone across the first hole safely then had two options, continuing on ahead or branching out to a corridor to the left. We opted for the one two the left and found ourselves in a strange room. A portal occupied the entirety of the north facing wall and the image on the other side was of a dark castle on a sprawling red vista with a dark river running through the foreground. Along this river was a cluster of tents which almost looked like an encampment of sorts. My musing was interrupted by the appearance of three spectral warriors who flew at us in a rage. We fought back to back in the centre of the room and had it not been for Thoradin’s exemplary healing our quest would have ended there. After two of the ghosts were vanquished the third became docile and we were able to converse with it. He, for it was a long dead Lord of the Von Urstadt family, was able to describe the complex in further detail to us though it was hazy at best. He was bound to this room and did not recall the rest of the layout of the catacombs very well. He did however manage to confirm the existence of a wight who controlled the undead creatures within the area. The room also contained the body of a Halfling whose name I do not recall, though Jessily knew him and I believe this is the person she was seeking at the Antler & Thistle. Why, I cannot tell you but maybe one day she will share her burden.

We used the holes above the mushroom chamber together with our own ropes to lower myself and the body of the Halfling so that we could keep his body with the rescued prisoners in the hopes that we could return him to Brindol. We then continued from the portal room via the western door and came upon two chillborn zombies in a small crypt room which held the sarcophagi of the Von Urstadt family. If you ever have the misfortune of encountering these creatures then heed these words, for approaching one will sap the very life from your bones and chill you to your core. Thank the gods for the two Dwarves and their ability to smite undead. When the zombies we finally destroyed we searched the room and found the body of Guard Captain Kartenix, frozen solid and utterly devoid of life. We tried all we could to thaw him and restore him but to no avail, so we returned his body to the rescued townsfolk as we had with the Halfling. Everyone was beginning to feel that we may be too late to save the rest of the prisoners and it took some convincing to stop Adronsius and Zerriksa from leaving immediately.

Despite this blow to our morale a burning desire to avenge the fallen innocents rose within me and a shared sense of purpose seemed to spread through the group. A small room off to the side of the Von Urstadt crypt led down a staircase to an area with cells and we were delighted to find Sertanian, the castellan of the Hall of Great Valor, tired and hungry but otherwise unharmed. Zerriksa and Adronsius were equally happy to see him and the three set to making preparations for the return trip to Brindol with the supplies we had been able to salvage through the catacombs.

The next area we found was a landing area which was being used as another sleeping quarters for the goblins. Filthy bed rolls lined the room and the smell of cooking meat permeated the air. There were nearly thirty hobgoblins here all in all and we took a moment to discuss the best approach in whispered voices from the shadows at the base of the staircase. Hurried plans were laid out from the overt preference of Nala and Darrak to the covert poisoning of food from myself. There was potentially the option to find another route but without having time on our side this was not an option. In the end Jessily conjured an illusion of a hulking warrior which sent the goblins into a frenzy. When they attacked it and it disappeared they looked at each other in confusion and that was when we struck. Holding nothing back we tore into the group with spell, steel and fury. Their numbers whittled down quickly but not before we had sustained a fair few wounds ourselves. Once the combat was finished we stopped to rest and patch ourselves up before moving on. We opted not to ascend the staircase to the west and headed through a set of double doors to the north. The corridor was eerily quiet and led to a balcony overlooking the Rivenroar family crypt with a set of spiral stairs leading down. We could see another person, the cook Mirtala, tied up in a corner of the room below us. We hurried down and secured the area, there were two exits leading off this room. One back to the corridor with the holes and another through to a set of double doors. Thoradin was alone untying the cook, who was in a near catatonic state from fear when they struck.

Two skulk zombies dropped from the shadows of the ceiling on either side of Thoradin and caught him by surprise. By the time we were able to join the fray he was unconscious and dying. The scuttling creatures climbed the walls like spiders as we fought them and without Thoradin’s healing prowess we were hard pressed to drop them. With a paladin in our midst though we were able to keep them at bay until we had ground them down, they didn’t seem to have the mental capacity to reason that they could withdraw and they fought on to the death. We managed to revive Thoradin and got him back on his feet though we all felt that this had been a very close call. We debated whether we should press on or whether we should cut our losses and run, but I knew I couldn’t face Sol and Alys without at least discovering the fate of Libby.

We decided to check the room through the doors before getting Mirtala back to the other survivors, another rookie mistake. With Darrak and Nala in front we pushed forwards down the 10ft wide corridor only to turn a corner and see a huge, hulking zombie far bigger than any of the others standing before us. It held a huge log in its hand which it used as a club, at its s belt were a set of iron gauntlets which were one of the relics we were here to recover. A scream from behind the monster alerted us to the presence of the priestess Jalissa, who was chained to the altar behind the zombie hulk. With a roar the creature made its slow progress towards us and Darrak bravely charged in to meet it. When he landed back next to us we tried a new approach with Nala and Darrak holding ground and striking when they could while myself and Jessily did damage from afar. Thoradin had to use the deepest reserves of his abilities in order to keep everyone alive and we prevailed at great physical cost. When Darrak moved over to free Jalissa she wrapped her arms around his neck and clung onto him as she hailed him as her hero. To be honest she hasn’t left him alone since and can be frequently found in his footsteps. If you have never seen a grown Dwarf blush, come to Brindol.

We escorted Mirtala and Jalissa to the other rescued prisoners before returning to the staircase near the landing area which the goblins had been using for a sleeping quarters. We were severely down on reserves now as the hulk zombie had taken most of our biggest and most powerful abilities to drop him, but we had to press on. So there we were, exhausted but determined as we ascended one step at a time. As we reached the top a corridor stretched a little way ahead of us before turning sharply to the right. I quietly peeked around the corner to see two thrones on a raised area within a huge chamber. Upon them was a rotting, fleshy corpse in one and a bleached skeleton wearing plate armour in the other. Five piles of bones were dotted around the chamber and the silence in the room was eerie. The boy, Thurran, and Libby were unconscious in a magical circle before the throne. They looked as though they had not eaten for months and their skin seemed stretched tight across their bones. What looked like a faint smoke or breath was coming from the circle and directly into the rotting corpse’s mouth. As I took a breath of my own to relay this to my companions a purple light lit the eyes of the rotting corpse and it lisped “Intruders, destroy them!”

Both the wight, for that was what the creature was, and the skeleton arose from the thrones. The skeleton picked up a greatsword that was resting next to the throne and marched towards us. The wight raised its arms and with a cry of “Arise my minions!” the five piles of bones morphed to become five skeletons wielding scimitars. Due to his low health and lack of strength we kept Thoradin at the back of the group, Darrak shifted into position at the front alongside Nala and I dropped behind them along with Jessily as I readied my bow.

The armoured skeleton came in hard and was soon locked in a fierce combat with both Darrak and Nala. The wounds they inflicted upon it were grievous to say the least but this did not faze the undead creature. While it was engaged Jessily and I launched a ranged assault upon the skeletal warriors which were closing upon us. These were also undeterred by the damage we did to them and we were only able to destroy two before they reached our battle line. In order to flank the armoured skeleton Darrack shifted to a better position however this opened a gap to the rear of the group and the monster took its opportunity to attack the weaker members of the group. It charged Jessily and wrought a grievous wound upon her before we were able to plug the breach. Dropping my bow I drew my sword and stepped into Darrak’s place as he went after the armoured skeleton. Nala and I managed to destroy the creatures but not before the wight had pushed us back against the wall and immobilised us. I then assisted Darrak while Nala occupied the wight. Thoradin charged in to help Nala and between them they kept the creature busy enough for the rest of us to finish off the armoured skeleton.

As we moved in to assist Nala and Thoradin the only door in the room burst off its hinges as it was kicked open by a truly huge hobgoblin wearing spiked armour and wielding a spiked chain. He quickly assessed the situation and charged into the fight with reckless abandon, pulling Nala across the room with his spiked chain to slam her bodily into the spikes of his armour. This was surely Sinruth, the leader of the hobgoblin army and the root cause of the assault on Brindol. Thoradin and Darrak focused on the wight in order to use their divine abilities upon it while I joined Jessily and Nala in the attack on Sinruth. While Nala went toe to spiked toe against the mighty hobgoblin Jessily used the last of her reserves to set a magical fire which only burned our enemies. We carefully moved Sinruth around the battlefield in order to force him into the flames as often as possible and I used literally all of my vast stock of poisons, together with hit-and-run tactics, to finally bring him down.

Battered and exhausted we had done it. We had defeated the denizens of the catacombs and rescued the prisoners from the town of Brindol. We searched the room which Sinruth had come from to find the rest of the relics along with a number of magical items and gold. Curiously Thoradin pointed out that all of the weapons which the hobgoblins used had the same mark of a downward turned black arrow upon them, and that they were better quality than what would usually be associated with such creatures.

We gathered the rest of the survivors and made our way back to Brindol without further encounters. We were hailed as heroes and a great feast was held in our honour however it was with heavy hearts that we all celebrated following the deaths of so many of the town. With the head cut from the snake the remaining hobgoblins have scattered to the holes they came from though Brindol remains vigilant against further attacks. The militia swells with people eager to defend their homes though supplies are in dire need. We discussed this with Councilmember Troyas and he asked for our help with locating the Elsir Consortium caravan which usually runs supplies along the Dawn Way from Overlook in the far west through to Brindol. The caravan is over a week late now and we’re due to head out in search of it tomorrow…

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