Beyond Bale Keep

Episode 16: Tomb Raiders

**Allies appear**

The journey to the tomb is uneventful, save for the appearance of a pair of travelers, a barbarian shieldmaiden named Ranzhen Stoneknife, and an enigmatic Kenku called Whistler. Xant immediately senses their evil aura, but as the two desire but a fire (and a way out of the mountains), they are allowed to join the quest. At the very least, they can provide extra security against possible threats.

Those threats appear as soon as the party hits the Ermsagh, when they are accosted by a tribe of Steel Elves, who demand payment for the party to pass through their lands. Canny negotiation grants the group access to the lower canyon, where their map soon leads them to a dead end – a bare cave evidently empty for a long time.

But, of course, there is magic afoot, and within short order, the group finds the secret entrance to the tomb. Leaving their mounts with Stoneknife and Whistler (which they have been leading along behind them for days, due to the rough terrain), the group heads into the legendary king’s final resting place. There they are met with a series of riddles to solve, each of which they handle (with varying degrees of ease). A great iron door at the end of the test chamber is opened, and beyond they find it – a tomb filled with the bones of the dead (including a huge, ancient dragon). There is also more treasure than anyone in the party has ever seen. A massive allotment of coins piled high in overflowing chests.

But there is yet the object of the quest to be found — Ferrin’s blade. In the center of the great crypt is a large sarcophagus with a heavy lid. The party moves the lid aside and find the perfectly preserved body of Ferrin Goldstone. Across his chest lay a sword. Surely this must be their prize.

Alas, but the sword resists all attempts to wield it. Each time someone touches it, they have the overwhelming urge to use it against their compatriots. Several party members attempt the task of overcoming the power of the sword. No such luck, though each of them at least resists the urge to attack friends. This comes to a crashing halt when Laurance, in his ill-fated attempt to conquer the sword, is possessed by it. In short order, he eviscerates poor Ork Librarian Ignidias Maximillian. He then turns on the rest of his friends.

Thankfully, he is subdued, and the cursed item tossed aside. The group follow’s the advice of Gromm, and reaches into Ferrin’s body. And there it is — a hilt alone, awaiting a blade. It is the Sunsword. Or part of it, anyway. The quest is a success.

But, no that isn’t all. The treasure itself proves to be a trap, as well, activating a magical ward that causes bones to assemble into undead skeletal guardians. The party hacks and crushes its way through them, emerging (again) victorious. They take their hard-earned relic (and loot), and head toward they exit where they find…betrayal!

Mercenaries have followed them, and are now demanding the sword. Worse, Whistler and Ranzhen appear to be among their number! Warren attempts to mislead them, using a fake sword obtained in the treasure horde, but no dice. The operatives know it is not the actual sword. It looks like the beaten, battered party is going to have to hack their way out of the cave when suddenly…

A group of brown-garbed clerics teleports in, weapons and spells at the ready. Calling themselves The Strazh, they offer the bandits one chance to beat feet. Now outnumber, and seeing a fair number of spellcasters ready to obliterate them, the mercs wisely leave. The party is then transported a short distance away to the safe haven of the order of the Strazh, the immortal, historical guardians of the Tomb of Ferrin Goldstone. Here, they rest, recuperate and gather information. In short order, their next course of action is clear:

*The Orst — a mix of goblinoids and giants, controls the territory. They also have quantities of Hazewort. The group makes this item #1 on their agenda, as Gromm is now completely overwhelmed by the hammers, and is weakened into a coma-like state.

*Ferrin’s Treasure is located somewhere on the upper steppes of Bal Brak. Dimitriy Xant must retrace the great King’s steps, if he is to know his true destiny.

So, after several days healing, and getting to know their new allies, the party (sans Gromm), heads to the Orstfell. Taking a stealthy approach, they locate an Orst encampment. They manage to sneak in and obtain the Hazewort, but not before being detected by the Orst. The group speeds away into the night, a horde of angry giant-kin and their ilk raging after them. The Hazwort is found, and now Gromm can be healed. All that is left now, is to scale Bal Brak.

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