Mission 05, Not Exactly A Journey to Shadowed Keep…
Party: Hilniflit, Franmar, Fledermaus, Ioelena, Finial, Callehalahath
Day 0: Settled up with the city taxes for Mission 04 loot. Guild Kitty after buying supplies: 906 GP, 18 CP
Day 01: Party heads out of town with the intention of returning to the Shadowed Keep and clearing it of its goblin problem. Hilniflit was a bit distracted the first day, but something about meeting and talking to squirrels happened?
Day 02: (P) decides to take a new approach to the Shadowed Keep via the town of New Keep after hearing about a giant destroying the town's bridge. The journey on the new trail is otherwise uneventful and (P) makes camp an hour or so just outside of the town.
Day 03: New Keep turns out to be a hamlet of some 30 homes and an unfinished keep. When (P) arrives, they find chaos as a two headed giant (a ~15' ettin) is rampaging the cattle stock, swinging a massive piece of timber, killing townsfolk, smashing structures and stealing cattle. The ettin roars at the party and retreats into the surrounding woods before the party gets a chance to attack. The village is too preoccupied with tending the wounded and hastily repairing structures to give much detail, but the party is pointed in the direction of the Iomedae temple where they find the priest Restic.
Restic explains that for the last few weeks, this ettin has been coming by day in a rampage as witnessed by the party, but has also been spotted sneaking around at night, quietly. It is even suspected of scrawling a riddle on the wall of the temple:
Two heads have we but born with one,
We avenged, healed and protected,
Our master was invincible,
But punished all we who objected,
He did we the six-armed king,
And so by our god were rejected,
Thus, this is our fate,
One head, twice bisected.
Restic tells the party that he even suspects the paint and brushes that were used for the riddle were stolen from Jolden, a farmer in town. The party's line of questioning leads them to the village elder, Hanah who fills in some of the local history: Hanah tells the party about Aranda, the mayor of new keep and Malwick, the half-elf son whose father was killed by the ettin after his father shot it with an arrow.
The party, suspecting a mystery afoot with the strange behavior of the ettin between night and day, heads to the mayor's keep to meet with her. Aranda, the mayor, fills the party in with some more local history: New Keep is called New Keep because the villagers had to flee Old Keep (a few hours South) because an evil wizard took up residence in the Old Keep and drove them away. They were just starting to scrape out an existence when this ettin arrived and started causing problems and smashed the town's bridge, hindering their ability to seek help.
The mayor points the party in the direction of Malwick, the young half-elf whose father was killed by the ettin. Malwick is obviously distraught and only has thoughts of slaying the ettin. The party suspects there's more to the story, so they decline his company in their plan to track the giant.
Following the ettin's trail cautiously (and surprisingly stealthily for this group), the group stumbles upon a party of 8 hobgoblins lead by a hobgoblin named Boothram. Hilniflit, scouting the forward position, decides that now is not the time for a rousing scrap and instead decides to try speaking with the hobgoblins – who seem a little rattled. It turns out they have also been harassed by the ettin – even after trying to ally with it in common, bad-humanoid agendas. They tell the party that the ettin is holed up in Old Keep. The party suggests if they can resolve the ettin problem for the hobgoblins, the hobgoblins will leave the town of New Keep alone. The hobgoblins agree to this deal and both parties part peacefully.
Shortly after, the party stumbles across a smaller giant with beady eyes, standing in the middle of the road – an ogre. Before the party knows what's happening, another ogre steps out of the woods behind them. Diplomacy is clearly off the table, so Fledermaus knocks an arrow and buries it deep into the rear ogre's eye. The ogre bellows and charges Iolena and smashes its club into her. Callehalahath's tiger springs into action to attack the front ogre and is joined by the rest of the party. Finial races to Iolena's aid and tends to her wounds despite an ogre bearing down on their position. Fledermaus somehow escapes near death this time and actually manages to drop the rear ogre with just three arrows – an impressive feat, really.
With a combination of fire, weapons and tiger teeth, the front ogre is eventually dispatched as well. The ogres were carrying 100 GP and a very old, gold ring etched with fish designs. The party learns it's a Ring of Swimming that allows the wearer of the ring to swim far beyond any natural ability (+5 to swimming skill worth 1000 GP).
The party nears Old Keep as it gets dark and decides to make camp in the nearby woods.
Day 4: The party observes from afar that Old Keep is a squat, old stone tower with a circular parapet. The same riddle from New Keep seems to be scrawled on the outer wall with blackened firewood, but much is smudged. They also see a few relatively new gravestones with the names Zimian, Kordel and Thorvald Halfgranite inscribed on them.
The party decides to stay hidden and wait for the giant to emerge at night when it's presumed it will be more docile. Then they will track it back to town and/or search the keep while it's gone… anyway, this all seemed rather confusing to Hilniflit, so she decided to ask the ettin himself what was up when he came out. Hilniflit, using the message spell, greeted the ettin when he eventually emerges. There was a confused moment where the party tried to sort out the giant/common translation process between Franmar, Hil and the ettin, but fortunately, it turned out the ettin spoke common and things proceeded quickly.
Hilniflit made clear the ettin was in no danger if it was peaceful and the ettin told the party everything is peaceful as long as the other head, that was sleeping through all this, stayed asleep. The party emerges from hiding and the ettin tells the party he was once a cleric of Iomedae, named Kernan. Kernan came to Old Keep to confront the wizard with a band of adventurers. The wizard cursed Kernan and turned him into this giant, who now shares a head with another person named Muck. Kernan insists Muck is responsible for all the bad stuff he's been doing and he's afraid Muck is gaining more and more control over Kernan as time goes on – including killing the rest of his party (Kernan then buried them in the new graves the party noticed earlier). Muck is also responsible for smashing the bridge and raiding New Keep.
Kernan has been scrawling the riddle, hoping somebody could help him solve it and tells the party if they can't solve it, he'd prefer the party killed him before Muck wakes up again. He also tells the party the wizard (Stondalis) that cursed him is dead and buried beneath the keep.
Fledermaus and Franmar decide to search Old Keep for clues with Kernan. They find a polymorph scroll, a potion, a magic sword, a spear and some chainmail – but not much that helps to solve the riddle.
Meanwhile, the party still outside is confronted by a mob of New Keep townspeople lead by a drunken Malwick. The townspeople are determined to slay the giant that has been raiding their town. Iolena eventually convinces the mob to stand down. She tells them the giant will be dealt with by the party – who is currently slaying him in the keep as they speak. The townsfolk buy it for the moment.
The party reconnoiters in the keep where Kernan tells them Muck might be starting to wake up. The party binds Kernan and locks him in a storeroom until they can decide what to do next. Iolena is able to read and cast the polymorph scroll, so the party decides to polymorph Kernan back into his previous form – but without a permanence spell, this would only last a few minutes. With no other options to explore, the party decides to give it a shot and Iolena casts the spell after throwing open the storeroom door.
Kernan is successfully returned to his old form, but he still does not feel his powers granted by his goddess, Iomedae, have returned. Without solving the riddle, this would just be a temporary fix. Kernan pleads for the party to kill him while Muck is not a problem.
In a brief therapy session, the party asks what it was he could have done that displeased Iomedae so much and Kernan tells of incremental crimes that lead him down a darker and darker path. When Kernan expresses regret and prays for forgiveness, he can feel his powers return and he casts dispel magic on himself. The curse is broken. The ettin has been slain… sorta'. Franmar and a few others decide to dig a false grave for the ettin in case New Keep wants proof the ettin is no longer a problem. The party dresses Kernan in the chainmail and spear they found and leave the keep. They tell the villagers that the ettin is dead and buried and convince them to return home. The party spends the night in Old Keep.
Day 5: The party returns to New Keep and sneaks Kernan to the temple of Iomedae and leave him in the care of Restic. Hilniflit gives Kernan a marked mug that he can send back to Westmarch if he wants to reach the party in the future. They then decide to strike out East into the woods to see what minor adventures they can rustle up before returning home. (Shadowed Keep can wait for another time.) The party stumbles across an old stone hut, surrounded by incredibly annoying stinging nettles that can actually cause pain to distraction. Hilniflit thinks she has an easy solution and burns the nettles away from the entrance, only to create a noxious smoke that ends up irritating some of the party anyway.
The party searches the hut and eventually finds a trap door that leads to some stairs underground. The party proceeds cautiously to find a small room covered in a brown mold. Callehalahath informs everyone that brown mold feeds on fire and despite a lot of side eye, Hilniflit steps forward and blasts the mold with rays of frost, killing it instantly.
The party files into the room and finds a small, sewer-pipe-sized tunnel opposite. Just as they decide who should crawl into it, a gray humanoid form streaks out of the tunnel and attacks the party. The creature, a ghoul, is fast and tries to slash and bite the party, but they dispatch it quickly. Franmar searches up the small tunnel and finds the ghoul's lair, thick with humanoid bones. Franmar searches the bones and finds a cloudy white potion and 4 amber gems (worth 50-150 GP). Franmar also discovers a tunnel in the ceiling that leads up to the surface, into the thicket of nettles. The party, after a little further exploration, decides to move on.
The party continues to head East, further into the woods. They come upon a small clearing, where they find a couple small humanoids with goat legs who are clearly aware of the party. The two turn out to be fauns, Filn & Nilf, with a couple animal companions, a raven and a frog. The fauns tell the party that their animal companions are actually their significant others. They were cursed by a hooded wizard with a cleft lip. The wizard is trying to convince forest sylvans (magical forest creatures) to leave with him (they will be "well cared for") and any that refuse are cursed or killed. Evidence of these killings is the bleached white trees the party has stumbled across in previous adventures. The fauns are surprised to hear these bleached white trees are budding – they have never heard of such a thing.
The wizard is apparently from the East of the woods, but the fauns don't have much more to go on, even after the party tried speaking with the cursed animal companions who saw the wizard. The party tells the fauns that they are sworn to defend the forest and the sylvans. The party asks them to spread word that we are available to help if this wizard turns up again. Hilniflit gives them a marked token they can send back to Westmarch if they need us to return.
The party then decides to return back to Westmarch after so much do-gooding for one week and bamfs back to Westmarch.
ring of swimming (1000 GP – with Franmar)
potion from the Old Keep
magic sword from the Old Keep (This longsword has an ornate basket hilt, which is chipped and dented. The blade itself is highly polished and glimmers in the light.)
white potion from Ghoul's Lair
4 amber gems (50-150 GP)