After the heroic defeat of the monstrous Hydra in the forest of Cellioed and the subsequent meeting with the forest elves Sharn decided to use the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the ways of his fathers people leaving the others to contemplate their next move.
The hobgoblin camp had been thoroughly devastated by the rampaging hydra and there was little amongst the wreckage that could be salvaged. Gur'ash briefly toyed with the idea of taking one of the almost intact tents but the smell was such that even the hardened soldier reconsidered. He did however gather some barely tolerable food from amongst the wreckage as well as some low value coins. Amongst one of the hobgoblins bags of food Fauna noticed an unusual looking egg that she decided to point out to the others. Though at first Lucius was reluctant to go near anything acquired from a smelly bag of hobgoblin snacks he eventually had a look at it due to Fauna's insistence on it being of interest.
The egg was obviously draconic in appearance and was slightly warm to the touch and Lucius decided to keep it and carefully placed it in one of the many magical pockets in his fine clothing for investigation at a later date as he had come to respect Fauna's opinion on matters involving living creatures. With the investigation of the site complete the remaining party members began the journey back to their camp and the relative comfort of their carriage. Their transport and horses were thankfully still intact and where they had been left but as night was falling it was decided to make camp here before returning to Oakvale. Lucius politely declined the offer of food acquired from the enemy camp preferring the travelling rations they took with them when journeying and after taking the usual defensive precautions during the night they returned to their tavern base in the town of Oakvale.
Editors Note - I'm beginning to get worried about the fact that we are yet to be viciously ambushed during the night...I have a feeling we're being lured into a false sense of security... "lets not bother with any precautions tonight, this area seems safe."...aaaannnd...we're all dead...
Act One - 'The Tithe'
Gur'ash and the Bard that had accompanied them on the quest to warn the elves both availed themselves of the services of the local healer while Lucius reminded the remaining members of the party (Darrius and Fauna) that they had promised to accompany him to the crossroads town of Pineham to investigate the none payment of the expected tithe as he had in turn assured the Halfling Frederick that he would do so. Lucius and Fauna spent a comfortable night in their respective tavern rooms while Darrius spent the night in the arms of a local lady he had charmed in the taverns bar earlier. After Fauna had stocked up on crossbow bolts and Lucius had acquired some sheets of paper, ink and ink pens, some sealing wax and a case from Frederick for the purposes of documenting any successes with the tithe for himself and a silver bowl to assist with the communication spell taught to Fauna the reduced party once again borrowed the blacksmiths carriage and began yet another trip out of town.
The weather was awful and their progress was somewhat slowed by the terrible conditions as they travelled but by early evening they had almost reached their destination before the first signs of trouble were observed. Several hundred yards outside the outer perimeter of the camp a gallows had been constructed and dangling from a heavy duty rope was the body of a reddish skinned half-dragon with a sign around it's neck. The sign said 'Abomination'...After being assured by Darrius that the creature was quite dead Lucius had a closer look and concluded that the half that wasn't dragon was more than likely a goliath or some similar form of giant. It was now clear that something terrible had happened locally.
From where they were outside town they could see smoke rising from somewhere in the centre of the small complex of buildings, possibly the tavern and it was from this direction that the only lights could be seen. Outside the exterior perimeter a selection of horses were in a fenced of area and were showing signs of agitation which Fauna theorised was more than likely due to the fact that they hadn't been fed recently. Given the presence of the draconic corpse it was decided that having a dragonborn stroll into the local bar might not be a great idea and so after hiding the carriage in a small copse of trees Darrius decided to sneak into town alone to investigate. Fauna and Lucius waited nearby so they could quickly go to the thieves aid should he require it and he promised to send them reports on his progress via the sending stones they all shared.
The small town was deserted with the exception of the large tavern and hostelry at it's centre and it was from here that the smoke was emerging and from where the only signs of activity could be detected. Further signs of trouble were indicated by a large pile of coffins that were stacked haphazardly outside a small stone temple building nearby. Seeing no other alternative Darrius knocked on the tavern door and after a brief pause punctuated by whispered discussion he was greeted none to warmly by a stern voice from the opposite side that attempted to turn him way. Explaining that he was a traveller in need of shelter and after no small amount of persuasion the man inside finally relented and opened the door and this opening took some considerable time as the sounds of much unlocking and unbolting could be heard from inside. Darrius was almost dragged inside by the owner of the voice and the door was swiftly shut behind him.
It was at this point that Darrius felt it safe to mention that he was travelling with two companions and that one of them was a dragonborn. The inn keeper to which he was speaking who seemed to be the local leader showed no signs of concern about the thought of a dragonborn visitor though he did seem worried at the thought of any-one being left outside during the night so Darrius contacted his acquaintances and they were allowed entry. Much of the exchange with the inn-keeper had been heard by Lucius and Fauna via their sending stones and after Darrius filled in the few gaps their host continued with his tale of the towns woe. Several of the towns guards had been found each morning with their throats slit and despite doubling up on the guards stationed at the look-out posts soon the rest shared their fate. After the last of the guards were found killed, townsfolk also began to be found murdered in the same brutal fashion and it was after this began that they had started all spending the nights together secured in the large tavern.
Act Two - 'Uninvited Guests'
Fauna was extremely dubious about the local lycanthrope population being responsible as she knew several of their kind both from near her own woodland home and from the colony mentioned by the population of Pineham and was aware of no reason for such an unprovoked attack. She also pointed out that if they were hungry they would have just taken some of the completely unguarded horses outside the village complex rather than go around slitting guards throats and then leaving the bodies to rot.
Editors Note - Our GM has made some modifications to the traditional D&D creature motivations and role of some of the races to fit the world he's created so we're avoiding jumping to conclusions based on what our players know compared to what our characters would know...Just in case we're wrong, lol. We do get quite detailed background notes though so he's not keeping us completely in the dark...
The villagers in the tavern were drinking and eating but the atmosphere was subdued and conversation was little more than whispers with the fear of the unknown threat being a palpable presence. Still not entirely sure what to believe the party decided to take turns keeping watch and wait to see what occurred during the night. Lucius uncharacteristically took a turn and was given the first watch and after an uneventful few hours was relieved by Darrius.
In the middle of the night the rogue was disturbed by sounds coming from the outside of the tavern as something seemed to be attempting to gain entry and he swiftly awoke his fellow adventurers. Lucius moved to the upper floor and looked out of a window but could see nothing in the pitch blackness so used his sorcerous powers to create several dimly glowing lights that he summoned at each corner of the tavern and then began to move them around to try and see if he could illuminate the would-be intruder. He briefly observed the silhouette of a large humanoid figure that seemed to be circling the building looking for an access point but the created lights were too dim for him to get a clear look at it.
Meanwhile downstairs Darrius decided that he was going to go outside and investigate himself and slipped out of a window that was quietly opened and swiftly closed behind him buy the dubious locals. Hearing the commotion this activity caused Lucius called downstairs to find out what was going on and was somewhat disturbed when Fauna informed him that Darrius had bravely (or stupidly depending on your point of view) let his curiosity get the better of him and gone outside to attempt to get a view of the enemy. Knowing that the rogue was used to sneaking about in darkness and unsure about the capabilities of the stalker Lucius dismissed the lights he'd created in case they revealed Darrius's position to this unknown opponent.
In the moments since he'd left the tavern Darrius had quickly moved to a nearby piece of cover and just caught a glimpse of a seven foot tall half-dragon with a wooden sign hanging from it's neck as the illumination created by the sorcerer was suddenly extinguished. Keeping as safe a distance as was practical the stealthy thief aided by his enchanted cloak followed this familiar figure and was disturbed but not surprised when the supposedly dead half-dragon walked up to the gallows, replaced it's neck in the noose and once again became still...The inhabitants of Pineham somewhat reluctantly re-opened the window to allow the thief to re-enter the tavern and were horrified when the truth about their attacker was revealed. It seems that once again the party had encountered the vile shadow magic that had caused the dead to rise at the The Temple of Myrkul. Fauna attempted to use the communication ritual taught to her by the elves but received no reply from them...
Editors Note - Fauna's player had forgotten that it was currently about three o'clock in the morning in game terms...
With requests for help sent it was now time to deal with the half-dragon itself and to this end they acquired several lengths of sturdy chain from the blacksmith as well as the most formidable locks that he had in stock in order to bind the creature in place if a method of destruction wasn't immediately apparent. Though the request for material help was quickly forthcoming, requests for villagers to help with the restraining itself were responded to with far less enthusiasm. After some discussion with Lucius about the weaknesses of dragonkind he informed his fellow party members that fire was unlikely to be an option given the creatures red hue indicating a fire dragon ancestry and that cold might also be an issue due to the goliath and/or giant part of the creatures heritage. He also reluctantly pointed out that red dragons were the most antisocial of dragonkind so their involvement would be unlikely to be positive in intent in any way.
Editors Note - Dragonkind in our DM's world have a lot of secrets that they keep to themselves and I'm only going to reveal what my character (and the others) know as it comes up in the sessions...you'll just have to be patient, lol.
It was decided that they would attempt to ascertain if the half-dragon indeed only was raised during the night or was in fact able to act at any time but only did so as darkness fell by attacking it at range with Lucius's magic and then if no response was forthcoming that they would bind and then dismember the creature. Several chromatic orb spells and cantrips of various elemental types were fired into the draconic monstrosity with no response other than the obvious damage they caused so the party slowly moved closer. The creature showed none of the magical symbols on it's rotting flesh that those with arcane knowledge would associate with arcane rituals and made no response when Darrius drove his rapier into it's body.
Believing that the creature was indeed only active during the hours of night they decided to proceed with their original plan and the rogue began to messily slice the attackers limbs from it's body. Seeing the amount of time this was taking Lucius went to acquire an axe for Darrius to use but by the time he returned the job was almost done. With the threat now in six very messy pieces it was decided to once again see if the elves had any information for them and after Lucius used a minor magical cantrip to clean-up Darrius they returned to town.
Editors Note - The 'Prestidigitation' cantrip does indeed have a 'make an area clean' effect amongst it's many other minor magical effects. Lucius uses it a lot...
Act Three - 'Revenant'
The news from the forest elves was not positive and Fauna could detect a distinct air of panic from the elf she spoke to. The information she relayed to them didn't seem to reassure them particularly and she got the impression that the elves themselves didn't think that the matter had been anywhere near resolved by their actions. Their talk of ancient texts and shadow magic seemed vague at best and seeing that they were too wrapped up in their own researches to be of further help she broke the connection and went to see what Lucius and Darrius were up to.
Having had bad experiences with corpses getting up and attacking them the rest of the party were discussing with the townsfolk about the possibility of burying the deceased villagers currently inhabiting the pile of coffins outside the temple. They were somewhat reluctant to do so without a priest to bless the ceremony and as their own elven priest had been the half dragons first victim they were at a loss about how to continue. Fauna pointed out that she had some knowledge of the rituals required and while the ceremony might not be exactly what they were used to she assured them that it would be more than adequate for their needs. Darrius and Lucius reassured them that Fauna was more than capable of acting as a priestess in this manner and her confidence brought the un-official town leader around who subsequently convinced the others.
Editors Note - As Fauna is a level one Cleric she isn't exactly experienced in such duties so much of what we told the villagers was
It was decided that Darrius and Lucius would sleep during the day so they could observe the half-dragons corpse during the night and see if the act of destruction had the desired effect. While they were resting Fauna began to oversee the internment of the recently deceased. Fauna blessed each of the bodies in turn and as she did so the symbols on her recently acquired armour glowed dramatically as the blessing was given though for reasons she was unable to ascertain this didn't occur when she used the same ritual over the body of the dead priest. Fortunately the assembled townsfolk didn't seem to notice and were suitably impressed by the service she was providing and Fauna's own confidence was growing considerably as she continued.
As night began to fall, Fauna awoke Lucius and Darrus as she herself retired after her tiring day so they could begin their night-time vigil. Darrius used his enchanted cloak to fly up to the roof of one of the now abandoned houses to a spot that gave him a commanding view of the area containing the gallows while Lucius found a spot on the floor below where he could view the area via a convenient window. The rest of the surviving town-folk had locked themselves in the tavern as was their usual practice.
The half-dragon remaining reassuringly dismembered and after the time that the creature normally attacked had passed the pair began to relax somewhat. Unfortunately this was not to be the end of the matter as Darrius detected movement from the other side of town as a figure emerged from the darkness and headed across the centre of town towards the site of the half-dragons corpse. The figure paused briefly by the gallows before heading down the road towards Oakvale. Darrius pursued the figure for a brief period before deciding better than to follow a potentially dangerous foe into the woods in the middle of the night and returned to town. With no further activity apparent the pair returned to the relative safety of the tavern for the remainder of the night.
The morning was to reveal the disturbing fact that the grave in which the towns priest had been interned was open and had all the signs that the occupant had dug his way out though the other graves were undisturbed. Fearing that perhaps the priest himself had been involved all along the temple was thoroughly investigated by both mundane and magical means but to no avail. Fauna informed them that the priest was the only body buried that she had gained no response from when blessing and perhaps it was this lack that had enabled it to be resurrected. Working on the premise that all their encounters so far had occurred during the night it was decided to follow the trail of the undead priest and hopefully destroy it in the same manner as the half-dragon during the daylight hours before it became active again.
Before they could undertake this mission a messenger arrived from Oakvale accompanied by Fauna's wolf and bought with him some sad news. The townsfolk they had despatched to inform them of the events in Pineham had been discovered strangled to death in a small camp just outside of the city walls and it was on their corpses that the messages had been found. Though they were fairly certain of the perpetrator of this attack Fauna decided to use a recently emerged talent to communicate with animals to see if the wolf 'Echo' could confirm their suspicions.
As suspected the two messengers had been murdered by the animated corpse of Pinehams priest while they rested just outside of town and despite Echos efforts he had been unable to stop this relentless foe. The priest had shown no interest in the wolf at all and had focussed all his efforts on the messengers destruction before heading back the way it had came. Seeing no alternative they proceeded with their original plan to find this resurrected priest and destroy him before he could rise again.
Fortunately the creature had made no effort to cover it's trail and this combined with Fauna and Echo's tracking skills made finding the former priest relatively simple. As with it's draconic predecessor the priest was inactive during daylight hours and once again Darrius found himself hacking a body into pieces. With this unsavoury act complete the party made camp before returning to Pineham in the morning filled with hope that the matter was now resolved. But of course...it wasn't...
They arrived to find the town in complete disarray. Townsfolk were carrying the bodies of their fellows from the tavern which was itself heavily damaged. Each body had been despatched with brutal blows from a large halberd like weapon and this assessment was confirmed by the handful of survivors. In the middle of the night they had been attacked by the reanimated corpse of one of the guardsmen killed in the first wave of attacks who had used his military issue pole-arm to demolish the tavern door before butchering all who stood in his way with only the imminent arrival of dawn stopping it's rampage. With each victory against the undead giving no respite from the attacks it was decided to again see if the elves had come up with any solution .
Fauna once again bought forth her silver bowl and began the spell to communicate with their elven allies. The elves were more confident this time having seemingly identified the threat from the study of their ancient texts. They believed the threat to be a vengeance spirit known as a 'Revenant' that their studies indicated would continue to take new hosts until all those that had wronged it were destroyed. There were a number of methods used by their ancestors to eliminate the presence of such a foe but all required magical talents or skills not possessed by any of the party or villagers. Their only advice was to continue to defend the remaining townsfolk until the requested aid arrived from Oakvale as some of the aforementioned methods to neutralise the threat should be within the capabilities of an experienced cleric. Darrius recalled that the Oakvale messenger had estimated that their priests would be arriving tomorrow which meant the small group of defenders only needed to help the remaining inhabitants of Pineham to survive another night.
The most secure remaining building was the blacksmiths shop so the survivors were secured inside while the tavern was set up to look like it was still inhabited in the hope of luring the guard to that location instead. Darrius Fauna and Lucius took up ambush positions in another building between the two locations and prepared themselves for another night of violence. Much to their dismay the guard ignored their ruse and instead headed directly for the blacksmith shop before driving it's halberd into the door with a sickening crunch. Realising there was little time to spare Lucius summoned several orbs of lightning and hurled them into the undead monster but despite being damaged it continued to batter at the door. Fauna added to the damage with a number of expertly placed crossbow bolts which the creature likewise seemed to ignore. Darrius had left his rooftop refuge and quickly struck from the shadows driving his weapon deep into the attackers body before blending once again into the shadows.
The priest Trevellan with whom they'd shared their first quest, the senior priest of the temple and a number of acolytes arrived the next day and began a number of rituals with various degrees of success. Finally with a supreme effort they managed to trap the revenant's spirit in a pocket dimension where hopefully they could keep it trapped until the curse had ran it's course.
Once this admittedly convoluted solution was implemented the priests and clerics informed the party that a conclave had been set up in Oakvale for all those that may be able to shed light upon the recent string of disasters cursing the area and as they were involved in many of them the group was invited to attend...
Back to Reality.
Over to our GM Tom for a brief overview of how he thought the session went.
"So revenants are one of the more interesting undead, and I knew with the rise of Shadow Magic in the setting I wanted incidents of necromancy spread around. The revenant is the perfect way to give them a taste that Shadow Magics not all shambling skeletons and zombies but keep the party relatively safe as it has no interest in them (I took a few liberties with its behaviour but it fitted my needs)."
"The issue with a revenant is that it's odd and isn't easily distinguishable, the players led them selves on a few loose ends which I should have cut short but having them feel lost and unsure was very in character so I'm a little glad it played out."
"Next time we'll see what happened to the rest of the party and then find out a little more about the world outside Oakvale."
Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.