Realm Runners

CHAPTER ONE: To the Call of Winterhaven

By her Clerical Order, Athena Nom, a Human Cleric of Selûne is asked to investigate rumors of a cult of darkness operating near the town of Winterhaven, possibly under the command of a Dark Priest Kalarel, which does not bode well for the village if true. She enlists her two friends Mentathenis Starfeon, the Eladrin Wizard, and Droggle Redaxe, the Dwarven Fighter for support and they begin their trek east from Baldur’s Gate for Winterhaven along the East Way.

After a few tenday, and nearing the outskirts of Winterhaven, they are besieged by a group of Kobolds. The three best their attackers and enter the village of Winterhaven to seek boarding and question the townsfolk. The people of Winterhaven are oddly standoffish when questioned about the area, among these is an elven woman named Ninaran who spends most of her nights at the local bar, drowning in alcohol, and the Lord of the village Padraig gives no easy information on the situation either. Upon finally receiving clues about a ruined Keep in the area, the Kobold nuisance, and a secret waterfall hideout, they set off the next day to rid the village of it’s rust scaled problem and delve deeper into the cult rumors.

Athena, Mentathenis, and Droggle make their way out of the village and are ambushed by another group of Kobolds seeking revenge for their fallen comrades. Things are looking grim until a Cougar jumps into the fray adding distraction just long enough to allow the three to finish off the rest of their enemies. After the battle, the Cougar disappears into the woods as quickly as it appeared. Searching the Kobolds hey find an obsidian figurine around one of their necks. It bears the mark of the Queen of Darkness, Shar.

Reaching the waterfall, they make quick work of the Kobold miners and guards outside and sneak behind the falling water to discover a lair. Inside, there are more Kobolds and a Goblin named Irontooth who seems to be running the show. The party narrowly manages to best the clan and takes down the Goblin leader to find in his belongings a message from Kalarel. The note hints at a spy buried within Winterhaven, and the dark priest rapidly nearing the completion of his evil plans…

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CHAPTER TWO: Dungeons and Dragon's Bones

Athena, Droggle and Mentathenis meet a woman named Calli Staul while having drinks in Salvana Wrafton’s Inn in Winterhaven. She begs them to locate her husband Douvan Staul, who has been missing for a few days having gone to investigate a Dragon Burial site south west of the Village. They also meet up with a cloaked and mysterious fellow, a human Rogue by the name of Shalimar, who seems eager to lend them a hand in their affairs in the area.

The four make for the grave site, where they discover a Spectral Apparition of Kalarel overseeing a team excavating the site. Douvan Staul is tied up in the crater. They are attacked by two drakes guarding the area and a fight erupts, ending in the deaths of Agrid the Gnome, a henchmen of Kalarel and his team, along with the defeat of the Apparition.

They find a Cormyr Mirror and release Douvan from his bonds. After a short trip back to town, they head for the old Keep. The sky begins to grow dark and a thunder storm breaks out over head. As they descend into darkness, they find Goblins have taken over the keep as home…

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CHAPTER THREE: The Keep

Down they go into the ancient keep. And no sooner do they fall under attack by the Goblin residency, does Droggle fall into a pit trap filled with an orgy of rats. Athena manages to pull Droggle out while Mentathenis fends off the Goblins. During the fight Shalimar lends very little aid to the companions, and as soon as the Goblins have been felled, he turns his dagger on Athena, nearly taking her life. Droggle and Mentathenis immediately move to her aid and manage to subdue the dastardly rogue. Before he dies, he reveals his alliance with the Dark Priest Kalarel, and tells them that any attempt to stop the cult are folly.

The three continue on, and learn that goblins are abound in the keep, one of which is particularly overweight, and named Balgaron the Fat. Upon entering what appears to be a prison and torture room, they find a small Goblin by the name of Splug in one of the cells. He begs the group to free him and he would be indebted. After some debate, Mentathenis decides the small green one may be of use, and opens the lock of Splug’s cell with a key they recovered from a particularly vicious Hobgoblin torturer.

The four make their way through the upper level of the bowels of the keep and run across rodents of unusual size, chitinous creatures of perhaps normal size, a blue slime in an underground lake. Once defeating the Slime, they discover a few partially dissolved items and a message cylinder. Contained within, is a map of the location of Shadowfell Keep, and a message to Kalarel from a Chief Krand of the Bloodreavers. It is an offer to purchase any humanoids he has captured during his time in the area. Krand and his operation are looking for Slave stock. After leaving the underground lake, the four enter into a maze-like crypt filled with screaming runes and zombies, which the goblin Splug, refuses to enter and sneaks away.

Upon entering a tomb filled with sarcophagi that continually spit out armies of Skeletons, Athena calls upon her goddess Selûne for help at an alter. Hearing her prayer the legions of Skeletons are incinerated in holy fire and the sarcophagi are reduced to ashes in her light. Searching the alters in the room, they find a secret compartment which when opened, three Moon Pendants materialize before their very eyes. Undoubtedly gifts of Selûne.

Beyond the Sarcophagi room, they find an antechamber with a single coffin within. When the group decides to attempt to pry it open, the lid explodes in dust and a human Skeleton girded in plate armor and wielding a finely crafted sword rises from the cloud. Instead of attacking the party he introduces himself as Sir Jarold Keegan and warns them that the rift within the keep must never be opened and proceeds to question them, one by one to see where their allegiances lie, and to make sure they are not part of the death cult. Upon passing the undead knight’s tests, he relinquishes Aecris Longsword +1 to the three, in hopes that it will aid them in destroying the cult.

When the party continues on, they find a faintly glowing barrier which appears to block the stairs leading down to the second level of the keep. Upon it, in words that phase in and out of existence like rolling smoke, reads “Shadow seeks Shadow…” which the three agree must be the beginning of a pass phrase to unlock the magical gate. Unable to continue on, Athena, Droggle and Mentathenis decide to return to Winterhaven for more answers, and hopes of uncovering the rest of the password. When the three approach the village gates they find them closed. Several figures stand with weapons drawn on the parapet above. One of the figures, Lord Padraig calls out to the party. “We are in peril! Several villagers have disappeared, and the dead in the cemetery have risen. We fear these creatures will emerge to assail the gates and drag us all away!”

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CHAPTER FOUR: The Dead Walk

Athena, Mentathenis and Droggle approach the graveyard as rain begins to pour. Droggle begins to get grumpy and complains about being hungry. He refuses to go forward without a warm meal and a mug of ale, and returns to Winterhaven to wait outside the gates. As Athena and Mentathenis move through the graveyards gates, they can see a strange blue glow emanating from the ground near the middle of the cemetery. Suddenly undead burst from their graves all around them and two Grave Hounds emerge from a large mausoleum, all seemingly being led by the dark haired elf from the tavern in town.

Finally arriving at the outskirts of Winterhaven, Megilwath Laress and his two friends, Krushi Thymebundle and Aces see the graveyard and the commotion within. They join with Mentathenis and Athena and help to best the undead and kill Ninaran the elf before she can escape. Upon her belongings they discover a note from Kalarel written in blood. It states that the password to access the second level of the keep is “From the ground, some magic was found.”

The 5 companions make their way back to the keep and towards the ethereal door. Along the way they reinvestigate the secret door they ran across prior but could not open. Megilwath is able to pick the mechanism and get them through. Inside they find some zombies which they destroy fairly quickly and a suit of armor that talks to them and asks of them a riddle. Upon solving the riddle, the suit of armor lights up and falls to the ground. They take the Black Iron Scale Armor +1.

Down to the second level of the keep they go. They encounter a score of Hobgoblins and a large Deathjump Spider in the first area, but are able to fend off their attacks and end them.

When the party is catching their breath, Megilwath notices something strange out of the corner of his eye. The Deathjump Spider is still moving slightly. It’s eyes look about and focus in on the drow. They begin to burn a fiery red and it attempts to stand and move towards him. It’s so badly mutilated that it can’t get far and collapses back to the ground. A gurgling scream emits from its throat and sounds vaguely like a language.

After wondering what just happened, the party continues on past a door that is boarded up and with the word “closed” written across it. They enter a room with statues and Megilwath manages to get caught in a whirlpool trap by four cherub statues. His friends manage to get him out before he drowns and they enter a room with many zombies, a ghoul and a small clay scout. The five companions make quick work of them and move through two large double doors into an expansive room filled with bluish glowing light.

Inside the cathedral area they encounter a bunch of Vampire Spawn, a Dark Creeper, three Berzerk Shar worshippers and an Underpriest of Shar.

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CHAPTER FIVE: Kalarel and the Shadowfell

After defeating the denizens within the cathedral, they scout out the rest of the room to be sure it’s clear. The dark ripples continue to twist the dimensions around them. They notice ghostly figures, a woman and two laughing children. They locate a pit in the center of the cathedral floor that appears to be funneling blood into it as part of a ritual. 4 chains dangle into the darkness from the top. Megilwath climbs down first to see what he can find, then returns to the party to inform them of what he saw, and they all climb down together.

Within the lower level of the cathedral lies a huge portal rippling like oil with something straining to be released into the world. There is a large statue of the Dark Goddess Shar across from the portal. They encounter Kalarel who is still in the midst of opening the gateway, a Deathlock Wight, two Skeleton Warriors and a host of Skeletal Minions. Athena, Krushi and Mentathenis manage to disrupt the ritual before the portal can open and the portal implodes on itself, revealing a large cave behind. Shadraxil roars from across the Shadowfell.

The five companions then turn their efforts towards bringing down the Wight and Kalarel. The battle does not go smoothly for them, but they manage to destroy the wight despite their serious injuries.

When things start to really heat up for the party, Droggle and Splug fall into the blood pool having found their way to the others, they join in the fight. Even Sir Keegan enters the fray to help best Kalarel, though he is terribly weakened and even with the mighty Aecris Blade returned to his hand by Mentathenis, his strikes fail him. Finally, after a long and arduous battle Kalarel and his death cult are slain. The party finds a Horned Helm, and Magic Dagger +2 and a fine Elven Cloak.

Keegan notices the ghostly figures and begins to follow them up into the large cave opening.

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CHAPTER SIX: Redemption and Escape

The party decides to take an extended rest within the bowels of the keep, during which the meditating Megilwath experiences an odd vision. It consists of a beautiful drow female, alone in the dark, with sadness in her eyes and another, older brooding drow female sitting upon a wicked throne, who’s mouth stretches impossibly wide and releases a swarm of spiders which come at Megilwath and snap him out of his meditation. After he rouses the rest of his companions, they decide to follow Keegan into the huge cave. Droggle and Splug decide to return to Winterhaven via the chains to get more ale.

The large cave goes on for around a hundred yards, ever so gradually sloping upwards. The cave comes to an abrupt stop with a single, smaller side passage leading off to the left. The passage looks to be dug out by creatures of some sort, and sure enough they encounter another nesting ground of the reptilian, insect-like Kruthiks. After defeting these, the party finds a small pit which appears to contain the Kruthik’s food stash, a few rotting Hobgoblins and a dead Human Sorcerer. Among their belongings they discover a Staff of Storms +1.

The party pushes through to take the Kruthik’s eggs, which Mentathenis chills to keep fresh. At the end of the Kruthik’s lair a small hole in one wall reveals how they enter and exit the keep proper, Aces gives the wall a charge with her mace and the hole becomes large enough for everyone to move through. It drops them into the hallways just before the statue trap room where Megilwath almost drowned.

Again they spot the lingering and fading ghost of Sir Keegan, and follow him back to the door that is boarded up with the word “closed” scrawled across it. They bust through the door and explore the area beyond. It is remarkably clean compared to the rest of the keep, not a speck of dust is to be found. They find a couple sarcophagi containing two nasty Corruption Corpses and are ambushed from behind by a Gelatinous Cube. Once victorious over the undead and ooze, they continue to a small room that contains a chest.

Once inside the room, the skeletal Sir Keegan, and his spectral wife and children emerge from the walls. Keegan thanks the party for finally putting an end to the keep’s corruption and sealing Shadraxil back into the Shadowfell. The young girl ghost rummages through the chest and hands a Safewing Amulet to the heroes in thanks. Sir Keegan and his family, begin to fade away and he warns the party that they should leave quickly. As soon as Keegan is gone, the Keep begins to rumble and cracks begin to form along the walls and ceiling. Aces empties the chest into her bag of holding and the group makes a run for it.

On their way out, almost to the stairs leading to the first level of the keep, the party encounters some Hobgoblins who are also attempting to flee the area. The party thinks it best to attack them, and a fight among the falling rubble and cracking floors ensues. Many of the Hobgoblins flee in sheer terror of the crumbling keep and the intimidation of the heroes.

Eventually all the Hobgoblins have run up to the first level and after rescuing Athena and Krushi from a pit that opened up, the party follows.

Aces, Megilwath, Krushi, Athena and Mentathenis make their way out of the keep and into the warm afternoon sunlight. After reaching a safe distance, they turn to watch the entire keep fall in on itself and sink into a crater.

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CHAPTER SEVEN: Return to Winterhaven

On the path south back through the woods towards Winterhaven, the party hears a woman’s scream from somewhere off to their right. They follow its direction to a small flowered clearing, and discover a bloodied necklace. Megilwath notices some tracks leading out the opposite side of the clearing into the woods and follow them for a ways until they are lost at the edge of a river.

They head back down the path to the Village and are greeted by a few guards , Lord Padraig, Sister Linora and Valthrun. They party is led to a small house where the body of Ninaran lies. They are questioned in regards to her death, and reveal that a man who discovered her in the graveyard, was blaming them. After a bit of explaining, Lord Padraig is convinced that the elf woman’s death was necessary and the group’s motives were for good. He announces a feast in the victorious heroes names at Wrafton’s.

Aces shows Linora the bloodied necklace and she recognizes it as Delphina Moongem’s, an elven woman who lives within Winterhaven and sells flowers from her cart. Mentathenis brings forth a letter from a group of slavers known as the Bloodreavers from the Thunder Peaks written to Kalarel about seeking slaves for purchase. Valthrun believes that the Bloodreavers must assuredly be responsible for the missing townsfolk, and that if it’s the Thunder Peaks they are hiding in, he will seek information on the mountain range from his tower and present it to the party in the morning. Aces, Krushi, Mentathenis and Megilwath head to Wrafton’s inn and tavern to join in the festivities. Athena is pulled back to the temple by Sister Linora.

Wrafton’s is full of happy and drunk townsfolk eager to thank the party for their destruction of the old keep. A young and exceedingly beautiful elven woman plays music on her lute and sings, entertaining the party in celebration of the heroes. Mentathenis and Megilwath are quick to notice her and Gil turns to a man sitting at the bar to ask her name, in which he replies she is only known as the “Maven of Strings.”

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CHAPTER EIGHT: The Maven of Strings

Aces sits down to play cards with some of the patrons and Krushi orders up a glass of Salvana’s finest wine. Athena enters to join the others with Droggle in tow, she approaches Mentathenis to inform him that her clerical order has asked her return to Baldur’s Gate to report on what transpired with the death cult and that she will be leaving in the morning. She and Droggle say their goodbyes and head up to their rooms to rest. Megilwath still eyeing The Maven locks eyes with her and she gives him a flirtatious smirk, despite having noticed his dark skin. When she finally rests eyes upon Methathenis however, she looks positively horrified, her rhythm speeds up for a split second and then she immediately slows way down and changes to another song entirely, almost a lullaby, though now her voice clearly shaking.

After a few minutes, Megilwath and Mentathenis catch themselves feeling very sleepy and notice that indeed all the other patrons of the tavern are as well. They both start to suspect magic at work. Megilwath casually stands up to attempt to outdistance the Maven’s beautiful notes. And sure enough, once he plugs his ears, his energy begins to return to him. Mentathenis notices the Maven begin to squirm in her stool, her face full of fear and desperation. She stops playing in the middle of her song and bolts out the side door of the tavern.

Megilwath and Mentathenis head after her, and Krushi and Aces follow suit. Behind Wrafton’s, Megilwath concludes that the only way she could have gone and disappeared so fast is into the sewers. They all head down the ladder and drop into the sewer. A scream from the Maven comes echoing from somewhere up ahead. The party is attacked by a group of Dire rats that were roused by the young elf woman running through. Aces, Krushi, and Mentathenis try to take control of them, and Megilwath attempts to catch up to the girl, He runs down the corridor and turns another corner, still not seeing her. A group of snakes pours out of a pipe to Megilwath’s right. He is bitten by one and drops a Cloud of Darkness on top of them to make a retreat to the rest of his friends and help with the rats. The snakes are drawn by another scream from the Maven and slither away.

After a tough fight and being badly shredded by the rats, the party finally defeats them and decides to head out of the sewers until they can get a rest. Before turning in for the night Krushi alerts the town guard of the troubles in the sewers and they let her know that they will investigate it. They then head back into Wrafton’s to rest.

The next morning Valthrun knocks on their door and reveals all that he was able to dig up on the Thunder Peaks and it’s Labyrinth. Then one of the town guard arrives and let’s the adventurers know that one of their men has gone missing into the sewers during his investigation. The party heads to the guard house to speak with the head guardsman about their failings in protecting the town and handling it’s threats.

After berating the town guard for a while and pushing for payment in exchange for taking care of the sewer problem, the guardsman heads to the temple to beg for help from Sister Linora, who returns with two Potions of Healing which she offers freely and gratefully for all their help.

They had back into the sewers and immediately discover the unconscious guardsman at the bottom of the ladder. They manage to bind his snake bitten arm and escort the woozy guardsman to Salvana, who agrees to get him to the temple.

Pushing further into the sewers, they smell cooking meat and hear music being played. Around a bend, they can see the Maven of Strings, her legs tied to a chair and playing a song for a wererat who seems to be happily dancing. a few vipers are roasting on a spit over a fire in the corner. Megilwath sneaks in and attacks the wererat, sending him fleeing into the corner near a large pipe. The rat man calls for help from his minions, and the party faces down a group of Dire Rats and a Rat Swarm.

They focus their efforts on the wererat, and upon being bloodied, he orders his minions to stop attacking and begins to beg for his life. Megilwath knocks him unconscious and they all move to the bound Maven. Aces quickly snatches the Lute from her and sticks it into her Bag of Holding. After questioning her about her actions in the inn, she reveals that she thought Mentathenis to be someone else, an Eladrin named Aramil Lantherval who she was to be married to in an arrangement by her father. She fled from Silverymoon to play her music, and took on the name Maven of Strings to stay hidden. After the mistaken identity problem is overcome, they offer the Maven the chance to travel with them to play music and give them a hand in their adventures. She accepts.

They awake the wererat, who they learn is named Twitch, and did not mean harm to the Maven, he only wanted to add her to his collection of pretty and interesting trinkets and things. Mentathenis senses some magic within a pipe nearby and investigates it. It appears to be behind a wall or in another part of the sewer entirely. When they mention it to Twitch, he says he can give them magics, if they are willing to trade for trinkets. Aces offers up the wooden toy sword, the hairbrush and the child’s doll that they found in the Keegan chest within Shadowfell Keep. He agrees, and pulls aside a stone from the wall where he pulls out 15 or so swords tied to a rope. One of them happens to be a Vicious Short Sword +1.

They take the sword, warn Twitch to behave and that they will not alert the people of Winterhaven of his presence in the sewers.

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CHAPTER NINE: Into the Labyrinth

After leaving the sewers, the party, now including The Maven of Strings, whom they learn who’s real name is Sona Summergale, leave Winterhaven and head West along the East Way towards the Thunder Peaks.

About an hour’s travel later they reach the branching Vale Road, a small semi-cobbled path that winds up into the mountain peak. The skies are grey and stormy. Rain begins to fall as they reach the Minotaur Gate, a large opening that marks the mouth of the Labyrinth, two giant minotaur statues sit on either side, glowering down at the visitors.

They head inside and down the switchback Hall of Lanterns, demon statues are carved out of the walls, 77 of them in all. They pass by a number of branching antechambers and halls and finally come across one that is lit. Upon investigation, they discover a group of Hobgoblins who are keeping a halfling bound and ready to be sold into slavery. They party enters the chamber and defeats the Hobgoblins, whom they learn from Rendil Halfmoon, the halfling captive are a part of the Bloodreavers. Rendil thanks the adventurers for saving him and asks that they accompany him to the Seven Pillared Hall where is aunt owns an inn. They follow Rendil into the hall as he explains to them a bit about the hall, it’s history and it’s inhabitants.

They arrive at the Hall and Rendil escorts them past Brugg, the Ogre who keeps the peace at the request of the Mages of Saruun and into the Halfmoon Inn. Erra the owner of the inn thanks them for Rendil’s rescue and offers free ale to the party. They ask that Rendil draw them a map to the Bloodreaver’s hideout called the Chamber of Eyes. The party has a conversation with the two halflings about the Seven Pillared Hall and a possible guide to the labyrinth in a man named Terrlen. They then ask that Rendil show them to Gendar’s shop, a drow merchant at the interest of Megilwath.

As they cross the Hall, see a bronze minotaur statue with a glowing teleportation circle which Rendil describes as the way the Mages of Saruun get in and out of their tower. Beyond the circle lies Gendar’s, they enter, and despite him being somewhat on guard with Megilwath, they learn that he is a self exiled drow, who works as a merchant. He offers them a job seeking out a skull scepter that he lost at the hands of the duergar within a place called the Horned Hold. In addition, if they discover any interesting relics within the labyrinth, he will pay for them with information.

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CHAPTER TEN: The Bloodreavers

After speaking with Gendar, the party returned to the Halfmoon Inn to confirm the directions Rendil provided them to get to the Chamber of Eyes, in which the Bloodreavers hide out. They gather their things and set off, but are stopped abruptly by Brugg the Ogre who announces that someone would like to speak with them. They are introduced to Orontor, one of the Mages of Saruun who asks them to look into the case of the missing Mage Paldemar. If they could return with any information on his whereabouts and dealings they would gain the favor of Orontor’s brotherhood.

Once agreeing to help Orontor, they set off into the Labyrinth from the Seven Pillared Hall via the Dragon Door, make their way along the prospectors’ routes marked with old Dwarven runes and eventually arriving at the Narthex of the Chamber of Eyes.

Gaining access to the Chamber through an unlocked door on a balcony ledge, the group dispatch a few Goblins and a Bugbear without alerting the rest of the complex. They then make their way into the Reflectory which now serves as a dining room and kitchen for the Bloodreavers. They fight off and defeat the many denizens of the mess hall, including Hobgoblins, Goblins and a few Human bandits.

Making their way around the Shrine area, they encounter two Duergar, which they are able to subdue and tie up before they are spotted by a Hobgoblin who alerts the rest of the Chamber to their presence. Krand, the Hobgoblin Chief emerges from his quarters and is delighted to have visitors that he may sell as slaves. He enters into the Shrine and a deep howl is heard by the party.

Mentathenis heads for the Shrine and throws wide the doors, inside the large room he sees Krand who has mounted atop a Dire Wolf, three Hobgoblin Archers, and a Warcaster on an upper balcony. Mentathenis takes three arrows to the chest and is laid out. The others arrive at the Shrine to help Mentathenis and take on the Hobgoblins. After a bloody battle, Aces, Krushi, Megilwath, Mentathenis and The Maven emerge victorious.

Searching Krand, they find a key which is used to unlock a chest in his room. The chest contains +2 delver’s chainmail and some gems. Searching through Krand’s quarters they also discover a letter, the letter is written in common and is a contract to purchase the Winterhaven slaves for 1,000 gold, signed by Murkelmor Grimmerzhul, dated two days ago.

They return to the tied up Duergar and attempt to question them. They are both extremely hard headed and refuse to do much talking regarding the slaves. Megilwath kills one to get the other talking, and he mentions the Horned Hold, when asked to draw directions to the Hold, the Duergar refuses and thrusts his hands into the nearby fire pit. The party then forces him to draw up the map with a piece of charcoal in his mouth. Mentathenis then hits the dark dwarf with a magic missile and kills him off. The Maven is traumatized by the whole ordeal.

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