3 min read

EoD 025: Three at Rest

The hall beyond was in ruin...
EoD 025: Three at Rest

After much debate, the party decided that they had learnt all they could about the odd chasm and its magic-radiating water. While they came to this conclusion, Shawn's two squires—Jarak and Einar—carried Theoden's and Lion's bodies back to the surface, escorted by Jalt. The remainder of the heroes cunningly gathered a small amount of water in a flask for later testing before retreating to the sunlit surface.

There, under Jalt's supervision, Jarak and Einar had loaded the horribly shrivelled corpses of the two fallen heroes onto the cart. A surprise greeted the trio—an elf also stood waiting by the cart. This was Varis an old drinking companion of Shawn's who bore a letter for the old man. The letter was from his wife, and Shawn read it quietly and privately later.

It was decided that Varis should stay with the group—at least for a bit—as night was fast approaching, and an extra blade was always welcome. The heroes decided to rest overnight in the ruined, crumbling donjon; tomorrow, they would explore more of the ruined keep!

Their night was uneventful, and the next day dawned clear and bright. But one way lay forward: through the chained double doors that Helmia had scouted through so many weeks ago. Within, Helmia knew lay a bone-choked, web-drenched great hall. Making their final preperations, the heroes prepared themselves. Once Stor had bravely, but noisily, unwrapped the chain from around the doors' handles, Polumya hurled them open with his clerical magic.

The hall beyond was in ruin. However, two large black bulks could be seen moving in the webs—no doubt alerted by the noisy unwrapping of the chain. Two huge spiders emerged and darted forth, casting their webs at the party's front rank. Both webs missed, and the huge predators ducked back into their webs. This didn't daunt the characters, and several dashed into the room to shoot at the lurking vermin. Only brave Shawn stayed in the room, however—and this almost proved his undoing, for the huge spiders were not alone: thousands of their baby young descended on the brave ranger and almost flensed him to the bone before they and their larger brethren were slain.

Without waiting to fully search the hall—which was wreathed in smoke now anyway after some of the webbing had caught fire during the brief battle—Jalt stormed across the hall to a door at the opposite end. Beyond lay a narrow spiral staircase leading upwards. The stalwart paladin advanced, followed by his companions.

Three rooms lay at the top of the stairs—all had been looted, and two held more skeletons. A translucent figure—a ghostly boy—hovered over the bones in one room. Tears rolled down the boy's face. He was clearly scared, and his horrific throat wound was obvious to Jalt. Jalf spoke to the boy while his friends lurked in the hallway. It transpired that the boy was Valentin's son and that he wanted to be buried with his mother and father, whose remains lay nearby. Polumya almost sent the child into a frenzy of terror and violence when he forced another door loudly inwards, but Jalt managed to calm the ghost before he could possess the paladin and do who knows what.

The boy did not want to be buried in the castle's crypts but rather somewhere outside in the clean air—he sensed that something foul and tainted yet lurked below the keep. Searching the nearby rooms, the party quickly found the bones of the boys' mother, but finding his father's remains downstairs amid the ruin of the great hall took longer.

While most of the party searched the keep, Jalt allowed the boy's spirit to merge with his own. The boy was clearly terrified and did not want to see his parents' remains in such a horrible place. An hour or so later, both skeletons had been retrieved—as had some minor treasures from here and there—and the party were outside. Helmia transformed into a giant badger and quickly excavated a grave large enough for all three bodies. A reverent and brief ceremony took place. At its conclusion, the ghost of the boy emerged from Jalt and floated into the grave—there to rest with his parents.

After the ghost had gone, Jalt revealed to the party that the boy had thanked him (and the party) for their efforts. He had also told him that a great treasure lay behind a secret door somewhere upstairs in the donjon. This baffled (and perhaps annoyed) Syllana as she had recently searched the area—but she had done so too quickly while everyone else was downstairs, and she could easily have missed something.

Back in the ruined keep, the party spent hours searching every nook and cranny of the place. Eventually, in one of the upstairs rooms, they found what they were looking for—an incredibly well-hidden secret trapdoor set into the floor in the corner of one of the bedrooms…

This post is a session summary from my weekly 5e D&D Edgelands of Darkness campaign set in the Duchy of Ashlar.

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