White River

THE HUMAN GAME
A New Direction

The “(Half-)Elven Game” which has so far been being documented has now come to an official end. The Knights of White River assigned to the town of Drakeford headed off into the wilderness to capture, and hold, the ruined and undead infested Knights Keep.

Perhaps they will be heard from again. Perhaps they will not.

In either case, the focus now shifts to the lowliest of the low: The Humans.

Recently defeated and subjugated in their various attempts to overthrow their (Half-)Elven masters, the human population of Drakeford chafes more than ever in their chains of servitude to the “Elvish” powers that rule the Valley.

After the rhetoric of the revolutionary Druids and the foreign Aldovar, however, the Humans of the regions are no longer so inclined to suffer in grim, defeated silence.

What they will do is yet to be seen…

But they will certainly do something!

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Assault on the Knights Keep

The next morning, the Knights left for their (2nd) assault on the Keep. Thalion delivered to them the Baroness’ instructions that they were to reclaim and hold the keep this time. They were being permanently reassigned to the Knights Keep. Lord Louter arrived at the castle as they were leaving, with his entourage of ritualists, intending to move the heart in the dungeons. They left before he began.

The force was led by Lord-Commander Pieter with the support of Irann and Rodvar.
Irran’s Orcs (Treak, Shamarth, Hrimlock, and now Valith Half-Spear as well followed Irann as usual.
Rodvar brought along his nine archers, leaving his clerk behind to assist Lord Louter.
Rillet Redbeard, a human swamp-hunter who had arrived with General Gordik also offered to join with them, along with his trio of humanish warriors.

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More Human Infighting

As he departs Castle Winterstone after the decision of what to do with the mysterious heart, Lord Mayor Louter asks Irann to go check on the new Human leader in town, Vincen Aldovar. Lord Louter wishes to get a clearer picture of how Aldovar intends to relate to the Half Elven powers of the town, and what his involvement might be with Logan Hartwold’s kidnapping and death.

Easily finding Vincen Aldovar‘s home (which had also been the home of his predecessor, Lucan Aldovar), Irann (along with his orcs) was eventually admitted by a distraught human serving-woman, who revealed that Vincen had been found dead in his office only shortly before. Irann’s investigation lead him to suspect the involvement of a tribal human, known as Chief Ulark; a rival human leader with a well-known animosity for the late Vincen.

Told that Chief Ulark kept rooms at a new inn in the Docks called New Nerath, Irann and the orcs approached the place, only to be stopped at the door by a pair of burly men with clubs. Though one of the humans caught Hrimlock in the knee with his club, he was dead and the other was curled in a ball in the dirt in short order.

Inside the inn, Ulark was easy to find. Standing behind his two axe-wielding guards, Chief Ulark belligerently refused to answer Irann‘s questions about Vincen’s death; only repeating that Irann and his kind (elves) were not welcome there. Somebody raised a weapon, and the whole room (about a dozen humans against Irann and three orcs) erupted into violence. The rest of the human crowed backed down, however, when the orcs quickly killed Ulark’s two guards and Irann left the Chieftain sprawling against an overturned table holding his jaw.

Irann delivered Chief Ulark to the new Tiefling jail at the foot of [[the Hill] and told the human in no uncertain terms how stupid it was to be infighting in the face off all the threats the town was facing. He promised to return in the morning, and told Ulark that he expected his full cooperation at that time in regard to information about Vincen Aldovar’s murder.

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The Missing Noble and the Refugees of Redhill

The following morning the party splits up to pursue a number of different missions. The Baroness sends instructions (via Thalion) that Pieter should join Rodvar in Castle Winterstone and take charge of the defenses and preparation for re-habitation. Erdan is sent on a scouting mission to find out where Eronald the Undying and his forces have gone. Faral is given the Baronesses blessing in his search for his brother, and is allowed the use of Irann and his orcs in his efforts.

Faral, Irann, and the orcs set out immediately for Old Ivan’s Farm, where they have been told Faral’s older brother Logan Hartwold has been taken by the slavers. On the way, they encountered the band of slavers returning to Drakeford. They were three half-orcs with a human leader. They killed two of the half-orcs, and Treak convinced the third to turn-coat. The human leader was tied to a tree to be collected later (but he wasn’t there anymore when they came back.)

At Old Ivan’s Farm they were surprised to find a ship sitting in the small stream near the farm house (the stream being much too small to be navigated by such a large vessel). Short, stocky, humanoid creatures with soot colored skin wearing chainmail and wielding axes were loading a train of bound captives (which did not visibly include Faral’s brother) into the below-decks hold of the ship.

Faral lead the attack without hesitation. The creatures’ (which Faral identified from legends as duergar) eyes lit up with flame as they fought, and they plucked spines from within their beards that they threw as weapons. The duergar leader was an talented pyromancer who ended up burning the ship down around himself when it became clear he and his soldiers would be defeated. The party and some of the freed slaves fought the fire, and rescued as many of the slaves who were already below decks. They never found Logan Hartwold, however, until they searched through the ashes of the ruined sky-ship (the turncoat informed them of what it was).

Faral gathered up his brother’s body and solemnly headed back to town.

In the mean time, Erdan trailed Eronald’s forces up the Redhill Road and found where they had split up, one group continuing north along the road and another heading westward toward the Wightlands. He followed the westward trail and fought a small pack of skeletal wolves before coming upon the remains of the Knights Keep, which was being fortified by undead and a handful of living allies. They were building a palisade wall to replace the fallen portions of the old stone one.

Returning to the road, and intending to follow the other trail, he instead was surprised to find a train of half-orcs carrying belongings in sacks and/or wagons heading southward toward Drakeford. Talking to them Eronald learned that Redhill had been overwhelmed by undead, including a Draco-Liche, and that the survivors of the assault were making their way to Drakeford.

Rather than scouting out the rest of the undead (clearly part of the assault), he returned to Drakeford ahead of the train of refugees and warned Lord Mayor Erin Louter of their coming and the fall of Redhill. Lord Louter sent him to see what he could find about Redhill’s condition, and about any surviving defenders.

He found the shattered remains of the Redhill Army catching their breath in the ruins of the old temple of Bahamut that Irann had been refurbishing before the present troubles began. They nubmered merely fifteen, including their leader General Gordik. Erdan escorted them back to Castle Winterstone, where Pieter offered them refuge. Pieter also took Gordik to the Hill where he introduced him to the Baroness, who formally offered refuge to him and his people.

Pieter, in the meantime, had discovered an odd artifact in a portion of the underground river they had not explored in the tunnels below the castle. It was a heart (later determined to be human) bound within a magical field upon a pedestal engraved with strange characters. Consulting with Lord Louter and the Tiefling warlock assigned to the castle, it was eventually decided to try to move the heart, which seems to be imprisoned (and is suspected to be none other than the Cambion Warlord who lead the Orc Wars), to a more secure location. Lord Louter is taking responsibility for this. Lord-Commander Pieter has the heart under heavy guard until such time as it can be moved.

After returning to the Hill, Faral seals himself away in his mothers house, along with the rest of his remaining family, to mourn his brothers death.

Pieter and the City Council (minus the mourning Hartwolds) decide that the next course of action for the Knights is a full-force assault on Eronald at the Knights Keep. They will be leaving in the morning.

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The Druid and the Alien Tree

The combined party, now including Pieter as well, encounter the undead Captain Eldrick, the former captain of the castle guard, who now appears to be a mouthpiece (quite literally) for the undead supposed-knightEronald the Undying. Through Eldrick, Eronald makes a deal with the party that if he and his forces are allowed to leave town without being molested, he will leave the mad druid Alek Grimbeard to them. The party reluctantly agrees, uncomfortable with making a deal with the Undead warrior but fearful that they are outmatched without doing so.

While Eronald gets his troops out of the way, abandoning posts that otherwise would have raised the alarm about he party’s raid, the knights assault Grimbeard and his followers in the chamber with a “alien tree” emanating obvious Far-Realms energy. The party slays the mad druid and the tentacle lashing / psychically probing “tree” and finds that the castle is being abandoned by the undead forces now firmly and unambiguously under Eronald’s control.

Leaving the castle in Captain Rodvar’s control, the party takes a quick trip through the Nerathian controlled Dock portion of town. While the news of their retaking of the castle spreads, hostilities with antagonistic humans are only averted by the overtures of a new human leader, Vincen Aldovar, who offers the knights the head of his predecessor, Lucan Aldovar, in a box as a gift to the Baroness.

Returning to the Hill to discuss this with the Lord Mayor, Farall is called away by family concerns: His older brother has been kidnapped from their mother’s house!

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The Council Convenes

Irann, Farall, and Treak (along with Treak’s two orc axfighter companions) return the next day to delving under the undead infested ruins of Castle Whitestone.

The Baroness has emerged from her mourning/recovery period, however, and summons the lords and ladies of Drakeford (now including Pieter!) to a council meeting.

One of their items of business is to make sense of Pieter’s presence among them. He was named a lord of Drakeford by the letter of request sent by the late Baron to Aulin’ Sepuliah for troops to support Pieter’s reclaiming of the Knights Keep (the request answered by Captain Rodvar).

The Council has concluded that The Baron clearly intended for Pieter to be a non-resident “lord,” and have established a new rank/title: Lord-Commander.

Lord Commanders shall be welcome to sit on the meetings of the council, but are not expected to attend unless specifically summoned by the council or the lord/lady mayor. They get a vote if present, but in cases of ties their counts are only counted as half-votes. Lord Commanders are functionary nobles whose primary concerns are intended to be focused on other concerns than the day to day management of Drakeford.

Lord-Commander Pieter, Knight of White River and Commander of Knights Keep is established as the first of this title. However, another Lord-Commander position was then established (though not yet filled) to be tasked with the patrolling and protection of the remaining farms to the west of town. Lord Mayor Louter has also suggested extending the title Lord-Commander of the Redhill Road Patrol to Bryseis Longhorn (commander of the Tiefling Mercenaries) as a way of reasserting control over part of Drakeford Town. There has been some hesitation about this, however, and no decision has yet been reached.

As part of this discussion, the council has decided that Lord-Commander Pieter’s place is with his knights rather than at the council table. As such, the Lord-Commander has been dismissed from the second (and any further) day of deliberations.

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The Marsh Cave
The Assault on Winterstone Begins

After a needed night’s sleep in real beds, a good hot meal, and a briefing on recent occurrences from Lord Erin Louter (the newly declared Lord Mayor), Pieter, Irann, Faral, and Erdan set off to seek to end the Undead hold on the Castle Winterstone. Thalion remained behind to see to the safety and recovery of his mother, whom had nearly been sacrificed along with the late baron.

Before their rest, Irann and Pieter had been planning a massed assault on the castle’s front gates, using Captain Rodvar‘s archers and Traeak’s orcs. After sleeping on it, however, Irann suggested that they instead look for other, more clandestine, ways to enter the castle and take it’s undead inhabitants by surprise with a smaller force. Lord Louter and Faral recalled tales of secret tunnels used for romantic trysts in the days before the Orc Wars. Lord Louter suggested that it might be worth scouring the swamps below the bluff on which the castle rested for any such forgotten entrances.

With Erdan’s rangerly guidance, the knights and their two companions avoided detection or encounter with either the Human revolutionaries or the Tiefling forces that now patrolled the Redhill Road… that is, until they encountered the band of Human warriors unexpectedly hanging out in the depths of the swamp, at the base of the cliff just below where the Baron’s manor had once stood. They quickly dispatched four of the warriors, and the fifth tried to flee. They managed to surround and subdue him however.

When questioned, be told them that he had been sent by “The Aldovar” to serve Lucan Aldovar, and that he and his companions had been assigned to guard a nearby hidden cave entrance. He directed them to this cave and insisted he only wanted to be away from this place. Erdan tied him up securely and they left him near the cave to be retrieved for further questioning later.

Inside the entrance was what appeared to be a natural cavern. A narrow passage led down deeper into the earth beneath the castle. Hearing noises ahead, Erdan and Faral crept up to the edge of a ledge to observe a cavern full of kobalds and a single burly human gathered around a fire cooking a meal and bantering. When the knights tried to move closer and get a view, they were noticed by the kobalds, who let out a general alarm and began hurling javelins and advancing with short spears.

Neither they, nor the accompanying human, proved to be much of a challenge, but one lone kobald did escape to flee down another tunnel deeper into the complex. The companions set off in pursuit, but not quickly enough to overtake it. They were greeted with a dark passageway, more ledges leading downward, and the sound of running water. Catching sight of the fleeing kobald in the light of his enchanted longsword, Pieter lept down over a ten foot ledge to pursue him. He landed awkwardly, however, and fell to the ground in a loud clatter of plates of steel and elvish oaths.

Irann and Farall climbed down more cautiously while Erdan fired his longbow at the kobald, who once again vanished into the darkness. The sound of a human voice chanting arcane verses only briefly preceded Erdan’s sudden transformation into a foot long centipede. Advancing with his flaming blade, Irann illuminated a partially finished room, the far wall tiled with moss-covered stones and a wooden bridge over a still pool or murky water which bisected the chamber. (The sound of running water came from where the pool of water continued through a gap in the stone). A staircase climbed upward from the other side of the bridge, behind where the kobald and a pair of robed humans (a man and a woman) stood.

The battle which followed was intense, and too much to recount herein full detail. The heavily armored Pieter spent a great deal of the encounter trying (unsuccessfully) to swim after one of the warlocks hurled him into the pool. Irann was nearly killed by swarms of giant centipedes [previous victims of the warlocks’ curses?] who were lurking under the bridge. Erdan dove into the pool and pulled himself gracefully onto the far shore in order to avoid the swinging pendulum blades which were designed to strike those crossing the bridge (while Farall got to experience them firsthand). The kobald fled up the staircase early on, while the warlocks only did so when the companions began to rush them altogether. Farall taunted the male warlock to death on the stairs, but the female warlock escaped (presumably along with the kobald) through a trapdoor in the ceiling of the small room at the top of the stairs. That chamber, however, was guarded by a number of human soldiers who pelted the companions with crossbow bolts until they got up the stairs, at which point they switched to halbards laying at their feet. They were unable to withstand the knights’ assault, but two of the seven managed to follow their fellows up through the trapdoor and escape.

The battered and exhausted companions chose not to pursue this time, and secured the trapdoor as best as possible using weapons and tools available. They then returned to the Hill, where Erdan was assigned to return immediately with Captain Rodvar and his men to secure the chambers they had already cleared while the rest of the party rested.

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Returning to trouble

Irann and company, after arriving at the knights keep northwest of Drakeford, found it totally unsuitable to rebuild as an outpost.

After spending the night in what meager shelter the ruins provided, they heard voices coming up from the remains of the chimney. Upon careful listening Thalion was able to decipher the speech of orcs. Not only was the party intrigued by the discovery of a room beneath the ruins but also by hearing the voices of living creatures this far into the Wightlands.

After the party made a careful and quiet descent (with the very notable and noisy exception of Pieter falling down the chimney) introductions were made with all the diplomatic skills at hand. Successfully convincing the dozen orcs and their leader Traeak that no ill will was intended, Irann managed to find out what the orcs were doing there but did not get a clear explanation of how they got there. Traeak said that they had come from the Shadowfell with Necromantix after she had bargained for passage to the keep with some entity unknown to them. Necromantix had also retained them to guard her while she performed some ceremony. At this point their shaman became very agitated and demanded that no more be said to Irann on that matter.

Peaceful bypass of their guard was obtained through skillful negotiation and a small exchange of platinum.

Further exploration of the underground structure led to a chamber with a statue of Bahamut with a small pool at its base. Arranged around the statue, beginning some foul ritual, was Necromantix and three wight accomplices. With the obvious desecration of the altar of Bahamut being immanent Irann had no choice but to launch an immediate attack with the back up and support of Pieter, Erdan, Thalion and Faral. A hard fought battle ensued with the party ending up victorious despite foul magics that sapped their target of the ability to move anywhere being used repeatedly on Pieter and Irann.

Unfortunately Necromantix escaped even after apparently being killed. She was revived by some unholy magic that drew forth a wraith from Pieter’s own life-force; and when that wraith merged with the body of Necromantix, it brought her back to life allowing her to run away. Another Wight managed to escape down another hallway that upon investigation led to a portcullis type doorway leading to what seemed to be a jail cell that had a shadowy darkness for a back wall.

Upon approaching and calling out, a not entirely solid looking knight jailer appeared and expressed both surprise and relief that there were still Knights of White River alive and active. the Jailer, as he is known, explained that he is the guardian of that portal to the shadow realm and had let Necromantix through, not knowing that there were any of the order still around. Taking leave of the Jailer and pursuing Necromantix past where the orcs were and out into the Wightlands a short ways led the group to a dead end were she had apparently used magic to transport her away in an indeterminate direction.

After returning to the orcs and convincing them that their best option for survival was traveling with Irann et al, the party set out to head back to Drakeford.

Approximately halfway back they came across and elderly looking man and young looking boy sitting in a tree having a conversation that ended as soon as they noticed the group. They both said that they had been looking and waiting for them. The young boy said that he had a message from Ubada to return to Drakeford with all speed and that by delivering that message he had paid his debt involving the Spirit of Winter. Upon delivering his message he sped away and disappeared with incredible speed. The elderly man Aedelfarn said he was a Druid and was very disappointed with Alek Grimbeard‘s behavior and that the meeting setup with him was a trap. Aedelfarn also wished to make some sort of recompense for his fellow Druid’s behavior by giving the group a very fine helm saying that it would help protect against things that might cause the senses to be obscured. Aedelfarn also offered to lead the group back to Drakeford using ways that would safely speed their return. Aedelfarn turned into an eagle and flew ahead sometimes out of sight but ultimately led them to Drakeford.

Upon arriving at Drakeford they found that Drakeford Hill was building fortifications at all possible points and many more people of all races were there than would ever be there normally. After navigating the confusion they met with Erin Louter and discovered that The Baron had been killed in a most gruesome manner, the manor had been destroyed, the castle was overrun with undead, and a large part of the lower city had rebelled and was unfriendly to any non-human or elvish sympathizer.

Just as Irann and party decided that the first course of action was to clear the undead and retake the keep Captain Rodvar of Southwatch arrived looking for Pieter to report for duty as ordered. A bit of confusion took place when Rodvar mistook Irann for Pieter. After sorting out who he was and why he was there plans were made to begin the assault on the keep. Irann was quite concerned that no one had seen Grai and Ubada since they went to investigate some activity in the tower on the hill but felt that it was not the time to investigate as there were more pressing matters at hand.

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The Spirit in the Tower
Our Heros Fall

A Tiefling mercenary officer, assigned by one of the nobles to oversee the defensive perimeter of the Hill, assigns Ubada and his band to investigate rumors he has become aware of about a mysterious young man in white who has been seen over the years entering and leaving the old ruined watchtower overlooking the river bluff. Ubada, Grai, and two former castle guard who had thrown their lot in with them entered the tower to investigate.

They have not returned.

Faral has mentioned that The Spirit in the Tower met him and his companions on their way back from the Wightlands, and the Spirit told him he had met Ubada and that he was engaged in some sort of effort involving “the Spirit of Winter” in return for the Spirit getting Faral and friends to come back to Drakeford.

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The Druid Assault

While keeping an eye on Lucan Aldovar, Ubada caught wind of a plot against the baron. He didn’t get a lot of details, only that it was going to occur that very evening at the Castle itself. Ubada immediately set about with Grai to try to root out Aldovar and take him into custody. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found. As the sun set, Ubada and Grai returned to the castle. Once there, they were assaulted by druids who where silently coming over the walls with unnatural speed. They killed some, but not before others had open the castle gates to packs of wolves and warbands of human barbarians. They fought in the castle yard until they saw signs of fighting in the Baron’s manor itself. When the went to investigate, they found the great hall ransacked and ruined, with plenty of signs of combat but no bodies. There was blood though, and Ubada, Grai, and some other guards they grabbed followed the blood trails down to the cellar, where they found piles of bodies and a strange ritual sacrifice in process. A pair of wolf-men had three bodies hanging by their feet from the ceiling, their throats were cut and the blood was filling a stone box below them. The heroes killed the wolf-men and investigated the bodies. A few in the pile were still living, including the Baron’s daughter,Ariana Winterstone, and the apothacary Allonwye. The Baron, however, along with the captain of his guard, were among those already sacrificed and exsanguinated. They busied themselves getting help from upstairs and getting those still living to one of the barracks above. They found a hidden trapdoor leading deeper, but when the place started to lurch and rumble dangerously, with cracks appearing in the floor and walls, they ran up the stairs and out of the building. The entire manor collapsed into a massive sink-hole shortly after they emerged from it. The fighting appeared to be resolved in the castle yard, so they gathered some remaining troops and escorted the injured to the Hill where they could be better taken care of. On the way they were attacked by and had to dispatch a number of human townsfolk. The whole town appeared to be in turmoil, and there were signs of fires, pillaging, and fighting in the streets. The Hill was in better shape, and various nobles and Tiefling mercenaries were busy trying to improvise defenses and organize the inhabitants. After dropping off the injured, The heroes started back to the castle, only to encounter on the road the last tattered remains of the castle garrison. Undead had swarmed out of the sink-hole where the manor had been and utterly overwhelmed the guard. Virtually all had been killed. Ubada lead his companions toward the castle, defeating one band of undead near the walls, but when he saw how many were manning the walls already, they turned back to the Hill.

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