Worn out and shaken from the ghoul assault, our adventurers choose to double back in their small vessel and rest underneath the keep. Alton lays out his classic ballbearing trap at the foot of the stairs and the landing at the river’s edge before they rest up for the night. Malark’s watch is disturbed by a wet bandit swimming desperately through the tunnel. The cold and frightened ruffian locks eyes with the party, gracefully ignoring the ballbearings left so delicately by Alton. Malark tells him to get lost and the bandit agrees; diving back into the river and swimming into the darkness.
Rested and prepared for their encounter with Grimjaw, the party climbs the stairs to find it leads to nothing but a wall with a lever. The lever is pulled and they find themselves in the keep’s main hall. Two guards, Grimjaw, and a very tubby blue-skinned man are resting at the table and fail to notice the group’s emergence from the secret stair. Malark preps one of his trust and destructive firebolts, but the party decides on diplomacy.
Grimjaw is calm but demanding. Asking about the demons beyond the walls. Our honest heroes tell the best lie they can and ask that Jolliver release Vallivoe to them. The gruff bandit chief agrees and sends the guard to retrieve their prisoner. But it would seem that the past actions of the group have not been forgotten Grimjaw, as the guards return with even more guards and the grizzled, bitter man begins ranting and raving about his books and being hoodwinked.
Airi leaps into action, transforming into a sleek panther and digs her claws into the chubby blue lad. Water seeps from the man’s wounds and he chants a few words in another language as his skin becomes translucent and scaled. Just as Airi turned into the predator cat on command the cultist from the deep transforms into a serpent made from water itself. The two battle it out in their animal forms while Malark feels the dark power of his demonic pact surge through his veins. The air around him channels his inner fire into an outward bolt of conflagrant energy. Two of the guards are engulfed into the resulting blast, with another badly burned on one side. Alton draws his daggers and leaps on the table, kicking up paperwork and unwashed dishes as he plunges the silent blue blade into the chest of Grimjaw. Redkin races to assist Airi in her feline form and swings his mace with divine might at the serpent; striking the watery body and displacing the form of the transformation.
Grimjaw becomes enraged and picks up the great axe leaning aside his table. Swinging great big arcs in a fit of unbridled ferocity. But Alton is as slippery as a ballbearing and at least three times as big, as he ducks and weaves through the arcs. Any blow struck on the halfing is diminished as he tumbles with the arcs. Grimjaw feels as though he’s swinging at nothing but a taunting spirit. Redkin however, is a heavily armoured man of many years, and has lost the speed and agility of his past youth. The watery serpent focuses its attention at the battle-hardened cleric and warps its scaled body around him, tightening its grip. The druidic panther bites into the coiled eel and Alton slips past the hulking brute and manages to find the exact spot where the serpent’s butt would be, thrusting deep and killing the naked blue skinned man that appears before them.
Grimjaw roars and tears at his clothes. His body hunches forward and bright white hair starts to sprout forth from every pore in his body. His feet and hands triple in size and claws pierce through his skin. The once hairy and large man has given into his true form as a Werebear and begins his assault once more on Alton. This time Alton’s cocky swiftness is no match for the untamed aggression of the white bear in front of him. He is struck with a claw that cuts deep into his body.
Malark, who has been disposing of the guards turns his attention onto the creature that once was Grimjaw, and blasts coiled bolts of fel energy at his target. The bolts detonate on the skin of the bear, singing its fur. The remaining guard pledges his loyalty to the bear lord and hacks at Malark’s body in an effort to cut down the warlock while he is distracted. It’s of no use. The demonic powers gifted to the Half-Elf glow bright as the lifeforce of those he killed earlier protect against the relentless blows.
The panther bites and the cleric wallops, while the rogue slips behind the bear and slashes the immense trunk-like legs. He cuts into the hamstrings of the beast, sending it toppling to the ground, and the bear is quickly dispatched. Grimjaw appears once more, nude and dead on the floor. Defeated in battle by the liars who gave him the runaround weeks earlier.
Regrouping, the team search the area. They find a key on the blue cultist and not much else on the naked or burned bodies surrounding them. They enter a kitchen to find huddled commoners trying to hide themselves from the sounds of battle that came from the main room. One of the prisoners is the merchant Vallivoe. The old huckster bemoans at his plight, telling the party that he’s been relegated to washing dishes for what seems like months. He mentions it wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t have to listen to the wailing of a bard from the other room. He asks about his children and hopes that they’re being looked after as they’re quite frail without him. The team isn’t exactly sure how to respond and opt to just let matters reveal themselves in time. They agree to investigate the wailing.
Opening the door to a dirty makeshift prison room they find a small dwarf sitting on a mattress. She is chained to the wall at her neck, waist, arms, and legs. Singing songs of sorrow she barely notices the group standing before her. A few other commoners in the room are quick to flee, happy to be rid of the piercing minstrel voice that has plagued them for weeks. The party releases the dwarf who introduces herself as May, wandering bard and part-time bodyguard. She asks if they’ll have another adventurer at their side as she boasts of her ability to defend herself and others in a ruckus. The group agrees to take on the stout beauty.
Searching upstairs Malark finds a guard who has slept through the earlier melee. He tries to restrain the man with rope but the guard is awoken mid-attempt. The warlock quickly slaps him and tells the confused guard to go back to sleep. His order is obeyed. The keep is looted and the party escorted Vallivoe and the other prisoners out the front door.
The yard is deserted and deathly quiet. Only ravens pecking at the bodies and the smouldering ruins of the chapel remain. Malark shouts at the top of his lungs “NUMBER ONE…. NUMBER ONE”, and <*something happens with a flaming arrow that sets fire to the stables?*>.
The children of Vallivoe return the chant and appear from corners of the Keep, donned in their wild outfits and wielding the trophies taken from sacrificed cultists. Vallivoe is shocked, but in a way, happy that they’ve managed to fend for themselves for so long. He asks for Jeffy, the red haired boy in the troupe, but is upset to find that Jeffy perished at the midst of battle and his body incinerated in the chapel explosion. It does appear that he has gained a child for the one he lost. A tall lanky and utterly terrified child in the form of the gatekeeper Holgor, done up in feral gear and happy to be alive at least. The party let Holgor join his new family on the condition that he tell them everything he knows about the tunnel leading under the keep.
Holgor tells of boats that go in and don’t come back, and how prisoners are also sent below with only few very returning in the end. He has never been there himself given his accuracy with a bow and proven ability to open gates for anyone that asks. Vallivoe and the children leave for Red Larch, and the party rests at the gatehouse in preparation for spelunking. The sleeping guard and some stragglers from the Keep are encountered during the night but no blood is shed. In the morning the party set off once more into the darkness below Riverguard Keep.
The tunnel runs far. Deep below the Sumber Hills for many hundreds of feet. Eventually opening up into a large cavern housing an ancient series of buildings make from stone. May recognises the masonry as Dwarven, but cannot pick the date range in which is was constructed.
Redkin navigates the party to an isolated building on the south side of the lake for them to investigate. They find a number of raised pools with wooden planks on them, weighed down by stone. There are broken shackles everywhere and a bleak darkness that their light has trouble penetrating. Alton, always thinking with his wallet, flicks a coin into that darkness. The coin comes back, and is followed by a low growling and snapping of teeth. Donning his helm of comprehending languages he translates the growling to intelligible words.
Snap and rip
Flesh and bone
Eat and stab and kill and drown
And drown and drown and drown
Malark feels that whatever lurks in the black cannot be friendly and sends a firebolt in reply. The room lights up for a brief moment and the party gets the full view of the room. It appears to be a former ceremonial drowning chamber populated by ghouls. Half a dozen hide in the corner and more emerge from the waters of the open pools. Malark’s welcoming gift sets most of them ablaze and, unwilling to have a repeat of the last ghoul fight, the team quickly dispatches them before anyone is paralyzed. Exhausted from the fight Alton feels the wound given to him by Grimjaw ache at his shoulder. He tells no-one of this and ignores it. He takes a vial of the murky water with a mind to craft a poison with it in the future.
Taking their small boat back across the vast lake the team find an unused jail. May mentions that she was held here for a time but was brought back to the Keep after one too many operettas. Moving forward quietly they can across a guard barracks. Given the time of day the group discovered that an entire patrol were inside, asleep. With quick planning and the sum of a thousand infernal braziers, Malark torched the entire room. Blueskinned cultists boiled inside their own skin and blistered from the demonic heat. A single priest survived, his faith in the elements holding strong and fueling his desire for retribution… until Alton sniped him through the eye with his shortbow.
Crossing over an ornate bridge that depicts a naval battle between Dwarves and an unknown force, Alton spies a crumbled building that looks ripe for the looting. Behind some rubble they find a very waterlogged door and gives way easily. The party, confident in their ability to tackle any cultist they find, open the door with gusto and come face to face with two large female aquatic Trolls named Marrowsucker and Gorgebelly. The scuffle is quick and bloody, with the trolls lashing and scratching at the party. Calling out for another troll named Nineteeth loudly. The fight ends with the bodies of murky wet trollflesh stinking up the room.