Setting off through the forest, the party soon comes upon a cave which they gingerly enter. After a dark passage, the cave opens out into a broad room lit by a phosphorescent fungus. Charging in to see what is there, Szarrek spies a huge snake on a ledge above the entranceway…just before it strikes out and grabs him. Gerald skirts the room to come to Szarrek’s aid but as he passes by, the fungus erupts in a cloud of spores, leaving him dazed. The battle ensues, with Oronar and Wilhelm focusing on the serpent, but as Gerald recovers his senses, two grey oozes emerge from a stagnant pool and begin to assult Szarrek and the recovering swordmage. The oozes severely beat down Gerald’s fortitude but are finally overcome with the help of a violently ricocheting chaos bolt flung by Wilhelm. Once the party is able to focus, they vanquish the menacing serpent and find the snake stone in the pool among the serpent’s leavings.
With snake stone in hand, the party makes their way up to the ruined tower and the magic circle inscribed therein. As they place the stones the ancient circle begins to glow with arcane light, and after a moment of discussion, they step into the field…and vanish…
...to reappear within what seems to be a library. A dusty library long unused, and by the view from the windows it seems to be in a tower some miles above the town of Bremen. A moment later there is a stirring in the room as a figure seemingly made of iron stirs to life and starts toward the party. But the figure does not menace the adventurers, instead stooping to gather the stones from their place within the circle. The figure closes them into a small wooden box and places the box into a cupboard along the wall. Its task complete, the figure turns and speaks with the voice of a huge temple bell.
“Welcome…I see you have made it safely. You are earlier than expected. In time, you may be certain that we shall meet again. But for now, I must bid you farewell…” And with a flash of light the party finds itself once again outside. Following a trail that leads down from the tower, they make their way to Bremen and book a room at the Cracked Well Alehouse and Inn. The next day is spent exploring the town of Bremen and re-provisioning themselves. At a general store across from the inn, Oronar learns that the regular trade between Bremen and the small village of Northville has been interrupted. No travellers have made the journey for two weeks now, which is an unusual occurrence, especially as Finnegan’s is the main source of supplies for Northville. The clerk, Baldur, tells Oronar that his partner, Finnegan, has not been heard from since he travelled to Northville two days prior. He asks if the party would be willing to go to Northville and look for word of Finnegan.
The party hears of Oronar’s news, and the next day, they inform Baldur they are willing to make the journey. Setting out upon the road they find the route between Bremen and Northville is indeed bereft of travellers. About midway to their destination, a cart sits overturned beside the road. Scouting the forest the party comes upon a clutch of kobolds at the crown of a nearby hill. Crossing the open field to the base of the hill, the party cannot help but be spotted, and so Szarrek boldly strides ahead to hail the kobolds. The kobolds dig in behind their palasade but do not attack. After a time, with diplomacy getting nowhere, Szarrek is startled by a bolt of arcane energy racing past his head to impact the kobold guards. Wilhelm the hot-tempered sorcerer has drawn first blood, and the kobolds prepare to attack.
Badly ouclassed by the party, the kobolds very quickly lose a third of their number, and their leader drops his weapon an calls truce. Szarrek accepts the surrender, and a short discussion reveals that while the kobolds admit to pilfering goods from the occasional traveller, they no knowledge of Finnegan or his whereabouts. Szarrek gives a stern warning that the vermin had better be gone when the party makes their way back.
After leaving the kobolds, the party resume their journey. As the evening turns dark, they arrive at Northville. The streets are empty but the general store appearrs to be open. Entering, the party finds a store with just neigh empty shelves. The proprietress, a middle-aged woman named Brella, tells them that her stock is so low because of the loss of trade with Bremen. But that is far from the worst of it. Two weeks ago, she says, the dead began to stir in the graves of a nearby cemetary. At dusk, farmers were menaced in their fields, and at night, unholy things could be heard wandering about outside the barred doors of the village.
Two days ago, a traveller arrived from Bremen…the first in almost two weeks. He arrived as the light began to fade, and a local woman named Rysa Gosen stopped to warn him of the danger. But as they spoke, a group of ragged figures set upon them and dragged them away. The next day, Holt Nas, a local farmer who himself had been assulted in his fields, set out for the graveyard. Confident that daylight would protect him from the forces of the night, he sought to find and return the missing Rysa and the stranger. Holt has not been heard from since.
The party offers to visit the graveyard and see what might be done. Brella entreats them to wait for daylight, but Szarrek points out that every moment counts if they hope to find any of the missing villagers alive. Taking a few torches for light, the party sets out for the graveyard. As they leave, Szarrek slips a few coins to the grateful shopkeep and follows the rest of the party out into the dark.
After walking for the better part of an hour, the four see the graveyard loom into view. All is quiet as they enter, and they notice that the eastern portion appears completely still, though piles of fresh dirt on several graves unsettle the party. Making their way toward the rear, the party reacts quickly as a scream cuts through the night. Heading into the rightmost of three ancient crypts, they are confronted by the walking dead…
Bursting through the doorway, Szarrek is assulted by a walking corpse. Two skeletons at the back of the small crypt bring their weapons to bear, and a pale insubstantial creature turns its attention upon the intruder, tearing its gaze from something hidden in a low trench along the wall. As Gerald enters to double-team the zombie with Szarrek, Oronar charges in and throws himself into the trench, where Rysa cowers trying to protect her infant daughter. Rysa scrambles behind the druid, and Wilhelm moves into the doorway to engage the skeletons at range. Bit by bit the four heroes beat back the undead menace until only the pale reaver remains. Finally cornered, the reaver turns insubstantial and escapes through the back wall of the crypt.
Taking a breather after combat, the party tends to Rysa, who is terrified to be left alone and wishes only to get herself and her daughter back to the relative safety of the town. But as the adventurers tighten their gear and prepare to escort Rysa back, her eyes light up with grave concern. “Wait!” she cries, “You can’t just leave. You must help that poor man. They’ve taken him into the other crypt!”
The party’s work this night is not yet over…