The story so far:
Maddened creatures of the Feywild have been on the rampage in the Nentir Vale. The source seems to be some mysterious runic buildings located in the Garden of Graves. Our heroes have journeyed into the Feywild to the garden in a bid to make sense of it all. There they found that the cairns of this once peaceful resting place for eladrin have been torn up and remolded to make an unusual structure. It seems to channel the ambient eldritch energy of this place in the Feywild somehow…but for what purpose…?
To date the party have found that Fey within the garden seem to have been enslaved somehow, twisted with fell energies to become servitors and guardians of the new place. Thus far Kelnozz and Hiral seem unaffected; Kel being protected by aberrant / dark energies and Hiral through his link to the primal. But for how long?
Most recently the heroes faced off against a band of spriggan shapeshifters who used their powers to appear as each hero…and a giant spider.
DM: I see the heroes still haven’t agreed passwords with each other!
With the duplicates defeated the party continued to explore the buildings in this part of the Garden. Voices could be heard coming from a nearby room; the clink of glasses and chatter of polite after dinner conversation. The room in question, whilst devoid of occupants was opulently furnished. Its main feature seemed to be five gaming areas all set out and ready to play – the ever popular Battleships-like Dragonmasters, a card game about using magic to summon creatures, some miniatures game revolving around a large exquisitely drawn map, some game involving gold and trade…and Twister.
_DM: Twister it seems is present in all incarnations of the multiverse. _
A couple of heroes edged into the room; Kelnozz because he was curious and Hiral because he’d spied a trapdoor behind the Dragonmasters set-up. Sure enough the room proved to have dangerous enchantments laid about it – ensnarements designed to encourage players to sit and play the games. Hiral almost fell prey but with the aid of the party was able to make his way back out of the room. Kelnozz elected to play the card game and unfortunately lost on the final round of the game meaning his mind took a bit of a battering.
The party elected to use range attacks to blast the Dragonmasters set-up aside and make their way to the trapdoor. It led to the tunnels beneath the cairns which had already been explored. One exit from the tunnels led to a planeshifting room; the other out onto the cliffs. The latter seemed the safest option, though this did lead to..
Onrich: We need to get a rope up? I grab one end and fly up.
DM: You don’t get flight till 12th level.
Once up top the party checked the layout of the remaining buildings. In their exploration they found the remains of some dead eladrin adventurers – probably a party from the Gloaming Court who’d must have tried to restore their Garden of Graves. It appeared possible that they killed one another. Their bodies were laid out by the team for later burial.
There seemed to be a central chamber to the complex, reached via another room that hadn’t yet been explored. The room in question turned out to be divided into two sections; one with a variety of tapestries and the other an oddly curved room. Examining the tapestries, one in particular drew their eye, of lightning exploding from locked double doors. A key in the tapestry appeared identical to the key found earlier and indeed touching said key to the lock in the tapestry triggered a mechanism somewhere.
DM: The double doors in the plant-cathedral area now opened.
The second room was dominated by a glowing light atop a plinth, facing the numbers 1 – 12 carved first in bronze and then again in iron. Zander took a guess and interposed a stone to cast a shadow over the bronze #1. Instantly black shadows coalesced from the magic of the room, forming smoky black visages which sought to drain the life from the heroes – wraiths!
DM: Quite a rough fight for the party. Pinned down in a narrow area and facing creatures with multiple auras. On the other hand the heroes had their paragon path powers to help even the odds. Also our first battle using monster tokens from the all-new Monster Vault. I liked these alot – lovely artwork and a red border on the flipside to indicate bloodied. The downside is they’re hard to see for anyone sitting down on the sofa! (The second downside being I’ve had my Ravenloft game wraiths on my coffee table for six weeks ready for this encounter and doh forgot them).
As the last wraith vanished into mists our heroes considered their options. They’d spotted secret doors in the adjoining tapestry room that were probably unlocked if only they could pick the correct number. But what was it? They settled down for lunch in order to think it over. Nettle suggested the sundial might hold the key. Sure enough, its numbers were in bronze and iron too. The plan was formed to lock the sundial’s light source in place at roughly the current time (3pm) then go back to the light chamber and cast a shadow onto the same time.
Happily this plan worked.
DM: Very happily, else you’d have been facing 5 more wraiths for 0 xp.
The secret doors clicked open and carefully the paragons made their way into the central area. Looking around they saw a large chamber split by crossed unsupported walls with those strange pillars at either end. Runes dotted the walls suggesting that this was perhaps where the energies were being channeled towards. Yet many of the markings were obscured by vines and wild growth that half filled the room (DM: and three quarter filled it by the end muhahaha). Midway down the hall the double doors from the tapestry could just about be seen. They were ever so slightly open. Closest to the heroes though were three cairns, indoor for some reason, and a larger cairn atop a dais.
Sure enough monsters shambled out of the cairns to attack. Three zombie eladrin knights moved to attack, as did the vine wrapped skin of a Horror Tomb Giant. Its movements were strangely lithe and agile, perhaps due to the lack of bones and structure. It made up for this with a marked ability to drain life from those it grasped and pulled around.
DM: The party hit alot of these foes with stuns and dazes. Just as well…the horror tomb giant drained healing surges with each strike – even minor action strikes. If you’d run out of surges that would have been brutal.
Unfortunately the undead were not alone – a sprawling demonic assemblage of vines, leaves and rotting foilage crawled out of the greenery to join the fray. It seemed to be directed by a glowing gem atop one vine in particular. More than once during the battle the gem glowed brightly and tried to drain the souls of its attackers. (DM: Two failed saves and dead with no resurrection!) Its vines had tremendous reach and it retained something of the fey about it. This magic seemed a perversion of the primal, triggering rampant growth of toxic brambles and the like to drastically alter the battlefield. Hiral and Onrich sought to close with it in melee (sometimes unwillingly!) whilst Kel and Zander dodged around, using cairns as cover at times and trying to whittle it down, one vine at a time if need be. Nettle stood amongst his namesakes channeling a stream of life to keep the heroes upright.
At last the Ivy Heart was cut down to size. The gem shattered into wisps of smoke with an earthshattering scream. Moments later the foilage rotted into green goo as the fey power sustaining it died. The heroes were victorious!
Though battered and somewhat worn down the adventurers inspected the room beyond the double doors. It proved unguarded, containing only a bizarre construct of crystals, rune carved wood and metal braces. Some sort of fey engine designed to channel the gathered energies. But to where? And for what purpose?
Smashing it to pieces seemed like a plan so that’s what the heroes did. Happily they were able gather some valuable pieces to sell / enchant. Every hero knows that destroying the heart of such places tends to trigger its destruction so they retreated outside. There they encountered Rangrim, Dirk and Delphina who’d just seen off an assault by cyclops invaders. Remembering the eladrin bodies from earlier the adventurers gathered stones from the site and existing cairns which had a few spares, giving them a proper burial.
By the time they were done the arcane heroes in the party could sense a slight change in the atmosphere of the Garden of Graves – already the destruction of the engine was having an effect. Given a few days it should be safe for members of the Gloaming Court / Quiet Hall to come and restore the site properly. All in all this meant that it was time to return home and report victory.
+ + + + +
Several days later and the party could be found heading down the road and into Fallcrest at the heart of the Nentir Vale. The Gloaming Court had been informed of the party’s exploits and rewarded them appropriately. Hiral in particular was promoted within his order to the rank of Emerald Guardian.
Yet Fallcrest seemed different. A series of temporary camps seemed to have been set-up around the walls of the main town. On closer inspection it seemed these were refugee encampments containing villagers who’d fled their homes for the safety of the walls. The rumours on the wind spoke of Giants on the move. A vast horde of giants and elementals assembling in the wilds, poised to roll over the Nentir Vale! Or so the rumours said.
DM: Fallcrest was once a much larger town – really a small city. Orcish raiders sacked the place several decades ago and burned much of it to the ground. The Fallcrest you know today was rebuilt from the ruins and new walls constructed. However its population never returned to its former numbers and this means much of the town consists of uninhabited ruins. Until recently it was simply unprofitable to clear such areas but now with the refugee influx there’s all manner of activity around the ruins – lots of political wranglings over who owns them, merchant companies scrambling to get the business of clearing them up / buy out the land, refugees seeking to claim squatters rights etc. This explains why access to the town is presently limited – only those with legitimate business are being allowed in. Still others are seeking to flee Fallcrest; there’s been unpleasant scenes at the docks. But just imagine the adventuring opportunities for 1st level heroes!
Slowly the crowds parted and the heroes made their way to the Wizard Gate where they asked for access to the city and to speak to someone in charge. The guard captain on duty, Sgt. Thorvald apparently recognised the Winterhaven Rescuers / Slavers / Young Ones / Heroes of Time. He explained that the Lord Warden had left standing orders for such heroes to be invited to Moonstone Keep; would they be willing to come to the keep and speak with her?
DM: You are welcome to google Fallcrest or peruse the DMG entry.
gives a solid bit of info on the settlement. The old Lord Warden Faren Markelhay retired five years ago and is succeeded by Cassia Markelhay. The Temple of Pelor has been expanded upon…beyond that there’s not a huge amount which has changed.
Several hours later, bathed and rested, the party went to speak with Cassia, and a few of her advisers in her meeting room. The Town Council were not present but perhaps surprisingly there was a representative from Winterhaven. And the High Priest of Pelor, a deva named Tobias. Cassia began to speak:
You have helped Fallcrest and the Nentir Vale many times, my friends <er>s downtime for those of you who wish to do things in Fallcrest. Temples to pray at, brothels for Zander, shops to purchase things at – including the odd paragon tier item; the town has had 10 years of growth from the DMG entry.