The adventurers finally made back inside the gates of Winterhaven, having spent the last day cleaning the Keep on the Shadowfell of many goblins, hobgoblins, and undead, and after a short detour through Sister Linora's graveyard just north of town. A happy group of villagers cheered them as they entered town, and a warm meal and a good ale were eagerly anticipated.
The party and many of the townspeople all managed to crowd into Sylvana Wrafton's inn. Sylvana spied the three casks of ale on Jenneth's Tensor's Disk and asked if the party minded - they didn't - so she immediately tapped the three kegs and declared "drinks are on the house." Several plates of hot food were rustled up and as the party sat down to eat the story of their adventure so far came forth.
Lord Padraig was especially interested to hear what is going on in his neck of the woods. He stated that Kalarel must have been planning this for some time - it must have taken years to accumulate the necessary resources to accomplish what he done so far. He was also particularly interested in the story of Sir Keegan. This was a legend that has passed in time to be not much more than a children's tale, so to know that the story really was true - and to see the legendary Aecris - was indeed thrilling.
Valthrun the Prescient was extremely interested in the map, and had many questions. He was stumped as to how such a place could exist right under his nose, but that didn't slake his curiosity. The gloomy presence that has hung over the town for several days now has not dissipated so he knew your mission had not been fully completed, but it was his best estimate that Kalarel would not be able to complete all of his necessary rituals until at least the end of the following day.
Bairwin Wildarson, the merchant, and Thair Coalstriker, the smith, spent some time poking through the load and armor and weapons, trying to guess their worth. They explained to the party that they have dispatched some laborers to collect the weapons left over from the battles with the kobolds, and that load combined with the this load will certainly overwhelm the local market. Bairwin made an offer - after Thair spent some time cleaning up the armor and weapons he would find a market for them, and then split the proceeds 50/50 with the party. A deal was struck and the glasses were raised once more.
Lord Padraig lamented that he could not do more to help, but with only ten militia at his call he must concentrate on the town and its residents. He does ask about a promise made to a farmer by the party - is the party still intending to look for their friend - Parle Cranewing - and the local boys he had hired to go look for a buried treasure? The party responds to the affirmative, but all agree that the Keep must come first. Lord Padraig also stated that he would arrange for horses for the party to use to get to the keep that following morning.
As the evening drew long and the crowd dwindled that party opted to retire for the evening. They wanted to get an early start in the morning, for they knew not what awaited them. In the morning Lord Padraig was there to see them off, as were a scattered amount of townspeople. Sister Linora provided an additional Potion of Healing, which Akta carefully placed in his backpack, and off they rode.
The ride north to the keep was uneventful, and their arrival at the curve in the road that stood closest to the keep very closely coincided with the dawning of the new days sun. As the party secured the horses and started their trek on foot through the woods to the keep several party members spied a single goblin in the ruins of the keep, who quickly disappeared once the party was spotted. Knowing there wasn't much chance at a surprise for what lay ahead, the party moved quickly through the woods to the keep, and seeing nothing in the ruins, crept through the remaining buildings to the steps that led down in to the keep.
The tarp over the trap at the bottom of the stairs had been rearranged, so Jenneth started a small fire on the tarp to ensure nothing was underneath. The party then slowly entered the Guards room, and the ambush commenced. Several Goblin Cutters, Hobgoblin Grunts, and a pair of Hobgoblin Soldiers (including one climbing out from under the burning tarp) tried to pin the party in one corner, while two Goblin Sharpshooters and a Hobgoblin Warcaster attempted to use their ranged weapons to keep the party cornered.
The hastily arranged ambush had the party stifled for a moment, but the group quickly responded. Krstic and Bogar blocked off one hallway by themselves, and the other party members were able to focus on the attacks from behind. Oester almost took out a Goblin Sharpshooter with one blow, and Maive's arrows did their usual damage. Jenneth did serious damage to the Hobgoblin Warcaster, and the fight was over almost as soon as it began.
As the party looked around they saw:
2 Goblin Cutters, wearing leather armor, and carrying a short sword.
2 Hobgoblin Grunts, wearing scale armor, and carrying a light shield and a long sword.
2 Goblin Sharpshooters, wearing leather armor, and carrying a short sword, a crossbow, and 10 crossbow bolts.
2 Hobgoblin Soldiers, wearing scale armor, and carrying a heavy shield and a flail.
1 Hobgoblin Warcaster, wearing robes and carry a quarterstaff.
The party was familiar with this area so only a cursory search was done, no magic was found, and the party earned 120 XP for the encounter.
The discussion of what to do next came up - some of the party wanted to investigate the as-of-yet unexplored natural caverns on this level, while others wanted to get back downstairs to investigate the long hallway that they had bypassed earlier. It was decided to take a quick sweep through the rooms on this level to ensure no one would be coming behind them and to take a look at the cavern.
The party moved north to the torture room, then back west through Balgren the Fat's quarters, and then down the secret stairs which came out next to the area of the natural cavern. The party has seen several patches of loose stone and garbage down here, plus they had heard the chittering of numerous rats previously, but they had not really explored any area other than that right at the bottom of the stairs.
The party crept down the steps and started to move down the hallway to their right when two separate batches of five giant rats attacked them from the front and from behind. The party decided to fight effectively against minion characters this time, and the rats were eliminated before they could do any serious damage.
Down this hallway the party found a large pair of brass doors, covered with a slimy lair and black and purple fungus. Written on the door was a message: "Stay out. Really." So of course Oester opened the door and found a medium sized room with a pool of brackish water that filled the back half of the room. A small "island" of sand sat in the middle of the nasty pool of water, and despite the twinkle of something metallic in the sand, the party decided not to investigate further.
Which was just in time for another rat swarm, and again ten more rats were soon dispensed with. Another swarm of five rats quickly darted out after that, only to be quickly killed yet again. There were still several rooms in this area to investigate yet, and the chittering of rats, while diminished, was still present.