Dalun

Escaping the Hold
Part 2 of Zokan's Hold

After taking rest the party got back on their feet and pressed forth, clearing several additional rooms of monsters and traps. The magic of the place seemed to intensify as the group encountered larger and more exotic “rooms,” some of which may not have been on Dalun at all. They crossed windswept canyons, flaming caverns, and lastly a elder dragon’s den. Finally the group found themselves in a small meditation chamber with a mysterious crystal ball floating in the center of the room. Around the crystal orb were a number of soft cushions scattered about the floor. One by one, starting with Aegishand, the party approached the crystal ball and peered into it’s depths.

The magic within the orb showed the viewer a spectacular sight of the night sky with thousands of twinkling star lights. The orb quickly submerged the viewer’s conscious mind into a sea of mystic sights showing worlds far away. It was like nothing any of them had ever witnessed, a thousand worlds with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants on each of them. It was a bit of an overwhelming experience, but also deep enriching and enticing. Once each of them awoke from their trance like state they composed themselves and made for the exit.

The door of the humble meditation room opened and they found themselves on the streets of Trundor, the city of portals.

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Zokann's Hold

After the battle for Eltgaard settled the adventurers saw to various tasks about the city such as assisting in the rebuilding process, diving into dwarven political affairs (given the recent death of the high king) or fighting off lingering foes. Over the next two weeks the group learned that the tunnels beneath Eltgaard had become safe enough to travel and explore once more. Recently the location of Zokann’s Hold, a mysterious tomb holding the relics and the dead of those loyal to the great dwarven wizard Zokan, was believed to be found. Aside for the treasure that could be gained, a great deal of respect and recognition would be won to the discoverer of the hold.

The party headed out along with a local dwarven scout to the location of what was believed to be a magic door guarding the entrance of the hold. The group quickly learned that navigating the hold was going to be difficult and would require recording which rooms they had entered and by which doors they had used. The hold appeared to be connected by magical gates marked with a single number. Each gate teleported the party into another chamber with another set of traps or challenges.

They found some treasure and guardians, but no proof yet that this is indeed Zokaan’s hold.

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Deposing a Tyrant
The Battle for Eltgaard

The day following the victory at Drithkowl a council was assembled at the Frost Keep to discuss the next battle in what scholars and bards would later call “The Northern War.” In attendance at the council to decide Eltgaard’s fate was Aegishand, Solgrin, Larkspur, Gylek, Golthiron, Governor-General Hallour, Orvarr Earthgrain, and a representative from the Kowled Wizards. it was revealed and discovered that Aegishand has been carrying an ancient dwarven gem called “the stone of Kazan’shol,” the gem he stole from Golthos all those days ago. Governor-General Hallour explained that there is a matching stone locked under the vaults of Drithkowl as well and the council discussed the ramifications of bringing the stones together. The legends say that when the stones are joined the spirits of the dead from the first great dwarf-gnome alliance will return to Rokourd to save it from whatever peril may have befallen it.

The council agreed to journey into the vaults below the city and join the stones. Governor-General Hallour led the way and unlocked the final chamber which revealed the stone of Drithkowl. When the stone of Drithkowl was joined with the stone of Kazan’shol a shower of magic rained from the heavens along with thousands of spectral warriors all heeding the commands of the governor-general. The party decided that they would march to Eltgaard with these spirit warriors and with Einar’s forces combined they would have a chance at taking down the self-proclaimed Tyrant King.

The adventuring party rode out ahead of the army and entered the tunnels beneath Eltgaard to scout out a way into the city for their ground forces. The party slew a number of ogres and giant warriors protecting a subterranean gate allowing the combined infantry unit of Dirthkowl footmen, Drasguardian Templars, and mercenaries to enter the besieged city. The party used the chaos of battle to sneak ahead to the high throne room to confront Golthos directly.

Tragically, Golthos had already slain the dwarf high king, Eldukar, when they arrived. At his side Golthos had Wulfnarr, a frost giant necromancer and Kyrax, a white dragon spawn of Tyrannax the Destroyer. It was a bitter fight, but with the aid of the Riddare griffin riders the party was able to divide the enemy force and slay Golthos.

With the death of the high king the dwarves will now look to their senate houses to choose another leader which will entail much debate, posturing and deliberation. The blow Golthos dealt to Eltgaard, to all dwarf kind, will be felt for generations to come. However with Eltgaard’s rescue the dwarves and gnomes can begin healing and rebuilding and forever will these adventurers be remembered as heroes.

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The Return to Rokourd
Drithkowl is found under siege

After their victory at Skaulheim the group returned to city of the Riddare where Einar’s father, Torvaldr, thanked the heroes and conferred upon them the title of “Lords of the North” saying that the folk of the land should respect them for their greatness (which granted each of them a +1 increase to their Charisma scores). Einar agreed to help the adventurers in their quest to rescue the city of Eltgaard from the evil clutches of Golthos. He explained to them, however, that it will take some time for him to rally the full strength of his armies and equip them for the long journey out of Imnisvael into Dalun. Einar gave them each a griffon to give them a chance to hasten back to Drithkowl to take care of affairs there while he marshals his own forces.

The journey took almost a month as they flew over vast tundra and icy mountains. When they finally arrived, they found the city of Drithkowl under siege by a massive undead army. The party landed their griffons at The Frost Keep and sought council with Governor-General Hallour who explained that after the death of Tyrannax the Destroyer, the wicked dragon of the north, Nurvaal and his undead horde attacked the city. The oft bitter and cold governor-general was more welcoming towards the group and permitted the adventurers to do whatever they needed to in order to save his city.

The situation in the city had become dire, as it was explained to them that Nurvaal’s forces had the city totally surrounded. Plague had swept into the city and any man, solider or innocent, who had been injured by the undead would rise as a zombie come midnight each night. This created paranoia which lead to the execution of anyone found with so much as a scratch on them. Furthermore the powerful Wizards of the Kowl had fled the city using their magic. Apparently shortly after the plague broke out they used many spells to seal the Fortress of Lazandroth off from the city. There was one Kowled Wizard left behind, however, a man the party decided to meet with first in the city dungeons.

The wizard’s name was Orvarr Earthgrain, an honest-sounding human mage who explained that he elected to stay when he heard that his order was fleeing. The party freed him from his cell and together they devised a plan to hunt down and dispatch Nurvaal’s necromancer generals hoping to draw the Wight out himself. They did this once, successfully slaying a mysterious wizard and his undead acolytes by flying out above the sea of undead atop their griffons and dive-attacking his command post. However, in the battle their griffons fled and they were forced to use Orvarr’s magic to teleport away to safety.

Later that night they decided to search the battlefield for Nurvaal and send out a force of eager warriors to form a diversion. A band of Drasguardian Templars, local mercenaries, and some of the governor-general’s soldiers slipped out of the city by way of a damaged wall segment previously unseen by the attackers. This force engaged a vampire-lord in the nearby forest while Orvarr and the rest of the heroes used a magic spell to teleport to Nurvaal’s location. When they arrived, however, they found a tomb with an inscription with Nurvaal’s name on it, but no Wight. They were then ambushed by his necromancers.

The battle was fast and deadly, but the group managed to slay Nurvaal’s generals despite the zombie horde descending upon them. After the final necromancer was slain Nurvaal appeared, somehow drawing power for their destruction. He proved to be a mighty spell caster, but in the end too was slain. Masterless, the undead army became unresponsive and the siege was broken. The city of Drithkowl was saved.

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Assault on Skaulheim
A return to the Ogrek lair

Larkspur and Solgrin met back up with Gylek and Golthiron after deciding to leave the Staff of Command with Melegir and the other survivors. Using the planar key recovered from the werewolf the party was able to open a magical portal and return themselves to Imnisvael. There they traveled back to Einar’s hold and met with Aegishand who had been working on a plan to sneak into the castle of the Riddare in order to help Einar recover his title and place by his father’s side as prince of the Riddare.

The journey took a few days, but after arriving they managed to bluff their way past a few gate guards and approach the castle. Einar said that he knew of a secret entrance at the base of the castle wall that was used as an escape route for the royal family during times of danger. Solgrin provided a diversion for the group and everyone was able to slip inside the escape route exit tunnel. Once they reached the end of the passage Einar asked that the party stay their hands from killing any of the Riddare and to allow him to challenge the creature mimicking him.

Einar knocked a book case over concealing the hidden passageway and immediately drew his sword and challenged the fetch, the creature wearing his skin as a disguise, to single combat. The two argued a bit, but ultimately the creature did not have the courage or the strength to duel Einar alone, call for its allies, and changed forms. The fetch creatures were hideous, green-black skinned fairy-like monstrosities which attacked the party with their sharp claws. The party slew Einar’s mimic and cleared the castle of the rest of the creatures.

Shortly after the fighting Einar promised to take what forces he could gather and march south into Dalun to help the party with their quest against Golthos. Before heading out, however, Einar suggested that he and the party take a group of soldiers and launch an attack on Skaulheim, the fortress of the Ogrek. This way the Riddare could offer their full forces to help reclaim Eltgaard and the party could recover their magic weapons and armor that had been lost to the Ogrek after their initial capture.

The party agreed to this plan and quickly assembled a force of about 100 Riddare warriors and headed West to Skaulheim. Their plan of attack was simple, but effective. The party would ride with Einar atop Griffons to attack one of the weaker defense towers. Then Einar’s father, the king, would take his forces and attack the now-depleted positions when the Ogrek adjusted their forces to reinforce the flank under attack. The battle plan required some last minute adjustments, but fortunately Solgrin slew a flying draconic beast and Gylek was able to coordinate with the ground forces fighting their way up the slopes of the mountain. All the while Aegishand, Golthiron, and Larkspur fought their way inside the fortress and slew an Ogrek commander.

Once the outer defenses had broken the party was then able to sweep inside and cut down the Ogrek using the narrow tunnels of the mountain-fortress to mitigate their advantage of numbers. The party reclaimed their lost possessions and fled with the Riddare forces before Ogrek reinforcements could arrive.

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Curse Breaking
To save himself, Larkspur must save another

After banishing the ghost of the mad wizard the party stopped for a while to discuss the fate of the Staff of Command. The Staff is a relic of tremendous power which is said to control the minds of men and compel them to do whatever the wielder wishes. Such a powerful item must be used with great caution or not at all lest the wielder go mad with control and create chaos. In the meanwhile Larkspur’s condition had been worsening, he hadn’t been able to sleep and he was already showing signs that his curse would claim him soon.

Solgrin and the halfling left the staff with the others and went about in search of this werewolf, so that they could continue their quest. Melegir the scout gave them silvered weapons and suggested that they speak with a mystic by the name of Zaltyr. The odd hermit is said to live on the far eastern side of the city at the edge of the ruins. The fighter and the ranger made their way across the city where they were accosted by some ruffians. Larkspur goaded them into playing a gambling game of dice, which they actually agreed to play, but after losing refused to pay up and attacked the adventurers anyhow. Solgrin and Larkspur slew many of the thugs and restrained those who surrendered.

After the fighting they moved on and found the home of Zaltyr, a place where nature seemed to bloom with brilliant green life. When they entered his forested and flowering home they found the druid meditating atop a mushroom cap. The bearded sage explained that he is somewhat of a rival to the priestess of the moon and that he would be willing to help Solgrin and Larkspur track down the werewolf if they agreed not to kill him, but save him from his curse. They decided that this was fair, particularly after Zaltyr said that he would use his power to rid Larkspur of his own curse. The three of them then partook in a shared vision, scrying an inexact location of the werewolf somewhere in the north among a haunted forest. The two adventurers were given a gold sickle by Zaltyr who said that its magic could incapacitate the werewolf long enough for them to bring him back to the druid so that his curse could be removed by a ritual of the sun.

After leaving the city Solgrin and Larkspur crossed a muddy wetland and passed into a shadowy forest of dead trees swaying in the cold wind. During their hike through the forest they were ambushed by a hideous troll which they promptly slew. As the sun set they were attacked by powerful and vengeful spirits of the dead. The horrors that they inflicted upon Larkspur magically sapped ten years of life from him and before Solgrin’s eyes he could see the halfling’s hair thin, develop grey patches and his skin become weathered and creased at the corners of his eyes and elsewhere. Using their silvered weapons the two adventurers were able to fight off a number of ghosts, but ultimately fled as the ghosts were relentless and their life draining powers tremendous.

That night the two camped out by the muddy bed of the old river to recover their strength. The next day Larkspur woke with a terrible feeling of filth and could not get his mind off the need to cleanse himself. As the river had dried up to little more than a wide, muddy lane, the two turned North to the sea where Larkspur could wash away the dirt and festering grime that seemed to be under his very skin. After a few hours’ walk the halfling bathed himself in the cold, briny water of the ocean until he was red and raw. Solgrin did not challenge him, but asked if he was well enough to continue. The halfling quietly said that he was and they turned back south to continue their mission.

Once they returned to the forest they found the lair of the werewolf, entered and battle was joined. The beast was mighty and flailed its claws and gnashed its teeth, but Solgrin’s skill with a blade and Larkspur’s aim with an arrow proved too much of a match for the creature. They dashed the beast’s throat with the gold sickle as instructed by Zaltyr and indeed the magic of the blade returned the lycantherope to his human form and kept him suspended before death.

Upon their return the two adventurers helped Zaltyr conduct the ritual to purify the werewolf. It was a taxing ordeal and the man remained unconscious, so Zaltyr and the others took rest. That night they discussed lifting Larkspur’s curse and Zaltyr explained that they would head out before dawn the next morning and do what must be done. Later in the evening Larkspur beheld a vision or perhaps a dream about an ancestor which may have held clues about the nature of his curse.

The following day they travelled east to catch the sun rise over the sea at dawn. Zaltyr the mystic instructed Larkspur to stand amid a circle of magic stones, take aim at the horizon and hit the sun with an arrow. The halfling was incredulous, but had to give it a chance. The wind on the rocky bluff was strong, the light from the rising sun was hot and bright and all the while a paranoia of his enemies following him here loomed in the back of his mind. Distracted and weary the halfling ranger loosed an arrow as best he could straight for the sun. No splash of water was heard, no flash of light or voice from the heavens, nothing happened. Zaltyr simply said that in time Larkspur will know if he hit the sun.

Just before parting ways Zaltyr gave to the two adventurers a key wrought from solid electrum which he found in the clutches of the werewolf. The mystic explained that this key would open a planar gate and allow them to travel home.

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The Werewolf, the Witch and the Portal
Departing Dalun

Sometime in the night the party was ambushed by werewolves claiming to require a blood sacrifice for their ritual. The party armed themselves in a hurry and did battle with he creatures. Despite not possessing silvered weapons the party was able to defeat most of the werewolves and when their numbers were sufficiently thinned, the losing survivors fled. The party could hear the werewolves call to one another as they crossed through the portals of the chamber beyond. One wolf said that he would return to Skaulheim and the other wished to consult with “The Moon Priestess.” The two creatures went their separate ways.

After the fighting ended the party sifted through the notes and scrolls left on the floor by one of the werewolves. There were letters and journal entries which explained that the werewolves wished to take control of their lycanthropy whereas a Moon Priestess with whom they were conversing wished to rid them of their shape shifting curse altogether.

The party discussed the paths set out before them and decided that following the werewolf to this Moon Priestess may give them a chance to help Larkspur with his curse. The group stepped through the portal which held a swirling image of a great landmass with a sprawling metropolis located at its center. They knew that it was not Dalun, but they knew that is where they must travel.

After stepping through the portal the party found themselves magically transported to a festering marshland. They entered a nearby hut in the swamp and spoke with an elf witch who was quietly working on an alchemical spell over her cauldron. In speaking with her they learned that she is indeed the Moon Priestess and she revealed that she may have the power to rid Larkspur of his curse, but she refused to do so until the werewolf she previously agreed to help was killed. She explained that she made a mistake in attempting to help the werewolves and now they are lost to darkness and does not wish to make the same mistake twice… unless that mistake could be erased.

The party agreed to the Priestess’s terms, but also knew that they would need silver weapons in order to slay the werewolf because he was an elder with greater power than the other wolves. They were instructed to head East into the ruins of the great city where the folk residing there may have silver weapons, apparently the threat of ghosts is a frequent one.

The party hiked out of the swamp across a moor to the city ruins where they encountered a lone scout by the name of Melegir who agreed to take them back to a nearby temple for shelter. There the party learned that much of the city’s inhabitants huddle in old temples, manors or anywhere else they can take shelter. The city is ruled by gangs of patrolling soldiers and monsters ruled by a self proclaimed “war boss” named Galshnek. Melegir confirmed that they do indeed have silvered weapons, but need them to fight the ghosts that come out at night. He agreed to hand some over, however, if the party could defeat Galshnek.

After nightfall the group set out along the city’s ancient streets and did battle with a large patrol of thugs led by a half-ogre captain. It was a grueling battle, but the heroes slew most of their foes and sent the rest fleeing for their lives. One soldier was grabbed and held captive, questioned and then executed by Golthiron. They then made for the old canal and crept their way through the sewer tunnels underneath Galshnek’s headquarters. They climbed up into the lower holds of a castle that once was the city’s “Arcane University” where they found several dozen prisoners being held captive by Galshnek’s men.

They freed the prisoners and ran past the guards blocking the way to the portal to the upper levels. After crossing the portal threshold Gylek temporarily dispelled the portal to prevent reinforcements from waylaying them while they did battle with Galshnek. Each member of the party brought all of their fury upon the ogre-mage and slew him. In his possession the party discovered that he held an artifact thought lost to time: the staff of command, a weapon said to have grant total control over the hearts of men.

When the portal reactivated Gylek used the staff to command Galshnek’s men to halt, then to kneel and then after a brief moment of consideration to take their own lives. It was a grisly sight, but the forced suicide of a dozen men confirmed that that the staff indeed holds great power over the minds of others. The party left the old Arcane University and headed north sometime around nightfall to confront the anguished spirits of the city. Melegir described to the party that ghosts come from a castle where the final blow was struck against the mad wizard who wrought destruction upon the city many years ago.

At the ruined castle the heroes found a vast crater and the specter of an evil wizard who would compel the ghosts to haunt the ruins of the city night after night. Gylek used the staff once more to banish the wizard and set the ghosts free to the afterlife for judgment. That night would be first night the city would hear crickets instead cries of terror and to see fireflies instead of furious ghosts of the dead.

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Journey into the Temple
The heroes explore a mysterious temple

After the party left the ruins of Ulnath Ultyr’s castle and reunited with Aegishand and Gylek they made their way to an ancient temple enshrined in ice deep within the tundra of Imnisvael. The main entrance was encased in ice, so the party climbed the exterior wall and descended into the main hall. The floor tiles were cut from a brilliant blue and white marble made into the shape of a crescent moon. Twelve statues stood along the exterior of the moon depiction within the floor.

As the party was investigating the ruin a wyvern descended through the breach in the roof and attacked. To make matters worse spirits awoke within the statues and waylaid the party as they battled the lesser dragon. After the party dispatched the phantoms and slew the wyvern they activated the magic within the twelve statues revealing a passageway delving deeper into the temple.

Underneath the temple the party found a long corridor with tall columns which seemed to mystically recreate the seasons. Roughly one quarter of the length of the tunnel was cold and dry, another quarter length was warm and humid, another length was hot and dry and another cool again. At the end of the passageway the party encountered a bearded human who claimed to be a werewolf. He told a story about how he and his people have come to this temple in search of a way to take control of their lycanthropic curse instead of getting rid of it. Also in the chamber with the werewolf were three magic doors. The door to the left of the entrance appeared to be a circle of magic runes set within the floor, perhaps a teleportation circle. The door to the right was a stone carving of a doorway set into the wall of the chamber with a glowing depiction of a faraway land set within the frame. And lastly the “door” straight across from the entrance appeared to be a magic mirror which did not hold the bearer’s reflection, but instead an uncertain swirl of smoke and fog.

The party discussed the possible choices before them, but ultimately decided to take rest and recover their spells before striking on.

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Seeking the Gift of the North

Einar explained his position as prince of the Riddare and that he is hiding out in an old family manse at the edge of R├╝dvaar lands because an Ogrek shapeshifter masquerades as himself in the royal court back home. He also explained that he would like the adventurers’ help taking back his birth right and title and to help them return to Dalun some day. However, he acknowledges that in their present state without their equipment and without some type of boon or blessing they will not survive the arctic cold of Imnisvael. He told them a story of how Ulnath Ultyr, the founder of the first Riddare settlement, came to Imnisvael and constructed a great castle in a nearby valley. If there is any hope that the adventurers would be able to endure the harsh cold of the north it would be by exploring the ruins of Ulnath’s castle to uncover some boon or gift from the spirits of the Riddare.

Before they left, Einar imparted what power he could to stave off the extreme cold and wished them well. The party headed East into the mountains. As they traveled they found that the sun never quite went down, though after many hours the sun hung low in the sky, it eventually rose again before touching the horizon. The orange rays of the sun along with Einar’s blessing, kept the adventurers warm enough as they entered the valley where Ulnath’s ruined castle stood. They picked their way through an abandoned ruin of what once was a small city nestled in the mountains. Part way they were ambushed by lesser Ogrek creatures resembling grey-skinned goblins. They slew the creatures and made their way to the castle where they easily made their way inside through one of its may crumbled gaps.

The castle itself was cold and dark with numerous collapsed chambers and passages. Twice a floor segment or portion of wall collapsed nearly injuring the adventurers. After doing battle with a number of other creatures and navigating the precarious mountain castle, the adventurers encountered a ghostly spirit still working on a seemingly invisible weapon. The spirit explained that the weapon will take shape for whoever takes it up and swears to avenge the spirits of the Riddare. Solgrin drew the sword from an icy block beside the spirit’s forge and the party set out to the castle’s upper levels to do battle with a dragon that has long haunted the ruined castle.

On their way to the top the party found a crystal ball within a high chamber near the top of the castle’s tower. Golthiron peered into the divining stone and saw his homeland, it was verdant and green with no signs of danger or darkness, but then the image faded. Larkspur peered into the stone and saw a temple not far from the ruins which may hold secrets pertaining to the deadly curse upon himself. When the party reached the highest height of the castle ruin they sounded the “Challenger’s Horn” and summoned one of the castle’s many foes, a white dragon called Xeralane. They slew the dragon atop the castle and in doing so caused the nearby camp of Ogrek forces to flee in terror.

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Escaping Skaulheim

After the collapse of Lanyr’s realm the party found themselves teleported to Imnisvael. There they traveled under the never setting sun through the bleak tundra until they could not march any longer. They were captured by vile, ogre-like creatures and taken to a subterranean fortress. Hog tied, the party worked together to cut themselves free using a piece of broken arrowhead provided by a fellow prisoner, Einar. Einar and the party ambushed a squad of impish guards, taking their weapons and killing the odious wretches.

Navigating the subterranean halls of Skaulhiem was difficult because of the numerous monster patrols, but also because the party did not have access to their weapons or equipment. Still, the group was able to use stealth to overcome flat-footed sentries and their athleticism and magic to overcome obstacles and impasses.

While the party managed to sneak and fight their way past most foes they knew that even once they made it to the surface they would likely freeze. Einar explained that in order to endure the cold like his people can they would need “The Blessing of the North” something that he could not give to them without his possessions and certainly not while attempting to escape Skaulheim. The party quickly formed a plan to make their up the mountain where Einar would sing to his people from afar. He claims that the song of the royal family can be heard at great by those who are loyal to the king of the Riddare.

Without much of a choice, the party garbed themselves in what layers they could from a nearby storeroom, took some captured weapons and ascended the nearest peak. They mounted a stone platform where Einar began his song. The vile Ogrek and a nearby drake heard the singing and attacked the party. It was a bloody battle, but they slew many foes and just as the harsh arctic air was gripping them they were rescued by what appeared as angelic beings from beyond the clouds.

When they woke they found themselves in a warm, rustic lodge. A Riddare healer and Einar greeted them as they came to. He smiled and welcomed them to his lands.

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