Ruins of Adventure

Episode VIII: Return to Sokal Keep

As the party approached the Keep in their boat, they noticed regular puffs of smoke rising from an area near the side of the keep facing the Old City across the harbor. Landing again on the gravel beach, they made their way around the Keep’s walls to the source of the smoke, rightly believing it to be signals from an Orc watch party. The orcs and their hobgoblin officer were quickly slain, but the party had already noted smoke signals rising in response from the Old City. Another humanoid war party would soon be upon them.

Having no other choice, they proceeded into Sokal Keep, skirmishing with more undead guards (their ranks replenished by the Orcs the party had slain in their previous attempt, as well as the tiny and unhappy skeleton of their former halfling companion) as they desperately sought a defensive position. Ginallath, Beck Darkmantle, and Aeryn searched the keep’s old Armory, which had appeared empty when Wulf and MacTavish had last checked it out, but which Ginallath and Aeryn’s more practiced eyes found to actually have an illusionary wall concealing several magical weapons.

MacTavish, Wulf, and Inigo gave fuller attention to the Keep’s Chapel, noting with trepidation that something had drained the life out of several orcs here, leaving them as mere husks. Upon approaching the altar to Tyr there, they found that the force at work was the spectre of Ferran Martinez, last chaplain of Sokal Keep, who fortunately recognized the passwords Wolf gave him. Martinez explained that his final spells were crafted to ensure that the keep would always be guarded; in doing so he had inadvertently bound both his own spirit and those of the original garrison to the place as well as animating the bodies of the dead. Wolf explained that Men again inhabited New Phlan and sought to reclaim the old city, and suggested to Martinez that the arrival of a new garrison might allow the curse to be lifted. Martinez agreed, but insisted that the adventurers must prove the ability of the new settlers to protect the Keep by fighting off the rapidly approaching orc war party. The party agreed, and prepared for battle.

The party rightly suspected that the Orcs would attack the front gate of Sokal Keep, the collapsed gate being the weakest point. To make up for this, the party rigged up several tripwires and concealed spike traps (shallow pungi stakes) in the gateway itself. Inigo mounted the section of wall to the right of the gate, Ginallath the left, and Beck stood near the gate itself, boasting that he would hold it alone. Wulf, MacTavish, and Aeryn stayed in the courtyard to provide support where needed.

The Orc assault force arrived in five ominous black longboats, and began to pour onto the beach – the party counted at least 40-50 orcs and hobgoblins. Immediately, the Orcs rushed for the gate, only to be repelled by accurate archery from Inigo and sorcery from Ginallath. But this was only an initial assault, a testing of strength.

The humanoids’ next assault came in three wings. The largest, a party of orcs stiffened by an elite all-hobgoblin assault team, struck directly at the gate. Some were killed or incapacitated by the traps. The rest faced Beck, who crushed many with each swing of his great two-handed maul. The other two groups each made for a section of wall, hoping to climb over it with grapnels while the defenders were occupied at the gate. The lefthand group’s attempt bogged down into a stalemate, as Ginallath used his spells and accurate sling shots to keep them from successfully gaining a foothold. The righthand group, however, managed to make it up the wall, where some descended into the Keep while others fought desperately to keep Inigo pinned until they could be reinforced.

Wulf rushed forward to help Beck at the gate, and the two of them tore into the hobgoblin elites while MacTavish and Aeryn shot down any orcs who managed to slip past the fight. A squad of orcs from Inigo’s position on the wall rushed towards them, and the defenders of the gate would have been overwhelmed had not the remaining undead garrison of the keep shambled forward to reinforce them. Unable to take the left of the gate, the orcs there resorted to sniping at Ginallath with their javelins, badly wounding him. All of the party was, in fact, badly wounded and MacTavish’s healing spells were gone.

But as Beck and Wulf, streaming with gore, cleaved down the last of the hobgoblins, the warparty’s morale broke and they ran for their boats with a frenzied Beck in hot pursuit. Quickly pushing their longboats back into the river, they rowed frantically home as Beck sent loud insults and a hurled vial of acid after them.

After searching the bodies of the dead, the badly wounded but victorious party returned to Martinez’s chapel, where the spectre gratefully released the keep to the City of New Phlan’s care. He also warned them that they faced further challenges, for the invaders of Phlan 500 years ago had been aided by a magical pool, and a great and powerful general, Tryanthraxus. Martinez advised the party to seek the library of the sage Mendor, then faded away, his task complete.

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