Eleint 4-5, 1479, Year of the Ageless One
After two days of trekking through the Sunset Vale, the adventurers from Bear’s Head stood before the gates of Hluthvar. There was only over an hour of daylight remaining.
The escaped prisoner, Matteas, had led them here. Everyone recalled how he somehow managed to escape the town’s local jail in the dead of night. He said that the entire town had been captured by Zhentarim soldiers from Darkhold. Matteas also claimed that he heard horrific screams everywhere as he made his way out of Hluthvar and headed south in the Sunset Vale.
It was quiet and although there were no signs of life, everyone couldn’t shake the strange feeling of being watched. Crows perched menacingly atop the wall seemed to be staring at the group—or perhaps warning the group of impending danger.
The adventurers noticed that one of the town’s gate was left wide open revealing a dirt road that led deeper into the town beyond. As a light breeze blew in from the north, the group caught the scent of something dead and rotting.
But before you anyone can react, the dozen or more crows all around suddenly took to flight. Immediately, several holes appeared on the ground, sending clods of earth flying in all direction. From these holes, insect-like creatures emerged. Each had a long, thin body, roughly three or so feet long with a serrated spine and chitin the color of metal. The creatures had razor sharp teeth and a pair of mandibles that clicked menacingly at the group.
The group was surrounded.
Not missing a moment, Ang launched an attack against a nearby creature he recognized as a kruthik—ferocious reptilian, not insect, creatures that dwell in carved-out hives beneath the surface. Although known to exist in isolated hives across the Vale, kruthiks tended to remain underground rarely raiding the world above.
“Why are these kruthiks aboveground?” Caldreas, also recognizing the creatures, asked.
“Something must have driven them to the surface,” Deb responded as the halfling quickly made his way to Hluthvar’s wall, easily scaling it to perch himself on top. He was aware that kruthiks do prefer to live and hunt below the surface, venturing to the surface only on occasion and usually when food was scarse underground.
“Makes sense,” Lo-kag added. “In my village, I remember a kruthik attack that came after a tribe of troglodytes forced the kruthiks out of their lair. A war party from our village later found the lair and killed every one of the troglodytes.”
“Whatever these things are, they look hungry and very angry.” Winslow said as he moved to put himself between two kruthiks and Matteas.
Both reptiles launched a volley of poison spikes that struck Winslow. Bloodied, the paladin of Amanautor uttered a prayer to the sun god as he healed himself. Behind him, he heard Matteas cry out in pain as several spikes tore through his legs.
Lo-kag faced off with two kruthiks of his own while Deb, from on top of the wall, launched a deadly barrage of arrows upon any nearby unfortunate kruthiks.
And so the battle went on between the adventurers and the kruthiks. For several breaths, both sides fought ferociously. In the end, not one kruthik was spared despite one managing to crawl back down the hole it came out of. Ang struck a solid blow to its thorax or midsection causing a gaping wound to open. The fighter knew the kruthik would have to have the wound healed magically or bleed to death. The kruthik did not make it far down a carved out tunnel before it did bleed to death.
Unfortunately, Matteas was not spared. He died from wounds he suffered from the deadly spikes and the poison they injected into his body.
“We’re not alone!” Deb yelled from his vantage point atop the town’s curving walls. “I saw something fly or leap from the burned-out building to the nearby roof of the bakery—and it’s still there.”
Caldreas looked at the direction the halfling ranger was pointing to. There, on top of the roof, the Eladrin arcanist spotted a figure clinging to the bakery’s second-story roof garden. The figure had pallid skin and wore remnants of scale armor and a tattered cloak. It was also trying to hide. Caldreas recalled seeing a creature similar to what he was looking at.
“It’s a ghoul!” Caldreas yelled to the others.
Immediately, the ghoul came out from hiding and—to the amazement of the adventurers—pushed off the bakery’s roof and leaped towards a nearby tall building that resembled a wizard’s tower.
But Deb was quick to react. Leading the ghoul, the ranger let fly two quick shots that found their target. One arrow struck the ghoul in the arm, while the second shot buried itself in the ghoul’s leg and spun the ghoul in midair. Unbalanced, the undead fell to the ground crashing on top of thick thorny bushes nearly fifty feet below. Surprisingly, the ghoul wasn’t slain yet. It stood up, snapped it’s dislocated arm back into place and emitted a guttural scream at the halfling.
Meanwhile, the others quickly entered through the open gate. Inside, The streets of Hluthvar was deserted. There were no signs of life anywhere. Doors into homes and trade shops were left wide open. An abandoned wagon was visible further down towards the town’s center. A decomposing horse lay on the ground in front of the wagon, its belly torn open and its guts missing. The horse was still harnessed to the wagon.
It looked as though every living soul in the small town had simply vanished without a trace.
The group heard a loud crash coming from a nearby building, still slightly smoldering from having recently burned. What may have been an inn now sat in smoldering ruin. A charred sign still hung above a burned doorframe. Barely legible, the group could still make out the words, “Watchful Eye”.
“Ghouls! Come out and face your destruction.” Lo-kag bellowed a defiant challenge at the top of his lungs.
“This town is ours! It belongs to the master.” The group noted that the voice was coming from somewhere inside the upper story of the burned inn.
Lo-kag pointed in the direction of the inn. “Then tell your master we’re here to take it away from him!”
Just then, several ghouls emerged from where they hid atop nearby buildings. Down one street, the group spotted a ghoul emerge from the balcony of a large weaver’s shop. On top of a two-story building with a sign proclaiming it as the town’s jail, two ghouls showed themselves and growled threateningly at the group. While another stood upon the rooftop of the burned inn.
“Brothers,” the ghoul on top of the inn said. “it’s time to feast!”
As one, the ghouls bounded across rooftops intent on slaying the adventurers. Caldreas used a spell against the ghoul on top of the inn, pulling it down onto the street below. The ghoul landed hard. Lo-kag immediately was on it with his deadly weapon. In vain, the ghoul tried to fend off the attack only to have its fingers lopped off by Lo-kag’s deadly blade.
Winslow, remembering the crossbow he left in the saddlebag of his mount, Valiant, ran back out to retrieve it.
Nearby, a ghoul clambered down onto the ground from atop a small cottage. It then sprung forward, clearing some forty feet before crashing into Ang and knocking the fighter. Ang grunted in pain as the ghoul clawed at him.
Meanwhile, Deb climbed down the wall and made his way towards a nearby stone tower. As he entered, he noticed a well inside and iron stairs spiraling upwards towards the tower’s rooftop nearly a hundred feet up. The halfling quickly made his way to the top and came out through a trapdoor. On top of the tower, Deb saw a small catapult with enough ammunitions nearby to sustain a long siege. Crenelated walls offered a clear view of the town below as well as the surrounding land. He also noted six other towers spaced throughout the circular town which was laid out like a wagon wheel. Quickly looking over, Deb spotted the two ghouls on the jailhouse roof. He fired deadly arrow after deadly arrow, severely wounding both ghouls but not slaying them outright.
At that moment, Winslow came back inside the gate. He shot and struck one of the ghouls in the leg. Ignoring the paladin at the town gates, the ghouls focused their attention at the halfling raining deadly arrows upon them. The two ghouls quickly leaped towards another building desperately trying to make their way to the ranger.
Deb’s well-place shot to one of the ghouls in mid-leap sent it hurtling down to the street below. Even from the tower’s great height, Deb heard the ghoul hit the ground with a bone-crunching sound. The other undead, though shot, managed to land on top of a building just a short distance away from the halfling. It howled in rage at the ranger, threatening to leap towards him at any moment.
“Come to the tower!” Deb yelled to the others below. “We can use this tower for a defensive position.”
Back down in the street, Ang felt an intense pain as the ghoul on top of him bit into his arm, tearing out a mouthful of flesh. The fighter did all he could to keep the ghoul from killing him.
Meanwhile, Lo-kag was still busy fighting off a ghoul in front of him. With a swing that could have felled a tree, the goliath struck the ghoul, slaying it instantly. Lo-kag then turned to face the ghoul pinning Ang to the ground. Winslow joined him as well.
Knowing Ang had helped from the others, Caldreas took a quick shot at the ghoul on top of the prone fighter with a deadly magic-missile. He then moved towards the jailhouse. Turning to look at the direction the two ghouls leaped towards, Caldreas noted that one ghoul made it to a nearby rooftop, while the one Deb shot slowly rose up from the ground. Unbelievably, despite the ghoul having clearly broken an arm and its back, the foul creature still had a lot of fight left in it. Caldreas began to bring to mind a spell he knew should finish off the ghoul.
Suddenly, the eladrin arcanist was knocked off his feet as a ghoul struck him from behind. He fell forward and felt a great weight on his back. A ghoul was on top of him! The ghoul stretched its jaw, threatening to tear into the back of his head. He could smell the undead’s putrid breath. Immediately, Caldreas called upon the innate power all eladrins have—and teleported on top of the jailhouse’s rooftop a short distance away. But just as he made it to the rooftop, the ghoul with the broken back and the ghoul from the nearby rooftop leaped onto the jailhouse rooftop to join Caldreas. The arcanist uttered a word and brought a bolt of lighting down upon the two, killing one instantly. A shot from Deb brought the other one down a breath after.
Meanwhile, the ghoul on the ground nearby growled in rage at having lost his prey. Wounded by an attack, it ran back inside the jailhouse.
The adventurers, having survived an onslaught by several ghouls, tended to their wounds. Winslow took his horse Valiant by the reigns after dumping Matteas’s body down one of the holes a kruthik emerged from.
Ang, Lo-kag, and Winslow then quickly made their way to the stone tower to meet up with Deb. On the way, they all noticed the body of a dead ghoul nearby. Caldreas recognized it as being the first one he saw on the bakery’s rooftop. The ghoul’s tattered cloak and pieces of scale armor resembled those worn by Zhentarim soldiers.
At the tower, Winslow led Valiant inside. They then bolted the door from within, as well as bolting the trapdoor leading to the top of the watchtower.
For the rest of the night, everyone wandered if anyone may have contracted the zombie plague from wounds suffered from the ghouls’ attacks. After spending the night at the tower, it was discovered that Ang was suffering from the plague. Using a ritual scroll, Caldreas cured Ang. The process almost took its toll upon Ang, who barely managed to survive the ritual of cleansing his body of the foul disease.
The group rested well into the night, taking their turns at watch. As morning arrived, the group gathered themselves for what they knew could very well be their last day together.
Winslow, Ang, Lo-kag, Deb, Caldreas
Recently acquired: Pact Longsword +2, Plate Mail of Vitality +2, 5sp, 7cp, dirt encrusted jug with Zhentarim symbol and the name “Sergeant Petrus” inscribed on it