A lot has happened in the Nentir Vale during the last 2-years following the eradication of the shadow plagued demons that infested Kobold Hall.
Samson took an apprenticeship with Nimozaran the Green where he met and married Nimozaran’s daughter Shana. The couple had a baby girl, Kara, last spring and have since moved into the Septarch’s Tower while Samson rents his house to a female Dwarf named Beyla Barrelhelm. Samson also commissioned Kayleth to craft him a fine long sword which he presented to Shana as a wedding gift. She is rarely seen without the sword by her side.
Patrin has continued to train with Draxon and his vineyard is producing some of the best wine in the region. Nentir Valley Wine has become so well known that the Fallcrest Vineyard has come under constant attack by bandits. Last year when bandits attacked, the Vinyard’s chief winemaker, Zeth Sarzan was killed. Patrin has been searching for a new winemaker ever since and has high hopes that Feck Webb is able to pick up where Zeth left off.
Kayleth has been keeping busy helping with the rebuilding of the King’s Gate. It’s rumored that she’s been working solo missions for the Barron when she disappears for weeks at a time but she denies these rumors and says she simply needs time alone.
Lizzi finally married Nil Stephens about a year ago and Nil Jr came along about 9-months ago. She continues to work for the Barron from time to time but most of her time is spent with her family on their farm just south of King’s Gate. She kept her house in Fallcrest and is renting it to a nice Human female named Mirabel Kroft. Lizzi continues in the faith and works closely with Dirina Mornbrow at the Temple of Erathis.
Sim was the most outspoken against to formation of the guild and stormed out of the meeting and has not been seen since. It is rumored however that Sim was the one responsible for the attacks on both Grog and Grumbar last winter. The attacks actually left Grog blind in one eye. (left)
The following is a recount of the events that have taken place over the course of the last week or so as our group of adventurers make their way back to the Cresthill Estate from the Harkenwold along the King’s Road. They are trying to make sense of what has just happened and emotions are running high. A sense of dread has fallen upon the party as they approach the narrow path leading north to the hidden passageway into the Barron’s Estate…
(1) It does seem a bit out of the ordinary to be meeting Grog outside of Fallcrest for a mission briefing but he said it was very important to the Barron.
It’s just past midnight and as you approach the Knight’s gate you notice something else out of the ordinary. Sergeant Nereth, commander of the gate, comes out, dismisses the two guards, opens the portcullis, and returns to the gatehouse. Grog steps into view and silently motions you forward with hand-gestures and starts walking northwest. You quickly fall in behind Grog and you hear the portcullis close behind you.
Grog has horses waiting down by the river. He mounts his horse and says “Quickly, the Barron wants to speak with you.” He then kicks his horse and heads north-east, towards the Barron’s estate.
A few hours later, still under the cover of darkness, you arrive at the walled estate of Barron Cresthill. You’re not entering the estate by its customary front gate but rather a service entrance on the north-east corner of the compound, through the rose garden and through a door of one of the towers that make up the manor house grounds.
Quickly descending the tower’s steps, you enter a large storehouse filled with crates, barrels and sacks of grain. Grog approaches a stack of crates, bangs 3 times on top of one of the crates, then 1 time on the side of another crate. A few moments later, the entire stack of crates slide back revealing yet another set of stairs leading down. He turns to you, motions towards the stairs and says “Quickly!”
Descending the stairs, your surroundings quickly turn from dusty old warehouse to opulent mansion. The room is a large rectangle in shape, 60 X 80. 2 massive fireplaces dominate the center of each wall to your left and right. A long deeply ornate red rug stretches out before you and ends in front of a massive desk at the far end of the room. There must be 30 people in here all performing various servant type duties or standing guard at various locations around the room. You slowly start your procession along the carpeted route.
The desk has a lot activity going on around it. You see Barron Cresthill setting behind the desk busy writing and servants quickly bringing items to the desk and others taking items away. Standing behind the Barron, in a defensive posture, is a Half-Orc who is actually much bigger than Grog. He eyes you suspiciously as you progress down the carpeted aisle.
A Tiefling enters the room through a door on the left wall and says “You wanted to see me Lord?” You recognize the Tiefling as your one time adventuring partner, Kamien. “Prepare the incantations Kamien” the Barron says without looking up from his writing. There was an awkwardly long pause as Kamien slowly surveys the room. (like he’s looking for something or someone) When he spots you , he finally says, “right away my Lord”. He hurries over to a desk in the corner and starts preparing.
The procession ends in front of the desk and Grog says “Lord”, then takes a position behind the Barron as well. Dwarfed by the Half-Orc standing close to him.
Kamien walks up to the desk and says, “I am ready Lord”. The Barron finally finishes his writing and hands the parchment to Kamien. “2 more Kamien” the Barron says.
The Barron walks from behind his desk and meets you, explaining that he has a personal favor to ask of all of you. He says his friend, Barron Stockmer of the Harkenwold, has missed several of their long-standing card games and every attempt to contact the Barron has ended in failure. He is gravely concerned and asks that you travel the Harkenkeep and take these messages to him him. He goes on to say that both Kamiem and Grog both suspect foul play and that is the reason for his meeting you in secret. He hands you the letters sealed with his signet ring.
Once the group accepts the offer, the Barron picks up a strange stone from the table, and places it in a small indention in the wall behind his desk. A small section of wall slides away revealing a narrow passageway. He hands you the stone and says “You’ll need this in the other end.” The passageway goes from carefully laid stone to chiseled rock to natural caves and tunnels. The party emerges from the passageway more than a mile from the estate, still undercover of night. 4 horses and 2 weeks provisions are awaiting.
By dawn of the next day, shortly after entering the Harken Forest along the King’s Road, you’ve already been accosted by 2 two groups of bandits. Interestingly, all bearing the same emblems upon their armor or cloaks. That of a red-and gold-trimmed gray ring. Coincidence? You think not.
You arrived in Harkenwold in the middle of the day. It’s a broad, lightly settled valley between two arms of the Harken Forest. You haven’t traveled more than a mile or two into the valley before more trouble appeared. Several more of those bandits attempting to burn down a small farmstead. Once again you take down the bandits and once again, they were baring that same insignia. You are thinking to yourselves at this point that this is defiantly an organized effort, not a mindless bunch of thugs.
After the fighting was over, a middle-aged half-elf woman emerged from the house with 2 young boys. She thanked you for stopping those Iron Circle Brigands and then began to spew forth what’s been happening in Harkenwold over the last month or so.
“The Iron Circle is full of sellswords and cutthroats who seized Harkenwold over a month ago. They’ve got Baron Stockmer imprisoned in his own keep, and they’ve been plundering the land ever since. They say they’re collecting taxes, but it’s robbery, pure and simple. They are lead by a king want to be human named Nazin Redthorn. Despicable character.”
She went on to say that she had heard rumors that Harkenwolders are starting to organize a rebellion against these Iron Circle brigands and she thinks you should go talk with Dar Gremath over at the village of Albridge. You head to Albridge to find Dar.
You do find Dar in Albridge. A broad-shouldered, gray-haired man of 55 years. He explained that he was an adventuring fighter in his youth, and he was not about to let a few brigands ruin his new home. He’s kind of the self-appointed leader of the rebellion and has organized a network of runners and scouts to keep in touch with the elders of the other Villages.
Dar asks you to perform a series of gorilla attacks against the Iron Circle’s supply wagons to weaken the Circle’s influence in the area. Using Albridge as the base of your operations, you stage many successful ambushes over the next week. This tactic works so well in fact that the Iron Circle mounts a counter attack against the village of Albridge.
Dar, with your help, manages to muster together the remaining resistance forces and sets up defensive positions around the village. Dar asks each one of you to take charge of a position to help defend the village. As the Iron Circle forces are repelled and driven back one by one, each of you are summoned to the Radden farmhouse where Dar and his men had setup position on the eastern edge of the village. Dar and his men were being overrun and taking heavy loses. You arrive just in time, take charge and you spearheaded the final assault on Iron Circle forces. Victory has been won!
(2) The celebration is short.
Only minutes after you finish with your last foes, you hear a roar of challenge. Another group of Iron Circle soldiers is advancing on you. They are supported by two scaly, humanoid creatures with horns and tails, with dripping globs of burning pitch in their taloned hands. With the band rides a massively muscled human warrior in scale armor. A standard flies from a holder at his stirrup-a black pennant with a red-and gold-trimmed gray ring in the center. “You!” the enemy lord cries. “You are the ones who have caused me so much trouble! Know now that you face Lord Nazin Redthorn, champion of the Iron Circle. With your deaths my victory is assured!” He starts barking orders for his men to start advancing as he dismounts his horse.
The ensuing battle is a tough one. The Tar Devils keep several party members tied down but with a few well placed bow shots and magic missiles, our group manages to take out the Tar Devils and the Iron Circle brigands. By concentrating fire on the so-called Lord, our group quickly bloodies him. He immediately disengages and retreats to his war-house standing close by.
Immediately following the retreat of Nazin Redthorn, Dar immediately calls you into his makeshift headquarters and immediately starts planning the attack on Iron Keep (Harken Keep). With Nazin’s defeat here at albridge, He feels now is the time to strike at the heart of the Iron Circle.
Iron Keep is a well fortified keep that sets on a bluff overlooking the King’s road and the village of Harken. Several options are discussed but its finally decided that the best way into Iron Keep is to go in disguised as an Iron Circle patrol returning to the castle.
(3) The Iron Keep (the renamed Harken Keep), stands on top of a short, steep-sided plateau overlooking Harken Village and the King’s Road. The trees and ground cover on the hillside are cut back at least 100 feet from the walls, leaving a bare grassy slope. The hill rises sharply on the eastern side. The other approaches are more gradual, but none flatten out until about 100 feet above the village. A causeway of hard-packed dirt climbs around the hilltop to the castle’s front gate, exposed to archery fire from the towers and walls for most of its length. You think NOT storming the keep was a good call. You’ve equipped yourselves with tunics and cloaks taken from Iron Circle soldiers you defeated at Albridge and are posing as a patrol returning to the castle.
You’ve successfully convinced several other patrols in the area of your Iron Circle standing. So far so good. According to the map your received of the keep back in Albridge from Old Kellar, a stone mason who worked on the Keep’s renovation more than a decade ago, you know that even if you make it through the main gates, you have a lot of ground to cover, including 2 more gated areas, before reaching the Great Tower where it’s suspected that Nazin has setup up quarters. You approach the closed main gates.
Before the gate opens, a harsh voice rings out from the gatehouse. “I don’t remember any of you. Who is your sergeant? Where did you say you were coming from?” Bantering with teifling guard appeared to go very well until he spots Patrin. The ol Tiefling turned away and yells “Open the gate. Show these jackals how we deal with trespassers!” and with that the gate opens and Iron Circle guards pour out of the keep.
The ensuing battles are long and hard. You eventually locate the Great Tower, break through it’s defenses and overpower the guards inside. You enter what looked like the tower’s kitchen only to find more Iron Circle enforcers and another mage. The Iron circle were waiting on you and as soon as you enter the room the mage let loose a Thunder Burst, slamming you all against the wall and killing several servants near by. Quickly recovering, you dispatch the Iron Circle without another lose of life. You locate Barron Stockmer locked in a supply closet. He is a brave old fellow of 65 years, weak and sick after his imprisonment. He’s pugnacious and optimistic, but clearly in no shape to take up arms despite his brave words.
The Barron thanks you for your help in freeing him and promises to reward you richly but urges you to finish off Nazin Redthorn rather than worry about his safety. He tells you about a secret passage from the dining room, the area directly below you, that leads up to the lord’s quarters where Nazin is taking refuge.
(4) You make your way back down stairs and into the dining room. You find the small loose wall stone the Barron told you would be there and push it. A small section of wall slides back and reveals a very narrow, dark passageway and stairs leading up. You ascend the stairs until finally coming to a dead-end. You pull the chain hanging from the ceiling and once again, a section of wall slides back. This time revealing a room.
This spacious suite clearly belongs to the master of the keep. Comfortable carpets cover the wooden floor, and various tapestries and paintings hang on the walls. Across the room stands a large canopy bed. A magnificent hearth lies in a corner. A hobgoblin with a Morningstar stands guard by the door, and standing over a table is a priest in Iron Circle scarlet. Sitting near him is a tall, massively muscled man with short red hair and a great three-headed flail at his side-Nazin Redthorn!
The warlord of the Iron Circle looks over at you with contempt. “You think you’ve defeated us?” he snarls. “You are rabbits in the wolf’s den. We’ll hang your corpses from the battlements!”
This battle was tough. Nazin put up one heck of a fight but ultimately you defeated him. Nazin and his men are either dead or retreating from Harken Castle. You make you way back down stairs where servants have cleaned & dressed the Barron and have prepared him a meal. As you enter the room, he anxiously gets up and greets you at the door.
“Well, he is dead?” he asks
“He is dead my lord!” you tell him.
“I said I would reward you richly and I am a man of my word. From this day forward (he surveys the room to make sure everyone is listening) , let it be known that the 4 individuals who liberated Harken Castle and freed me from the Iron Circle and who are standing before me now, shall be known as the Defenders of Harkenwold.” Applause rings out from the servants in the room.
“Follow me” says the Barron.
He leads you back up the stairs and into his bed chamber where the bloody body of Nazin Redthorn still lies. He approaches the charred and damaged door near the fireplace, touches a few runic symbols and opens the door. He motions for you to enter and says “The Harken treasury. It is yours for returning the Harkenwold to its people!”
The Barron then goes to the bed and pulls a hidden lever from below and small drawer juts from the footboard. He says, “this is also for you.” He pulls out a few small bags and hands them to you.
You spend the next few hours helping round up the remaining Iron Circle forces in and around the keep. You make your way down the road to Haken which is lined with Harkenwolders cheering and throwing flowers in your pathway. You are after all, the Defenders of Harkenwold.
Most of Harken has been ransacked or destroyed by the Iron Circle. The villagers have managed to put together a few supplies at the Trading Station and are more than willing to give you what you need in the way of supplies or mending/repair services. The priests have even said they are offering healing services to anyone who needs it.
(5) With assurances, and letter in hand, from Barron Stockmer that he will visit Barron Cresthill at his estate once he is strong enough to travel, you begin the journey back to the Estate. A caravan of servants and armed guards left for Fallcrest hours ago carrying your hard earned reward.
You make it back to Albridge just after dark. Tired and hungry.It was good to see that the Mallard Inn survived the attack and upon entering the Inn, you once again find villagers celebrating their new found freedom and when Onneth, the Inn’s owner, sees you enter, the entire Inn erupts into even more celebration. Hugs, pats on the back and an all around grateful attitude fills the Inn. You’re quickly ushered to the bar, food and drink are served and the party begins…………it looks to be a long night of celebration.
The sudden thumping of hooves interrupts your reverie. Through a window you see a black horse, its rider a scarred Tiefling warrior wearing chainmail and gauntlets. He dismounts and enters the tavern, a greatsword over his back and a dripping sack in one hand. He recognizes you immediately and frowns. “I carry a message from Lord Vhennyk. Lord Vhennyk wants you to know that the Iron Circle is not finished with Harkenwold nor the Nentir Vale.”
With that, the tiefling dumps the contents of the bloody sack onto the floor. A severed head tumbles across the floor and stops only a few feet away for you. You recognize the dead-eyed face staring up at you as that of Barron Cresthill.
The sound of approaching horses bring you back to the matter at hand. It’s Dungarth.
Praise the gods! You’re alive!