28th of Nightal 1398 D.R.
Snow falls over the city. The streets are blanketed in white, muffling the usual bustle and activity. A cold snap has deposited a thick layer of snow on every exposed surface.
Two weeks have passed since the PCs returned from the Wyvernwatch, and eight days since the winter solstice. The days are officially getting longer, and there is a feeling of hope returning to the realm. Cormyr’s crown prince has been safely returned home.
In the days following Azoun’s return, Prince Foril, who was implicated in the abduction of the prince, was caught trying to flee the city under the cover of darkness, in disguise. He has been charged with high treason and awaits trial for his crimes. Those of his men who aided in his crime were also apprehended, the rest have been ordered to return to their lands.
Duke Aris, it’s been reported, has fled the country, and is currently at large. Having had no heirs, his duchy and Castle Aris have been returned to the crown, and the Purple Dragons have been garrisoned there to keep them safe until the Prince is able to decide its fate. His men have all been arrested and questioned.
It seems that for now a semblance of order has been restored following the tumultuous events of the past month.
A coronation has not been scheduled, but it is assumed one will be soon. Azoun is to be King once again.
A few days after their return to Suzail, In a small private ceremony, Prince Azoun V inducted the PCs into The Order of the Dragon, the highest order awarded to civilians for services to the crown, and rewarded them handsomely with other gifts.
A few days after the ceremony, they are invited to Baskor Tranth’s office, where he explains that he was impressed by the way the PCs handled their mission. He hopes to enlist their help for future missions.
He tells the PCs that thanks to the various other pressing concerns facing the kingdom, such as the pursuit of Duke Aris and others, his resources are stretched thin. He hopes to enlist their help for a mission in the north east of Cormyr.
He tells them that a great portion of Cormyr’s logging happens on the northern edge of Hullack forest. There is a logging town called Holborn up there that normally sends regular supplies of lumber to Marsember and Suzail, usually once a week. A few weeks before, the lumber shipments stopped without warning.
Baskor tells them that he had already sent a troupe of scouts to find some answers, but they had not reported in. After a few days he sent a squad of Purple Dragons, but they too did not report back. Finally he sent a War Wizard. He tells them he hasn’t been heard from either.
He wants to send the PCs to investigate the situation, and find him some answers, before he resorts to more drastic means. He provides them with a map of the area.
The PCs agree to help, and spend a final night in Suzail, drinking in their favourite Tavern, the Laughing Lass, and booking passage on a ship to travel to the Wyvernwater. The following day, they board their shallow river vessel and head north, their new horses on board. They leave Rhiannon behind, as she is taking care of a loved one, but Baskor provides them with a means to send her to them when she is ready – a necklace that allows two way telepathic contact
After several days on board, they make landfall in the town of Sunset Hill, a trading outpost on the northern shore of the Wyvernwater. From there they manage to take on jobs as caravan guards with a man called Steve. He and his small retinue are heading to Sembia through the Thunder Pass, but are happy for the extra protection. On the way, the PCs ask Steve about Hullack forest and the logging industry up here. He says the forest is home to elves and other creatures (he jokingly mentions hordes of yetis), but that he knows little beyond that. He does ask his companion Roger to explain more about it, and he turns out to be a font of knowledge on the local politics. He talks about how many of elves were alive before humans settled here, or the kingdom of Cormyr was even founded. Hullack forest was once part of the greater forest kingdom of Cormanthor, but that after the fall of Myth Drannor, that kingdom had fallen too. The humans settled and laid claim to much of the southern forests. Today the elves of Hullack are at odds with the human loggers, but not hostile. An agreement allows the Cormyrians to log the northern edge of Hullack, but the southern bulk of the forest is considered Elven territory. The Elfmound, an elven burial ground near the northern edge also remains off limits.
The PCs part ways with the caravan just south of Holborn. It is bitterly cold, but not covered with snow. There is a low unnatural fog hanging low over the lands to the north, even though there is a strong wind blowing. They carefully make their way north, travelling along the road to the village. It’s only about a mile or two away from the main road.
What they find chills them to the core. They see the village’s outer buildings, completely silent. There are no signs of life. Several corpses of Purple Dragon soldiers hang from nooses suspended from hastily erected scaffolds. Their flesh looks desiccated and drawn, with barely any wounds. There are some corpses sprawled on the ground, with arrows protruding from their bodies. A quick investigation reveals that these arrows are both elven and orcish in origin.
Valeria prays to the Red Knight and casts a Detect Evil. Her spell reveals that the fog is a lingering evil. The whole village is radiating this malice, but whatever caused it is no longer here. She does however detect one source of evil on the northern edge of the village, unmoving, and out of sight.
They investigate the outer buildings, before entering the main body of the village. The discover a family dead at their dinner table, similarly desiccated. The frozen food in the bowls before them looks fresh. Frak uses magic to detect poison but finds none. They hear the distant sounds of a horse harness clinking. By now the PCs are starting to get nervous.
The second house reveals a similar scene. A dead man, once fat and bulky, lies face down on his floor, a gaping slash on his back and desiccated beyond recognition.
Everywhere they look, they see death. They decide to press on into the village itself. They discover a central square, where dogs squabble over chunks of desiccated flesh. The bodies of the scouting party can be seen hanging from a large tree on the far bank of the river. Next to the tree they see what appears to be an elf on horseback, a silent sentinel in the dying light of the day. As darkness begins to fall, Kyuubi fires two arrows at this figure (one coated in poison by Frak). Her aim is true, and both arrows strike home, but the elf seems unperturbed by the damage or the poison, and makes a small bow before turning his horse north and riding out of sight.
Suddenly, as they are walking down the street, there is a rumbling sound from the building next to them and the door explodes in splinters outward. A massive nine foot long, bloated arthropod ambushes the PCs. The creature lashes out with multiple tentacles and attempts to overpower Valeria. Its attacks don’t have the desired effect, however and combat is joined. The carrion crawler coils around and prepares to attack again. Kyuubi buries two arrows in its flank, injuring it severely. Frak tries to touch it with a spell, but fails. Valeria also casts a spell to find a weakness, but it has no effect. The crawler lashes out at Kyuubi with all its tentacles and paralyses her. Frak tries again to touch it with a spell, but misses again. Valeria forgoes magic and opts for a frontal assault, which succeeds. Her blade slices the crawler’s head open like an overripe melon, spilling rotten meat and innards. The stench causes all of them to retch instantly. After the brief fight, Frak uses a potion to neutralize the crawler’s venom coursing through Kyuubi’s body. She recovers from the paralysis and composes herself.
They decide to find shelter in the village chapel, and discover that it is barred from the inside. Valeria uses her sword and brute strength to lift the bar off its supports. Inside they discover the village’s last stand. The bulk of the population has huddled here in prayer seeking shelter, but to no avail. Easily a hundred men, women and children lie dead clustered around the altar to Torm, desiccated.
As hey exit the building, they are suddenly face to face with the elf Kyuubi shot earlier. It stands before them, impassive, eyes glowing with yellow malice. They see the elf’s horse behind him, eyes similarly aglow. They also notice a strange insectoid creature clamped onto the back of the horse’s neck, half buried under its skin.
Kyuubi shoots two arrows at the creature. The first arrow misses, but the second one hits. The creature dies, and as it does so, the horse collapses like a bag of meat – dead. The elf attacks Valeria after she interposes herself to defend Kyuubi, almost gutting her in the process. Frak attacks the parasite he assumes is on the elf’s neck too, and finds his mark. His Kukri cuts the creature, but doesn’t kill it. Kyuubi circles around, and shoots an arrow at the parasite, and skewers it and the elf’s neck, killing both. They bag the corpse of the parasite for later investigation.
At this point the PCs have had enough. They decide it is time to leave and report back to Tranth. They run back to where their horses are tethered only to find that they too have perished from the mysterious energies that permeate this place.
They decide to make their escape over water, and try to salvage a small boat from one of the jetis. They reach the western edge of the village, when they see a small flock of ravens in the trees beyond the small frozen river. One of them flies across the water and lands next to them. The raven transforms into a man before their eyes. An old man with weathered skin, wearing layers of leathers, cloth and fur, supporting himself on a gnarled staff. He invites them to follow him, that he can offer them shelter, saying the village won’t be safe.
The PCs follow the druid to his home in a sheltered dell where the temperature rises considerably to more comfortable levels. His home is a hollowed out cave under the roots of old growth trees. Once inside he offers them wine, tea and a warm fire. He tells them his name is Gregor.
They discuss the horrors they have just witnessed, especially the parasite. He tells them the village was attacked by a mix of elves and orcs, all infested, and that they carried a strange stone with them. He thinks the stone killed the villagers, desiccating them, and leaving behind the lingering fog.
Upon examining the parasite with his own magics, he confirms the suspicions he had. The creature is abyssal.
The PCs use the necklace provided to them to contact Tranth. They reach Theldryn Wyvernspur, a subordinate of Baskor Tranth’s, and relay all that has happened.