(Note: this session included Jamie and his rogue Milo, Pam and her elven ranger Kale, and Bill and his Lathanderite cleric Oisin. Much to our sadness, Player Wes seems to be tied up with important life matters, so will be away from our table indefinitely. We hope he can join us again sometime in the near future. Until then, a seat is always open for him!)
After our intrepid band of adventurers took their meals at the Watchful Knight Inn in the frontier outpost of Beliard, they turned in for a good night’s rest (the first time sleeping in beds for some time). Despite the meager accommodations, the cots on which they slept felt like feather beds.
The next morning found them strolling to the common room for breakfast (while back in a room an NPC, Leela the cleric who has lost her faith, took care of Player Wes’ wizard character Keseim, who was still under some sort of sleeping curse). At once they noticed that the wizened and irascible proprietor, Mrs. Winterburn, was not at her usual perch on a stool behind the bar. Instead, her halfling servant Yollo was bustling about the common room, trying to serve the patrons there as best he could. The halfling, however, was unused to running a business, so was greatly flustered, as were the cook and the barmaids.
The group managed to get Yollo’s attention, and he told them Mrs. Winterburn had not come out of her room that morning at her usual early hour. When the halfling went to check on her, he found her door unlocked. While her bed showed signs of having been slept in, the old woman was nowhere to be seen.
At this point Milo and Kale investigated the room, while Oisin (accompanied by NPC elven fighter Otiver) asked the patrons for any clues that might be gleaned (this questioning produced nothing of note). A search of the proprietor’s chamber at the back of the inn yielded no sign of struggle, but Milo and Kale did find a seemingly blank scroll hidden in a secret compartment in Mrs. Winterburn’s wardrobe. Oisin and Otiver joined Kale and Milo in the room, and Oisin cast Detect Magic. This allowed him to see arcane runes written on the scroll. Bereft of their wizard, no one in the group could read the scroll.
It was then that screams were heard from the common room. The party rushed back to find the common room filling with worried and angry townsfolk, and the barmaids wailing in anguish. A young cattle drover had come to the inn, breathlessly telling how he had discovered the bloody remains of Mrs. Winterburn just north of the town. Apparently, the mysterious beast that had been killing cattle had moved on to human prey. The party went to investigate, and they were followed by a large group of locals.
When they arrived at the scene, they were aghast at the state of the corpse. Mrs. Winterburn had been torn to shreds. The ground surrounding the remains was a churned mess of bloody mud, with no clean tracks to be found. There were also no tracks of any creature discernible leading to or from the site. There was speculation that some flying beast was responsible.
Oisin decided to call on Lathander’s aid in speaking to the spirit of the dead woman. Announcing his intentions to the crowd raised some murmurs of disapproval from some of the more superstitious locals, while others gasped in awe of what was about to happen. The cleric was able to contact Mrs. Winterburn. She revealed that she was a former student of Khelben Arunsun, Archmage of Waterdeep. She left her apprenticeship many years before due to lack of desire to rise high in the ranks of the Blackstaff’s service, in addition to having fallen in love with a man. She left Waterdeep and settled in the relative backwater of Beliard, where she raised two sons (Aron and Bran), whom she now mourned for treating them poorly when they became men (they subsequently left the outpost years ago).
Though Winterburn had left the Blackstaff’s tower, she had not left his service. She used the communication spell written on the scroll the party had found in her wardrobe to contact him, and vice versa. Khelben sometimes asked her to keep an eye on the situation in the region, particularly when it came to the potential activities of organizations such as the Shadow Thieves (a guild that had been pushed out of Waterdeep years before), the Zhentarim, or others.
Though it seemed that Winterburn had been one of the Harpers, the semi-secret organization dedicated to the cause of justice across the Realms, she said that she was not a part of that group. With regard to her death, the spirit did not know what attacked her, but she knew that it had seemed to step out of thin air, as if it was a summoned creature from another plane. She had been out investigating the recent cattle mutilations the night before when the creature set upon her suddenly.
Meanwhile, due to his focus on his conversation with the dead, Oisin was not aware of the rising tensions surrounding him. An angry contingent of rough-looking men, led by a local ruffian named Rand, pushed through the crowd and began threatening the party for disturbing the spirit of the dead woman. Kale, Milo, and Otiver stood their ground and drew weapons to defend Oisin. There was a tense stand-off before Rand and his thugs turned and left, but not before Rand warned the party that their business was not finished.
The people that remained were sympathetic to the party’s desire to put Mrs. Winterburn’s spirit and body to rest. The party and the townsfolk brought the woman’s remains to the back of her inn, where they buried her as Oisin said Lathanderite last rites.
Not long after they returned to the inn’s common room to discuss their next steps, a commotion on the street outside the inn brought them to the windows to look outside. Rand and a larger group of cronies were out in the street, armed with weapons as well as torches and oil. Rand called for the group to leave Beliard, or he and his men would burn them out.
The party readied for possible battle, and Kale took a warning shot that took the torch out of one of the thug’s hands. This, plus the appearance of obviously skilled adventurers ready for battle, caused several of Rand’s men to flee. Rand retreated once more, swearing that he would return with even more men next time.
The party then decided to go and visit one of the nearby farms that had experienced cattle mutilations, in the hope of getting more details on the nature of the creature they were dealing with. They also decided to pack up all of their belongings (and put the sleeping Keseim in a wagon with Leela) and prepare to leave the town on short notice. They also wanted to avoid having the inn become collateral damage in the escalating conflict with Rand.
When the party arrived at the farm of Old Man Willets, a group of six drovers told them to go on up to Willets’ home beside a large barn. The group knocked on the door to the house, but there was no answer. Fearing something foul had happened to the man, they went through the unlocked door with weapons ready. Inside was a large room filled with farm implements and riding gear.
Before the group could advance to the door across from them into the next part of the house, four cloaked and hooded figures stepped out of a shadowed corner of the room. Each bore a wavy-bladed kris knife forged from some reddish metal in each hand. These strangers attacked immediately, and the group soon found themselves hard pressed in combat. Their attackers scored several hits, and the bite of their blades seemed to cause a strange weakness in those they struck.
The party managed to kill one of the attackers before deciding that they needed to retreat, after the NPC Otiver was gravely wounded (and Milo was stabbed and failed a save against a Strength-draining effect). The group began a fighting withdrawal, backing out through the door they hand originally entered through. Once outside, they were greeted by a disturbing sight: Leela (who had stayed outside with Keseim) was being held by one of the drovers the group had met earlier. The man, with his five fellows behind him, was holding a dagger to Leela’s throat.