The party emerged from the ambush nearly intact and with a prisoner: the black dragon Nightshade. Stan swiftly proved that in an interrogation size really didn’t matter and soon had extracted a wealth of information from the wyrm. The party dispatched her without a second thought and turned their attention to their real target: Wyrmlord Koth of the Red Hand Horde.
They had learned that Koth was currently occupying the ruined Vraath Keep as an advance scout for the Horde. The Keep had been built centuries ago to hold the road and, even in its dilapidated state, remained a stronghold against almost any force. Any force except a party of paragon-level heroes…
After some discussion Katriona volunteered to head for Drellin’s Ferry to warn the townsfolk while the remaining four went after Koth. When they exited the Tooth they discovered that Hafren was waiting for them. She mumbled something about a soothsayer and a gateway to Hell opening, but it was clear that her primary purpose was to kick ass and chew bubblegum.
The party made their way east without difficulty. On their journey they happened across a grizzled old miner (and self-described cuss) named Clive and his mule Bessy. They stopped briefly to chat before parting; Clive in the direction of a good strike and the party to sneak up on Vraath Keep. The lowlands around the keep were marshy and uninhabited, although Clive warned them about some creature called the Old Man of the Swamp. Adventurers attract trouble, of course, and so they were destined to run into the Old Man: a four-headed hydra. It soon proved that the hydra was incapable of dishing out more punishment than the party could absorb and they left its corpse behind as they travelled on.
The party reached the keep as night fell. Stan and Hafren climbed up to scout out the area while the rest of the party rested, preparing for an attack in the morning. And attack they did, opening with Hafren destroying the barracks (and about 35 hobgoblin soldiers) and Verrick driving off Koth’s manticore allies.
After the initial strike, though, momentum shifted to the Red Hand. Verrick, separated from the party, was swiftly surrounded by hobgoblins and Koth’s lieutenant. Sly and Stan managed to get surrounded themselves by Koth, his adviser, and two bodyguards. Koth himself proved to be a strong combatant, dealing grievous damage to Sly. Finally, Gimor found himself challenged by a third bodyguard, keeping him from joining his allies. Only Hafren, still on the wall of the keep, seemed to be in a good tactical situation.