Gods of the Realm

Episode 11: The Days of Shieldmeet

The night passes very restfully, dawn just breaking as the heroes wake. Warfton’s Inn is quiet and it is a peaceful morning to greet the heroes.

Varro wakes early and rested with his longing for a good mead satisfied for now.
He gathers his gear and heads for the tavern turned breakfast hall for what has become his most recent favorite spot for a hearty breakfast before a well favored killing spree.

“Mornin, I be takin a hearty breakfast taday … an don’t ya be skimping on da meats .. ya hear me?” He says with a hearty humor in his voice

Brann wakes and finds himself feeling slightly more relaxed. The tension and pressure from the previous day’s battle has eased somewhat and his many hours of communing with Moradin have given him solace.

Time to see how the others are doing and perhaps learn some more about our new companions.

He heads downstairs and sees Varro at the table, “Morning my friend, I see you’ve got the food going”

“I’ll have some mead and a throw any of the food from last night onto that platter for me” he says to the innkeeper pointing at a large platter.

“So, any grateful villagers pop into thank you personally last night?” wink

“None dat I be memberin” returning da wink “But I do be memberin not seein ya partakin in da festivities, probly fer da best belly laugh ya missed a gud one brudder.”

Varro stuffs his mouth with a sausage and sops up gravy with his biscuit

“so ya be gettin prepared fer a gud day hikin in da wilderness? I be reckenin dat we gots us a keep ta be explorin taday.”

Francis wakes up, a broken, dismembered leg at the tip of his mind’s eye. He lights a candle, gently places it on the floor, and concentrates on the flame for a half hour. He stops because he is troubled by what he has done to the Elfess’s body. Is this the answer, he asks himself, to imbalance? Must I obligate myself to balance extremes with equal and opposite actions, tête á tête? He dresses himself in his awkward chainmail armor and hopes that the dwarf—what was his name? Thair, right?— has finished repairing his platemail.

Once he goes downstairs, Francis approaches Varro and Brann. “Good morrow, gentlemen.” He sees the food at the table and is slightly repulsed. Just as unappetizing the morning after. “I am interested in speaking privately with our compatriot, Belimir. Might I expect him to rally with us here at the inn or would I have better luck seeking him at the town gate?”

Varro looks up from his breakfast, buscuit in his hand gravy dripping on to the table.

“I recken he be out da gates, sleepin in a bush or such, oh ya be needin dis fer Thair da smithy " Tosses Francis a small pouch of coins “get ya armor … surely he be done wit it by now , dat is if he not be to drunk from last night.” noticing the dribbled gravy varro uses a finger to clean the mess and licks the gravy from his finger.

“get ya armor and get ya belly filled, I recken we gots a keep ta be visitin, Belimir can wait”

Francis nods. “Right, right.” He takes the bag and hurries over to the armory.

Thair greets Francis as he approaches the smithy booth.
“Ah Sir Halfling! I have yer breastplate right ‘ere. It’s as good as new! Tougher’n’a Orc’s Arse!”

He hands Francis the breastplate, and then holds his bearpaw of a hand out for the agreed payment.

Francis takes the breastplate. He removes the chainmail and drops it on the ground. Slowly, he puts on the platemail. It is firm, as he likes it. He nods in approval and drops the bag in the dwarf’s hand.

Taking the coin, slipping it into a lockbox under the counter, Thair smiles at Francis through his bushy beard. Then goes back to work on Varro’s axe.

After leaving the armory, Francis takes a quick detour through the market square. He purchases two apples and a squash, and returns to the Inn.

Wilam’s bones ache and his muscles are tight as bowstrings. He had fallen asleep almost instantly upon crawling into his bed and had likely not moved a muscle all night. He moans as his arms spread wide, reaching for the walls. Don’t bend over too far, Wilam… or you’ll likely never stand straight again, Wilam joked to himself. It’s going to be another long day, so best you get used to waking like this, old man.

Wilam prepares himself for the day, starting with a basic focus ritual that helps him find an attunement with Arcane energies. He flips through the pages of his spellbook, spending extra time on his conjuration spells. I think I’ll give this Dust Devil another try. The thunder from yesterday didn’t quite pack the punch I was expecting. He spends the next ten minutes memorizing the keywords and summoning chant. When he is sure he has it, he gathers his few belongings and heads out to meet the others for breakfast.

“Good morning, fellows,” is all he says before taking his seat. He finds himself wanting, deep down, to take leadership of the group… to take it ‘by the horns’ and demand that they comply to his plan of action. But something holds him back and he waits to see what the others have to say… without his prompting.

“ya best be gettin ya belly full, me finger-wagglin friend, we gots us a keep ta be cleanin out taday.” the dwarf realizing he is dripping gravy everywhere goes to work cleaning his mess with his finger and licking it off his digits.

“I sent da half-pint ta get him his armor and den some breakfast. I recken we be meetin Belimir at da gate. Try dis cider it be an eye opener.”

Wilam tanks Varro and begins eating. “I’m not used to this kind of work, but I agree… we must set out for the keep as soon as possible.”

“Indeed, best fill up if we’re going to have another long day my friend.”

Brann studies Wilam for a few moments and then asks, “Have you come up with any thoughts on what we might be facing?”

“I’m almost certain there will be cultists. It’s possible they’ve been enslaving the goblins or kobolds that we’ve also seen in the area. Irontooth was working for them, at least on some level.”

The panda wakes up in the morning, yawns and scratches his back. He takes his time going to the spring. Once there he drinks water and takes a quick bath. Suddenly, a scream could be heard and a second later, Belimir was shaking his head in anger, walking all blushed in a strong pace toward Winterhaven. Turned into a teddy bear….Oh the embarrassment. That`s it! I`m done with that garbage people call alcohol. Sure it lightens one’s mood but in the morning you`re a soft, cushy panda bear! From now on it`s just spring water for me! Some predator you want to be Belimir……..

After a long walk, Belimir eventualy cools off and walks into the inn, where he finds the others eating their breakfasts. I didn`t eat anything this morning. Might want to try something…..But careful and ask what it is and how it`s made.
Belimir greets the party as he heads straight to the bar, where, after a long discussion (one might say it was a debate), he ordered just some roasted meat and some bread……..And a tankard full of “spring” water…Or at least he`d like to think it was. He sits at the table next to Wilam and starts eating.

“I reckened we be seein ya at da gate, didn’t figure ya would come in fer breakfast, eat hearty me friend. we’s gots business dis day.”

Varro finishes up his meal and guzzles down his cider asking for a refill

The food goes does easy, filling you with energy. The mead and water respectively is also a nice refreshment. The air is light and the mood is jovial this morning. Everything seems to be easier and pleasant today.

“Wilam,” Salvana calls out to the wizard “I have something for you when you are ready.”

She pulls out several sacks, that are obviously full, placing them on top of the bar counter.

“These were left here for you early this morning by Lord Padraig’s servant. He said if there is anything specific you need to let him know.”

The innkeeper smiles and goes back to work, prepping some food for the day, and cleaning the dishes still remaining from last night.

Unable to resist the temptation, Belimir takes a peek at the sacks content.

“What do we have there, Belimir?”

Fresh provisions, a few candles, enough bedrolls for each member of the party, and several canteens of water fill the sacks.

“Just some random junk. I have no idea why they`re giving us this.”

This strikes Wilam as odd. He finishes his bite and then begins inspecting the bags. “Junk? I think these supplies will do very nicely… Especially if we’re out for more than a day.” Wilam eyes the elf and realizes why he would consider such provisions as worthless. “Not all of us are able to rest comfortably in makeshift beds… and eating small, raw animals is not my idea of a good meal.”

Belimir shrugs, understanding that the old man is used to soft cushions, made beds and comfort. “Nature provides. It always has. You just forgot about it.”

Jiles wakes to his usual routine. He spends some time cleaning his crossbows, making sure they fire, and checking for any signs of wear. He yawns tiredly – mornings are not his time of the day. All good things happen in the night. He had been up late the night before, drinking cider and relaxing in the inn.

Did Lugg have anything to do with this? Or was he just a pawn?

Jiles arrives downstairs in time to catch some food. He nods to Wilam and the others, sitting down with them. While chewing on some food, “Morning gents. Thanks once again for the most excellent timing. Any idea what’s going on? Why was Ninaran, a seemingly normal elf from this village, raising the undead for Orcus?”

“She was an acolyte of the Demon Prince… but I don’t suspect she was going around offering that detail in casual conversation. As for what is going on, I believe I know. But we should not discuss it here… we don’t know who we can trust here, in Winterhaven.”

Jiles nods slowly and knowingly, looking around the room for any possible eavesdroppers. “Fair enough. I shall wait until we have left the confines of Winterhaven.”

Eating a bit more, Jiles decides to elaborate a bit more on his story. "When I came here from Falcrest, I was given a letter by a brute of a man, named Lugg. The letter, " he points to Varro, “that letter that you have, Varro, is what I’m sure I was given. I was given the task of delivering the letter, for a price. That seems to implicate Lugg, but I can’t imagine, given his intelligence, that he is anything more than a pawn.” He chews on a bit of unknown meat, looking at it strangely for a minute, then shrugging with a smile before devouring the rest. “Unless you have a course of action set, maybe we should check out where Ninaran lived. I am assuming that you would not be adverse to my helping you deal with this matter.” Given how much money they got for clearing out some kobolds, we should see a fair bit for dealing with this undead, Orcus lover issue.

“We need all the help we can get. If you’re handy with a blade, I’m sure we can find some cultists to draw some blood. If Lugg is back in Falcrest, then I doubt we have anything to worry about here… but we could investigate when we return. Varro has some business there when we’re finished with the keep.”

“But before venturing to the keep, do you think there is anything we might learn from Ninaran’s dwelling? It should be easy enough to stop at before we head to the keep.” Jiles take a large swig of cider, smiling happily as it washes down some food.

“Splendid idea, if I don’t say so myself. It hadn’t even occurred to me that she would have a place here in Winterhaven. Is that something you could do on your own? Or would you need some assistance? I’m afraid I’m not very well versed in…” Wilam lowers his voice, “breaking and entering.”

Jiles winks. “I can definitely get us in, but no need in being too secretive. She is dead, after all, and one of the enemies of the town now. If you like, I can do it myself, but for anything magical I’ll be completely at a loss.” Jiles shrugs, leaning back in his chair. He pulls out a shuriken, and begins flipping it through his knuckles in his left hand. With his other hand he runs his fingers through his hair. “Up to you really, I’m quite flexible.”

Listening to the conversation and not having much to add, Varro continues to sip on his cider and pack his morning pipe. Once the pipe is sufficiently packed with his favorite sweet smelling tobacco, Varro wanders to the fire and lights his pipe from a piece of tinder. After lighting his pipe he returns to the table and waits for the others to finish their meals and develop a plan as he sips his cider and smokes his pipe.

Ehud wakes with a splitting headache and a warm snoring body next to him. Frick! How? I don’t remember… what the frick. He get’s up slowly seeing a white haired woman sleeping next to him. Frick! It’s a fricking half-drow! He get’s out of his bed as quietly as he can and grabs his stuff. He tries to sneak out the door and then gets dressed in the hall.

Finally dressed, Ehud heads down the stairs, his head pounding. He grunts at the others as he sits down with them at the table and forces himself to drink a lot of water and eat some toast.

Jiles winks to Ehud, a sly grin forming on his face. He fills a cup with some cider at the table, and slides it in his direction. “How’s your head? I noticed you had quite the good time last night.”

“My head feels like a fricken squirrel got inside my ear and started fricken humping my fricken brain while digging for fricken nuts at the same fricken time,” Ehud grumbles around some unbuttered toast. He eyes the cider before picking it up and then swirls it around a little before sipping at it while listening to the others.

Salvana pipes up, having heard the adventurers talk about Ninaran’s House.

“I really hate to burst your bubble, but Ninaran was a ranger and a hunter, I am not sure where she dwelled, but I do know it was not within Winterhaven’s walls.”

Jiles sighs, and sheathes his shuriken. Scratch that idea then.

Noticing that everyone is finishing up their breakfast and about ready to head out, Varro puts out his pipe and finishes the last of his cider.
“Well dat be about enough Chinwaggin, don’t ya recken, Lets be hittin da road. To da keep straight away or ya recken da necro’s house be needin a quick once over? "

“A’ight Lets get ta movin.”

Valthrun the Prescent approaches the group as they begin to gather their belongings to head out to the Keep.

“Heroes of Winterhaven, May I have a word with you before you depart? It is about the keep you are about to venture into.”

Varro seeing this might take a few moments more grabs a few canteens from the sacks and begins filling them with cider for the trip. after filling the fourth canteen with any help that is offered from the inn staff. He attaches them all to his pack and listens to the conversation.

Ehud sighs.

It turned out that the sacks didn`t contain anything interesting, and Belimir finished his breakfast and was begining to feel a bit caged in the inn. He started walking toward the door when Valthrun approached them. Interested in what he might have to say, Belimir stopped. “Speak up, but be quick about it. What about the keep?”

Wilam turns from the bags of supplies and raises his eyebrows questionably at Valthrun, How did he know we were departing? Padraig must have trouble keeping secrets… Gods help us if the whole town already knows we’re leaving.

“I would be doing you wrong if I were to allow you to depart without telling you the legends of the Keep. And not to worry, Lord Padraig did not spread word of your quest to others, I am the Sage and Lorekeeper in Winterhaven, and have been here longer than many of it’s current inhabitants. You could consider me Lord Padraig’s advisor. Your secret mission is safe with me.”

He clears his throat.

“I disgress though, let me begin the legend…”

“The people of Winterhaven avoid Shadowfell Keep. Some
leave it alone because all ancient ruins have a disturbing
feeling about them, a feeling composed of lingering
memories and unknown mysteries. Some say the place
is haunted. Others fear the rumors of goblinoids using
the place as a lair. Whatever the reason behind its solitude,
one fact is clear. Within two short decades after the
collapse of the Nareth Empire, Shadowfell Keep was abandoned
and left to fall apart and decay. It was on a grisly
night about eighty years ago that the commander of the
keep garrison, Sir Keegan, put into motion the events that
led to the keep’s downfall.
Perhaps the Shadow Rift’s malign influence is too
strong to resist. Maybe Sir Keegan was an insane monster
driven by demons we may never understand. Whatever
the case, at the stroke of midnight on that fateful day, Sir
Keegan began to systematically slaughter every resident of
the keep. His own wife and children were first to fall to his
blade, then his trusted advisors, and finally many of the
soldiers under his command. Sir Keegan was too skilled
for any one soldier to defeat, yet eventually the garrison
managed to respond with an organized defense. Although
many brave soldiers died, they managed to drive the mad
knight into the passages beneath the keep and finally dispatch
him.
The keep became notorious for a time. As one of the
last bastions of the fallen empire, there was no one to
order it back into service. So, it was abandoned, feared for
a time, and eventually, more or less forgotten. An earthquake
a few years later collapsed the upper towers and
walls, and turned the place into a ruin of tumbled stone.
Rumors persist of great treasures buried beneath the
keep, yet few have dared explore the passages over the
year. Sir Keegan’s ghost is said to roam the corridors
beneath the ruins, wailing in grief over the tragedy of his
life. The people of Winterhaven avoid the place, and the
mere mention of Shadowfell Keep is considered bad luck
by many of the farmers and villagers.”

After the longwinded story, Valthrun nods at the group, waits for any questions.

After answering all the questions, Valthrun leaves the Inn and goes about his daily routines.

Ehud mutters under his breath, “Pleasent fellow that Keegan.”

Belimir was mesmerized by Valthrun`s story. He was never this quiet, or this focused. The fact is, He likes a good story, and the one Valthrun told was the kind he liked best. We are going to that place…..of legend! WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?
“Thank you, sir. Thank you soooooo much. Let`s not waste any more time guys! We will find the answers to what really happened in that keep. Let`s go. That ghost isn`t getting any younger you know. 80 years is a loooooong time. He might have forgot some details about his demise!”
Belimir quickly leaves the inn, and waits impatiently at the town gate for the others. This is going to be so great. Wait till I find that ghost and solve this mystery! And then when I tell Vid about all this. He`s gonna be so proud of me!

Wilam thanks Valthrun for his words and the warning about the possibility of a ghost. “I’m ready to depart as soon as Francis returns from his errand.”

Francis taps Wilam on the shoulder. “I’m right here, friend. Apple?”

“Ah! Wonderful. Lets get going, then.” Wilam waves off the apple, patting his belly, “No thank you… I’m quite full already.”

Francis takes a bite of the apple. “Hmm, your loss.”

Arden moves slowly down the stairs and towards the group as they begin to stand and gather their belongings. Looking a little gray, he addresses the group. “Good morning everyone…. ouch…. no more celebrations for a bit eh? That’s some strong mead. Looks like we’re on our way, did I miss anything exciting?” Arden looks around and grabs any food he can find, ready to eat it as they move towards the gate.

“Good morning, Arden. You just missed Francis’ apple… but there are a few biscuits left.” Wilam holds up one of the supply bags from Padraig, “We have plenty of supplies, I’m sure we can find something while we’re on the road.”

“Ah perfect… they gave us bedrolls too. I seem to have forgotten mine somewhere… saves me a trip to the merchant.” Arden grabs a couple biscuits to tide himself over until lunch. Stomache’s not feeling too well anyway.

Jiles grabs his cloak he had hanging on his chair, throwing it around his shoulders in a theatrical fashion. He reaches down and grabs his crossbows, checking that they both cock and fire well, he replaces them beneath his cloak. “Let’s get going then. Day light is wasting.”

“a’ight den we ready, ya gots ya history and I be having me a bit of cider fer da road… Lets get ta goin den.” Varro with all his gear heads for the door and the city gate.

“Fricken cultists,” Ehud mutters. He pauses to think about what he has gotten himself into. Ehud then runs to catch up with Varro as fast as he can.

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