Dark Intrusion

I See Dead People
In which the party leaves the island, continues north, and explores a restless graveyard.

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…

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You May Find Yourself upon a Ship...
In which the party saves a ship, explores an island, and catches a boat.

The party passed an uneventful supper at the Captain's table. Each related their tale, or so much of it as they were willing to share with company newly met. And after a time Miroslav bade them goodnight as he went to make his evening rounds. The party finished their meal and soon turned in for the night, expecting another uneventful day of sailing to follow. But that was not to be. The druid, Oronar, found himself awoken in the dark by what appeared to be the sounds of fighting from above. Waking his new aquaintances, they hurried up to the main deck. Along the way, the tossing of the ship made it clear the seas were far angrier than they had seemed when the party entered their slumber. Sure enough, when the party made it topside, both storm and battle raged across the deck. Szarrek emerged from the rear cabin just in time to see the Captain heaved overboard at the other end of the ship. Fitful rain lashed the ship and an errie magical glow illuminated the night as the party joined the fray. The attackers were pirates…a party of humans and halflings, led by a spellcaster of neither race. Charging in, Szarrek the dragonborn brought his battle axe to bear, and the swordmage Gerald skirted the hold to engage one of the human pirates. Meanwhile the sorcerer engaged the halfling slingers on the foredeck from a distance. The party's momentum initially flagged as Szarrek was pulled into the hold by the caster's arcane assault, and a pair of additional slingers hidden on the rear deck began to assail the party form behind. Gerald and the sorcerer fought their way toward the foredeck while Oronar, taking on his primal animal form, mounted the rear deck to engage the hidden slingers. With Szarrek's return from below deck, the tide of battle was turned and the party was victorious. Miroslav re-boarded his ship as the party was investigating the remains of the attackers. Insignias worn by the humans and halflings indicated that they belonged to one of Crabfoot DuBaku's crews. But they usually operate in the far western sea according to Miroslav, and even more concerning was the caster who was neither human nor hafling and not likely one of DuBaku's men…his only obvious accessory being a curious jade necklace. Miroslav rewarded the party handsomly for their service, and was greatly disturbed. If the attack itself were not concern enough, the storm was clearly unnatural, having appeared from nowhere and then abated soon after the battle. Worse, it was clear with the morning light that the ship had run aground upon a sand bar offshore a charted but unnamed island. The island's lighthouse was clearly visible in the daylight, but in the dark of night it's beam had not warned them away from the shoals. Fearing another raiding paerty might come to finish the job, and unwilling to leave his own ship undefended, Miroslav asked the party if they would be willing, as quickly as possible, to make the journey to his hometown of Bremen on another nearby island…there to alert his allies and summon assistance to get the White Sturgeon off the shoal. The party agrees and fords the shallows to the island, First checking out the lighthouse, they find it staffed only by a corpse. Using a recently found scroll of Last Sight Vision, they determine the man was killed by pirates of the same stripe that attacked the Sturgeon. Clearly the lighthouse was deliberately sabotaged…and the boat at the dock has been rendered unusable as well. On their way out, the party runs across a hermit named Jenner…the island's only permanent resident. There to get supplies from the lighthouse keepers, he too has stumbled across the corpse. He leads the party to his forest shack and they tell their tale on the way. When they arrive, Jenner offers thema deal. His wife, he says, was killed by a nest of giant ants on on the north of the island and left there a keepsake stone that she had carved. If the party would retreive it for him, he would be willing to let them use his own boat to leave the island. Having few options and pressed for time, the party readily agrees and travels to the north of the island where they make quick work of the ants after a short pitched battle. The party retrieves the stone and returns it to Jenner who reveals the location of his boat but demurres when the party asks if he'll accompany them. The boat is moored on the south side of the island, and as the party makes their way through the forest, they notice a ruined tower perched above the cove to which they are headed. Pressed for time they continue toward the cove and soon realize that they are not alone. Just as Oronar spies them, a pair of humans on the path ahead break into a run. Changing into his beast form, Oronar sets upon one as the rest of the party rushes for the shore. When the boat comes into view, it is piloted by a halfling slinger and has DuBaku's symbol on the prow…clearly this is not really Jenner's boat! The hafling casts off as soon as the party comes into view, with both pirates making it onto the boat just in the nick of time. Gerald and Szarrek plunge into the water and swim for the fleeing craft as Wilhelm assults the retreating foes from shore. Impulsively, Oronar casts a flame seed at the pirates, and while he succeeds at wounding one, he also manages to set the boat aflame. With almost superhuman effort, Gerald reaches the boat and while he cannot quite manage to get on board, he is able to slow its progress. As the flames subside without destroying the boat, Szarrek catches up, and after a first failed attempt he hauls himself into the craft, displacing the pirate at the back end. With their escape arrested, two of the pirates are quickly dispatched and the third surrenders before Szarrek's imposing might. The party regroups and forces their captive to row to Bremen, where they remand him into custody and alert them of Miroslav's plight. After receiving further payment for their efforts, the party row themselves back to the island. Landing back at the southern cove, the party ascends the bluff and examines the crumbled tower. The structure has obviously lain unused for a long time, perhaps centuries. In the middle of the ruins, however, there is a circle inscribed with arcane runes that Wilhelm identifies as relating somehow to travel or translocation. Depressions appear within the circle, each marked with a carved symbol…one a snake, another perhaps a rat, and the third a stylized representation of an ant. Torches spring alight above the adventurers' heads as they realize the ant carving is the exact twin of the one on the stone they had retrived for Jenner. With grim determination the party sets off for the forest. Reaching the shack, it appears that no-one is home, but movement tells the party that someone is inside. After failing to lure the occupant out, the party bursts through the door to find the shack apparently empty. Noticing a door across the single room, Szarrek cosses to look inside only to be greeted by a cold shaft of steel from inside the closet. An instant later the wounded Szarrek watches Jenner shift into a rat-like humanoid and call out for aid. As Szarrek trades blows with the transformed Jenner, a swarm of rats emerge from a hole in the floor under the bed and menace the rest of the party. Wilhelm hangs outside as Oronar and Gerald deal make quick work of the new adversaries. Bull-rushing Szarrek out of the doorway, Jenner bolts from the closet and vaults through a nearby window to make his escape. But Wilhelm is already outside and rounds the corner to fell the wounded were-rat with an orb of arcane power. As they take a well-needed rest, the party searches the shack and finds a box containing the ant stone, a rat stone, and a rough map of the island, upon which is scrawled the location of what the party only presume must be the snake stone…

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