Aeron and the Wrekin Border

Interlude #2 - Kidnapped and Rescued
"One of our anti-paladins is missing"

Blog Editor’s Note: The next two blog posts are actually from three sessions. The anti-paladin’s kidnap and rescue happened over a session and a half, while the Ashen Blade’s arrived at Lady White’s Ruins in the second half session.
Arriving back in Hommlet, the party had several housekeeping tasks to undertake. Monies were counted, taxes and tithes prepared and magic items detected. The various beastmen have been billeted in various areas of the dungeon area below the Moathouse and some of the upstairs rooms were considered for occupation. More on this later…
The elven spell-casters settled down for some contemplation and research to add some spells to their repertoires. The Craftpriest received a cryptic message to meet with Ostler Gundigoot as soon as possible. The Anti-paladin held some open auditions at the Inn of the Welcome Wench to recruit a henchman of bardic persuasion. The Corsair chose to go for a quiet drink, not thinking that the only drinking establishment was the Inn of the Welcome Wench.
Sitting in the corner of the bar wearing a hooded cloak and nursing a single goblet for a considerable time was a Mysterious Stranger. The Anti-paladin has an autistic spectrum disorder that means he has to start an unsolicited and ill-advised fight in any bar he enters. He decided that mysterious strangers fit the bill. Buying some expensive liquor and some watered wine he set about trying to engage the stranger in conversation. The Craftpriest paid little attention (and had in any event not been with the Blades during the “Berserkergang Blackout Brawl” in the Castellan’s Keep). The Corsair recognised the signs and sidled towards a suitable exit. Words were exchanged as the Anti-paladin tried to engage the stranger in conversation and a friendly drink, as a prelude to getting him drunk enough to make the fight a little more one sided. The stranger was having none of it and the interaction went rapidly downhill. The stranger yelled a code word, which sent Gundigoot hiding behind the bar and the private room behind the Anti-paladin revealed a cleric of Law. A Hold Person and a swift blow to the side of the head meant the Anti-paladin’s dreams of another fight were quickly stifled.
It transpired that the other patrons, apart from a hobgoblin legionary who was paid off and sold a pup of a story, were all in on the plan. The cleric was Calmert, formerly of this parish; the mysterious stranger was Rufus, former associate of Lord Burne and now avenging paladin of Law; and bringing up the rear was Elmo, wilderness ranger and agent of the Duke of Clwyd. Just like the old days when Elemental Evil tried to raise its ugly head, the locals have plans involving insurrection against the rule of the Legions. These have now been disrupted by the inopportune imprecations of a foolish Anti-paladin…
The Craftpriest meanwhile had been invited into the secret room below the fireplace in the private room. There, an injured dwarf with tales of goblin ambush and friends holed up in an abandoned ruin was being cared for by the Ostler and his family. The Craftpriest returned to the Moathouse and passed on information about potential adventure. Oh, and the Anti-paladin had been captured by the forces of Law.
The spell-casters abandoned their researches and raised the garrison of Hommlet. The search was a little one sided as the Craftpriest knew where the latch for the secret door behind the fireplace was. The agents of Law though had cast beneficial magics to block the door, although there were other entrances. Using the time required to locate the door in the cellar, the Lawful interlopers escaped through the tunnel dig those many years ago to avoid the agents of Elemental Evil. The Blades and a few legionaries eventually caught up and guessed that at least two dozen horses had been in the area. It was starting to look like Law had a proper plan.
The agents of Law cut their losses. The original plan had gone south with little hope of returning, but perhaps there was honour amongst the evil cabal. Offering an exchange under truce, the Anti-paladin would be returned in exchange for the hobgoblin priest of Mars. The Ashen Blades opted to take up the offer while double crossing anyone who got in their way (including the Anti-paladin if necessary).
The Chaotic plan was to gather as many of the garrison that could be spared and pretend that the priest had been captured. In addition, the Nightblade would take all the missile troops the Tribunus could spare and reconnoitre the Druid’s Grove meeting place the previous evening. A series of fortunate rolls and a total cock up on the part of the Lawful camp meant that when the time came to attack surprise could well be on the Blades’ side. As the time of the meeting arrived, the Nightblade gad each of his men pick a target and opened fire just before negotiations could begin. Sleep spells were cast, Hold Person failed. Rufus and Elmo started wading through the legionaries. The shooting match was one sided, mainly because the lawful men at arms were split between two copses of trees and couldn’t bring the same amount of firepower to bear. The cleric, Calmert, was killed by a combination of force and backstabbing. The Corsair went toe-to-toe with Rufus, and attempted to disarm him but in the end had to be satisfied with crashing blow after blow against his armour. In the end Rufus and Elmo were forced to retreat with only a handful of their men. They left behind the Anti-paladin but had his mighty sword and nearly two dozen dead and wounded. The losses to the legion’s small cohort were relatively light, but still eight hobgoblins had been killed.
Rounding up the prisoners and returning them to Hommlet for justice, the Ashen Blades claimed a victory of sorts. The ducal men-at-arms were crucified, along with Ostler Gundigoot. The main force of the legion has left for Chainspire, leaving the Tribunus and the reminder of his cohort to garrison the village. The Blades opted to head north to rescue the dwarves…

Interlude - The Battle of Newnes Brook
Sir Terence fails... again!

Order of Battle

Forces of Aeron
Army Of Clwyd – Duke Aeward
Ducal Knights 220
Ducal Spearmen 450
Ducal Longbowmen 280
Royal Army – Sir Terence Franks
Royal Knights 105
Royal Men-at-arms 210
Royal Archers 135
Total 1400
Hobgoblin Imperial Forces
Legio XX – Comes Ardim Aurelius Poplicola
Legio Pedites 1200
Auxilia Sagitarii 200
Auxilia Palatini 200
Castellan’s Horde – Castellan of the Keep
Orc Infantry 480
Orc Archers 120
Goblin Infantry 120
Goblin Archers 120
Goblin Wolf Riders 60
Heavy Cavalry 60
Heavy Infantry 120
Total 2680

Some 5 miles north west of Hommlet, as you follow what amounts to two ruts where carts and horses have passed hundreds or perhaps thousands of times before, you will find a broad expanse of heathland. The heath has no name, although the stream that the rutted track follows does. Newnes Brook runs through Hommlet on a journey to the river Dee. On its way it passes through the unnamed heath and on past the fortress of Chainspire.
At Chainspire, a border fortress of Duke Aeward of Clwyd, men have been gathering in force. The King’s Justice had been defeated weeks before, the Duke’s stewards at Hommlet murdered and the Church of Law desecrated. The mustering force would answer these crimes with blood and steel. The King had sent reinforcements and the Duke had mustered the men who owed him fealty. Ready to march out were fourteen hundred troops. Three hundred or more were mounted knights, a hundred of whom were of the King’s personal retinue. In addition, the Aeron forces included four hundred longbow men and seven hundred infantry, around two hundred of which were royal axe men.
Around the village of Hommlet, recently captured by troops of the hobgoblin Legio XX, a force of humanoids and vile men had also gathered. The Legio XX, with twelve hundred hobgoblin legionaries and four hundred auxilia split evenly into foot and mounted archers, had been camped nearby for six weeks while foul diplomacy brought the chaotic forces of the Castellan through the Wyre Forest to join in threatening the borders of Aeron and the plans of Duke Aeward. The Castellan had brought six hundred loathsome orcs and three hundred repellent goblins, dozens of which were riding fearsome wargs. In addition, he had brought his personal retinue of twisted knights of Asmodeus and depraved men-at-arms. With the addition of the Castellan’s contemptible horde, the humanoids would ultimately outnumber the Duke’s force by nearly two to one.
The two armies marched towards each other and finally met on the open heath. The Aeron left was commanded by Sir Terence Franks , the King’s Justice, who led all of the forces assigned by the King. The Duke himself led the bulk of the force, with his right wing resting on the banks of the stream. The enemy lined up with the hobgoblin legions under their strangely titled Comes, Ardim Aurelius Poplicola, facing the King’s men and the Castellan’s horde holding the left flank. The sun was high in the sky and if noon was not already past it soon would be. Neither commander was keen to let the day slip away and both sought a swift and final resolution to the issue. Battle was joined immediately the forces had arrayed properly.
Sir Terence failed to maintain discipline amongst the King’s knights. They galloped across the intervening ground leaving behind their infantry and archers. When they engaged the disciplined ranks of the hobgoblin legion though, the clash was thunderous but legionary restraint and continence held. The charge collapsed into a one-sided melee as horses became trapped amongst the tight formations. Fully half of the royal knights were left dead or dying as they were forced to withdraw having gained some respite as the men-at-arms broke into the legion. Some say it was not headstrong chivalry, but Sir Terence himself, overcome with a need for revenge who ordered the charge. On the other flank the massed archery of the ducal longbow men quickly saw off the goblin archers who could not reply, being greatly outranged. However, this fortune did not last long as it was the turn of the orc tribes to lose all semblance of order and charge heedlessly across the ground at the archers who had switched their fire. The Castellan took advantage of the distraction and used his heavy cavalry to good effect to outflank the longbow men. As the Duke tried to extricate his archers by sending in his own knights, the Castellan’s beast riders flanked the knights in turn. There was a brief lull in the fighting as both sides took stock of the initial clash and prepared to re-enter the fray.
Horns were blown and battle cries yelled loud as both sides re-engaged for battle. On this attack the humanoids took the initiative. The hobgoblin legion commanders realised that Sir Terence had blown his cavalry and would be unable to stop a concerted thrust on his flank. In the meantime, the Castellan’s beastmen had the scent of blood and an opportunity against ducal forces that had lost significant numbers of both archers and cavalry. The battle went through another brutal and bloody phase, and again and again the hobgoblin legionaries forced back the royal forces sometimes by inches, sometimes by yards. The Aeron army was at risk of being outflanked, but Duke Aeward’s prompt actions to refuse a flank with what had been his centre saved turning a setback into a disaster. The two sides parted once more as sword arms tired and quivers ran empty. The losses again were heavy. On the Duke’s side, fully half of the remaining knightly cavalry were wiped out, and the infantry bore some of the heavy fighting, especially against the Castellan’s beastmen hordes. For the beastmen, orcs and goblin beast riders suffered greatly, although some of the hobgoblin legionary archers were caught by retreating knights. Although the numbers of dead and wounded on both sides were equivalent, the men of Aeron could ill afford the loss of life, and it was at this point barely an hour since battle was joined that the Duke called a retreat. Sir Terence was vocal in his opposition and while the Duke led his men back to Overton and across the Dee, Sir Terence took the remnants of the King’s force back to Chainspire.
No pursuit was made, although the beastmen of the Castellan’s horde would have chased the retreating troops without the discipline of the Castellan and his ruinguard.. The Castellan seeks to capture Chainspire and as part of the bargain for bringing the beastman reinforcements, the Magister promised aid in capturing the fortress.

Burial Mound of Maedredhor Session #4 and #5
It’s a bit like a real dungeon isn’t it…

Working from the partial map recovered from a body in the barrow mounds in the hills above Deerbye, the Ashen Blades opted to avoid the marked “clashing rocks” and head for an identified secret door. The annotation said that the unholy symbol of Dispater should be traced on the door to open it. Blood was tried, dirt was tried, chalk was mooted but no one had any. The unholy symbol was traced in the door, the air, the floor, the wall either side and opposite the door, and none of it seemed to work. After nearly two hours of this the party gave up and scuttled down the corridor towards a room marked “lizards” on the map.
Curiously, the room had five Draco lizards of enormous heft, but the party happily waded in. The lizards had been caught unawares in their cave and so had no room to use their flight advantage. The party methodically killed two of the beasts and the others made desperate attempts to escape the cave. One managed to successfully overrun and got into the passageway and took to the air, the other two were less lucky. One barely got out of the cave and was set upon by four of the Blades. The other made it into the passageway but the Corsair and Nightblade had positioned themselves to cut off retreat and managed to kill it.
Congratulating themselves heartily on a job well done and feeling nothing could stop them the Blades continued down the passageway into an unmapped portion of the burial mound. At the end of the passage a large chamber opened up. A strange gloom muted their torches and a slight chill touched the air. In the chamber were the bodies of four previous delvers and a wraith. The bodies had some disturbing shadows that looked as though they were trying to devour or perhaps escape the corpses on the floor. Immediately the Spellsword recovered a warding scroll from his backpack and began intoning its solemn incabulum. The wraith as forced to retreat in the face of the necromantic incantation and the Anti-Paladin and Bladedancer took advantage of its protective properties to engage.
As it turned out the gloom was a form of anti-magic. It was blunting the enchanted effects of the Blades’ magical weapons, it was also stopping the drained spirits of the corpses from returning as wholly formed wraiths. The full effect of the anti-magic was not realised until the group followed the wraith into the room and the warding scroll crumbled to dust. In a short but desperate fight the Anti-Paladin was energy drained but the wraith was overcome.
The group moved through the chamber into a sepulchral cave with a catafalque on which the preserved body of an elf in a panoply of glorious (and expensive looking) jewellery lay. The body was quickly looted by the elf thief Nightblade. Meanwhile the Bladedancer was in the chamber opposite examining some horned, dog-faced winged demon statues which came to life when the Bladedancer tried to move one. The ensuing combat spilled out into the chamber with the anti-magic glamour and the fighting became somewhat desperate. Each of the statues was fighting with claws, teeth and horns and individual wounds were beginning to mount up into significant damage. Eventually, the four constructs were defeated, but the party realised they would have to leave the mound for rest and recuperation.
Oh if only that were possible…
As they approached the Maw pool by the mound entrance the party are set upon by ten foul throghrin. Unnatural crossbreeds of hobgoblin, troll and ghoul the party once again had a desperate fight on their hands. Luckily, while the foul monsters did land a few hits on the Blades the party were unaffected by the paralysing touch. The skirmish was becoming frantic as the Corsair and Anti-Paladin were suffering grievously form the wounds suffered in the fighting throughout the morning, but the Blades were victorious.
Another two days of healing, with bed rest and divine intervention were needed before a final incursion into the mound was undertaken. Again, the “clashing rocks” were avoided. After another short interlude with the symbol of Dispater, this time to allow the symbol to actually be traced. On to paper. Like a brass rubbing. This appeared to have no effect and so the Blades opted to check the unmarked and unexplored passageways on the right side of the map. The Spellsword decided that the mystical golden pins containing “good” magic might prove useful and they were removed from their mountings at the mound entrance. A cold, ghostly gust of wind swept past the party as the last of the pins was removed. A whisper on the gust of wind in Primordial gave some warning. Suspecting that something had stirred in the back of the mound the exploration of the unmapped passage became somewhat hurried.
The first two chambers on either side of the passageway had crude stone doors and contained more of the dog faced statues. Nobody touched them. The chamber at the end of the passage contained a regiment of skeletons. Armoured in bronze scale with spears and shields of a decidedly elvish design the skeletons seemingly came to life some ten minutes after the pins had been removed. The undead came into the passage in a regimented fashion in three files of ten ranks. Calling on the power of various deities to rebuke them had dealt with nearly a dozen and a half of the animated corpses, but the remainder came on relentlessly and ancient spears stabbed out in the shadowed murk to make some telling blows on the lead adventurers in the party. Eventually though, all the skeletons were returned to dust and eternal death as the Anti-Paladin bersekerganged his way through two ranks.
By this time a chill, as if some forsaken evil had risen, had descended on the passageway. Those who had encountered the spectre at Takron Galtos recognised this emanation as the presence of incorporeal undead impacting on the material plane. Girding themselves, the Blades strode forth, symbols of divine power at the ready. As they stepped back into the chamber with the Maw pool, they presented their spiritual fervour and drove three of the wraiths off immediately. The remaining wraith sought the warmth and succour of living souls so desperately after centuries of trapped un-life that it immediately attacked. The fight was close, but the Blades prevailed with only the Anti-Paladin once more suffering the chilling touch of the afterlife.
Time was pressing, the rebuke of the other wraiths would eventually be overcome and there was no doubt in the minds of the Ashen Blades that they would return seeking revenge and life energy. The symbol of Dispater was traced, for the last time, using one of the golden pins. This time the unholy lock on the door was released and the party was able to enter a chamber that contained the mummified remains of a monk or priest sitting cross-legged before a significant hoard of treasure.
The mummy uttered a fell curse in Primordial and cast Hold Person on the Bladedancer. All attempts to rebuke the creature failed and the Blades were forced to fight hand to hand. The fight proved somewhat one sided as the rest of the Blades managed to each rain a few blows on the tough, desiccated corpse. Before any further spell casting could take place the mummy was despatched. Recognising that time was no longer on their side the Blades grabbed all the treasure and the Bladedancer and left the mound for the last time.
Counting the cost, and the treasure, the Ashen Blades decided to head back to their Moathouse fastness for some well-earned downtime. Hopefully, the treasures of Maedredhor would maintain the Blades coffers for some time to come.

Burial Mound of Maedredhor Session #3
Are we there yet?

As we return to the action…
The orcs still had no idea that the party were stalking them until the distance had closed to barely a hundred feet. Taking advantage of the surprise, a Sleep spell and a volley of arrows crossed the distance between the two foes. This was quickly followed by another Sleep spell, a Stinking Cloud, an angry pirate, an even angrier Anti-Paladin and a vexed dwarf. The Bladedancer cast Swift Sword and then entered combat with one of the orc champions. In the end the combat was brutally one sided. More than three quarters of the orc warriors were incapacitated by magic, almost every champion was dead or engaged in mortal combat and the chieftain had ran off with a few picked orcs. In a brief parlay, involving intense negotiation, the remaining orcs were brought round to the Ashen Blades way of life with promises of feasting, regular pay and much pillaging.
Having brought 50 orcs to heel, the party continued on their way, following the directions of the Nightblade, who was navigating using the ancient elven techniques of pothluc and vollomi. By nightfall, it became apparent that the party were lost, because the Nightblade’s directions and the remaining senior orc’s tale of their travels simply led them back to the river. While the orc’s did come through the hills into the forest, it wasn’t through the hills the party were searching for, and in the Nightblade’s case he couldn’t tell his arse from his elbow.
The next day dawned and once more the party strode out, following the directions of the Nightblade yet again. Before long, sounds of guttural language and a snarling argument could be heard up ahead. The Nightblade approached using intense stealth to discover a pair of cyclops towering twenty feet tall arguing over the remains of five or six men and horses. After a brief, and hushed, debate the party elected to ambush the cyclops and perhaps earn a reputation as giant killers. The plan almost immediately went awry. The Nightblade’s best shot appeared not to faze the first cyclops while the ensuing Stinking Cloud had absolutely no effect. The cyclops couldn’t pick the party out in the undergrowth but hurled the horses they had to hand towards their attackers. One landed mere inches from the Anti-Paladin, while the other sailed far over the Nightblade’s head deep into the forest cover. At this point the party started withdrawing back to their orc lines, but fortunately the two giant-kin were keener on feasting on man- and horse-flesh than in pursuing hidden ghosts through the forest.
As the day lengthened it became apparent that once again, the party were lost. The river was discovered yet again. After one more nights camping, an orc was sent up a tree to determine the direction of sunrise. Although he managed to communicate a general easterly direction to his compatriots on the ground, he also lost his footing on the way down and managed to kill himself in a twenty foot fall. Pausing briefly to butcher and cook breakfast of orc and fried mushrooms, the warband set out north and before long broke out of the forest into a more contoured terrain. After some brief cheering, congratulations and recriminations on taking three days to effectively travel four miles, the party set about looking for signs of the burial mound. With considerably more luck than judgement they came across the site late in the afternoon.
The orc warband were encouraged to set up a camp a half mile from the mound, while the Blades approached. The hill had a monumental processional with menhir and dressed granite slabs leading towards a dark entrance into the hillside. The ground immediately before the processional was dotted with small hillocks of dirt as if large moles had been at work. It became readily apparent that they had. Walking across the area, the Blades were set upon from below. Seven giant shrews burst from the ground seeking to capture something more filling than worms. The fight was short and one sided, with each of the party getting in a blow or two and despatching at least one of the shrews.
At the end of the processional, just at the entrance proper six golden spikes of significant size were embedded, three on each side of the entrance. While the spikes appeared to have writings on them, the script was difficult to discern without removing the spikes and the Blades seemed reluctant to do this. Having the Anti-Paladin commune with Asmodeus and determine the presence of good. The spikes radiate powerful good magic and the Blades definitely decide to leave well alone.
Moving into the darkness, a damp chill can be felt. A large pool lies at a crossroads. The Nightblade took to scouting the left hand passage and while so engaged he disturbed a carrion crawler. The foul creature made to drop onto the unaware elf before his compatriots could yell a warning but fortune, if it could be described as such, came to the rescue. The hyperdontic jaws of a great white sharkipede skittering maw snapped around the dangling crawler cutting it in half. With some degree of care, but an understanding that killing a sharkipede skittering maw would do wonders for the party’s reputation, they set about killing it with relish. The plan was to “cockatrice” the aberration hoping to kill it before it did too much damage to the party. The plan was concise, but first the Nightblade was bitten and buffeted by the creature’s bulk just before the Corsair was taken by the head and shoulder and thrown like a rag doll across the cavern floor. The Nightblade didn’t succumb to the burning poison but was grievously wounded, while the Corsair succumbed to both poison and the massive raking bite across his head and left shoulder. The Bladedancer took a moment from the fight to cast healing magic on the Corsair, while the Nightblade pulled him aside to use some neutralising herbs to dull the worst effects of the poison. In the ensuing seconds, which seemed to slow to an eternity, the Bladedancer distracted by her magical efforts barely avoided being bitten herself. The Spellsword, Craftpriest and Anti-Paladin hacked at the abominable creature and although a telling blow was landed by the Paladin’s magical great sword, the beast didn’t give up. It snapped at the Paladin and while not injuring him as dreadfully as the others who had been bitten already, the burning poison coursed in the bite and the Paladin could fell its grip on his metabolism as it began to take effect. Finally, the Craftpriest dealt a blow two handed which crushed the abnormal fiend’s skull and killed it outright.
The party recovered a partly devoured body that had become wedged by the entrance to the skittering maw’s underwater lair and recovered some armour and a long sword. The party then retired to the orc camp to set up tents to salve their wounds. Even with divine magic the scars left by the bite of the maw had left the Corsair with gruesome scars that would win him few admirers but would probably leave others thinking twice about crossing a man who could take such scars and survive to tell of it. Two whole days passed in resting and healing, before the Ashen Blades steeled themselves to enter the burial mound once more.

Burial Mound of Maedredhor Session #2
Tell you what, let’s go back to the original plan…

The Blades had taken the short journey to reach the ruins of the Takron Galtos prison. A cautious investigation of the south wall revealed an open courtyard on the other side of a wall in pretty poor repair. Entering and looking around the party disturbed four giant rhagodessa. The party were easily up to the task and dealt with the misshapen arachnids in less than a minute. The rhagodessa nest proved to be disappointingly empty of treasure and even more disappointingly full of rhagodessa leavings, but the Blades pressed through, kicked open a jammed oaken door and started up a corridor that appeared to be on the outside eastern wall of the prison complex.
Some fifteen or twenty minutes of carefully traversing the corridor led to a small room with multiple exits. While doing Ashen Blades stuff to the doors (randomly listening, trap checking and kicking in) a loud buzzing, as if of large flying insects was heard. The kicked-in door was quickly jammed back into place and the Nightblade peered through a crack to identify the source. A swam of enormous carnivorous flies had followed the party up the corridor and were now angrily buzzing outside the tiny room, keen for a tasty lunch of human with a smattering of demi-human to taste. The party chose not to entice the insects and pushed on intending to explore the outer areas of the prison before breaking for the inside.
The Blades entered a smaller slightly overgrown courtyard that may have once been the eastern gate but was now entirely open to the elements. The Nightblade and Corsair headed outside properly to get a feel for the outside walls intending to use this information to help decide on course of action while inside the prison. The actions of the Blades in investigating the area disturbed a pair of burrowing ankhegs, which travelled underground like a scene from Tremors, straight past the Nightblade and Corsair. They came up inside the courtyard surprising the Bladedancer and Spellsword. The Bladedancer narrowly avoided the cruel mandibles of one of the beasts but the other closed its mandibles firmly around the legs of the Spellsword, crushing his armour with tremendous strength. The creatures were quickly set upon by the remaining members of the party and dispatched before the Spellsword could be turned into a squishy, edible mess by the acidic digestive juices. Grievously wounded, the Spellsword needed the ministrations of the Craftpriest to heal some of the damage.
The party continued with the plan of moving up the eastern wall and the next room contained three recently deceased bodies. A combination of medical and theological knowledge identified the cause of death as most likely energy drain. The Blades took the precaution of decapitating the bodies before stealing anything they could from the remains.
As they continued out of the room, a noticeable drop in temperature could be perceived. According to the Bladedancer, this indicated a forsaken place, a sinkhole of Chaos. The Blades took up a defensive formation, while the nearest door was checked and kicked-in. The dungeon bashing failed but disturbed the Spectre on the other side, which came through the door and travelled insubstantially through the Corsair, chilling him to the bone and inflicting an energy drain. The Anti-paladin bravely stood his ground hoping his newly discovered magical sword would have a significant effect. The Bladedancer and Craftpriest tried to rebuke the foul creature but failed. The rest of the party broke and ran for the outside hoping that the Spectre was tied to the grounds of the prison or would be debilitated by the sunlight in the courtyard.
The Anti-paladin got in a solid hit, but as the rest of the Blades abandoned him to his fate, he recognised that discretion was the better part of valour and he undertook a fighting withdrawal to allow himself to escape. The Spectre clawed insubstantially at the Anti-paladin but failed to make contact not once, but twice. The party escaped the confines of the prison and decided as a group that discretion should win out. Consoling, and then murdering, the mad priest who had led them to Takron Galtos, they cut for the Castellan’s Keep and some required rest and recuperation.
Having healed and rested, the party then returned to their original expedition, setting out once more for the Burial place of the dead elf. Barely out of sight of the Castellan’s Keep, the party came across a warband of ogres travelling north-west at some pace. The ogre’s failed to notice the Blades and so the party opted not to parlay or engage them.
The Blades travelled on to Deerbye, where the Anti-paladin had to be restrained from taking revenge on the man who had once humiliated him in a bar brawl. As the Anti-paladin’s plan involved hunting down the bar patrons, barman and then burning down the Church of the Auld Faith, the party decided to dissuade him. Although efforts were made to secure a guide or some hirelings, no-one would volunteer, so the Blades set out once more following the River Derwent into the depths of the Sherwood Forest.
As they were searching out a likely spot to camp near the river bank, a pack of wolves attacked. Although a couple of horses were wounded (and their riders thrown), a Sleep spell and some deft sword work quickly reduced the pack to a lone wolf that ran off into the undergrowth. Setting up camp led to no further encounters or troubles through the night and the Blades got a deserved night’s rest.
Morning dawned and the party rose intending to strike for the hills. With the Nightblade navigating the Blades set off. But, barely two hours from the river but still deep in the forest the Blades came across a large warband of orcs. A swift headcount identified at least five dozen warriors. Weighing up their options, the party opted to prepare for an all out attack…

Burial Mound of Maedredhor Session #1
... or let's do the Castellan's Keep and some prison ruins instead

The Ashen Blades had completed their preparations for a long journey east towards Nottenham. The fragmentary clues on the treasure map suggested a trip north of Sherwood Forest into the hills on the edge of Peacsaete. Travelling through the well-worn trails of the Wyre Forest the Blades were barely three days into their journey when they encountered a patrol of beastmen wolf riders from the Castellan’s Keep. A short parley avoids any unpleasantness and the party opts to spend the evening in the Castellan’s Keep.
Asking around for “rumours” at the tavern bar the band discover that the Castellan is away (they knew that), he was accompanied by his witch, but his sorcerer was off on some other quest. Details were sketchy and before more could be learned, three goblin mercenaries approached the Dwarven Craftpriest while he was drinking the rat’s piss that passed for ale in these parts. One of the goblins uttered the dire threat “Hey, you” and was instantly slain by a Choking Grip from the Spellsword. The whole thing degenerated rapidly from there. The Bladedancer used quiet magic to cast Darkness, the Anti-Paladin went berserk and the Craftpriest decided that he would “save the goblins from the Anti-Paladin”, by killing as many of them as he could. The Spellsword, Bladedancer, swashbuckling Fighter and Nightblade took advantage of the magical darkness to locate safety, although for the Fighter that was in the rafters with a bottle of the bar’s finest rot-gut. Meanwhile, the Anti-Paladin was having the time of his life. Cleaving with wild abandon he left a trail of two goblins, two orcs, seven mercenaries and the barman in his wake. Barely a minute into the fracas and the Castellan’s guard arrived. Recognising magic when they saw it they sent for help from the Inner Keep. Five of the Castellan’s ruinguard and seven of the Temple’s anti-paladins turned up to clean up the mess. A Dispel Magic and the threat of the Black Lore quickly quietened the already surrendering bar room.
The consequences of the Anti-Paladin’s actions caught up with him. Having grievously wounded the barman, who subsequently required the ministrations of the Nightblade and the priests of the Temple of Asmodeus, the Anti-Paladin was made to face the Temple inquisition. His impassioned speech saved him from a vicious fate but still did not go down well. Killing a significant proportion of the remaining soldiery of the Keep did not wear well. Casting a Geas, the High Priest inculcated a pressing need to return the most powerful magic item located in the Burial Mound of Maedredhor to the Temple at the Castellan’s Keep.
Meanwhile, the Bladedancer used her feminine wiles and a little divine magic (Fellowship) to befriend a crazed man the Blades remembered vaguely from a previous visit. The man was pleading for the Bladedancer’s help. According to his ranting, his boys had been killed and somebody needed to help him. The Craftpriest used his recently acquired Medallion of ESP to read some backstory straight from the mendicant’s mind. He was a cleric and had led a party to a ruined prison complex not far from the Keep. Undead creatures of various descriptions had assailed the group. They had fought bravely to a location deep within the prison where some shadowy creature of the Netherworld had slaughtered the rest of his party. The cleric’s mind had broken and he had fled in terror. He had ever since been begging at the Castellan’s Keep. In keeping with the Blades goldfish like attention span, the expedition was quickly abandoned and they set out for the Prison of Takron Galtos instead…

Into the Barrow Downs Session #5...
... and Out of the Barrow Downs Session #6

The heroes having dispatched the stirges and werewolves, they set about patching themselves up and checking the rest of the barrow. The first burial chamber had an empty kist with some rotten and worthless grave goods, and the party was quick to move on. The chamber at the end of the long corridor had some indecipherable pictograms on the door and a strange four armed bone fetish in a niche to the side of the entrance. A short discussion and the door was quickly pulled aside.
In the chamber were two tall (six or seven feet) metal statues which were pitted and scarred from some sort of wear but showed no sign of tarnish or rust. There were also three more kists. Carefully, the Ashen Blades spread out across the chamber and examined the statues and the kist coverings. The Anti-Paladin attempted to remove one of the statues weapons, and barely perceptibly at first, both started to come to life. The Blades leapt into action, engaging the nearest statue in melee, while trying to discourage the other with missile fire. Less than a minute into the combat, the kist coverings started to move, and the fetid claws of three wights could be seen as they attempted to emerge from the kists. The Nightblade quickly imbibed a potion of undead control and induced the wights to fight the statues. While the foul undead had no effect on the statues (the animated statues had been placed explicitly to prevent the wights from arising), they provided a significant distraction for the remaining combat. After the statues had been destroyed, the wights were sent far away using the remaining duration to put as much distance as possible between the wights and the party.
The final chamber, which led off the wight burial chamber was more ornate and had a more significant burial kist. Inside the kist was a well preserved, but long dead body, and a range of expensive grave goods. Swiftly gathering up their ill-gotten gains the party retired to the empty barrow and prepared to wait out the night.
The night brought more trouble. A gang of ogres arrived down in the vale and examined the various carcasses. They then set up camp barely a hundred feet from the entrance to the Ashen Blades’ bolt hole. Making a plan the party sent out the Nightblade and Hench-thief to assassinate the ogre watch. While they both managed to get their shots off, the ogre survived the attack and awoke his brutish brethren. The rest of the party charged down the hill, casting Sleep at any target of opportunity and engaging the sleep-addled ogres in melee. The combat was short and sweet and the ogres were despatched.
The trip back to Deerbye was eventful. The caravan of horses, beastmen and adventurers attracted the attention of a solitary wyvern and a hungry cave bear. Both were despatched as quickly as possible with prayers to various gods that only one of each of the creatures actually tracked the party.
The Blades used some downtime in Deerbye to hire an expensive sage to translate some scrolls, do some research on a magic item command word and learn a new spell. They also sold off a pile of goods. Finishing up their tasks in Deerbye they then returned to Hommlet and the repaired Moathouse. The hobgoblin Legio XX Valeria Victrix is now encamped outside Hommlet and several hundred mercenaries, human and beastman, have arrived with the Castellan.
Recruitment of mercenaries for the Moathouse garrison is slow (only four crossbowmen and four infantry were available to hire). Alex Dai has outgrown his employer and the local Thieves guild and has left the Ashen Blades for Rixham. Dranet the hench-fighter has now been placed in command of the Moathouse garrison and preparations are underway for a new expedition to Pecsaete and the Elven Barrow discovered on one of the treasure maps.

Into the Barrow Downs Session #4
Shouldn't we be on our way home by now?

Having defeated the bugbear marauders, taken their treasure and recruited the survivors, the Ashen Blades recognised that some rest and recuperation would be necessary. A night was spent bedding down in the bugbear burrows, but during the night a pack of wolves arrived and started scavenging from the carcasses that had been carelessly thrown down the hill towards the pond.
With over a dozen wolves and some badly injured fighters it became apparent that a plan would be needed. The plan involved Sleep spells and targeted bow shots at the alpha male pack leader. The plan started well. The first Sleep spell affected 6 of the beasts, the shots across the dale generally found their mark and the alpha male took some arrow wounds. The morale of the pack was uncertain, until the last shot of the volley killed the alpha male and sent his bitch and the rest of the pack into a frenzy. The wolves came loping across the dale heading straight for the cave mouth when the second Sleep spell went off. The rest of the pack dropped in a slumberous heap and were quickly despatched when it became apparent that the Anti-Paladin could treat the wolves for the effect of Sleep and arrow wounds, but couldn’t train one. Some curative magic was cast, but again it seemed likely that another day’s rest would be necessary.
The day passed with little event, but again during the night, some creatures arrived in the night. The bestial, bipedal creatures were quickly identified as werewolves who, upon discovering the slaughter of the pack set up a howl to call more wolves to the dale. While the wolves were arriving the party set a fighting line and sowed the corridor with caltrops. Interestingly these caltrops magically appeared because nowhere in Wrekin sells them and no-one had arranged for their production. As the first of the wolves entered, the Nightblade prematurely released and wasted a silver arrow on an ordinary wolf. The wolves struggled crossing the caltrops and were slowly worn down by bow shot and the occasional stab when they came within range. As it became apparent that the werewolves were about to join the fray, the Spellsword cast his Stinking Cloud and all three lycanthropes failed their saves. They backed out of the caverns, but the remaining wolves were more confused. Three were finished off in combat while two were confused and badly affected by the noxious smoke. The outcome was foregone.
Applauding their own efforts the Blades set off across the dale to the barrow entrance. Time wasted detecting the presence of good identified the menhir entrance stones as “good” in some way and barely inside the barrow entrance a body, desiccated, bloodless and with several significant holes pierced in his leather armour was discovered by the hench-thief. In his backpack three scroll cases and some equipment in poor repair were discovered. The first case contained a wand of some sort, while the other two contained maps and notes written in an ancient tongue. The Blades moved a short way up the passage to a stone-marked entrance in the left wall. Listening carefully against the stone the Nightblade discovered that the stone was badly propped and it nearly fell on him. Meanwhile, the Anti-Paladin having determined that there was no more good within 20’ of the last place he detected good, threw a lit torch towards a stirge’s nest. They swarmed the Anti-Paladin and his hunting dog scoring two hits and latching on to drain blood. As the rest of the Blades turned back, three familiar bestial shapes appeared outlined in the entrance to the barrow. The werewolves had returned!
The combat was yet another where Sleep spells proved their worth. The stirges were despatched by the party, although not before the Anti-Paladin was practically drained. Two of the werewolves were dropped by Sleep spells, while the last fell to a well-placed bowshot and a backstab attack from the Nightblade, having made yet another acrobatic leap. The Blades picked themselves up and dusted themselves off, and prepared for whatever may await them further up the barrow.

Into the Barrow Downs Session #3
Bugbears sir, thousands of them…

Settling down for the night, the Blades arranged a watch, hobbled the horses in one of the barrow chambers and cleared out the beetle carcasses while blocking up various sources of entrance and egress. Their careful preparations paid off. During the third watch, the Nightblade’s keen elven ears detected the muffled sound of beetle carcasses and incomprehensible language on the other side of the barrow’s entrance stone. He woke the Corsair, seeking to allow the spell casters as much rest time as possible. Listening more carefully, the aware members of the Blades prepared a counter-ambush.
When all was ready the Nightblade pushed out the stone covering the barrow entrance on top of two bugbears. In the night-time gloom another eight or nine of the beastmen were visible. With a strange, raspy battle cry and mention of eight pieces the Corsair leapt at the nearest bugbear that wasn’t resting under a couple of hundredweight of stone. The Nightblade swiftly despatched the trapped bugbears and before most of the rest of the Ashen Blades were ready, the bugbears morale broke and they fled back up the vale. Keen eyed, the Nightblade noted that they appeared to be heading to a higher roughly shaped cave or barrow entrance further up the side of the valley.
After some preparation, some astute scouting by the Nightblade and hench-thief and a carefully laid plan the Ashen Blades undertook a counter-attack on the bugbear’s lair. A half dozen of the creatures were guarding the lair entrance but failed to spot the Nightblade until it was too late and all the Blade’s with missile weapons had taken at least a shot. The party then formed a shield wall with the Spellsword and Corsair in the front rank, the Bladedancer, hench-thief and Nightblade in the second. The warriors and Bladedancer stabbed at combatant bugbears, while the Thief and Nightblade took shots at targets of opportunity. The combat was hard fought but the Ashen Blades definitely had the advantage. In the end, the bugbear champion stepped into the fray and sent a minion back into the lair to summon reinforcements. It was at this point that the most memorable of all combat actions occurred. After seventeen campaign sessions and an estimated forty or fifty combat encounters the Nightblade passed an Acrobatics roll, slipped between the legs of the bugbear champion and delivered a crippling surprise backstab. There was cheering, there was applauding, there was a realisation that the shiny sword was in fact a magical sword. Congratulations were short-lived because it was painfully obvious that more bugbears were coming and the Blades best warriors were sorely wounded and nearly exhausted. Plans were set and the Blades prepared.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the bugbear warband arrived with their remaining champions and chieftain. The fighting now became even more brutal, but two Sleep spells and some deft blade work resulted in two bugbears, a champion and the chieftain surrendering after eight of their compatriots had been permanently put to sleep with extreme prejudice (and a serrated two handed sword). Offering all their wealth and some information about the remaining barrow, the Blades extracted promises of future service, although the bugbears refused to enter the last barrow with its living metal men and numerous ghosts…

Into the Barrow Downs Session #2
Is that a blood filled giant leech on your leg, or are you just pleased to see me?

The Downs above Deerbye are closer to bad-lands and moorland than the rolling hills of North Aeron. Consequently, although the horses were brought on the expedition, much of the time the beasts had to be led rather than ridden to avoid the risk of laming. A likely local had pointed out that he knew a small valley where at least one decent sized Barrow was. Hired as both guide and horse-handler he led the Ashen Blades north.
Just as camp was being set up, two men came upon the group unawares. Threatening and seeking a couple of horses, the brigands had made a shocking miscalculation. One was quickly smashed into the ground by the Anti-Paladin’s wicked morning star, while the other succumbed to the Spellsword’s Choking Grip. Released from the Grip the brigand surrendered and was offered a spot in the Blades as a damage prevention operative (read “meat shield”), which he took. The Blades discovered that he and his erstwhile colleague were from a larger group but a “disagreement” had led them to leave the other brigands.
The next morning, the Blades discovered the oasis that the guide had promised. A stream ran down of the hills and created a pool in the floor of the valley which was perhaps sixty or seventy yards across and some one hundred and fifty yards deep. In the contoured sides of the vale were at least three visible cave or barrow entrances. While the rest of the Blades provisioned the horse-holder and gave instructions to head back along the track a couple of miles for safety, the Anti-Paladin chose to investigate the pool.
Starting with an effort to discern through divine revelation whether or not there was any benevolence in the pool, before graduating to splashing and throwing rocks in the water, the Anti-Paladin achieved little except to disturb four giant leeches. One of the leeches was quickly pin cushioned by the rest of the Blades while the Anti-Paladin and his trusty dog fought off the rest. It rapidly became apparent that the Anti-Paladin had bitten off more than he could chew and the rest of the group joined the fray. The Corsair, Anti-Paladin and Dranet the hench-warrior were all attacked or had blood drained, and the Anti-Paladin was so grievously afflicted that he needed divine healing from the Bladedancer not once but twice. The leeches were eventually destroyed, but the Blades resources were seriously depleted. Nearly an hour spent dredging the pool with rope and grapple produced nothing except pondweed and detritus, much to the disappointment of both he Corsair and Nightblade.
The Blades then opted to investigate the nearest cave opening, both to seek possible treasure and also ensure a secure campsite for overnight. The opening did turn out to be a Barrow entrance, but the first three chambers proved to be suspiciously empty and seemingly unused. A brief encounter with some stirges that had come through the barrow entrance put the Blades more on their guard.
The last chamber however proved to be full of dungeon vermin in the form of nine giant bombardier beetle, each three feet long with vicious, piercing mandibles. A Sleep spell quickly cast three of the creatures into an arcane slumber. Forming a fighting line in the doorway, the Spellsword, Corsair, Nightblade and Bladedancer fought off the pests. The Corsair was especially unlucky. Not only was he sprayed with the caustic toxins of these bugs, but he was bitten several times. Finishing off the beetles revealed that this chamber had several dozen of the bone figurines sold as wraith charms in Deerbye and a beautifully crafted and unblemished sword.
At this point, the Ashen Blades recalled their horse-holder/guide and, securing the barrow entrance, settled down for the night.


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