Monthly Archives: May 2011

SOW Chapter9: Vraath Keep

Odos is safe now
Zed is dead, githzerai too

A high price to pay

Vraath Keep

The forest grows more ominous as the Dawn Way winds deeper into the woods. The weary party, Ian, Bhenedict, Bairdyn, Vani, Odos and the two remaining cenobites, Beezil, Dak’kon … all of them feeling the loss of Zed, Tokk’it, Gallia and the others, as they come to a spot where a wide track leads away from the road, heading west. A massive effigy of some kind stands here, a fifteen-foot-tall humanoid shape made from a sagging, moss-covered frame. The thing looks almost like a crude giant-sized skeleton. Birds nest in the massive barrel that serves as the effigy’s head.

“What do you make of that?” asks Vani.

“Hmm, I’m not sure; let’s check it out,” answers Bairdyn.

“Wait for me; you two will only get yourselves in trouble, so I might as well be close,” adds Benny.

“That’s obviously supposed to be a forest giant, I mean clearly we aren’t dealing with great art here but at least it is supposed to look like one of the giants we were fighting,” points out Ian.

Beyond the effigy Vani notices the ruin of a stone cabin, no roof remains, just the shell of old walls and large piles of scattered stone, “Hey, maybe we can camp here, at least we would have some cover.”

Losing interest in the effigy, Vani wanders idly towards and through the ruined cabin. Suddenly, a scorpion larger than the halfling emerges from beneath one of the piles of stone quickly snatching Vani with sharp pincers. The scorpion’s tail rises high, snapping downward but not before Vani vanishes teleporting thirty feet backwards and blasting the scorpion. Vani doesn’t stop until the beastly thing lies in smoldering pieces on what passes for the cabin’s floor.

“Well it’s safe now,” suggests Vani.

Nonplussed Bairdyn says, “I don’t see anything unusual about this statue.”

Vani shakes his head, “Other than it’s barrel-head. I still don’t like the look of it. I think I’ll tie it up. Bairdyn if you would be so kind as to give me a boost.”

Forest Giant Effigy

 

Laughably, Vani clambers up the effigy all the time claiming he would tie it up but the effigy had a solid, unyielding skeleton and clearly Vani’s efforts weren’t going to successful had that really been his plan. Truly, something bothered Vani about the mock-giant, a tingling … whispers of ill-intent, to the point that he determined to harass the thing until it reacted and he didn’t have to wait long. The effigy grabbed the sorcerer with one hand and tossed him in the air like a ball, setting Vani up with a great swing of its massive club but like so many times before Vani vanished only to reappear out of range of the club. From the new vantage point the halfling project explosive blasts of arcane energy until the effigy is blown to smoldering pieces.

With the area finally settled and cleared they make camp. At this point along the trail, the Dawn Way cut close to the traditional territorial grounds of the Twistusk Tribe, a group of forest giants that once dominated most of the woodlands between the Dawn Way and the mountains to the west. This effigy has long marked the edge of what they considered theirs. When the giants were driven from their ancestral home by Amery Vraath, this the effigy was all their leader, Warklegnaw had left to remind him of his lost tribe. Over the past decade the old giant infused much of himself into caring for the effigy, so much so that a nature spirit had taken pity on the giant and infused the effigy with a kind of a mock life of its own so Old Warklegnaw would have company. Even so, the effigy was still almost entirely dormant and inert, but the faerie spirit had infused it with enough of a half-life that Warklegnaw felt its pain as Vani destroyed the effigy and knowing his friend was gone Old Warklegnaw intended to make Vani pay for his trespass and he knew where to find him.

Waiting within Vraath Keep, the ambitious bugbear Koth also waited. Koth had long been hated throughout the Witchwood, so much so he was even avoided by the other goblinoids. Koth had long wandered the Witchwood and he knew the woods as well or better than anyone else. Now with his new backers he decided to take the keep for himself with the aid of his new allies and the forest giant Old Warklegnaw. Koth had gained the giant’s compliance by threatening harm to the captured members of long missing Twistusk tribe. With the giant’s help Koth had easily captured Arryk, the keep’s true master. Arryk had been one of the great heroes that had countered of the Red Hand’s invasion. Despite his best effort Koth had failed to break the old warrior who he was now starving in the keep’s vault.

All in all Vraath Keep’s now housed:

Koth, the Bugbear

Killer Koth – The githyanki have promised to make Koth a Wyrmlord and to let him rule the Witchwood from Vraath Keep for his assistance.

minotaur guardsTwo Minotaurs Thugs – These are Koth’s personal body guards. These stay in barracks near him at all times, accompanying Koth whenever he walks the grounds. Their nature insures that they will not retreat from battle.

Koth’s Worg – Koth’s worg ‘Ass-biter’ is completely loyal to Koth but attacks anyone else. It spends night secured in the tower where Assbiter howls his displeasure. Otherwise it will only be encountered in the company of Koth.

Gokublin, Worg RiderA Worg Rider – He is forced to stay in the stable with the guulvorg and he fears for his life. When given a viable choice to surrender he will do so just to be free of what he believes to be inevitable … that he will become guulvorg fodder.

Githyanki Sky Reavers – These githyanki survived the elven ambush and they were found by Brann’ot wandering in the woods. They are completely loyal and they will fight to the death it necessary as they are trained. They never flee from battle.

Brann'otBrann’ot Githyanki Gish Assassin – Although the githyanki attack was at Akma’ad was thwarted, Brann’ot the gish assassin survived by fleeing early. She single-handedly killed two of the elder githzerai, and she hopes to finish the job while Odos is traveling before they can escape to Sayre. She attacks by surprise in darkness, through walls, or rising out of the ground like a ghost. She means to strike before Odos can step through the Lord’s Gate in any case.

Vraath ManticoreThe Vraath Manticore – The Vraath Manticore has lived at the keep for at least thirty years. He has known Arryk since he was a child for many years the manticore kept treasure seekers out of the ruined keep. After the Red Hand War an alliance was forged between Arryk and the manticore. Arryk allowed the manticore to stay as long as the manticore left travelers unmolested.

Arryk the Black – The reclusive, retired hero of the Red Hand War retired to Vraath Keep at the conclusion of that war. His presence here has been a secret to all but his best friends and a few local confidants. Most people believe he left the world of Klarn seeking further adventures but unlike the other members of the Diamond League Arryk was from Klarn. More importantly in the course of his involvement with the Red Hand he had discovered his link to Vraath Keep and so at the conclusion of the war he quietly retired here at the keep.

Guulvorg – This beast is hardly tame. It considers the other worgs to be a part of its ’pack’ but lately it has been challenging Koth’s worg for leadership. The goblin worg rider is worried that the guulvorg might attack him at any day and doesn’t have any way to control it. They rarely allow the guulvorg out of the stables and when they do they do their best to stay out of the guulvorg’s way. They bribe it with live food and Arryk is next on the list. The guulvorg hates the Vraath manticore.

Guulvorg

 

As the party approaches the keep’s gatehouse they see that it has seen better days. The watchtowers to either side have partially collapsed, and several large boulders lie strewn about. The crushed remains of two sets of large wooden gates lie in pieces on the ground. A small wooden shack sits to the east of the keep itself south of the entry gate, near an overgrown vegetable garden … it looks untended and food is going to waste. The shack is clearly newer than the rest of the keep.

Map: Vraath Keep

On the north side of the path there is a 10’ tall stone arch, marked by etched runes … The Lord’s Gate, but like the keep itself the gate has been damaged, several key stones are missing.

Interlude … Death Becomes Me

Wintersreach, Land of the Dead

ba-boom, ba-boom, Ba-Boom, Ba-Boom, BA-BOOM, BA-BOOM, BA-BOOM …

If even one thing in the mortal realm, alive or dead, weeps for him then he will rise, and if anyone speaks against him, living or dead, then dead he will remain.’

 

DOUBT NOT,
CORPSE OF ZED,
DEATH HAS NOT HELD.
SERVE ME
KING’S SIRE AND YOUR SEED BE BLESSED,
FOR BY RIGHT, YOU ARE MINE,
KNOW MY CARESS, MY DEEP EMBRACE,
LOVE LURED,
YOUR DARK MISTRESS CALLS.
YOU ARE MINE TO SHARE
KLARN’S TO EARN
ARISE!
 
Undead Zed
 

Zed’s dead black eyes snap open as the pounding in his head fades into memory. He finds himself within a great chamber amid a mix of muted color. He attempts to rise bracing himself with his arm but witnessing an odd ashen taint to his hand Zed hesitates and wonders why the bones beneath his flesh seem to pressing nearer the surface then they should. Suddenly Zed gasps, sucking in cold air; it fills him as even the muted light in the chamber dims and then he realizes that every sound seems at once foreign and filled with newness. Cold as the air is within the room, Zed feels a deeper chill emanating within his body that makes his chest feel heavy and his extremities feel ablaze with the relative heat of the outer world. Focusing finally, Zed searches his confines finding them both strange and otherworldly. Again Zed struggles to rise and in so doing he gains a sense that his body not quite his own at least not anymore.

‘No not your own, mine now and mine to share.’

That’s when memories flood into Zed‘s recollection. Before this place, he struggled in . . . somewhere cold. The sky was dark, but it was also somehow alight with flowing color—as if the wind glowed instead of the stars. Snow buried everything, ‘his home?‘ Zed wasn’t sure. A veiled landscape, no funereal, huge forms … flying or being thrown. Pain and before that . . . other memories—scenes, faces, feelings—all a jumble, all confused, half-forgotten dreams. Then all of a sudden he knows, Zed knows, one thing for certain … he is dead or more correctly, was dead and judging from he feels, he was likely yet at least a little dead still. Then she appears or at least Zed thinks he sees her, beautiful beyond measure, dark yet pale … Her eyes the deepest, most bottomless pools, unending.

Raven Queen

“From Death summoned, for a course most difficult. My ugly acquaintance, Klarn’s enemy and Lord, flaunts his callous ambition making challenge to my reign. Now through you he shall have my answer. He who is the god of the dead must learn the lesson of the Lady who is Death and you my love are to be his tutor. By your service you secure blessing upon your living progeny for now and throughout their days.”

Once more darkness descends, memories fading with the sounds. Zed wakes, stands and picks a direction to walk that feels like it has somehow been picked for him. As he travels he takes care to note all he can about what he sees and hears as he travels. Zed finds it hard to remember everything about who he is or more correctly who he was. The warrior can remember some things, first among them, a man he must protect, a mortal named Odos. As he looks about, Zed searches the deeps wood for Odos trying to remember what Odos looks like. For hours Zed travels through darkness but somehow that isn’t a problem, his eyes cut through the darkness easily keeping him on path. Eventually a ruin of a keep appears before him; it seems eerily familiar but Zed is certain he has never been there before. Then he hears voices carrying in the distance and these are also familiar. Something else hounds Zed’s thoughts as he moves towards the voices. The dead don’t come back to life without reason, he has a purpose, an assassin is near, and the assassin is stalking Odos.

Zed's Return

Ian, Bhenedict, Bairdyn, Vani, Odos and the two remaining cenobites, Beezil, and Dak’kon approaching the keep in the brisk morning air when they see a dark silhouette on the horizon as if opening a gulf from a fell, unearthly realm, staggering ungainly as it approaches . The cenobites move between Odos and the approaching figure screening the great elder even as it calls out.

“Your master is threatened, it is I have come to protect him in fulfillment of my debt as my mistress requires.”

As the stranger nears, the sky behind him clears returning to its normal hues, the woods closing in upon the visit. As the morning light paints over the visitor’s pale features Zed is revealed, but he has changed, an animated corpse returned from the grave.

Zed is not quite human, somewhere between living and dead, not human and not vampire but akin to both. His voice is hollow like a malignant crypt breeze. He carries with him the biting smell of death swirls about him, the cenobite feel an eroding, as though the nearness of the intruder siphoned their very life as they ventured too close yet there was no sense of evil associated with the grey-skinned warrior, a grotesque semblance of his former self, still clearly Zed.

Odos speaks, “Approach me, spirit … tell me your purpose.”

“I have been dispatched by the Raven Queen; it is her desire that you arrive safely to Sayre,” answers the spirit.

“Very well, I accept your service spirit. See that I make it to Sayre; and I will absolve you of any further obligation to me. Your mission here will have been fulfilled, and you may find the peace that has been denied in your passing,” Odos turns away refocuses on the shattered arch of the Lord’s Gate. Reaching out and touching the cold stone of the arch that was still standing the githzerai says, “Describe what you see,” speaking to Ian.

Ian describes the Lord’s Gate, “The gate is here as the elves said but it is damaged; several of the stones are missing.”

The rest of the party stand apart, put off by the undead thing that Zed had become. Vani looks towards Bairdyn and whispers, “I guess Zed’s ‘undead‘ now.” snickering quietly under his breath.

Zed scowls in Vani’s direction. Put off by Zed’s reaction Bairdyn says nothing.

Looming ahead beyond the shadowy woods is the haunting sight of Vraath Keep, an ancient keep, the old castle sits on a small rocky hillock. The party catches a glimpses of a broken tower between the tress. A moss-covered stone at the side of the road marks the beginning of a footpath that leads up to the keep.

“If we hope to use this gate we will have to find the missing stones,” announces Ian.

Checking the grounds the cenobites notice several giants have used the path but their tracks are not fresh, their appearance suggested that they might be a week old. Pointing out the tracks the others assist finding fresh tracks, but these look like the tracks of several large wolf-like animals moved through here, one of them to be absolutely huge, the largest any of the party had ever seen … bigger than the biggest bear.

As they remark, a familiar face appears upon the horizon, that of Ian’s phantom.

Ian's Return

The phantom approaches Ian quickly paying no heed to the woods as it closes the distance quickly merging with and disappearing within Ian. A look of surprise, followed by one of understand plays across Ian’s face as he absorbs the phantom’s thoughts. As his mind settles the bard announces.

“Ah, now I see Eoffram is approaching, but they have met some resistance … not too bad, some scouts I believe, githyanki but he is not alone, he has found an ally. He will be here soon, but if I am not mistaken we are being watched now."

Ian walks toward the old keep noting again its poor condition, The gatehouse shows signs of both recent repair and destruction, still partially collapsed, as is a section of the wall to the south. A small wooden building sits in front of the structure next to a small working garden, filled with a variety of vegetables and herbs, this building is obviously a recent addition to the keep. The walls surrounding the keep are about fifteen feet high, with a two-story tower looming over the keeps courtyard in the southwest corner of the keep. Large boulders lie strewn about amid the chaos of recent destruction, and ancient ruin. The are two watch towers, and a massive petrified humanoid skeleton slumps amid the ruins of the northern tower, with and equally petrified club lying next to one of its bony arms.

Ian approaches the wooden out building calling out in the direction the wall, “Come out, come out wherever you are!”

Almost immediately a great head appears, the hulking huge head of a beast, with both man and lion-like features. It gives rise to great bat-like wings lifting awkwardly into the air briefly before clambering upon the wall of the keep.

Vraath, Manty Core

Wot tasty morsels have we here? The wood has spat out a fine meal it would seem,” says the manticore in a low half-growling common tongue.

“We have come to see Arryk,” answers Ian.

“Thar is no Arrykk ere now,” responds the manticore, “So my guess was true, ye have come to fill my belly.”

“Oh, come on now, we don’t want to hurt you; run off and get the master of the keep before we do some real damage,” replies Ian.

Not knowing whether the heavily armed party was really there to see Arryk or Koth. It growls is a low voice commanding them to stay their approach, “I will be back. You stay here or I will eat you!”

Turning to his companions Ian says, “It shouldn’t be long.”

After a few anxious moments an eerie moaning is heard emanating from within the keep grounds along with rustling sounds a that of a slamming door, followed by a guttural growls.

All at once violence erupts as a massive wolf-like monster rushes to exit through the broken gate, where it is stalled by its great size. It is followed by a worg-mounted goblin. The guulvorg, has oversized fangs, and a strong mace-like tail, it’s hot-blood makes the creature voracious, edgy, and uncontrollable. It rips into the party without thought or hesitation opening up a larger battle. Minotaurs emerge from the keep, followed by the vicious bugbear Koth. Bhenedict meets the monstrous guulvorg at the gate allowing Ian and Bairdyn to slip past them into the courtyard of the keep where they engage the minotaurs. Suddenly the manticore appears gliding over the wall grasping Vani with its razor-like claws. Rising easily it carries the struggling sorcerer a short distance to the wooden out building landing upon the structure but the weight is too much of the roof and it gives way, the combatants tumble with the debris to the floor of the structure.

The cenobites forcefully urge their blind leader back, away from the expanding battle. Zed follows and as he watches a silent figure emerges from the ground beyond the ancient githzerai attacking the elder. Zed charges cutting viciously into the assassin who quickly fades like a ghost becoming immaterial, Zed’s follow-up attack pasts harmless through the assailant even as a half-dozen githyanki warriors join the battle appearing from out of the wood. The cenobites, Beezil and Dak’kon, meet the githyanki halfway cutting off their approach and stunning the first two githyanki they reach with their own hand-to-hand martial attacks.

Back in the wooden shed, Vani rises to feet first, ahead of the manticore and holding up his hand in a gesture of pause rather than attack, he catches his breath and asks, “Really, wouldn’t you rather eat the wolves? I am not so large and I can assure you my friends will be finishing them off soon. They would be rather upset with you if you had harmed me.” Poised to pounce the manticore hesitates long enough to move towards the shattered door of the shed to look out upon the battle. The manticore’s eyes are drawn to the dwarf and the manticore’s hated rival the guulvorg. It is easy to tell that the dwarf was getting the better of the guulvorg who struggled within the tight confines of the ruined gatehouse. Making a quick decision the manticore calmed itself and answered, “You are right master hobbit, I was mistaken. Shall we watch the battle then?”

Vani tentatively walks towards the manticore and looking outward notice the fast approach of a giant and hears the scattered howls of dogs from the wood.

Old Warklegnaw

“I see you little one, you won’t get away from Ole Warklegnaw!” shouts the giant.

In the courtyard the minotaurs fight hard and fearlessly, but they are no match for Ian’s defensive prowess and while the bard keeps them distracted Bairdyn is free to attack them with the advantage of surprise, together they make short work of the bull-men. Koth and his own worg last a little longer but they too are outmanned after the minotaurs fall.

Back in the wood, the cenobite hold their own against the githyanki, but they are outnumbered and soon githyanki begin moving past them seeking to attack their elder master but none of these make it past Zed who stands like a wall between them and Odos. Zed draws new strength from each fallen enemies, consuming their dying essence. Those githyanki hanging back are suddenly overwhelmed by a pack of ravenous dogs. Suddenly Vani appears bloody and injured, a huge giant giving chase behind him. Odos turns his focus upon his would be assassin, crippling his attack with a fast series of hand-to-hand blows called ‘hammer-strike’ and his own mental attack causing a psychic backlash through the group of attacking githyanki.

Zed moves to block the giant, but he is easily batted aside, and knocked off his feet. The giant remains focused on Vani.

“Now you have to kill poor old Warklegnaw. You killed Warklegnaw’s only friend! Maybe you not as tasty as owlbear, but good enough for an old bag of bones like me. I will cook you, you wretched little piggy! Warklegnaw’s hungry now!”

Vani yells, “What are you talking about, what friend? … Those other giants?”

“Warklegnaw had only one friend," answers the giant while he pauses long enough to pick-up a large stone which he hurls slamming the halfling, Vani … Vani vanishes in a poof of psionic energy reappearing a short distance away .

“Are you talking about the statue, the one with the bird’s nest on it’s head?”

“All other gone now, all dead, only Warklegnaw left … Poor Old Warklegnaw!”

Vani finally notices a prominent tattoo on the giant’s forehead, a symbol that looks like a frowning tusked mouth. He had seen a similar mark on the effigy he had destroyed. Realization suddenly passing through Vani consciousness and he understands …

“You little worms won’t get me! You did for my kith and kin, but you won’t get me!” yells the giant.

“No, you’re wrong!” answers Vani “… you’re both right and wrong. I destroyed your friend but I didn’t know you and he attacked me, but your other friends aren’t dead … at least not all of the them. I’ve seen them. I can tell you where they are.”

Zed’s rises behind the struggling assassin and with a final slice he beheads the attacker. For the moment the battle ceases both outside and inside the keep’s courtyard. Inside Koth falls to the combined efforts of Ian and Bairdyn leaving only Koth’s worg and the worg mounted goblin, together they had escaped during the battle.

Warklegnaw pauses from his pursuit long enough to hear Vani story, even as Eoffram and the woodsman Jorr approach the party. Jorr and his dogs had already finished off the last of the githyanki attackers. None of them had escaped. With Jorr’s help the heroes calm the giant, Old Warklegnaw, and they get back to the job of exploring the keep.

Vani asks the manticore, “Do you think you could find the other goblin? I will help you catch him if you will carry me.”

Agreeing the manticore allows the halfling to climb upon it’s back and together they fly off giving chase to the fleeing goblin. While they are gone Jorr offers to lead the others into Vraath Keep. Looking about they suddenly notice that Zed is no where to be seen. They pause giving search to no avail. Zed is gone.

Soon they turn their attention back to the keep and Jorr begins to explain recent events.

“Koth twer long hated all thru dae Witchwood, he twas voided ean by is kin, gobs ‘n such. He wandered Witchwood all ‘is days ‘n he knows dem as better dan anyones. Now with dise outsiders he looks like he found da missing Twistusks too.”

Old Warklegnaw adds, “The furry goblin told me ‘The Black’ had turned on my kin, just like his father. So I elp’d him catch the knight … It’s true. He trapped the Black in his vault, just like his father before him.”

Quickly they turn their attention to finding the vault. The courtyard is floored with hard-parked earth and it has an eerie feeling of desolation. Jagged boulders are embedded in the ground where they seem to have been dropped or thrown from great distances; many of the walls bear large dents and cracks where these boulders might have stuck. Some of the damage appears very recent but a lot of the damage is old, the pits and scars of this damaged stonework is weathered in the same way as the walls themselves marking the points where boulders had struck. Two massive petrified skeletons lie at opposite ends of the courtyard, one propped up by the watchtower and the other sprawled at the far end by a building that looks like a stable. To the south, where a section of the outer wall has collapsed, a third giant skeleton lies buried in rubble. Within the stable there is a thin layer of dry, moldering straw strewn across the floor. To the east, an open area contains a forge and a large mound of moldy straw. Lying about there are a number of cracked and splinted bones, others are only heavily gnawed. Next to the bone there is a chew-up saddle. The room is furnished with a battered table and four chairs. To the west, four horse stalls divide up the remaining space. Within Bairdyn finds one of the missing stones, apparently it had been thrown through the south wall of the stable. The halfling finds it on the west side of the room beneath the table.

In the southwest corner of the courtyard they find a makeshift barracks. The interior of this stone building is open and spacious. Wooden timbers support the roof above, and here and there the remains of what were probably once interior dividing walls are evident. Two large boulders sit on the floor to the south, near a large hole that has been knocked through the southeast wall. Rubble for this hole has been piled in a circle to form a crude fire pit. Against the west wall of the room there are four double-bunk beds. Another bed, this one larger, sits near the south wall, partially obscured by a badly intricately carved wooden screen. A stuffed owlbear loomed large in the center of the room. Searches this chamber Bairdyn find the second missing stone, this one had been hidden beneath the largest bed.

The barracks had two connecting chambers. The first of these was a planning room of some type, a large table filled this room, barely leaving enough room for the half-dozen chairs arrayed around its edge. Pinned to the table’s surface by daggers was a large map of the Witchwood and the Elsir Vale.

Map: Elsir Vale at War

The map is covered in disconcerting scribblings that described battle plans. Brindol had been renamed ’Four Winds’, the same name Zefram had called his new tavern. Both Overlook and Talar had been purposely burned off the map. The map had been beautiful rendered, with obvious skill, but the marking were sloppy, and juvenile … the scribble of a bugbear. Most troubling was the indication of a planned attack upon Drellin’s Ferry, both Bairdyn and Vani had family there.

As they examined the map, there was a new ruckus at the door to the barracks. Bhenedict rushes to defend the party but as he arrives he sees it is Vani. Vani was dragging the goblin by the scruff of his collar. Seeing Benny, Vani announces, “This is Gokublin, he has promised to help us if we allow him to leave with his life.”

First they question Gokublin about the map. The goblin confirms their worst concerns. In one days time the githyanki intended to destroy Drellin’s Ferry. Immediately both Bairdyn and Vani began forging a plan to defend the small village, but just as they started the goblin speaks up, “Da Ferry is empty, all gone now. We’s a be fightin thems but dae left. Da one dey call Minarvay she takes em into the wood. Ware daes go no one knows. Koth, he be mad but no matter. Dae goin anyhow. No stopping dem, She be one mean blaster.”

“We should go help them,” suggests Bairdyn.

Vani replies, “If Minerva doesn’t want to be found, we won’t find her. She will keep them safe.” With that settled Gokublin leads the way into the second chamber off the barracks room into a circular chamber that has been outfitted with a mix of furniture, including a large desk, a table, an overstuffed chair, a massive four-poster bed, and a large easel that holds a sizable canvas covered with a sheet. A flight of stairs arcs up along the south wall to the upper floor, and a fair amount of rubble from a hole in the ceiling lies heaped on the base of these stairs.

“Dis is Koth room,” says the goblin.They exam the chamber finding little of real value. Removing the sheet it appears that Koth spent much of his time painting, a hobby that revealed some measure of his knowledge and opinions.

Brann'otGokublinJorrMinotaur guardBlackfen Hydra

Search as they might they find no passage down until they surround Gokublin and begin to pressure him. Bhenedict makes a suggestion, “We would be honoring Vani promise even if we remove this goblin’s legs and arms … just as long as he’s alive and freed to his own means.”

It isn’t long before Gokublin reveals a secret hidden door, hidden beneath the bearskin rug that the table is set upon. The door has a great padlock. Bairdyn goes to work. Before they descend into the vault they quickly checkout the tower heading up the stairs located with the circular chamber. The stairs rise to another circular chamber, where the roof has partially collapsed in the southeast of the chamber. Massive timbers slump against the floor, fallen from the rafters above and there is a huge gap in the tower’s east wall that allows a brisk breeze into the chamber. The room has four windows on the remaining walls and there are two large boulders and the final third missing piece of the Lord’s Gate lies on the floor amid a halo of fractures and cracks. Mounted about ten feet from the hold in the wall is a humanoid figure, lashed to a framework of wooden beams, arms upraised. A glow from beneath it illuminates the figure in a pale light. The reek of rotted flesh fills the room … the figure is the body of a missing farmer, a friend of Jorr’s.

“Ah, tain’t right, dis be Stumpy William on account of ‘is short leg. He never did no one any ‘arm,” offers Jorr. The woodsman pauses to cut his friend down and give him a proper burial.

Arryk, the BlackBairdyn calls up from below, “I’ve opened the lock, let’s go!” The walls of the small vault are of worked stone, the ceiling twelve feet overhead. The air is thick and smells stale, befouled and slightly smoky. Three alcoves have been cut into the walls, two to the north and one to the east. Each alcove is sealed by an iron gate and locked with chain and a large padlock. Beyond one alcove are several shelves bearing no less than ten small iron coffers. Beyond the second is naked man who shields his eyes from their light, he is seated at a small desk, his legs bolted together with a stiff iron bar. The desk is piled high with papers. Beyond the third alcove sit’s a single large chest.

A human skeleton has been unceremoniously dumped on the floor near the eastern alcove’s gate. The skeleton is dressed in tattered chainmail along with the bones lies a sparkling bastard sword, and dark metal gauntlets that appear to draw in the light around them. Within the small chamber the riches of Vraath Keep are revealed. The trapped man is of course Arryk the Black, famed hero and adventurer, famed for the role he had played in when the Red Hand of Doom attacked the Elsir Vale almost two decades past.

The body dumped on the floor is that of Arryk father, Amery Vraath. Koth had tossed the body there to torment Arryk. The iron gates are very thick and strong, the only legitimate way to open them is with to pick the locks, a task well suited to Bairdyn.

As the halfling works on the locks, Arryk explains that Koth had tried to force him to unlock the vaults but Arryk told the bugbear that the keys had been lost long ago … at the time only one of the alcoves was open and Koth locked Arryk in that one. Arryk had never reveal that the keys are hidden in the manticore’s nest.

Treasure:

Arryk could not bring himself to loot his father’s body. He even convinced Koth that the items were cursed. It was clear that Arryk would find it very offensive if anyone were to pilfer from Amery’s body, that said there are valuable items on Amery’s body were valuable.

Vampiric Gauntlets – Level 16 Uncommon
These dark metal gauntlets pulse with dark energy and appear to draw in the light around them.
Price: 45,000 gp
Item Slot
: Hands

Power (Daily • Healing, Necrotic): Standard Action. Make a melee attack: Dexterity + 4 vs. Reflex; on a hit, the target takes necrotic damage equal to your healing surge value, and you regain hit points equal to that amount.

Frost Sword – Level 13 Uncommon
A thin layer of frost coats the business end of this longsword
Price: 17,000 gp
Enhancement: +3 attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +3d6 cold damage

Power (At-Will • Cold): Free Action. All damage dealt by this weapon is cold damage. Another free action returns the damage to normal.
Power (Daily • Cold): Free Action. Use this power when you hit with the weapon. The target takes 2d8 cold damage and is slowed until the end of your next turn.

OTHER TREASURE:

Parcel D: #10: 7,000 gp in a huge pile of gold, silver, and copper coins, and the deed to Vraath Keep.
Located in the first alcove within ten locked iron coffers that bear the coat of arms of Vraath Keep (a stylized V): DC 31 Thievery Check to unlock each coffer. Seven of these each hold 1000 gp worth of coin, two others hold expired notes of credit, and one of these coffers has the deed to Vraath Keep, whoever holds this deed is the legal owner of the ruined keep.

Parcel E: #11: A leather riding harness studded with fourteen rubies, worth 500 gp each (7,000 gp total).
This is located in a large trunk within the third alcove. There is also the complete skull of a young black dragon, dozens of forest giant teeth, the giant gloves.

These are hidden in the second alcove with Arryk. He will not share them if the party molests Amery’s body.

Parcel G: #8: Magic item, level 13 – Giant Gloves
Level 13 Uncommon
Though they make your hands appear larger, these thick leather wraps fit comfortably and give you an impressive grip.
Price: 17,000 gp
Item Slot: Hands
Property: Gain a +3 item bonus to grab attack rolls.

Power (Daily): Standard Action. While you have a creature of your size category or smaller grabbed, you can end the grab by throwing the creature, causing it to slide 6 squares. You can throw the creature at a target provided the thrown creature ends its forced movement in a space adjacent to the target. In this case, make an attack against the target: Dexterity + 4 vs. Reflex; on a hit, the thrown creature and the target each take 2d8 + Strength modifier damage and are knocked prone.

Note: This item was crafted and taken from the forest giants. A good use for this item would be an excellent peace offering for Old Warklegnaw.

Parcel F: #13: Fours potions of vitality.
Potion of Vitality
Level 15 Common
This potent curative heals wounds and can even fix other ailments
Price: 1,000 gp
Potion

Power (Consumable * Healing): Minor Action. Drink the potion and spend a healing surge. Instead of the hit points you would normally regain, you regain 25 hit points and make one saving throw against an effect that a save can end.

NOTE: Arryk has been crippled by his harsh confinement. All his movement is halved until proper rituals can be used to make him whole. Even after that his movement will be reduce by one and he will walk with cane.