Thursday, March 22, 2018

#6: The Old Keep

We gather at the base of the “Tower of Carrock”, the half-constructed legacy of leaders past, and of Aibreann’s parents.  Tussugar, Aibreann herself, Drachus, Rould, Audric and myself. 

I don’t know what it is we expected to find.  There are stockpiles of blankets, dry goods and provisions for the town, but beneath the tower—in the cellar—we win access to a chamber behind a locked door.  Stale air confronts us, revealing another storeroom stocked with barrels, but also elaborately carved, moth-eaten furniture that is altogether out of place in a town such as Carrock.  We also find a large chest, on which are engraved the initials ‘ECV’—belonging to Aibreann’s mother, Ethelenda. Drachus reveals these to be the handed-down possessions of Aibreann’s parents.

In examining the room, we discern that most of the belongings are mundane in nature, though artfully crafted, if worn from time and neglect.  The chest is full of women’s clothing, presumably having belonged to Aibreann’s mother, but within the chest, Audric detects a magical aura, and with Aibreann’s blessing, rummages through the chest.  None of the items within are the culprit, but he does discover a hidden panel at the base of the chest containing a pair of books and a leather pouch; the aura emanates from the pouch.

One of the books appears to be a book of spells, the other a journal.  Within the pouch, there are three black marbles.  When handed the journal, her eyes tear up—this was clearly an unexpected find.  We hand the items over to Aibreann, expecting to revisit their importance—and potential value—later.

Recognizing that we need a guide to find Oldkeep, we ask around the various hunters of Carrock, setting up a meeting for later that day.  Back at the inn, Aibreann confronts us about our findings earlier that day.  She entrusts the black marbles to us, as we intend to use them in service to and defense of Carrock.  The journal is a pregnancy journal from her mother; it refers to the book of spells, revealing that it was plunder taken from band of orcs.  It’s identified as “particularly suitable to a young apprentice”.  She entrusts that to us as well, then reveals one last secret—that there is something else she wishes us to see.

Drachus and Tussugar, along with Rould, gather around the table.  Aibreann reveals one of the last pages of the journal, where the final entry—several pages—the only thing scribed on the page of the journal is the same mark found on the faces of the creatures we killed.  The mark looks like it may be some sort of a rune or a character of a foreign alphabet, but beyond that it holds no meaning to us.

I use my magic to examine the runes; they appear to be similar, or in fact a wizard mark; an arcane sigil, a wizard’s personal rune.  I explain to Tussugar that it may be that the creatures were in Carrock seeking the book; more likely, however, they were searching for the blood of the book’s author, Aibreann.

Tussugar reveals that he needs to ‘amend’ the story shared with us before.  When he says “he watched them both die,” he actually witnessed Ethelenda attack and kill her husband, Reginald; Tussugar retaliated, striking down Ethelenda with his axe.  Ethelenda was the ‘Witch Queen’ of Tussugar’s tale, though whether the Witch Queen existed before—as a separate entity—is unknown, as Tussugar did not arrive until later.

The hunters arrive, three of them, answering our call for aid.  One among them—short and bearded—reveals that he found the tracks, that he knows the woods better than anyone, and offers to come willingly.  His name is Arkhen.  Though short—perhaps 5’3—he looks strong and capable.  He agrees to leave in the morning.

We spend the night, preparations having been made, and awaken fresh—if anxious—and ready to go.  If we hurry, we will arrive with daylight to spare.  I spare only a moment to remind Tussugar to watch over Aibreann, and we depart.

Arkhen doesn’t know much about Oldkeep; being a day out from Carrock, it would mean spending the night in the wild to visit it, which is a dangerous proposition.  He has been there enough times to know of its location, but hasn’t been within the walls.  Our journey is uneventful, and two hours before sundown we reach Oldkeep, approaching it from the west.  The north wall is mostly intact; the south wall, however, is mostly collapsed, standing only a handful of feet high.  Inside the walls—or remains of the walls, is in interior structure, perhaps a storage chamber or shelter.

I conjure forth an unseen servant to carry a torch in advance of our investigation.  With cover provided by Rould and Arkhen, Audric & I approach the interior structure.  I notice movement within--perhaps an animal, perhaps something more threatening—but we continue our approach.  The ground inside the walls is cobbled, but most is crushed and ground with the passage of time, consumed by the earth.  Nothing is tended, but we do notice scuffs.  We find scatter—it has an odor to it, so it is not old.  There is a subtle unpleasant odor.  We see movement again; this time obviously humanoid, a gangly limb.  I order the unseen servant to raise the torch to the height of the interior structure of the keep.

The realization occurs to me that the detritus I’ve stepped in is in actuality a severed, gory arm.  As the fire reaches the top of the keep, long, clawed hands reach over the wall, and a dark, rubbery creature scales down the wall.  The creature has empty eye sockets, and evil intent.

It rushes me and Audric, and we suffer greatly from its claws and deadly bite.  Audric’s retaliation against the creature is mighty, however, and the aim of our new comrade Arkhen is true.  We flee melee, narrowly avoiding disaster, and Arkhen slays the creature with a well-placed arrow as it rushes forward to finish us off.

Its wounds begin to stitch and mend, the corpse to move with unnatural life, but that ends when we set flame to the creature—revealed to be a horrid troll.

Within the interior structure of the keep, we discover the troll’s lair, as well as a dilapidated stairwell leading below.  I send the unseen servant down with the torch, where we discover what appears to be the troll’s nest or bed.  The torch illuminates runes that are very similar to those found in Moonglow Cave.  Unsure how to proceed, but in need of secure shelter for the night, we ponder our findings, and make to explore the cellar further…


  1. Thorough write-up, and very accurate. Arkhen's aim was true indeed, inflicting 19 points of damage to the troll over three arrows, including the fatal shot at the end.

    Tussugar wasn't set to reveal what he did when we started the session. Both grief-laden and ashamed of that segment of his past, he intended to take his secret to the grave, if for no other reason than to preserve the legacy of Aibreann's mother and father. As events unfolded, however, it became clear that the dwarf needed to speak. He ultimately is a protector of the common folk, and certainly not cowardly enough to risk innocent lives for the sake of the dead, or himself.

    It's interesting to look back at the first few sessions and consider the depth of relationships (both between PCs and NPCs) evolved since then.

  2. In the time between sessions, we should determine the party's plans for the night, in regards to using any remaining spells and making camp.

    Also, amid the troll's nest, Audric and Zeb spot a gleaming, jeweled necklace, perhaps a piece that once belonged to a noble or similarly well-off individual. It simply lay among the grasses, half-concealed in the troll's bed. (This was a detail left out at the end of the session, since we were wrapping up quickly and it was late.)

  3. Zeb would hand the necklace to Audric. Is the chain silver, gold, or something else? Also, does it look tarnished (like you'd expect from something stored improperly), or no? Without having immediate access to detect magic, that might be a way to discern whether it has magical properties.

    As for plans--I really want to deface the runes on the wall. At this point, I really think they're some kind of gate. Whether or not it's a one-time use or one-way gate is less important than getting rid of it, I think. What's Audric's take on it?

  4. I suppose once we setup a camp, the first order of business from Audric is to use both of his remaining Cure Light Wounds spells. I would cast one on myself and one on Zeb.

    I do have Detect Magic memorized, so if we want, I can cast it on the necklace, but I would like a little more description of it before doing so.

    I'm all for making the runes/spell unusable, but Audric does not know how to go about this. I don't have access to any spells that would do this, nor do I have any access to any spells to ward the area to damage who or whatever comes through the gate (assuming it is a 2-way gate).

  5. Zeb will gladly accept your healing spell. I'm looking forward to next level, when I can tend my own wounds.

    As for the runes, I don't have spells to deal with them either, but I'm sure I can find a big rock, maybe a hunk of old metal or something I could use to chisel away at the wall.

    If you're not opposed to it, I'm going to try that on one of the runes, see if I can ruin it.

  6. The necklace has a silver chain which definitely shows tarnish, though enough spots yet glimmer in the glow of Zeb's torchlight that it perhaps hasn't been in the troll's possession overlong. The item is encrusted with gemstones of varying cuts and hues. Difficult to discern specifics by the torch alone, but the piece is undoubtedly valuable, more than a mere trinket.

    Also found from closer inspection of the grasses are numerous coins scattered about and underneath: mostly worn pieces of copper and silver, and many so clotted with earth that they barely look metal at all. Among these, though, are enough coins of higher value that you amass a lot of thirty gold pieces in total worth.

    Aside from the necklace and coins (and, of course, the runes on the wall), there's seemingly little else: the occasional uneaten bone or clump of feathers or fur. The place reeks of troll, though the creature, to its credit, soiled only the upper chamber and courtyard, not its actual nest.

    Sean, I went ahead and made rolls for the two cure spells. Audric gains back 6 hp and Zeb recovers 5. Well done.

    During your search, Arkhen and Rould remain above, keeping watch over the grounds as the last vestiges of daylight begin to die away.

  7. I'm fine with you trying to chisel the runes apart, though it seems like that could take a ton of effort.

    Do you want me to cast Detect Magic on the necklace now, or should I hold off for the time being?

  8. It'll be quicker if you grab a rock or something too. I'm just trying to deface the surface, see if I can't spoil the runes. Not even sure it will work.

    If it looks like we're making progress, I'd like you to inspect the runes as well with detect magic--maybe defacing them will destroy the magic?

    In any case, I don't see much excuse to save the spell. Use it on the runes & necklace. I'll split up the coin four ways, giving equal shares to Rould & Arkhen, so we each get 7 gold and 5 silver.

  9. I will help Zeb deface the runes. I'm NOT casting Detect Magic just yet, as I want to wait until we have attempted to deface the runes before using it.

    I'm fine with the split of coins.

  10. It takes great effort to chip away at the runes, exerting Zeb and Audric to fulfill only a portion of their intended job. The ringing of stone upon stone echoes up and out the stairwell; at one point, Rould enters the enclosure above to learn what you're about.

    Nevertheless, you manage to destroy one of the several runes in a quarter of an hour. Whether the stone is naturally strong or bolstered by the etchings is unclear, but in the end, it yields.

    To finish the work by this method may require multiple hours and, ideally, additional sets of able hands.

    (Whether the runes' magic has been rendered unusable at this point is unknown, though based on his understanding of spellcraft, Zeb believes it likely has, for typical incantations must be uttered completely and without error to take effect.)

  11. I'm good with only defacing part of it...that should be enough, if it works at all. Curious to see if the rest of the rune still detects as magical. Now's probably a good time to inspect the necklace, as well.

  12. Alright, Audric will cast Detect Magic and try to encompass both the runes on the wall as well as the necklace.

  13. The runes yet emit a moderate aura (no sphere or school is apparent) but the necklace does not.

  14. Well...that's a surprise, but then again, I don't REALLY now how the runes work. Still, better safe than sorry.

    Regarding the necklace, once we get someplace civilized and can get it appraised, I'd like to see if the value lies in the finished product, or just primarily in the jewels themselves. I'd like to use the silver chain for something...

  15. I hope the silver chain became part of an ear necklace...