Unto the Keep
The ruined keep rose before the gathered rabble of townsfolk, choked by vines. A single flag flew above the broken rampart, a red skull on a field of black. Though it was noon, the skies were dark. It was only yesterday when you all set out from the town of Smythwyk Hollow, a last desperate attempt to avoid the fate of the rest of your town — kidnapping by mysterious forces.
A small scouting party investigated the far side of the keep, finding part of the wall collapsed and potentially scalable. But that path was decided against in favor of a frontal assault. On the rocky path to the keep the adventurers came across two corpses — recognizably the blacksmith’s sons — strung up by vines. Wolly the Dwarf farmer approached to investigate. His compatriots watched in horror as the corpse vines lurched off their stakes and eviscerated Wolly. Although they made short work of the two vines, thanks in great part to the work of William Borth, the first death weighed heavily on their minds. Not so heavily that they didn’t search the bodies to find a decent short sword.
Pressing forward, the party came to the keep’s guardhouse. The hobbit triplets were is much disagreement, leading to halfling siblings Lucky and Wittie hanging back to the rear of the party. This proved unfortunate — as the party entered the gate, the portcullis dropped on the last rank of adventurers. Wittie was skewered, but alive. The front ranks had their own problems — two mutated human/beast creatures dropped from the gatehouse, ready to fight. While that battle raged, Wittie made one last futile attempt to lift the portcullis, and died of major blood loss.
The party suffered no further losses in taking care of the two beastmen, and took a moment to rest. The vine-animated body of Wolly scrabbled at the fallen portcullis, but couldn’t make it through. It’s presence was disturbing, however. Looking around the courtyard, Sulisica headed alone to the central well. Looking into the well, she felt compelled to throw herself down into the bottomless void, breaking the compulsion with just enough time to grab hold of the well rope. For the other party members, however, it looked as though she walked up to the well and cast herself into it. Rushing to help, two more party members [WHO?] got caught in the same compulsion and hurled themselves into the pit, their bodies twisting and mutating as they fell into the endless. Sulisica managed to climb out, but not without contracting the horror of the void. She would suffer from shakes and chills for the remainder of her short life.
The Ruined Tower
By now the group were assured of their dire fate, and decided to enter the belly of the beast: the ruined tower. Rumors from town spoke of many treasures within, but they were at a loss as to how to open the door. Lacking a key or the strength to open it, they hatched a plan: to fill a barrel with nightsoil, set it on fire, and kick it into the door of the tower. While far-fetched, the gods clearly appreciated the derring-do of the plan, and it succeeded in blasting open the door. Unbeknownst to the villagers, however, inside the tower were hundreds of skins and meats, fermenting in the heat of the tower. The flaming barrel ignited the rotting fumes, causing a further explosion. Out of the fire staggered two beastmen, burning to the deaths. The group’s elation turned south as they entered the tower to see a giant bull-headed beastman wielding a mighty axe. While smoldering, this foe was not about to drop without a fight.
The battle with the bull-headed beastman was not without losses and displays of cowardice, but the heroes prevailed — thanks in large part to the bravery and strong arm of William Borth. Braced by the victory, the party pressed on, eager for blood. Ascending the stairwell, they stopped at the closed door at the top, leading to a seemingly impossible set of stairs downwards. Remembering their success with the flaming barrel of nightsoil, the group decided that the best possible way forward was to set a sheep on fire and kick it down the steps.
Again: they decided to set a sheep on fire.
Then kick it down the steps.
Although this impressive feat of cruelty failed to produce any useful effect, it was surely a momentous moment in the chronicles of the heroes from Symthwyck Hollow: here is where shit got serious.
The party, after noting the failure of a flaming sheep to provide any result, decided to brave the steps down. They led to a large chamber with a narrow pool, filled with dark water and floating skulls. Bas relief sculptures lined the walls, depicting scenes of monstrous horror and evil deeds — scenes of which the party took serious note. Particularly the bits about the Kraken. Also, some skulls were picked up.
The Underground Sea
Heading down the stairs, the remaining group entered an enormous cavern, nigh 500’ high. Dark water, an underground sea, spread out before them, the far shore lost in the darkness. A solitary boat sat in the still water, some distance from the shore. A stone menhir, covered in strange carvings, stood in the sand nearby. It was this monument our fearless heroes investigated first, recognizing it from the relief sculptures in the chamber above. They lit a candle at the top, calling towards them the ship. Boarding, the ship set out into the dark waters under mysterious power.
Unfortunately the boat also drew the attention of the slumbering Kraken lurking in the depths. Powerful tentacles broached the sides of the ship at startling speed, blindly grasping for tasty morsels. Many of our heroes fell prey, wrapped in sinewy tentacle and dragged to their watery grave. Some of our best were lost, most notably William Borth and the Halfling vvv. It wasn’t much of a battle, but luckily the Kraken seemed satisfied with the massacre and sank below the depths to digest its meal.
Only four were left, standing stunned on the ship’s deck: Shilliac, Ferdinand, Sulisica, and mmm. And although they lost eleven of their friends and family in horrible, horrible ways, their experience solidified both their resolve and their skills.