Having settled in as the official heroes of Barrow’s Edge, our three adventurers have made themselves quite comfortable in the small frontier town. Returning to Barrows Edge Inn after helping a local farmer with a runaway cow they find themselves met by a severe woman and elvish cleric.
Kerowyn Hucrele is the matriarch of a prominent merchant family, and she is looking to hire our heroes to find her missing niece and nephew, Sharwyn and Talgen. They were part of an adventuring party that had delved into the nearby ruins a month past and was never heard from again. She offers salvage rights if they can find and return the two lost members of her family – or atleast return the gold signet rings worn by the missing brother and sister. She also offers a reward of 125 gp per signet ring per adventurer. If they bring back the Hucreles siblings in good shape (of good mind and body), she offers to double the reward.
Her companion is the elvish sun-cleric Sola, from an elvish monastery in the mountains who has left her home to explore the world and search for new arcane knowledge. Upon learning of the rumors of an ancient, arcane history of the ruins she decides to search the ruins herself and manages to convince Pennie, Quiply, and Lia to let her join the party.
Pennie then splits the party, going to – ah – get some luck from Al at Left Hook Tavern. After getting some, she tells Al about the impending adventure and he informs the party of three things about the ruins.
- The Old Road ran right past the nearby ruins (the Sunless Citadel), but fell into disuse because of goblin banditry. No one knows for sure what the Sunless Citadel once was, but old legends hint that it served as the retreat of an ancient dragon cult. The Old Road also skirts the Ashen Plain, a lifeless plain.
- Cattle herders don’t graze their stock too far afield these days. They’re frightened of stories of new monsters that maraud by night. No one has seen these creatures, nor do they leave a discernable trail; however, cattle and people who have been caught out alone have been found dead the next day, pierced by dozens of needlelike claws.
- Al also introduces them to Garon, the drunken geezer he bought the tavern from who now lives above the Blacksmith’s Shoppe. You manage to get out of him that he does recall that 13 years ago and grim wild-looking man came asking about the ruins with a large pet frog.
Without much coercion necessary, Pennie convinces Al to join the party and leave Ginger to run the tavern.
The overgrown Old Road winds through rocky downs, near strands of old-growth oak, and past abandoned farm shacks. The lonely road is empty except for our travelers. Having begun the 7 mile journey late, but not wanting to wait, they rest on the side of road. Luckily, Lia from her treetop perch sees the movement of the Twig Blights descending upon them and sounds the alarm to her sleeping companions. Upon being defeated the blights look like loose bundles of snapped and broken twigs.
By early dawn, our heroes continue following the Old Road passes to the east of a narrow ravine. At the road’s closest approach to the cleft, several broken pillars jut from the earth where the ravine widens and opens into something more akin to a deep, but narrow, canyon. Two pillars stand straight, but most of them lean against the sloped earth. Others are broken, and several have apparently fallen into the darkness-shrouded depths. A few similar pillars are visible on the opposite side of the ravine.
They notice a sturdy rope tied to one of the leaning pillars. The rope hangs down into the darkness below. Judging by its good condition, the rope couldn’t have been tied there any longer than two or three weeks ago. They also saw older and weathered hand and footholds carved into the cliff face, making treacherously thin steps.
While our humanoid heroes descend easily using the rope and steps, Grim has more difficulty being on all fours and without opposable thumbs but Quiply convinces the whimpering wolf to go with them. They make it to a sandy ledge overlooks a subterannean gulf of darkness to the west. The ledge is wide but rough. Sand, rocky debris, and the bones of small animals cover it. A roughly hewn stairwell zigs and zags down the side of the ledge, descending into darkness. But before they can continue, three dire rats come expecting an easy light meal to have fallen into the ravine.
Sola, with the lit torch, and Al lead the way into the darkness, with Quiply and a struggling Grim in the back. At the edge of their sight, a fortress top emerged from the darkness. The subterannean citadel, though impressive, seems long forgotten, if the lightless windows, cracked crenellations, and leaning towers are any indication. All was quiet, though a cold breeze blows from below, bringing with it the scent of dust and a faint trace of rot.
The narrow steps led into a small courtyard, apparently the top of what was once a crenellated battlement where are heroes nearly fall into a trap. The buried citadel had sunk so far into the earth that the battlement is now level with the surrounding cavern floor. The floor stretches away to the north and south, and it is apparently composed of a layer of treacherous, crumbled masonry, which reaches to an unkown depth. To the west loomed the surviving structure of what the Sunless Citadel. A tower stands on the west side of the courtyard.
Investigating the tower, Lia reads some deep-set impressive dragon runes that read “Ashardalon” that was hidden behind a speared goblin carcass. They also find a hidden room off the tower filled with the skeletons of three long-dead archers who’s eyes become pin-points of red fire as they rose upon being disturbed.
Exhausted, from fighting the unexpected animated skeletons, our heroes rest, wondering what they got themselves into.
. ..::| to be continued |::.. .