For Deirik, Eirik, Ygvard, and Boldulf, the Summer passes relatively uneventfully. They work as individuals or as a group on their skills and on generating a distribution network for the Fugue, as that seems to be the best road towards amassing greater wealth for them.
In Autumn, come harvest time, Lord Krogan calls the Men into his temple. Usually this means he has a mission for them, and this time is no different. Krogan informs them that there's a town named Rulla within his territory, but fairly close to the border he shares with Torvald the Betrayer, that is due for its harvest tithe to him. Not only has he not received that tithe or any messengers from that town, but the messengers he has sent there himself have not returned. At this point, he's concerned that there's something wrong with Rulla, or at the very least on the road between Rulla and Alucard, and wishes the Men of Mjarn to investigate.
The Men accept this mission, gather their things, and head off to the Southwest on the road that leads to Rulla. Several days into their travels, the men spot a large creature just off the road amongst some tall grass that isn't hiding very well. Rather than confront it directly, they decide to take a circuitous route through the brush and avoid it altogether. However, the creature spots them and leaps into the air and glides in for the attack. As soon as it rises above the grass they see it has the heads of a goat, lion, and green dragon and identify it as a chimera.
The chimera rushes in overzealously, as it appears a bit malnourished, which allows the Men to attack as it lands in front of them. Some quick hits hurt the chimera, but not enough to prevent a large blast of poisonous gas from bellowing out at the men. Sputtering and coughing as they dodge and run to escape the cloud, the Men follow up with a few more hits which do some serious damage to the chimera. Lashing out at the men with all of its heads as well as its claws, Eirik and Deirik take some hits from the chimera but are still in the fight. In the following attacks, Eirik lands a massive blow that has the chimera reeling! It turns and appears to be trying to escape into the air, but Deirik then slides underneath it and stabs upward with his sword which runs through the chimera as the killing blow!
As it falls, Deirik notices that it has a brand underneath its lion head that indicates it is a shadow-bred creature. The men can only assume that it attacked a group of men that are obviously shadow-aligned, with Ygvard being in full Legate armor, because it was malnourished and desparately hungry. Eirik chops the dragon head off as a trophy and decides to bring it with him. As they walk away from the chimera's corpse, the men begin to wonder if it is the reason that messengers have not been making it to or from Rulla.
A few days later, the Men see Rulla in the distance. As they pass by the surrounding farms, they notice that none of the crops have been harvested and no one is working the fields. Each farm they pass as they walk the road further is in the same state. They've not spotted a single person on the road, in the crops, or anywhere in or near any of the farmhouses. It's all empty.
Shortly before the enter the palisade walls of the town, the Men pass by some Dornish Standing Stones. These are three tall stones that surround a pedestal which honor those that have passed. Their bodies are brought here to be burned after death. Once enough of the dead have been burned at the Standing Stones another set are created a bit further out, which prevents any specific set of stones from becoming overwhelmed with death such that the dead overtake it. The Men have passed by Standing Stones many times before, but something in the midst of this set catches Ygvard's eye. However, as he turns to face it, he doesn't see anything there. He asks if anyone else saw anything, to which they all reply they did not, and all continue into Rulla.
The men open the large palisade door and close it behind them as they go further into town. They find the town in the same state as the surrounding farms. A number of footprints show people have come and gone through this town, but there is no activity in it whatsoever. Every house is empty, every shop abandoned. No bodies, no animals, nothing at all is found that would show what happened here. The Men eventually make their way to the center of town where a giant long hall, like those used by Dorns of old, still stands. These long halls were the centers for commerce, community, and worship in old Dornish towns. Deirik, Eirik, Ygvard, Boldulf, Kiro, and Sergei all enter the long hall to see if any clues lie within.
Upon entering the longhall, they find it empty much like the rest of the town. Inside, it houses four stalls for small businesses as well as two lofts on either end meant for community gatherings, and below those lofts are large storage areas for harvested crops. At the very center of the longhall is the town well. The Men look down the well and see nothing out of the ordinary, and then check the stalls for recent use and find nothing. As they walk up the steps to one of the lofts, Boldulf happens to glance over at the other steps and for a moment sees a blurry image of his sister-in-law, Deirik and Eirik's beloved grandmother, Rhiann. He calls out her name to see if she answers, and while he gets no reply, both Deirik and Eirik stop in their tracks and ask him why he'd say that name. Boldulf admits that he thought he saw her near the bottom of the other steps. All of them immediately go to those steps and look around, they search up and down but do not see any trace of the image Boldulf saw.
They then go to the well and decide to pull up the bucket because Boldulf's heightened sense of smell has indicated that the water seems off. When they retrieve the bucket, the water has a sickening film on it and does not smell good. Deirik dumps the bucket onto the ground and, as he does so, reveals a small dagger with a hollowed hilt stuck into the bottom of it. When Boldulf smells the dagger's hollow hilt, it reeks of the corruption that pervades the water. Ygvard looks around and finds the cap to the dagger's hilt hidden in the detritus and dirt right next to the well. It has an engraving on it, but not one that any of them recognize.
They pocket the dagger as evidence, and continue with their search. Having seen everything the longhall has to offer, they exit and Ygvard happens to notice a blurry image on the road leading to the town gates and calls attention to it. While it's hard to say that it's the image of Rhiann, it's hard to say it isn't, so they follow it. Before they can get anywhere close though, the image fades. The Men continue walking down this road and see the palisade gate. Strangely enough, it's open. They believe they left it closed, but can't be certain. They go to the gate, exit the town and look around. Continuing down the road a bit, the men start looking into Standing Stones and into the crops again trying to find any clue they may have missed. This time, Deirik catches something moving out of the corner of his eye and sees the image of his grandmother, blurry as it may be, on the road further away from town. He races towards it, but it disappears once again.
The Men talk it over, but can't be sure that it's truly Rhiann as it could be some malevolent spirit manifesting as her. One thing they do know is they haven't yet discovered what happened to all the people, so they turn back and head for town. When they get there, the gate is closed though they're now sure they left it open. They draw their weapons and go back into town, closing the gate behind them, leery of every shadow and corner.
As they once again approach the long hall, they believe they see the image once again near one of its entrances though it again doesn't last long. They go straight for it, go inside the long hall and look around. They don't see anything or anyone, so they proceed to the upper level once again. When they reach the upper loft, they see, as clear as can be, a transparent image of Rhiann. She's standing in front of the windows at the end of the hall, crying, urgently beckoning them to come closer to her. Boldulf does so, at which point she disappears, but he takes the opportunity to look out the window. The light of the day is fading, but he can barely make out random paths being carved through the fields of crops. Squinting his eyes, he finally gets a glimpse of what's coming: Fell... hundreds of them streaming towards the town gate... the only town gate.
Player Commentary: Despite the battle with the chimera, this was a fairly low key session, but full of tension and hidden malice. Which made it an awesome change of pace from our previous adventures--more Call of Cthulhu than D&D. Of course, as fantasy heroes, we weren't exactly prepared for this kind of challenge as our flailing investigations can attest. We were ready for lies, and battle, and personal drama, not lurking horror. Of course, all the tension built up in this session would come to fruition in the next, and the horrors we encountered would continue to haunt and plague us going forward. But, that's for next time...
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