Just moments after ascending from the keep’s cellars, Athanius, Kilran, and Zephyrian were shocked to see Hogar and Ren emerge after them, somehow looking like they had been to the Abyss and back. They were each bruised, battered, and bloody, and Ren was sporting a nasty trio of slashes across her torso. Stranger still, they were followed up the stairs by the strangest looking dog any of them had ever set eyes upon. Without so much as a word, Ren stumbled past the group in search of a bed, any bed, to pass out in.
Hogar stuck around and attempted to do his best to explain to the group what had happened to them, but ended up drunkenly rambling on about a magical hallway, an owlbear that was really an elf, and a little man in a wooden mask, before giving up and walking away with his strange dog in tow.
The rest of the group followed Hogar up to the chambers that Governor Nighthill had offered them, finally getting some much-deserved rest, despite it being just after sunrise. After sleeping nearly the entire day away, the party was awoken by a messenger from Escobert the Red, who requested their presence in his private chambers. After a quick stop at the mess hall, where Kilran took the opportunity to practice a new song he had been working on detailing their recent exploits at the cultist’s camp in the Sunset Mountains. None of the group failed to notice Kilran’s not-so-subtle embellishment regarding his own role in their encounter with Taurgosz Tenhammer….
And when mighty Tenhammer lifted Athanius on high
The brave Kilran knew his friend’s death was nigh
So he hefted his lute and called out a shout
‘Listen here Tenhammer you big, stupid lout
Put down my friend or face my lyrical wrath’
And like that, he dropped Athanius right on his-
He was unable to finish the final line, as Hogar’s new found blink dog suddenly teleported on the table in front of him, knocking his food everywhere, and licking his face furiously, eliciting uproarious laughter from the soldiers nearby.
After the laughter died down and the group finished their meals, they made their way to Escobert’s chamber. Once there, he informed them that he had invited them there without the consent of Governor Nighthill, and had a favor to ask of them.
He went on to explain how one of his ancestors had built the keep many thousands of years ago, long before the town of Greenest emerged around it. His name was Escobert the Greedy, and he had a terrible reputation for his obsession with gold, gems and other magical artifacts. The greedy dwarf had his builders construct catacombs beneath the keep to store his accumulated hoard. As the dwarven clan vanquished more and more of the area’s surrounding monsters and bandits in their attempts to gather more treasure, a small community of humans sprung up around the keep, attracted by the prospect of a relatively safe harbor in the Greenlands.
As this human community grew into a full-fledged town, Escobert the Greedy’s fear and paranoia grew so great that in the final years of his life, he arranged to have himself and his most trusted soldiers entombed in the catacombs, undergoing a forbidden necromantic ritual, binding their souls to the place. His son, Escobert the Wise, discovered his father’s plans too late, and lost nearly a dozen of his best soldiers to the catacombs’ devious traps trying to stop the ritual. Horrified at what those men encountered, he had the catacombs walled off from the rest of the keep, forbidding any to ever enter them. Escobert the Wise found that the temptation of such a great treasure proved to great for the remaining dwarves, and he made the decision to abandon the keep and relocate to the Greypeak Mountains in the North. The dwarf leader left the keep in the care of one of Governor Nighthill’s ancestor, a woman who had emerged as the town’s official liaison with the dwarves of the keep.
“So what I’m trying to say is…there’s an ancient treasure hidden below the keep, and I mean for you all to go find it. Of course, you’ll each be rewarded with one enchanted item from the treasure to keep for yourself, as is only fair. But the rest will go to Greenest to help us purchase much needed supplies for the coming year now that our harvest was all but depleted.”
After a brief discussion among themselves, the group agreed to assist the surly dwarf, although Ren had a strange condition. She quickly sketched a crude drawing of the group, with a poorly-proportioned Escobert at their center, and presented it to Escobert, insisting that if they agree to enter the catacombs, he must forever display the strange drawing on his mantle. Muttering something about the strangeness of elves and how his nose isn’t really that big, he agreed and placed the picture on the mantle.
He then presented each of the group with a small token of magical power. To Zephyrian a potion of giant’s strength; to Athanius, a healing salve blessed by Chaunteau; to Hogar, a scroll of concealing shadows; to Kilran, an enchanted driftglobe; and to Ren, a strange bag which, to Ren’s surprise and delight, would apparently allow her to summon an animal from the Astral Plane.
Kilran agreed to go and stall Nighthill for the time being, since the governor would notice all of their absence and begin asking questions. After that, Escobert wished the others luck, then activated a hidden switch in his chambers that revealed a secret entrance into the catacombs.
The heroes entered the dusty corridor, lit a torch, and then began their descent into the catacombs. Realizing that none of them had ample experience with traps, not counting Ren and Hogar’s recent foray into the Fey, the group suggested that Phlegm lead the way, keeping a keen eye out for traps.
As soon as they reached the bottom of a winding spiral staircase, Phlegm yipped excitedly, shouting that he had found a trap, but didn’t know how to disarm it. With a quick examination, Ren realized that it was magical in nature, and attempted to disarm it by disassembling the strands of magic woven about it. Unfortunately, the trap reacted to her meddling, and a sudden shock from the glyph left Ren twitching and momentarily paralyzed on the ground.
As the others stooped to check on Ren, the unmistakable sound of creaking bones and scraping feet suddenly emerged from the darkness beyond, just beyond the light of their torch. Gripping their weapons and assisting Ren to her feet, the party watched as two skeletons stepped into the torchlight, each sporting a heavy dwarven axe and a set of rotting chainmail. Thanks to their darkvision, Athanius, Ren, and Hogar could also see that two more skeletons stood further back in the shadows, readying bows in their direction.
The group quickly spun into action, with Hogar sending Rolando blinking into the shadows behind the distant archers and Zephyrian and Athanius moving forward to shield their less armored allies. The skeletons were dispatch with in less than a minute, but unfortunately Rolando was wounded so badly that he slipped into unconsciousness. Fortunately, Athanius blessed him with a spell to stabilize his injuries, and Hogar bandaged his wounds. The half-orc then scooped him up and carried him back up to Escobert’s room for safe keeping. Unfortunately, in doing so, Hogar interrupted a rather rambunctious lovemaking session between Escobert and Mirren. He soon returned to the group, doing his best to shake those images from his mind.
The party moved deeper into the catacombs, encountering several devious traps, including a door enchanted with magic missiles and a barrage of poison darts. As Phlegm successfully disarmed the last one, he began jumping up with joy at his success (having failed to disarm an earlier one). The group meant to silence him but before they could the frenetic kobold stopped his celebrating and pointed down an adjacent corridor, mouth open in fear, before unleashing a terrified scream that echoed throughout the entire catacombs. Unaware of what Phlegm was screaming at, the group readied their weapons and prepared for the worst.