The Barren Kingdoms

1.02. The Soldier Who Stayed

The keep reveals its dark secret

The shambling menace beyond the secret door turned out to be a pair of zombies, which the party quickly dispatched. They found a ring of keys on one zombie and surmised that this must have been the jailer and his assistant in life.

Now that they could open the jail cell door, the party returned to the dwarf in the jail cell. They tried to negotiate terms with them, but his constant complaints of hunger prevented any negotiation. Eventually (like super eventually) Biff figured out that the ghoul could be reasoned with only while it was eating.

They learned what the dwarf knew about the “incident”: That one soldier, a human named Lemkin, had been bitten by something in the days prior to the Great Dying. When the rest of the soldiers “left” (the dwarf did not know about the Great Dying) Lemkin was the “last good soldier” who stayed at his post. The dwarf said that he had not seen Lemkin in the years since, as Lemkin didn’t have a key, but that he had heard him through the years.

The party left the ghoul to his eating and entered into the dungeon proper, where the dwarf said Lemkin could be found (as might the tome they sought). They quickly found a trail of unusual ichor leading to a large door. Ever brave, the heroes threw the door open and strode boldly in, ready to face unknown monsters beyond.

Karn awaited them. Four dog-sized creatures that appeared to have once been rats dropped from hiding and attacked, letting loose foul clouds of stench that left Biff poisoned. Then Lemkin himself appeared — no longer human, he was bloated and mutated into something vile and alien, something so unnatural that it shook the very sanity of the heroes. Caelynn, a daughter of the wood elves and tied so closely to nature, felt her confidence crumble at the sight of the monster.

The ensuing battle saw both Chance and Biff temporarily felled, but Caelynn, Thrunder, and the Bard Who Still Hasn’t Sent Me His Name persevered; a quick heal brought Chance back to his feet and, after barking a few quick orders to help rally his comrades, he crushed Lemkin’s skull with his maul. The rat-things were dispatched soon after.

The party searched the rest of the small underground, finding an armory, fighting off a couple more rat-things, and discovering a stashed treasure chest. They debated the final fate of the dwarf ghoul, decided to let the creature wallow in its un-life. Finally, they prepared to leave … only to hear the approaching sounds of an orken warband, the companions of the orken they slew earlier that day.

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Ariamythe

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