When we last left our heroes…
With information in their hands the conclusively linked both Devilish activity in the area to a burgeoning slave trade and the hidden darkling city of Denab Knur, the group decided to head north (center of the Duchy of Caer Maighdean, home of the White Eagle Monastery, and the direction of Denab Knur). After some map review, they decided the fastest way to get north was to go west; specifically by following the Laigh River our of the foothills and through the southern reaches of Maighdean Forest to the coast of Northsea and the road that ran along the coast north to the County (and south to Hyrmsmir).
The hike took several days (during which Karina located them and rejoined the group, and group passed several abandoned or ruined strongholds along the banks of the river, but opted to avoid rather than explore them — most looked quite picked over or poor wooden contructs to begin with, so the possibility of loot was slim, and they wanted to move quickly.
That plan changed as they neared the edge of the forest and spied a relatively intact stone keep on a rise above the river. They planned to ignore it and move on by, but the inhabitants (though certainly not the original inhabitants) had other ideas.
Maighdean Forest has a reputation for deadly fauna and premiere among them are the Maighdean Grizzlies — great beasts that have been known to singly attack and destroy entire groups of foresters — they are normally solitary creatures.
Eight of them came pelting out of the keep’s gaping front gate or through the gaps in the walls and charged the group in a sort of rage.
Still, these were heroes who had faces the worst Hell could offer: surely these beasts were nothing to worry about?
The first charge nearly killed Karina (who found out that illusions don’t work very well on creatures with a good nose) and badly hurt Ran. The group slowly managed to pull themselves together, and only one beast survived to run off into the forest, but when the battle was over, the only thing the group wanted to do was find a place to rest and recuperate — the castle (surely abandoned now that the bears were gone) looked quite inviting.
What they found while exploring was a largely intact castle of quite good design — several of the walls had been slighted (either by the original battle that drove it’s inhabitants away or the depredations of it’s more recent owners), and most of the wooden interiors were rotted away or destroyed, but the overall edifice was quite solid and remarkable. The group rested up and continued exploring in the morning, having located a stairwell that led into the bedrock below the castle.
What they found beyond the basic pantry was a series of largely unfinished chambers that the original masters had never properly completed and one lone stair that led into very old construction that certainly outdated the keep they had seen above. Therein they encountered a skeletal knight gaurding the entrance, armed with a remarkable sword (claimed by Shayla after they narrowly defeated it). The battle was hard-fought and the group decided to rest up before continuing further into the crypt beneath the castle they were already beginning to think of as ‘theirs’.
When we last left our heroes…