The air was damp, and the stench of death still filled the underground chamber. The portal to the abyss had just be shut, and the bodies of the fiends and cultists lay dead on the ground. One cloaked figure was still alive, pinned against the wall. Maelokh held his sword to the cloaked man’s neck.
Tell us everything you know.
The man lowered his eyes, dejected. He appeared utterly defeated, with no fight left in him. After a few moments, his eyes raised, but he did not look at our party of adventures. His gaze pierced the end of the room, where dead bodies lay in pools of still blood.
I . . . I was just a blacksmith. I have a wife and four kids of my own. Times were tough and, well . . . I guess there’s no harm in telling you anymore . . . we fell on some hard times and I got wrapped up in some, well, you know how it goes. I may have some blood on my hands, but I needed some extra money, so I started working for some people who could help me get some. We all gotta do what we gotta do to survive, right? I don’t regret what I did. . . . And then everything started changing. I would have horrible dreams at night . . . dreams of fire and death. And I started to see the faces . . . see the faces of some of the people I had hurt. I wasn’t a religious man, but after a while I couldn’t ignore them, so I went to the temple. It was night time, and only a few priests were there. Cuthbert was doing confession, and I walked in and started telling him about what I had done. . . . But he didn’t rebuke me. He started telling me things about the way the world is. He told me I was strong, and it was good for me to do whatever it took to take care of my family. The weak die because they aren’t strong enough. I had never heard no one talk like that before—especially not a priest of Pelor. I thought they were all about helping the poor and stuff like that. I told him this, and I remember he let out a laugh and told me that things were changing. I told him about my dreams—why would I have such horrible dreams if I was doing what was right. He said that those dreams were my weakness trying to make me feel guilt. But he and his friends could help me get rid of that.
That was only two months ago. I . . . I didn’t learn about all of this with demons and devils until recently. You couldn’t understand. I was promised anything I wanted. To be one of the first citizens of a new world.
After he had spoken, the group of townspeople began to awaken from their deep, magical sleep. Many of the other cloaked cultists must have slipped away during their interrogation, but Jackson could be seen amongst the injured, as well as Rugnar, the detective.
The detective recognized Maelokh and immediately ran towards him, thanking him for his service. As it turned out, his commanding officer, Captain Mason Caine, was still alive. Caine had been in the town hall with the ruling merchant guild when the devils began their attack, and he saw them all fall beneath the fiends. Caine told the party that he was declaring a state of emergency, and would take the role of governor.
There was also a Clerick of Pelor present, though he did not know much about the night’s recent events. When questioned, he revealed that the Clerics knew little about the Abyss—indeed, many of them didn’t think it mattered anymore, after being sealed off so long ago. He spoke of ancient legend which said the veil between Ellysia and the Abyss was thin. If the veil between the two were broken, Asmodeus would be able to freely walk between them—no need for gates at all.
After speaking with the villagers, the adventurers decided to sleep for the night and make way back to Evansdale in the morning. Reports claimed that many fiends had run off into the woods, and Evansdale was the closest city, and therefore the most vulnerable to attack.
The damage from the attack was greatest near the hart of the city. It was clear that many inhabitants of the town’s outskirts must have fled safetly to the forest, assuming they awoke in time. This irony did not escape our adventuerers: Many ornate houses of the nobility in the town’s upper district had burnt to the groun, while the slums—far from the temple—were standing tall and firm.
A few days prior, the trio had felt a dismal change in the air upon leaving Evansdale. Now, whatever it was, had increased tenfold. The bright golden hue of the woods was now a sickly yellow and orange. Some of the trees were beginning to lose their leaves, though the harvest was still many weeks away. After a few hours of walking, they came across a bend in the road, revealing about a half dozen bodies lying in the dirt. The ground around them was dried with the stain of blood. Seven elves. Three of them children. Among the children was the little boy from two days prior. Diverted by the bodies, the construct, man, and half-elf went searching for the elven haven, only to find that it had been pillaged. Though it was not large, the fiends had still been able to catch the elves unaware in the night, leaving few survivors.
Continuing on the road towards Evansdale, the adventurers encountered the familiar bridge . . .though now the bridge was no more. It had recently been set aflame and destroyed, but the entangling roots from Oakson’s spell still wound their way across the rapid waters. Not wanting to risk their way across the thorny vines, the adventurers chose to follow the river itself back to the village.
Before long, they heard a commotion from the woods, and saw four young boar and their giant mother, followed by a fiendish dog. The dog was easily defeated, but not before it was able to sink its infectious teeth into Maelokh’s leg, marking him with its disease. The boar proved more difficult. Absolom, now fully trained as a swordsman, began the battle easily parrying their blows, but then horribly fumbled on his own attack against the mother boar, critically striking himself and falling senseless to the ground. Thankfully, Oakson and the Ranger were able to defeat the other boar before it was too late.
Continuing along the woods, the adventurers came across a lookout point which peered over the village of Evansdale. Sensing that something was up, Oakson shapeshifted into an owl, and perched above the open ground, only to hear the voices of two unseen creatures, speaking back and forth. Their tongue was unintelligible to him, but he recognized the tone of their voices to be like the fiends they had encountered in the burning city. Returning to his friends, the druid reverted to his Warforged form and called upon the power of the moon to strike the hellish imps.
The fiends defeated, our adventurers were able to enter the village and return to Davril Grayback (with one of the imps captured and bound with them). Unfortunately, Davril was not doing well. He looked as if the events of the past few days had taken a heavy toll on his mind and soul, and hearing the news of Hollow’s Wood caused him to lash out in anger, viciously killing the captured fiend. After discussing the current events and the fate of Evansdale, Davril asked the party to consider investigating the bandit threat. There was no true certainty of the fiends attacking the village, but they knew the bandits would be coming before the week’s end. The three men accepted his offer, and made their way to the bandits camp, which Davril had located after examining the maps he had been given a few days prior.
The journey to the camp was fairly uneventful. After a few hours of travel, the adventurers abandoned the road and traveled through the bare plains of the countryside. Before long, night fell upon them, and they saw lights in the distance of the bandit camp. Upon approach, Maelokh’s keen elven vision was able to discern that this was no small outpost—it was a small village. Dozens, if not a hundred, tents spanned the valley, with a wooden wall surrounding them. There were gates at either end of the encampment, well-lit and guarded.
After some discussion, Maelokh left the rest of the party in search of potential scouts wandering the plains. He found none, and approached the wall silently. In an impressive display of acrobatics and stealth, he hurled himself over the wall and landed softly on the other side . . .in what appeared to be a school yard. Confused, the half-elf examined his surroundings and the nearby building: School books, desks, slates and chalk, a backpack with books and parchment . . . what sort of bandit encampment was this? Could their intelligence have been misinformed? He continued scouting the encampment, and found what was clearly a barracks full of equipped soldiers . . . but there were also many tents full of families and children. Something was amiss. Unable to find any sign of where their leader could be sleeping, he returned back to his comrades waiting outside the encampment.
The three of them decided they needed more information, and chose to wait in hiding until a patrolling guard approached. Before long, an armed man with a torch came marching through the darkness, only to be struck with the druid’s charming enchantment. His guard down, he welcomed the adventurers as they approached, and freely told them about the encampment and its inhabitants. They were mostly people from Fallreach, escaping the tyranny of Darian Grayback, Davril’s younger brother. They had come to this place, simply called “The Haven,” as a refuge. Their commander was leading a rebellion against the Graybacks, starting with Evansdale. After some convincing, the adventurers were able to convince the guard to lead them into the camp.
Once inside, they left their guide and acted quickly. The charm spell only lasted an hour, and after its effect wore off the guard would know he had been enchanted. They headed directly towards the leader’s tent, which the guard had pointed out. A Dragonborn stood guard. Not wanting to risk another charm, they came forward and spoke the truth . . . in part. They told him that they had knowledge regarding the attack on Evansdale, and needed to speak to the leader immediately.
To their surprise, the leader of the Haven was none other than Beorn Hammerfist, a descendent of the same man in whose tomb they had found the cultist’s tome. Beorn, proud of his mission and his values, shared with them his story:
I was born in Evansdale, but my family was driven out when I was still young. I grew up in Fallreach, and lived inthe Undercity. My father was a tailor, but I always wanted to fight. I conscripted in the town guard as a teenager, but I couldn’t belive the things I was commanded to do. It was horrifying. I abandoned my post and ran away from Fallreach, with nowhere to go. I found other refugees—poor humans, but also dwarves and gnomes and even half-orcs, all sorts of people who had been driven away by Darian’s regime. Here’s what you need to know: I hate the Graybacks, and Evansdale is rightfully mine by birthright. My forefathers established that city as a place of safety and protection from dangerous marauders and beasts, and now its been corrupted by Garyback’s blood. I don’t want to destroy Evansdale, I want to liberate it from the bloodthirsty Graybacks and give it back to the free people.
The adventurers believed Hammerfist, and saw that he was not involved with the shrine, or the cultists, and he had no idea of the attack on Hollow’s Wood. When he heard that fiends may be attacking Evansdale, he looked surprised and worried, but it simply drove his desire to take the city for himself so he could defend it and its people.
Deciding not to entangle themselves in political squabbles, the adventurers decided that they needed to continue on to Fallreach to address the bigger threat of Asmodeus. They convinced Beorn to take his men to Evansdale immediately, but not attack the village. First, they should wait and see if the fiends were planning on taking the town, and then prepare should an attack occur. After careful consideration, Beorn agreed to this suggestion. He supposed that some villagers still loyal to Davril would be more persuaded to join his cause if he was seen as a valiant defender and not a vicious marauder. After speaking, Beorn invited the party to stay the night, before continuing on their quest . . . .