When they woke up on the 17th day of Dawn, they found a soft dusting of snow over the Jonamor Homestead, a rare but not unknown event for winter near St. Orlan. Unlike years past, though the snow did not relent and soon several feet covered everything. It was the beginning of a particularly cold winter. The roads to Muleshoe and Slateholm were closed to all but the most argent travelers, and it was assumed that the mountain pass to Tosasth was surely impassible. They had returned home just in time to avoid being trapped.
Ferris and Jerker put the downtime to good use, honing skills. Jerker obtained a fine new suit of plate armor produced in part by his blacksmith father. Ferris also spent more time studying his alchemy book. He learned how to produce potions of undead control using the black lotus powder taken from Imra Herrel.
Around this time, a ragged refugees arrived from the west. The denizens of Muleshoe sent them on to St. Orlan where people gasped as the primitive garb and manners, calling them cavemen. The church saw an opportunity to convert more the of the lost and arranged to convert a farmer’s field to a small camp. After two weeks, there were almost a thousand men, women and children living in tents that groaned under falling snow. Anauk, the chief priest at the temple, lavished goods on the people and spent time teaching the common tongue as well as the holy works of the church. He determined their chief was called Graz, and after that the people of St. Orlan came to call them Grazites.
By the time the snows began to melt, three months later, some understanding developed about the cavemen. They had lived for generations in a high mountain valley that stayed unnaturally warm year-round. Clear water poured from a high cliff and the people lived in peace, primarily farming. During the last summer, the water slowed to a trickle, threatening the food supply. And as the calendar turned to the cooler months, the valley itself cooled as well, seeming to lose it’s protective warm. Facing starvation and freezing death, chief Graz made the hard decision to lead his people out of the valley.
A New Year Begins
Meanwhile, after a short rest at the homestead, Ghevont left again for Lah’s Retreat. There he hoped to contemplate deeper wisdom, pray for guidance and perhaps gain insight into new magical abilities. His comrades followed him to be sure to hear Lah’s annual sermon celebrating the beginning of a new year. It stirred devotion and ended with the following prayer.
We thank Thee, O Anointed One, for all the blessings which thou givest us.
Thou hast kept us by Thy power in good health during the night and Thou hast called us up from sleep, that we may enjoy the light of day and to marvel at Thy Majesty.
We entreat Thee, O Lord, grant that we may live this day without danger or sin, but full of Thy mercies and Thy divine care.
Protect my family and the families of my fellow-soldiers from all evil. Guide our hands that they may strike down the peril of undeath.
Enlighten the peoples who conquer and torture other nations; make them repent and seek peace, leaving other lands and their dwellers free.
Open Thou the eyes of our mind to see Thy divine law and incline our hearts ever to do Thy commandments, to the glory of Thine all-holy Name. Anoint us by Thy shining spirit atop Thy silver stair. Amen.
Ferris was so moved as to donate 1,000 gp to the church. Ghevont announced his intention to being researching a spell he called Strength of the Anointed One. The rest of them headed for Slateholm where they hoped to find new treasures at Benabil’s shop. Aderian was pleased to purchase a potion of dwarf control. Ferris sold his trusty sword Wurmslayer but purchased Morto Im Morto, which they thought was lost along with Globo. Tienarth returned to the homestead to transcribe spells.
Ferris and Aderian stayed in Slateholm to enjoy the ongoing celebration and heard rumors of an explorer of some renown had arrived. They found Kranturvar drinking alone at the Dancing Toad and struck up conversation. He was on his way east, back to the empire’s capital. He shared news of about a emissary of the kingdom of Sax Nehringhen who will soon arrive. Given his recent travel from the west, the two raiders quizzed him over fireweed, a flower they thought grew on the slopes of volcanoes. He knew the road to Tosasth well and suggested a volcano was plainly visible from the road.
The two headed home. A week or more later, while enjoying ale at the Inn of the Iron Knight, word confirmed the arrival of the emissary who intended to open up regular trade with his country. They also received a letter from Ghevont who said his research was concluded, but he intended to stay at the retreat longer. Most intriguing was the story about Rhustella and her consort Ferdal who had recently come to town, claiming that their farmhouse was haunted. Ferris went to Sheriff Bremlai to ask where this couple were staying. Aderian gossiped with other revelers and learned that Ferdal was not Rhustella’s husband. Her husband, Eberket, was missing.
Ferris returned, compared notes with Aderian and the two of them went to The Brass Pig Inn to confront the couple. They found them indulging in various treats and intoxicants. They offered to investigate, but the woman tried hard to dissuade any from going out to the farm. This only encouraged them, as suspicion grew thick like weeds. They gathered Tienarth, Jerker and the barbarian Urgesh to go out to the farmhouse to spend the night. They found it abandoned but not uncomfortable for a night’s sleep.
Near midnight, as the others slept, Urgesh spotted a light near the well. A human figure formed and began moving as if fighting off invisible attackers. The struggle concluded as the ghostly body plunged down the well. The scene repeated itself soon after. Urgesh rushed out to investigate and soon found himself possessed by the ghost. He felt his body marching stiffly back to the house where he hollered, “begone from my house!”
With haste, they scrambled out of the house and soon after, the ghost emerged from Urgesh who remained bewildered. The contemplated what to do next, realizing that a fight with a ghost would likely not go well for them. They tried talking to the ghost and heard his sad tale. He was Eberket, the missing husband. His wife and her lover, the former hired hand, killed him by throwing him down the well. He wanted only vengeance against the “she-bitch”.
It was a request they were not immediately ready to fulfill, and Ferris argued for a lawful trial. They had to consider deception, but when Jerker pulled the waterlogged body from the well using a grappling hook at the end of a hemp rope, the story gained much credibility. While the others may have had doubts, Urgesh did not. These concepts meant little to the barbarian who dashed off into the night. The rest of them gave chase.
Aderian stumbled into the inn, panting, as he heard Urgesh demand of the innkeeper, “bring me the bitch!” The innkeeper cowered, then stammered out that the woman named Rhustella was upstairs in suite three. Soon all four were standing outside the door, with Ferris arguing for calm. Rather than smashing in the door, he easily picked the lock, and he hoped they would take the murderess into custody. The moment Urgesh spied her, though, he scooped her up and dash off again back to the farmhouse.
Aderian grabbed Ferdal by the collar as the made for the door. Tearfully, he confessed to the murder. But they had no time to dawdle. Aderian and Jerker made for the farmhouse, hoping against foolish decisions by the barbarian. Ferris and Tienarth decided it was all too much foolishness and returned home. The two warriors arrived as Urgesh dropped the woman to the ground. The ghost of Eberket approached her, arms outstretched, exerting some unseen force upon her. She struggled against nothing as she floated in the air towards the well. Suddenly she plunged down in the black water. For several moments she struggled, screaming and gurgling, then succumbed.
Eberket announced, “now my vengeance is satisfied and will rest if you will do me one last favor: bury me as the Anointed One demands.” His ghost drifted back into his lifeless body, which they soon dropped into a grave. Jerker, taking pity on Rhustella, pulled her from the well and buried her beside him.
They returned immediate to town, with dawn only an hour or two away, to apprehend Ferdal. They found him gone. He’d fled as soon as they were out of sight. The lure of another pint of ale was stronger than the desire to chase after a simpering fool so they bade the innkeeper to fill up mugs.
The month of the judge, that being the first month of the year, passed quietly under heavy snow and beside a warm fire. On the 9th day of second month, that of the frog, Ghevont returned, his armor newly painted gold. He explained his mind pulled at him to return to the civilized lands of the empire to the east, but Lah helped him see that his heart demanded he stay to see the liberation of Tosasth. In fact, he said he dreamed every night of Tosasth and it was his destiny.
He also stipulated a few conditions for the sake of clarity. There would be no more deals nor mercy for the undead. The undead were thoroughly evil, he explained, and never shall he meet one that the left standing. “Let the gold of my armor be a reminder that I shine with the holiness of the Anointed One!”
As the snows finally gave way in the month of Clover, Tienarth was still studying his books. He dreamt of a new spell he called Tienarth’s Transferred Shield, a protection he might give to someone else. He also researched a spell for analyzing the magical aspects of objects.
Of minor note, St. Orlan residents rejoiced at the news of the pregnancy of Sheriff Bremalai’s wife, Oniella. But the raiders cared little for such tidings. They watched eagerly as the snows melting and they anticipated free passage back to Tosasth. On the 20th, they set out on horseback for the high camp at the lake.
The next morning, they made the descent down the back side, stopping awhile to search for fireweed. As they expected, looking up from the are of the bubbling mudpots, they could see smoke rising from the volcano to the south. Aderian and Ferris climbed up the steep slope, but snow was too thick yet for blooms. The returned to the road to make for the bridge camp.
On the way, they spotted goblins nearby and ran the down. Five of the six were killed outright, though they kept one alive for questioning. Unfortunately, none of them spoke the goblin tongue. The goblin spoke no human language. The set him free and tried to remember to scry his whereabouts later. The appearance of goblins in the valley was novel and somewhat suspicious.
Gnolls on the Road
After an uneventful night at the bridge, they approached the city by foot, but stopped short when they noticed a cluster of tents on the road. Watching carefully, they noticed to gnoll warriors guarding about ten tents. They retreated to higher ground to get a better view of the city overall. From the hilltop they could see tow more camps, one on the eastern road and another in the far northern road.
A frontal assault on a gnoll army did not seem wise to any of them. Even a stealthy skirting of the gnolls could introduce high risk in the event of needing to escape the city quickly. A plan must be devised, but first, they needed more information. The reliable method of sending the thief into town under an invisibility spell was brought forth again. Ferris and Tienarth made ready.
Ferris was gone most the day, returning well after the sun set behind the high mountains to the west. He appeared at the bridge camp with a report of three gnoll camps, each with perhaps twenty warriors. When darkness fell, the roused from tents. Additionally, a larger force of gnolls seemed to have made a base of a large mansion on the northeast edge of the city. Fewer undead wandered the streets than before, and none were encountered north of the tower. Gnolls were seen roaming around this area free of undead, apparently scavenging.
- Treasure: none
- Kills: 5 goblins 50 xp
- Aderian 10 xp
- Ferris 10 xp
- Ghevont 10 xp
- Jerker 10 xp
- Tienarth 10 xp
- Aderian, Jerker & Urgesh earned 3,333 xp each for dealing with Eberket