We left the Isle of Ierendi in uproar, the Orb of Lermia in our possession. The Black Kestrel flew ahead of the storm across churning seas. She put us ashore a couple of days north of Newhaven, where we hoped to get news.
Things did not precisely go to plan.
(We did not intend to cause harm to anyone, but Dixxon’s father, an influential priest of Eowit, made a play for the orb. He, along with others of his order, found themselves toppled into the bay wearing full plate armour. Dixxon saved his father from drowning, thank the stars, but the others were lost.)
So, within a day of our arrival, we fled the Parnian capital.
In this we were aided by some of Aramina’s people — the “heir to the Riverlands” had indeed declared herself and the Fedulians were making their move. Aramina’s emissaries in Newhaven were on the lookout for Alek, whose father was sheltering her. Fortunately for us, they helped us evade local law enforcement and got us out of the city under cover of darkness — on flying carpets, no less!
Flying carpets are an excellent way to travel (although one must be on the lookout for airborne foe). They took us all the way upriver to the outskirts of Rivermeet with little incident. Instead of declaring ourselves to the Watch Commander, a few of us sneaked into the town to ascertain the lay of the land. While Brosia visited their mother and the thieves’ guild, Aramil and I visited Thomas and TJ.
It was so wonderful to see them again! They couldn’t tell us much we didn’t already know, but they did say the Watch Commander wasn’t too concerned by our absence, as long as we were carrying out the mission we’d been given. We updated Thomas and TJ on our adventures and told them we still had some things to do before we came in to report.
Into the Riverlands
We continued west to the Riverlands and Lost Falls, where Alek’s father rules and Aramina was gathering her people. In return for the Fedulian aid in Newhaven, we agreed to liberate the keep of Highpass from the necromancer, Mardoch.
Aramina wanted Highpass because the fortress controls trade with the rest of her people across the mountains. Since we believed Mardoch to be allied with the drow and other dark forces, it seemed a doubly good idea to secure the keep for our allies instead.
While at Lost Falls, we confirmed rumours of an unground river that passed directly beneath Highpass keep. This sounded reminiscent of the waterways beneath the orc stronghold of the Bear Claw clan — and a potential point of infiltration. Brosia found a Mestarine family whose daughter, Anundra, agreed to guide us there.
We travelled four days to the mining town of Deep Gulf, split by a deep chasm. After nightfall, Anundra led us into one of the mines in the cliff face, then down a fissure to reach the underground river.
We paddled for about a day and a half upriver (our magic boat has proven most useful!), to arrive at a cavern similar to the one below the Bear Claw stronghold. In addition to an elevator, there was a massive waterwheel scooping up water to serve the keep above.
While we waited for night to fall, we defeated the guardian of the elevator, a snake-like creature with a humanoid head.
A few hours before dawn (as best we could measure), the elevator took us up to a dark corridor carved out of the mountain. We dealt easily with Mardoch’s zombie guards, then proceeded through a door into Highpass keep.
From that point, things got interesting.
We appeared to be on the top level of the keep — although a set of circular stairs led up to a tower. The next room held hobgoblins and other humanoids in some form of barracks. While Aramil, Dixxon and Alek battled them, a strange creature came down the stairs to attack Brosia and me. With the body of a lion and the head and wings of a falcon, the creature was nasty. Still, Brosia and I defeated it between us. (Yay!)
We took stock of our surroundings. Beyond these third-level barracks stretched a wide terrace, part of the roof of the second level of the keep, arrayed with catapults and ballista. A storm raged outside — yes, another one! — rain lashing against the windows, thunder and lightning clashing. With luck, the noise would cover our activities this night.
We took the stairs down to the next level. Once again, Aramil, Dixxon and Alek engaged the greeting party (a couple of reanimated skeletons plus a bunch of humans and humanoids), while Brosia and I went hunting for Mardoch. Up and down a corridor, we opened doors — avoiding the one with the magical glyph. There was an uncooperative girl in one of the bedrooms. (I didn’t want to kill her out of hand, but in the end we had no choice.)
We still hadn’t found Mardoch, when Brosia finally opened a door at the end of the corridor. And there he was, outside on a balcony, storm-worshipping with his ginormous dog companion. Somehow, Brosia avoided his notice and we barred the door (temporarily) against the necromancer.
It was time to take out Mardoch, the reason for our raid.
Aramil targeted the massive dog first. Invisible, he launched himself at the creature, bearing it over the balcony. With a yelp and a whine and a crunch, the dog fell to the rocky ground below, while Aramil flew to safety.
Dixxon and Alek attacked Mardoch, but the necromancer spider-climbed up the face of the keep to the third-level war-terrace. While Dixxon, Brosia and Aramil followed, Alek and I ran back inside and up the stairs to rejoin the fray.
We found them outside in the storm.
Mardoch had a gryphon saddled and waiting for his escape. Not gonna happen. As soon as the poor creature’s keeper was slain, Brosia mounted the beast and took to the air. Brosia managed to get the control collar off — for a moment we weren’t sure whether we’d see them again! But they returned to the rooftop terrace safely and released the creature to freedom.
Meanwhile, the rest of us surrounded Mardoch and waged battle on all sides. Eventually the necromancer, looking beleaguered, transformed into a gaseous form and made his escape into the keep and through a grate.
Or so he thought to escape. Dixxon took our gaseous form potion, carefully hoarded until a moment such as this, and followed. Our intrepid (or perhaps foolhardy?) cleric found himself re-materialising in Mardoch’s chambers, the necromancer having closed himself into a coffin to recuperate. Dixxon separated Mardoch’s head from his body, and the necromancer shrivelled into dust.
Yeah, we were pretty happy with the outcome of that raid.
As per arrangement with our Fedulian allies, we pulled down Mardoch’s flag and hoisted Aramina’s atop the keep. A signal to everyone that Mardoch the necromancer was defeated.
The Fedulian and Parnian forces arrived at the eastern gates as dawn broke. The remnants of Mardoch’s forces didn’t seem to know what was going on. Some of the Fedulians escaped out the western gate, but a bunch of orcs and kobolds tried to defend the eastern gates, while a group of human mercenaries tried to open them from the inside. We got on the war machines and helped them out, launching heavy arrows and rocks at the scattered forces on the walls.
Eventually the gates opened and our allies entered to claim Highpass keep.
We were taking a rest in the barracks (after all that, we were exhausted, as might be expected!), when a raven arrived bearing instructions and a map:
Be apprised Ernfels is lost. Foe advancing along southern flats and through mountains to pincer Rivermeet. VITAL you destroy the Black Bridge. Report back to Rivermeet once completed to aid in defence. Make haste!
We weren’t entirely sure how the Duke of Rivermeet knew where to find us, but we couldn’t ignore his command. The following day, we headed south.
This is (hopefully) the penultimate post describing this campaign, which we finished playing earlier this year. I couldn’t bear not finishing the story on this blog, so I’m wrapping up 18 months of gaming sessions in three posts (beginning with The Isle of Ierendi).
Obviously I’ve streamlined things quite a bit, rather than writing a post for every playing session as I did for the (first) Varrien campaign and the beginning of this one. It was getting a bit time consuming…
Thanks for reading.