Sawmill of the Dead
Xarth runs to the door and braces himself, while Ian and Sofiya move up to cover him. With a mighty heave he tears open the door and nearly off its hinge. Inside is a spinning vortex filled with ghostly faces. Before anyone can stop him, Ian charges straight into the vortex. Sofiya and Xarth both decide to take the route of dealing with the vortex before jumping to their deaths.
Sofiya and Xarth search the inside of the sawmill staying well away from the vortex. They uncover dozens of bloody runes painted over several different surfaces. Xarth enchants the water in his canteen and hand it to Sofiya so that she can clean up the wards.
Inside the vortex Ian find Briz unconscious on the floor. He tries to lift him up, but the spirits must have warped the boards of the wooden platform he is on to bind his arms and legs. Not willing to leave Briz behind while he looks for help, he braces himself and lifts Briz free of his bonds.
Xarth grabs up a wooden axe handle and transmutes it into an extension of his power. He thrusts the handle into the vortex and allows the power of the spirits to drain into him. While the handle cracks and ages in the span of a few seconds he is drawn into the vortex, battered by the spirits he is attempting to weaken. Sofiya has destroyed many of the wards, causing the vortex to rapidly expand outward and disappear.
Ian takes Briz over to some cots that he has found. Briz is alive, but nobody can bring him conscious. While he lays there, Sofiya looks around. She determines that six men were murdered in this sawmill. Four of them in their beds, one took two steps from his bed, and the sixth made it nearly to the center of the sawmill. She manages to find some arrows that appear to have been made locally, although the arrowhead is of high quality.
When Sofiya says that the bodies were drug to the center of the sawmill, Ian starts chopping away at the boards. Under the platform they find some disturbed earth, but no bodies. Xarth tries to free the spirits of the lumberjacks, but finds that none remain. What he does find is a very small spell that is tied to the earth.
When Briz awakes he is told about the active spell in the turned earth. Briz prepares a ritual and in the end the spell tears his spirit out of his body and when he orientates himself he is inside of a wizard’s seeing bowl. Briz manifests a body from the water, but he cannot leave the bowl. The door to the room opens and an older man in a dark tunic enters.
When he sees Briz he demands to know his purchase. When Briz mumbles something he the man casts a spell at him, but Briz is able to resist its effects. The man becomes agitated and begins casting a more powerful banishment spell. Briz has seen enough so he returns through the spell to the sawmill. Briz knows that he traveled west, so that the direction they decide to go.
They travel deeper into the Elfe Wald, the sense of dread increasing. They stop early for the night, but cannot find a good defensive campsite. During the night while Sofiya is maintaining the watch an attacker rushes from the forest and strikes her with a club. She yells for her companions and draws a dagger to defend herself.
As her companions slowly begin to rouse themselves, Sofiya and the attacker trade blows. Sofiya gets a good enough look at him to tell that he is an elf, but not much else. Ian stands up and draws his sword, pinning the attacker between him and Sofiya. The elf tries to strike Sofiya down, but instead takes a deep cut from Ian. As the situation gets worse, the elf flees into the woods far enough that nobody wants to give chase.
The next morning they continue to follow the sledge tracks, and the spell underneath, until they reach a wooden archway. The sledge tracks go through the archway, but do not exit the other side. Briz sees the glamour upon the archway and destroys it utterly.
Where once there was forest, there is now a village in a glade. In the center of the village is a two-story wooden temple adorned with a disk emblazoned with a sickle. Sofiya has seen the symbol before during temple, but not much else. The most disturbing part of the village is that it is full of undead skeletons.
The skeletons are going about the daily life of villagers. They are washing, farming, and laboring in the village – only they are missing the tools needed to actually do the work; although they are still going through the motions. Everyone cautiously enters the strange village of the undead.
Ian and Sofiya decide to walk around the village looking for any signs or magical circles, while Briz and Xarth more closely examine the skeletons. Xarth notices that each of the skeletons has a rune etched into their forehead and a small light flickers inside their skull. In disgust Xarth knocks one of the skulls from its body.
There is a hideous screech, which causes Sofiya and Ian to come running, emanating from the skull on the ground as the light flickers out. A floating female apparition appears in from of Xarth and attacks him. While Xarth and Briz are fending off her attack, the rest of the skeletons in the village turn and look at everyone as if noticing them for the first time. As everyone looks on in horror the skeletons charge towards them.
Ian strikes down a pair of skeletons, but that only seems to strengthen the apparitions as the spirits of those struck down join the one attacking Xarth and Briz. His attack does manage to cut a pass wide enough for him and Sofiya to run towards the temple. Skeletons try to follow, but they cannot enter the courtyard around the temple.
While both Ian and Sofiya look for a way into the shuttered temple, Xarth is finding himself struggling to defend himself from the apparitions. Briz, drawing deep upon the power of the ley lines, drains the power of the spirits into the earth. Xarth helps the exhausted Briz towards the temple where Ian and Sofiya have yet to find an opening. Finally, with a measure of luck Ian finds a second floor window in disrepair.
Temple of the Reaper
Sofiya climbs up and lowers a rope to help the others. Inside they find themselves in a finely decorated bedroom. Judging by the thick layer of dust everywhere the room has not been used in a long time. They crack open the door and find a like door across a short hallway and a steep set of stairs going down. The room across the hall is likewise covered in dust, but has a crib and single bed.
Once downstairs they find what looks like a nicely furnished country manor. There is a parlor, well stocked kitchen, dining area, and servant’s quarters. Unlike the rooms upstairs, this area has been used recently as the larder is well stocked with fruits and cheeses. Upon examination of the hearth it is determined that the smoke coming out from the chimney is actually coming from a steel grate below the hearth. Xarth spitefully dumps down a pail of water.
Inside the parlor they discover a nicely drawn map of the village with dozens of lines crisscrossing it denoted by unknown runes. Sofiya takes the map after Xarth finds a trapdoor with some steps going down. Fashioning a torch from some wood from the hearth they descend the steps.
At the bottom they find a room with a stone slab floor, altar, and religious vestments. The only other way out is a archway whose stones have runes chiseled in them. That room is rough and wet dirt that holds twelve sarcophagi each holding only a single glass lamp.
As everyone enters the tomb and make their way to the far doorway the dirt seems to fall away showing them that they are floating above a sea of the undead. Only the small section around their torch seems unaffected, but the torch is quickly sputtering out. Xarth is leading the group, but several times someone has to point him in the correct direction.
Just before they finally reach the far archway a man’s voice calls to them. He implores them to stop and turn around before they are lost forever. Everyone quickly decides to turn around and head back the way they came. When they reach the altar room they find a man in his 30s standing there. Briz thinks that he looks like a much younger version of man he encountered when he was in the bowl.
Priests of Taur
The young man introduces himself as Luki, a priest in the service of Taur. He explains that this necropolis was built by him and his father to ease the suffering of the men and women who have died in the Elfe Wald until they are ready to pass on to the other side. While he is talking he leads them back upstairs to the main level, where they encounter the spirits of a man and woman holding hands and heading upstairs.
He tells them that those spirits are of his sister and her husband. They were killed while his father was off tending to his duties in the war. His father blames himself, so he has been seeking absolution in helping those who also died from violence.
Luki has an arrow he took from one of the many fallen in the village. Briz can sense powerful spells upon the shaft, but it is the head that has him the most confused. It is well fashioned from a clean mold and while it pulses with something – he cannot tell what exactly.
The Road Before Us
There is a great deal of things that they know, but so much more than they do not yet understand. Everyone agrees that if they return to Ulrichstein they have enough information to account for some of what is happening. Luki has asked them not to mention the Necropolis because rarely to the laity understand the tasks set down by the gods.
Some of what is happening does not tell the complete story. Baron Ulrichstein will not give them back their merchant’s charter. He will dismiss them from court, but they do not have enough to repair the damage Sofiya’s quick temper and Ian’s insanity has caused to their reputations.
When they tell Luki they wish to travel to one of the attacks by Luckau, he agrees to help. He gives them a holy skull that will shine a light towards the attacks as long as the sun is not in the sky. He also warns them to be wary of the Heilsmen – they have been active lately.
Only Xarth have heard of them. Stone tress of various size and thickness that seem to be shaped vaguely like men. The legends say either they were men who offended a powerful shaman or that they are an ancient race of giants who live in the forests. There have always been tales of them moving, but no scholar accepts these as anything but the ramblings of drunks.
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