Adventurers of Riverkeep
- Byff Mapleson - Human Paladin of the Ancients
- Miracolo Alphia (Mira) - Wood Elf Ranger Beastmaster [Retired]
- Rayth Mcdugen - Halfling Arcane Trickster
- Stormy Tempestborn - Human Storm Sorcerer [Deceased]
- Flughebii Phaaguv (Ferdinand) - Half-elf Bard of Valor [Retired]
- Joe Mackerel - Human Cleric of Storms
- Harlock Winterfall - Half-Elf Warlock of the Archfey
- Drusilla - Half-Elf Eldritch Knight
- Regis Underfoot - Halfling Bard of Lore
The initial party was comprised of Byff, Mira, Rayth, and Stormy. Stormy was later replaced by Ferdinand, who was then replaced by Joe, all with the same player. Mira left the party when her player was unable to continue playing. Harlock, Drusilla, and Regis were introduced in successive sessions beginning with the Dryad's Request.
This campaign uses a mix of my own adventures and old modules that I have updated to the 5th edition game system and modified to fit my campaign's ongoing storyline. Modules used so far include Siege of the Spider Eaters (Dungeon Magazine #137), The Sunless Citadel (standalone), Aerie Borne (Dungeon #40), and Dragon's Delve (Dungeon #62).
The party begins as captives on a slave trading ship, when it comes under attack by another unknown vessel. A cannonball smashes in the side of their cell and damages the bars, giving them access to the cargo and an avenue of escape. They recover some equipment before using flotsam to swim to shore, rescuing two injured sailors in the process and arriving by an old, rotting dock.
After a short rest to regain their strength, they follow a nearby path through the woods, coming upon Jess Furrier, a young hunter from the nearby village of Haven Fara. Suspicious, he leads them to the village only to find it has been attacked by giant spiders during the night and was completely covered in a canopy of webs. The party is attacked by four spiders when they try to follow through an opening that had been cut in the web, but defeats them with minimal damage.
The party interviews residents of the town to discover what happened, including Dr. Jakob Gryll; his daughter Patience; and three of the town council, Captain Arden "Cap" Galen, Harc Longarm, and Seth "Keel" Friston. They find that the spiders attacked during the night, and that several whole families are now missing. Those who remain have been instructed to stay indoors on lockdown while Galen and his men work to find the missing and remove the spiders.
At the councilmembers' request, the party is tasked with journeying to the spiders' nest five miles outside of town and recovering any survivors. They enlist the aid of Dr. Gryll, who gladly accompanies them to the nest, giving them a healing potion and bringing a few vials of antivenom.
They arrive at a large sinkhole covered in webs, and climb down to explore the caves. In the complex, they come across several dead spider-like creatures, but the doctor tells them that they are not normal giant spiders. They also find a few bodies of the villagers, most of whom the doctor can identify. Both villagers and spiders died from piercing wounds. In one chamber, they find a wardrobe, complete with folded clothing, backpacks, and other equipment. Descending, they discover a large cocoon, and partially contained within is a living five-headed hydra.
Not wanting to risk fighting it, they climb back up and instead fight a wounded wasp-like creature known as a Spider Eater. Dr. Gryll informs them that these creatures are known to stun giant spiders and lay their eggs inside them. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae devour the still-living host from the inside.
Searching the rooms more thoroughly, Stormy locates a potion of cure paralysis hidden in webs on the ceiling. They cut it down, and the party descends through a web-filled tunnel into a large chamber where a still-alive giant spider is being watched over by another spider eater. The spider eater attacks, and after a tough battle is finally slain.
At the party's prompting, Dr. Gryll examines the spider and removes four spider eater eggs before Stormy gives it the potion he found earlier. Upon recovery, the spider begins to speak and explains that their nest was attacked by these spider eaters two nights ago. She asks that the party find and save her children, hidden in a cave on the other side of the waterfall, past the hydra. As payment, she offers a serrated, jeweled dagger hanging on the wall.
The party sets out to find the children, climbing down the webbing and avoiding the hydra, swimming through a pool of churning water, behind a waterfall, and climbing up a hidden tunnel to the back room. Instead of spider babies in the room, the party found about a dozen small children and a young woman by the name of Arianne, who had taken up the position of caring for them. She asked the party to help take the children back to the village, and claimed to have no knowledge of the spider queen, but they could tell she was hiding something. Eventually, the party decided to take the children back by way of the water, and when Dr. Gryll saw them, he recognized all of them as villagers, except for Arianne.
They brought the children to the spider queen, and they immediately transformed into spiders themselves and swarmed around the queen. Arianne, realizing it was pointless to keep hiding it, revealed that they were a clan of aranea, and that many of them lived their lives in human form in Haven Fara. She again asked the party to take the children there safely and bring them to the only aranea still remaining in town, the councilman Westin Mimetae.
Deciding they should ensure the safety of the queen and Arianne before returning to town, the party explored the remaining chambers of the complex, encountering a series of trapped rooms, guarded by skeletons left behind by the original Captain Haven, pirate and founder of Haven Fara. After several challenging battles and dangerous traps, they found a second dagger that matched the queen's, and used them both as keys to reveal a hidden room full of the pirate's treasure.
The room was cursed, however, causing Stormy, Byff, and Rayth to eventually succumb to an extreme fear of the ten figureheads stored within. The treasure was safely removed from the room, but those two are unable to enter.
After ensuring the caves were safe, the party rested for the night, preparing to return to Haven Fara in the morning, aranea children in tow.
The party returns to Haven Fara only to be ambushed by three of Galen's thugs just outside of view of town. They defeat them soundly, killing two and capturing one, whom they question. He reveals that Galen was behind the Spider Eater attack on the aranea's nest in hopes of claiming Captain Haven's hidden treasure, and that he planned to have his men ambush the party to silence any survivors.
Entering the town, they find that the web has been largely burned away, along with the straw roofs of most of the buildings in the western half of town. The spiders seem to have been killed or made to flee.
The party brings the children safely to the Black Fly Pub, Westin Mimetae's house, but finding the place empty, they ask around and discover that he has been imprisoned in the jail for resisting Galen's decree of martial law. Breaking into the jail, they find Westin slowly suffocating inside a barrel that has been covered with a blanket, and free him. They inform him of the children and that they know the aranea's secret, and he promises to watch over them. When the party mentions the spider eaters, he notes that Galen had once bragged about using them in a raid.
With two sources of incriminating information, the party now plans a surprise attack and moves in on Galen at the Good Fortune. Bursting into the inn, they find Galen alone behind the bar and immediately attack. Galen fights back and claims he is innocent, but the party doesn't believe him and eventually knocks him unconscious.
With Galen and his men out of the way, Westin takes leadership of the council, and order is restored as repairs on the town begin. After a brief trial, Galen and his surviving henchman are hanged. Jess Furrier and Patience Gryll ask to accompany the party to Riverkeep, desiring to leave Haven Fara behind them and start a new life together.
Now in possession of a Lyfa seed taken from Galen, as well as several of his malnourished horses and a small rowboat purchased from the villagers, the party leaves Haven Fara for the nearby port town of Riverkeep.
The party arrives in Riverkeep, a frontier town settled on a cluster of islands spanning the Tulbruk River. The eastern shore features sprawling farmlands to supply the town, while the western shore has a staunchly defended city wall to keep out the many monsters that inhabit the frontier. Between the larger two islands is a port where traders deliver goods and resupply.
As the party passes through the farms at the edge of town, they come across a group of farmers arguing and debating over the disappearance of a group of saplings. Asking them for details, the farmers explain that these particular saplings were planted from seeds taken from a magical fruit said to be able to cure any disease. One such fruit is sold annually to the town by a goblin tribe nearby, and the farmers have on occasion attempted to plant the seeds in order to produce the fruit themselves, but each time about a year later the saplings go missing. They assume the goblins are coming to steal them in order to preserve their monopoly.
Intrigued, and hoping the fruit can cure their curses as well, the party asks for more information about the goblin lair, and learns that an adventuring party recently set out for it, but hasn't returned. They meet with Kerowyn Hucrele, the mother of two of the adventurers and matriarch of the family mercantile business. She asks for their aid in finding her children, and offers a substantial reward for returning them home safely. If they are already dead, then she will still pay some for the return of their signet rings as a memento and proof. The party agrees to help.
Jess and Patience leave the group to begin their life together. Stormy visits the nearby temple of Brystos in order to inquire about removal of his curse. They say that they would be willing to help for a donation of 500 gold, and that they will have the supplies ready upon his return from the goblin lair. The party buys new equipment and supplies and outfits their rowboat with wheels, christening it "Duck." After a good night's rest at Nordin's Inn, everyone is ready to set out.
The party travels along an old road and arrives at a gaping crevice and broken bridge. They find a rope tied to one of the bridge posts and descend to a ledge below. Stairs lead farther into the darkness, where they reach broken flagstone and an old door - the entrance to the Sunless Citadel.
Once inside, the party encounters Meepo, a sad and pitiful kobold, bemoaning the loss of his friend and pet dragon, Calcryx. The party decides to help him out, and he takes them to the kobold queen, Yusdrayl, who agrees to reward the party for the safe return of Calcryx. She says that the goblins have taken him away, and points them in the direction of the goblin's side of the Citadel.
The group advances into goblin territory, fighting their way past the sentinels, and locates their main chamber, but stops to form a plan before acting.
The adventurers decide that they'd rather not face the goblins in their main hall immediately. Instead, they turn to explore the other direction and end up clearing out several more guards at another entrance. They also find a few kobold prisoners and one gnome, Erky Timbers, who tells them that there were three other prisoners brought in about a month ago, but after only about a week, the goblins took them away. The party frees the kobolds and sends them back to their tribe, and Erky agrees to accompany them and help them fight the goblins.
Turning back, they finally locate Calcryx, the missing baby white dragon. He had been imprisoned in a goblin trophy room, but he broke his chains and ravaged the room, leaving much of it in total disarray. As soon as he sees the dragon, Meepo runs into the room to try to calm him down. Seeing the more immediate threat to the party, Rayth closes and locks the door before anyone else can act. Shocked at Rayth and determined to save Meepo, Byff tries but fails to break down the door, and snarling and thudding is heard from inside.
By the time Rayth unlocks the door again, Meepo is lying dead several feet from Calcryx, who unleashes a blast of cold breath, disabling most of the party. With the aid of Erky's clerical healing power, the party regroups and attacks Calcryx, capturing him and returning him to the kobold queen.
Upon their return, the queen awards the group with a key and a small collection of treasures resting on an alter behind her. She seems unconcerned about Meepo's demise. The party rests in kobold quarters, then sets off again.
Continuing in the opposite direction from the goblins, the party finds a giant rat nest and kills all of them, finding the body of Karakas, one of the adventuring party, identifiable by a ring on his finger. They also find two fountains and a door each engraved with short riddles in draconic that the party is unable to solve.
Returning to the goblin territory, they dispatch the guards that have been set to replace those they already slew, then turn their attention at last to the goblins' main chambers.
In a vicious battle, the party drives back the goblins from their living area, slaughtering many while others retreat into a back room. Pausing only for a moment to regroup, they then rush the next room. Stormy blasts the door open with a thunder spell, knocking back the closest guards before the battle begins in earnest. At the back of the chamber is the goblin chieftain sitting on his throne. At first content to watch, the chief soon rises and joins the battle himself, knocking down adventurers with every strike.
Unable to both fight the chief and heal their fallen allies, those still standing desperately fight for their lives. In the end, the chieftain is slain, along with all his men, but both Erky and Stormy also lie dead. The survivors, badly wounded, withdraw to Riverkeep to mourn their losses and rest before they attempt another assault.
After the battle, the party also discovered one of the siblings' signet rings on the finger of the chief. They return it to Kerowyn Hucrele, who pays them their reward and humbly asks them to continue their search once they have overcome their own losses.
The party rests and trains in town, preparing themselves for a tough fight ahead. They have learned from the kobolds that somewhere below in the Sunless Citadel, a man known as "The Outcast" controls the goblins. While the goblins themselves may now be little threat, the Outcast is an unknown enemy.
On the last day of their stay in town, a group of figures in dark cloaks enters the inn, speaks with Nordin momentarily, and leaves. Byff approaches Nordin and asks him who they were, but Nordin says he doesn't know. They were looking for a priest of Ennevron, but to his knowledge there is none in town. Byff draws attention as he asks the other patrons of the inn for information, but no one seems to know anything.
As he sits down again, an elf comes up and introduces himself as Ferdinand. He has heard of Byff's exploits in saving many orphans in his village from a fire, and offers to accompany him in search of more heroic tales to tell. Byff and the other party members accept.
Returning to the Citadel, the party decides that before they attempt to descend past the goblin lair, they will explore the rest of the fortress. Using the key they obtained from the kobolds, they open a long-sealed chamber. Beyond a series of well hidden secret passages, the party finds a sarcophagus and senses an invisible fiend of some sort set to guard it.
Caught by the paladin's senses and the bard's faerie fire, the small, winged beast introduces itself as Jot and explains that it was told to guard the chamber, attacking anyone who crossed the pit. Because of the secret passages the party used, they avoided the pit entirely and he didn't attack. Jot asks if they could just go across the pit and let him scratch them once so that he could finally be free from his binding. After questioning him and learning what little knowledge he had to share, the party agrees to free him once they have opened the sarcophagus, and Jot once again becomes invisible while he waits.
Opening the sarcophagus unleashes a troll garbed in ancient priestly vestments. Combat ensues, and the troll is slain with the help of one of the party's torches. After looting the body and sarcophagus, Ferdinand fulfils the party's end of the bargain and crosses the pit so that Jot can attack him and be free. After a single swipe, he thanks the party and gleefully flies away.
Returning towards kobold territory, the party opens another unexplored chamber to find what looks like a water storage vat or boiler of some sort. Opening it unleashes a small creature of steam, which they quickly dispatch, but it explodes in a scalding cloud, slightly burning those in front.
At last content that they have explored all of the upper floors except for the kobolds' living area, the party makes ready to descend through the goblin lair.
The party sets up a rope and climbs down through the eerily lit pit in the goblin chief's room. As they reach the bottom, they find a pair of skeletons turning compost in a fungus-filled chamber. Scraggly scrubs and trees grow here and there. The skeletons turn and attack the group as they drop from the rope, but are quickly dispatched. Two of the scrubs also come to life and join the fight, but don't fare much better.
Continuing to explore the tunnels, the party finds a rift in the rock, clearly formed from some sort of geological activity, and in a nearby chamber encounters a small, flaming, wormlike creature, which threatens to melt their weapons, but they manage to dispatch it quickly enough to avoid permanent damage.
In another area, the group finds several goblins variously resting, eating, and experimenting on a deformed rat with some sort of fungal growth on its back. After dispatching the goblins, Byff casts a spell to speak with the rat, but gains little information beyond the fact that it is in extreme pain and something the goblins were feeding it caused this to happen. The group decides to put the rat out of its misery, then pockets a suspicious vial nearby.
After several more encounters with bugbears, goblins, and other denizens of the tunnels, and a brief pause puzzling over a dragon statue with a riddle of some sort carved into a pedestal in front of it, the party arrives at an area covered in glowing fungus and filled with thorny brambles. They pick their way slowly through the thorns, destroying several of the twig-like creatures along the way, and finally emerge on the other side to find three humans and a giant frog all standing in front of a great, twisted tree emanating pure evil.
Before combat can break out, the man in the back addresses the group and asks to parley. He introduces himself as Belak, and explains that he has been working to create new offspring from the Gulthias tree behind him by giving the goblins its fruits to plant the seeds on the surface. It is these seeds that sprout and turn into the twig blights the party has encountered. The two humans with Belak are two of the missing adventurers, and have become "supplicants" to the Gulthias tree, now following Belak's orders without question.
Belak offers to let the party live if they will agree to become supplicants as well, since they seem like they will make stronger allies than his goblins have been. The party of course refuses, and finally the two groups move to attack.
Belak and his allies prove a strong force, with Belak's spells hampering the party's ability to fight effectively and the others moving to the front lines to kill them. The party wants to keep the adventurers alive, so avoids dealing any permanent damage. They eventually knock them both out and kill the frog, but take heavy damage in the process. Rayth uses some alchemist's fire to ignite the Gulthias tree, waves of anger washing out over him as the flames erupt.
Belak begins to retreat, using his spells to slow the party and sow confusion as he entangles them and charms Rayth into reviving one of the adventurers. He then rushes towards the tree as the flames spread in an attempt to save it, but is finally surrounded and killed, and Byff deals the last few blows to the tree with his halberd, felling it completely.
With the Gulthias tree destroyed, the party regroups, collects several valuable artifacts from Belak and his study, and returns with the recovered adventurers to Riverkeep, where they enjoy a well-deserved rest.
After recovering and settling in town long enough to train their skills, Nordin asks the party if they would be willing to guard a delivery for him. A man by the name of Jorand runs an inn situated well into the frontier, and needs regular supplies from Riverkeep to maintain its defenses. With a rise in undead and other monsters recently, Nordin wants to ask a group of proven adventurers. The party agrees and sets out the next morning.
Travelling through the Deeproot Forest by way of a small but worn trail, the party leads their caravan, along with the Duck. After a few uneventful days, the party is suddenly attacked while camping for the night around their magical Bowl of Hidden Fire they obtained from Belak's study. Rotting zombies and black-cloaked skeletons emerge from the forest. One of the skeletons seems unusually intelligent, firing a crossbow from the shadows and even unleashing bursts of magical cold on the party from a distance. After a difficult battle, the undead are all destroyed except for the magical skeleton, which flees into the forest. Searching the bodies, the party notes that the skeletons' cloaks seem newly made, and bear a symbol of a skull inside a magic circle. They take one of the cloaks for future reference.
After another day or two, they emerge from the forest and into open plains, then arrive at Jorand's Inn the next evening. The inn is surrounded by a small wooden palisade, with watchtowers and guards posted. They open the gate for the caravan, and the party meets and receives their pay from Jorand himself.
While the party is enjoying their dinner, Jorand approaches the party and introduces them to Wuoldern, a curt dwarf who lives on his own even farther west near the edge of the mountain range. Wuoldern explains that a clutch of giant eagles have recently had their eggs stolen by an adventuring party who fled into the Basilisk Feywood, where they are unable to follow them. Wuoldern is a friend of the eagles, and came to the inn in search of anyone who might be able to track the eggs down and return them. Being the heroes that they are, the party agrees to help with little offered by way of reward.
Jorand offers the information that the thieves seem to match the description of a party that passed through the inn not too long ago, and some of the workers or guards might be able to give some information about them.
Through questioning, they discover that the thieves stayed at the inn about a week ago, met and had a discussion with a wizard where it seems they turned down an offer of employment, and left only to return a few days later with one of their members having been petrified, which Jorand blames on the basilisk in the woods to the north. They again talked with the wizard, who bought one of Jorand's carts and used it to take the statue with him when he left to the east while the rest of the party travelled west.
The group decides that the safer bet is to try to follow the wizard east, where they track his trail to a side path that turns northeast through the woods and eventually leads to some ruins in the mountains.
While travelling through the woods, the group hears a beautiful song coming from off the trail. Entranced, Ferdinand and Byff begin to head towards it, while Rayth and Mira cover their ears and follow. Finally reaching the source of the singing, the party finds a vile harpy, which immediately attacks. Fortunately, the four of them are more than enough for the harpy, and they beat it back until it retreats. Deciding not to risk following and losing the trail, they head back and resume their hike.
Upon reaching the ruins, the party heads inside to investigate. The ruins themselves are little more than a crumbling stone wall around a courtyard, with one tower left standing. When they enter the courtyard, they see a cluster of tents in its center, and guards on either side of the entrance warn them to stop. Soon, a man in robes emerges from the tower, introduces himself as Hallam the Fox, and asks them to state their business or be on their way. The party explains that they are in search of the egg thieves, and came here with the expectation that they would arrive at some point to pick up their petrified friend, or at the very least that they are somehow in league with the wizard.
Hallam stalls, dragging out the conversation long enough for a few of his guards to circle around, surrounding the party, and for the rest of the ones in the tents to armor themselves and prepare for battle, then, when the group shows no sign of leaving, he gives the signal to attack. In all, nine soldiers attack from all sides, firing crossbows and charging in with swords and shields, while Hallam falls back to the tower and releases a pair of mountain lions before he begins casting spells from relative safety. In a run of good luck, the party quickly dispatches most of the guards, their blades seeming to find the perfect mark with every thrust or swing. The mountain lions soon follow, but not before Hallam polymorphs Ferdinand into a frog, which quickly hides among the rubble to escape the attention of the beasts. Seeing the prowess of their foes, the few remaining soldiers surrender, and Hallam retreats into his tower.
While Mira watches the soldiers, Rayth and Byff enter the tower, only to find that Hallam has somehow disappeared, leaving behind his bedding and a few tools and other items of interest. Deciding to search later, they first find the polymorphed Ferdinand, and Byff happily locates some flies for him to eat.
Searching the area, they find the cart, complete with a petrified elf, and a magical vial of petrifying potion hidden in the tower. Putting it together with the events back at the inn, the group realizes that Hallam must have used a similar potion on the elf in order to force the adventurers into stealing the eggs for him.
The captured soldiers explain that they are here on a scouting mission, hoping to find new territory that they will be able to claim in the name of their lord, Tyr Anrad. Rayth recognizes the name as that of a local warlord who lives somewhere along the frontier. The soldiers don't know what Hallam wanted with the adventuring party or what he might have wanted with the eagles' eggs. Satisfied that they are simply soldiers doing their job, and not particularly evil, the party decides to let them go.
All that remains is to wait for the other adventurers to arrive with the eggs, explain the situation, and hopefully return the eggs safely to the eagles.
The party sets up camp in the ruins and keeps watch for the other adventurers. In the meantime, they claim ownership of over a dozen horses left behind by the soldiers. After about a day and a half, the other group arrives, and after both sides make a few deceptive ploys with stealth and illusions, they finally come to an understanding. They exchange the eagles' eggs for the statue, a cart, and some of the horses to pull it, and move their separate ways. The group decides that the safest route will be following the trail back through the woods, passing Jorand's Inn where they leave the horses, and then continuing north towards the eagles' aerie, skirting the edge of the forest rather than travelling through it.
Wuoldern leads the group into the foothills and up towards the aerie, then signals the giant eagles of their arrival. One of them flies down in front of the party. The group hears a voice in their heads, thanking them for returning the eggs, to which they reply graciously, hiding their surprise. The eagle then picks up Byff, who is holding the eggs, and flies him to the roost to deliver them. As thanks, the eagle gives him a few precious gemstones before carrying him back to his friends.
As they camp at the edge of the forest on the return trip, the party is suddenly attacked by a large group of zombies and skeletons - only some of these zombies are much larger than any they've seen before. They handle most of the human-sized enemies without too much trouble, but only after a long and tough battle do they down one of the ogre zombies, only to realize there are still two remaining and almost unharmed. Thinking fast, Rayth throws the potion of petrification at one of the zombies, which begins to slowly turn to stone. Now able to focus their efforts, they defeat the final ogre.
Throughout the battle, they had caught glimpses of another cloaked skeleton firing crossbow bolts from the shadows, but it disappeared and escaped, leaving behind a note in the middle of their camp. It reads, "Impressive display. You could make wonderful servants of my master, should you be interested. I look forward to our next encounter. I hope you don't mind that I took a small souvenir from our meeting."
Looking around, they realize that their bowl of hidden fire is missing. Elated at their survival and angry at the loss of their magic campfire but unable to track the thief, they settle down for some well-deserved rest.
The group returns to Riverkeep after parting with Wuoldern and stopping briefly at Jorand's Inn to collect their eleven remaining horses. Now the proud owners of 17 horses including the ones they saved from starvation in Haven Fara, the party decides to start a ranch, under the name of their departed friend, as Tempestborn Ranch. They spend several weeks obtaining a plot of land, supervising construction, looking for potential employees, and otherwise tending to the needs of their new business, but plans are put on hold as winter comes in full.
As this is all happening, a new face arrives, announcing himself as Joe Mackerel, a cleric of storms and cousin of the late Stormy Tempestborn. He wishes to accompany the party in hopes of finding vengeance for his lost family member.
Ferdinand decides that he will settle down at the ranch and satisfy himself with hearing tales of the party's exploits rather than experiencing them firsthand. Byff and Rayth apply for membership in the Frontier Alliance, Riverkeep's local explorer's guild, and are accepted on the recommendation of Kerowyn Hucrele. Their first assignment arrives shortly thereafter, as they are asked to travel north to the Tulbruk Lighthouse and investigate reports from the lighthouse keeper of strange activity on the western bank of the river.
Byff, Rayth, Mira, and Joe set out with Duck and horses and arrive at the lighthouse after a short journey. There they meet the lighthouse keeper, Krandel. Krandel explains that he has seen shadows moving about at the edge of the forest across the river, and it's put him on edge. He allows the party to climb to the top of the tower, but they see nothing out of the ordinary with his spyglass. Still, the lighthouse is an important structure, and its safe operation is paramount to the livelihood of the sailors and merchants who frequent Riverkeep, so the group agrees to cross the river and investigate.
They leave the horses and set out aboard the Duck. Roughly halfway across the river, they are suddenly attacked by a group of fish-men, who leap out of the water onto the deck of the boat. A large shark follows behind them menacingly. Battle is swift, and the creatures are dispatched handily, but at the last moment, the shark leaps out of the water and takes an enormous bite out of the front of the boat. The Duck rapidly takes on water, and in an act of desperation, Joe casts Gust of Wind in an attempt to propel the vessel towards land.
As the boat careens towards the shore, Byff and Rayth are both thrown overboard by the violent motion into the icy water. Fortunately, everyone manages to arrive at the shore, one way or another, but there won't be any return trip with the Duck. The soaked heroes build a small fire to warm themselves and dry their clothes, then set out into the snow-covered forest.
As night falls, they hear movement ahead. Cautiously investigating, they find a graveyard, where a group of ghouls, undead humanoids with pale skin and elongated tongues, is gathered for a meal of marrow. Behind them, the mysterious cloaked skeleton stands at the entrance to an ancient mausoleum. Determined that they will at last stop the skeleton, the group attacks. The cloaked figure triggers some magical item before withdrawing into the crypt, and the ghouls are aided by the arrival of several skeletons from underground. Delayed by the combat but not discouraged, the party rushes into the crypt to find an ancient mural depicting the birth, life, and death of a seafaring hero, and a staircase leading down.
They descend the stairs and enter a chamber with walls covered in ancient writing. With difficulty, they manage to read some of the script, and see that it describes the adventures of the hero Palthias. The name is unfamiliar. Noticing the footprints in the dust on the floor, the party follows to a door on the right side of the room. Inside, they find a room with four niches, each holding a skeleton of one of Palthias' family members, according to the engravings beneath each. They continue on without disturbing them.
The next chamber features a frozen fountain in its center, and patches of ice cover the walls and floor. Embedded in ice in the fountain is a small glass bottle with a wooden ship inside. Interested, Rayth spends some time carefully melting the ice to free the bottle before Byff proceeds to open the final door, which leads to a small chamber housing a single upright, open sarcophagus, its lid pushed to the side against the wall. An armed and armored skeleton rests inside, and the party's bowl of hidden fire burns incense on the floor.
Suspicious, Byff tries to detect undead, but finds nothing. Just as he takes his first steps into the room, however, the cloaked skeleton emerges from behind the lid of the sarcophagus and charges. The rest of the party quickly joins the battle, but as soon as the skeleton lands his first hit, he withdraws to the fire, then speaks in a raspy voice. "I had hoped you would follow me in here. For, you see, it was only with fresh blood of the living that the ritual could be completed." It then stabs the tip of its sword into the bowl, and the flames abruptly flash before a cloud of smoke issues forth, quickly filling the room. The voice speaks again, "My offer still stands. Lay down your weapons and return with me to my master and I promise you power beyond your imagination."
When the party refuses, the hero Palthias himself emerges from the smoke and attacks the adventurers. A fierce combat ensues, but at last the party is victorious and both skeletons are destroyed. The party collects their bowl and finds that the skeleton's cloak and Palthias' sword, armor, and shield are all magical as well. Wanting to claim the treasure but not wanting to wholly disrespect the hero, Rayth trades his rapier for Palthias', Joe trades his shield, and Mira trades her armor. Rayth also claims the shadowy Cloak of Assassins. Out of reverence, Rayth also returns the bottled ship to the fountain before the party departs.
Of greatest immediate significance, the shield turns out to be a Sailor's Shield, which, when dropped in water, transforms into a small sailing ship. The party arrives at the riverside, where they test out the new ship and tie the Duck behind it to tug it back across the river. They report to the Krandel at the lighthouse, and spend the night there, resting from their adventure.
The party departs the lighthouse for Riverkeep when a sudden earthquake shakes the land, felling nearby trees, knocking gear from horses, and spreading panic among the animals. As the quake continues, foreboding clouds spread rapidly across the sky from the northwest. After a minute, the shaking ceases. The group decides to return to check on the lighthouse, and finding it still standing, though slightly damaged, they rush back to Riverkeep.
The town has suffered relatively minor damage, with a few smaller buildings toppled and some masonry in need of repairs, but it seems like the villagers have generally handled the situation well. Over the course of the following days and weeks, however, an unnatural cold spreads through the land. Snow blankets the town and the river itself freezes solid. Townspeople shutter their windows and burn through their firewood supplies, holing up inside as much as possible to survive.
The adventurers decide to inquire at the Frontier Alliance for any information. They are told that according to recent reports, the area around Jorand's Inn has been hit especially hard, and there are rumors that the source of this terrible winter is somewhere near there. The party gathers what winter gear they can from the town before setting out to return to the inn.
As they travel, they find no signs of recent passage on the trail, and make it to the inn without having seen anything moving in the forest. The inn gate is frozen completely shut, so the guard lowers a ladder to them and the party ties their horses outside. Inside, they warm themselves by the hearth as Jorand informs them that the inn's supplies are running low and he suspects they won't last much more than a couple weeks if this cold continues. He also says that when this all began, they saw the clouds coming from the north, in the direction of the Greenpeak Mountains.
After making plans and resting for the night, the party continues west along the trail, then turns north where it crosses a frozen river and follows the river north through the Basilisk Feywood. While camped, the party is attacked by a shambling mound, which tries to absorb Rayth and others, but they manage to destroy it without too much trouble. After a few days following the river, the party comes across a collection of strange statues in the forest. Recalling the name of the forest and deciding not to take any further risks, they force march past the location and camp several miles farther upstream.
Eventually, the party arrives in the mountains, where they discover a hot spring sourcing the river. Taking a break, they relax briefly in the spring. While swimming back and forth, Rayth spots something shining at the bottom of the pool and pulls out a silver circlet of blasting, which is given to Joe.
Unsure of where to go next, the party heads towards the tallest mountain they can see to get a better view of the area. They eventually arrive at a ridge running north to south atop which stand the remains of an ancient stone wall. They climb to the top of the wall and scan both the sky and the forested mountains below. After some minutes of observation, they realize that the clouds overhead are slowly rotating around a central point not many miles from where they are, below which they can just make out a stone tower poking above the treetops.
Finally sure of where to go, they rush to the tower. When they arrive, they find the front door frozen shut, but eventually manage to melt the ice and open the door. Meanwhile, Byff focuses his mind and feels an aura of desecration radiating from an area likely three or four floors above. Not sure what this might mean, the party steps cautiously into the tower's front chamber.
No sooner do they take a few steps inside than the rug underneath them rises, engulfing Byff and beginning to suffocate him. The others rush to his aid, and the door slams shut behind them. While they battle the animated rug trying to free Byff, Joe circles around behind and is struck from above by a falling chandelier, which then adds insult in injury by bursting into magical flame as it hits the ground. Much the worse for wear, but ultimately triumphant, the party stands over the destroyed objects and surveys the room, which has several comfortable-looking chairs, and two painted portraits on the far wall.
A refined male voice reverberates throughout the room as one of the paintings speaks, saying "Welcome, visitors. Explore at your leisure." The portrait is that of a gentleman, who, following his greeting, tips his hat and bows, then returns to his original position and again becomes motionless. Rayth, excited at the prospect of a magical talking painting, immediately removes it from the wall and rolls up the canvas, storing it in his magical cloak.
The party then advances into the tower's central room, which is a large dining hall. A fully-prepared and strangely fresh banquet sits invitingly on the table. The only other interesting items in the room are four suits of armor on display stands, which turn their helmets to face the party as they approach the table. Since the armors don't move again, Byff decides to take a seat and try some of the delicious-looking meat. No sooner has he taken his first bite than the four suits of armor step off their pedestals and the swords fly out of their gauntlets, moving in to attack.
Surrounded by advancing animated suits of armor and flying swords, the party resorts to several loud and impressive spells in order to take them out. Once the threat is removed, the party eats their fill before moving on through a side door into the pantry. Rayth quickly robs the area of its silverware, then the group moves down through a small trapdoor into the cellar.
The shelves are stocked with food supplies and other perishables of all sorts, all still in good condition, but dusty. Of note, a wine rack directly in front of the stairs is completely empty and relatively dust-free. The party spreads out to search the area, but Joe sets off a trap as soon as he makes it halfway down one of the aisles, and the floor begins to slowly rise towards the ceiling. The trapdoor slams shut, and Byff moves to smash it open as the others rush back towards the entrance. As soon as Byff gets in position to try to open the door, a gout of flame shoots from a small hole in the wall, burning him. He plugs it with one finger, then continues to bang on the door until he breaks through the latch.
The shelves are crushed as the cellar compresses, and Joe is struck and slowed by falling debris. Eventually, everyone manages to make it out of the room and back into the pantry. They watch the progress of the trap and see that it comes almost but not quite to where the floor and ceiling would touch, then reverses, and the shelves and goods on them magically fly back into their positions and are restored to their original condition.
Deciding that whatever might be down there isn't worth the risk, the party goes back to the main entrance and continues through the only other door. The next room circles around the perimeter of the tower, with the outer wall lined with dozens of portraits. Each one depicts a lord or lady seated in the same chair, with a black cat resting on their lap. They decide that there must be something unusual about the cat, since it seems to have been alive through many generations of owners. Faint whispers are just barely audible, but their source is unknown. A table and chairs are set in an inside corner, and a set of dice suddenly throw themselves across the tabletop, followed by faint laughter.
Rayth pulls up one of the chairs and takes a seat. As he does so, the rest of the chairs fill with ghostly apparitions, engaged in a game of dice. They invite Rayth to join in. He plays a couple of rounds while asking about some general information on the tower and they learn that it was once called Silverstone Tower, and the ghosts seem to think they are all still alive and attending a party being thrown by the lord of the manor. After a little while, Rayth decides to collect his winnings of ghostly coins and move on, but as he leaves the table both ghosts and gold vanish.
Continuing on, the party passes two more tables. When they stand by them, more ghosts appear. The first has a group of gentlemen engaged in political discussions, naming long-dead families and unknown cities. Joe takes notes on the conversation to bring back to town in hopes of a reward for finding information on the ancient inhabitants of the area. The second table has gossiping women engaged in somewhat less useful information, so the party moves on into a separate room with a spiral staircase going up.
Wary from the traps they have already encountered, they climb the stairs cautiously, and Rayth spots a switch on the second step from the top, which the party then avoids. Exiting the stairwell, the enter a cross-shaped hall that seems to extend to the outer walls of the tower roughly dividing it into four parts. Somewhere down the hall, a door closes audibly.
The party explores the floor, first coming to a large kitchen filled with knives and pots hanging from racks and large empty countertops. Rayth searches the fireplace and finds a small gemstone. Byff moves through to the back room and into the scullery, where he is met with the distinct smell of rotting meat. Searching briefly but finding nothing useful, he leaves the room only to have all the knives in the kitchen suddenly fly off their hooks and swirl around him. He takes a few small cuts before withdrawing into the scullery, then waits until the trap resets. Joe collects the knives from around the kitchen and throws them into the hall outside, then closes the door, and Byff exits safely.
Continuing their search of the floor, the party finds some guest or servant bedrooms and a lounge area with a handful of chairs and sofas and two small silver bowls resting on the ground. Examining the chairs, they realize that one of them is the same as the one from the many portraits downstairs, and the silver bowls are likely used to feed the mysterious black cat.
The next room they discover is a large master bedroom. At the far end of the room, a pedestal stands between two chairs. A human skeleton is collapsed in one of the chairs. Interested, Joe decides to take a seat in the other chair and a sudden wave of exhaustion comes over him. Forcing himself to stay awake, he quickly stands back up and decides not to try that again. The party searches the rest of the room and locates a vial of blood discarded underneath a dresser.
Finally, the party reaches the last door on the floor, which is exceptionally cold to the touch. Passing through, they see their breath condensing into fog and a ladder leading up to another trapdoor in the ceiling. Before going up, they decide to take a short break to tend to some of their injuries and prepare for whatever else the tower holds.
After their brief rest, the party returns to the cold room with the ladder and climbs up. There is a sound of cracking ice as they open the trapdoor and exit onto a small landing coated in frost. Opening the next door, they enter an old library whose shelves are now bare except for icicles, and they see the top of a head over the back of a cushioned chair in the center of the room and a small statuette of a noblewoman on a stand next to it. They advance cautiously, when several of the icicles suddenly break off and reform into small, winged humanoids, which attack with claws and icy breath. Soon, the battle is joined by the cloaked figure, rising from the chair. It leaps towards the party, brandishing wicked fangs. The presumed vampire quickly drains the strength of its target, but doesn't last long enough to land a second bite and the party again emerges victorious.
Searching the room, they find nothing of note except for the statuette, which speaks when approached, saying "You certainly are determined. By all means, continue to the top. But if you really want to stop all this, you'd best take me with you." They oblige and tuck the statue into their bags before moving on.
The next room appears to be an alchemist's lab, with many tables featuring strange devices and glassware, some of which have cracked from the cold. A sudden thump comes from a wooden chest, and Rayth unlatches it from a distance with his magic. As he does so, twenty severed hands burst out and begin crawling towards the party members. A few manage to reach them and give some light scratches, but Byff summons a beam of holy light that destroys the rest of them instantly.
Continuing to search the room, Rayth finds a trapdoor under a table and climbs down to see an open coffin with a silver key inside. He pockets the key and climbs back out.
The next room seems to be a storage room for old, broken alchemical gear, with a staircase leading up. They climb the stairs and emerge in a large, ice-covered chamber occupying the entire level of the tower. Huge pillars of ice span floor to ceiling, and a large hole is cut in the center of the room, leading up. As the party makes their way towards it, more flying ice creatures attack, this time accompanied by a hulking ice elemental. The elemental seems resistant to most of the party's attacks, but they manage to destroy it.
Now, thoroughly exhausted and almost out of spells but not willing to stop for a rest, the party throws up a rope and climbs to the next floor. Powerful winds swirl around them and combine with ice on the floor to make it extremely difficult to walk or even remain standing. Several chunks of rock and ice have fallen from the ceiling, further impeding movement. This chamber houses a statue carved from ice, standing guard in front of another ladder leading up.
The party discusses tactics, confident that the statue will come to life and attack if provoked, but before they can fully formulate a plan, it begins to move on its own and does just that. It attacks with a magical cone of cold that deals severe damage to the already wounded party. The ice golem seems impervious to Byff's weapon, while Rayth's magical rapier has at least some effect, and Joe casts his last few spells at it while hiding behind some rubble to avoid the worst of the golem's magic. Fortunately, the golem is having almost as much trouble moving in the wind as the party is, so it is unable to close in for melee attacks.
Byff grabs the hanging rope and attempts to lasso the giant statue and pull it towards him into the pit. Unfortunately, the rope fails to catch properly due to the windy conditions. After a second blast of cold, and desperate to win, Rayth finally manages to deal a decisive blow to the golem as it struggles to remain standing, and the statue cracks and collapses to the ground.
They climb up the last ladder, reaching what at first seems to be the rooftop. The winds swirl even stronger around the room, and at the center of the vortex is a pedestal set into the floor. Arcane glyphs cover the walls and floor, and above is a vast expanse filled with a driving blizzard. Far overhead, they can make out a great white winged beast, and past it what appears to be a glacier filling what would be the sky. Too exhausted to risk another battle, the group falls back to rest for the night in the master bedroom.
The next morning, they return to the top and place the statuette from the library onto the pedestal. The tower shakes and chunks of snow and ice fly upwards, along with the statue. With a clap of thunder, the scene above vanishes and is replaced by a nondescript stone ceiling.
Satisfied that they have stopped the magical winter, the party searches for hidden treasure throughout the rest of the tower. After triggering the cellar trap a second time, Rayth waits until it resets and immediately runs down and searches the far corners of the room. Hidden under a collapsible floor in the opposite corner from the stairs, he finds a portable hole filled with coins, which he takes and uses to collect the rest of the valuables. Finally, they learn that the silver key they found in the coffin can be used to open the tower doors, and they prepare to leave and return to Riverkeep.