It is not long after sun rise. Three adventurers walk out of the burnt Curwen farmstead and trudge down the road towards the Slaughtered Lamb, accompanied by a dead body on a floating disk. As they reach the end of the farm’s driveway, two more characters emerge from the ruin – an elf and a dragonborn, carrying a dead shark. The pair follow their companions and are even able to catch up, not because the first three waited for them, but because the first three suddenly stopped dead in their tracks. In the centre of the village an angry mob has gathered under the banner of Cain Dunwithy, and as the warriors approach he leads them (from behind) into battle with the weary group.
Encounter: Union Rabble
After murderously defending themselves from the attacking villagers and slaying Dunwithy’s bodyguard, a voice suddenly crys out “Stop this madness!” and the goliath armourer Big Sol appears from inside his home, waving his arms. It is at this point that Lumen finally finds his way back to the battlefield, and suggests that Cain be disarmed as he approaches. Gravilla is busy embracing her father, but a bloody Grimlock rises and roughly frisks the horrified land owner. Lumen grabs Cain and pulls the shaking wreck to his feet, but before any angry interrogation can begin, a huge rocky crash resounds through the air. A twenty five foot tall slug monster flops heavily onto the street, smashing a hole in the side of Big Sol’s Armoury as it approaches.
Encounter: Mollusc Ambassador
Big Sol takes part in the ensuing fight, and eventually Grimlock destroys the gastropod giant. Poobeyr makes straight for the Slaughtered Lamb and buys a meal. Innkeeper Draevek is furious with the group for killing most of his friend’s (Dunwithy’s) supporters and charges him double the normal price. Gravilla, meanwhile, goes to her room in Big Sol’s smashed house and sleeps there in full view of people passing by on the street.
Lumen and Wistark take Cain to the reeve’s office, leaving him incarcerated under the care of the sheriff’s deputy. Wistark apologises on behalf of the group for causing the deaths of so many Raylack citizens, and the deputy makes clear that he will be investigating the matter thoroughly. He also informs them that the survivors of the second battle of Branock’s Gorge have returned, and are presently under the care of Doctor Asclepis. Back in the inn, Poobeyr has finished his meal under Draevek’s bitter stare and paid for the most expensive room in the inn, again at double the going rate. The brawny warrior goes upstairs to have a bath.
Wistark and Lumen leave the reeve’s headquarters and find Grimlock in the street knocking on people’s doors. The dragonborn is looking for the three surviving villagers who stabbed his legs with pitchforks, in order to kill them. He is very vocal about this last part to the middle aged woman standing inside the door of the third house he has tried. He becomes instantly suspicious of her when she turns white and faints, and steps over her into her home to look for his targets despite Lumen’s protests.
The elf and the wizard leave the unstoppable lizard to it and go on to the doctor’s clinic. They learn that of the original armed force that went to see the Fini, only Sheriff Brandis, Jamarak Cockslicer and a small number of others have survived. Tanis Asclepis stops the pair from seeing his patients, who are grievously wounded, but tells them that one survivor, Iron Circle Captain Ranat, can be found in the Slaughtered Lamb. Wistark heads over there while Lumen goes off and drags his shark into the centre of the village.
Wistark finds the captain exactly where Tanis said he would be. The battered halfling warlord is sitting alone, drinking away his sorrows. The wizard introduces himself and thanks the mercenary leader for saving him at Branock’s Gorge. Devlan Ranat acknowledges this greeting, but is too drunk and sullen over the loss of almost all of his men to say anything else. Wistark buys two pitchers of ale at the bar and brings them to the table to drink quietly with the forlorn captain, giving him one of the full mugs as a gift. Shizbitts sits down, gulps some ale, and then starts leafing through Joseph Curwen’s rescued Necronomicon.
Outside, Lumen has finished rolling his shark to the Slaughtered Lamb. He attempts to pull it into the inn, but is immediately evicted. The elf opts to sit on top of the shark and cut some trophies from it that are rather more portable than the carcass in its entirety. As he removes the gills from the creature he sees Grimlock a few hundred yards down the road, clearly completely lost in the village. He calls the dragonborn over, and Grimlock halts his quest of brutal vengeance to see what his friend wants. Soon the pair are both sitting on the shark. Grimlock cuts off its tail and wears it as a hat while Lumen tries to discourage any further attempts at revenge. Grimlock is not convinced by these arguments but, in the end, ceases his search anyway – Gravilla emerges from her house and challenges him to a drinking competition.
Obviously he instantly accepts her offer, adding that the loser will be the first person to throw up. The large pair enter the inn and start buying drinks. Lumen goes to the bar and makes awkward conversation with Draevek. This doesn’t turn out to be fun for very long, so he goes to watch the competition instead. The dragonborn and the goliath have by this point already downed 8 pitchers of ale each, yet neither has surrender in their eyes. Five minutes later they have both finished 15 pints and are very drunk indeed. Gravilla falls away from the bar, but gets up and continues with a bloody new cut on her forehead. On the 17th pint Grimlock finally chunders, vomiting a jet of barf for thirty seconds straight over the bar, the floor and himself. Gravilla wins.
Wistark is only on his second pitcher, but since he has just discovered something that is about to make him the centre of attention, this is likely for the best. The Necronomicon contains a section on Astral Tears – portals to the spirit world that the book suggests could be one and the same as the mythological Fini. More importantly, it details a magic ritual that can close one.
Looking over Wistark’s shoulder, Devlan becomes sober in an instant and pledges his service to any attempts to destroy “that monstrous thing”. Wistark accepts this offer gratefully and jumps from his seat to inform his comrades. Gravilla and Grimlock are far too inebriated to understand his enthusiasm and Poobeyr is still enjoying the luxuries of his room upstairs, but Lumen understands the implications of this news immediately and accompanies his companion out of the inn.
Seeking extra recruits for a mission to Branock’s Gorge, Lumen heads to the doctor’s clinic and Wistark to the headquarters of the reeve. Lumen is able to gain the help of lady dragonborn Jamarak Cockslicer and a surviving farmer’s guild member, but Wistark is offered nothing by the deputy of the reeve. The wizard leaves empty handed, and sees the killed men from Cain’s rabble lying in the street. An undertaker has arrived with a wagon-full of coffins, but he is struggling to take away the departed in a fittingly respectful manner. Wistark calls the floating disk to his aid and within 15 minutes the street is cleared of bodies.
A number of villagers witness this unusual ceremony, and their hard hearts soften a touch. Noting their attention, Wistark takes the opportunity to warn them of the danger in Branock’s Gorge and proclaim his plan to stop it. 21 villagers join his cause, and he sends them out across the wide village to bring back the people on Raylack’s outskirts so that they can be defended. They come back with hundreds of people, and Wistark leads an effort to barricade the centre of the village against further attacks and create an armed force to defend it. Big Sol provides weapons and armour to both the defenders and the 22 volunteers who will join the main party on their dangerous next mission. Lumen trains eleven recruits to shoot accurately. Poobeyr teaches the other eleven the basic principles of melee combat. The villagers prepare traps and collect food under Wistark’s orders. Grimlock and Gravilla stumble around drunkenly.
The afternoon passes into evening, and Wistark details his plan of attack using maps of Branock’s Gorge. He and Lumen will lead the 11 ranged volunteers onto the west ridge of the gorge, where any threats will be eliminated and Wistark will perform the ritual. To distract enemy attention: Grimlock, Gravilla and Poobeyr will lead the 11 melee volunteers through the valley, destroying everything within range. Captain Devlan and Big Sol will accompany the fighters in the valley to provide leadership in the event that the other three are killed or incapacitated. Jamarak’s mission will be to guard the ritual caster and ensure that the dangerous spell is completed by any means necessary.
Holding the Necronomicon tightly underneath one arm, Wistark admits that for the ritual to be completed, someone will have to volunteer to spill their life’s blood in the circle he draws. Leaving them with this chilling thought, he declares to his troops that they will set out at dawn. They retire to their beds shortly after sunset and are protected through the night by Wistark’s citizen patrols. Meanwhile, Grimlock falls asleep in a fetid gutter and Gravilla throws up on her father’s smithing anvil. Hundreds of villagers share the homes of their neighbours in the centre of the village. As the sun rises the next morning, 30 souls march northeast out of the village.
Encounter: Death is Fini
Epilogue: End of Chapter One