Shattered Shield

Of Temples and Catacombs: Part 2

 


The wounded soldier informs the heroes that bandits have taken over Blackwell Keep. Gregor turns to the assembled garrison. "Your commander needs help who will go with us and rescue her?"

"M'Lord, but what about our families here? We only have but half of our number. Lady Melinde took the rest in pursuit of the bandits," said one of the men.

"She is your commanding officer and a Paladin of Heironeous. If the bandits fortify the keep, they will soon coke after you here. Better bring the battle to them before they do so to you," Tristan said.

Eleven of the militiamen joined the party in order to relieve the besieged troops around the keep. They forced marched all day until sundown. There, where the road bends south toward the keep, goblin archers launched an ambush. Their shaman's spells and clever use of terrain cost the lives of a score of men before they were brought to heel. The relief force made a camp on a hillock overlooking the road while Balder and Mikal reconnoitered the last leg of the road. Around midnight they managed to contact a group of soldiers in a thin cordon around the tower.

The soldiers, huddled beneath flimsy wooded shields explain that they had attempted to assault the tower earlier, but were rebuffed with heavy casualties. Amidst the fighting the lost track of their commander and did not know if she was alive or dead. Balder and Mikal return to the hilltop encampment with the news. They  decide that Mikal and Ewan would take the relief force while the rest (Balder, Gregor and Tristan with seven soldiers) would make their way to the keep. If they could not parlay with the bandits then they would assault the fortifications.

The next day the group reached the area around the keep. Gregor and Tristan approach the keep under a white banner of truce. "We come to talk to your leader!" shouted Tristan in goblin.

A voice from the top floor answered in common, "And who the Hell are you?"

"We come from the village of Diamond Lake, I am a cleric of Pelor and this," said Gregor while pointing at Tristan, "is a Paladin of my church. We came with reinforcements. There is little game or food near the Mistmarsh and the lizardmen are not known for their generosity."

"What do you want?"

"We want you to release your prisoners and leave the tower," Gregor said.

"So that you can slaughter us once we go outside?"

"You have my word that you will leave in peace."

"Your word is nothing to me!"

Tristan stepped forward. "Then I will serve as your hostage in exchange for your prisoners. But we need to see them first."

A single prisoner is brought forward, cut up but still alive. "Tell them you is alive," ordered a goblin in his native tongue.

After a few jabs from a short sword the soldier got the message. "I'm alive."

Tristan then proceeded to the tower. Inside the goblins bound Tristan with rope. "How many other prisoners do they have hear?" Tristan asked the militiaman.

"Myself and two others, m'lord."

"What about Melinde?"

"We lost sight of her when we attacked the first floor. I tried my best to defend her, but one of the goblins shot me with a bolt on my leg and I lost consciousness."

The bandits, lead by a bugbear, tromped down the stairs, with two other prisoners in tow. They threw a dirty blanket over Tristan and made their way across the plain around the tower.

"Release your hostage," Gregor said as the bandits departed.

"No," said the bugbear.

"We will not let you leave with him."

"Then we will kill him," said the bugbear. The goblins pointed their crossbows at Tristan. The militia pointed their bows at the bandits in turn.

"And we will kill you. Release him and leave."

The bugbear barked a few orders in goblin. Tristan was made to kneel. Then the bandits retreated, with their crossbows pointed at the kneeling paladin. True to his word, Gregor allowed them to leave.

"They will be back," Balder said.

"Maybe, but for now the keep is ours, besides, recovering Melinde is our first priority," Gregor said.

A search of the keep revealed a door behind one of the tables in first floor. The door led to a basement that served as storage area. One section of the floor had collapse, revealing a thirty-foot drop. At the bottom of the hole, Balder noticed a trail of blood. The heroes descended into the hole and discovered an ancient catacomb underneath the keep. On the main chamber they were attacked by skeletons and worm-ridden undead. The trio managed to defeat these but not before one of them infected Tristan. Only Balder's skill kept him from degenerating further along the path of the disease.

On a collapse tunnel, they heard the sound of moving rock and cries for help. On the other side of the rubble they found a weakened, but very much alive, Melinde. She told of how she became separated from the soldiers and thanked them for the prompt rescue. The party continued to explore the catacombs, but suspecting more Kyuss-infused dead inside, the heroes returned to Greyhawk in search of reinforcements. There they contacted the churches of Heironeus and St. Cuthbert and gathered a party to clean out the catacombs, which they did.

A few days later, a letter arrived at the chapel.

Ren O' the Star's will had been found and it named the chapel as one of its beneficiaries.

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