Loudwater & Beyond

Session 25

The party continued to question their prisoner, Mikus Gravelstoke.

What the Nighthawks’ are trying to achieve?
Nighthawks are the assassin group being used by the followers of Karsus to intimidate and control the peoples of the North through assassination and political pressure.

What foul master they serve?
While the Gravelstokes command the assassins, the Nighthawks as a whole answer to seven sorcerous acolytes of Karsus, known simply as The Seven

What unique powers the other Gravlestokes have?
All Gravelstokes share the “curse” of petrifying their foes, a result of their time trapped in the Shadowfell.

What Nighthawk strongholds exist?
Several cells throughout region, but mainly within allies existing strongholds. One of the leaders is below Thunderspire.

Why they have gone to such lengths to kill us and how we can make peace?
The party interfered with The Seven’s plans for Loudwater and its regions, drew too much attention to their activities forcing them to amend their plans, so a price was put on their heads.

How they are finding Shards?
At first he claimed he just goes/kills where he’s instructed, but Æðelric could tell he was lying, eventually admitted the Seven are directed to them by a “Higher power”.

How are they involved in the recent Spellguard activity?
Mikus looked genuinly surprised, he knows nothing about Spellgard or any activity around it.

After discussing what to do with Mikus amongst themselves it was agreed that they couldnt put others at risk leaving as a prisoner within Everlund nor could they let him go, and so Li calmly slit his throat, ending his miserable existence once more, before instructing the dwarven priests to dispose of the body carefully.

After gathering necessary supplies they set back onto the trail towards Silverymoon, encountering an attempted ambush en route that had been set to look like a ravaged camp in a small dell off the main route. Several human thugs pretended to be corpses as a trio of grey-skinned female warriors, covered in scars and peircings attacked from hiding using exotic looking daggers and some form of shadow-manipulation. The thugs soon didnt have to pretend any more but the shadow trio proved a little more troublesome. Our heroes were eventually victorious, Æðelric and Li taking the last warrior down as it attempted to flee, before continuing onwards.

Reaching the slendorous city, Æðelric took advantage of the facilities for magical study to increase his ritual prowess while the rest of the party relaxed at an inn, apart from Li who decided to visit a more risque establishment for her relaxation.

Refreshed and revived they set off once more towards the Glimmerwood, Fenrir realised that they would be passing close to his parents farm, and a slight detour was made to pay a respectful visit. The ruined remains of the farmhouse looked as if they had been kept tidy and weed free and as they investigated further they discovered a grave marker had been laid within. Fenrir was touched that someone had took the time to mark his parents passing with such reverence and vowed to avenge them should his path ever cross with that of Commander Kolya again. Their reverie was disturbed by the sound of approaching horses and the party took up hidden defensive positions as a group of two dozen riders passed by without apparently noticing them.

Resuming the journey they reach the outer edge of the Glimmerwood and as evening approached decided to make camp under the eaves of the forest. As they began to settle down the sound of howling could be heard far off, carried on the winds. Taking turns to sit watch, Æðelric wasn’t surprised when a pair of red eyes watching him from the shadows moved forward as a large grey furred wolf sat just within the fires light regarding him curiously. Æðelric spoke reassuringly to the beast, making no sudden moves and noting two more pairs of eyes still within the concealing darkness. Æðelric was just about to move closer when a long plaintive howl echoed through the woods and the lithe shapes of the wolves melted swiftly into the darkness once more.

The remainder of their evening went undisturbed, and as they packed their camp once more they prepared to enter the territory of Æðelric’s tribe.

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Session 24

As the heroes approached the city of Everlund they spied a trio of guards manning the gateway, though the traffic seemed to be passing through unimpeeded. At their approach the guards straightened up, realising this was more than just a merchant caravan and stopped the heroes, enquiring as to their business. While Aetholric and Fenrir explained their intent one of the guards noticed the slumped form of Mikus Gravelstoke tied to one of the horses and asked what was wrong with him, “A fellow traveller we came across that is in need of priestly aid” the heroes replied and the guards let them through, albeit with raised eyebrows and a few second glances.

Following Fenrir’s lead they headed to the compact temple of Moradin to see if Fenrir’s associate Jeren was in attendance. One of the brethren fetched the half-elf from his studies and they became acquainted. After explaining the predicament of their petrified companions and the incapacitated culprit responsible the dwarves of the temple were more than willing to provide the necessary ritual to bring the miscreant back to life in order to save a paladin of their god and his companion.

With an evening to spare the remaining heroes decided to find local information on Nighthawk activity and followed Li’s lead to the local house of easy (though moderately priced) virtue. Discovering that aside from the occassional lone sighting, the Nighthawks had no discernable presence within the city. Satisfied with the information the heroes retired to Aetholric’s former abode, the home of Mendohl Harpell. Easily recalling the incantation to release the wards, Aetholric opened the doors for his friends and they entered. With his increased knowledge the wizard was keen to investigate his mentors private study, previously beyond his ability to enter. With Li’s assistance in removing the mundane trap Aetholric subdued the protective glyph and stepped into the study. Expecting to find a veritable hoard of arcane knowledge they were a little dissappointed to find the shelves almost empty, a few minor ritual books being all that remained. On Mendohl’s stone desk a few scattered papers remained, detailing troop movements of the Netherese within the Fallen Lands, though dated several months ago. As Aetholric examined the trio of draws within the desk, Li began to search the walls for hidden compartments and such like. As the wizard discovered a collection of glass flasks and diary, the rogue found a hidden door and its activating push plate, happy that they weren’t trapped she pressed it and the door slid inwards to reveal a steep, narrow staircase leading downwards.

Leading the way down Li stopped halfway, her acute senses picking out the trigger for a trio of pendulum scythes, after defeating them with her trusting tools she declared the rest of the way clear and the party found themselves in a chamber lined with shelves. One side filled with spell and ritual compnents and the other with larger jars contianing preserved creatures (whole or just parts thereof). The only other exit was a heavy steel door opposite the stairway. With a good search both Li and Aetholric were sure that the door was safe to open, and when they did so they found the chamber beyond. A carved, stone lectern stood within a protective circle etched into the stone floor, and beyond that a larger circle was also carved carefully into the surface with many deep gouges within its centre and burn marks. Aetholric identified it as a summoning circle, but when his companions asked he didnt recall Mendohl actually summoning any creatures that he knew off.

Returning to the above ground chambers, Aetholric perused the diary, discovering that his mentor had confided with an ally named Eaerlraun Shadowlyn at the Moongleam tower. As they had to wait until the morning for the results of the dwarves ritual, they decided to enquire of Lady Shadowlyn, and set off to Moongleam tower.

They were met by one of the students of the tower and awaited an audience with the Lady, before long the elderly woman appeared and escorted them to a private chamber to discuss their enquiries about her friend Mendohl. She receognised Aetholric, though he didnt recall ever meeting her before, and in the course of their conversation it was revealed that Mendohl was investigating Netherese advances in the area of Saharelgard (now known as Spellgard) and their intent to control the oracular spirit that was reportedly found their.

She also gave them the welcome news that Sebren the Magistrate had been overthrown in Loudwater and that the Lady Moonfire had assumed control of her town once more after Sebren’s allies had raided the militia headquarters, releasing a prisoner and injuring Captain Harrowleaf. Reports pointed that he was headed northwards along the Delimbyr.

Returning to Mendohls home they rested, feeling safe from their troubles for the first time in days. In the morning they returned to the temple to find their prisoner alive and awake, securely shackled in what the dwarves politely called a meditative cell. As the heroes entered one of the priests suggested that if the scurvy cur accidently fell down the stairs it would be a problem, and that as none were in the cell he would be more than happy to fetch some. The heroes politley declined and began their questioning of Mikus. Forcing him to press his bloody palm over the hearts of their petrified friends and thus restoring them. As they continued to question him, Fargrim and Father Tully took their respective leave Roll of the Honoured Dead. Finding themselves in need of a companion with healing skills Fenrir’s associate Jeren offered his services and joined their happy band.

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Session 23

As the heroes journey to Everlund neared its end they came across an ambush in progress in a narrowing of the trail. Two men dressed in the now familiar garb of the Nighthawks were engaged with a pair of hired guards whilst another pair of guards defended their merchant employer. “50 gold each if you save me” shouted the merchant as the party approached the fray.

Li, Fenrir, Fargrim and Aetholric surged forward to aid against the Nighthawks, and as battle was joined the merchant stepped forward and blasted Li with magical fire! As if waiting for this signal the accompanying guards turned from their sparring with their assassin colleagues and joined the attack on the heroes.

With the others pre-occupied it was up to Father Tully and Wrynn as another figure came running from the concealing trees behind them, dressed in deep purple leather armour and wielding a wicked looking greatsword. With its first mighty strike it had Tully on his knees. The heroes noticed that the edges of the wound caused by the impressive blade were turning dark and hard.

As the melee continued, despite Tully’s repeated healing magics the newcomer had the upper hand and soon landed a telling blow, dropping the priest to the path, but before he could hit the dirt his entire body turned to a black porous stone and a surge of energy pulsed up the sword into into wielder as he turned his attention to the rest of the party.

The others had fared a little better with Aetholric’s spells despatching the guards with ease and the assassins and merchant/mage suffering heavy damage at the hands of his companions. They felt a pang of fear as the Tully fell and the newcomer strode towards them.

As Fenrir and Aetholric dropped one of the assassins, Li concentrated her attacks on the mage and Fargrim squared up to the approaching swordsman. Heavy blows fell on both sides and within minutes it was Fargrim that next felt the petrifying bite of the greatsword. To make matters worse, the heroes realised that as the energy pulse flared up the blade its wielders wounds healed. Then it was down to the swordsman, Li, Fenrir, Aetholric and Wrynn.

As Li and Fenrir engaged him, Aetholric and Wrynn gave supporting fire and much needed healing as the mysterious figure brought their allies close to falling before finally bringing him down.
The heroes caught their collective breath as they examined their fallen foe, and Wrynn realised he recognised him. His name was Mikus Gravelstoke, a member of a noble family from Netheril and rumoured to be the heads of the secretive society of killers known as the Nighthawks! The rest of the heroes looked at Wrynn in shock at this revelation, but the tiefling could only shrug and admit that he recognised the face but not how he knew it, another flash from the bard’s missing memories. As they examined their fallen comrades conditions Wrynn recalled another tale that mentioned that the Gravelstoke’s victims could only be revived by being smeared with blood from a living Gravelstoke! Their gazes dropped to the obviously deceased foe at their feet.

Aetholric and Fenrir, being more familiar with the area suggested they seek out healing and help within nearby Everlund. And so with heavy hearts (and heavier companions) they approached the city.

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Session 22
When is a dwarf, not a dwarf?

The heroes continued to travel northwards along the edge of the High Forest, they came across what appeared to be a ruined temple. Ever cautious, Li scouted ahead, discovering the place was swarming with centipedes and a pair of Ettercaps.

Ruined Temple

After the bried struggle, they searched the rest of the ruins and were surprised to discover that it appeared to be of dwarven origin. Wrynn recalled the legend of the Delzoun, an ancient dwarven empire that spread across the north-western realms that predated even Netheril. It would be quite common for them to build temple/trading posts above ground, even in a predominently elven area.
Further examination revealed a wide shaft where the earth had given way to a chamber below, perhaps this was where the Ettercaps had come from?

With her companions securing a rope, Li abseiled down into a well lit chamber to find herself surrounded.

Ancient Rectory

An unarmed Ettercap began to approach her as she caught sight of four grey skinned dwarves loading crossbows before disappearing from sight. Li readied her weapons as she called for her comrades to help. As she engaged the Ettercap, Wrynn attempted to descend the rope, landing with a thud on the rubble below, soon accompanied with more grace by Fenrir.

Without warning, the grey skinned dwarves re-appeared, firing their crossbows before discarding them in favour of their warhammers. “Duergar!” cursed Li as she recognised them. The fight was brutal but thanks to the timely intervention of Father Tully’s healing powers, and Li and Fenrir forcing two of the evil dwarves into triggering their own pit trap.

A search of the room revealed a number of gold pieces along with a bottle of strange bronze liquid with Wrynn and Aetholric identified as a healing potion.

At the far side of the room a pair of ornately engraved doors which had been rudely defaced led further into the complex. After checking for traps, Li gave the all clear for the party to forge ahead.

Hall of the Honoured Dead

This chamber housed four large stone sarcophagi, and all but one had been smashed open, most likely by the hammer wielding duergar standing beside them. Another Ettercap accompanied by a trio of Fire Beetles and a pair of spiders joined the Duergar in assaulting the party, though in their exuberance the beetles managed to kill most of the Duergar Miners with their fiery blasts rather than harm the heroes. The spiders and Ettercap unfortunately fared better, as before the battles end all the heroes had felt their blood burn with poisons coursing through them. Needing to recoup their strength they made sure that the next set of doors were secured and saw to their wounds. Fargrim took the opportunity to retrieve the heads of the damaged statues from the central pool and replaced them, as he did so a sense of wellbeing filled the room. He then moved to examine the untouched sarcophagus. It was the resting place of a dwarven hero of Moradin “Ivak Stoneblood” and as he read the inscription, images formed above the central pool showing the dwarf in battle against duergar, his mighty anvil headed hammer glowing with Moradins light as he smote them. Then the image changed to show dwarven priests interring the warrior with his sacred weapon in its resting place. Fargrim gave a gentle push and the lid of the sarcophagus slid easily back, revealing the aged corpse but the hammer looked as if new. Fargrim lifted it reverently, feeling the power of Moradin flowing into him, before resealing the lid.

The Profaned Chapel

As the next set of doors gave way before them the heroes were confonted with a bizarre sight. This cavernous chapel is dominated by a towering statue originally crafted as a representation of the dwarven deity Moradin. It has been crudely transformed into an image of the bizarre insect deity you’ve seen throughout the temple. Smaller statues of dwarven gods and heroes, similarly disfigured, stand against the walls. Four basins on raised platforms stand in the four corners of the chapel. A rubblechoked passage leads away to the north.

Kneeling before the great statue of the insect god is a stout duergar in green robes. He is flanked by pair of scorpions the size of wolves, and a monstrous spider clings to the towering statue above him. Another pair of duergar arrayed in chainmail and armed with mauls stand protectively beside him. The kneeling duergar was praying loudly in grotesque utterances of some unholy language.

The chanting stopped suddenly, and the kneeling duergar leapt to his feet and turned towards the heroes. His gaunt face twisted in a rictus of hatred and madness. He raised a twitching finger, pointing at them, and shouted in Common, “Slay them in the name of Chitteruk!”

Wrynn and Li took the brunt of the scorpions attention, finding themselves in the grip of their viscious claws, when they did manage to extricate themselves the terrible beasts struck them with their poison stingers.

Fenrir was faring much better as the spider scuttled across the roof to sink its venomous fangs into him as the trio of duergar closed in.

As the insects began to fall the heroes were able to concentrate on grey dwarves, and were surprised when one of the guards, suffering a mighty wound, began to growl and grow before their eyes. Swelling to the size of an ogre and battling on with renewed strength from its huge biceps.

By the time the last foe slid lifeless to the floor, the trio of heroes were all looking decidedly worse for wear and welcomed the healing ministrations of Father Tully as they searched the chamber for hidden treasures.

As they examined the bizarre statue of Chitteruk (a god that none of them had ever heard of) they discovered that it was empowered by a smaller piece of glowing bloodstone, a Shard of Karsus!

As the party marvelled at the ancient relic they also uncovered in the rubble at the rear of the chamber an ornately hilted shortsword which Aetholric identified as a harsh songblade, obviously the duergar weren’t music lovers.

The recovering heroes made their way back to the surface to rest before resuming their journey.

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Session 21

Communing with the spirits, Æðelric discovered that the spirit of Garusk was happily reunited with his sister in the happy hunting grounds of his Ancestors, and so with the assistance of Father Tully, laid their fallen comrade to rest.

Moving on with heavy hearts, the heroes came across a badly concealed kobold ambush. Letting the rage she felt at losing her long-time travelling companion, Li tore into the diminuative reptillians, her fury lending strength to her blows. Tully, Æðelric, and Wrynn minded the mounts as Li and Fargrim waded into the kobolds. As they did so a cloaked figure wielding an axe joined the fray, and between them they made short work of their foes.

As the last kobold slid lifeless to the ground, the stranger introduced himself as Fenrir, an Avenger of Oghma, who had been attempting to prevent such ambushes on the few merchant caravan’s that passed through this area. He was also looking for a former Zhentarim officer known to be leading a mercenary band in the region and after a brief discussion it was agreed that he could join the companions on their journey to each’s mutual benefit. Fenrir had heard rumours that the kobolds were working from a hidden lair somewhere near a local waterfall up a minor tributary of the Delimbyr river, so the party decided to track them down.

As they approached the wooded area around the waterfall they noticed a large number of lesser kobolds scattered around the area, suppossedly on watch but not doing a particularly good job of it. An armoured kobold stood within a circle of glowing runes, equally oblivious to the party’s approach. Mustering her stealth, Li crept through the concealing trees to strike the armoured kobold, fading back into the welcoming shadows before the witless creature realised it had been attacked. Fargrim and Fenrir charged up the surprisingly shallow stream, each dispatching kobolds as they swept onwards. One of the kobolds scampered up the rock face to the cave entrance from which the water cascaded, its excited yipping could be heard below, as the party slew the remaining kobolds without even breaking a sweat.

The sounds of more kobolds in the cave could be heard as the trio ascended to the cave entrance, Tully, Æðelric, and Wrynn once again remaining with the groups horses and gear. Cresting the entrance the heroes were faced with a dozen of the yapping beasts, swarming forward to hold the trio of invaders at the cave opening. As blow after blow laid a kobold low, another took its place. Just as the party began to make headway, slaying half of the annoying beasts, a pair of the armoured kobolds appeared from deeper within the caves, flanking one of their deranged wyrmpriests and a fat goblin, cloaked in wolf fur and wielding a pair of wicked axes.

Regardless of kobolds around him, Fargrim charged forwards to engage the grinning goblin as his companions continued to dispatch the lesser enemies. The dwarf and the goblin traded heavy blows, the goblin showing viscious prowess with his axes, as the wyrmpriest bombarded the dwarf with his balls of flame. Having dealt with their opponents, Fenrir assaulted the armoured kobolds to prevent them surounding his dwarven companion, as Li used the concealing shadows to find an advantageous spot from which to strike at the wyrmpriest.

The fight was brutal and bloody, with Fargrim falling before the goblins blades, only to stand once more as the magic of his armour revived him. Eventually their foes fell to the combined attacks of the trio and they searched the chambers from which the goblin and wyrmpriest had come. They discovered a locked chest and Li nimbly opened it, revealing several items that had been previously taken from caravans in the area, along with a note from Commander Acastus Kolya to Irontooth, advising that he was to take command of the kobold band and continue his raids. Kolya’s messenger would call on schedule to collect his cut.

After hiding the corpses onder the waterfall, and securing their mounts, the party decided to rest and await the arrival of Kolya’s messenger.

Some time later, Æðelric spotted a group of riders approaching. Tully, Æðelric, and Wrynn once more took the mounts to safety and kept them quiet while Fargrim, Li, and Fenrir waited in the cave as the riders dismounted. Leaving one of their number with their mounts, the other four ascended the cliff face to be confronted by the trio of heroes. Three of them were obviously nothing more than hired thugs and these fell quickly, but their leader was of a sharper cut, wielding his longsword with finesse and accuracy. Li managed to force him back out of the cave, hoping the drop of the falls would cause him serious harm, unfortunately his lithe form twisted and he landed on his feet with cat-like grace. Not to be outdone, with a shout of “Canonball” Fargrim took a running leap from the cave mouth, tucking his legs and aiming to drop his armoured bulk onto the messenger, but missing terribly and landing hard in the shallow pool. Fenrir and Li descended with a little more grace and then the trio set to with renewed ferver against the swordsman, trading several more blows before he fell to their onslaught.

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Session 20

If you go down to the woods today…

Aetholric and Li slipped into the nearby house that the Nighthawks had entered, unobserved by the approaching squad of Iron Circle warriors, and quietly set about searching for clues as to what the assassins were doing in Llorkh. The house showed signs of regular use but nothing untoward as they moved to inspect the bedroom and storeroom individually. Li found a small iron bound chest beneath the bed, easily disabling the needle trap placed on the lock, and its contents of gold coins marked with the Netherese symbol. The storeroom held more grisly secrets however. A sealed barrel was found to contain the mouldering corpse of a townsperson, stuffed unceremoniously inside.

The rest of the party stood ready in case of trouble as the two dozen warriors formed a semi-circle around them. One of the Adepts stepped forward and with a slight tremble in his voice demanded to know why they had assaulted members of their town. The party told him they had recognised the trio as members of the Nighthawks and followed them when they left the inn, only to be ambushed here, and revealed the assassins trademark daggers as proof. The Adept looked back at what appeared to be his superior officer for encouragement before ordering his troops to gather the bodies and bring them with the party to the Iron Keep before Lord Redthorn. The party calmly agreed and accompanied them.

At the Keep they were shown into a room and left with the bodies and a trio of guards. Shortly Lord Redthorn and his elite guard entered, ignoring the party, and moved to examine the bodies. Garusk overheard them mention that one of the Nighthawks was called Memtar and sent one of his men to check his post. Lord Redthorn turned to the party and asked them what had transpired. Telling him what they had told the Adept earlier as he listened intently. As they finished, he gestured to the bodies and told them that one of them was a member of his Iron Circle and had been for a couple of years now, the other two were believed to be visiting family members who had shown interest in joining also. Redthorn apologized for disbelieving the party’s previous claims about the Nighthawks and in thanks for revealing this treachery within his ranks offered them the hospitality of his Keep for the night, which the companions happily accepted.

Having found nothing else of interest Aetholric and Li rejoined their companions at the Keep and told them and Lord Redthorn of their findings. The party were invited to dine with the Lord and his elite that evening and during the course of events Lord Redthorn agreed to supply mounts and pack animals for the party’s journey north and they discussed the Nighthawks and the rumours concerning their movements in the area. By the end of the evening a new alliance had been agreed and a glimmer of hope for the future could be seen.

Next day the party prepared to set off towards Everlund and the home of Aetholric’s mentor. Lord Redthorn had arranged to have their barge returned to Loudwater for them and any word of Nighthawk activity would be sent there for them. So it was with lighter hearts that the party departed.

Having decided to follow the edge of the High Forest up and around the companions were a little unprepared for the rough terrain but soldiered on, the swath of land between the forest and the river varying between a couple of miles and barely anything. Indeed it was as the forest seemed to block the way, the party having to wind their way through the ancient trees, that they came across what at first seemed an abandoned campsite, until the figures of muscular dog-faced creatures loped into view. “Gnolls!” advised Aetholric, “vicious fighters and excellent trackers”. Leaving their mounts the party approached on foot.

Five of the creatures were spread throughout the camp, casually tearing through the remaining tents. Taking advantage of their not being noticed, Li and Tully spread out a little as Garusk charged the nearest beast. Though this proved to be a fatal mistake; as its companions, showing a surprising turn of speed rushed to its aid; three of the hairy creatures surrounding the goliath and jabbing him with their crude long spears. Fargrim, Wrynn and Aetholric moved up to assist their comrades as another Gnoll appeared from one of the tents, this one was bulkier and wielded a huge club studded with what appeared to be sharpened teeth; with a blood-curdling howl it charged Father Tully and smashed the wicked club into the priest, the jagged teeth ripping a horrendous wound that continued to bleed profusely. Responding to their leader’s howl, the trio assaulting Garusk struck again and the mighty barbarian fell under their onslaught.

The remaining companions had little chance to mourn the falling of their towering friend as they were hard pressed by the Gnolls. The remainder of the battle was hard fought, with Fargrim falling to blows (but thankfully saved by the magic of his armour and the pure stubbornness of the Dwarf to stay down) and Father Tully also being battered to the very threshold of Deaths Door as the final beast dropped lifeless to the forest floor.

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Session 19

As the heroes faced off against the Zhents it looked as if they were going to have a hard time of it, but once they had broken the phalanx of the undead soldiers the battle soon went their way. Li managed to take the sorcerous wight out of action with well placed attack from her deadly crossbow. Soon the Zhentarim littered the floor, doomed to rise no more.

The immediate threat taken care of Aetholric examined the pool which was giving off magical emanations to his arcane sight. As he viewed it, the murky liquid swirled, revealing a vision of the room where the heroes had faced the “chess” undead.

Returning to the tranquil safety of the room they were using as a base they encountered a hidden trap, Li quickly disabled the pressure plate and the close by door trigger of the hidden magical crossbow trap, and the way was clear.

Wrynn was waiting for them, his attempts to remove the elemental embers from the large brazier had been unsuccessful but he had used the fiery device to dispose of the remaining Zhentarim corpse parts, just in case.

After resting the heroes continued their explorations, returning to the room with the viewing pool, Aetholric sensed magical emanations from two adjoining rooms. One contained a pair of small fonts held up by stone cherubs, which seemed to contain restorative liquids. The other revealed a large blood red glyph on the floor with a large chest beyond it and a large bronze brazier styled to resemble a roaring dragon. While the others suddenly found something very urgent and important to do elsewhere, Li examined the room, discovering the glyph was a trigger to somesort of trap from the brazier. As she attempted to disable it, it activated, spraying the area with fierce flames. After a couple more attempts she finally disabled it only to discover that the chest was a solid stone decoy!

Continuing onwards the heroes discovered a collection of shrines dedicated to Mask, Bhaal, Myrkul and another smaller altar to Cyric. These were guarded by more Zhentarim undead with several shambling corpses of former villagers. The heroes faced attacks from several fronts but weathered the assault. Finally laying to rest the last of the undead Zhentarim, before Aetholric reactivated the magical portal, returning them to the base of the Tower of Green Flame.

As they appeared they found themselves surrounded by waiting Iron Circle guards who escorted them to Iron Keep and an audience with Lord Redthorn himself. His offer of stock replenishment as reward for their actions met with contempt and disdain from the heroes. Despite their attempts to coerce and intimidate a more substantial reward, they left empty handed and heavy hearted.

Returning the the Cliffside Brewery and Tavern, the party made casaul conversation with several off-duty members of the Iron Circle when Garusk noticed a trio of strangers leaving the taproom and caught a brief glimpse of a familiar silver dagger!

As the party pursued them, the trio split up, two entering a small residence while the third skirted around the back and over the low garden wall. Fargrim and Li chased the lone figure while their companions prepared to assault the building. As Fargrim vaulted the wall the revealed Nighthawk fired his crossbow, the bolt burying itself deep into the dwarfs flesh. Rather than slow him down the injury just enraged the paladin and he proceeded to close with the Nighthawk, discovering that his companions had exited the building by another door and lay in wait. Hearing the sounds of combat the rest of the party moved to investigate, finding the remaining Nighthawks and engaging them. The battle was short but bloody, though with the help of Father Tully and his healing powers, the heroes managed to defeat the trio of assassins.

As the dust settled, and the heroes began to examine the bodies, the sound of approaching armoured feet could be heard rapidly approaching………

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Session 18
Die, Zhent, Die!

As the heroes finished crumbling the last part of the Altar of Cyric to rubble they heard a chime resound throughout the complex, coming from the chamber with the magic circle in which they had appeared. Returning to the chamber they found their comrade Æðelric, resplendant in his newly enchanted dragon-skin cloak. The wizard had come looking for his wayard companions and the Iron Circle had directed him to the Zhentarim temple below the Tower of Green Flame.

After taking a few moments to bring each other up to speed it was agreed that if the undead in the altar room had been brought back to unlife, maybe those in the other chambers the heroes had previously faced had too. Wrynn decided to remain in th chamer with the urn containing the everburning embers in an effort to see if they could be taken with them as they others made their way to the chamber that contained the shelves of Necromancy books.

Sure enough several undead were present, though not for long as the party made short work of the rotting creatures. Passing through Cyrics shrine once more they were relieved to see that the altar remained in pieces and no undead had revived. Li examined the doors leading from the chamber, discovering they were warded with another necrotic glyph. Bypassing it they entered the next chamber to discover what at first glance seemed to be an over-sized game of chess, with several soldier pieces flanked by hulking armoured brutes. When these began to move however it became clear that they were more undead Zhentarim with zombified Ogres in tow.

They heroes quickly engaged the foul creatures and morale was high as the Ogre’s fell, only to be dashed once again as the beasts rose up, flesh hanging of their bodies in huge chunks. When the party put them down a second time the creatures did not rise again.

Exploring further they discovered a poorly hidden pit trap in the next chamber, which Li proceeded to disable (Father Tully tested it by jumping up and down on it). Turning south Garusk and Fargrim opened a door, triggering another necrotic glyph, and revealing a small chamber containig a shrine to Bane. An undead Zhent priest stood before an onyx statue of the Black Lord in his form as the Tyrant (an armoured figure with sword resting and a globe in his other hand) with Zhent soldiers around him. The battle was swift and bloody with the undead soon lying strewn around the room. Æðelric examined the statue finding that th globe was exquisitely carved to represent Faerûn itself and could be removed from the statue. Rather than do so by hand the wizard conjured a magical extension of his own hand and lifted the orb free, as he did so an ominous grinding sound like stone on stone echoed through the complex. The wizard tried replacing the orb but nothing further seemed to happen. Unwilling to leave a shrine dedicated to an evil god intact, the party proceeded to smash it to pieces, after which Fargrim picked up several fist-sized chunks and placed them in his backpack.

The small door that led from this room led into what looked like an ante-chamber with a set of double doors embossed with a scene of a robed skeletal figure striding across a field of fallen warriors, rays of power streaking from his outstretched hand to strike the bodies. The party were able to identify this as a representation of Myrkul, former god of the dead that was slain by Cyric on his journey into godhood. Li unlocked the doors to reveal the chamber beyond and the undead Zhentarim forces standing ready to face them……

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Session 17

“Episode VI XVII – The Return of the Jedi Zhentarim”

Retiring to their room at Auntie Nonnie’s in Llorkh, our heroes’ were surprised to awaken in a dank underground chamber, lit only by the glowing runes on the floor below them. A quick check confirmed that they had all their equipment and also a scroll sealed with the mark of the Iron Circle.

Wrynn opened it, revealing a note from Nazin Redthorn, leader of the Iron Circle. “My apologies for tricking you into this situation, but I couldn’t take the risk that you would refuse. When you awake you will be inside the Tower of Green Flame. The place is overrun with terrible undead and has been a terror to our town for some time. Former members of the Zhentarim occupation force fled here when Netherese forces arrived to destroy them, but the strange magic of the tower turned their underground temple to haven for the undead. Any treasure you may find you are welcome to, we ask only that you put an end to whatever keeps reviving these unholy creatures.”

Ignoring the darkened corridor beyond the curtain to the west the party opened a door eastward and entered a chamber as Father Tully activated a Sunrod to drive back the dark. The chamber was clean and free of the carrion smell that permeated the previous room. A sense of peace and well-being surrounded them. A faint red glow from under the western door lured the party onwards.
Opening the door the heroes found a metal urn filled with fire casting patterns of flickering shadows around the room momentarily distracting them as a trio of shambling zombies moved to attack. The undead minions were swiftly dealt with and Wrynn investigated the urn, discovering the contents to be everburning embers from the Elemental Chaos.

Continuing westward the party entered a room that may have once been a laboratory of some kind. Several mouldering books remained on the shelves and a handful of vials lay on the central workbench. A large group of zombies shuffled into action, accompanied by a trio of others still clad in military uniforms. From their fighting ability it soon became apparent that the well armed undead retained more than a little of their former prowess. Eventually the heroes overcame all of the foes and upon searching the room found the books too decayed to be of use, and the vials to contain what appeared to be various necrotic based items. Li investigated the chest, finding it contained a sum of gold coins and a bejewelled belt.

Zhents

The only exit from the room led south, as they entered a short corridor they could see that it opened into a larger chamber. The lighting from which cast shadows as hidden figures moved around. Summoning her stealth Li wrapped herself in shadows and was able to conceal her in plain sight in the middle of the room. As she took in her surroundings she realised there were numerous undead, then all cognizant thought left her as a wave of evil energy from the altar swept over her, robbing her of her will. As her companions began to enter the room they were shocked, not by the undead awaiting them but by the crossbow shot from Li! Battle was joined as the undead moved to intercept the heroes. Assuming the undead in the robes had magically controlled his companion, Garusk bravely charged down the room, taking multiple hits from the zombie soldiers as he went. As the party fought on Li regained her will and began to attempt to prevent the altar from affecting her or her companions again. As the rest of the heroes continued to battle the zombie priests of Cyric used their unhallowed magic, and the robed wight channelled his necrotic powers, immobilizing Garusk. Recovering from the magical assault the mighty goliath used his fury and beat the mage to the ground, as the combined might of Father Tully’sradiant magic and Fargrim’s dwarven stubbornness saw them through. When the last of their enemies fell lifeless (so to speak) to the floor, our heroes retraced their route back to the peaceful room to recuperate.

Upon waking they felt invigorated and ventured south into what looked like a storeroom of some sort, guarded by two more of the soldier zombies. Even though the undead shrugged off a couple of mortal blows the heroes overcame them. A quick search of the crates revealed mouldy food packets, iron chain and some surprising clean water.

The corridor beyond was empty, or so they thought at first, then what looked like a wall detached itself from the gloom. A huge zombie ogre blocked the far end of the corridor, but despite its size it proved only a minor inconvenience. The door previously hidden behind the putrefying behemoth led back into the chamber with the alter to Cyric, Fargrim and Garusk could hear the sound of chanting coming from within and without pausing Fargrim charged in. He was shocked to find that the undead soldiers, priests and mage had arisen again but before he could react, the insidious energy of the reactivated altar washed over him and the mage’s magic bolt immobilized him.

The heroes were bottlenecked in the chamber entrance by the undead and were hard pressed from the start. The battle wasn’t made any easier when the priest’s used their prayers to make the heroes attack themselves. As the heroes began to make headway with two of the zombie soldiers laid to rest once more, the mage-wight poured forth necrotic energy, bringing one of his fallen comrades back into the fray. Father Tully called upon Silvanus and blasted the undead with his gods holy radiance, as Garusk and Fargrim continued to pound on them and Li used precision strikes to take down one of the priests, returning him to his dark gods embrace once more.

As the last of the foul creatures fell to the ground the altar pulsed again, its magic causing Fargrim to strike out at the nearby Garusk, but some semblance of his will must have stayed his hand as the blow fell short. Li, with Wrynn’s assistance disabled the altar once again, and then the party set about smashing the unholy relic to pieces.

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Session 16

Recovering from the brutal attack of the Nighthawks, our intrepid heroes returned to the abandonded tenement to investigate the body Li saw in the bed, only to find that it was a fake made to resemble Garwan the dwarf propietor of the Curiosity shop. Further searching found a scrap of paper tucked between the floorboards in one of the upstairs rooms, the only word written upon it was “”/campaign/loudwater-beyond/wikis/llorkh" class=“wiki-page-link”> Llorkh". The party decided to travel to the bandit town using the barge they had confiscated from the children smugglers, and set off to discover what link if any there was between the bandits and the Nighthawks.

Setting a steady pace they made good progress on the first day before tying up on the riverbank for the night. In the early hours of the morning, as Li took her turn on watch, several men were spotted approaching the barge from the darknened riverbank. Quickly rousing her companions, Li realised that the half dozen men were indeed Nighthawks, not the efficient killers that they had encountered before but still dangerous opponents, made even more so by the spellcaster accompanying them. The party made short work of the thugs but every time they tried to land a blow on the Magus it’s magic whisked it to safety. Only by the combined efforts of the party were they able to negate his viscious spells and bring him down with combined ranged attacks.

Next day they continued upriver until they heard the sounds of a womans screams for help from a nearby farm. As the heroes approached they saw a group of men in black cloaks with grey circles emblazoned, surrounding a farmhouse with lit torches in hand. A smaller farm building was already well alight. As Garusk and Fargrim charged forward, Li snuck around to a side door of the farmhouse. The men called out to the party that this was Iron Circle business and none of theirs, Garusks answer came at the end of his mighty weapon. Father Tully and Wrynn supplied support to their fighting companions but were soon engaged by two wolves that the Iron Circle bandits had brought with them. The battle was bloody but short as the outclassed bandits fell to the heroes blows. Li managed to calm the woman and two small boys in the farmhouse, and once the fighting was over the homesteader offered the party a home-cooked meal as way of thanks, explaining the the Iron Circle were former roving bandits that had gone civilized and now ran the town of Llorkh, based from the old Keep that overlooked the small town. The bandits had arrived to demand “protection” money and when she had refused they had begun to burn her outbuildings. After disposing of the bodies and bidding the family goodbye the party continued onwards.

Reaching as far as the river could take them, they moored the barge, Æðelric remained onboard, utilising the time to commune with his spirit guides and study more of the rituals he had taken from the Warlocks tower. The rest of the party headed off on foot. Not long thereafter they saw a guarded wagon approaching with more of the black cloaked bandits escorting another figure in a red surcoat with some sort of mechanical hound leading the way. At Li’s urging the party stood aside to allow the group to pass unmolested but as they drew level one of the bandits was struck by a crossbow bolt. Tensions were raised and as both sides went on the offensive Li noticed a figure secluded in a nearby tree.

As the mechanical hound attacked Father Tully, knocking him to the ground, Garusk sprang to his comrades aid, his mighty mordenkrad clanging against the mettalic hide of the creature. Hoping to avoid uneccesary bloodshed Li ran towards the hidden figure shouting as she went for the bandits to realise where the attack had come from. Fargrim followed as swiftly as he could but suddenly found a crossbow bolt buried in his leg and the unmistakeable sensation of a poison pumping through his system, robbing him of his strength.

Barely pausing for breath, Li nimbly climbed the tree to engage their hidden foe, she was now able to see that it was another of the Nighthawks and her sudden assault pushed him from the safety of his concealed perch. The fall to the ground was barely noticed amidst the rain of blows Li continued to rain upon him, aided by one of the bandits. As the sniper slid lifeless to the floor the red-dressed man signalled for his escort to stand down. Thanking the party for their timely assistance he appeared surprised to hear of the Nighthawks but Li assured him that were a threat to the areas stability. He invited the party to accompany him back to Llorkh for their mutual safety, choosing to cut short his patrol in favour of alerting his superiors of this new threat to their power base. As they approached Llorkh he advised them that the Iron Circle had stepped into the power void left by the Zhentarim since the Spellplague had caused them to lose their foothold this side of Returned Netheril. Bringing a semblance of order and civility to the leaderless town. Leaving them outside the town tavern he thanked them once again before ascending the steep pathway to the keep overlooking the town from the cliff above.

Llorkh

Inside the tavern the party took seats at a table, the only other patrons being a coupe of off-duty Iron Circle soldiers. As they sat enjoying their drinks the quiet ambience of the common room was spoilt as a group of swaggering bandits entered, walking directly to the party’s table as their self-elected leader declared “Thats our table!”, despite the partys politeness the thugs were spoiling for a fight, and were soon rewarded as combat erupted, though the heroes were careful to pull their blows, not wanting to cause too much trouble. The brawl was shortlived as it soon became obvious that the party outclassed the thugs and those not lying unconcious on the barroom floor decided they had urgent business elsewhere.

As our heroes apologised to the barkeep, they enquired if he had seen anyone bearing the Nighthawk symbol in town. Indeed, a week before three such men had been in the bar (one of which matched the description of the man Li had followed), they had been accompanied by a fourth man who seemed to be left out of their conversations but had still left with them when they went to the Trading Post in town. Thanking the barkeep, the heroes headed off.

The chubby little man that ran the Trading Post had a selective memory though after a little cash had changed hands his recollection became clearer. The suspected Nighthawks had purchased supplies and equipment for a journey into Thunderspire, an ancient Minotaur stronghold under the nearby Greypeak Mountains, now rumoured to be home to orcs, and worse!

With plenty to think over the heroes retired to the nearby Inn to plan their next moves.

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