Beyond Bale Keep

Episode 13: Sins of Omission (Returned)

**An Old "Friend" Pays a Visit**

As the party gathers itself to explore the deeper parts of the mines, they hear a fear-crazed caterwaul. Rushing into the great central chamber, a vast place dotted with dwarven living spaces in the walls (and many passages leading to places unknown), they find a babbling Gnome named Vrozh. Distraught over witnessing the death of so many, it is all Xant and Warren can do to calm him down. They bring the crying creature back to the relative safety of the connecting passageway, hoping to make sense of his blathering (and maybe gather some information).

Unfortunately, their plans go awry when folks like Quincy and Set are around. The two impulsive individuals head into the great chamber themselves, where they come upon the second Mandragora beast, and additional undead. Hearing the sounds of the fray, the more -level headed members of the party have no choice but to forge ahead to help their beleaguered companions.

Yet, all does not go well. A skirmish turns into disaster, as the party is overwhelmed and taken prisoner. Surrounded by horde beasts, and bound within hardened cocoons of nasty, hardened resin, they come face-to-face with the author of the Gimli-mine disaster. His name: Stirul Velnet, a corrupted combination of Ten’lev’s soul and Luritz’s body created from the magical death throes of Bale Keep. Stripped of their possessions, and forced to listen to Velnet’s sneering gloat over his victorious revenge, the party is left to the tender mercies of the horde – goblins, orks and bugbears all.

But true heroes are never without hope. Ludwig von D’runkin, assumed killed by advancing undead, rushes into the chamber, and frees the party, using the Silver Throwing Hammers of K’terran K’Tal. In short order, the party breaks free of its bounds and, using the element of surprise (combined with their mighty prowess born of many adventures), they break through the horde, sprinting down a passageway to freedom. This mad dash is not without its cost, however. D’runkin dies, bequeathing a small, metallic box to Gromminique (with a request to deliver it to his kin. Quincy is overwhelmed by Orks, who eviscerate her into a mangled mess. Kanen Set, armed with his trusty long knives, voluntarily holds down the passage while the rest of the party, tired, beaten and unarmed, runs into the unknown. As they sprint down the escape tunnel (directed by Gromm’s usually faulty memory), they hear the sounds of Kanen Set’s death knell. Having died the selfless Hero’s death so long denied him, Set at long last joins his beloved wife in the afterlife.

For Xant, Gromm and Warren, however, there is still a distance to be covered. They make their way to a chamber, where an old, rickety rope bridge once stood. Beyond that, a warning sign indicating death awaits if that passage is taken. But there is nowhere else to go, not with a hundred goblins on their trail. Gromm and Warren make their way across, but Xant is not so lucky. Losing his grip, he plunges down into the abyss, seemingly gone forever.

Goblinoids enter the chamber. Faced with a cut bridge, they begin peppering the survivors with arrows. But the dwarf and young Defender slip away through the passageway toward (as Gromm remembers it), freedom and safety. Before long, they find a clean, dry chamber, and there, stowed under canvas, most of their items. It appears the wildest stroke of luck.
It is, in fact, too good to be true. The items have been placed there as bait to distract them from the lurking guardian – a Roper! The creature lashes out at them, hurling tendrils toward Gromm, locking him down and drawing him in. Yet, as always, luck, ever fickle with the rest of known existence, but not with our heroes, luck saves them. They overcome the obstacle.

And so it goes that the survivors of the Gimli mines drag their broken bodies through and out of the Roper tunnel, where they are greeted by an ironically glorious day, a day made brighter by the discovery that Xant has survived his plunge. Landing in a rushing river, the knight fought his way out of his armor, and swam to freedom not far below his compatriots. It is only by divine guidance that he has come upon his remaining friends. Yet, even as the sun shines down on their broken forms, as they collapse from stress and exhaustion, there is little rest for the weary. The hordes of the Underdark will swarm these hills come nightfall. By then, the crew needs to be back to the relative safety of Foursquare.

In the meantime, they are at their lowest emotional ebb. Quincy has died, ignobly crushed by vicious Orken hordes. Kanen Set has at long last died for good. And the heroic Ludwig? Torn limb from limb by the soulless minions of the deep.

So many friends lost…and worse, Stirul Velnet has the substance known as Barkhat’s Blood. What does he intend to do with it? And how did Luritz and T’enlev become one and the same (AND a servant of Breddith, the group’s greater nemesis).

So many questions…but nightfall will soon be here. The exhausted troop has promises to keep. And miles to go before they sleep.

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