The Fall of the Red Hand
As Adronsius was trying to get a grip on his mind after seeing what happened to Brindol’s captain of the guard, the heroes decided to take the stairs leading down, across the side of the room they entered. They came into a room with alcoves and a door to their right. An inscription along a wall wrote “Hail Von Urstadts! Ascend with Glory!” and a dust-covered fresco on the wall in front of them depicted human knights. They entered the door and reached what seemed to be a prison. An elderly man was sitting inside one of the two cells. He indentified himself as Sertanian, castellan to the Hall of Great Valor, as Rhasgar broke down the door of his cell.
They backtracked to the room they found Kartenix’s body and took they other set of stairs leading down. Carved into the last three steps of the staircase were the words “Von Adrez”, “Kauthin” and “Crypt”. On the walls were painted pictures of humans laden with baskets, bags, and boxes—all depicted walking clockwise around the room. Four hobgoblins were standing in the room, which they had barricaded with a table at the bottom of the stairs, along with their two pet drakes.
The hobgoblins rushed towards the table trying to bar the intruders from entering. The drakes followed behind and started spitting acid at the adventurers. Lucifer and Tyrn’kog attacked the hobgoblins from a distance, while Rhasgar and Barthum climbed on the table, trying to hold the line and push them back. The hobgoblins fell quickly, but the drakes’ acid was scarring and corroding flesh, metal and stone.
A door to the left of the room opened and a goblin wielding a staff ran out screaming. It moved its staff and sent a stink cloud were the heroes stood, making them unable to see and forcing them out in the open. Barthum and Lucifer coordinated their attacks to make a drake fall. The goblin got enraged and trapped Lucifer with vines and thorns. Then Tyrn’kog killed the other drake and Rhasgar charged the goblin, injuring it. But it was smart as it was hurt. It trapped Rhasgar in its thorns and made a run for the door across the stairs. Barthum started chasing it, while Tyrn’kog used the power of his mind to telekinetically pull it back. Lucifer tried to burn the creature using his holy fire without moving, but Rhasgar fell victim to his pride. He tried to rush the goblin, but the thorns bit deep into his flesh. The dragonborn fell on the ground, dying. Tyrn’kog finally ended its pathetic life destroying its mind, blood streaming from its eyes, ears and nose.
The room, other than beds and tables used by the hobgoblins, had three doors. One to their left, one to their right, and one facing the stairs. Lucifer decided to go in the door the goblin came out of. Inside he found three sarcophagi, and a beautiful half-elven woman chained to the wall. Her eyes burned bright in hope, admiration, and perhaps… something more. She praised Lucifer as he was breaking her chains, telling him her name was Jalissa. She was an acolyte at the school of Ioun back in Brindol. She told them that a little boy was with her until recently, but her jailers took him away mumbling that if they didn’t hurry, they would go in his place. The party decided to barricade themselves in that room and rest. They helped Jalissa perform a ritual that created magical eyes they placed outside the room, alarming them if someone or something came near.
They rested uneventfully. Then they decided to go through the door on the right. The came to a crossroad of walkways. Carved into the walls around them was the repeating message: “Honor the Heroic Guardians of Rivenroar”. To their left and right were doors, in front of them stairs leading up. They proceeded through the stairs. A still pool of water dominated this room, which was noticeably more humid than others inside the catacombs. A sheen of water droplets covered the walls. Tyrn’kog could understand the magic of the pool. It was used as a scrying device linking to other places inside the catacombs. Every time he touched the water, the ripples formed an image that faded as the water calmed. They saw many of the rooms they were previously in: a room with two empty cells, a room with four displacer beast statues and a desecrated statue of the Raven Queen, and the room they previously fought the hobgoblins and their pets. They did, however, see places unfamiliar to them. There was a room with a single sarcophagus. A ridged helmet sat atop the sarcophagus, and a massive hobgoblin in spiked armor was regarding it. Another with two thrones next to each other; on one was skeleton, and on the other was a biped of uncertain race. Finally a shrine with pews and an obelisk. At the base of the obelisk were shattered shields with the Red Hand insignia on them. A black hooded figure was facing the obelisk, none of its features distinct. They continued left, following stairs that took them lower, until they reached a door.
Trying to hear if anything was behind it, the caught the sound of low growls and dragging feet. They had heard this sound before… Knowing what awaits them, they prepared themselves and opened the door. Inside were four undead bodies, fueled by the necrotic energy of the catacombs. But that was not the most interesting part of the room. In the middle of it was a black sunburst mosaic, that seemed to absorb the light radiating from the sunrods. The heroes formed up at the entrance, not letting the creatures surround them. Rhasgar and Barthum held the front, while Tyrn’kog and Lucifer wore them down from the back lines. Only the strongest two of the horrifying beings could reach them, the other two trying in vain to taste the living flesh before them.
The creatures were strong, but the heroes held their ground. Only after the first fell, Barthum erred in strategy and turned his back to make way for Lucifer’s killing strike, offering the second an opening it didn’t let go to waste. It bit on Barthum’s neck, making him faint from the incredible pain, and sending him closer to death. Rhasgar seeing this could do nothing sort of taking action, decapitating the rotten body. The other two backed away on the mosaic, which seemed to restore their dead bodies. The true threat was over though, and the heroes finished them up quickly.
The heroes rested, and Barthum was brought back to consciousness. The room had a door on the left, probably leading back to the crossroads they thought, and another hallway to the right. Barthum’s dwarven knowledge of stonework revealed to him a crack on the hallway’s floor, a sign of risk should they decide to walk down this way. They instead went through the door, finding themselves in the crossroads as they suspected. Then everyone agreed to go check what was behind the door the goblin tried to go to, in the previous room.
They went through the door and came to a room with thin menhirs scattered around. The menhirs were noticeably cold. After experimenting with weapons and severed goblin hands to understand the nature of these bizzare stones for a while, suddenly a door ahead opened with a creak. From within, three goblins and a huge hobgoblin wearing spiked armor and wielding a chain poured into the room.
“Get ’em boys!” the hobgoblin roared.
The goblin subordinates didn’t last long, and soon the hobgoblin was surrounded.
“Held yer own against me lakeys eh? Lets see what ye can do against the great Sinruth!”
He started swinging his chain left and right, yanking the heroes and slamming them against the spikes of his armor, or tripping them to the ground, then stomping on them with his spiked boots.
The heroes got injured, but in the end the odds were overwhelming against Sinruth. Lucifer pierced the hobgoblin’s jaw with his scythe with such force that it got stuck there. He needed to use his leg against the dead body to pull it out.
Sertanian could identify the gauntlets he wore as treasure from the Hall of Great Valor. Inside the room the late hobgoblin came from, was a sarcophagus with a masterwork dragoncrest helmet sitting on top of it. It was, as well, one of the relics they were sent to find. Inside the sarcophagus were the remains of a skeleton that held a magnificent magical orb. Tyrn’kog fell in love with it immediatedly. They searched Sinruth’s pockets and found a map of the Elsir Vale, a map of Brindoll with a red “X” marked on the Hall of Great Valor’s position, and a letter written in common. The letter ordered the raid in Brindol, and instructed how the prisoners should be handled. It was signed by The Emissary.
Lords of Rivenroar
The heroes decided to head back to the crossroads and take the right door this time. They entered a room with alcoves on their right, and a fountain ahead of them. To their left was a hallway with pillars lining it on either side. Upon examining the fountain, they saw that there were chains on the wall nexto to it, and a trail of blood leading from the fountain to the hallway and into the darkness up ahead. They knew someone was in danger, perhaps the little boy Jalissa told them about, and hurried up.
They entered a room where all the horror was taking place. Two thrones were in the middle, with stairs leading up to them. On the thrones sat an undead humanoid, probably the once Lord of Rivenroar that tried to achieve lichdom. On the other throne next to it, the skeletal remains of another human. At the bottom of the stairs was a blood pentagram, and inside it a little boy whose life force was draining away. All around the room bones were scattered, and paintings on the walls depicted humans wearing robes. The wight rose to its feet.
“Looks like we have visitors… Arise my children. Consume them!”
The skeleton on the throne and the bones littered around animated, forming five more skeletons. The wight shot rays of necrotic energy at Barthum, making him unable to move. The skeletons closed in on the group striking with their rusty swords. Tyrn’kog used his telekinesis to pull the child out of the pentagram and behind the heroes, telling Jalissa to keep him safe. Rhasgar incited a prayer and his sword emited a golden aura. He swinged it at a skeleton burning it with holy fire and turning it to dust. Lucifer picked off the weaker skeletons, till the wight’s mate remained.
This one was tougher. Barthum engaged it with Tyrn’kog and Lucifer. He shouted a warcry and the heroes around him felt a rise in morale and vitality they had never experienced before. The skeleton tried again and again to hit Barthum with its scimitar but the dwarf dodged and blocked every time. After taking some hits though, the animated creature burst a part of its body, sending bone splinters all over the room. The heroes’ morale took a heavy blow. Rhasgar was chasing a lone skeleton at the left of the room, which was trying in vain to hurt him by shooting arrows that broke against the dragonborn’s shield. One swing was more than enough. The others coordinated their attacks and destroyed the skeleton, which again struck with bone shards, hurting them even more. Barthum and Lucifer engaged the wight. Lucifer summoned a beam of divine radiance from his scythe, passing judgement to the wight.
“Come forth, vile creature, and compel for your crimes!” he commanded.
The creature shrieked in pain, and distorted its face to a vision of nightmare, momentarily taking away the pair’s courage and forcing them to back away. Then it raised its hand, and the skeleton that was destroyed moments ago, was moving again. Adronsius rushed in to help. They struck it repeatedly, until it exploded one last time. Everyone was heavily injured by the bone pieces that tore through the skin, except for Adronsius, who miraculously avoided every one of them.
Rhasgar charged at the wight, trying to pass through the pentagram that was between them. To his surprise, once he entered it, his strength was lost and his vitality was draining. The wight cackled in delight as it reaped part of the dragonborn’s life force. Finally Lucifer got behind the creature’s back and destroyed its spine, granting it rest, if there was ever rest intended for its soul. After getting a grip on their nerves from all the horror they have faced, they moved on to the pillared walkway that continued to the left of the room.
They came upon a room with four pillars that supported a great magical barrier, which covered almost the entire room. Inside this barrier was a hideous being. A mass of human and nonhuman body parts and organs, forming into one huge unliving nightmare. The monstrosity became aware of the adventurers and began slamming its body against its supernatural prison. Tyrn’kog told everyone to keep their distance. He approached carefully and investigated the room. Two doors led out of this room; one to the left and one to the right. He checked the left one first, which led to the cracked hallway and into the sunburst mosaic room. Then he went back and opened the right door ever so slightly, peeking inside. He saw an image he had seen before in the scrying pool; a place of worship to Vecna, with a dark robed figure standing in front of an obelisk. He imediatedly stepped back and returned to the others. Telling them what he saw, they devised a plan. The menhirs from Sinruth’s room would be ripped from the ground and used as fortification against the undead beast, should it be somehow set free while they were in the room Tyrn’kog just spied on. They entered.
An Unexpected Event
Lines of pews made it clear that this was once a shrine dedicated to the rune-encrusted obelisk at the end of the room. The figure stood still and silent next to the obelisk.
“So… you have come at last. Very good. Seems like what lives in this place wasn’t enough to stop you.” his voice spoke with a hint of sarcasm, his back still turned to the door.
“Do you command this unholy creature we just saw?” Barthum said with authority in his voice.
The voice did not faulter. “I’m afraid this… unholy creature as you say, is the least of your problems right now.”
“I think you should just leave.” Tyrn’kog suggested.
“I don’t think anyone is leaving here slave.” he said with a grave seriousness in his voice.
As he spoke, the iron doors of the room loudly slammed shut." I believe this place will be a fitting grave for you all."
He turned, a hammer charged with lightning appearing in his hand. Suddenly Rhasgar, his eyes red with hate, turned towards his companions. He raised his sword and struck at Barthum, who was shocked to see his ally suddenly turning against him. The robed man moved incredibly fast, smashing Tyrn’kog against the face with his hammer. The blow was so strong, he nearly fell unconscious. Lucifer’s scythe started glowing brilliantly, and a visage of a great dragon appeared over his shoulders.
“This is the day you are cleansed! Repent for your sins, creature of undeath!” he spoke with a voice not entirely his. He moved with impossible speed towards the man’s back, the dragon over him growing brighter and bigger. He then struck a blow so powerful that would cut a man wearing plate armor in half. The man gasped, clearly not expecting that much resistance from mere nuances.
“Very good little knight. Now allow me to finish what I started.”
The next seconds he moved so fast, an observer would have trouble understanding what he saw. The man turned to Lucifer and bit him in the throat, making him fall, dying. Turning, he struck Barthum with his hammer with such force that the dwarf crashed against the wall. Without turning to face him, he threw his hammer at Tyrn’kog, dropping him unconscious. The tide of the battle was grim for the heroes, but then something unexpected happened. A sword laying on a table in the middle of the room started glowing, ever so bright, untill the whole room was bathed with blinding warm light. The robed man shrieked in pain, and vanished into a mist that slipped under the door, dissapearing.
“You have done well…” were the last words spoken by a powerful voice in Lucifer’s head, the moment he regained consciousness. The others were already up, trying to regain their strength. The prisoners were there too, and Sertanian was gathering the three shields and the banner the heroes were sent to find. They said a very strong, soothing light came through the door’s cracks, then moments later mist, as if it had its own will, came from under the door and passed by them. The heroes explained what had happened, and Sertanian’s face grew serious and sceptical.
“There was a man many years ago, his name was Arryk. He was a member of the Diamond League, the group that saved Brindol from the hordes of the Red Hand. He carried a sword. After the war, he told us to keep it safe. He told us that no matter how many people died protecting it, we must never let it fall into the wrong hands. We never understood what he was talking about, or why was this sword so important, but it seems that there is something about it that hasn’t been revealed to us yet.”
After they rested for a bit, they were on their way back.
They stopped at the entrance room to the catacombs. From the stairs leading out, they could see the light of day, it was the break of dawn. But there was still one door they left unexplored; the door in the middle. Behind the door were stairs leading down. At the bottom of the stairs was a room, filled with all sorts of architectural debris, and a wet, musty smell. Amid the ruins were all sorts of mushrooms, mostly with brown or gray caps. A door could be seen to the right.
Lucifer proceeded carefully, without disturbing the mushrooms. He opened the door and inside he found an old woman, contained behind a magic barrier. He tried to dismantle the prison, but that was beyond his capabilities. He summoned Tyrn’kog, who easily set the old woman free with his knowledge of the arcane.
“Took you long enough!” the old woman said.
“Uh… you’re welcome.” Tyrn’kog replied.
“Shut up and get me out of here! Lets get moving already!” she said and started pushing them towards the exit. Lucifer thought that she was too old and weak and stubborn to pass through the mushrooms carefully, so he carried her on his back.
“Put me down you damn child! Youngsters these days are so rude!” she complained while she flung her arms and legs left and right.
The finally exited the catacombs after a long night. The sun was beginning to rise. The moved really carefully, keeping an eye out for an ambush or the guard they passed on their way in. They noticed many goblin and hobgoblin bodies among the trees and bushes, in places stategically fit for an ambush. But they were all dead. About two dozen bodies, their heads cracked open or blood spilling from holes in their throats.
They headed back to Brindol.
The Heroes Return
The journey was exhausting for the heroes. Not because of their wounds and fatigue and worry in their minds. No. It was because of the old crone, Zerriksa that most of them regretted saving. As they approached the town, guards met them in front of the bridge and escorted them through the streets. As they walked, people came out from the alleys to watch and cheer for their return. They were now heroes in Brindol. They were brought before the Brindol Council, were Lord Troyas and most of the other members attended. Troyas spoke.
“It seems I did not have poor judgement about you. The relics are returned, the prisoners safe. But tell me, what of Kartenix, captain of the Golden Lions?”
The heroes explained about the captain’s goreful demise, after requesting the freed captives been taken care of and sent to rest. The reason for that was, of course, the little boy Thurann, who after everything he had been through, need not hear of his father’s death. The council was shoked to hear of that, especially Lord Warden Orenna, the leader of the Golden Lions. More information about their findings was requested of the heroes. After the council had heard everything they needed, they dismissed the heroes saying they needed to discuss things. Lord Troyas gestured and a guard came, handing them a chest with the promised reward. The heroes left, heading for a long awaited rest.
The threat of the Red Hand was no more and all seemed well. But the heroes knew Sinruth might have been just a puppet, and other, more powerful forces are at play here…