The Bloody Path to Apotheosis

From the Beginning

Our story begins in the small, quiet town of Stonewynne. Located in Impiltur on the trade way between Hlammach and Lyrabar, it is a small town that serves mostly as a stopover for merchants and travelers. For adventurers there is the attraction of The Ruins of Cormill, located about an hour’s walk from Stonewynne.

Cormill was a wealthy city long ago, home to mining, trade, and a seedy element attracted to the wealth of the city. An earthquake tore the city apart more than a hundred years ago, and a large portion of the foothill above the city was brought down, burying the citizens, and their accumulated wealth.

Since then, many expeditions have been sent into what is left of the ruins to dredge up the remains. Portions of the city have taken up new residents in the form of monsters or evil humanoids. They have been cleared out and resettled many times, but there is still said to be treasures worth the risk.

And so, that brings together our group of adventurers. With dreams of glory and wealth, the intrepid party begins their path to greatness.

DM Notes: This is the first full game I’ve run in 4th edition, and probably the last. I’m not attached to the system overall, for a variety of reasons. But for this game I attempted to embrace the forcus on adventurers and their usual deeds. The focus changed later on when time became an issue.

A Flophouse of Goblins


The adventure began by delving into what was left of the Flophouse, now occupied by goblins. The creatures proved little challenge for the adventurers for the most part, although a few other creatures, including an Ankheg and a pair of ochre jellies. They also received some help in their travels from a human sorceress name Cassie. But our heroes did prevail and eventually slew the hobgoblin chieftain, and found the path deeper into the ruins.

DM’s Notes: The whole concept of the Ruins of Cormill was a dungeon where each area was the remains of a building in a city now long buried. I figured this would allow each to have its own feel and separation. Thus the party could tap this place as a source of their exploration and get a different experience with each level they delved into.

The Unlucky Elf

Spear elf Back in Stonewynne, at the Blackened Keg Tavern was a solitary Wood Elf looking very upset. Upon inquiry, he told the adventurers that his name was Nalhean, and that, during his travels he had done some gambling with a local merchant named Garand, and lost his lifemate, Iledell.

The adventurers promised to look into this matter, and Nalhean joined them as they negotiated with the merchants where they were camped, just outside the town wall. As they did so, the party rogue, Tess, snuck through the wagons and smuggled out Iledell.

Iledell and Nalhean were reunited back at the Blackened Keg and, after Nalhean swore never to gamble again, they continued with their journey.

DM’s Notes: I like side adventures. Done well, they’re quick, offer only a few small challenges, and can involve some little challenge aside from regular dungeon hackery. Something you can hit them with once, and allow it to have its effect, then move on from it before it gets old.

Jailhouse Orcs

4e dn d orcs by ralph horsley Pushing past the goblins, our heroes found the remains of the Cormill Jail. It was now a home to orcs and ogres, as well as a few other dangerous dungeon dwellers, like a Gelatinous Cube and a Xorn.

Also found down in the depths was a old journal entry in a cell which hinted a mage’s stash which may have survived the landslide all those years ago.

A few battles gave the party a pause but they ended up successfully slaying the orcs chief in the end and moving deeper into the Ruins of Cormill.

DM’s Notes: By the end of this dungeon I realized I was making these buildings too big. The levels were dragging too much. It was turning into too much of a slog to get through it.

The time had come for Tess to prove herself.

Irondragon After a day out adventuring with her friends, Tess returned home to find out that Loh has a guess. Heavy greaves sit by the door and a steel breastplate sit over a sturdy chair. From the next room, she could hear voices making their way over:

Loh: “You don’t know who or where then?”

Stranger: “This is just a stopover. I ride for Hlammach within the hour. If I can’t find the source or the target, I will try to protect as many people as I can.”

Loh: “Like old times.”

Stranger: “Like old times.”

Loh: “I will go with you.”

Stranger: “I was hoping you would say that, Loh. It’s been too long since I’ve fought by your side.”

Loh: “Tess will see to your squire when he arrives.” He voice raises, “You hear that, girl? When you are done easedropping you are to saddle my horse and prepare the guest room for Davrin Squire.”

So sure enough, after a hard night of riding, Davrin’s squire arrived, who turned out to be Cassie. She came seeking Davrin, with news that a sect of The Cult of the Dragon had plans to attack a church or temple in the area, and was close to Stonewynne.

Unfortunately, Davrin and Loh left many hours before, riding hard for Hlammach and it was unlikely the party could overtake them in time. But Cassie knew where the danger lay, and the party took it upon themselves to end the threat.

The Cult of the Dragon was held up in Yitsall, an abandoned iron mine. Entering, they found the cultists fought savagely, and alongside a iron wyrmling. They defeated it, however, along with the cultist leader. Deeper, however, they found the true threat: Thraesk. A young, but fat, iron dragon which fought the party viciously before at last a succession of blows brought him down.

After, it took a few days before Loh and Davrin returned from Hlammach. They arrived in the middle of the night, and Tess woke up to their arrival. Making her way to the den, she found the two adventurers looking worn down and weary from the ride.

“Well,” Loh starts as she saw Tess. “Word has is that you have been living up to your name while I wasn’t around.” Her look was a familiar one of disapproval, but there sems a glint of respect in her eyes. “It would seem I cannot seem to protect you from your foolhearty lust for danger. You leave me with me no choice then….” She takes a deep sigh. “Pack your things. You will leave with Davrin when he is ready to set out again. He is a paladin of Oghma and has survived decades of standing before the evils of the land. If you are to take up the sword, you may as well do so under the guidance of the very best.”

It is another day before Tess set out. Loh does her best to mask it, but it is clear she will miss her. When at last her packs are ready, Davrin is rested, and a horse is readied for her, Loh went to see Tess off. She gave her a last embrace and made her promise to visit when she can. “Take case of yourself, girl. Life on the road will change me, but as long as you stay strong and listen to the lessons it has to tell, you will be better for it.” She smiled weakly as Tess saddled up.

Soon Stonewynn disappears down the road behind her. Davrin began to tell Tess of how word reached Loh and him in Hlammach. “It was said that heroes slew a dragon in the hills north of Stonewynn. I knew at once it was you. Loh did as well, but part of her took some convincing to believe it.”

“This kind of life is a hard one, but it is in your blood and in your bones. It is you heritage, you one. Tess, slayer of Thraesk, champion against the darkness of the land. The people will always remember what you have done for them.”

DM’s Notes: This adventure put the party in conflict with the Cult of the Dragon much earlier than I’d intended, because one of the players was leaving. This was actually a good thing. Sometimes us DMs need a kick to drop one or two of the cards we’ve been holding to our chest. This allowed the party to dig into the main plot a bit. I tend to be reluctant about this because I know I don’t want them to take that path to the end already, but I don’t want to roadblock them too much either. It’s a delicate balance.

AAACK! Zombies!

Zombies r From a journal in a jail cell, the party learned of a wizard’s stash that might still be out in the hill above the Ruins of Cormill. After a clever bit of tracking with a very old description of the path, the adventurers found an old stone structure with a central pedestal.

Upon approaching the centre, an orb in the centre of the pedestal began to glow, and all around the party, the living dead began to rise and attack. They soon learned that the orb could be used to rejuvenate them in battle, although it was necessary, as wave after wave of the undead clawed their way to the surface, before at last a large corpse, looking like many large creature sewn together, rose forth and attacked. It was a narrow win, but the party did manage to defeat the monster, and upon doing so, the orb disappeared, revealing the wizard’s trove.

DM’s Notes: In 4th edition, there’s a great little property of zombies where a critical hit automatically kills them. I thought this was great. Too bad I don’t recall the players rolling a single one.

Can you dig the duergar?

Duergar abduction by ben wootten Delving past the orcs and ogres, the next building found turned out to be for the processing of ore. Duergar had taken over this building and activated it once more. The intrepid explorers found a functioning mine, ore processing, and smithy.

The Duergar proved challenging foes, using their various machines to impede the adventurers and place them into harm’s way. After a series of bitter, bloody melees, the party managed to slay the last of the Duergar.

DM’s Notes: I shortened this level of the dungeon, having learned my lesson from the level of orcs. This one had fewer fights and more interesting combat environments. Most of which seemed to really make players gunshy about going near anything. Except the bullywug who seemed to thrive on interacting with unusual environments.

The Fall of the Shieldmaiden
Stonewynne is attacked. Loh is murdered.

Lmc fire rIn the middle of the night, shouting in the streets wake the heroes from their slumber. From between the shutters of their rooms at Dovak Dreambox. Looking out, the city was ablaze. As the heroes made it to the street, they found people were attacking the town. Sheriff Boisley and one of his deputies were fighting against the unknown attackers. As the adventurers make it into battle, the deputy is slain, but thanks to the intervention of the players, Tal is saved.

The adventurers cut down many of the attackers without much trouble, but man clad in black plate strides out from Loh house and moved for the exit to town. Oddly, though that house was in the centre of the attack, it seemed to have been lit afire last, and was only beginning to burn as the man strode out of it.

A perceptive adventurer noticed that the attackers wore the same symbols as the members of the Cult of the Dragon that were encountered back in Yitsall. The heroes found the armour clad figure difficult to land a blow upon, but when they had his attention, he turned to reveal his face was devoid of flesh. A burning red light flicked in the eye sockets of his skull, and his blade glowed with a ghostly light. His attack upon the party was devastating, but he showed no interest in their lives. The figure left the city and closed the gate behind him.

After, the party helped the city put out the fire and clean up after, as best they could. Loh’s corpse was found, and she died of a blade before she burnt. Sheriff Boisley also informed the party that many houses were burnt, as well as Stonewynne Imports and Local goods. Several citizens were killed in the fire as well, including Thomas.

The attack left the party with many questions. Why was Loh a target? What were the Cultists doing? And, being that The Cult of the Dragon is known to be nihilistic, why did they show no interest is the town’s church?

They decided to investigate Yitsall once more. They found that orcs had moved into the old mine. Among their number was a caster who had one eye and a symbol of Gruumsh. They had come after the adventurers it would seem. The bodies of the cultists had been defiled and set upon spikes in Thaesk chamber.

Among the dead was the burnt remains of a journal of Valithan the Watchful, who had been sent to investigate the fate of the cultists there. A few clues could be found in those charred pages, but more questions seemed to be raised as well.

DM’s Notes: When developing a plot, I will usually sit down with my notes from time to time and try to figure out what the bad guys are up to. What have the players done, what was the plan, what happens next, all that crap. In this case, the Cult of the Dragon had taken a hit, and blamed local adventurers. Fortunately for the party, they didn’t suspect the party. Unfortunately for Loh and Davrin, they were active around that time in the area, and seemed likely suspects.

Study Group

Old library Past the Duergar lay the library of old Cormill. This building was different from those they encountered before. The library was covered in arcane markings, guarded by powerful constructs, and infested with deadly spiders.

Beneath the main library was the vault, locked, trapped, and warded. Through their teamwork and skills, the party managed to overcome its defenses and removed a few valuable items. They also retrieved a wardstone, which would open the path to the current owner of the library, a wizard named Zoldathra.

Zoldathra was not pleased to have had her home and her study intruded upon. But after some careful discussion, the party agreed to leave her domain.

DM’s Notes: I made this the shortest of the building the party went through, and they didn’t even check out the whole place before the owner asked them to leave. I was prepared for the fight with Zoldathra, but am all the happier for not having to play it out. It provided some good role playing, though, when the party, acting like a usual party, kicks open a door and finds a pissed-off wizard wondering why her home was invaded.

There was also a potential side quest here. She was studying a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts, which would have been a decent magic item, but would also have caused various very powerful groups to hunt the party member who possessed it.

Figurines of Wondrous People

Medusa r During a night at the Blackened Keg, a woman named Agatha approached the party with a problem. Her brother, Kiran, had gone missing several months ago. Before his disappearance, he’d traveled to Hlammach to join an adventuring party called the Fire of Dawn.

The journey to Hlammach was uneventful, and gave the party time to speak with each other on many topics, including their strategy for finding clues upon their arrival. After their arrival, they managed to learn some important information:

It seems likely that the figures were being moved through the docks by an importer/exporter named Toriell. Dockmaster Rolati seemed to not trust the man, but had no evidence to shut his business down. Unfortunately, while the party did not trust him implicitly, they had no reason to search his inventory.

However, more solid clues could be gleamed from Neddy, the bartender and the Ogre’s Mistake. Neddy is said to have a good memory for names, and when asked of the Fire of Dawn, he recalled that the party had taken an interest in the bugbear issue north of the city.

So on the following morning, the party set out for the location of the bugbears near town. The cavern was located on the edge of the farmlands, just as they turn into the foothills. The caves had long been cleared of bugbears, and only the rotten corpses remained. However, there was an arcane archway in the back, identified as a portal. Further searching found a portal key, conspicuously placed, in another chamber. using it to activate the portal, the adventurers cautiously headed forward.

Beyond was the domain of Calitriss, a medusa wizard with a cruel bent. To help her defend her home, and to make her victims easier to handle, she had a flesh golem built, likely of the corpses of those who died to her magic and poison before she could turn them to stone. The party defeated Calitriss, and recovered more of the stone figures, and shipping receipts from Toriell.

It would seem that Calitriss had set up portals in places where inexperienced adventurers would find them, travel through, and she could slay them with ease. An adept wizard, she would then cast upon the petrified remains a ritual to permanently shrink the body into a figurine. It was more her cruel nature than for profit that she sold these figures, shipping them out from various locations to Sembia, from where they would be traded and sold throughout the realms.

Toriell, when confronted with evidence of him crime, claimed to have no knowledge of the contents of his shipments. When all of his attempts to escape punishment failed, he surrendered.

From this event, the party were venerated as heroes. Hundreds of lives could be saved, including Kiran, whom Baern had returned to proper form personally. A minotaur joined into the party as well, and brought word of a half-orc in Lyrabar with work for the party.

Kiran and the party traveled back to Stonewynne to return him to Agatha. There, they encountered Davrin at long last. He spoke with the party about the problems they’d suffered, and provided gifts to help the party with their endeavors.

After speaking with Davrin, the party was off to Lyrabar to speak with a new contact about work for them beyond the sleepy village of Stonewynne.

DM’s Notes: I came up with the figurines idea before this game even got going, so players had been finding them since session one. Although players suspected something from early on, they accepted the figurines as simple art objects. I love how this adventure went down, though. Lots of RP, players seemed to all have something they wanted to do. And a nice fight at the end. This became a model I tried to move towards in subsequent adventures.


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