After clearing Rivergard Keep of its occupants, the marauders from the North began the task of claiming the keep for themselves.
Kjorne, Fiori, and Silvos escorted a handful of townsfolk they had liberated from forced servitude to the back to their homes in Womford. Later, they would tell the others how a pack of hellhounds tracked them into town, and attacked them in the middle of the tavern, wreaking havoc and causing panic through the whole region.
Meanwhile, Magnus, Kodrir, and Helson began investigating the underground stream discovered beneath the keep in the interest of securing their position. The stream meandered through lightless grottos for at least two miles before finally opening up into a large underground lake.
Torchlight reflected off of the glassy surface of the lake, broken only by the ripples generated by the small rowboat. The trio docked at a crumbling stone quay, beside another skiff. Knowing there would be enemies near, they proceeded quietly, despite Helson’s infatuation with the ancient stonework and the history they represented.
After a few scuffles with some guards – who were clearly more powerful and devoted than any they’ve faced previously – and a small clan of animalistic lizardmen, they arrived in a large hall. The ceiling was supported by six large columns of cracked and chipped red marble. Trade goods – clearly plundered – were piled haphazardly against the walls. The far end of the hall opened up into another underground lake. A row of tables ran down the center of the room, with a ceremonial gong placed at the head of the tables, between them and the lake.
A handful of bandits were rifling through the latest shipment when they spotted the northerners. “We got here first. Ye can have whatever’s left after we’re done.” they spat over their shoulders.
Unfortunately for the bandits, the barbarians were no strangers to plunder and pillage, and they were cut down before they could raise the alarm.
“Well done.” came a scratchy female voice from behind them as they rifled through the pillaged goods. They turned to see haggard old woman flanked by two lumbering ogres.
“Who are you?” demanded Magnus.
“My name is Thuluna.” She replied. “Thank you for disposing if that… filth.” she nodded her disgusted (and fairly disgusting) face toward the bodies of the thugs. “Gar is ruining this place… bringing in any bandit he can haul off the docks… But perhaps with warriors such as yourselves on my side, we could cleanse his stench from this place and make it worthy of Olhydra’s glory!”
She walked casually into the hall, as her ogres took up flanking positions.
“I don’t trutht her.” lisped Helson, quietly. “The remindth me of my mother.”
This was good enough for Magnus, who swung his glaive Skraelingjar around in a wide arc, and charged. Helson engaged the hag (as she had revealed her true nature) and provided magical cover. Fiori dropped one of the ogres with an arrow through the eye. However, as the beast fell, its club struck the gong.
Thuluna tried to escape into the lake, but Helson walked out on top of the lake and blasted her into oblivion.
Moments later, a gargantuan turtle burst through the surface of the lake, blowing skin-searing steam in a hissing cone wounding them all severely, and dropping Magnus unconscious.
Fiori and Helson managed to drag Magnus to the relative safety of the recently cleared (but not cleaned) room belonging to the lizardman tribe. Having seen to their wounds, they then proceeded around the hall, through a few more dwellings. Among other things, Fiori found a finely crafted bone longsword with rubies inlaid in the pommel which glowed slightly, and was warm to the touch. Fiori would later deduce that it warmed and glowed when in the vicinity of a dragon.
After crossing a bridge (which, of course, had a troll under it), they arrived at a room lined with ancient copper vats. Helson was with the murals of dwarves harvesting and fermenting grain, and regaled his companions with stories of the legendary dwarven craftsmen Svartalfheim. Meanwhile, Magnus had discovered three glass tanks, half-filled with water and shoulder straps, similar to a backpack.
“It mutht be tho underwater creatureth can breathe on land.” Helson posited confidently.
Magnus shrugged and popped one open, only to be immediately set upon by an animated column of water! They managed to defeat it, but the commotion attracted the attention of the guards in the next room.
The door burst open, and a half-dozen or more soldiers began pouring in, with a self-important looking man barking orders behind them. A thundering explosion rocked the room, and suddenly, only their leader was left. Confidently, the one-eyed man marched forward, mist rolling from his body, and the words of a spell on his lips.
His good eye widened as the spell fizzled harmlessly. Helson smirked a toothy grin while the others cut him down.
The weary adventurers began searching the room. The moment they let their guard down, a half-dozen bugbears seemingly appeared all around them. In a flurry of flashing morning stars and javelins, they brought down Magnus and Helson.
Fiori, already the farthest from the melee, turned to escape through the door. The bugbears gave chase, staying just behind Fiori, and out of reach. He wound around in a semi-circle, approaching the room he had just left from the other side.
As the nimble trickster led the bugbears through the winding passageways, Magnus’ eyes fluttered. He took a sudden gasp of breath and sat bolt upright. Hearing the commotion in the halls approaching, and seeing his fallen friend, he quickly popped the cork out of a vial and poured the contents down Helson’s throat.
The demon boy gagged, but swallowed it all. He awoke in a fit of coughing, with Magnus kneeling beside him.
“They are coming.” was all Magnus said before groggily stumbling toward the passageway through which Fiori had recently departed.
Helson fell limply back to the floor just as Fiori burst into the room, spinning around the corner and disappearing into the shadows.
The bugbears stood over Helson’s inert form, kicking him inquisitively while discussing plans to capture Fiori and now Magnus. The bugbears had just decided to split when they found themselves plunged into a magical darkness.
Helson lept to his feet, and ran out the door. Fiori slid stealthily against the wall, back the way he came to meet up with Magnus and Helson. They looked at each-other and agreed “Let’s get the fuck out of here!”
They managed to find shelter in an unused prison, and met up with Kodrir. They then explored a different section of the sprawling ancient underground complex, ending up at a large crevasse, with three Bullettes chained on the other side. The presence of the burrowing creatures, as well as an encounter with an Ettin led them to believe they may have crossed over into the territory of the Earth cult.