Rova 28 – Lamashan 1, 4708 AR
With a blizzard raging outside the Vekker’s cabin, in the darkness of the landing, an old wheelbarrow and a wooden door greeted the darkvision enhanced sell-sword. Below him, Erekhil heard the pained grunts of his wounded companions as they got to their feet, then the words of prayers to Calistria as Ayra healed her comrades. Erekhil gave the “all clear” to the rest of the crew on the ground floor of the stairwell, and his companions began to climb the stairs.
Except for Deivon. With a sly grin and an, “allow me, milady…,” he grabbed hold of the half-elf cleric and clicking his magical levitation boots, pointed upwards, winked at Ayra and…
An uncomfortable moment passed as his colleagues stared, waiting expectantly, and again, the Chosen One of Varisian lore gave a point to high and triggered the boots adding a little hop to get the momentum going. And again…Nothing…
Eyes rolled, comrades chuckled as the Varisian realized his boots only can levitate himself. A few comrades thought Deivon would have had more success if he’d have taken two daggers and tried to climb, but who would try that? Ayra, for her part, extricated herself from the mage’s hold, headed to the second floor using the more traditional, “stair climbing” method, allowing Deivon to levitate himself.
Finally, with everyone on the landing, the party decided to proceed in their investigation of this long-abandoned cabin, hopeful to find some shred of information regarding Xin-Shalast.
A quick detect magic from the cleric indicated the presence of magic behind the wooden walls and doors. Additionally, Erekhil’s excellent hearing detected a sort of dull banging coming from within the cabin. Using their patented FTOJ formation, our heroes opened the door and proceeded.
The air in the cabin was distinctly colder and a draft was felt, and adding to the eerie, forlorn feeling of the cabin, the leather curtains hanging in the doorways blew ominously, presumably from the draft.
The banging Erekhil heard, now could be heard by all coming from somewhere ahead, to the east, and the sell-sword, first through the doorway, reported the layout of the cabin to his comrades: a blowing leather curtains covered a doorway to the right and a hallway leading into another room to the left, as well as another curtained opening ahead.
Adjusting their formation, the group left the stout dwarf and his darkvision to guard their rear position, the doorway to landing, while Erekhil proceeded ahead and Lindin, glowing bow at the ready, would scout down the hallway to the left. Deivon would stand, spells at the ready, at the curtained door to the right, protecting against any unwanted company emerging from that room.
Erekhil and Ayra made their way to coatroom where they detected the presence of magic. And, manhandling their way through coats, raincoats, boots and blankets, found a pocket containing some magical item. With the wisdom gained by experience, our two heroes, Ayra and Erekhil, decided to avoid contact with this magic item by cutting the pocket and allowing the item to fall to the floor.
And they witnessed a glass vial fall to the floor and break, releasing the magical liquid it contained. As the liquid pooled on the floor and was absorbed by the wooden floorboards, Ayra and Erekhil glanced at each other in resignation, shrugged, then managed to stumble upon a magical earthbreaker.
One out of two isn’t bad.
While the vial containing magical potion was being broken, Lindin discovered another leather curtain along the wall to his left in the hallway he descended and after discovering it was only a storage closet, headed to the room at the end of the hall. As he peered in, he was greeted with a vision of destruction.
What was clearly once the living area and kitchen quarters of the cabin, a cooking stove and cauldron occupied the southeast corner of the room, was now in a horrific state of slaughter. From the glow of his Runeforged bow, Lindin could make out firewood, cooking utensils, pots, pans and the furniture scattered in heaps. A painting of two dour-looking dwarves hung askew on the far wall, which, like all the walls, was covered in dried bloodstains.
After taking this all in and listening for any sound, Lindin withdrew from this room to rejoin Erekhil and Ayra at the front of the cabin. Lindin entered the coatroom, sidestepping an odd wet spot on the floor, as Erekhil opened the next door, from behind which the banging seemed to emerge.
When the door opened, a blast of frigid air and snow pelted our heroes. In this entryway, the door, unlocked, was banging as it swung on its hinge. Heading through the doorway and onto the patio beyond to scout the region, Erekhil, Ayra and Lindin got the queer sensation of being watched. Peering into the snow and the descending darkness, the stealth duo and their healer saw the vague shape of a balding dwarf stumbling out of the snow, heading for them.
Erekhil and Ayra immediately recognized him as the dwarf they’d seen earlier feasting on the arsenic laced dust in the ground floor workroom. Lindin did not recognize the dwarf as he missed this experience, since he was being attacked by an undead, ranger hating treant at the time.
As the dwarf struggled towards them, his eyes wild with fear, his clothes in tatters and his flesh bleeding from several deep, gaping wounds, he began to shout, “Run, run for your lives!!!! They’re going to eat you!!!!” Then he fled, quickly into the snow and disappeared.
His words rang through the cabin with an unnatural strength as all five of the Heroes of Sandpoint felt a supernatural belief that each of their comrades were ravenous cannibals, hungering for their flesh. But, the Heroes of Sandpoint aren’t any bunch of newbie adventurers, they’ve been steeled by experience, and they shook off this bizarre compulsion.
The Stealth Duo and the Agent of Calistria returned to the cabin and locked the door.
Just in case.
Lindin reported what he found down the hallway, Ayra decided the blood-caked room could wait until they searched the room Deivion was watching. Again, Erekhil entered first and discovered the Vekker’s bunkroom, full of furniture and personal effects, but nothing sinister or informative about Xin-Shalast.
The group then explored the living quarters and an unnamed feeling of the unnatural, of dread, hung over the room. Our heroes took note of the blood, eerily illuminated by the glowing weapons, splattered and dried in thick layers on the wall. Ayra, calling on her skills in the healing arts, deduced that this blood came from more than a single humanoid creature, closer to a half dozen.
As the room was being searched, a close examination revealed the dwarves in the painting to be the Vekker brothers. As Erekhil investigated the thick door to the south of the room, the group began to notice sudden twinges of hunger. This was particularly vexing to those wearing their Rings of Sustenance, as hunger should not be an issue. But, none-the-less, they were nearly staggered by unnaturally painful hunger. As they suffered this hunger, our heroes began to believe that the only way to satiate this hunger is to feast on the warm, fresh flesh of their companions.
But, again, these are stalwart souls and they managed to overcome this unholy conviction.
So, with Erekhil deciding the door was safe, he attempted to pull it open. The door, however, fit tightly against its frame, and took some dwarven elbow grease, but it soon opened revealing a frost covered larder. Against the far wall sat a four-foot-tall pile of thick, squat bones.
Erekhil scanned the room for any traps, found none, as Ayra entered to investigate the bones. Easily deducing the remains of five dwarves, gnawed free of their flesh by thick, dwarven teeth. But, upon further examination, she noticed among the collection a single skeleton with the long, slender bones of a half-elf.
Then, as Ayra saw the Sihedron medallion hanging around that corpse’s slim neck and noticed her other jewelry on the corpse, she realized the skeleton she was staring at was her own. As she gasped in mind-number terror as the realization that her flesh was eaten by her hungry comrades, the ghostly images of the cannibalized dwarves materialized around her, attempting to add her corpse to their profane number.
These emaciated, but fantastically strong dwarven images began to eat the half-elf alive, tearing into her flesh with razor sharp teeth. To those around her, Ayra initially appeared to be having some kind of seizure, but then as her flesh was torn off her body, they realized something unnatural was occurring.
The group quickly sprang to her aid, but the half elf collapsed in a heap of blood, rent flesh and stopped twitching. With her pulse barely detected, Erekhil forced a healing potion down her throat, narrowly averting death.
Healed back to consciousness, the half-elf administered healing upon herself and began to explain what happened. As the sense of unease grew stronger, our heroes shut the larder door and decided that with the blizzard blowing punishingly outside, they had to brave this cabin longer, searching it thoroughly, room by room. As they went, they discovered nothing they hadn’t found yet, but then, the sell-sword’s keen sell-sword skills came into play as he discovered a very cleverly hidden secret door near the landing.
Opening the door, the Korvosan discovered seven large burlap sacks stuffed with gold dust and gold nuggets, some assorted coffers containing some uncut gems, but most importantly, a detailed journal of the Vekker brother’s operation. The journal, written in dwarven, listed all the particulars of Vekker’s various mines and the areas they explored, but the final half dozen pages had been torn from the journal and were now missing.
With the missing pages now being sought, the group began to hear a faint, but frantic, knocking at the door below. Surprised by this latest occurrence, the group decided to head cautiously down the stairs to investigate.
After a few moments the knocking suddenly ceased and an unnerving silence overcame the cabin.
Then, just as suddenly, a loud crack reverberated through the old cabin, followed by an incessant, manic hammering as the walls of the cabin began to shake and groan, as if under assault by some unseen force. The structure itself began to shift, seemingly giving up its purchase on the cliff. As the shaking went on, some of our heroes couldn’t keep their balance and tumbled to the ground.
With the hammering and shaking in full force, the group began to see, from the corners of their eyes, the faint images of starving dwarves eyeing them with a blasphemous hunger. Again, the Champions of Magnimar succumbed to the painful stabs of hunger as dwarven voices drifted around them.
Some voices spoke of their hunger, while others seemed to plead to be spared from the cannibal urges of their comrades. The mind-numbing terror of this unholy experience was too much for Bahne and Lindin to bear as their minds and bodies became overwhelmed by the angry dwarven spirits.
No longer in command of themselves (or were they?), the possessed bodies of the dwarven fighter and the nobleman now succumbed to a hunger that only the fresh flesh of their comrades could satiate. Lindin’s sword struck quickly, and unexpectedly, into his rogue ally while Bahne stepped to Ayra, prone from fall she took from the shaking, and delivered a mighty blow.
Confused looks overtook their allies as Erekhil deftly sprang from the ranger’s attack, Ayra survived another blow as she withdrew from Bahne and Deivon turned his attention to the confusing scene at the base of the stairs.
Acting quickly, Deivon cast a magical web across the room, protecting his non-possessed comrades. But, that did not deter the starving dwarf and human from their unnatural cravings as they furiously assaulted the webbing separating them from warm, satisfying meat.
Lindin and Bahne continued to strike at the web, finally making a seam in which to reach their prey, as Deivon, Erekhil and Ayra moved to the heavy outer door to escape, choosing to face the brutal elements rather than their supposed allies.
But, then, an odd calm again overtook the cabin and the nobleman and dwarf regained their senses, and with confusion on their brow, they tried to make sense of the scene around them.
As silence descended and the cabin was again still, Deivon, Arya and Erekhil weren’t buying the old “it-wasn’t-really-us-trying-to-eat-you-we-were-possessed-by-cannibal-dwarven-spirits” routine and gave the dwarf and human the cold shoulder. Then, with Deivon reluctantly dispelling the web, the air around the group began to swirl as the shape of balding dwarf began to materialize.
As the ghostly image of the dwarf took shape, the adventurers recognized him as the same dwarf they’d seen previously and, from the painting in the living quarters, they now knew him to be Silas Vekker. Then, the ghost began to speak and, as he spoke, his body slowly began to tear apart in bite-sized pieces that faded into mist, leaving a growing patchwork of blood red.
The spirit sensed the Heroes of Sandpoint were not hungering for food, like he and his doomed companions had, but hungered for gold. They hungered for the City of Greed.
Hungered for Xin-Shalast.
He warned them to abandon their quest, lest they end up like him: “Cold. Dead. Eaten.” But, sensing this faithful group of noble heroes and Erekhil would not be dissuaded from their quest, the dwarf told the group he would reveal the way to the City of Greed if they would find his brother’s remains “on a ledge high above our final mine…his soul still hungry, still insane…” and return them to the cabin so Silas could reconcile with him.
“Once he is at rest, I will show you the way so that I might rest as well…” And with that, his ghostly flesh shimmered and faded into a crimson mist.
With this, the sounds of the cabin returned to normal. The blizzard again could be heard blowing against the walls of cabin and cliff, as the sound of hail pelted the cabin walls and our heroes returned to the hidden room and the journal it contained to discover the location of the Vekker brother’s final mine.
Searching the notes and consulting the maps, Bahne and Lindin were able to deduce the location of this mine and a route to it. A large portion of route could be done by plying the Kazaron, however, once they headed east, deeper into the mountain, it would become a perilous trek of dangerous climbs. All told, with Ayra controlling the weather at the start, and barring any difficulty, the trip should take three days.
After taking their rest for the night in the now subdued cabin, taking their usual watches, the group awoke to begin their trip. Although the blizzard’s fury appeared to blow out through the evening hours, the weather was still not ideal to begin their expedition, so Ayra called upon her goddess’ power to calm the air and minimize the snow.
As harsh weather dissipated to something less dangerous, Ayra set out the magical backpack which contained the boat they bought for this mission and, when she spoke the command, the boat magically appeared on the shoreline. Boarding the vessel, with Bahne pushing it into the wide, strong river and Lindin setting the sail, our heroes began their trip upriver, deep into the mighty Kodars.
The river trip passed with unexpected ease as the sun shone, the air lost its frigid chill and the hours went by. Beaching at the expected spot, and then marching for the remainder of the day, the group made camp in Deivon’s Magic Hut when night fell. As morning began, they began the difficult leg of their hike as the mountain air turned cold and the wind, strong at this elevation, made their ascent difficult, but working with great precision, the band made their way to the final mine.
After discovering the mine, the group found only one ledge, a rocky outcropping covered in thick fog 2000 feet above, which could be the resting place of Karivek Vekker. The wind was blocked in this area and Deivon was able to levitate himself up the cliff and insert pitons and ropes for his comrades.
Reaching the top, and inserting the final piton, Deivon discovered a ledge, covered in thick fog. Poking out from this fog was about a dozen crudely constructed grave markings along the northeast wall and a long abandoned fire pit, to the east. Scanning the area for any threats, Deivon found none, but did not the frost covered lump of armor and bone near the firepit.
As the group finished their climb and took their position on the rocky ledge, Erekhil and Ayra headed forward to the firepit and the battered body located there. The noticed the twisted remains lacked anything below the dwarf’s knees, which themselves were charred stumps of blackened ruin.
As the sell-sword and cleric noted this, the air around the grave began to swirl as the horrifically tortured spirit of Karivek Vekker manifested itself with a fury. His terrible appearance filled some of our heroes with dread, but they managed to fight off their fear and engage this undead foe.
Using his telepathic power, Vekker attempted to push the Varsian off the ledge, but the mage, hardened by months of combat, would not succumb so easily. Lindin, armed with his newly crafted Ghost Touch longsword stepped into the graves to engage the insane spirit.
Although the spirit’s undead touch was punishing, armed with the power of the ghost killing longsword, the battle was quickly ended without any death or life-threatening injury.
Taking possession of the Karivek’s bones, the group made their way back down the cliff and marched until the fall sun set over the Kodars. Making camp and breaking it early the next morning, the group proceed back to the river and headed south, with the current.
Again, the travel was easy for the early portion of the voyage, but soon the winds picked up and the snow began to fall in thick, heavy flakes. With a ranger’s keen aptitude for nature, Lindin deduced the weather was only going to get worse, and keeping the boat afloat along the rock strewn shoreline of the Kazaron would be inviting danger, so the ranger directed the boat to the shore.
And, it was not a moment too soon. As Lindin and Ayra furled the sail, and Erekhil and Bahne worked the oars with a furious determination, the weather turned violent. The wind howled down the river from high in the mountains, and the driving snow blinded the adventurers.
As the group worked to safely land the boat, Deivon, who was watching their rear, saw a vague shape of an emaciated creature, humanoid in shape, but possessing the head of a monstrous elk, materialize momentarily before him. As this beast flew by, his eyes glowed with a burning, feral hunger and his claws lashed out, tearing the flesh of the sorcerer and freezing it simultaneously.
With his allies preoccupied with getting the boat to shore, and the wind drowning out most sound, Deivon found himself the lone target of this barely seen creature whose fly-by attacks gashed the Varisian’s body apart. As the boat, touched shore, Deivon was able to target this creature’s basic location in the distance with fireballs, some must have struck true, as a forlorn howl was heard above the powerful wind.
Now on land and with fireballs exploding in the distance, Deivon’s comrades turned their attention toward him. Bleeding profusely, his body a mass of deep gashes, Deivon jumped off the boat as Ayra returned it to its magical pack. But, his step on terra firma was met by this unknown beast’s claws as it ripped the Varisian’s neck apart. Deivon’s limp form fell to the earth, his blood gushing from his servered jugular that stained the freshly fallen white snow.
As Ayra sprang to Deivon’s aid to cast healing into his dying body, their foe, this creature of shadow, snow and wind, flew past. The adventurers who remained standing now also saw the pale, emaciated form of this beast, the skin pulled taut over muscle and bones. Its red, hungry eyes set deep into the elk head burned into them as it flew off into the blinding snow.
They also noticed, like the body of Karivek Vekker, its legs ended not in feet or hooves, but in blackened, charred stumps.