Cedarsmoke

The Freeing of Riverthrough

The Final Assault on Carvyre Keep

The heroes find little sleep after their first assault on Carvyre Keep. Through their efforts the stormy night previous, they managed to rescue the wolfsbane from the claws of Broxley the Beast and free the alchemists and healers the vile werewolf had kidnapped. The potionmakers work their craft tirelessly to distill a cure for the rampant lycanthropy infecting Riverthrough – with only one night before the full moon, time is a desperate and scarce resource.

By morning, Jamven Windsailor, the deposed leader of the wererat thieves’ guild and unlikely ally to the heroes has raised a mob. Infuriated by the revelation that the savage man who rose to the rank of Captain of the Guard and plunged the town into martial law is the very werewolf he professed to be protecting them from, the townsfolk storm the keep where he has taken his last stand.

Broxley did not spend the night unprepared. The keep has been reinforced by the remainder of his loyal guard – shifter soldiers afflicted with lycanthropy muddied in their bloodlines and an elite hobgoblin Blackfeather, a gift from his dark master in the Monster’s Alliance. In the midst of the assault, the heroes find themselves separated from the mob when the hobgoblin takes position in one of the keep’s towers, pincushioning anyone who dares break cover with its lethally accurate arrows.

Through masterful use of cover, speed, and an enormously unlucky Avaris drawing the short straw for being the distraction, the heroes split up and advance on the keep despite the archer’s superior position. Entering through the rear door by the kitchen, the heroes storm the ground floor of the keep and fight their way past Broxley’s soldiers and crossbowmen in the banquet hall and deliver the Blackfeather to its ultimate demise in the massive fireplace of the gigantic room.

The party catches their breath while the fight rages on in the courtyard beneath the keep. After a quick discussion, they come to the decision to explore the dungeon below in the hopes of rescuing the former Captain of the Guard, William Dakkenson, before advancing to the upper levels of the keep to confront Broxley the Beast. What they find is not what they were expecting.

The dungeon is the scene of a massacre. Several guards have been dispatched from clever and brutal use of makeshift silver weapons – a candlestick, silverware, and even a sharpened silver badge-turned-shuriken have been utilized to deadly effect. Of the three cell doors, one is ajar and a hoard of silver confiscated under Broxley’s martial law lies in a pile outside one of the closed cells.

The party springs one of the cells and rescues their dwarf patron, Master Anvilstrike, from the prison. He quickly hoards the silver away from the other closed cell and the heroes learn that Broxley’s lycanthropy-afflicted men have been feeding it to captured rust monsters to dispose of it. Painfully aware that because of Broxley’s plot to starve the town of silver, they have but a single silvered weapon with which to dispatch the werewolf, the party wisely decides to leave the rust monsters in their cell.

Rushing to the second story of the keep, the party finds Broxley mid-conversation with the eladrin Alluvyre Hollysharp in the Duke’s sitting room. The self-described baroness of the potion-trade is expressing her dissatisfaction with her treatment at Broxley’s hands and the harsh potion-confiscation he has enacted under martial law, but the werewolf decides he has little time for the woman’s complaints when he spots the heroes. Showing his true form, he snatches the horrified woman and crashes out the window and leaps onto the roof, leaving his guards to fend off the party.

Not so easily dissuaded, the heroes dispatch the petty remainder of Broxley’s guards and free the Duke from his nearby quarters. Together, they make their way to the roof to confront the beast. The top floor of the keep is an open-aired room with two massive braziers and an enormous scrying pool that ripples with an image of the full moon. Twin archways open out onto a balcony with crenelated walls that overlooks the battle in the courtyard below.

Dangling the shrieking eladrin over the edge, Broxley taunts the heroes to come closer. As soon as they make a move toward him, he tosses her over the edge and readies his twin katars to fight them. Avaris is too quick for the werewolf though; he takes the initiative and blasts Broxley with a shimmering copy of his rapier, and in a flash of fey magic the werewolf is dragged through the feywild to teleport amidst the party.

Rather than be deterred by the turn of events, Broxley begins cackling maniacally. Between bouts of laughter, he taunts, “Tremble, heroes, before the right hand of Balthazar…!”

A wind kicks up and the scrying pool ripples as an enormous shape rises out of its sudden depths. An enormous fleshy orb with eyestalks marred by scars and scorches on one side announces in a voice that is more screams than speech, “Ygglgomm is punctual but wet!”

The two pair their attacks with cruel tactical efficiency. Broxley pounces atop Adris, biting and slashing with his claw-like katars until the elf’s chain armor lies in ribbons atop and amidst his shredded torso. “Like you say, Ygglgomm… kill the healer first,” he chuckles darkly. The beholder grins widely and its eyestalks nod with approval.

Sabellia rushes to Tanule’s side, whispering a dark, demonic ritual in his ear. He stiffens and bristles at the magic, but she coos with fel insistence as she holds him still, “Shhh… don’t fight it. Trust me…”

The warlock’s magic surrounds him and where the dragonborn stood seconds ago, a wicked perversion of him stands instead. Abyssal runes shine like brands from his scales beneath the shadow and smoke dripping from his body. Hellfire clings to his spear and demonic wings stretch out behind him.

Tanule rushes forward to take a defensive position atop Adris’ body, snarling, stabbing and forcing the werewolf back from the dying cleric. His fiery silvered weapon wrests an anguished howl from Broxley.

“For three years, we planned and plotted to take this town-” the wounded werewolf begins, only to be interrupted by Ygglgomm’s booming voice.

SILENCE, puny fur-man! You are doing it wrong!” the beholder bellows, interrupting Broxley’s taunt with an obviously rehearsed speech of its own, “For THREE YEARS Ygglgomm plotted to take this town for Balthazar! Pathetic squishlings, prepare to have revealed designs which your puny minds CANNOT COMPREHEND! Witness how Ygglgomm has plotted to save puny shapeshifter number one from his pathetic weakness! Puny shapeshifter number two, FETCH THE RUST MONSTERS TO DEVOUR THEIR SILVER!”

Cursing, Adrie lunges forward from the stairwell, barring the door behind her at the sound of monstrous feet scurrying up the stairs and thumping at the door. Her brother coughs, sputtering blood, but she senses that he is not yet upon death’s door and lets an arrow fly from the bow she wrested from the blackfeather below. The beholder snarls as the arrow pierces its scales dangerously close to its massive central eye, and more than half of its eyestalks glare her way.

“We infiltrated the thieves… hunted the druids… stopped the silver…” Broxley taunts, “Even you finally let me into that untouchable place – Captain of the Guard!”

Avaris tumbles to Broxley’s flank, then with a powerful kick sends the werewolf flying into the beholder, knocking both foes prone. Seizing the moment, he fans shurikens like playing cards in his hand, then lets a blinding barrage of knives fly at as many eyes as he can see. Howling and screaming, Ygglgomm wildly fires eye rays from its blinded eyestalks to no avail.

The demonic Tanule seizes his longspear with a powerful grip, readying to drive it deep into the beholder’s massive eye, when suddenly a blade drives deep into his side.

“We even replaced the duke…” mocks the treacherous man twisting the sword. His image ripples and contorts until he looks uncannily like the dragon-demon-man he is fighting, and continues in a perfect copy of Tanule’s deep, commanding voice, “No one – not Dakkenson, not even his daughter – noticed!”

The doppelganger-duke twists the blade again, and with a stunned look on his face, Tanule drops to the ground atop the body he was protecting.

Broxley leaps to his feet, snatching angrily at the shurikens gouged near his eyes. He throws them to the ground and slashes wildly around him with powerful, feral fury, but his katars find nothing but air. Ygglgomm rises, blasting the werewolf atop it away, throwing him unceremoniously with a telekinetic eye ray.

With a gurgle of blood choking its way feebly from his throat, Tanule slips closer to death, but Adrie senses his departure from the world of the living and intervenes with her healing magic. Both he and her brother blink their eyes as they return to consciousness.

TWO healers!? You wield a bow and wear leather – CLERICS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!” Ygglgomm screams as the doppelganger fixes its eyes upon Adrie, twisting its form until it copies her, then advances menacingly, but Avaris and Tanule have none of it, and interpose their spear and rapier, holding the doppelganger at bay.

Ygglgomm scorches Tanule with a searing, fiery ray and drops him to his knees once more, then lifts Avaris with its telekinesis and throws him into a brazier against the far wall. Caught in the concentrated glare of the beholder’s central eye, the rogue finds his legs fail to obey his urgings to move, and he smolders in the fiery brazier.

Sabellia blasts Broxley with fel magic, cursing and uttering dark words that even demons reserve for times of desperation. Her spells singe his fur with dark lightning, and he turns on her, forcing her into a corner with three enormous gashes across her chest with a mighty hit from his katar.

Adris props himself bloodily to his feet and drives his spear into the werewolf’s back. With a crack of divine lightning, Avaris is whisked out of the brazier and aside the feral creature and plunges his rapier into its flank. The beast’s knees crumple and it falls to the ground. One foe defeated, Adris rests healing hands upon the wounded dragonborn beneath him and urges him not to give up the fight yet.

“Ygglgomm curses puny fur-man and damns the weak pup never to rise again!” the beholder suddenly shouts.

With watchful eyes, Ygglgomm’s shriveled eyestalks point weakly toward Broxley before recoiling backward from the force of a twisted, dark blast of energy. For a moment, it looks as though Broxley’s horrified shadow is desperately clawing and clinging to his body, but as it finally tears away, his body crumbles into dust. The effect seems to cause Ygglgomm enormous pain.

The beholder blasts Adrie with another eyestalk and her eyelids flutter. She manages to murmur a healing spell for her brother before collapsing unconscious to the ground. It grins wickedly at the cleric in his shredded and bloodied armor, fixing its central eye upon him, holding him apart from being able to save his sister.

Growling with dragonborn fury, Tanule bounds over the elf’s sleeping body and drives his fiery spear deep into Ygglgomm’s eye. The beholder roars with anger and each and every one of its eyestalks glare down upon the impudent dragonborn.

“Good,” Tanule spits blood into the mighty creature’s eye, “I have your attention then.”


“Good,” Tanule spits blood into the mighty creature’s eye, “I have your attention then.”

Worried for his sister, but with his legs bound by the beholder’s immobilizing gaze, Adris murmurs a spell of protection. A faint shield materializes in the air between the dragonborn and Ygglgomm. At the very least, he could give him sanctuary from the monster’s vicious attacks… so long as Tanule didn’t attack.

On the other side of the room, the doppelganger stalks toward the rogue whose form he has taken, sword raised in lethal poise while the warlock tries to blast him back with her feeble magic. The beholder’s enormous maw widens into a grin as it snarls down at the dragonborn before it.

“You puny squishlings have no chance! Ygglgomm will use undead for Balthazar’s army instead if your pathetic wolfsbane cures this tiny town. Balthazar WILL have an army!” it taunts and slowly raises an eyestalk toward the warlock and blasts her almost casually with a twisted, exhausting beam, daring Tanule to intervene and break his shield.

Enraged, Tanule thrusts his spear into the beholder once more, only to suffer the beholder’s triumphant laugh as it blasts the dragonborn away with a shove of telekinesis. “Puny squishling bores Ygglgomm and should flee!” it mocks as it flings Tanule against the wall, “Perhaps if the squishling jumps, it will not be worth Ygglgomm’s time to pursue.”

With a war cry, Adris charges across the room, finally summoning the will to break Ygglgomm’s gaze and move his legs, and thrusts his spear into the beholder’s side. Violet blood spews across the room from the wound, and the beholder turns its immobilizing gaze upon the elf once more. With an angry, wounded roar, Ygglgomm moves to the scrying pool.

“Pathetic adventurers are UNWORTHY to bask in Ygglgomm’s presence any longer!” it cries, then slams and squeezes into the scrying pool with an enormous splash and vanishes into its depths.

Outnumbered five to one and bleeding profusely, the doppelganger drops its sword and its form returns to that of the duke. The heroes advance on him, and more than one blade is soon at his neck when the thumping finally ceases as the door bursts open.

With a rusted sword in one hand and two severed rust monster heads in the other, William Dakkenson stalks into the room. “Captain Dakkenson! These men are trying to-” the doppelganger begins, but Dakkenson shoots him a glare and grabs him away from the heroes. He drags him to the balcony and dangles him over the edge.

Avaris reaches down and helps the eladrin baroness up to safety while the others interrogate the impostor duke hanging at spearpoint forty feet in the air.

“Wait, stop! Don’t kill me – I know things! I can tell you things about Balthazar!” the doppelganger begs.

“Start talking,” Tanule growls.

“His army! He has no army! That’s why he needed Riverthrough. He lost his army in the Nearwood.”

“Why wererats?”

“Shapeshifters – he likes shapeshifters, I think. He liked me…!”

“Anything else?” growls Tanule again, shaking the spear slightly.

“P-please! You don’t want to drop me!” the doppelganger pleads, shifting its form to look like the Duke’s daughter and speaking in a more threatening tone, “I swear, if you drop me… I will look just like her before I hit the ground, wounds and all… you’ll have to explain to this whole town why you threw an innocent girl off the roof.”

Sabellia leans forward over the balcony wall and smiles sweetly at the doppelganger, almost purring her response, “Oh, we’ve killed shapeshifters before. We know you turn back to your regular form when you die.”

The doppelganger pales and looks from face to face on the roof. With a resigned shrug, he assumes the familiar form of the duke once more. Feebly, he asks, “W-what else do you want to know?”

Dakkenson looks down at the doppelganger and says, “Just one thing. How long until you replaced his daughter, too?”

He doesn’t wait for an answer and gives a nod to Tanule, who drops the ‘duke’ off the roof. The doppelganger makes a satisfying splat as he crashes into the courtyard below.

Comments

Whatever Sabellia whispered into my ear made me feel funny, but…. I liked it. The power I felt was so intoxicating I feel myself wanting it more and more every minute I’m without it. I felt like I could do anything destroy any foe that stood in my way. Its only in the face of Ygglgomm that I felt like I might fail. After all was said and done though I know that without the power of Sabellia’s words I would have ran in fear from the many eyed creature that threatened all our lives. When I stood before Ygglgomm and all his eyes staring at me my courage felt like it was diminishing but I stood my ground hoping all would work out. The power was holding me there telling me to fight to kill….. I want more.
The Freeing of Riverthrough
 

Riverthrough is in a strange state of calm for the next few days. Word slowly spreads through the town of the heroes’ deeds and the dark plot which the townsfolk were saved from. Without a Duke, and with lingering confusion over the alignment of key figures in the town such as William Dakkenson and Jamven Windsailor, a numb paralysis sets in. The same questions float on everyone’s lips.

Where now? Who should they trust, now that they are without the shelter of the Duke? What if the Monster’s Alliance returns? Who will watch over them?

The only clear beacons of trust in the sea of lies are the heroes who saved them, and so it is them who the townsfolk turn to for direction.

The Freeing of Riverthrough
 

Warlocks’ power flows from many sources, not all of them evil. True, the most iconic of these sources are pacts made with devils and demons from deep in the dark recesses of the planes, but some eldritch pacts are less outright evil than others, though often no less dangerous.

The Fey, for example, often trade their bewitching power to mortals. Sometimes, the pact might be for the legendary Fey amusement, to see to what ends a mortal will wield otherworldly charms. But just as often a pact with the Fey might result from those otherworldly charms beguiling and coercing a weak-willed mortal into a dangerous deal…

The source of Sabellia’s pact, however, was neither Infernal nor Fey. And for the briefest moment, with the warlock’s eldritch power coursing through him, Tanule glimpsed an incomprehensible hint of its origin.

Constellations flickered with incomprehensible significance against the night, and among them lingered a design of futures foretold: a great dark void cuts across the sky, erasing stars and planets alike in its shadowy wake. Flying before the edge of this sinister gash, a single star burns like a red harbinger of doom.

This faint glimpse of the future Sabellia has foretold does not tell Tanule everything. Does the red star command the darkness across the sky, or does it stand alone against it? Worse still, a sickening feeling of dread accompanies the question the dragonborn is certain he knows the answer to: whose fate does the lone red star represent?

The Freeing of Riverthrough
 

The stars trouble me of late, revealing just how much is at stake yet every path looked into is shadowed as if the fates themselves does not know the outcome. My fear is greatest for my dear friend Tanule his once brilliantly lit path in the sky is becoming clouded with the darkness I see touching much. I worry that I tipped my hand too much in allowing him to experience the power, will that power allow for the control that may be needed or will it prevent him from stopping me if the time comes. All answers the stars seen unwilling or unable to answer for me.

The Freeing of Riverthrough
 

The fight with Ygglgomm has taught me one thing; I may be in over my head. Makes me nostalgic for the days when I fought in the streets for my fortunes, away from the Khalistaran Kingdom. So long as I had a lengthy brawl in the ring and a place to sleep at night I was content. But now, fighting for my life on keep rooftops, werewolves threatening to devour me and my companions, and magics that are far beyond me invading my mind, making me lose control. Even my party has shown powers that make my acrobatics seem childish. Clerics calling out to their gods, explosions of light and holy fire, Warlocks and demonic whispers, fire and lightning from nowhere. Even the Dragonborn has shown how woefully ignorant I’ve been.

Because of them, we’ve come out on top over impossible odds, and now, I’m hearing the word Hero being chanted through the streets of Riverthrough. Maybe its deserved, but as I thank Ms. Hollysharpe in her bed for her gratitude and set out for the Nearwood, my gut tells me our experience so far is just the tip of the iceburg, and whatever heroism we’ve achieved will be irrelevant. I can only prepare for whatever else I can’t comprehend.

The Freeing of Riverthrough
DracheM

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