The Kael and the Silver Flame - Part 4
The Kael and the Silver Flame – Part 3
Zor, Aryth 12th 998 YK
Thursday, November 12th 998 YK
The next morning you wake refreshed at relaxed. The sun is just rising and the snow is falling lightly.
When you arrive at the villa to inform Lord ir’Lumm that you are about to begin your journey to Sternkeep. He reminds you that it is a long trek on foot (about 8 hours) on difficult terrain
Lord ir’Lumm then, with Luminel’s aid, produces a carved case; large enough hold a Medium longsword. He opens the box and offers a glowing purple steeled weapon.
“This is the ir’Lumm ancestral sword. I used this weapon in the Last War, and my father told me stories of my grandfather using it when he defeated the last outbreak of Harrocrowns Hounds. I loan it to you. Please carry it as a representation of the ir’Lumm family on your quest.”
Oggrim offers the sword to Kohl, indicating his blade is already forged from the same purple ore of the Byeshk Mountains.
Luminel then provides Taveah with a quiver of Byeshk tipped arrows.
“Are there horses we could ride? Perhaps we ride to the keep to begin our investigations from there.” Kohl asks.
Lord ir’Lumm advises against taking his horses. There terrain is too unforgiving.
Taveah puts her hand on Kohl’s shoulder, “I do not track well from atop a swift horse, cousin. It is best we go on foot, I think.”
On the journey, the group finds that between the villa and the forest’s edge is a rough and jagged mile of heathered moor, so rough as to be utterly uninviting to the sheep herds. The forest is thick and dark, and its floor is damp with standing water the collects in frequent bogs.
By nightfall Taveah realizes it is still another 4 hours of trekking through dark icy boggy forest. Taveah lights a sunrod and suggest they continue instead of camping.
As they continue, Taveah, discovers at least six strange four legged creatures along the path. They appear to move back and forth through the forest (presumably from the ruin to the villa’s countryside) over the last week.
As the light from Kohl’s sunrod finally dims they reach Stern Keep. It is late in the evening and the snow is falling heavily. Kohl lights a second sunrod illuminating the outer walls of the keep. It is a beacon of light in the cold darkness.
The ruins themselves sit atop a steep crop of rock, with a winding stone stairs serving as the only easy path up to the fortification. The crumbling path winds up the stone outcrop toward a large portal. A rusted portcullis hangs above the ruin’s entryway. Beyond is a rubblestrewn and snowy foliage-choked courtyard seemingly devoid of animal life. This place is almost unnaturally quiet. Nothing moves, except for the ivy that winds up the ruin’s stones, which rustles slightly with each wind gust. More unsettling than the silence is a somewhat fresh trail of blood upon the snow. Starting at the last stair it winds into the courtyard and beyond. There is a broken staircase leading to a fragile rotted wood walkway above. The blood winds to the rear of the ruin trailing behind a far wall on the right.
Taveah kneels and checks the blood. It is cold and iced over. “It seems we have arrived in time to discover what these hounds are, there will be no waiting.”
“Perhaps luck is with us this night.” Kohl draws his ax.
Taveah then notices the blood has an acidic nature. “Be wary, the hounds may have acidic saliva.”
They each pass through the 20 foot wide, 15 foot high entryway. The rusted teeth of a massive portcullis loom overhead. They skirt the outer wall of the courtyard and head towards the north tower. Kohl and Oggrim’s armored feet crunch through the snow as they approach, the light of the sunrod dancing on the broken ancient walls. Inisde it is rubble strewn. An old portcullis winch sits abandoned. The mechanism and its chains are severely corroded.
In the courtyard, rubble hidden under the snow makes the walk difficult. Taveah checks the first abandoned room on the right. As light bathes the room, she recognize that it once housed the keep’s guards. Now it is a frozen weed choked mess. Kohl searches the room briefly and finds a torn page from a book amongst some rotted ledgers. It appears to be a letter written by what must be Lord ir’Lumm’s grandfather to one of Bishop at’Rox’s predecessors.
Kohl turns to Taveah, and speaks to her in Kael, their native tongue. A look of dread on his face, _"Minions of Soruz’na cousin." He hands the letter to Taveah, then turns to Oggrim, “Oggrim, these lands are plagued by minions from the realms of Xoriat, these weapons that are meant for lycanthropes may not work. Be careful. These creatures are mortal enemies of my people. When we have time, you will need to read this letter from Lord ir’Luum’s ancestor. The Lord himself will also need to be made aware.”
“This letter is certainly interesting, Oggrim. What do you make of it? It seems to reflect some questionable church politics,” she says handing it him. As she does she looks at it more closely, “Actually… this is the missing page from one of the diaries I examined at Lord ir’Lumm’s manor. I wonder how it got here.”
She looks at Oggrim and Kohl. “I think there’s more to this than we know. Of course, that is often the case.”
She looks to the ruined second story. “Should I check upstairs, cousin?” She switches to her bow.
Kohl heads up the rotting steps, the floor boards squeal and ache under the weight of his armor. Wood cracks and splinters, but Kohl manages to keep his footing. Taveah and Oggrim watch from below. Kohl finally reaches the top of the steps, 20 feet above the courtyard. The light illuminates the ruined floor. Kohl then hears a strange growl and sees the air ripple before him. Two eyes of blood red appear in the hazy ripple just before they are joined by a massive four legged beast. It is covered in runes with a serpentlike head ending in a maw filled with needlelike teeth attack. On its forehead is the rune of Soruz’na the Insane One, daughter of Drakkas Lauk and Nekram. It spews vile acid from its mouth.
Vile acid burns through Kohl’s armor and onto his right shoulder.
Kohl staggers back and over the broken floor but barely manages to hand onto a floor board. It crumbles in his grip. The creature looms over ready to attack.
“Foul Spawn of Soruz’na! I shall return you to your bitches tit!” Kohl spits.
The floor cracks and gives way as Kohl manages to grab the creature’s neck and stop his fall. It fights Kohl’s weight and thrashes its neck, but Kohl’s grip is relentless.
Taveah quickly nocks one of the arrows the Lord gave her, takes aim, and shoots for Soruz’na’s hound. The arrow finds its mark and buries itself deep in the beast’s collarbone. It thrashes in anguish and bites at Kohl but his armor deflects the attack. Kohl quickly realizes, this protection is only temporary. The acidic gore from the beast’s wound runs down Kohl’s arm, hissing smoke rises from his gauntlet and forearm as the metal begins to corrode.
Oggrim draws his blade and rushes up the stairs, but his heavy armor is too much weight. Halfway up the staircase, his leg crashes through. He stumbles, but manages to not fall to the ground below. He curses as he tries to pull himself out of the shattered floor boards.
Taveah’s hair stands on the back of her neck, as she feels something unnatural stir through the air. Three more beasts from the South Tower (Area 8) emerge from the darkness. They snarl and spit as they stalk closer to the lonely ranger.
“Skarn! Attack!” Taveah yells. Skarn snarls and charges the three beasts.
Kohl slashes the creature with ir’Lumm’s sword in his free hand. The blade cuts remarkably deep. Deeper than Kohl anticipated. The beast’s head is severed. Kohl flails and crashes to the ground. Three rune hounds snarl over his prone body.
“In Torval’s name! …fkak…!!!”
Taveah nocks another of ir’Lumm’s arrows and shoot at one of the rune beasts around her cousin.
“Kohl, are you alright!?”
Immediately sensing that her arrow mill miss its mark, she instantly nocks another of ir’Lumm’s arrows and shoots again. Her senses are correct and she hits the beast on the second strike.
Skarn rips into the wounded hound’s throat and tears it to ribbons. It gurgles then dies in a bloody mess.
Taveah releases another arrow and it finds its mark. Another beast is wounded. In retaliation for the attack and vengeance for its fallen mate, the beast gnashes into Skarn’s fur.
The remaining beast bites down at Kohl. Byeshk steel blocks the attack. Kohl rolls to one side and stabs the creature in the belly.
Oggrim pries himself free and leaps from the steps. His sword barrels down upon the wounded beast attacking Kohl, but the creature is too swift and dodges the blow.
Taveah lets another arrow fly. The arrow tunnels through the creatures forehead, lodging deep in its brain. The mystic sigil of Soruz’na fades as the beast perishes.
Oggrim swings at the remaining hound, but the hound continues to evade him. Fortunately the creature has given room for Kohl to stand.
The creature lunges at Oggrim spiting a vile arc of acidic bile all over his breast plate. Metal and flesh sear. But Oggrim holds his ground.
Kohl advances on the remaining beast, putting boot to the beasts back. Kohl’s foot comes down where the hound stood as it begins a lunge at Oggrim.
“By Torval’s holy fire, I commit your essence to Law’s judgment foul dha’ark spawn!”
Kohl swings ir’Luum’s ancestral sword at the beasts neck”_ but misses.
Skarn rushes in and slays the remaining beast just as another of Taveah’s arrows whistles
“Skarn, mighty slayer of Dha’Ark hounds. May Torval’s blessing keep your fangs sharp on the fetid flesh of these abominations!” Kohl finishes his blessing by gesturing the symbol of Law.
Oggrim looks a little shocked. Eyes glazed from the surprise and fury of the surprise attack.
“Impressive bow work Lady Taveah. I am pleased you are on my side.”
Taveah nods. “Thank you, Sir Oggrim.” She begins collecting some of her arrows to see if any may be used again.
“Her skill with the bow has always held my confidence, even in the most dire of situations.” Kohl says proudly, smiling at his cousin.
Kohl looks to the ancestral blade and to Oggrim.
“It would appear this material has other uses…I would like to get my hands on more. You have, my friend, just faced your first fiends from the realms of Dha’Ark, which is somehow linked with Xoriat. Let us search the rest of the keep.”
After searching the South Tower, all that remains is to follow the trail of icy blood. The stairway leads down to a passage that winds for 20 feet and opens to a 20ftx20ft chamber once used for storage, now used by the runehounds as a waste refuge. The sickly, stinky place is filled with offal and the remains of prey. Much of the remains are of forest animals, but there is what’s left of a trio of kobolds and a human corpse, so stripped of flesh that it can’t be identified with means short of magic.
The chamber is lined with dug out pits and crevices along the walls and in the corners of the ceiling. Taveah’s senses tell her she is not alone.
“Torval, bless this weapon, your instrument of your divine might so that my enemies may taste your fury and absolute will.” Kohl blesses the ancestral blade.
“Shh, quiet cousin… I think there is something here with us….” Taveah whispers.
Keeping wary of Taveah’s warning, Kohl moves to the human remains, searching for a clue, perhaps personal effects.
The stench is unbearable as they approach. Oggrim is taken aback by the smell. His eyes water as he gags for fresh air.
Searching the remains, Kohl finds a man’s satchel. Inside is a blood-soaked velvet pouch with 50 galifars, and identification and travel papers for one Lukar Drosin. A resident of Lessyk, Lukar is described in his identification papers as a runner for the Bishop Iustin at’Rox. His travel papers allow him to travel to Sharn and back to Lessyk, but they expired almost six months ago. Among the travel papers is a note.
Kohl reads the note, “It seems the local Bishop turned a profit on ir’Luum’s paintings. Taveah, have you discovered what the presence is?”
Taveah peers through the shadows. “Whatever you are, show yourself!” She pauses, waiting for a response. “I cannot see it, but it is here. Perhaps we should leave it in its misery.”
“Kohl”, Oggirim says while remaining in the doorway, “This room is fetid. Let’s not spend anymore time than necessary. Do you see anything further? I can barely see through the stench.”
“Actually….” Taveah steps into the room with sudden renewed interest. “Look here… There’s a secret passage!”
Taveah approaches the door and — for the first time — wishes a certain rogue hadn’t gotten sucked into a realm of darkness. “Hmmm…. I am wary of kicking doors. I have had ill luck in the past.”
Taveah cracked her knuckles. “Let’s see if I learned anything from watching that fiend work. "
She fiddles with the mechanism and it opens easily, “I guess so!” she beams. As she opens the door she notices that it has a mechanism indicating a trap, however, it was clearly meant to harm those on the other side. It has since rotted and fallen apart.
“Curious… Cousin, Oggrim… I believe this door was maybe meant to hold something in.” she says, staring into the blackness beyond.
“Skarn, do you sense anything?”
Skarn growls sniffing the air. Looks around and then back at Taveah. Taveah notices the narrowness of the corridor beyond.
“It’s fairly tight quarters…” Taveah sighs, pulls her sword free, and goes in. Oggrim let’s Kohl pass before him, offering to take the rear.
The corrirdor is wet and slippery and disorienting in terms of direction. It winds around to the right then to the left. Eventually they lose sight of the chamber behind them. Finally they turn another bend to see that the cavernous passage has collapsed… or perhaps was purposely caved in. It’s then when Kohl and Taveah’s ears pick up.
Something scuttles in the darkness behind and around the corner.
Oggrim turns to face the enemy. Gouts of acid spray from the mouths two smaller rune hounds. Several more are behind, eager to get their chance to feed on tonight’s meal. Oggrim staggers back atop of Taveah. Acid burning deep into his chest.
Two more critters, leap from behind the front two assaulters. They pounce atop Oggrim as he falls and leap towards Taveah’s throat.
Kohl then sees along the walls climbing up toward the ceiling four more runehound pups. They race across the stone unimpeded and towards Kohl.
Kohl is critically hit by one of runehounds. Its drops from the cieling and atop of him spraying gouts of acid. The other three attack, but miss as Kohl stumbles backward. They turn their attention to Skarn nearby.
Another hound bites deep into Taveah’s forearm. The other scatters near her feet. She slices at the one of them in retaliation but misses.
Oggrim struggles against the beasts near him, and is injured badly.
Kohl manages to slay a runehound pup. The sigil on its forehead vanishing in a purple mist.
“Raise your sword up Oggrim, my Lord Torval beckons you to find strength in his healing and the power of law to strengthen your arm.”
One of the runehounds turns from Skarn and sprays a vile stream of acid at Kohl. However, the creature’s target isn’t Kohl, but his sunrod. The rod melts instantly upon contact, plummeting everyone into darkness.
Taveah slides on her Starlight Goggles, granting her vision in the low-light. She assaults the beast attacking her, slaying it.
Kohl pulls out a dragon shard, illuminating the hall in a warm, soft light. Oggrim seeing his enemy kills it.
Kohl, quickly slashes at the last runehound it falls. Their corpses piled in the narrow hall.
Having nowhere else to go, they return to the surface. Once above ground, Kohl drags one of the adult corpses into the courtyard and then heads to the north tower. Oggrim and Taveah remain in the courtyard, watching over the carnage. There are a few whacks of metal and against metal and shortly thereafter Kohl returns carrying some heavy rusty chain. As he approaches with a smile… Taveah hears a loud crack. Moments later, the huge portcullis gate slams into the floor, sealing them in the courtyard. Kohl looks back then turns to Oggrim and Taveah, sheepishly.
Oggrim and Taveah look at Kohl shaking their heads.
“You both were there when Lord ir’Luum said he needed proof, I’ll look for an alternate way out.” Kohl says, doing his best to explain his error.
Taveah shakes her head in disbelief, then decides to make a fire with available wood from the destroyed tower.
Oggrim finally says, “Perhaps we should rest, let our wounds heal and try to open the portcullis in the morning. In the meantime, pick the most ‘weather proof’ room to settle into.”
The Kael and the Silver Flame – Part 5