The holidays tend to mess with gaming schedules and our monthly get together was no exception. We missed our December night and finally met for the fourth session in January. The characters were now level two and several weeks had passed since our encounter with the bone creature in the forest.
Odd Happenings in Blackstone Ford
It had been a few weeks since the group had defeated the bone creature that had nearly devoured the hunters in the forest surrounding Blackstone Ford. They had traveled back out to the pile of bones the following day, but the bones had been scattered and the tracks that had been there were untraceable. Runt kept his eyes a bit more focused for a few weeks following the event, but eventually things just proved to be too quiet.
Just as everyone was beginning to get complacent, strange things started happening around town. A pair of hunters went missing one night. Runt occasionally heard distant screaming in the forest the following weeks when he was manning the guard tower at night. Old Hermit Tuck came in to drink at the inn on the night of the full moon. He was known to be a strange man to begin with, and people generally welcomed him when he appeared. That night, the blacksmith drank with him and the following day the blacksmith began behaving very strangely. He could be heard muttering to himself over his forge. The words were strange and nonsensical. Even stranger, other people began to act in odd ways since the night Hermit Tuck had come into town.
Finally, Betha Cobb, the daughter of a shepherding family in town, went missing.
Sage divvied up the turkey she had brought from the inn amongst er her friends. Runt got four massive legs, which would be enough to sate him for a few hours. Holgar also got a pair of greasy legs, while Reudan took a modest slice for himself. Fox clicked and whirred while the rest of them dined. It had been a while since they had all been together, and Sage enjoyed being with these odd friends she had made under harrowing circumstances on the road.
Runt had organized the lunch in order to talk about the troubles of the town they now called home, and it seemed his primary motivation was to find out what had happened to Betha Cobb. He and the priests of the New God discussed the issues at length while Sage and Fox listened intently. Sensing that any plans that would be made were a bit off, Sage asked Fox for the crystal he had been carrying.
"Well, if you know about it, I guess the surprise is ruined," the clockwork creature said. He pulled out the crystal Sage had detected so many weeks ago. The crystal had been fashioned into a fine copper setting, its facets gleaming in the afternoon light. Fox was making another piece of jewelry for Sage. Sage felt a slight pang of guilt as she took the crystal from Fox.
"It's a lovely piece, Fox. I'm sorry if I ruined the surprise," she said.
Sage held the crystal and uttered an incantation. She peered into the crystal's history and knew more about it. She saw how Fox had pocketed it at the old lady's hut back when they first met. The item had been enchanted, and it was a key. Sage was not sure what it would open, but the item seemed safe enough in Fox's possession, so she gave it back.
"All right, then let's go to the Cobb's and find their daughter," Runt said. The discussion was apparently over. Sage followed along, thinking she'd be of some use during the investigation.
The Cobb homestead was on the outskirts of Blackstone Ford. It was a pleasant and ordered plot of land, and Betha Cobb's father could be seen tending to the sheep out in the fields. Her mother was in the yard in front of the house, hanging laundry. Reudan noted that he recognized them from the temple of the New God as they would worship there occasionally. Thinking that Reudan's status in the temple would help put the woman at ease, Sage urged him to go and talk with her.
Reudan talked with the mother briefly, and was granted permission to inspect her room in the house when she learned the group would be looking into her daughter's disappearance. Reudan also learned that their other daughter, Betha's twin sister, died of consumption six months earlier. Hard times had indeed fallen upon their house.
Runt, Reudan, Holgar, and Sage entered the house and made their way to Betha's room. They hadn't noticed that Fox had disappeared while Reudan was speaking with the mother. They did, however, notice him hanging in the window of her bedroom. The clockwork had been trying to sneak into the house, but had wound down in the attempt. Reudan was surprisingly quick on his feet and distracted the mother while blocking her view into the room so Sage could drag Fox in and wind him back up.
Their investigation turned up some odd dirt on the floor. Runt pinched a bit of it between his fingers and circled it around. The loose, grainy soil drifted to the floor as the orc pondered it. He gave it a good sniff, then rubbed it on his gums and smacked his lips.
"Sandy. Not from around here. Could be sandy soil from the river, or perhaps the cemetery behind the New God temple," Runt said.
The group headed over to the cemetery, hoping they'd find something that would point them to Betha. Unfortunately, the cemetary was quiet, and all of the graves were undisturbed. Holgar tracked down Betha's sister's grave while Runt lapped up more dirt. Holgar motioned for Sage, so sat down next to the dwarf by the grave.
"Something's off here. Something isn't right about the grave," Holgar said.
Sage nodded and pulled out her dice. She channeled her power through the weighted dice and tossed them on the grave. Time opened up for her again, and she saw that the grave had not been recently disturbed. It wasn't a very helpful insight. Without much to go on, Holgar called Runt over to express the unease he was experiencing at the grave.
While the three of them discussed what to do a young man approached the group and called out.
"Hello there. I'm Master Merrow's apprentice here at the cemetary. Is there something I can help you with?" The young man said.
After a bit of discussion, Runt found out the young man had buried Betha's sister. Something about the man's demeanor, however, rubbed Runt the wrong way.
"Did you know Quina?" Runt asked the man about Betha's sister. "Were you friends? Did you have relations?"
"We were betrothed, if you must know," the man said. His eyes bulged with frustation as he turned and stormed off. Runt's line of questioning had clearly upset him.
Runt was not satisfied with the man's answers and attitude, he still felt something was being kept secret.
It was then that Runt decided they should dig the grave up. Runt began scooping handfuls of dirt from Quina's grave. Reudan threw his arms up in dismay and walked off. Sage and Holgar stepped back to give Runt room to work. Runt didn't get too far before the apprentice and Master Merrow came running to stop him.
"What are you hiding?" Runt demanded, pushing the two men back from the grave.
"You're mad! Just like the smith!" Master Merrow shouted at Runt.
"Come to your senses," Runt said. "I'm trying to find a missing girl and you're trying to stop me!"
Runt clipped the apprentice with a backhand, sending the man sprawling to the ground. The master then hefted a shovel in response, threatening Runt with a solid whack. That threat did not go so well for the old man. After taking a smack from the shovel, Runt easily disarmed the man. Rather than striking back, however, Runt simply turned around and continued digging. This time with a shovel.
Fox rushed over to the apprentice to help him up. His motives were not altruistic as he helped the man up. Fox slipped a hand into the man's pockets, fishing out an odd paper.
Be Careful What You Wish For
"Hey, look what I found in this guy's pocket!" Fox called out, waving a paper above his head. "Anyone know what Croldrdwor means?"
Thunder split the air, and a burning sulfuric smell assaulted everyone's senses. As if stepping through a tear in space a demon appeared and howled at Fox. Its sudden appearance rattled Runt, but Holgar was more than capable in the face of such evil.
"You are not welcome here, foul demon! The New God condemns you back to whence you came!" Holgar shouted.
The creature did not last long against the group's focused attention. Holgar eventually dispatched the demon with a solid hit from the shovel Runt had been using to dig the grave up. However, in the commotion the apprentice ran off and disappeared in a blinding flash of arcane energy.
With the demon defeated, Holgar was able to dig to the bottom of the grave only to find it was completely empty. There was not casket, nor a body. Tracking down information about the apprentice led the group to a house near the river that had long since been abandoned. When he was younger it was his family's estate. Now, perhaps, there would be answers withing about Betha Cobb.