Keep on Shadowfell

Battle of Winterhaven
For GREAT JUSTICE

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My verse is a bit rusty so forgive me. I also never studied this as seriously as the Grand Precept wished (words are so ambiguous…sword and shield never so)

From the vile crypt we emerged
from deepest dark to grey sky
back to Winterhaven.

Its old gates closed
frightened faces rose
“Who goes there?”
peasants and farmers along the parapet
armed by pitchfork and shovel.

“We are seeking Lord Padraig”
Belorin Steelheart warlock and arms curator
mildly amused at what he sees
“Your town is in danger and we seek to save it”

Lord Padraig wizened and old
stands bold rallying his town guard
worry in his eyes
“I have never seen such a thing”
his fist clenched greaves creaking
“you must aid us travelers!”

Khorin bears scars
a withered arm
a broken horn
lone eye burning with vengeance
her mercenary past will not leave
“pay us more for this task or watch your town burn.”

Lord Padraig indignant
mouth a sneer at the repugnant demand
“Do what you must but expect no more from me.”

I do not agree but now is not the time
such concerns are not mine
let the priests and clerics argue
over Pelor’s word

I am set to the grim task
sword drawn and shield forward
Pelor give me strength
to face what may come.

The gates open groaning
slowly as if fearing what lies ahead
upon the road an army of dead
parchment skin tanned by burial
roaming hungry, arms straining, teeth clacking
some armored in rust
others nothing but rot.

Servant of Kalarel
an elf named Ninaran leads them
again that window thrashed, trashed, unrepaired
still haunts us.

Belorin leads the charge
hands afire with dark power
Dire Radience and curses devour
those foolish enough to challenge him.

The White Crane flies forth
and dawn is never far behind
if my sword leads to your demise
know you face judgment
and were found unworthy.

Large necrotic dogs charging forth
their footfalls burning earth beneath
to them I shall bequeath
Pelor’s call of challenge

let these beasts sate their thirst
the sword never lies
swing upon swing flies
until they are no more.

Mighty Pelor grant me strength
their bites burn with necrotic power
their blows ringing through my armor
to stand firm against their might
because I am the shield
against which the darkness breaks

Rapid shot Rapid shot in the distance
bow string singing
arrows like rain stinging
Velocity the door smoking
bark chewing,wolf speaker
Never misses her mark
row upon row of ghouls
fall as arrows pierced them

Alone at the front Khorin stands
arrows harrying her from all sides
she strides along closer and closer
to death.

Little Cynder charging forth
hands aglow with Avandra’s might
a beacon of hope amongst this plight
healing Khorin with holy power.

Bloodied and beaten she rises
with axe and shield
Stalking Ninaran to forcer her to yield
closer and closer she wades

through arrows and enemy
her goal there for the taking.
Now demon form with match in hand
A rare smile as Hellfire consumes her
“Face the Black Wrath of Hell…You elven bitch”

a vicious smack of Khorin’s axe
unconscious Ninaran soon bound
carted off like dirty laundry
to be questioned.

From dust they rose
Back to dust they fell
Thus ended
The Battle of Winterhaven

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Shadowfell Keep
ATTACK THE DARKNESS

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The goblin was afraid. His teeth chattered as me and Khorin interrogated him. But it wasn’t just that we had dispatched his compatriots in quick succession (indeed there blows against me were but child’s play compared to Irontooth’s). It was something deeper than that. I knew this to be true from the way his eyes shifted back and forth. The way he spoke in a confused mix of caution and desperate desire to be done with it. Khorin decided to keep him with us in a bid to rile the remaining goblins into revolt. I figure we’re going to have to crack a few more skulls together before that happens. Goblin revolts aside there is a darkness brewing here. It has been festering here for a generation waiting to be unleashed. To what purpose I do not know. Whatever the case is
It will not stand. I am but one Paladin when there should have been seven. But even one candle is enough to usher away darkness. And while they are not Paladins my companions, a strange collection of personalities as I have ever seen are here to make up the difference.

Amikhai, a hulking rouge whose size is more befitting a warrior. And yet he moves silently with a deadly grace. Though there was that one night he came back to the inn covered in scraps and cuts with pieces of glass still imbeded in his clothing. What gives? He won’t speak about it.

Belorin, the scion of a noble human household. I should not agree with the dark forces he bends to his will so i’ve been taught. But I will leave that debate to the clerics. He has proven to be a steadfast companion and deadly with his spells.

Cynder, a Halfing who needs to work on his jumpshot (Blessed Pelor please convince Avandra to do something about that). But his healing saved my life in the fight with Irontooth so I am thankful to have him.

Khorin, the battle hardened Tiefling, she has one eye for Pelor’s sake and a magic arm, who guides us through the battle. Her battle axe is deadly but her command of the battlefield is born of years fighting. And that experience is her true value.

Velocity, as strange an elf as I have ever seen whose arrows always strike true. Her archery boarders on the supernatural. Amongst us all our foes should fear her the most.

As for me I will do my best to protect them from harm. I do not know how long our group will last but I aim to see all of us live to see dawn again. Pelor has yet to revoke my powers and until he does, if he does, I shall make amends for my past deeds. Starting here by cleansing this land of the undead scourge hiding in the shadows. I spoke these words when I rose from bended knee. When I was no longer just the third son of a half breed family.

Blessed Pelor
I invoke your name
To guide my arms
To heal the wounded
To protect the weak
To be just and fair

When others have fallen
I stand
When others have fled
I remain
When others fail to act
I advance

The White Cranes flies
And the coming of dawn
Is never far behind

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Secrets of Shadowfell Keep
A Meeting with Valthrun the Prescient

Adventurers, word of your valiant battle has spread through town. I am impressed. I have watched passersby as they have come to Winterhaven and I have not seen a group as diverse as yours. Taking down the Kobold lair proves that you have abilities… although they were not apparent to me at first. I apologize for the delay in providing you this information, but you will understand how I must be careful with knowledge such as this.

You have probably noticed that things seem eerier here than when you first arrived. Elian the Old spoke of a door opening to darkness in his dreams. He’s not the only one who feels these things. The town is on edge and I have not felt an evil such as this in my lifetime.

But, I digress.

Lord Padraig said that the Paladin was looking for a reason as to why he was sent here. I believe I know why.

My books and scrolls tell me that the keep, mentioned in the note, was built by the Nerath Empire. It was built over a rift to the Shadowfell, a place of shadows and darkness.

Not all of the Shadowfell is evil. Drawing that conclusion would be equivalent to stating that all magic is good. This rift, however, connects to an unholy sanctuary of Orcus, the demon lord of the undead. The Nerath empire destroyed the undead – skeletons, ghouls, and fouler creatures – that crawled through the opening into the light of day. The rift was then sealed and a keep was built over the location to watch over it and contain the threat.

It was thought that this was the end of the story. But perhaps, we were all mistaken.

The Keep itself has been avoided for nearly a century. The villagers believe that goblins lair in the ruin, so they avoid it. If goblins have taken over, they haven’t raided or molested the nearby villagers. However, goblins are only the most recent rumor.

The people of Witnerhaven leave it alone because the ruins have a disturbing feeling about them, a feeling of lingering memories and unknown mysteries. Some say it’s haunted. Others fear the goblinoids. Mere mention of Shadowfell Keep is considered bad luck by many of the villagers.

Almost none remember the night that the keep was abandoned. My grandfather told me the tale. It is one I have never been able to excise from my mind.

Eighty years ago, Sir Keegan – the commander of the keep garrison – put into motion the events that led to the keep’s downfall. Perhaps the rift’s malign influence was … is too strong to resist. Maybe Sir Keegan was an insane monster driven by demons we may never understand. Whatever the case, at the stroke of midnight on that fateful day, Sir Keegan began to systematically slaughter every resident of the keep.

His own wife and children were the first to fall to his blade. Then his trusted advisers. Finally, many of the soldiers under his command.

Sir Keegan was too skilled for any one soldier to defeat, yet eventually the garrison managed to respond with an organized defense. Although many brave soldiers, died, they drove the mad knight into the passage beneath the keep and finally dispatched him.

The keep became notorious for a time. As one of the last bastions of the fallen empire, there was no one to order it back into service. So, it was abandoned, feared for a time, and eventually, more or less forgotten. An earthquake a few years later collapsed the upper towers and walls and turned the place into a ruin of tumbled stone.

Rumors persist of great treasures buried beneath the keep, yet few have dared explore the passages over the years. Sir Keegan’s ghost is said to roam the corridors beneath the ruins, wailing in grief over the tragedy of his life. But, I do not know if I believe this.

It is, however, entirely possible that the keep is not as abandoned as the naive would like to believe.

Paladin, I believe that Pelor’s light has brought you hear. Those who worship Pelor have a tumultuous past with those who follow the Demon Lord Orcus. I believe that you have been sent to rid us of this threat. The rest of you seem of strong character. Perhaps you can find it within yourselves to help Winterhaven?

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Personal Observations from the Struggle Against the Kobold Menace
From "Letters Home"

Briar – I hope to send this to you soon, as I could use some of your usual well grounded insights and advice.

Recently, we were commissioned to investigate and destroy a local pack of kobolds, who have been menacing the locals. And although we prevailed, it has left me a bit rattled. Nothing dad taught us had fully prepared me for what we encountered, and our previous fight had left me feeling overconfident in my abilities. As so often you recommend, I plan to meditate on how to achieve Avandra’s boldness, but without the hubris that can sometimes darken the blessings of confidence.

Let me explain what has left me so out of sorts. During our battle, I quickly felt myself drained of my healing powers. We have been taught that there are limits to our healing abilities when you are still un-tempered by battle; however, I was not prepared for how quickly it happens. Surrounded by dozens of kobolds, seeing my friends bloody and worn… it’s amazing how ineffective you can feel in such moments. Not just feel, but actually experience a full depletion of ones healing abilities outside of rudimentary dressings and bandages.

In the end, we won the day, thanks to the skills of my companions. They were gracious enough to give me a beautiful set of Dwarven mail, which we found in the lair of the enemy. Because of our experience, I feel that I now have the strength of will and power to call upon more of the things we were taught. Perhaps the next time, combining some of the lessons learned in battle with my newly found abilities, I will be able to sustain my friends for even longer.

Unfortunately, Briar, ominous dying words from the goblin pack leader lead me to believe that “the next time” is inevitable.

As always, cheers and love to the family. Please use your discretion when you share the more troubling aspects of my broodings with the younger ones. Please tell Kimber that if he plans to travel this way, that he may want to wait for news first.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
-C

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Notes on Winterhaven
From the travel log of Cynder

​Places and people of note in Winterhaven

  • the Lord: seems fair, terse, concerned for the well-being of his people. Somewhat disrespectful of the safety of the people not part of his clan.
  • the Priestess: young, untempered, but responsible. Does good in the community, but clearly has not fully embraced Avandra’s commandment to live boldly. Must speak to her on this point and encourage her to pursue her dreams of becoming a cleric.
  • Elf Woman – awfully distant and unfriendly; odd considering she spends every night in a public house. I cannot detect anything malicious about her. Perhaps she’s having a bit of fun at our expense… behaving more like a troll than an elf. The others seems to see something in her that warrants investigation. Will help as much as I can.
  • the Smith – seems fair. Cannot or will not speak. Overly obsessed with young men. Seems to favor Korin’s strength and manner. Perhaps the smaller of us can get on the good side of her assistants in order to get a better deal from their mistress.
  • the Tavern – seems to get my companions sick. Will try to stick to ale and trail rations, possibly more of those elf cookies.
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​A Letter to Kimberwick
From letters home, by Cynder Thornbrush

EMILY… If you want that toy horse for the holidays this year, please give this letter back to your brother. Otherwise you can be sure that I’ll hear about it. Oh, AND I would also write to the cooper’s son and tell him you’d like to take him to the Winter Dance. Yes, the younger brother, the one with the foul breath. You know that I would. Now chop chop, hand it over.

Kimber,

I hope this finds you well. I have been writing to Briar as often as I can, so be sure he catches you up on everything else.

I’ve reached the town of Winterhaven, and I’m positive ​Avandra has her hand in this journey, and Sehanine favors it, too.

I hope you will consider visiting when an opportunity presents itself. There is a young priestess ​of Avandra ​here who could probably teach you a few new rituals. She’s also close to your age​​. I will ask her the next time I see her​ if she would mind​ taking you on as an acolyte.

​​If you ​decide to come, please bring Tulia. I know you still think of her as your younger sister, but I’m positive that by now she ​has finally gotten larger than you, being a dwarf and all, and she has experience in combat. ​Most of my journey here was quiet and safe, but ​just outside of town we encountered a large and nearly deadly ​band of​ kobolds. ​M​y friends and I have decided to assist the lord here with eradicating them​, and some of my companions seem to suspect that one or two of the locals know something more than they let on​.

I urge stealth ​in your journeys ​rather than combat, if possible.​ W​hile you are here studying, ​Tulia may be ​able to find work with the smith here; although the smith always has a few young men about, I think that our Tulia will more than prove herself as an assistant.

Please pray that Avandra and Sehanine keep us ​safe on our expedition to root out these kobolds. ​You’re in my prayers always. G​ive my love to the​ rest of our​ family.

Cynder​​

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A letter to Briarthorn
From letters home, by Cynder Thornbrush

Little brother,

I apologize you haven’t heard from me in a while, but I just haven’t been able to find someone who is not only traveling your way, but also both willing and trustworthy enough to take the small mountain of letters that have piled up for you and the others.

I’ve a small bit of news since the previous letter (dated a week ago today in the stack). Just outside of the town of Winterhaven (which is where I am now), we were attacked by kobolds. I have never seen quite so many gathered together in one place, not in all my travels alone, or when we traveled with dad. One of the larger of the brutes did a number to myself and my new friends. And although the beasties seemed afraid of us at times… it was if some dark power and motivation pushed them onward, fighting to their last breaths.

We all survived the encounter, but unfortunately the shirt you bought me is presently in a state of smoldering ash.

I feel I made the right choice in traveling this direction this time, and that both Avandra and Sehanine have a plan for me to be here, at this time, and with these companions; perhaps these kobolds lay at the root of it. We plan to seek out the lord of this town in the morning to discuss the matter.

As always, I wish the best for you and all our brothers, sisters, and children at the orphanage. Please let them know that I’m doing well. Also, let them know that tonight the little packet of beer money they scraped together for me may finally be spent… I fully intend to have several drinks and sing outrageous songs. I hope that my new companions will join me for a few of my more famous songs; please let Emily know that I plan to sing her favorite.

Cynder

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Day 1: We kind of sucked but didn't die

Excerpts from the journal of Amikhai Ben Calder

The journey from Arabel was far from easy, but it may have been worth it beyond even my wildest hopes. Soon after leaving that city, I came across a group that was also headed east towards Winterhaven, and they agreed to let me join them—a blessing that may have saved my life, and changed it as well.

A few days into our journey through the Thunder Peaks, we were set upon by a small horde of kobolds. My nerves were shot, for reasons that will soon become clear, and I was of no help in fighting them off—how my old friends from Silverymoon would have laughed to see me, discombobulated and clumsy, winging stones from my sling so far from my target that I was more of a danger to my new companions than to my enemies. At first my associates fared little better, but soon I gained a newfound respect for many of them: Andraste the dragonborn, drawing the attention of the kobolds and taking blow after blow to save us from the same; the elf, Velocity, who decapitated a kobold dragonshield with a single arrow; and Koil, a feyling paladin who felled many a minion of the dark with Pelor’s divine flames.

Others of the group held their own in combat and I owe them my life as well, but as I learned more of them in that crucible, I found myself also wanting to keep an eye on them. Cynder, for example, is a lightfoot who claimed to minister in the name of Avandra—but in the heat of battle, it was to Sehanine that he called out; when a disciple of a trickster like Sehanine pretends to have faith in another, there must be something more going on. And the human, Belorin, the one who calls himself Steelsong, revealed himself to be a student of the infernal; though he may be a useful ally, and possibly even a source of knowledge in my quest, I must assume that he, like Calder, sees me as at best a tool to use and at worst an abomination to fear.

And of course I cannot forget the reason for my muzzy stumblings: the tiefling warlord Khorin. Yes, I have finally found another tiefling, and I know not what to do, for she is nothing like I imagined one might be: this Khorin is a chimera of steel, skin, horn, and at times even flame, more akin to a battered-but-still-deadly siege engine than to a person. My first, shocked, attempts to talk to her were summarily rebuffed, and it was my preoccupation with learning more of her that left me distracted and dazed and nearly lost me my life. It will take much effort, I fear, to wear her down until I can learn more of her origins and whether she can help me in my larger quest, and as little as she seems to want to engage any of our new band, I doubt I will have the chance.

Regardless, after a long battle, this motley band—with no help from me—finally dispatched the last of the kobolds, and we staggered to the town of Winterhaven. Perhaps unsurprisingly given her standoffish nature, Khorin abandoned us immediately, pleading a need to find the smithy, and Koil followed her. The rest of our troop found an inn at which to rest, and I was at least able to put my skills to use there, convincing Salvana the innkeep to give us lodging despite our bloody and battered appearance, and befriending a strange old man named Valthrun, who seems to know about the area. Tomorrow, I will see if he knows anything of this Nerathian keep of which the scholar Cranewing spoke—although, truth be told, if the choice arises between trying to search the old keep for more legends of my tiefling kin, or following Khorin and trying to gain that information firsthand, I may have to abandon Cranewing’s commission. We shall see if she and Koil return, and what else the new day shall bring.

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Road to Winterhaven
Night 1

On the Road

The wind in your face is cool and comfortable. The road beneath your feet is level. An occasional ancient cobblestone peeks through the dirt road, indicating decades of neglect. You notice footprints leading up and down the road, many of which were made by small, clawed feet.

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