To Keep or Not to Keep
Just before the party could finish up their meal they were approached by a plump looking fellow who introduced himself as Oswald Sherman. He went on to state that after seeing the G.I.M.P.S group formation posters around the city that he thought he would approach them with their first business proposition. He explained to the party that he recently purchased the abandoned Blackstone Hold east of here along the great river. He had no interest in the garrison itself per se, but rather what lied within the keep, specificity within the commander’s quarters. Being that Oswald is a history buff, he recently acquired many of the journals of Commander Thomasin who was in charge of the garrison all those years ago before it fell to a Wolfen Empire attack. Oswald continued to explain that in these journals it spoke of a particular item, an artifact really, that this commander had in his possession. Oswald stated he was looking for a very able-bodied, but mostly trustworthy group of individuals who could retrieve this item for him.
The party asked why he was unable to retrieve it himself. To which he replied that he had hired a group of mercenaries from Calaron Security & Cargo Services here in the city to escort him to the site to retrieve the artifact himself. However, upon traveling there with a dozen men at arms he was told to stay in the wagon until the men checked the area. They informed him that old keeps such as this are usually the dwelling place of bandits or worse. He waited for quite a while, before hearing the screams from afar. He looked out the wagon window only to see a mercenary pushing his way through the forest, he was clearly making haste towards the wagon in retreat. That was when something violently pulled the mercenary back into the bush. Oswald stated that he could not make out what it was, however, whatever it was it had an astonishing strength to yank the man back so hard. With that Oswald ordered the wagon rider to retreat back to Silverstone.
Since that incident, Oswald stated he recruited three more dozen men at arms to travel to the keep, however, they had never returned. With that, the Calaron's stated they would provide no more of their mercenaries for my request, as the job was simply too dangerous. Oswald stated that he recently recruited a group of three up and coming local heroes to retrieve the item. A Paladin named Domascus Lionheart, a Ranger named Garrett Starkhart, and a Wizard named Madwig Shortnozzle, however, he had not heard back from them either.
The party asked what is so special about this item, however, was met with a rather blunt response. Oswald stated that the details of the item are private and not of the parties’ concern. He went on to inform them that journal he acquired stated the artifact was usually kept in a lockbox hidden somewhere within the commander's quarters. Oswald stated he would want the lockbox itself returned unopened. He emphasized unopened and continued to say he would know if the lockbox was opened or tampered with. He wanted the lockbox returned to him and only him. When the G.I.M.P.S asked what would the reward be for such a dangerous task, Oswald replied that it was obvious that he was getting desperate, therefore if they did this for him, and returned the lockbox unopened, then he would give the G.I.M.P.S the deed to the Blackstone Hold. Convincingly stating that if they are forming a new heroic organization then they would need a base of operations, and what better than a garrison on the great river.
After a brief private discussion, the party decided they would accept the job and get to it right away. Oswald thanked them all and told them the address to bring the lockbox if they are successful. Within a few hours, the party gathered their adventuring gear and set out towards Blackstone Hold.
Upon arrival to the Blackstone Hold the party discovered it to be an old wore down and damaged garrison. The stonework was weathered and broken in places, but overall it was well intact. However, some of the walls appeared to have an unusual appearance, as if the stone wall itself was molded like clay to allow an opening into the keep. Dense vegetation had grown its way around the outer wall of the hold over the last half-century, leaving the wall to appear greener then grey in many places. Covering the dense green vegetation was a thick layer of white webbing, spider-like webbing. On the interior of the outer wall, in the four corners stood stone guard towers. The towers appeared in good shape, however, there were some large chunks taken out sporadically, as if something hard had struck the towers in several places. The towers themselves were covered in a massive network of spider webbing that wrapped around it and strung from the tower to the adjacent trees. Caught within the webbing were dozens of birds, owls, and other wildlife.
Upon entering the garrison grounds, the party noticed about ten buildings within the perimeter of the walls. All of which are weathered wore down and damaged in some manner. Being as quiet as they could they crept around discovering the buildings consisted of a long-forgotten barn, stable, inn, storehouse, forge, armory, underground bunker, and a massive barracks. All over the entire area countless massive webs strung between and throughout the buildings, some of which contained wrapped up victims who have long since perished. During their search of the garrison grounds the party was ambushed by three large Succulent Springer's.
The battle was intense as Viggo dashed into melee with one of the spiders, trading blows with the creature as he struck with his daggers. Alvyn spread out from the party while flanking north to put some space between himself and the others, firing his gnomish engineered pistols shots into another creature. Mialee braced herself and conjured one of her offensive deity powers, sending green blasts of wrath into the fray, while also casting healing spells when required. Laeney commanded her wolf companion Nymeria to stay by her side and engage any spiders that approach. Laeney then fired off a few arrows into the creatures, however, one of her shots caused a horrible mishap. Laeney called upon the nature of her race to enhance her arrow with arcane power, she drew back her bow and fired into the swirling melee combat of Viggo and the spider. However, instead of striking its intended target the arrow tore straight through Viggo’s leg with tremendous force shattering Viggo’s left leg causing him to fall prone. Mia was quick to react and was able to use her powerful magic to heal Viggo’s wound enough to stop the bleeding, but the leg was still crippled. The battle continued on as party fought for their lives, dealing out damage and taking some themselves. When the last spider fell twitching to the ground, the party looked to each other and wondered what they had gotten themselves into.
Gathering their composure, the party carried Viggo into the nearby forge and sealed it up. They contemplated if they should continue due to Viggo being unable to walk. It was then that Alvyn had a creative idea. He fired up the forge and began to pull materials throughout the area. Using his engineering skills he created a leg brace, complete with moving hinges to take the body weight of Viggo. Viggo was able to stand and remain relatively mobile, although he still felt hindered. While this was taking place, Mia noticed Laeney outside the forge in a state of depression. When asked about it Laeney stated that she was not used to fighting in a group and made a poor choice firing into the melee as she did. She felt so horrible for what she had done to Viggo, she couldn’t bear the guilt. With that Laeney and Nymeria walked out into wild.
After a short rest the party continued and walked into the barracks. When they swung open the massive double doors they noticed in the main hall there was a trail of dried blood leading up the stairs as if something was dragged. With caution, the party proceeded to the top floor. As they approached the top of the stairs they heard a lot of skittering and unusual scraping sounds coming from all directions. Upon stepping into the hallway, they were overheard by someone or something. A bizarre human-spider hybrid emerged from a door down the hall with a puzzled look on her face. She questioned the party “What do we have here?... what brings you to my nest?”. The party looked to one another in shock and stated they were the G.I.M.P.S and were sent here to look for an item. When the party asked the creature who she was the creature replied that she is Drabek, the widow of the keep. The party then asked if Drabek knew of the lockbox, to which she did not. After some conversation, Drabek stated the party was free to take the item, leave the keep, never return and tell no one what they had seen here today. The party still heard the skittering around them getting closer, causing them to get nervous. Viggo asked if they could step into a side room to discuss the terms. Drabek agreed. The party went into a small bedchamber and barred the door behind them. After a discussion, they panicked, broke the window and threw their grappling hooked rope to the outer wall of Blackstone Hold that was about twenty feet below them. They proceeded to slide down the rope, however, Alvyn lost his grip and began to fall to the earth below. Viggo’s reacted quick, diving off to catch him and using the momentum to swing their way to the outer wall.
The party spent the next hour or so discussing why they reacted the way they did and decided to ignore the fear, head back in, take control of the keep from whatever that Drabek creature was, and find the lockbox. Upon making their way back to the top floor of the barracks the party provided little conversation. Drabek detected the intruder’s hostile intentions and the battle begun. Drabek shouted out for her offspring to help her kill the intruders. With that, the skittering sounds revealed themselves as bizarre humanoid spiders that were Drabek Offspring emerged from the shadows. During the conflict, the offspring kept diving to pin the party to the floor while they hypnotically paralyzed them. Each time the offspring were successful with the pin, the heroes were able to shrug off the paralysis long enough for one of their allies to get the creature off them. Drabek cast a spell that summoned black tentacles from the stone floor. The tentacles were made of shadows, yet became solid when they delivered whipping attacks to the party. Blows were struck back and forth, with damage taken on both sides. Mia’s healing spells were able to outlast the offspring attacks before the last offspring fell. With only Drabek remaining she backed into the war room. Viggo slide underneath Drabeks torso stunning her. With that, the party focused fire and within seconds were able to deliver the killing blow. As Drabek curled up on the stone floor dying, she muttered. “Don't... set... the witch free.. gauughhh”
The party looked around the war room and noticed along the far wall a massive nest of webbing. Completely trapped within the webbing with nothing more than a face visual was an incredible old creepy looking woman. The only woman in a soft strained voice said “Please... help me... set me free...” When the party asked who she was the old woman replied. “I'm... ah... what was my name... it's been so long... Herrmuua... no Hermia... Hermia Calarook... yes... that's it. By the gods what year is it?” The party informed her it was 2892. The old woman spoke up once again “Oh my... I've been here held here for over 40 years. That thing has kept me here that long.. half my life.... gone.” The old woman's face filled with distraught. The party asked why Drabek kept her here for so long. To which Hermia replied “That sick abomination... I've been her plaything all these decades. What was going on in her sick mind... only the demons of hell know that!” Much more interrogation continued until they felt that they got the true story out of Hermia.
Hermia stated that Drabek, formally known as Drametha Beck was a young woman who began seeing a young man name Kinnell. The two had a child together however Drametha didn't want the child, and Hermia walked in on Drametha just after she secretly killed the child by suffocation. Hermia was outraged. She informed her son Kinnell of the event. Kinnell confronted Drametha, and it became heated, leading to Drametha killing Kinnell as well. When Hermia discovered her son had gone missing he knew it was Drametha who was responsible. Hermia went down a dark path and sold her soul to a devil in exchange for the power to curse Drametha, so she could no longer live in society, become the monster she truly was and live a long life of a tortured existence. Hermia found and cursed Drametha, whom over the course of weeks began to horribly transform until she fled the town. As years passed by, Drabek as she was now known, sent her minions to capture Hermia and bring her to the abandoned keep. Here Hermia has been kept alive and held there to be tortured for over 40 years. The party talked it over and decided to believe the old woman's story. They removed Hermia from the webbing. Her form was so frail, weak and malnourished that she was unable to stand. They had Hermia lay on the floor as Mia tended to her by providing some trail rations, drinking water, and a medical evaluation.
Viggo made his way to the commander's quarters and searched around. He discovered a partly rotted note that was left by the commander to his wife. The contents of the letter stated that despite his best efforts, even though he possessed such a powerful artifact, the ability to save himself was impossible. The letter continued to state that the Wolfen soldiers were closing in and it would be a matter of moments before they were to reach him. The remainder of the letter appeared damaged beyond recognition. Viggo continued on with a thorough investigation until he discovered a hidden area behind the wall art near the bed's headboard. Sure enough, there he found a high-quality lockbox. Viggo presented the lockbox to the rest of the party and they discussed what they were to do with it. After a lengthy discussion, they decided to complete the mission as promised and would accept the keep as the reward.
Back to Silverstone
The party then departed for their journey back to Silverstone. Hermia, being unable to move was carried the whole way in a wheel barrel that Viggo found in the stables. Upon arriving at the city their first stop was to the Curative Clinic. They passed the old frail woman over to the medical staff to provide whatever care they could. Mia decided to stay with Hermia while Viggo and Alvyn made their way to Oswald's residence. After speaking with the nurse Marika Huxley, Mia was informed that the clinic was incredibly short staffed and they offered her to return in the morning for a job interview, to which she accepted. The hefty medical bill for Hermia's treatment was paid by Mia out of the kindness of her Elven heart. Upon arriving at Oswald's residence Viggo and Alvyn found their way inside the home. Oswald was sweating and very nervous about their arrival and wondering if they completed the task. Upon being presented the lockbox Oswald grabbed it like a mother snatching their child from a stranger, holding it tight to his chest. He then handed to official deeds to the Blackstone Hold over to the party, but not before Viggo stole the golden candle holders off the man's coffee table. Viggo and Alvyn made their way to the Silverstone Municipal Bank where they opened a safety deposit box to hold the deed to the keep. They then proceed to the Silverstone City Hall to legally change the name of the keep to Widowheart Keep.Continue to the next adventure... Elemental Flux