Racing back to Winterhaven on the advice of Sir Keaton, the Powerpuff Guild (and Michael) arrived to find the gates shut. Lord Laurie appeared atop the wall, begging the guild to rid the local cemetery of the undead that had risen there, and had surely attacked some of villagers whom had gone missing. Without a moment to lose, the guild followed the path to the Winterhaven Cemetery, on the other side of a grove bordering the town. A wrought-iron fence ringed the graveyard, with the only gate chained and padlocked (Likely to prevent the flesh-hungry undead from escaping the grounds of their rest.) Michael scaled the fence, only to fall off and land on the other side. Whisper and Reaghan gracefully made their way over. Serma, wearing full armor, elected to instead melt the lock with her acidic breath and then smash it off the chain with her hammer. Whisper noticed a large pulsing sigil on the ground and recognized it as magical in nature. The party proceeded to investigate it.
As they did so, a horde of skeletons clawed out of the ground, along with a pair large undead hounds. Directing these troops of the damned was Ninaran, the elf ranger that had first directed the group to the lair of the Winterhaven Kobolds. At this point, should decidedly less friendly, leading skeleton archers in a fusillade while a wave of them descended on the heroes. As the guild (and Michael) waded into fray, Reaghan darted for the sigil, realizing she could disrupt the power flowing through it and stop the undead. Frentically, she bent the circle’s arcane powers to her, will, braving withering barrages of arrow while the others distracted the bulk of Ninaran’s forces. After tense spell-weaving, the wizard broke the sigil, the undead ceasing their assault, leaving a furious Ninaran to fight the battle by herself. As the Guild surrounded her, Whisper murmured in the dreadful tongue of Star Gods for Ninaran’s end. Ninaran seized up, clutching at her own breast as she fell over, stone dead from fright, as if seeing something not meant to be. Michael quickly pocketed Ninaran’s coin purse (“For Bahumut’s glory, of course”), whilst Reaghan and Serma snatched up piece of Vellum. Whisper set about decapitating Ninaran’s head (Bambi chastising her the whole while, saying it was wrong and she shouldn’t do it.). The note found on Ninaran appeared to confirm she was in the employ of Deathpriest Scott, whom had had Ninaran slay villagers and use their blood to create the sigil which had raised the dead. With the mysteries thus solved, Bambi and Michael returned to town. The others paused in the grove to deal with Ninaran’s head (A medieval reenactment of the copy machine beatdown from Office Space “Damn it feels to good to be an adventurer…”) Michael and Bambi reported the battle to Lord Laurie, and the townspeople welcomed the heroes back with open arms. Whisper, Serma and Reaghan followed about an hour later, covered in gore and elf brains. After a nice hot bath for each of them, they settled in at Zin’s Inn, determined to return to the keep and find the lower level referred to in Deathpriest Scott’s letter to Ninaran (it had also provided them with the pass-code to enter that level “From the ground, some magic was found.”)
The next morning, they returned to the Old Keep, intending to explore the remaining crypts. (Still shying away from the idea of battling Kobold-sized rats) Again, they ran afoul of the death cult runes, triggering one’s soul piercing screams. However, it failed to affect them. They easily dispatched the zombie guards that answered the scream, and proceeded through the dark catacombs. Whilst resting in a room wherein they located some stairs descending down, Bambi noticed a wall was false. Searching diligently, she found a switch hidden in the ceiling and opened the door (Bambi may not be bright, but she is observant.) The others followed her into what appeared to a bare room. Reaghan saw through the illusion and plunged through the rooms far wall, right in another pack of zombies. The group, after having overcome it’s initial surprise at what had happened, joined the fight and sooner the undead were covering their armor rather than gnawing on it. The room they now stood was likely to be an old armory, with little of use in it as it had not been maintained since the days of Sir Keaton. However, as they searched, a magical plaque imbedded in the wall spoke a riddle to them:
“A wondrous treasure, Valued by all, sought by many. Found in both victory and defeat, Yet never at the bottom of a treasure chest. It marches before you like a herald, And lives long after you are gone. Of what do I speak?”
After a few minutes of thought, and head scratching, Bambi piped up “Fame!”. The boomed “Close enough!” and melt from the image of a helmet to the word “Honor” as one of the sets of armor gleamed brightly, transform into a fine suit of blackiron scale armor. Bambi wasted no time in putting it on, with the others doing little to stop her, as she had solved the riddle, though how no one could guess. (Truth is, Bambi had heard it years ago, but couldn’t remember the exact answer.)
After a short rest, they proceeded down the stairs they’d located, into the light of a torch filled chamber, guarded by a quartet of mean looking hobgoblins “Shadow seeks shadow!” snarled one as a challenge phrase. While the others worked to remember the pass-phrase, Whisper noticed a spider the size of a horse being kept in a cage down the hall and grew panicked, praying to Bahumut the creature wasn’t unleashed on them. The others responded with “From the ground, all magic is found” The goblin recognized the phrase, yelling a warning that Ninaran had been slain. twice betrayed by the deceitful elf in as many days, once from beyond the grave, the Guild (and Michael) once more became locked in combat. Whisper and Michael shoved a pair of the hobgoblin guards into the well, with Bambi and Reaghan picking off the other two before they could get to the spider cage. After that, it was a battle of attrition, with the heroes using every trick at their disposal to stay a step ahead of the remaining hobgoblin guards which emerged from surrounding rooms to join the fight. Reaghan created a column of ice in the well, prevent the broken hobgoblins inside from rejoining the fight, whilst Bambi fought off three hobgoblins with Serma’s direction. Michael barely survived a pair of the nasty monsters, the creatures using their shields to make miniature phalanxes and block blows. Finally, with the magical support desperately needed, and some conducting of the symphony of war by Serma, all hobgoblin guards lay dead at their feet. Everyone then turned to the cage and slaughtered the massive spider, not wishing for it to be released and used on them later. It was at this point they elected to take a brief respite.
What other challenges lie in wait in the keep? Will the Guild locate Deathpriest Scott before he opens the rift to the Shadowfell? Why are even dumb elves smarter than freaking wizards. Tune in next time to find out…!