By-Tor Brigade Legacy
Part 3 – Journey to the Sunken Citadel
- Chapter 1 – A Hearty Breakfast
- Chapter 2 – Goblin Ambush
- Chapter 3 – Twig Blights Attack
- Chapter 4 – Arnfast the Ranger
- Chapter 5 – Dark Ravine
See also: Session 04 Adventure Log 2013/11/01
Chapter 1 – A Hearty Breakfast
After the leave-taking of Tinnfang Warbel, the group quickly returned to their senses and rushed back to their camp, fearing for the safety of their horses and supplies. Fortunately, all was exactly as they left it. It seemed like they had been gone for hours, when in fact they had only been apart from the camp for a few minutes.
While Magna silently scouted around the camp to make sure their perimeter had not been breached, the rest started breaking down the tents and packing up supplies. Breena and Arragwyn went about taking care of their horses, and Sidric started to gather some rations in order to break their fast. Though their chores were yet unfinished, the men stopped to partake. But before they could dive into the rations to relieve their hunger, Arragwyn approached with her arms full of interesting supplies and utensils from her horse.
“You men might want to wait a moment if you would like a proper breakfast,” she urged with a wry smile. They looked at her curiously, noticed her arms full of foodstuffs, and sheepishly began returning the rations to their bags. Now that she had their full attention, Arragwyn began issuing directions with experienced authority. “First, I need someone to build up the fire just a little. Then, place a couple rocks so I can balance a cooking pan.” With focused energy, Kyran went to work completing her requests.
And so, instead of chewing on bland trail rations, the men went back to work breaking down camp – with drooling mouths – while Arragwyn was preparing a hardy meal. With a frying pan placed over the campfire, she cooked goose eggs and chicken eggs alongside thin strips of fresh pork. Meat of any kind, not to mention fresh meat, was exceedingly rare this time of year, and the men’s stomachs growled with anticipation when the aroma of the delectable food filled the morning air.
When the first portion was ready, she divided the contents into two clay bowls for serving, accompanied by cheese cake sweetened with honey. “Who shall be first?” she asked with a satisfied smile, happy with the perfection of her craft. No one volunteered, all being too polite, despite their intense hunger and the enticing smell and sight of the breakfast, so Arragwyn took the initiative. She desired to serve Glen first (she was stubbornly determined to win his acceptance and admiration) and then Lee (he was the first among the group to show her any sincere empathy or kindness), but she could see by Glen’s body language he still loathed to accept anything from her. So she offered both bowls to Lee and implored of him “please give one of these to Glen and enjoy the other for yourself.” Without waiting for a response or watching for a reaction, Arragwyn quickly started the next batch, while the happy recipients enjoyed their warm meal. She continued her cooking process three more times, serving all eight of her traveling companions.
Magna returned to camp after his scouting foray just in time to join in the final serving alongside Sidric. While seated nearby each other, Magna casually grabbed the nearest waterskin to wet his throat and wash down the delicious eggs and bacon. However, his taste buds were shocked by an unwelcome flavor – the waterskin belonged to Sidric and was full of ale, not water! Manga said nothing, but he would be more careful in the future whenever he was thirsty, and later he would warn the other members of the group.
After the final serving, Arragwyn quietly cleaned and packed her pan, utensils and bowls. The others were reluctant to rise after such a satisfying meal, but they knew they needed to march on as soon as possible, so they got to their feet and finished up their tasks of camp breaking.
Glen approached Arragwyn while she was bundling her dishware. “Arragwyn. Thank you for the delicious meal.”
“You are very welcome, Glen. It was my pleasure,” she replied with a pleasant smile and a reserved upward glance. Though she hid her emotions, Arragwyn had never felt more happiness in her entire young life than at that very moment by receiving that small amount of attention and kindness from her beloved cousin.
Later that morning, a few miles down the road, the group stopped to rest their legs and water their horses. A couple people quietly observed that Arragwyn uncharacteristically dug into the team’s trail rations, munched down some hard tack, then began chewing a hard piece of dried meat. It was not until then the observers realized – Arragwyn had not had any breakfast for herself. She had unselfishly gone through all that work to prepare a hot and healthy meal for everyone else, but did not leave enough fresh food for herself.
Chapter 2 – Goblin Ambush
During their midday break, all conversation centered upon the odd events of that morning and their astonishing meeting with Tinnfang Warbel. Magna explained that even in his distant land of Eryn Vorn, the lore of Tinnfang Warble was known to Elves – though in their tales they named him Timpinen. It was told that Tinnfang was known to “play music so beautiful that it causes whomever hears it to fall forever in love with starlit nights and summer evenings” and he was said to be “half a fey of the woods and dells, one of the great companies of the children of Palúrien, and half an elf or a Shoreland Piper.” His friend Liric the Scop had once sang of Tinnfang – a song he learned from a bard in Ullester – that “Tinnfang was a wondrous wise and strange creature, and he fared away hither with the Elves long ago…always ahead piping strangely or whiles sitting aloof. Now does he play about the gardens of the land; but Willowdale he loves the best, and Lilac Vale best of all. Ever and again we miss his piping for long months… But on a sudden will his flute be heard again at an hour of gentle gloaming, or will he play beneath a goodly moon and the stars go bright and blue.’"
They looked to Yriadel for additional input, but she was silent and stared off into the trees, as if thinking of a faraway dream. As the day progressed, Yriadel’s friends gradually noticed that she was still not her normal self since the encounter with Tinnfag Warbel. She seemed to have regressed into a child-like state and was walking around dreamy and distracted. They kept a close watch on her and at times had to lead her by the hand to keep her with the group.
Coincidentally, Glen spotted a little Goldfinch multiple times and pondered if it was the same one, though that seemed impossible. But when he mentioned his thought, Magna confirmed he shared the same suspicion, having detected the same Goldfinch earlier as they traveled during the day. Cleverly, Glen remembered that Tinnfang had mentioned Yriadel’s grammer was called Gyldenfeax, a name which means “golden hair”, and that her foster father was a Gnome called Feligan Finch. “Could there be a connection?” he wandered out loud. But Yriadel had no clear answer for his theory.
In the afternoon, the group left the trail and emerged onto the Old Road. It was overgrown and wound through rocky downs, near stands of old-growth oak, and past a couple of abandoned farm shacks. The lonely road was empty of all travelers except for their group.
Late in the day, when the group stopped for a rest, Yriadel and Breena stepped away from the group for a privacy break. Kyran followed at a respectable distance, thinking of their safety. While Yriadel and Breena stood behind a tree, a bright yellow Goldfinch approached and fluttered about Yriadel. To Breena and Kyran, it appeared as if Yriadel and the bird were having a conversation! It was an amazing sight to behold.
While distracted by this strange sight, the group was ambushed by a squad of 8 goblins, led by a hobgoblin. Nearly everyone in the group was surprised and caught flat-footed. They were scattered and disorganized, while the aggressors rained down arrows from their short bows. Breena, Dodge, Magna and Sidric were all wounded in the barrage.
Kyran was the first to retaliate. He activated his magic wand and a missile of black energy shot forth. The missile exploded in dark energy on a goblin’s face, who dropped his weapon and fell to his knees – staggered and disabled. He tried to flee, but seconds later fell face down, killed by the trauma. Dodge was the next to act. He charged at the hobgoblin leader and delivered a surprising death blow with his axe.
Next, the goblins dropped their bows and charged into melee, drawing their swords in the motion. Magna was the first to receive a cut – by 2 separate opponents – then Kyran and Sidric received wounds. Magna drew his sword and swung angrily at one of his goblin opponents. The attack was strong and sure – it killed the hapless goblin with one stroke. Breena swung her flail and struck her opponent clean in the face. He staggered away helpless, with blood pouring down his brow and into his eyes. Lee and Glen each struck painful blows. Glen’s foe dropped dead from the scimitar wound.
As the battle continued, a second squad of 8 goblins and their hobgoblin leader attacked from the opposite direction, shooting arrows from their bows. Magna, Arragwyn and Yriadel each received further wounds from the surprise attack. Bravely, Dodge, Glen, Kyran and Magna each cut down their goblin enemies. Lee bloodied his opponent. Arragwyn mounted her warhorse Bleiki and took to the offensive with its mighty hooves.
The hobgoblin leader of the second squad took aim at Yriadel with his bow, but she turned towards him and whispered “Freyja Helligdom”. The hobgoblin released a pitiful sigh of affection toward her, and lowered his bow without firing. Next, she reached out to Sidric, touched his arm while speaking her holy words “Freyja Kurere”, and Sidric was instantly healed of his most severe wound.
Despite the reinforcements from the second squad, the goblin bandits were soon out-dueled by the group of heroes. Although the goblins delivered additional wounds – Arragwyn and Lee among the victims – their ranks were broken. A few goblins were limping away to die and one cowardly goblin fled in panic from Arragwyn’s horse. Five more were quickly killed by Dodge’s axe, Lee’s sword, Kyran’s sword, Sidric’s crossbow and Bleiki’s hooves.
“Kavvála Vlimaton!” shouted Kyran, and a black missile of energy shot forth and killed one of the final goblins still standing. Breena crushed the head of an unfortunate goblin with her flail. Sidric pierced the throat of another with a bolt shot from his crossbow. Dodge split the skull of an opponent with his axe. Lee killed one with his sword as it tried to run away from Bleiki’s hooves.
The battle had ended and the team stood victorious. Their wounds dripped with blood and their weapons dripped with gore. They gathered together to check for any serious wounds. Yriadel chanted “Freyja Helbrede” and her hair sparkled with flecks of gold in the sunlight. The glow expanded and enveloped her friends. Then the pain from their wounds immediately subsided – their cuts closed and healed.
They tried to interrogate one surviving goblin, but he spoke very little Westron, and had very low intelligence. The only useful information they could gain was verification that they were on the right path toward the Sunken Citadel.
Chapter 3 – Twig Blights Attack
Before darkness arrived, Magna successfully scouted a suitable location to retire for the night. While making camp, Breena and Arragwyn began to look after their horses.
“If you would like to get started on supper, Sidric and I will look after Bleiki for you”, Breena politely offered.
“That would be very nice, thank you,” Arragwyn replied with a warm smile. Arragwyn systematically gathered meal supplies from Bleiki’s saddle bags, and carried them to where the group was building a campfire.
“I need someone to build a tripod, so I can hang this and cook some meat”, she stated, holding up the small metal griddle and its hooks. Anxious to see what kind of meal she had planned for them, a couple of the men immediately went to task preparing a campfire and tripod. After Breena finished her chores with the horses, she joined Arragwyn and asked to assist. Since the day before when they had met at the crossroads and Breena exchanged bitter words to Arragwyn, her feelings were noticeably improved. Breena now seemed genuinely friendly towards Arragwyn and they both got along cheerily. Breena showed an appreciation for Arragwyn’s cooking skills and was genuinely curious to learn new techniques.
When the fire was hot enough, Arragwyn took out some slabs of pork and laid them upon the griddle. The site of fresh meat was met with amazed and hungry eyes.
“We had just slaughtered a large pig at the manor,” she explained apologetically, “and I liberated some of the meat when I was gathering supplies for our journey.”
Everyone else in the group was accustomed to having meals cooked in a large cauldron – a stew – and were cheerfully setting up camp while savoring the delicious aroma of the meat as it was grilled and anticipating its flavor. Arragwyn sat her frying pan beneath the griddle to catch some of the grease, dropped in a pinch of coriander and thyme, then stirred in some carrots and peas. Next she laid out a couple loaves of wheat bread near the fire to warm.
When all was prepared, the happy band sat down together and enjoyed the feast with great fellowship. They cheerfully recounted their victory earlier that day against the goblins, congratulating each other on such fine combat skills and heroism. Finally, when the meal was finished, Arragwyn passed around a clay bowl full of delicious almond cakes.
After the meal, they fell asleep easily in their tents and bedrolls. During the midnight hours, when Dodge, Lee and Sidric were on guard duty, they heard a sound that resembled wind blowing through dry leaves. Noticing that there was no actual wind at the time, they became instantly alert.
Seconds later, from out of the bushes pounced four small forms, their bodies a tangle of twigs, branches, and small bits of wood. Two arms jutted from their stunted, wooden bodies, each one ending in a three-fingered claw. A pair of red eyes glowed from within their airy frame. The creatures immediately attacked, but the guards were well prepared.
With hardly a wound, they overpowered and destroyed the four “Twig Blights”. Once defeated, they appeared to be nothing more than loose bundles of snapped and broken twigs. Yriadel inspected the wounds received by Dodge, Lee and Sidric, and reasoned that these were the same type of creatures that killed the cow they had spotted the day before.
Chapter 4 – Arnfast the Ranger
In the morning, the group was surprised by a visit from Arnfast the Ranger. Using his excellent stealth skills, he had sneaked past those on guard duty and was waiting casually in a nearby tree. He dropped down and approached the them while they were emerging sleepily from their tents and were about to break fast and pack up to continue their journey.
“Good morning, my Darford friends,” he greeted cheerfully. “I must say I am impressed. Though it was a simple job to track you, you have made good time for such a large and diverse group.
“I might warn you that you are dangerously close to the Dark Ravine and the Sunken Citadel, but I presume that is your destination. And I also assume you are aware there are hordes of goblins about?”
Sidric, who for some unknown reason was not on a friendly basis with Arnfast, was very unhappy about being awakened by the Ranger in such a manner. “Worry about your own fortunes mate,” he grumbled. “The deepest circle of hell is reserved for those who wake others. Fortunately, I know how to counter it; the man who did the waking buys the man who was sleeping a drink; the man who was sleeping drinks it while ignoring the man who did the waking.
However, the rest of the group returned the greeting of Arnfast with warmth and cheer, despite his awkward entry.
“Why have you followed us?” they asked.
“I have followed you in order to retrieve Arragwyn the Fair,” he answered. “Her father deduced where she ran off to, and hired me to accompany her home safely.
“Can you tell us anything you know about the Sunken Citadel?”, asked Magna.
“Certainly, my friend. Many years ago, a goblin tribe infested the ruins we call the Sunken Citadel. Then about twelve years ago, these goblins began an annual tradition, whereas they sell a single piece of magical fruit once every midsummer. The first couple years, they ransomed the fruit to the highest bidder. But in recent years, the precious fruit was always purchased by the Arrion household, easily outbidding anyone else from our poor village. The fruit, a red apple of perfect hue, heals those who suffer from any disease or other ailment. Mind you, the Arrion clan are not entirely selfish. They have been known to share the benefits of the fruit on occasion, though rarely for free.”
Arnfast paused, then turned toward Arragwyn. “Have you checked on your horse yet this morning, child?”
“No, sir,” she replied.
“Then get to it promptly,” he ordered sternly.
After she was out of hearing distance, he continued in a discreet tone. “There is more to this story that you should know, and the Arrion clan does not like to announce what I am about to tell. First, sometimes the goblins offer another apple at midwinter. This apple is corpse-white and utterly poisonous, even to the mere touch of the skin. Second, they have been planting the seeds from their fruit, hoping to engender their own enchanted apple tree. When the seeds germinate in their proper season, they produce a twiggy mass of twisted sapling stems. Not too long after the saplings reach about two feet in height, they are stolen – every time.
“Arrion deduced that the jealous goblins have been sending out thieves to ensure they maintain a monopoly of the enchanted fruit. He tried various watches and traps but could never catch the culprits. The reason I know all this is because Arrion himself explained it to me. He tried to hire me to discover how these wretched goblins manage to steal every sprouting sapling grown from the enchanted fruit’s seed, and to pierce the mystery of how they could ever possess such a wonder, but I declined.
“Frustrated after the last saplings were stolen, he tasked his two sons with the mission, and hired some mercenaries to accompany them.
The group considered this information while they ate their morning rations, then they discussed moving forward. Arragwyn insisted she would not go home without finding her brothers, so Arnfast agreed to accompany the group and keep her safe until he could accompany her home to her father.
During the day, when the group had stopped for a break and the three ladies were a respectable distance away attending to their private needs, Arnfast commented to Dodge and the rest of the crew. “Men, how is it you manage to attract such pretty maidens to your company? The menfolk of Darford in recent years have all agreed that Breena is the most beautiful maiden in our village. And the few lucky ones who have had the opportunity to observe Arragwyn the Fair (myself among them) have commented how her beauty could soon rival that of Breena as she matured. Then when Yriadel returned home, we were all pleasantly surprised to see what a beautiful flower she had bloomed into. Without a doubt the beauty of Yriadel is more captivating than even Breena or Arragwyn. Do you realize, that with this little trip away from Darford, you have deprived our little village of the three most beautiful maidens of our day?”
Chapter 5 – Dark Ravine
The Old Road passed to the east of a narrow ravine. At the road’s closest approach to the cleft, several broken pillars jutted from the earth where the ravine widened and opened into something more akin to a deep, but narrow, canyon. Two of the pillars stood straight, but most of them leaned against the sloped earth. Others were broken, and several had apparently fallen into the darkness-shrouded depths. A few similar pillars were visible on the opposite side of the ravine.
The ravine ran as far as they could see in either direction, probably for several miles. Its depth and width averaged about 30 feet in the areas they surveyed. At the point where it most closely intersected the Old Road, it widened to 40 feet. It also plunged much deeper into the earth near the pillars.
Arnfast confirmed that this was the entrance to the Sunken Citadel.
As the group investigated area more closely, they discovered that the pillars were generally worn and broken, and graffiti in the Kimrian alphabet covered most of them, though in the Goblin language. They also discovered that the area in and around the pillars had hosted countless small campfires—some of them as recent as a month ago. However, it appeared that someone had gone to some effort to hide the evidence of the camps from casual scrutiny.
When they investigated the cleft, they noted a sturdy knotted rope tied to one of the leaning pillars. The rope hung down into the darkness below. Judging by its good condition, the rope could not have been tied there any longer than a few weeks ago. They could also see older and weathered handholds and footholds carved into the cliff face – probably by goblins.
As they began discussing a plan for descending into the ravine, they noticed that Arragwyn became withdrawn and was obviously reluctant to descend. At about that time, Sidric pronounced wearily that he could not go underground. He was still suffering from claustrophobia and the trauma he received from the skeletons in the Crypt of Dartron. Breena indicated she would not go further without Sidric. So Arnfast volunteered to stay above ground with Arragwyn, Breena and Sidric – and the two horses.
Glen elected to descend first, and the knotted rope made for an easy climb while using the wall to brace. He climbed down about 50 feet then landed on a sandy ledge strewn with rubble. Before Glen could even look around, he was attacked by 3 dire rats hidden within the debris. The dire rats resembled an ordinary rat, except they were more feral and much larger – about three feet long. Glen successfully held off the onslaught – killing one rat in the process – until his friends completed their descent and killed the remainder.
After defeating the dire rats, they surveyed their surroundings. The sandy ledge overlooked a subterranean gulf of darkness to the west. The ledge was wide but rough. Sand, rocky debris, and the bones of small animals covered it. A roughly hewn stairwell zig-zagged down the side of the ledge, descending into darkness.
They searched the ledge and detected footprints which headed down the stairs. Extraordinarily large rat prints were likewise abundant. The search also revealed an old ring of stones that contained (and was covered by) the accumulated ash of hundreds of fires, though no fire had been lit here for a few years. The ashes hid roughhewn spear tips of goblin manufacture and small animal bones from past meals.
They peered down over the ledge but could not see the far wall of the chasm, nor the bottom. Regardless, they restarted their descent into the chasm via the stairs. The stairs were about five feet wide and not particularly well made. However, it was not dangerous as long as they moved carefully. There were three switchbacks, each of which opened onto a small landing.
The second and third landing allowed Yriadel and Kyran to view the area below with their darkvision. At the edge of sight, they saw a fortress top emerge from the darkness. The subterranean citadel, though impressive, seemed long forgotten, if the lightless windows, cracked crenellations, and leaning towers were any indication. All was quiet, though a cold breeze blew up from below, bringing with it the scent of dust and a faint trace of rot.