The second session began with the unexpected departure of the party’s genasi wizard and elf rogue. After the two left, the remaining four turned and plunged deeper into the ruined hold of Rivenroar. They soon found a mysterious dungeon feature: large tree roots growing through the sturdy stone walls. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that the roots had not grown through the walls, but in fact seemed as though to have been put in place. For what purpose, the heroes could not say.
Continuing on, it did not take long before the group ran into more guards, and during the ensuing battle (during which Surina single handedly defeated two goblin snipers, sending their bodies down a deep, dark pit), a distant call for help could be heard. After the fighting, the PCs discovered that the source of the frantic screams for help emanated from a rather strange and out-of-place hut. Though its roof was constructed of giant, layered leaves and its walls were comprised of a variety of exotic woods, the hut—like the large tree trunks—was incomplete, the stone wall of the dungeon behind it seeming to cut it in half.
Wasting no time, Kaelvar threw his shoulder at the simple door, which shattered under his great weight. Within, he found what he at first mistook for some sort of hairy lizard. He soon discovered that it was a manacled dwarf—though unlike any dwarf he had ever encountered before. The captive—a male—stood the normal height of dwarfs, but he was thin, more like a halfling. His hair was a wild, tangled mess, he wore only hides and reptilian skin, and his body bore all sorts of bizarre fetishes. The odd nature of the dwarf was further deepened when he displayed a wide-eyed marvel at both stone and metalwork, in addition to showing no recognition of the name Moradin, the god of the dwarves.
After being released from his manacles, the dwarf introduced himself as Thorngrim. He was from a village, he explained, one that was “pulled here, deep beneath the earth.” He knew not why, only that his village’s “center tree” had flared with tremendous light just before it occurred. He said that this happened one month ago, and the hobgoblins had been keeping them prisoner ever since.
Asking Thorngrim many questions, it did not take the party long to deduce that he was from the jungle land of Mystrar (where the remnants of the noble Arkhosian Empire existed). How or why the village was pulled so many leagues to the ruins of Rivenroar they could not say, though after their discovery of a portal nearby, a theory began to form.
The portal, carved of stone, sat in the shape of a circle, its lower half seeming to be sunk beneath the floor. Strange runes ran along its length—runes that none of the party could identify. While copying down the runes for later study, Kaelvar overheard Thorngrim explaining that in his village, there was a similar portal, one made of wood. Ancient and mysterious, it existed on the village’s center tree—the one from which the great light flared the night they were transported here.
It became apparent that somehow, through the relationship of these two portals, Thorngrim’s village was phased into the same space as Rivenroar. The parts of his jungle village that rematerialized in space already occupied by earth and stone were destroyed, while the rest occupied sections of rooms and hallways, though incomplete. In addition, many of Thorngrim’s fellow dwarf villagers lay dead throughout the halls, their moist, decomposing corpses in various states of decay. Kaelvar helped the dwarf bury his fellows within one of the large tree roots—as was their custom—and then they all set aside the mystery to continue their rescue mission.
In a crypt lined with sarcophagi containing the copses of a long-dead human house (the Von Urstadt), the party confronted a goblin and arbalester. By opening a nearby door, the goblin somehow reanimated the Von Urstadts, who stumbled from their places of rest as undead skeletons. It was at this moment that, for the first time, Thorngrim revealed his rather spectacular (and somewhat unsettling) ability to effortlessly shift into the form of a wide variety of animals, exposing himself as a druid, a rather rare sight on the continent of Keslinn.
After the short but fierce battle, Kaelvar gathered the bones and replaced them in their sarcophagi, angered at the goblin’s desecration. The party then continued, and soon found a frightened woman in a nearby cell—one of the kidnapped townsfolk. After soothing her fears (and after convincing Thorn that she wasn’t a planted spy), the party learned that it was Jalissa, human acolyte of Ioun. After Thorn healed her wounds, Jalissa revealed that she had seen other prisoners: Adrianna, Zurtania, a wounded Kartinex, and another whom the group did not know was taken—Thorn’s missing friend, Zarixa.
Jalissa decided to follow the group, too afraid to be left alone or attempt a journey back to Brindol by herself, and the party continued in their dungeon delve. A short while later, the adventurers came upon two sets of stairs—one falling further into darkness and one ascending to a closed door. Both stairways were attached to a room filled with large, ominous spider webs. In the center of the room lay a corpse stripped of its flesh. After a bile-summoning inspection of the poor, dead humanoid, it was determined that it had been Kartinex, captain of the guard of Brindol. He had been bound and placed here… as a feast for the spiders.
The crawling swarms fell out of the webs, twitching across the cold stone floor toward the heroes. After a very dangerous (but thankfully short) encounter, the spiders had all been destroyed, along with their webs. Kaelvar untied Kartinex’s bonds and attempted to place him in a more dignified position, vowing to return his body to Brindol and burying him next to Maygar.
The PCs then decided to take the stairs down deeper into the dungeon, as there was evidence that this flight of steps had recently been excavated (along the way having an entertaining discussion about the various racial customs concerning inhumation). At the bottom they were met by two large, cumbersome doors of stone. Carved into the face of these doors were dwarven symbols. It became clear that this lower hold was more ancient than the upper hold. It was not uncommon for humans and other races to build upon ancient dwarves structures, as was clearly the case here.
Beyond the doors, they were attacked by a group of hobgoblins with a couple of pet drakes, all led by a crafty little goblin. This time, the party killed all but one hobgoblin and the goblin, keeping them alive for questioning. In an adjacent room, they found another prisoner—Lord Orenna’s 18-year old daughter, Thuranna, along with three ancient dwarven sarcophagi. Proving to be of little use, the goblin and hobgoblin were bound and tossed into one of the sarcophagi, and the PCs continued with their search.
Traveling into the next chamber, the PCs discovered several menhirs covered in arcane dwarven runes that glowed a chilling blue. The runes seemed to suck all warmth from the air, and any who passed near them soon found themselves covered in a bitter frost while suffering from a deep, biting cold.
Past this grouping of strange, magical standing stones, the heroes finally found their quarry: the hobgoblin leader, Sinrith.
During the terrific battle that followed, Surina was knocked unconscious, though she quickly recovered. However, upon seeing his dragonborn ally fall, Kaelvar flew into a fury and managed to deliver the finishing blow, turning his blade flat and merely knocking the hobgoblin leader unconscious instead of decapitating him.
While he was unconscious, the group explored the room. Of note, there sat a desk and another dwarven sarcophagus. The sarcophagus was marked in dwarven runes, which read, “Kelek son of Nyrad.” But of particular interest was a letter, written in common and addressed to Sinrith. The letter revealed that the attack on Brindol—and the kidnapping of raven haired women between the ages of 20 and 40—was orchestrated by someone other than Sinrith. The women were to be taken to Thunderport. The letter read as follows:
The Red Hand will rise again! We’re pleased with your ability to inspire ferocity in others, whether they have true goblin blood or merely wish they did. To be blunt, we believe you should have many more soldiers under your command. Many more. As assurance of our continued support, we have sent armor, weapon, and provisions.
Once you have put Brindol to the sword, we will order Krand and his followers to submit to your leadership. Before you destroy the town, though, you must seize any women who have hair like the raven and are between ages 20 and 40. It is essential that you do this! Fail in this, and the Hand will never rise again.
Once you have achieved this, destroy Brindol and seize its treasures. Fight with the valor of your ancestors, and you will be rewarded.
Send those you capture to Thunderport. Krand will know what to do with them.
In addition to the letter, the group found the artifacts stolen from the Hall of Valor. Among them was a platinum sword, purely decorative as its balance was off and its handle was shaped into the likeness of an angel (not the best for gripping). The angel’s arms were positioned in such a way to be holding a gem of some sort, though it was now missing.
While they were searching the room, they spied a dark figure near the menhirs, unbothered by the standing stones’ chilling effects. Terrible and mysterious, the shadowy figure glided forward like an awful phantom, gazing at them, studying them. No words ushered forth from the figure’s gray, sickly lips, but his eyes bore deep into their souls. One eye was but a dark onyx, dull and gleamless, and the other contained no humor or mirth. Black leathers wrapped tightly about his ashen colored skin, and gray, loose-fitting robes seemed to move gently as if by an unseen wind. Rings pierced the flesh of his face, and jewelry adorned his long, slender fingers. One of these he gently brushed, and when he did, shadows erupted from the floor at his feet, crawling over him like serpents. When they collapsed back into the ground, he was gone, and the group was left only with a chilling memory of this silent and mysterious foe.
After Sinrith awoke, the group set to interrogating him. However, the hobgoblin proved to be far too arrogant to be intimidated, insisting that they send him to his god, Bane. When the disgusting creature insulted the dragonborn and all dragonborns’ honor, Kaelvar snapped. He grabbed Sinrith by his throat and dragged him to the menhirs, placing him at the base of one of them, images of the children of Brindol being ruthlessly slaughtered playing through his mind. He then stood back, watching the hobgoblin’s frozen breath grow thinner and thinner as hypothermia set in.
Just before life left the foul murderer, Kaelvar called out to him, saying that if the Red Hand of Doom were to arise again, it would be under a different leader, and no one would remember Sinrith’s name. The hobgoblin spat a curse at Kaelvar, just as his last, shuddering breath left his body. He died beneath a single dwarven rune: it read, “Loyalty.”
The group then returned to the two rescued townsfolk, who had remained nearby but behind. It was at this point when Thuranna seemed to take a liking to Gentoo, who quickly realized that Thuranna and Captain Kartinex had been lovers. Not wishing to tell her that he was dead, Gentoo instead asked Thorn to do it. The tiefling cleric took to the assignment with enthusiasm, leaving the young human noble a shattered, sobbing wreck.
Down a hall, the adventurers discovered a large, square room containing something none of them expected to find: the tree from Thorngrim’s village, the one etched with the portal. Only the lower half of the bole of the mighty tree existed. The group set to examining the strange runes, and it was obvious that the bizarre language matched that of the stone portal they had discovered upstairs. Through their study of history, the two dragonborn began to piece together some of the mystery (see the Kinslayer Years entry in the Everdusk Campaign PDF, pp.4-5).
Tieldeth, unlike the other primordials, had refused to take part in the war against the gods. For this, he was banished to the world in the form of a sword. He also had a counterpart, a god who refused to take part in the fighting and had likewise been sent to the earth—a god named Calinbrin.
During the War of the Forsaken (refer to the PDF), the dwarfs had split into two cultures. It was obvious that one of those cultures had created the lower holds of Rivenroar and the stone portal, and that Thorngrim’s people were descendents of the other.
Suddenly, two great forms emerged from the tree. They were woodlings, guardian spirits in the shape of giant dwarves made of wood. Before the party could communicate with them, their bark began to sicken and turn black. They collapsed, and from their corpses sprang several dark and twisted aberrant creatures. During the battle that followed, the creatures seemed to be attracted to Gentoo…
Still weakened from the fight with Sinrith, Surina finally succumbed to her wounds. She collapsed, and one of the foul creatures attempted to suck the life from her as she lie prone. Kaelvar and Thorngrim rushed to protect her and managed to do so, though she barely clung to life.
They eventually managed to defeat the creatures, after which Kaelvar sat down heavily next to his unconscious companion, laying his great axe across his lap. In the morning, they would set to clearing out the rest of Rivenroar and rescuing the other kidnapped townsfolk. But first, they would need to rest…