September 15th, 2012
9:30PM – 2:30 AM
Freeday, 28th Goodmonth – 3200 e.c.
Out Of The Depths and Into the Unknown
The party plunges into a pitch black, subterranean cavern rushing with water.
Three additional captive villagers managed to survive and board the boat. They are:
Sinclair – A Merchant from the Southern Lands.
Buck – A Wheat Farmer
Ranus -An Armorer
The craft drops down waterfalls, through multiple rapids and is plunged underwater several times but always manages to surface in time for a quick gasp of breath. Miraculously, everyone manages to stay aboard. Gear, weapons and the limbs of their fellow compatriots flail and float around the boat. Through a combination of terror, exhaustion and blows to the head, the villagers lose consciousness.
One by one the wayward group of villagers awaken to a clear, starry sky. Crickets chirp and the sound of water laps at the sides of the boat. Leafy branches are seen overhead as the moon casts a pale light. Their weapons and gear are scattered across the bottom of the boat in shallow pools of water.
They sit-up and peer over the gunwales to see a dark, foreboding forest. The boat has come to rest inside the edge of a forest, the water floods into and around the trunks of the trees. Behind them lies a large lake with a sheer clif face rising out of the water. Several bodies of both villagers and beast men have floated up to the shore on either side of the boat.
Drev attempts to get his bearings by using the stars but is not able to do so. Eddie Feltree looks back at the sheer clif face and knows exactly where they are. That clif face is the “Devil’s Tooth” about 10-15 miles south east of Dimsdale! They must have travelled very far underground to get out here. It’s at least a 4 hour hike through the Dark Wood to get back to town. Old crones are known to tell tales of an ogre named Bone Crusher that inhabits these woods, always willing to kidnap misbehaving children. Although most dismiss these ravings, everyone agrees it is foolish to travel the Dark Woods at night.
After getting their gear in order, they notice the incense censer from the burned chapel is in the boat. Carmine explains that he picked it up off of Shamus’ body as they left the ziggurat. Arnith and Carmine then decide to scout out the wooded shoreline to find a suitable campsite. They head to the left and see a rocky outcropping that offers them some degree of protection and visibility.
It is decided they will camp here for the night and determine who has first watch. Blindorf, Belvin and Arnith volunteer. Arnith mutters something about the “superior elven race” and the usefulness of his infra vision. A small fire is lit and Drev regals everyone with the story of his residence on a ship named the Sea Griffon sailing under the colors of Kalia. As some of the exhausted villagers nod off he describes in great detail his sexual run-ins with the captain’s wife and the subsequent chase that ensued when the captain found out. He fled Kalia and sought refuge out west in Dimsdale.
Everyone eventually manages to get some rest while those on watch do their best to remain vigilant. Hours go by until they see something moving toward the washed up bodies on the edge of the lake. Three tall, humanoid figures emerge from the trees. They are nearly 7’ tall with long spindly limbs and skinny faces. They wear no clothing and their almost white skin catches the moon’s light.
Blindorf immediately cries out “FORM UP!, We’re being attacked!”
The creatures snap their heads at the unexpected outburst and charge forward to attack. Everyone is roused from their sleep and several flank out into the dark woods while Blindorf leads the charge forward to meet the enemy head on. One by one the mindless creatures fall to the villager’s greater numbers.
The final monster manages to disable Blindorf with the hypnotic gaze of it’s large, pupil-less black eyes. He stands motionless as the creature closes the distance between them. Sinclair – The Merchant steps in and attempts to fell the beast. He misses and the beast clutches his head with it’s long spindly claws. A proboscis extends from it’s lower jaw, sticks into Sinclair’s upper chest and begins feeding. Blood flows rapidly as the pale creature takes on a reddish hue. Narom strikes with Morlan’s flail and crushes the monster before it can continue it’s feeding.
After the battle, Carmine recognizes the creatures to be Nightstalkers, mindless beasts that hunt in packs using their hypnotic gaze to sedate prey as they feed on their blood.
The villagers decide to pack up camp and begin the journey back to town. The footing is rough and rocky with no clear path. Torches and lanterns are lit and the villagers press on through the wooded hills. Drevous and Eddie keep the group on track as they stumble through the Dark Woods. On several occasions they hear rustling in the nearby underbrush and the howling of wolves in the distance but there are no attacks. After several hours, the dense woods begin to thin as the morning light reveals the familiar farmlands of Dimsdale.
Starday, 1st of Harvester – 3200 e.c.
Covered in blood, filth and bearing strange weapons and armor, the wayward villagers shamble into town. Several villagers run for cover and duck into nearby buildings. Moments later, Orlan Talloak approaches wielding his blacksmith hammer. Behind him are a handful of fearful villagers clutching wooden pitchforks.
Before Orlan can speak, Blindorf hails him by name. This causes Orlan to lower his hammer and shake his head in confusion. He recognizes his fellow tradesman Habrick first.
“Ha-Habrick?” What? How? did you all survive? We saw the keep crumble in a cloud of dust. We feared all were lost. My Gods! we must bring you to the temple at once! Somebody fetch the mayor!"
The group is ushered into the temple across the village square. The temple is a beautiful but modest wooden building devoted to the goddesses Ildavir and Denithae. Inside the walls are covered in golden and brown hued tapestries depicting the crop cycle from sowing to harvesting. The smells of pleasant incense hang in the air. Pews line either side leading to a small alter. The alter is filled with soil and a single shaft of wheat grows out of it. Once a day, the light from a well placed skylight illuminates the plant.
The priest, Halden Brant, comes rushing out of the back room as the group enters the temple. He sees the bizarre, evil artifacts the group carries and clutches the wooden, wheat holy symbol around his neck. He barks orders at his two acolytes who quickly usher them into the back room. Halden lays hands on the injured and prays to Denithae to heal their wounds. The acolytes fill the room with sage and incise as they begin a cleansing ceremony.
As they are healing, Mayor Thulan Kresen arrives. He thanks Orlan and asks him to leave so that they may discuss the recent events privately. The group tells their story and confirms that nobody else made it out alive. They did not see any sign of Maristis or Vella.
“Typically I would dismiss these writings as the ravings of a mad man if not for the artifacts you carried out of that place” says Halden. “Destroying Morlan’s resurrected form must have dealt a severe blow to their plans.”
By now what must be the entire town has gathered outside of the temple and can be heard murmuring and speculating. Thulan interrupts: “Let’s move this to the Town Hall, they have a right to know, perhaps we can all put closure to this and mourn together.”
The Town Hall
The group is surrounded by the townsfolk and peppered with questions as they proceed to the town hall about 175’ away.
The hall is the center of all activities in town. Feasts, celebrations and all town meetings are held there. It also doubles as a tavern of sorts. There is no formal tavern in Dimsdale but the town hall is open and many villagers bring in their homebrew farmer’s ale for tastings and competitions.
The building is 60’ wide by 80’ long with 20’ ceilings made of stone and massive timbers with a thatch roof. Narrow glass-less windows line the long sides of the building. A set of iron banded double doors serve as the main entrance on the western side. At the far end of the hall is a raised dais and a massive 10’ wide hearth fireplace. In the middle of the hall is a 20′ × 10′ fire pit for use in the winter. Torches line the walls and braziers are in each corner. Towards the southern corner is a bar with an open view of the small kitchen and food prep areas.
The group takes a seat at the dais and the townsfolk crowd in.
Mayor Thulan addressees the crowd, “Today is a day of great sadness for all of us, it is my understanding there were no more survivors.” Murmurs and sobs are heard at the revelation of this news. Thulan continues, “Yet these brave men risked their lives to defend our good town. How they managed to survive may prove a tale for the ages.”
“As your Mayor and Lord of these lands as proscribed by Baron Kaldal of Wildsgate I declare henceforth a day of remembrance will be had to honor the dead and a feast to praise these men’s valor in the face of great evil. It will begin annually on the 25th of Goodmonth. Let us grieve together and rebuild the spirit of this town…”
As the mayor finishes his proclamation, a commotion is heard to the rear as the doors are thrown open. An injured woman is helped in by a villager. She collapses to the ground. Someone from the crowd yells out “It’s Vella!”
The villager says, “I was late to the meeting and saw Maristis carrying her! He said to stay back, something about being dropped into a cursed well, he said she needs care but dared not endanger the rest of the town. He went back to his hut. His face was… changed. I dared not look at it.”
Halden and Thulan rush to her side as the crowd parts. Halden sees no physical wounds and looks for volunteers to visit Maristis’ hut on the edge of town to get more information.
The Sorcerer’s Hut
Maristis’ hut is about 1 mile outside of town surrounded by overgrown weeds and vegetation. Usually, nobody dares approach his hut, magic is not to be trusted and he is much too eccentric and strange.
His hut is an old building approximately 25′ × 20′, the stone work sags and the roof is in need of maintenance. Weeds grow all around and an acrid smell emanates from the hut. The door is shut but dim candle light emanates from the windows.
They cautiously approach the hut and knock on the door. From within they hear one word spoken harshly.
As they open the door they are overwhelmed with a strong herbal, chemical smell. The interior of the hut is very dark and lit with two dim candles. It is packed full of clutter and items of all manner. Books and scrolls line a shelf, cages hang from the ceiling with live and dead animals. Spell components crowd a desk along with beakers and bubbling glass aparatus. Bizarre stuffed creatures hang on the walls. In the center of the room is a large black, bubbling cauldron the size of a bathtub. Maristis is inside the cauldron up to his neck facing away from his visitors and does not turn to face them. Steam rises up from the cauldron as the candle light flickers inside of the hut.
“Approach No Further” he says harshly and weakly.
“I am lucky to be alive, I believe whomever is behind this attack targeted me first before attacking the rest of the town. I was brought to the keep blindfolded and bound. Without components or gestures I could cast no spells. I was lowered into that cursed well and almost lost my mind but I held on and resisted, however, it…
… changed me."
He turns his head slightly and his face is lit by the nearby candle. Half of his face is grey and scores of short tentacles writhe on his face. He slowly turns his head back.
“I was thrown into a cell along with Vella. She was not dropped in the well, tell Halden I believe she is suffering from extreme mental shock. I only saw minor scrapes and bruises. Perhaps his blessing can bring her back. When the tower collapsed our cell wall crumbled and we managed to escape before the walls came crashing down. It took all my strength to get back here and I grow tired now, this purification spell requires I soak for a week and focus my concentration.”
Narom asks if he too can be healed by the purification spell but is rebuked by Maristis for the time being.
The group returns to tell Halden the news. Despite his best efforts Vela never makes a full recovery. She is alive and conscious but is almost devoid of any personality since the abduction. Life begins to return to normal in Dimsdale. The dead are mourned and the town begins to recover.
The heroes of Morlan’s Keep realize they can never go back to their old way of life. The terror and excitement they experienced as well as the riches they discovered prove too much of a distraction. They have seen their potential and a means to move beyond a commoner’s life and are determined to seize it. They decide to dedicate their life to this higher calling and make preparations at once to travel to nearby locales that can offer further training.
Mayor Thulan offers to financially support their safe travel and invites them back as the guests of honor for the feast of rememberence on the 25th of Goodmonth, 3201.
They gladly accept, after all there is unfinished business to attend to only three days after the festival.
Eddie reassuringly taps the pocket containing his map.