Up the Grim Downs

Ancient Blood – Secrets of the Riverdans
Author: Eric Swanson and Kelly Berger
2014

History

Dew Gate Opened in Ancient Times

A band of settlers to the area disturbed an ancient archway built by the Druunad, a Dew Gate to the Feywild. Huran, the hill giant king, led his tribe through the Dew Gate, from the Feywild into the area of the Riverdans. A mischievous pixie taunted him, stole a personal item, and led him on a chase to the gate, evading his grasp. The pixie served the Unseelie Fey, and was stirring up trouble – this was a planned act. Angered, the giant collected his tribe to retrieve their sacred object, and discovered an area on the other side of the gate where there was few soldiers, and many settlers to plunder and eat. After several battles, dozens of deaths and countless wounded, the giant king was slain. The last of his blood, which would not dry and could not be burnt such was its hate, was captured into a vial by druids and blessed and buried with his bones to seal the gateway to the Feywild. That was thousands of years ago, it was mostly forgotten and passed into local legend. A shrine to the Green Church was built over the site, which eventually became a temple.

The Coming of the Necromancer

Zturahk the Old (who left the message at the temple ruins) stumbled onto some ancient references in literature. An itinerant necromancer, Zturahk is descended from an ancient Gwinnish mage house, but struck out on his own in 8641. He was disgraced and wandered, researching and using necromancy to extend his life far beyond its natural span. He studied among the houses of the dead in Ados. He is also bitter – extremely bitter – toward the world of youth and beauty, and hates the advancement of time and age. As such, in spitefulness, he from time to time plants “seeds of death”: small magical effects or changes to a place that sometimes take root and slowly rot the place from the inside. Such was his creation of the skeleton king and its poisoning of the Athla Hill Country. The skeleton king Huran’s blood was used to animate his bones. The Dew Gate to the Feywild was reopened, though its power also kept the animation of Huran from going anywhere.

Motivations: He hates places of beauty, fertility, youth, and such, like the Athla Hill Country. He came from the south, doing several similar things.
Fate: House Malor was able to track him down, confront him, and slay him in 9130 as he began to stir things up in Dwindor Swamp better left undisturbed.

Becoming the Grim Downs

The “seeds of death” magics of the necromancer with the blood of Huran on a site of a gate to the Feywild triggered a series of events that lead to the skeleton of the giant Huran being animated, the gate reopened, and many strange events that has driven the locals away. Almost 50 years ago strange mists began to permanently settle in the valleys of the rolling grazing lands. The river was slowly taken over by a constant fog after 10 years, leaving all trade by land. People vanished in the mist, and it was avoided by all. Orrish raiders became a constant pain at night, and most of the population of the hills were forced to move out after larger creatures began to appear over time. The last straw was the winter solstice of 9131, when many cemeteries disgorged the bones of buried ancestors and skeletal remains attacked the churches, killing the priests of the Wyld Faith and the last strong defense in the area. Since then, strange creatures are rumored to walk the area – even giants, which vanished long ago. Over the last few years, many have braved the region seeking treasure left behind by those that fled… but they do not return.

Part 1: Afon Ddu

Author: Eric Swanson 2019
(aa-von thee – The Heart of Dorkness)

Background/Story

(Timeline reminder from previous adventures: After returning from the Feywild the party was back in Zerburre; they spent the first day recovering, with headaches, mild hallucinations, and general negative effects from travelling to the fey. That night was the blue flickering light that circled the city, out at the horizon. The following week+ was the Crystal Noose story of breaking the cold spell that had entrapped Zerburre. It’s now approximately the first week of November, having returned to Zerburre once again to rest and provision.)

“You’re spending a day in Zerburre provisioning and organizing when a slightly/intentionally cryptic message from your ‘benefactors’ arrives. It’s letter-locked and wax sealed. ” Hand the note to the party. (It reads “Careful study and decryption of some of the ‘relevant materials’ has yielded the location of something very important to our shared tasks. Please proceed to the village of Athlapoole and meet with a halfling named Harper Greenwain; he is a trusted contact and guide, and further information will be delivered to him prior to your arrival. Please use your usual excellent methods, and discretion, to recover this item as it is of the highest urgency.”)
[Pause for players]

Athlapoole lies a couple days’ journey downriver from your current location in Zerburre. (This can be managed without incident and could be done by riverboat if the party wants to look for one.) The land here is generally flat, the wide low country of the lower Vale of Dunstrand. The Nanford River spurs winds slowly through this region, mostly devoid of rapids or impediments, between muddy banks. On the south side of the river a region of low hills – the Athla Hill country or ‘Grimdowns’ – rises; but the north side of the river is flat farming country, mostly deforested but for the occasional small wood or copse.

See Beedel Transforms

The Athla River Route

Floating Corpse

Skeletons Hanging

The Goblin-Monkeys

Goblins

Hobgoblins

River Bend Hill Giant

Corpse of the Giant:

The Stone Bridge

Ruins of Kindredale

The Safe Shore

The Abandoned Docks

Shrine of the Green Church

Part 2: Removing the Grim

Author: Kelly Berger; 2019-2020