May 23, 1482 cont’d
Saithnar and Gareth begin what turns out to be a fairly evenly matched duel. The spirit’s fearsome presence rattles the party somewhat and Razar-De attacks Saithnar from range, turning the duel into a mass melee as the wights attack and more undead begin dropping down from the darkness above. Tarathan is surrounded, while Drianna, Tully, and Venix are bottled up at the entrance by the horde of creatures.
Gareth, eventually driven to his knees and his weapon shattered by Saithnar’s ghostly frostblade, yields. Saithnar and his minions stop their attacks, and allow the party to withdraw … but not before admonishing Gareth for the “dishonorable company” he keeps and scarring his cheek as a reminder.
Some short conversation is had, where Saithnar claims little knowledge of the outside world, saying he spends most of his time in slumber. He also claims to know nothing of The Horseman.
The party departs the barrow and heads back to Ossington. As they draw near the town, they are again set upon by the ghostly Horseman. He attacks Tully, nearly trampling Gareth and Tarathan in the process. But as it wheels about for another charge, Tarathan lets loose a mighty attack of divine power, driving the horseman back. The horseman pauses, and although its face is hidden behind its great helm, Tarathan can feel it lock eyes with him. Its gaze weighs heavily on Tarathan, filling him with odd feelings of confusion and shame. The ghost then quickly fades from view.
The heroes return to Ossington to rest for the night and ponder their next move.
The next morning, Gareth again summons food for the town, going next door and asking The Sparrow to handle the distribution. Another crowd of grateful villagers arrives, thanking the party for their help.
One of them, Fen, nervously approaches the party with his son, also named Fen. He thanks them profusely, saying the meals they have provided have been the first filling meals he’s had for days – he’s been giving most of his food to “Little Fen”. He then nervously urges the young boy forward towards the heroes, saying, “Go ahead son, just like we practiced.”
The younger Fen shyly thanks the PCs, shaking their hands in turn. When he reaches Gareth, he slips him a note, then continues until he has thanked them all. “Big” Fen quickly gathers his son up, thanks them all again, and quickly departs. The party finds a private space and examines the note:
There is only one house in town with orange shutters, an abandoned single-room cottage (#11 on the Roll20 map). Tarathan, Gareth, and Venix keep watch while Drianna and Razar-De enter and look around. Drianna exhibits her usual investigative flair and immediately notices that something has been buried beneath the straw bed. They dig, and find a small package wrapped in paper and string. Within are a set of robes identical to those worn by the monk clan who murdered Razar-De’s mother, and a slightly rusty kukri with the mark of the Tiso clan on the hilt.
This leads to much discussion and a walk around the village. They decide to visit with a random villager, and settle on a large cottage. There they meet Myla, a young woman who has taken over the care for five of the village’s elderly who have all lost their families. They speak with her about her history and the history of the village a bit, then depart.
They stop in and speak with Dyson, who warns them not to “trust the dead” and to put no faith into Saithnar’s words. He suggests the party concentrate on locating and eliminating the elves, and points them to the west.
The party then takes a trip to the deceased Elder Murdows’ home. There, they speak with Murdows’ secretary Evah. She seems hesitant to go into any details, dodging direct answers, but the heroes do manage to determine that that home with the orange shutters belonged to a man named Mendil, who was among the first to be killed by the horseman.
Much discussion is had, with many theories presented. Who are the “they” that won’t “let them leave”? Why was there a Tiso monk in town? Has The Sparrow been lying to them? Tully? Dyson? The whole village falls under the heroes suspicion, and they decide to head where everyone told them not to bother checking – Red Horse Hill.
The small lake, or tarn, at the foot of the hill seems a forbidding place. The water is murky and acidic from dissolved clay and chalk, giving it a color unpleasantly like diluted blood. There’s a foul smell of mud and swamp gas in the air, stagnant and wet with an undertone of death and rot. The hill above is covered with short, tough grass, but the borders of the tarn are bare clay. There’s no sign of pond life – no ripples of frogs or fish, no buzzing insects, no weeds or turtles poking above the water. The party briefly searches the shoreline before noticing the ghostly figure of the horseman watching them from a distant copse of trees.
Rather than rush to attack, the heroes wait to see what he does. The horseman rides slowly across the surface of the lake, his steed’s hooves splashing softly with each step. Reaching a point about thirty feet offshore, the spirit turns to face them, and Tarathan feels the odd confusing sense of shame again. The horseman then salutes them, raising his blade to his helm, so he appears to be looking at them across the top of the crossguard, and sinks slowly beneath the surface. Tarathan instantly recognizes this as not only a gesture holy to Pelor, but specifically to the Radiant Servants.
Shocked, the party keeps watch while Tarathan dives into the murky red water and discovers the rusted armor and skeletal remains of a knight and his steed. They spend several hours recovering the remains from the lake, and discover that while the helmet is present, the head itself is not, stymieing their plans to speak with the dead. Also recovered is the golden sunburst medallion of Pelor and banner of the Radiant Servants the fallen horseman wore beneath his armor. Drianna investigates the remains and is able to identify multiple sword and dagger wounds – but none from arrows.
This sparks a fresh round of paranoid discussion – who killed this knight, and why? The damage indicates it likely wasn’t the elves, but then who? How do the Tiso monks, this murdered knight, and the elvish attacks tie together – and what does any of it have to do with the Cult of the Dragon and the treasure that must be passing through this way?
Working as best they could, they laid the remains to proper rest in the shade of some nearby trees, and Tarathan said a prayer for his fallen brother in arms. By this time the hour had grown late, and the party, unsure of the wisdom of returning to town, decided to camp out by the lake.
The night passes uneventfully. The group decides to visit the Silence Keepers next, but take the long way around and avoid passing too near Ossington. By the afternoon they arrive, and spend some time investigating the area. Little is found beside some evidence of past visitation by the townsfolk.
More discussion ensues, trying to track the motivations and movements of the fallen knight. The party recalls their initial visit to Henwen‘s chapel, and how she later said the knight “wanted to see the bodies”. But, they recall, there were no fresh graves in that graveyard. Drianna wonders where all the bodies are going – if so many past villagers were killed, the three the party returned to town with, even Elder Murdows … where did all of their bodies go? Tarathan recalls mention of “experiments” in Rezmir’s notes and wonders if it’s related. Henwen’s “fortunes” are also puzzled over, with one of them seemingly related to the location of the murdered knight. At this point most of the day has again passed, so the party decides to rest here for the night and pay another visit to the chapel tomorrow.
After another uneventful night, the heroes make their way south then west, again avoiding passing too close to Ossington on their way to the chapel. While traveling, they attempt several methods to attract the attention of the elves, hoping to contact and speak with them. However, these efforts prove fruitless, and the party arrives at the chapel near dusk.
They decide to stay within the woods a ways off and observe for a while before approaching. They can see and hear Henwen inside, and she seems to be uttering prayers to her nine strange gods. They watch her occasionally take short walks around the graveyard before returning to her prayers. As night falls, she eats a meager meal and then begins dozing off. Eventually she curls up and sleeps on the dirt floor of the chapel. At this point the party approaches and wakes her.
Several members of the party try to gain information from her, and Drianna bluffs that they are in league with The Sparrow, who has sent them to check how things are going. Henwen continues to profess her love for The Sparrow, and gives several disjointed pieces of information to the party. She says “they come and take the bodies”. They take them away to the north “to the castle”, but she does not appear to know which castle, or its location. Finally, she asks the heroes when they think they’ll get around to killing the elves, whom she does not care for, “but their friends come and visit sometimes” and she likes “them”. Specifics are hard to come by, but she is able to point them in the direction of where she claims the elves should be.
The party decides to camp here for the night.