Session 37: Kendall Keep And The Caves Of Chaos

The Keep on the Borderlands near Wyvern Tor and the Old Owl Well
“Halt! Who goes there? Friend or foe?” the guard on the left watchtowers hailed again to the band of outcasts waiting outside the Keep's great gate.

"Friends," Valeria finally called out in return.

“What is your purpose?” the guard on the left-hand tower asked.

"We have come to rest before traveling on to Wyvern Tor." Valeria yelled up.

Finally, the first guard asked their names and they each introduced themselves as the guard seemed to scribble down their names.

"Right!” the second guard called down and descended out of sight into the left-hand tower. A moment later, the drawbridge slowly lowered with many a groan and clank of its great chains, revealing the portcullis beyond. The guard then reappeared, huffing and puffing a bit, and kept an eye on the group while the other guard descended into his tower to raise the portcullis.

The portcullis slowly rose, creaking, clearing the way for the travelers to step off the drawbridge and between the towers. About ten feet ahead was a set of sturdy double doors made of thick wood reinforced with iron bands. The shutter at the back of a barred window in the right-hand door opened and a woman’s face scrutinized them with calm deliberation. "Welcome to Kendall Keep,” she said. She looked them up and down, her eyes resting thoughtfully on their exposed weaponry. “I’m Sabine, the Gatekeeper," she went on. “This is a peaceable place. We don't like brawling in the streets, folks stabbed in the tavern, or anything like that. Keep your weapons sheathed within the walls and stay out of trouble, and you'll find the Keep a home away from home. Stir up trouble and you’ll wish you'd never come here. I guarantee it. Now what brings you to The Keep?”

"We're on a mission from Phandalin," Valeria replied, "and we came here to rest before heading to Wyvern Tor."

The door opened revealing a fit, attractive woman in her thirties. "Good luck adventurers," Sabine greeted them. "Like I said this can be a home away from home for you." She suggested they show their good intentions by “peace-bonding” their weapons, which they agreed to, and the guards tied their weapon hilts to their sheaths or belts. Then she suggested they visit the stables to store their mounts and gave them directions to the marketplace, the inn and the tavern.

Valeria and Prynhawn thanked Sabine before they all headed off towards the stables.

Valeria, Prynhawn, and Phillip brought their mounts into the stables where they were greeted by Tella, the teenage stable girl.

"What brings you to Kendall Keep?" Tella asked. When they told her where they were headed she frowned and shook her head. "Ah, I see. Every now and then we get adventurers heading off to Wyvern Tor. It never works out well for them, but good luck to you."

Tella seemed to already be taking good care of their mounts, so when she offered to provide better food and care for their mounts for a little extra, they quickly the agreed.

Then they made their way passed what appeared to be private residences, merchant shops, and even a bank, and arrived at the town square. The centerpiece of the square was a large fountain, its water splashing from a marble statue carved in the shape of a nymph. On the far side they could see a two-story stone and timber building labelled The Green Man Inn, and attached to it was the tavern: The One Eyed Cat.

Yanliz decided to wait outside as the others entered the Tavern. Inside, Vernim was slightly startled by the strangely armored female warrior standing guard just inside the doorway. The tavern was bustling with patrons, but the innkeeper directed them to an empty table.

"Newcomers, welcome!" the man called out. "Come have a seat. My name is Wilf and I'll be right with you."

As they sat down, a young girl rushed over with a rag and cleaned off the table for them. "Hi, I'm Jess. Someone will be right right with you."

Soon after an older woman approached their table. "Greetings." she said. Welcome to The One Eye Cat. I'm Calista. What can I get for you? You must be hungry from your travels. We have food and drink, and rooms if you like."

Yanliz poked his head into the room, and Vernim waved him in.

"Come right in and have a seat with your friends." Calista called to him. "No need to be bashful young man."

As Yanliz joined them, Jess came with their drinks and Caslista left to fetch their food.

As the ladies went back to their business, Vernim, Phillip, and Valeria overheard Calista suggest that perhaps Jess should stay back in the kitchen for a while. "It's fine mom, Jess insisted. "They're adventurers. All adventurers look bizarre."

Calista brought their meals which were included in the rooms they rented for the night. Jess mentioned that they had a special weekly rate, but Calista, hearing of the group's intentions to visit the caves, said that rate was really for those with no immediate plans to move along.

Phillip complimented Calista on the food, and she offered to bring him seconds.

Phillip offered her some herbs that could help the meat retain its flavor after being imported.

Calista thanked him and told Phillip that The Keep is completely self-sustaining and they raise all their own meat, but she gladly accepted the offer.

Vernim felt like the guard by the doorway kept staring at him, but couldn't tell for sure beneath her visor. Vernim asked Jess if she was their bouncer, which she acknowledged, adding that she was always on the lookout for trouble makers and had been known to toss people out the door.

"Is that why they call her a bouncer?" Yanliz asked. "Because she bounces people out the door?"

"I guess it is." Jess agreed.

Jess showed them to their room, a large suite with six beds. She offered to have a seventh bed brought in, but they said that would not be necessary. Yanliz was happier in the closet, which was quite large. Lawrence started a fire in the fireplace and Phillip heated up some soup for everyone before they went to sleep.

***

After a good night's rest they went back to the main room and had a quick breakfast before heading out.

At the stables, they woke Tella, who, after hearing of their plans, suggested they leave their mounts at the keep since the caves were only a mere half days travel away and the steeds couldn't very well be brought inside the caves and wouldn't be safe left outside them either. To this they agreed. They paid her for the upcoming day and left.

The group marched east and north-east until the afternoon when they found a trail that they determined must lead to the caves.

Following a winding path through the dark forest that pressed close on either side brought them at last through the thick belt of trees and to the entrance of what was either a large ravine or a small canyon, depending on your point of view. They estimated it was well over four hundred feet long and over a hundred feet wide. The narrow stream that paralleled the path trickled down the center of the ravine, forming great muddy puddles in several places, its source hidden in the trees that clustered at the far end of the ravine. The walls of the ravine sloped up steeply on either side. Several cave mouths were visible on the slopes, crude paths leading up to them.


With his companions following behind him, Phillip moved into the clearing to investigate a campfire near one of the cave mouths. It appeared long abandoned.

Examining the cave entrance they saw the rough cave soon gave way to worked stone tunnels just inside. With Prynhawn in the lead, they saw that, only a few steps in, the passage divided in three. One continued straight ahead and ended in a door after some thirty feet. The next angled off to the left, forking again at the edge of their vision. The last went twenty feet or so to the right and then ended in a t-intersection with two new corridors leading off to north and south. The muddy floor showed signs of coming and going in all directions, mostly from bare, human-like, feet.

They agreed to continue straight ahead. Vernim and Phillip examined the door and the surrounding area for any signs of traps, but found none. Prynhawn opened the door, only to find nothing but stone behind it as they heard the sound of metal grating on stone until the portcullis falling behind them slammed to the floor, trapping them in the corridor!

Valeria instructed Prynhawn, Baricus, and Phillip to lift the portcullis. The three of them strained and the portcullis budged. They could tell it would be slow progress. Not surprisingly, they heard enemies approaching; the squeals and cries of six goblins carrying bows in their hands and spears in their belts. "Bree-Yark!” they shouted, which Vernim recognized as meaning anything from “Hey, Stupid!" to “Gotcha!” or “What a moron!"

Standing back a safe distance from the portcullis, the goblins fired their arrows at the trapped invaders, Yanliz avoided the first arrow, but was struck twice, as was Valeria, and Phillip was struck once. Lawrence squeezed his hands through the bars and scorched four of the goblins to death with burning hands. Vernim cast cure wounds on Yanliz, who fired at the goblins, but missed. Valeria cast insults at the goblins, to no effect.

Vernim heard the two remaining goblins scream for reinforcements as they fired at Vernim and Lawrence, who both avoided their arrows. Lawrence dropped another goblin, this time with a fire bolt. Valeria's insults seemed to agitate the remaining goblin, who avoided a crossbow bolt from Vernim, but was struck dead by Yanliz's sharpshooting. Baricus, Prynhawn, and Phillip had the portcullis up a few feet from the ground, and Phillip managed to get to the outside, though still lifting.

As Phillip peered down the corridors, he saw eight more goblins charging from the other side. The halfling was struck by an arrow, as were Valeria and Yanliz. Other arrows missed Lawrence, Baricus, Valeria, and Yanliz. Lawrence passed under the mostly raised portcullis and caught four goblins with burning hands, but all of them quickly jumped aside, avoided most of the flames. Valeria also made her way into the corridor and slashed one of the goblins with her sword. Vernim prepared to take Phillip's place lifting the portcullis and cast healing word on Valeria. Yanliz, also having moved out into the corridor, dropped another goblin with an arrow. Baricus, Prynhawn, and Phillip had the portcullis far enough up that everyone could make their way to the outside.

The goblin Valeria had struck dashed further down the corridor before she could respond, and all of them fired, catching Valeria and Vernim, and Phillip and Baricus twice. A seventh arrow bounced off Prynhawn's armor. Lawrence scorched another goblin with fire bolt. Yanliz dropped a goblin with his sharpshooting. Vernim cast healing word on Phillip, who charged into the fray, finishing three goblins with a flurry of staff strikes, kicks and an elbow.

Panicked and scrambling, the three remaining goblins all missed their marks, as did Lawrence with his fire bolt and Vernim with his crossbow. Baricus drew his crossbow and nicked one of the goblins. Valeria cast cure wounds on herself. Yanliz dropped another goblin with an arrow, and Phillip put down the last two with his varied strikes.

Yanliz, Vernim, and Baricus retrieved their lost ammunition, and Yanliz confirmed all the goblins were dead.

They considered venturing on or returning to the Keep, but Valeria decided they should take a short rest in the woods and return, not wanting to give their enemies too much time to retaliate.

Their rest in the woods was uneventful, and after a quickly assembled meal prepared by Phillip, they felt ready to return to the cave.

They found the dead goblins exactly where they had left them and Valeria decided they should head left, to the east.

The corridor quickly divided in two, and to the left they could see it ended after about twenty feet. At the very end of the corridor they saw a chest. Valeria concluded that this must be another trap. Exploring the walls and ceiling at the beginning of the corridor, Vernim found the holes in the stone, indicating another portcullis trap. They ignored the chest and continued on to the right.

The tunnel soon opened into a twenty-foot by thirty-foot room with a set of stairs going up in the opposite corner. A chalk line had been drawn down the middle of the room. Against the near wall on the right was an open-topped barrel with several crude wooden mugs on a small table nearby. Another barrel against the far left wall had a bunch of what looked like broom handles sticking up out of it.

Phillip suggested that the rope and chalk line were part of some sort of game, similar to those he played as a child. Examining the handles, he found that they were spears. In the other barrel he smelled what was clearly beer, filling about two-thirds of the barrel.

Phillip tasted the beer, and found it to be of decent quality, and some of them refilled their skins with from the barrel. Phillip noticed that there appeared to be a lump of coal at the bottom of the barrel, but it had not tainted the flavor.

Valeria had Prynhawn lead them up the stairs, which went up for about twenty feet before ending in a ten foot square landing. As Prynhawn approached the landing he tripped over a tripwire and fell onto the landing. He was unhurt, but they all retreated back to the entrance of the cave in fear of having triggered some trap.

Eventually they returned to the landing, and Prynhawn tripped over the same tripwire, this time only stumbling forwards a few steps before regaining his footing.

The landing opened to the right where another set of stairs continued up for another fifteen feet. From there the corridor continued on for another twenty feet, and ended in a door.

After Vernim searched for traps around the door, Prynhawn tried the handle, but the door appeared to be locked. Valeria asked Prynhawn to try to knock it down. Prynhawn slammed his foot into door and it flew inwards with Prynhawn lurching into the room where he found himself surrounded by four hobgoblins with their weapons ready to attack.

Prynhawn and Yanliz were both surprised. Barricus drew his shortswords and ran to Prynhawn's side, slicing open the nearest hobgoblin. Vernim shot his crossbow at another with a lucky shot right between the eyes. Valeria slashed at a third with her sword. Phillip dove in between Prynhawn's legs, occupying a space that looked too small for the rotund halfling, and attacked the hobgoblins, but his flailing resembled that of a giant baby having a tantrum on the floor.

The two remaining hobgoblins slashed at Prynhawn, but he avoided their blades. Lawrence and Prynhawn made quick work of them with their fire bolt and sword, respectively.

Looking around they saw a largely bare chamber except for the considerable furnishing piled against the far wall. They could just make out the top of a closed door in the far right corner, almost hidden behind the clutter of boxes, barrels, smashed furniture, and loose debris stacked in front of it. A few heaps of cloth and furs in the middle of the room seemed to serve as nests or beds for the large humanoids they had just slain.


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