The cold winds and snow swept through the valley as the party questioned their captive, with the ancient keep just ahead. Through charm magic, Dorian was able to coerce the hobgoblin to give some information, vague as it was, about what lay ahead for the group. They gave the defeated warrior his gear and sent him back the way they had come, and moved in on the keep, now known to them as Vraath Keep.
The stronghold was indeed ancient, and bore the scars of a furious battle long ago. Collapsed walls, ruined towers, and remnants of the siege littered the grounds around the keep. The snow provided some cover as Fydon moved into position along the front of the ruined gates. A lone sentry was spotted atop the parapets, but it was unclear who or what it was.
The rest of the group followed in behind their rogue companion, with the warriors Cyrus and Valgoth skirting around the side of the keep towards a collapsed wall. Gage and Dorian cautiously followed, awaiting Fydon to lob his fire flask over the wall as a lure to any would be defenders of the keep.
The alchemical weapon flew easily over the old walls, and its fiery contents did indeed ignite. The heroes waited, as the sentry, now seen to be yet another hobgoblin, moved in to investigate before seemingly leaving his post to move in for a closer look. Fydon quickly moved in through the ruined façade of the entry tower, surprising the sentry as it descended from its post. A hard thrust from his rapier pierced the hobgoblin thoroughly, not giving it a chance to yell an alarm.
The others took the opportunity to enter the keep as well, with the warriors finding entrance into a chamber through yet another ruined wall. This chamber was unlike the exterior of the keep, in that the fire burning in a pit, and the furnishings were home to more hobgoblins. Before the creatures could protest, Valgoth and Cyrus dispatched two with deadly strikes. The remaining two began to rouse from their cots, but were cut down before they too, could sound off. Valgoth made to secure the chamber,moving to a closed tower door, while Cyrus wiped the gore from his blade.
The paladin had a moment of pause while he considered his actions. Was this how a high born knight was to act? Was slaying a foe in its bed within the code of righteousness and honor set fourth by the paladins of Iomedae? He stared at the corpse of the hobgoblin, but was roused by Valgoth, “they’d be slitting your throat without so much as a thought!” and motioned for the paladin to regain himself and take position.
Breaking the locked door free with a crowbar, the warriors entered the tower chamber to find it unoccupied, but lived in. Gage and Dorian had circled around the abandoned courtyard to join the warriors, just as another door on the far end of the barracks burst open! Hobgoblin soldiers flanked a minotaur, and accompanied by viciously fast undead engaged the heroes.
The minotaur charged Cyrus, knocking him clear across the floor, crashing into the tower chamber. Before the beast could wheel its great axe around to face Valgoth, the dwarf spun in his heels crushing his adversary with an uppercut swing from his magic hammer. The crack of the minotaur’s skull was followed by the thud of a second blow that knocked the creature to the ground, dead.
Spells flew as the hobgoblins and zombies moved in, and Fydon found himself entering right into the fray. Trying to dodge free of the melee proved too difficult as the hobgoblins stabbed at him as he fumbled for his blade. Fydon and Gage both were pressed into melee, just as Dorian magically repositioned himself and let loose a fireball that scorched his enemies, turning the tide of the battle.
This battle raged, and alerted several more hobgoblins which chose to flee astride their dire weasel mounts. It would seem that the hobgoblins would escape to give away the position of the party, but Dorian was not done. Calling on the power of his magic rod, he empowered yet another fireball to the fullest of his potential to drop the escaping foes. Fydon rushed in to ensure they were indeed slain, and watched a lone weasel mount run off into the snowy valley. Hopefully no other humanoid forces found the riderless mount before the party vacated the region.
With the keep clear, the party began business as usual and investigated the chambers for answers and supplies. With practiced eyes, Valgoth found a hidden staircase with the aid of Dorians spell sensing powerful magic below. Indeed a long hidden chamber had not been disturbed by the humanoids that took the ancient keep as their own.
The lone chamber was now an unlikely tomb for a dwarven warrior that succumbed to his wounds here long ago. Still gripping his magic blade, the dwarf also wore the secret keys to this treasure chamber. Coins, historical documents, and a superbly powerful staff were some of the valuables the dwarf gave his life to keep from his ancient foes before sealing them away. A dwarven citadel with the marks of Janderhoff here in the Mindspin mountains? Things were indeed looking like the treasure map was leading to something important. Perhaps the forge the hobgoblin spoke of was also of ancient dwarven make?
There was no time to linger, and the snow was not slowing. Covered in new furs, and armed with the knowledge that giants walked among the hobgoblins at the behest of cruel dueregar, heroes came at last to their destination. A massive structure carved into a mountainside lay just ahead. Campfires glowed in the distance, giving away the position of yet more foes. The party would need to move cautiously from here on, lest they bring down the full force of humanoids on them. This “cathedral” was the end point of the map, but must not be the end of the heroes….