The Adventures of Feldon Grimshaw: The Ruined Keep of Hidden Vale

As I awoke this fine morning, I cast about for something to do. Adventuring of late had become rather routine. Wake up. Head into the swamp. Kill some giant spiders, wrestle the crocodiles, and slay the evil undead who dared to cross my path. It was all good and fine, and did increase my skills, to be sure. But today I wanted more. Something a bit more challenging.

As I was eating my breakfast (a tasty rabbit that had wandered into my camp as my stomach started to growl), I poured through my field notes and remembered seeing a ruined keep a few weeks back. I had asked about it at a nearby town and the locals informed me that it was haunted.

Said they:

“Originally a northern outpost of the Vale which kept a lookout for pirates and ruffians on the North Seas, it had fallen under a curse one day when the two brothers who were in charge refused entrance to an old beggar woman who had asked for shelter one night. Of course the old woman was a powerful witch. She cast a spell upon the keep. A terrible plague ravaged the men and one by one they fell. But the dead did not stay dead. Some came back as foul smelling zombies. For others, their flesh fell from their bones and they became living skeletons, doomed to continue their watch for pirates for all eternity upon the walls of the keep.”

“But the two brothers had the worst fate of all. They became powerful lich lords. The most powerful of the undead. But with all this power, they were impotent, as they were unable to leave the keeps throne room. It didn’t take long for the two brothers to go mad and they have been locked in an eternal battle with each other ever since. They continually fight, maim, destroy, and ‘kill’ each other in the worst and most painful ways possible, only to revive moments later and start it all over again. Even the legions of undead steer clear of the throne room.”

Receiving this information, I had decided to pass on this adventure at the time. But I just knew there must be treasure in that keep. Nobody had ever dared face the legions of undead guardians, let alone take on the two lich brothers. Surely all of the pirate ships they had defeated over the years must have held hordes of gold and jewels, which even now must be safe within the keep.

It was settled. I knew what I must do. After breakfast I polished my sword, donned my adventuring garb, readied my arsenal of spells, and made for the keep.

As I drew near, my spirits were high. The weather was warm and beautiful. The sun upon my face gave me courage. The wand at my side hummed with power. Nothing would stop me this day!

The first enemy to fall was a foolish bear in the forest surrounding the keep. I saw it long before it saw me, and i had decided to let it be. But (foolish beast!) once it spotted me, it charged. A quick blast of my “solar burst” spell put him down. I didn’t even bother to skin it. I had a castle to storm! Several wolves also had the misfortune to meet me on the path. Spells were too good for them. I simply whipped out my sword and took off their heads in a single blow.

Finally around lunch I arrived at the outskirts. The pathway was overgrown from unuse. There was a large stone bridge that crossed a canyon and lead straight to the keep. But sitting in the midst of the bridge was an enormous troll! Such a huge hulking beast would be quite the challenge. I had no doubt that I would prevail. But I didn’t want to spend the time or effort on him. My goal was the lich lords and their treasure, not a stinking troll who would likely have a few pieces of slime covered gold in his filthy pockets. Fortunately there was a small pathway that lead under the bridge and up the other side. I took this and easily avoided this unpleasant confrontation.

As I approached the keep, I noticed it was surrounded by a large moat. After discreetly circling around, I discovered 3 entrances. First, there was the main gate – which stood invitingly open. I discounted this immediately as a trap. Second, around to the eastern side, there was a breach in the wall where it had crumbled from age, the elements, and lack of repair (note: undead are terrible at home maintenance). This looked like a good option, but i opted for the third. From the western side there was a ladder which lead up to the main bulwark. It was guarded by a single skeletal archer. Easy pickings. I quickly and quietly dispatched the foe, looted his gold and crept along the defensive wall until I was at the closest point to the inner keep.

At this point, I had no choice but to announce myself. There were at least a dozen skeletal warriors milling around the grounds, keeping their eternal vigil. Fortunately I had surprise on my side. I cast several fireballs, rings of fire, immolation spells and fire arrows at the lot. Meanwhile, my unwitting yet faithful partner (an air elemental I had summoned to accompany me) was showering down lightning bolts, chain lightning and the like. They didn’t stand a chance.

Once the courtyard was cleared, I made my way to the inner keep. It was eerily quiet, but I could sense the malice on the other side seeping through the stone walls. Using a rusty key I had found outside the moat, I was able to move the lever and raise the gate. No sooner was it cracked open then hell itself was let loose upon me.

Expecting this, I had cast several healing spells moments before that had long durations and ongoing healing effects. It was good thing too, because there were just as many skeletons in the inner courtyard as in the outer. And these warriors were armed to the teeth with halberds, large heavy shields, and long rusty swords (I must remember to check the status of my tetanus shot!)

The battle was intense. Skeletons were dying all around me, but even with my healing spells doing their best, I was feeling weak, and I could tell that my magical reserves were getting low as I cast spell after spell. As the dust settled and the creaking of bones ceased, I stood victorious! My poor elemental had not fared as well and was nothing more than a memory.

Rather than enter the throne room, I took a few moments to rest, gather my strength, and organize my spells. It was a good thing for me that the lich lords never left (in fact were unable to leave) the throne room, or I would surely have met my maker this day.

Once I felt ready, I summoned another elemental, cast my healing spells anew, and entered the throne room, ready to face a fierce battle. To my surprise, the lich lords were easy to dispatch. True – every time they struck a blow on me, I reeled in pain and was alarmed at how weak I became. But my spells were having equally devastating effects on them, and I was casting spells faster than they were landing blows. When all was said and done, the lich lord brothers lie dead at my feet. I like to think they were thankful to finally find rest after the many centuries of pain and horror they had suffered at each others hands.

Greedy to find the treasure, I didn’t even bother to heal my wounds. Surely there was nothing left alive that would dare molest me within these walls. Oh foolish adventurer! Horror movie rules #1: NEVER assume that the monsters are all dead. As I traveled around the throne room looking for a treasure chest, I was beset upon by a skeletal archer who sprung up from the ground right before my eyes! He must have been hiding in the throne room for centuries trying to avoid the wrath of the lich lords. But now that they were dead, he seized his moment and attacked. My health dropped so low that all I saw was red … except for my health bar, which appeared to be empty. Thank the maker, it hadn’t quite dropped to 0. I quickly cast every single health spell at my disposal and was able to hold on long enough to hack the creature to death with my sword. And what did I get for my trouble? 14 gold coins, a broken bow and arrow, and some smelly corpse wax.

Where was the fabled treasure? In vain I searched the throne room, the inner keep, the outer keep, the rampart, the grounds inside and out and all around. There wasn’t a single chest to be found. Either it was all a lie, or someone had come before me and silently stolen the treasure ages ago. My only consolation is that I had a hand in breaking the curse of eternal torment on this place, and was able to send several dozen souls to their eternal rest.