Introductions at the Docks
One overcast morning, a small boat rowed across a dark sea. The Oarsman was an forlorn older man. The rest of the occupants were Wilben, a half-elf with nicks, cuts and a large stab wound; Haze, a halfling with a freshly scarred and milky white left eye; Nono, a bruised and bludgeoned gnome; and Mercy, a battered tiefling with marks around her neck.
The oarsman mournfully talked about the dangers below and ahead the group as he landed the boat on a dock. The land, the Gralhund Estate just off the Sword Coast, was full of Gargauth worshippers. The group was cursed and not free to leave until they have broken it.
He loaded empty barrels onto the boat, informed the group that he would be back by the next new full moon, and if they were all lucky, they'd be back at the docks at that time.
Mercy took to collecting driftwood while the other three investigated the cabin by the docks. Though explicitly warned to not enter, the group peeked through some cracks and found that something was moving in there. They scurried back to safety and decided to head north.
The troupe came across a hanged man wearing peasant's clothes. Mercy inspected him and determined he was far too late to save. The troupe worked together to build a cairn for the body.
During a mourning song by Haze, the wind stopped and Mercy sensed undead coming from under the tree. They were attacked by the tree and the undead humanoid that emerged from under the tree.
As a group, they successfully fended off the tree and the undead.
To the Safety of Town
The troupe, led by Haze, left the ghastly tree behind and headed west towards the woods. The two boys went hunting and foraging. Mercy spotted some eyes in the distance and changed the fire color to alert the hunter-gatherers. The men returned and the women reported that something out there was watching the campsite.
In the morning, the group put together that two blue, almost gorilla-like creatures were the ones watching in the distance. With the threat gone, Wilben climbed a tree and spotted a village in the distance. The troupe headed towards town.
Near to the town, Mercy helped a young woman and a much older man free their ox from a muddy field. The woman, Liona, welcomed them into the village of Wakefield. The town was populated by two distinct group—young adults and elderly folk. Liona informed the troupe of the rules of the village and highly encouraged them to stay there permanently. After a quick jam session in the middle of town, the troupe brought some meager joy to the village and earned some food & a citrine jewel. Everyone in the troupe interacted with various villagers, learning more about their strange ways but never quite getting the full picture. The pervading feeling was that the villagers are merely eking out a living while surrounded by countless dangers.
The troupe agreed to stay in the village for one night before they take off in the early dawn for answers.
Liona suggested the troupe do some work to earn their keep for that night. The troupe left off wheelbarrowing to the windmill to transport already-milled grain.
The troupe arrived at the windmill around noon and set about their tasks. Mercy started the process of milling the grain as the others poked around. Mercy and Haze heard a noise outside, and Wilben peeked over the barrels at the windows to catch a glance of blue. Mercy and Wilben went upstairs but can't tell where the creature has gone.
Halfway through the milling—CRACK! Mercy led the way back upstairs with her rapier drawn. A fight broke out upstairs between the troupe and the multiple ghasts that broke into the windmill. The party successfully fought them off. They cleaned the windmill and burned the corpses outside afterwards.
Mercy checked out the surroundings outside while the rest discovered supplies in some chests upstairs. The three took the abandoned supplies for the troupe's use.
Liona greeted the troupe when they returned. She was shocked by their tale and beckoned them to privately discuss it. The troupe learned that the monsters had been becoming bold in the past months, and that Wakefield should be protected by Father Caudicus' sanctifications.
Liona spoke of the Father's root cellar. Townsfolk were forbidden to enter, but she implied that the troupe should check it out. One adventurer some seasons ago explored it, and still occasionally visited town.
The troupe entered the cellar and discovered a dark ritual that had been long completed and disturbed. A possibly magical knife was missing from the macabre display.
The troupe intended to visit Father Caudicus in his temple to inform him of the issue in town. The troupe has been welcomed to rest at Liona's for the night.
The Kirin and the Crossroads
On their 3rd morning, Mercy detoured the party to the north toward a dying tree. Her divine senses told her that another undead creature was fomenting underneath. The troupe was startled by an injured animal's howl and a flash of white fur. Mercy plowed into the forest in chase while the others tried to keep up.
The troupe found a pack of frenzied wolves circling an injured kirin. The wolves turned on the troupe and managed a number of blows on Mercy and Haze. After some spellwork, the majority of the pack was reduced to char, and the remnants staggered away with partially healed wounds from Mercy's grace.
Mercy healed the injured kirin, but it was too far gone. The kirin's soul visited her and consented to becoming her steed. While Mercy was healing, Haze stomped off to the woods in frustration at his companion's hasty actions. Wilben and Nono discussed the new spells they had worked out overnight. Wilben went to retrieve Haze and the two had a heart-to-heart.
Mercy offered to let the smaller folk ride on the kirin. On the way back toward town, Mercy described how she felt drawn to the tree by intuition. After deciding that the matter of the tree could wait a day or two, the troupe resumes their travel towards the temple.
At the first crossroads, they investigated signs of a previous ambush, with an injured party heading south. Haze found a sign that pointed south for the Gralhund Estate, and west for Craig's Hollow. Following Liona's directions, the group headed left for the Estate.
Between the first and second forks in the road, the group spotted a purse discarded on the side of the road. Haze posited that it was a liquid metal. Nono studied it further to determine that it was mercury, a useful supply in crafting magic weapons.
At the second crossroads, Mercy smelled some corpse rot from the northwest and sensed that there was undead in the distance.
The Gralhund Estate
In the early evening of the 3rd day, the troupe proceeded to heed Liona's instructions and headed in the direction of the temple. As twilight approached, they arrived at the last crossroads and saw the Gralhund Estate in the distance. In fear over being caught in the woods at night, the troupe headed towards the Estate, hoping to find shelter there.
The troupe spotted numerous shambling skeletons blocking the road. Nono determined that they were mostly driven by "sight" and would have a hard time detecting invisible creatures. Once the party was hidden by Invisibility, the troupe sneaked past the skeletons. The deeper the troupe went, the more undead they saw surrounding and facing towards the manor house. They appeared to be trying to get into the manor house.
Mercy vaulted Wilben onto the estate's outer walls and Wilben set up a rope for the rest to climb up on. Some of the fiend patrols on the wall took notice of the noise, and Wilben had to distract them with the sound of a scream in the inner courtyard.
The troupe attempted to enter the manor but were foiled by a locked door. A blood devil threw the door open and started commanding the devils around the estate. The devil was easily able to see through the troupe's invisibility and interrogated them. Once satisfied, she invited the troupe in for a fireside chat. Camosh, the blood devil master of the house, expressed incredulousness that the troupe attempted to break into her well-defended home in order to find safety away from the undead. After some discussion of their various intentions, she allowed the troupe to stay for the night. She pressed them to help her rid her lands of the undead, and disparaged the villagers and Father Caudicus.
The troupe safely slept and in the morning of the 4th day, Camosh saw them out of her house. Sometime during the night, Haze brokered a deal with her and received information and an imp, much to the party's shock.
The Temple and the Crypt
In the morning of the 4th day, the troupe left the Gralhund Estate proper under the cover of invisibility. While on their way to the temple, Wilben discovered a stone marker for the Gralhund Estate crypt. Undeterred, the troupe made their entrance at the temple and met Father Caudicus. He enlightened them on the history of the island, including the Lord Tomasin Gralhund who cavorted with devils until he disappeared 25 years ago. The Lord's high mage, known as Nefilphasia, continued a skeletal siege on the Estate house that can be seen to this day.
The Father also spoke poorly of the adventurer who interrupted his Wakefield ritual. He asked the troupe to retrieve the knife from "the man in the woods," known to reside in a lighthouse in the northwest section of the island. In addition to the knife, the Father requested replacement ghast hearts to recomplete the ritual.
Wilben inquired about the temple's god, The Lord Who Watches, and learned their credo. Nono traded silver with the temple in order to acquire spell material components. After a light meal from their gardens, the troupe left to explore the surrounding lands. Haze brought up the link between the Tomasin, Camosh, and Nefilphasia, and stated that Camosh was the only one standing between Nefilphasia and total domination of the island.
The troupe followed a deer trail to a clearing with a dead tree. In their investigation, they determined that undead had at some point been raised from the area, and there was another disturbance at the edge of the glade. They followed children's footprints back to the road and found they intersected with the path to the Crypt.
Heading to the crypt, they spotted a small girl who dashed down the path ahead of them. Wilben led the chase to a mausoleum, and Mercy detected undead surrounding the group. Ghostly specters appeared and attacked the troupe. After the specters are defeated, the little girl reappeared and admitted she just wanted to play. She had a message from her mother. In the afternoon light, the group decided to join the little girl Vivian and go visit Mother in the swamp to the southwest.
The Witch in the Swamp
In the mid-afternoon of the 4th day, the little girl Vivian led the troupe through the bush into the swamps. She encouraged everyone to take the shortcut over a partially broken bridge over a river, which they safely crossed. The troupe met Vivian's "mother" Nefilphasia, the necromancer leading the siege on the Estate. She had a number of undead at her disposal, including alligators and children. After introductions, Nefilphasia requested the troupe's help in finding Albert, her partner who had been working on her secretive living dead tree project. She advised the troupe as to the state of the island and her eyes on the ground. She made her desires plain: she needs total control of the island. She offered safety for the night and future help in breaking the curse if the troupe could help her wrest control from the devils in the Estate.
While the others were preoccupied, Haze took a moment with the necromancer to ask about the orb he had been looking for. After some private discussion, Haze made a deal with her and brought it to the rest of the troupe's attention. He said that Nefilphasia would make another orb for the group if he would bring her a book from her library in the Estate. The troupe questioned how she knew that they could get into the Estate safely, and Haze told them that she knew they went to the Estate. Everyone grilled him on this until Wilben broke him down with a stare.
During day 5, the troupe took a "shortcut" through the marsh that resulted in lost time and some minor pains. Back at the disturbed glade, they retread their investigation. They returned to the temple to see if they had seen the missing Albert or any strange men in the area in the past month. When Father Caudicus heard that the troupe met Nefilphasia, he called her an interloper.
The troupe left the temple with pockets full of tomatoes. They argued amongst themselves about who they trusted amongst the island folk, with the village of Wakefield being the most innocent and downtrodden of the groups. Haze argued against trusting the Temple, insisting that they must be hiding something horrible compared to the devils and the necromancer.
In the end, the troupe decided to investigate the man in the woods in order to retrieve the missing knife for Wakefield's sake.
In the afternoon of the 5th day, the troupe set off to find the man in the woods in the lighthouse to the northwest. They backtracked to the Docks & the Estate crossroads before settling down for the night. Nono cast Tiny Hut and they set a watch: Mercy, Nono & Benignus, Wilben, and then a voluntold Haze. Yellow eyes glinted low in the distant darkness at the troupe as they rested. Mercy woke up in the morning to find that Haze had fallen asleep during his watch. When confronted with the danger he put them in, as Tiny Hut only lasted 8 hours, Haze moped about it sincerely.
Following the road towards the northwest, they spotted the ruins of Craig's Hollow off the path. The buildings were decrepit except for one stone building that looked to be in good condition with a bubbling cauldron in the fenced yard. Mercy, calling out for villagers, unwittingly attracted the attention of 3 boars. Wilben stunned the boars and after some quick deliberation, the team collaborated an attack immediately after Nono set a fireball amongst the boars. The boars inadvertently revealed that the fence is enchanted as they are bounced off of it.
With the boars taken care of, Nono "knocked" on the door of the stone house and the troupe investigated it. They found a long dead wizard in a bed, with a cup and a spell book at their bedside. The troupe buried the wizard in the yard within the confines of the enchanted fence. Nono scavenged the house and came out with some healing potions and scant material components, while Haze took some chains from the surrounding buildings. Otherwise, Craig's Hollow was a shambles.
Back on the path, the troupe approached a rope bridge over a gorge. Wilben, with the help of his backpack, helped his smaller teammates across the bridge. When Mercy attempted to cross, the weight was too much for the ropes and one snapped. The two managed to safely finish the crossing, but the bridge was in bad shape. Mercy bid her kirin to return to the wizard's house in Craig's Hollow and the troupe continued on foot.
They find a dead tree in the distance, its fallen leaves a telltale purple. They hurriedly left the tree behind and Benignus found the troupe a tucked away spot to camp.
By the misty mid morning of the 7th day, the troupe arrived at the lighthouse.
On the morning of the 7th day, the troupe approached the lighthouse. Outside the door, there was a sled and clear footprints around the area. Nono determined the sled was likely the same one as the one involved in the fracas on the road they spotted a few days beforehand. Mercy knocked and received no answer. When Nono opened the door, Haze walked in and lit up his instrument, bringing to light more dragged sled marks that he begged Mercy to check out.
Nono & Mercy waited outside while Haze and Wilben cautiously maneuvered themselves up the stairs, triggering, avoiding and marking various traps all the way. The boys explored the top floor of the tower, discovering the missing dagger lodged in a heart on a table. In another room, Haze discovered a dingy man chained up. By this point, the girls made their way up the tower. Haze released the chained man from his bindings while the group interrogated him. The man was Albert, Nefilphasia's partner in necromantic studies. Albert had doubts that the party had been sent by Nefilphasia, and Nono tricked him into revealing some surface thoughts. Haze found a strange necklace on a desk in the prison room and pocketed it. Wilben scooped the heart-dagger whole into a cup and carefully placed it in his backpack.
A heavily garbed man caught the troupe at the top of the tower. With his bow aimed at them, he barked questions and directions. Haze discretely snuck Albert back his necklace, and Albert created a large gust of wind to disrupt the tense discussion and escape. He didn't get far before the troupe recollected and tackled him. After helping the tower resident Lorenzo secure a sullen Albert and giving back the heart-dagger, the group sat down for conversation.
Lorenzo asserted that Nefilphasia's children were former villagers that died. Albert confirmed that the missing Wakefield generation were the ones who died in the war. He didn't seem to trust anyone on the island, and especially distrusted Father Caudicus and the Temple. He harbored no fondness for the villagers, and only preferred the devils over the necromancer because the devils were contained to the Estate.
The discourse continued, with the troupe wondering about where their allegiances lay.
The Shipwreck Camrose
In the early afternoon, the troupe concluded their discussion with Lorenzo. With the ghast heart and dagger pierced into the table, an uneasy truce was laid out. Lorenzo wanted the troupe to act as if Lorenzo was dead, so Lorenzo could move unseen. He had no trust in anyone at all on the island and did not believe there was a way off the island. He hinted that he had a deal with the devils.
On their way back along the path, the troupe meandered to get a closer look at the shipwreck off the coast. Nono, feeling something odd in the wind, stopped the troupe to check if there was magic in the air. She detected the troupe's magic items in addition to conjuration magic on her pilfered spellbook.
At the shore by the shipwreck, the troupe realized their mistake. The wreckage was accessible only by going down a sheer cliffside, some hundreds of feet away in the water. The troupe deliberated their options. Spurred by a question of trust, Haze and Wilben engaged in a heartfelt discussion about their friendship. Meanwhile, the girls devised a plan to access the ship. A flying Mercy carried Nono over to the ship. She ferried each party member across.
On the ship, the troupe salvaged some rich supplies and located a bleached skeleton. The sky turned dusk and dark by end of their looting. They flew back across the water and found a very close place to set up camp. The flying Mercy scouted the area alone. She spotted several small wispy creatures in two packs not far from the troupe. One pack was watching the troupe. Mercy caused the creatures to scatter by her presence.
The troupe hurriedly set up camp in the safety of a Nono's tiny hut. They sorted through the papers and determined that the Camrose was intending to pick up cargo from Lord Tomasin about 25 years ago, but never completed the trip.
Nono and Haze bonded slightly over their familiars before Haze's imp performed an macabre show with a mouse. For the night's watches, Benignus generally saw a large creature distantly glinting in the moonlight, while the others saw darkness.
When the troupe rose in the morning of the 8th day and the tiny hut dissipated, they were surrounded by chattering noises.
On the morning of the 8th day, the troupe left the safety of their tiny hut to find themselves approached by mephits. The troupe held off on attacking while the mephits surrounded Nono. A terrified Nono turned herself invisible and slipped past the surprised mephits. The bards hypnotized and put some mephits to sleep while Mercy knocked the rest out.
With the threat delayed, Nono reappeared and the troupe deliberated as to why they were after Nono. She divvied up her recently acquired items between the troupe members. Mercy took the spyglass, Haze took the spellbook, and Wilben took her borrowed book.
The previously spied earth elemental lumbered into view. The troupe split up to test their hypothesis. The earth elemental attempted to follow Haze, but was blocked by Mercy. Haze teleported himself to the wrecked Camrose, only to find it already occupied by a water elemental scouring the ship. When he was about to be attacked, he thunderstepped his way back to the coast with the water elemental on his heels.
Between the quickly travelling Haze, a flying Nono, and a guarding Mercy, the troupe confounded the elementals chasing after the book. The frustrated elementals abandoned the futile flying chase.
The troupe decided to head back to Craig's Hollow. On the way, Mercy stopped the troupe at the dead tree and intentionally triggered the undead underneath it. After doing what they could to cleanse the area, Haze tried to cajole Wilben to carry the components he needed to raise a skeleton. Wilben declined.
Back at the rope bridge, Nono sent Wilben flying over the chasm to fix the broken rope. The troupe successfully crossed the bridge without breaking it under their weight.
The troupe continued their frantic pace towards Craig's Hollow and were last seen ambushed by more boars.
Return to Craig's Hollow
Ambushed! The boars approached to attack. The bards once again froze most of the enemies in place. A fantastic shot from Haze left the one non-stunned boar dead in its tracks, but broke his bowstring. Mercy attempted to ride the largest boar and created a great distraction, but it distracted the troupe just as much as the boars. After some vicious attacks on the boars, they turned tail and retreated. In the aftermath, the troupe carved some meat from the boar Haze felled.
The troupe continued on towards Craig's Hollow and met Dintereal at the wizard's hut. Mercy, seemingly the only one with any inclination for cooking, whipped up a meal with some of the boar meat and foraged mushrooms. In the meantime, the boys searched for a stick to be used as a cooking implement. Nono studied the hut and glimpsed markings carved in the cement under the house. She roped Wilben and Mercy into helping her gain better access, and found a magic circle for non-detection.
Meanwhile, Haze stuck around the stew pot outside and saw the wizard's skeleton dig itself out of its grave. With some cursory questioning between Haze and Nono, they determined it might still retain some semblance of intelligence, or it was a complete marionette to Nefilphasia. Mercy was antagonistically dismissive of the skeleton.
The troupe rushed back to Wakefield and asked their new skeleton follower, dubbed El by Nono, to stay behind at the windmill. Mercy deposited the boar meat at a storehouse, and the elderly folks directed them to converse with Liona.
Liona and Mercy talked at length about the food, Father Caudicus, Lorenzo, and some other topics before Mercy mentioned that the villagers should avoid the windmill for the time being. Liona became increasingly upset as the troupe tried to assuage her fears and confusion over a walking skeleton near the village.
The troupe left off tromping back to the windmill in order to placate Liona, who may yet gather up a crowd to go kill the "dangerous" skeleton.
Under the Windmill
The troupe was tired and irritated when they stomped back to the windmill. When they arrived, they did not see El. Mercy and Nono were increasingly wary at the dangerous airs about them. They found tracks that lead away from the windmill, but saw that the tracks led back into the windmill in the end. Wilben and Haze spotted a trapdoor that led to a cellar. Inside the cellar, the troupe found El waiting listlessly.
The troupe questioned El and made their way around the room. In small offshoots from the main room, there were crypts carved with the names and dates for various dwarves. All the dead dwarves belonged to the Bladed Keys Mercenaries. They all died within a year or so of 1179, about 2 years after the Gralhunds came to rule the island, and some 312 years before the current timeframe.
While Wilben and Mercy read the dwarven runes, Haze studied the heraldry on the floor in the center of the room. The troupe discovered that the lions in the heraldry were the same as the lion section of the gryphon-emblazoned pouch they had found.
When interrogated, El agreed with the notion that he knew of the room before, that he led the troupe there for a reason. The bones scattered about the room were all human. Nono detected that the hair-raising feeling she had earlier was increased in the arena, as it was now surrounding her in the walls and the ceiling. The arena was drenched in the same magic that seeped through the ground underneath the Living Dead Trees.
The troupe left El in the arena, confident that he wouldn't be discovered by the villagers. Liona greeted them on their return, setting her torch and pitchfork after Haze smoothly lies about the skeleton.
The troupe set Dintereal up in the stables for the night and took a shack for themselves. Partway through the night, Benignus alerted them to the earth elemental making its way towards the village. The troupe moved together to a Tiny Hut close to the creepy grove to the north of the village. The elemental quickly lost the scent after that, and wandered away into the forest.
Mercy went into town to gather some history on the island. She found Mathers to be informative on the subject. Meanwhile, Nono grilled Wilben and Haze and they admitted that they were not simple bards. They had been spies, and died coincidentally around the same time.
Wilben and Haze decided to use the upcoming boar feast as a distraction. Their plan: to investigate the village to find the orb that Camosh requested.
The Boar Feast
On the 9th day, Haze, Wilben and Nono visited El in the arena under the windmill. The troupe questioned them and gleaned some nuggets of information. It seemed like El killed themselves in their house as part of a spell in order to hide their spellbook away from Nefilphasia. The elementals were chasing the book, not to return it or destroy it, but for another unexplained reason. The elementals would keep returning for the book even if they were dispersed. The arena was special, but not in regards to the elementals.
Back in Wakefield proper, the boar feast was prepared and the troupe split up once again. Mercy mingled with the villagers with Nono trailing behind. Mercy earned an unenthustiastic look from Liona as she told a rambling story about her work as a paladin and her faith.
The boys, enabled by an invisibility spell, checked each shack in the village for the orb. They turned up empty handed for materials, but Wilben noticed old Waterdeep and Gralhund tiny treasures suitable for commoners in some of the shacks. The pair showed up to the feast in time to enjoy some mediocre blackberry pie.
In the evening darkness, the troupe decided to take care of the withering tree in the north before bed. They demolished the weakened undead emerging from beneath the tree and torched the tree itself. Investigating further, they determined the rough process that created the undead. They surmised that the buried dead fed the tree necrotic energy, which would then drop tainted leaves on the ground which filtered through the ground to the de-fleshed skeletons. It seemed like the same energy that could be felt underneath the windmill.
The troupe camped out not far from the torched tree, with Benignus checking in on the earth elemental's fruitless progress. In the morning, the troupe discussed once more visiting the arena in order to study the location itself further.
Memories of the Collapse
At the start of the 10th day, the troupe revisited the windmill once more. Under the stairs inside the windmill, a high keening and humming noise filled the air. Nono investigated the arena remotely with an arcane eye. Inside the arena, El loitered inside a giant magic circle that took up nearly the entire chamber. Unable to discern the runes around the edges nor the exact significance of the marking in the center of the circle, the troupe cautiously entered the arena.
El denied doing anything or having any visitors since the troupe's last visit, but indicated that this was what they wanted the troupe to see. Between Wilben's translations and the troupe's magical competence, the dwarven runes were found to be calling for "the Eleven" to retake the land. The troupe debated the circle's significance and whether Albert, as the only known dwarf on the island, had a hand in the project.
In the fields by the village, the troupe stopped to talk to Liona. They informed her that they were being tracked at night and that they don't stay in the village in order to prevent it from accidentally coming in. They also asked after Lorenzo's habits.
At the blacksmith's house, Nono read out his letter to the Camrose in order to provoke some recollections about the Estate. The blacksmith Karlin acknowledged that he was once the house steward, but his memory was failing in old age. He reluctantly talked about the Collapse 25 years ago where everyone ran screaming away from the castle to the village and beyond. Something tragic happened at the same time in Craig's Hollow, and all those who escaped those areas ran to Wakefield.
He suggested that some other villagers could answer more questions. He also pondered on the fate of a forester he once met before the Collapse, who he last saw a few years ago. Away from the villagers, Wilben quietly suggested that the woodsman could be in the cabin by the docks.
Gossiping village elders Meredith, Gert, & Wilda lively discussed the history of Wakefield with Haze. They spoke of poor Liona's mother, who went back to retrieve something and never returned.
The herbalist Mathers was from the village just outside the estate, and was a young man at the time of the Collapse. He spoke of all sorts of strange heraldry walking through the town, but he did not know if Liona or her parents were from that village.
The Man in the Cabin
The troupe started their long trek back to the docks with their companions in tow. 2 hours in, El collapsed into a pile of bones. Haze teleported El and himself 100 feet back into a bush and El reanimated. There was discussion about how to handle El's breakdown, but it was unnecessary as El was able to hold together.
The troupe camped out on the southern path some miles to the west of the docks. During the night, a branch cracked in the woods and Benignus reported it was a human-sized figure travelling east to west.
In the morning, Haze went for a walk with El and the imp to pick up a "treat". Mercy Infernally conversed at the Imp, and they shared a mutual moment of vexation.
The troupe made their way to the docks and saw some new barrels on the pier. Dintereal reported that there was more chain rattling inside the hut overnight. Nono produced an arcane eye to study the inside of the hut. She saw a filthy room filled with adventuring gear, a heavily secured door, and a hulk of a man chained at multiple points. Knowing that there is someone trapped inside, the troupe goaded him into talking by talking of Karlin and partially knowing his name.
Wilben carefully broke into the house and Mercy took care of the chained man Pulska. In their discourse, they learned that Caudicus locked him up, but Nefilphasia was the one who cursed him. Pulska wanted to break the curse on the island, but he needed a Gralhund to break the curse. He had been in the Estate many times and felt something calling to him on the second floor. Mercy broke all but the silver collar around Pulska's neck, as it was too tight and dangerous to remove.
There was a tense moment as Pulska made plain his desire to kill Caudicus and Nefilphasia. The troupe pleaded with him to leave Caudicus alone for the moment for the village's sake. They entreated him to kill Nefilphasia first. As Pulska left the shack, he locked the troupe in for a head start.
The troupe dug around in the pile of adventuring gear and found some useful materials, including a map of the island with a camp marked.
Benignus reported that the earth elemental was slowly making their way to the beach, and the troupe decided it was best to finally face their elemental stalker problem.
Confrontations on the Beach
The troupe prepared for battle on the coastline. On the docks, Wilben and Haze inspected the new crates to find that Genoff left supplies out for the troupe. Wilben and Nono formulated a plan to lure the elemental to the docks with an illusion of the book, while Nono stayed invisible with the true book.
The troupe, gathered on a shipwreck near the dock, waited for some time for the elemental to appear. When Mercy stepped onto the sand, the elemental materialized from the ground. Wilben turned into a giant ape while Mercy and Haze waited for the creature to attack. The earth elemental lashed out in frustration at the troupe, unable to find the book. Once Nono released her invisibility, the elemental focused on her. Haze persuaded her to take a leap of faith into his arms. He thunder stepped from the elemental, inadvertently injuring Dintereal with the soundwave. Wilben smashed the elemental into oblivion.
In the aftermath of the battle, Mercy was furious with Haze. Mercy and giant ape Wilben chased after a running Haze, who disappeared from sight. After calming down a little bit, the troupe minus Haze returned to sorting through the crate on the dock and settled on paying Genoff with a large quartz instead of gold. Wilben searched for Haze, unable to find him anywhere along the shore. Mercy investigated the shack further and found some more items of scant worth, while Nono rested and found a possible replacement bowstring for Haze. The troupe left a message in the sand from the stones that made up the elemental—"Look for the sign on the path."
The troupe minus Haze travelled back west and camped out right where their intended path strayed from the worn road. They announced that they would be casting Tiny Hut and that only those already inside would be able to freely walk in and out. Their hopes grew slimmer that Haze had somehow secretly followed them as they started their watch rotation. Wilben's first watch and Nono's third watch were unremarkable, while Mercy saw a wolf in the distance.
On the morning of the 12th day, the troupe left some markings on a tree for Haze as well as the scavenged bowstring. Some hours later, they finally arrived at the previous adventurers' campsite.
A Troupe Divided
Without Haze, the troupe carried on. At the campsite, they spied a peculiar sight. Two well-armored bodies held hands between the burnt out campfire and the tent, with 4 red feathers standing up in tiny mounds of dirt surrounding the area. After some careful investigation, the troupe determined that the feathers marked the bounds of a modified tiny hut spell. The spell had preservative properties which kept the bodies fresh with their self-inflicted wounds. The troupe scavenged the materials inside and noted that there were traces of an archer and a spellcaster amongst the group, along with 3 bedrolls. Mercy proposed that they were once Lorenzo's companions. Before the troupe left the area, Wilben tried once more to goad Haze into revealing himself, but it failed. Nono spotted tracks leading away from the camp and the troupe followed them back to the main road.
As the morning passed, the troupe followed another trail off the main road leading north. At a junction, the troupe chose the larger trail of mixed creature tracks and discovered the boars' home turf. Some yards away from the boars, a goliath slumped against a tree stump.
With Wilben and Nono's spellcasting, an invisible Mercy flew to the goliath and determined she was long dead. As Mercy collected the woman's things, she plucked a red feather out of the stump and revoked the preservative magic in that small area. Mercy laid the goliath to rest as the troupe read her last words, which expressed hope for her companions and condemned Lorenzo.
The troupe returned to the docks to check on El, who surprisingly did not follow the troupe before. El stood listless by the shipwreck and did not respond to any questions. Mercy picked them up and carried them as the troupe continued their search for Haze, following his tracks. Hours into the night, the troupe set up camp in a tiny hut. Before settling to sleep, Nono determined which pieces of scavenged equipment were magical.
During the night, the watch was nearly uneventful. Wolf eyes shone ever watching in the forest. In the last watch, El broke apart for no apparent reason.
On the morning of the 13th day, the troupe tested out the items they had collected from their predecessors.
Revisiting the Estate, Minus One
Another day without Haze. The troupe sent a letter, via Benignus, to Wakefield to check if Haze had gone back there. In the meantime, they started the trek to the Estate. Along the way, they dismantled the sign they left for Haze marking their turn-off for the camp. The reply from Liona, written by Mathers, was that they had not seen Haze. Wilben asked the girls to let him handle Haze when they eventually reunite.
When the troupe came across the roadblock of skeletons, they formulated a plan to blast through them. Some fireballs, a giant ape, and a commanding Mercy demolished the dozens of undead in the road. The troupe travelled through the ruins of the town surrounding the Estate, sneaking past some patrolling skeletons along the way.
Nono sent Dintereal flying so he could deliver each troupe member to the safety of the Estate ramparts. In the courtyard, the troupe witnessed Lorenzo handing over a trussed up Albert to Camosh. In return, Lorenzo received a beautiful recurve bow in black and red. A group of imps flew Lorenzo out of the courtyard to the grounds outside. Camosh directed her imps to send Albert to the dungeon, but Mercy intervened to check Albert's state. Camosh was affronted, but Wilben smoothed things over. They received her permission to stay in the Estate for the night with access to the library, in exchange for clearing out the horde of undead pounding on the front doors. She also informed them that she expected her informant attached to Haze to report in some days' time.
A devil was assigned to escort the party to the kitchen for refreshments and then to the library. In the kitchens, Wilben mimicked Camosh well enough to lure the devil away and the troupe scurried to a nearby hallway to investigate. They climbed the nearest tower and found a personal room with portraits of Gralhund family members, including a familiar looking face. Mercy told Wilben that the portrait of Yalah Gralhund looked remarkably like Liona.
The troupe hurried back to the kitchens and their escort, having returned, was none the wiser. The devil then led the troupe through the throne room to the small library behind it. The door shut behind them, the troupe pondered the room and the tasks ahead of them.
Puzzle Pieces, Missing & Found
Alone in the Gralhund library, the troupe methodically looked for likely candidates for Nefilphasia’s prized book. The section on necromancy held books by Cezuthi, but they weren’t anything special. The troupe found paperwork and histories that documented the Estate’s former residents. Between that and Wilben’s knowledge of Waterdhavian nobles, the troupe sussed out the Gralhund family tree. Wilben discovered a hidden compartment that contained a book on demon binding and a pair of black gloves. Nono took to the book and started reading it, pocketing the book and gloves when they left.
The troupe’s devil escort led them to the dungeon where Camosh showed off the physically safe Albert once again. She asked them to lure Nefilphasia closer to her so she could take care of her once and for all. The troupe balked at the request. They confirmed their agreement for a night’s rest in return for removing the skeletons at the front gate.
The troupe was given a long leash to explore the Estate with their escort trailing behind. They investigated the fountain outside, believing it may have relation to a local water spirit Mercy had earlier read about. The fountain blessed them after they each tossed a coin in. The troupe posited that house to the southeast could have once belonged to Karlin.
To the northeast, the troupe explored a rarely-used shrine to many gods. They climbed to the top of the staircase and found a curious device with grooves and a gryphon carved into it. They reached for their bags to find the pouch of mercury with the matching gryphon, but realized Haze last carried it. They left off remembering their missing comrade in the shrine tower.
Inside, their escort guided the troupe to an armory where Wilben and Mercy picked up some bows for the morning skeleton clearing exercise. The armory had stairs that led to the extensive dungeons. They found a few empty prisons, some rooms with supplies, and the path to the room where Albert was being kept. On the main floor, the troupe figured out part of the floorplan, as well as explored the northeast tower. That tower had a small room that the devil barred them from entering. Mercy distracted him while Wilben snuck in to investigate. He found a half-orc skeleton chained to the wall, with tubing stuck in them that appeared to carry their blood one way and a mysterious metallic liquid another. He emptied his wineskin, stored some of the liquid in there, and rejoined the girls.
Back in their shared room in the southeast tower, the troupe determined that the liquid was gallium, related to but nearly as immediately toxic as mercury. Nono turned to the demon-binding book and found the most referenced pages spelled out a demon weakening ritual, as well as a banishment spell.
While the other two were asleep, Nono left the room and went looking for Camosh. She returned and the troupe slept peacefully until 3:30AM, where Camosh and her crew crashed into the room and demanded that they immediately leave. She blamed Haze for something and refused to elaborate, but did say that Haze was still indebted to her.
The troupe was shuffled out to the inner courtyard as devils menacingly advanced on them. The troupe took Dintereal and headed towards the front gate, which the devils refused to open. Wilben attempted to force one to open it with an enchantment, but the devil resisted and a battle broke out.
Dintereal was discorporated by a devil strike and Mercy dished out some damage in retribution. Wilben cast a hypnotic pattern to once again enchant the devils, but caught himself in the process. Nono shook him from his trance and ran to the edge of the rampart. Mercy held strong against more devils and completely demolished an imp. Wilben cast invisibility on Mercy and Nono, bidding them to jump after him and take advantage of his distraction. He then quickly climbed his way down and faced off against the skeletons. Nono followed his footsteps, imitating his climbing and then cast invisibility on him. Mercy landed beside them. The three stood invisible against a horde of skeletons.
The Troupe and the Pack
The troupe, minus Haze, managed to escape the Estate grounds and headed north. While they were invisibly travelling, Nono spotted a pair of small footprints in the muddy dirt path to the north. At the same time, Haze heard clinking metal ahead of him. Wilben made a call that Haze would recognize, and Haze returned it. The pair invisibly hugged and reunited. The troupe made their way north to a forested patch and bunkered down for the night.
An exhausted Haze explained his absence to a wary audience. He was chased by wolves, found by Nefilphasia and captured. She brought him to the windmill and stabbed him to raise the entombed dwarven warriors. She forced him to lead her to Albert, and was furious that he was not at the lighthouse as he had thought. She eventually found out about the imp and directed Haze to kill it. She eventually let Haze rest and he was finally able to escape with his teleportation magic.
The rest of the troupe gave a brief description of their time without Haze, including finding the book, the previous adventurers' camp, Lorenzo's betrayal of his party, Albert's location and Camosh's fury.
The night watch was mostly uneventful, with only wolves watching the troupe in the night. In the morning of the 14th day, the troupe listened to Haze's Forgiveness Song. Wilben ate it up, while Mercy was not moved. They had a discussion about forgiveness, doing what's right, friendship and betrayal. They also questioned him about El's deanimation and came to the conclusion that it was probably Nefilphasia spying through him all along.
The troupe decided to seek Father Caudicus. They realized that with the full moon rising, he would be appearing at Wakefield within a day or two. The troupe spent the rest of the day travelling towards the village. After dark, a few hours west from Wakefield, the troupe was blocked on the road by three wolves. Father Caudicus and some of his acolytes appeared on a small cliff above them. Caudicus declared that the troupe was too meddlesome. Mercy tried to counter with information about the Gralhund heir on the island, but Caudicus did not know nor care. Under the moonlight, he and his acolytes turned into werewolves.
Wilben attempted to polymorph himself into a giant ape, but failed for an unknown reason. Nono protected Haze and herself by sending them flying in the air, out of the way of the werewolves. Dintereal was quickly discorporated. Mercy threw down her sword and battled the werewolves with her gauntlets, letting loose her fury. Haze and Wilben controlled the battlefield with enchantments. The ground-bound Wilben and Mercy were each bitten during the fight. With judiciously applied holy damage and fire, the troupe took down the werewolves and wolves. Father Caudicus attempted to run, but was unable to shake the troupe. He collapsed and died quickly afterwards.
The troupe decided to deal with the corpses to prevent Nefilphasia from controlling them later. Afterwards, they travelled to the Temple. They found the acolytes abandoning it and ransacking it in the process. The troupe caught one acolyte and found them cowardly without Caudicus leading them. They let him flee and returned to the temple. The stone altar's slab was disturbed, showing a set of stairs leading downwards. In the room below, they found a chest topped with a glowing orb.
Major Trust Issues
The troupe lingered over the orb and discussed what they should do. Outside, they were alerted that a fiery path was blazing toward them. Mercy headed upstairs to fend them off. Nono put on the gloves, grabbed the orb and stuffed it in her backpack. The boys made their way upstairs to help Mercy defend against two elementals. Wilben tore off his belt and turned into a giant ape. With Mercy and Wilben brawling against the two elementals, the troupe sustained heavy damage in their successful fight.
After the fight, Nono appeared incredibly antsy. They deliberated in settling down for the night right there in the temple. However, Wilben noticed that they were being approached and signaled that Vivian was hiding nearby. Haze welcomed Vivian and approached her along with Wilben. Haze told Vivian that he was no longer working on Nefilphasia's mission and she attacked him. He quickly put her to sleep and Wilben helped tie her up. Meanwhile, the girls hung back and focused on a different task.
Vivian woke up and was gagged. The troupe discussed where to rest after that. After realizing that Vivian would simply follow them because she was listening in, they put her back to sleep and confirmed that they would go to the Gralhund crypt. Mercy was to keep a released Vivian at bay while the rest went ahead. A desperate and sweaty Haze approached Nono and asked her to trust him. She stepped back and he tried to gently push her. Haze pleaded with the team to either help him fulfill his goal of returning the orb to Camosh, or to knock him out. Wilben defended Nono and sent Haze to sleep. Once awake, Vivian tried to feebly attack Haze, who was restrained and protected by Wilben.
Along the way, Haze kept trying to free himself from his bonds. Wilben interrupted Nono while she was casting something on herself. Mercy was approached by a one-eyed wolf who she had attacked and healed near Wakefield, and appeared to earn its loyalty.
At the crypt, the troupe regrouped and found a bloody Pulska recuperating there. Pulska implied that Haze had ties with Nefilphasia and was miffed that the troupe had already killed Father Caudicus. In retribution, he punched Mercy. After informing Pulska that they had reason to believe that Tomasin had a daughter on the island, he relented and sided with them. The troupe settled down for what remained of the night, with Haze left tied up outside of the tiny hut's warmth.
The Grand Siege
During Wilben's watch, Haze freed himself from his bonds. He left behind some notes and his precious flute. Wilben shared the group note with the others. It expressed his shame that he had to abandon the troupe, but that it was for their safety. He planned to lead Camosh and Nefilphasia away so the rest could escape. In the morning, the troupe recognized that they would have to confront Camosh sooner or later. Nono also spilled some secrets she had been hiding, including the incident with the gloves and her visit to Camosh. They headed towards the Estate, loudly complaining that Haze took it in the hopes of deceiving any listeners.
In the distance, the troupe saw a larger skeleton army amassing in front of the Estate. Wilben spotted Haze amongst them, next to Nefilphasia.
By the crossroads, Benignus reported a figure that turned out to be Liona. Mercy intercepted her on Dintereal but was unable to properly break the news of Father Caudicus to her. Wilben broke it to her gently and Liona believed him on faith. They prodded her about her family, and she refused to believe she could be a Gralhund. The troupe persuaded Pulska that she was the one, and he begged for her pardon. The troupe persuaded her to grant him a pardon, and with her words, Pulska was freed from his curse and withered away. Liona fainted in shock but recovered shortly. She seemed determined to do what she could to keep Wakefield safe.
Mercy, astride Dintereal, came up behind the skeleton army and provided a distraction with her bow. Haze excused himself from Nefilphasia to dimension door near to Camosh, informing her of the orb's movements the night before. He told her that Nono had taken it before he could grab it, and the troupe played "keep away" from him. Wilben, in a stroke of inspiration, dimension doored himself, Nono, Liona and the wolf companion around the corner from Camosh. He surreptitiously announced his presence to Haze who returned it, with Camosh apparently none the wiser.
Haze moved towards the troupe, still under the effects of his contract. Nono followed after Wilben and twisted fate in order to force Camosh's banishment. Wilben advised the others to protect Nono, turned into a giant ape, and rushed at the devils left on the turret.
Meanwhile, Mercy's arrows flew beautifully and landed striking hits on Nefilphasia. In return, the witch ordered her archers to focus on Mercy.
At the Gralhund Estate, the split troupe faced off against the devils and the skeletons. Wilben intercepted most of the devils on the turret, but one flew around to attack Nono. Haze, in his dash for the orb, was grappled by Liona but persuaded her to let go so he could save Nono. Haze enchanted the imp to sleep and assured Nono he was there to save her. From the turret's doorway, Lorenzo appeared with his new bow. He squared off against Liona and the wolf Wulfrich, with Wulfrich perishing in the fight. Nefilphasia made her way through the front gates to the manor doors with her undead dwarven warriors trailing behind her. Mercy ploughed her way through the horde to chase after her. Dintereal fought to his last breath at the gates.
Nono fled from the central turret towards the northeast tower, briefly flying across the inner courtyard and down through the tower. Seeing this, Haze snapped his fingers and teleported into the manor. He invisibly waited for someone to pass by. He encountered Nefilphasia as she swept her way into the throne room and library. Nono retreaded her steps back to the roofs and set off a fireball in the courtyard, giving the leaderless devils more breathing room against the skeletal army. Vivian guarded the door, but Mercy deftly avoided her and made her way into the manor. Wilben cleaned up the turret and smashed Lorenzo into the manor, leaving him unconscious. Nono made her way back down through the tower.
Nefilphasia found the library's secret drawer empty and stormed out. Mercy confronted her in the throne room but fell to her magic. Haze, still invisible, nonchalantly stepped next to her body. Wilben and Liona burst into the hallway where Mercy lay. Wilben charmed his enemies and unwittingly caught Haze in the process.
Nono hid out in the hallways until she was sure her banishment was successful. She made her way to the throne room and found an unconscious Mercy, dazed undead warriors, a hypnotized Haze, and a hurt Liona and Wilben. They brought Mercy back up and approached a hypnotized Nefilphasia in the throne room, taking away her possible focuses. Nono used Nefilphasia's own gloves against her, withering her within an inch of her life. Nefilphasia escaped around the troupe and ran to the dungeons, with Mercy hot on her trail.
Wilben, Liona, and Nono eventually took down the undead warriors in the hall with the help of an awakened Haze. They made their way to the dungeons, towards the central room they had previously been banned from. Multiple staircases later, they found evidence of foul magic, two contracts, and rivers of blood. In the final chamber, they found Mercy with a subdued Nefilphasia. Mercy claimed that Nefilphasia was no longer a threat. Nefilphasia gave one last attempt to gather components to raise the corpse of Tomasin behind her, but Wilben caught her.
Nefilphasia told the troupe that the way to break the curse was for a Gralhund to drink their own blood from a certain chalice in that room. A wary troupe persuaded Liona to go through with it. Afterwards, they were instructed to break an urn next to the throne. As the urn shattered, the orb in Nono's backpack shook, fell out and shattered as well.
The troupe returned to the surface to find the armies both decimated and the skies having cleared. Liona decided to bring the residents of Wakefield to the mainland, where it would be safer. In the meantime, the troupe took care of loose ends. Together with the downcast Nefilphasia and Vivian, they greeted the oarsman and headed back to the mainland.