The Shadow Plague

Prologue

As autumn breaks in the Dessarin valley a strange sickness spreads. None know where it came from and few can even name its symptoms but with the onset of cold weather it spreads like a plague through the villages and homesteads of the region. The Waterbaron Thynne is seen to do nothing and the Church of Light remains silent on the problem. Rumours grow in Yartar that a village to the north-east has been constructed by a healer able to rid you of the plague.

And so a convoy is sent from Yartar with food and supplies to find this strange village and the healer rumoured to dwell there…


Chapter I: The Village


Part I: The Healer

Yartar.png

A strange group sit within the Crushed Goblet inn on the outskirts of Yartar. Their leader, the bearded wagoneer Sted Buckman, has organised for the others to join his caravan on a journey to the north-east to deliver supplies to this new village. Most have been employed by the caravan in some way to assist the people of the village once they arrive. Blair Ferguson a youth with a well worn rapier is a cobbler by trade and Beston Hlumenthal a chef and alchemist with a flair for strange ingredients. One goes to investigate the plague, a doctor by trade who goes by the name of Galen Hollows. His bodyguard, the muscular and silent Murray the Larger accompanies him and protects the frail human. Others go of their own will, seeking what Sted does not know. The dwarf Snorri is one such, an inventor and craftsman with little interest in human illness. Jimmy Hawkeye is another, a strange man with terrible social skills who never seems to blink.

After awkward introductions in the Goblet the caravan sets off the next morning, four wagons with guards bearing the yellow and white of the Waterbaron riding alongside. Blair and Snorri ride in their own cart, drunkenly purchased that morning. At the end of the train travels an iron bound wagon guarded by the Baron's own bodyguards. Alongside it ride paladins of the Church of Light and a priest of that order accompanies the wagon not far behind. The train follows the river out of Yartar, breaking out of the lowlands up into sparsely wooded hills. The journey takes several days with the wagons stopping each night and making camp. Jimmy and Murray prove themselves to be able hunters and the caravaners enjoy finely cooked meals each night at Beston's insistence. Blair and Snorri stick to their wagon, the dwarf polishing a strange bronze weapon covered in runes. Rain begins to fall as time passes on the road, oil-infused hoods pulled up to protect from the wet and nights spent sleeping beneath the wagons. Some nights unholy shrieks can be heard in the forest but eventually the wagon train arrives safely at the village.

The village is set around a strange red-brown building that seems to serve as a granary and food warehouse. Named 'Notsur' by its inhabitants it features an inn and several other buildings in the centre of town while a large wall surrounds the church in the crook of the river. All the buildings are formed from the red-brown clay and seem to be single pieces of stone. Snorri's interest is immediately piqued as the others stow their horses and begin unloading wagons. At the Broken Arrow inn Murray helps the innkeeper, Agdan the Lesser, to catch some wayward pigs and earns his respect. The group get rooms at the inn alongside Sted and his wagoneers and begin to talk to Agdan about the town. It seems that the town was built by a man named "Fletcher", who created it using magic. It was built to protect and house the man Agdan calls "The Healer", a man who cures people of the plague and keeps them contained within the church at the centre of town. It soon becomes clear that this Fletcher is who Snorri came here to see as he asks Agdan many questions about the man. The rest of the group however travel up to the church and meet with the miracle Healer.

The Healer turns out to be a man named Clovis, of average build and little remark. They arrive just as he finishes an argument with the paladins and priest. He explains this is due to him not divulging the secrets of his healing to them, as it is not holy and they would not understand. Galen questions him with some anger, his hatred of magical healing becoming apparent. Clovis explains that the source of the plague is not of this plane but of another world. And so his methods of healing are otherworldly. Clovis helps his patients by giving them amulets created by Fletcher but the recent shipment had not arrived. Agreeing to help him in return for more information about his healing the group separates for a while. Blair and Beston would stay in the village, offering their skills to help the townspeople establish a basic standard of living. Meanwhile Snorri, Galen, Murray and Jimmy would travel out to find Fletcher and retrieve the magical amulets that protect from the plague.


Part II: The Artificer

Staying over at the Broken Arrow the group travels out north early the next morning. Beston is already awake when they leave, cooking up a broth of some kind that fills the Arrow with pleasant smells. Moving up a worn track north the group pass through a number of farms, speaking to the farmers and being pointed towards the north-most farm. The woods get thicker as the group climbs up hunters trails and reach the last farm. Here they find Telossk the Hunter, the local Druid, in the middle of attempting to heal the farmer's daughter. The group talks to him a while, careful to keep their distance from the plague-infected teenager. Teslossk gives them direction to the Artificer Fletcher's hut and the group leaves the farm and the sick girl behind them.

Following the trail the group moves through the heavily woods upwards at speed. Murray demands a fast pace so they might reach the house before sundown and sure enough as a light pattering of snow begins to fall the group arrives at an idyllic wooden hut set into the side of a rocky outcrop. Knocking on the door the group are surprised when Fletcher does not answer the open door revealing the house overrun with overgrown rodents. Killing the rats almost dismissively the group search the dusty and abandoned hut until Jimmy smells stale air and reveals a secret path deeper into the mountainside.

The walls here are carved from the rocks themselves, too clean and smooth for any mundane mason. The group moves through slowly, finding the halls to be filled with strange clockwork traps that open pits or shock them with electricity. Snorri disables most of the traps, eagerly taking any equipment he finds in the many store rooms. Finding the body of Fletcher's apprentice the group pass a guardian golem that seems to be repeating its last orders over and over. The apprentice was killed by a blast of magic to the back and the golem features similar scorch marks across its armour.

Deeper into the secret outpost they find Fletcher. The Artificer looks worse for wear, haggard and thin from days without food or rest. He seems to be concentrating on some sort of spell. The room is large and domed, the floor set in iron with strange arcane markings. In one corner of the room sits an iron gate with its own glowing runes. As the group moves to approach the Artificer the golem behind them reacts. Pulling its hand along the ground it rips out a great spear of stone that smashes into the Artificer and spears him to the ground! No longer under his control the small automatons along the walls activate and lunge at the group. Bronze and steel creations that stand the size of a child, these golems smash at the group with iron fists. Murray cleaves them in two with single hits, while Jimmy's arrows and blasts from Snorri's firearm blast them apart in bursts of flames. A larger golem rushes towards the group and smashes down on Murray. But the half-orc takes the blow and a half dozen more like it as the golem wails on him again and again. As Murray distracts it the others hammer it with arrows from behind until a lucky shot from Galen goes through its armour and pierces the magical heart within.

Murray is in a bad way and Galen tends to him while Jimmy and Snorri search the area. Finding the Artificer's workshop they find half constructed golems and a chest full of amulets to protect the villagers from the plague. Snorri gleefully takes Fletcher's notes and spellbook as well as a sizeable bag of ingredients and reagents. He also takes a number of magical artefacts from the Artificer's body, including a bronze bracer that seems to protect the wearer from harm. Eventually Galen manages to stabalise Murray and the group stop to rest in the workshop, unsure of what to do now that the Artificer is dead.

Shadow%20Castle%20Interior.jpg

As they rest a howling ball of flame appears in the room with the iron runes, a shrieking noise coalescing into a shimmering and shaking gash in the air. Snorri identifies it as a portal of some kind and as Murray rouses from his stupor the group agrees to go through to whatever lies beyond the portal. Moving through the portal elicits a sharp jolt of pain that is soon replaced by wonder as the group step through. Around them is a fort carved in the dwarven style, with a vast stone roof and braziers burning brightly on the walls. But the walls, floor and ceiling are all entirely without colour. Snorri's purple cloak is a dulled grey and even Murray's bloody bandages hold no colour. Only the flames in the braziers have any sort of colour. Looking around the group spots a large stone throne and carvings on the walls of masked dwarves fighting battles against other dwarves without masks. As they look around there is a popping noise and a red skinned figure appears on the throne.

Standing nearly seven feet tall the figure has colour where nothing else does, as well as two sets of horns set into his head. Believing him to be one of the mutants who occupy the city of Karse in the south the group are surprised when the figure introduces himself as a Djinn. They question him about the plague and while he claims to not be responsible for it he does know its source. He tells the group that they are currently in a land known as the 'Shadowfell', a dark reflection of the real world that exists on a different plane. The group stare wide eyed at him. Planar research had always been shifty and based on theories and here they stand in another plane. It seems that a group of devils were transporting something through the Realm of Death, linked closely to the Shadowfell, and had opened a portal to the mortal realms in order to do so. What they are transporting the Djinn will not say but he does reveal that the plague is a side effect of the portal they opened as part of their scheme. The group ask the Djinn for help closing the portal but he says he cannot. He is in the middle of a deal with the devils and cannot break his arrangement. But if someone were to kill his minder he would be more than happy to help.

The devil is a strange winged creature made entirely of ice. It lashes out with its tail when attacked, sending bolts of ice out that cut deeply into flesh where they strike. But the surprised creature is no match for the firepower arranged against it and with bolt, arrow and shot piercing its body it falls and melts into a puddle of ice cold water.

His minder slain the Djinn seems surprised, having entirely expected the devil to kill the group. He does however keep up his end of the bargain. He tells them that if they help transport a sword to another realm then he would give them more information about the portal. The realm he intends the sword to travel to is called the 'Feywild', a vibrant reflection of life that is antithesis to the Shadowfell. Murray gladly takes the sword, a dark iron blade that drips liquid hot metal, and the group step back through the portal into the Artificer's stronghold. Before they go the Djinn informs them that portals to the Fey are contained anywhere that nature is powerful. Back in the material plane and unsure what they have stepped in to the group prepares to travel back to the village of Notsur and tell the healer what they have found.


Part III: The Martyr

Stopping to rest and eat breakfast in the Artificer's hideout. Snorri finishes the last of the anti-plague amulets, discovering that they heal the bearer by transferring the negative energy of the plague to another location. Murray spends some time with the broken blade given to him by the Djinn and tells the others that it appears to be a fire-aspected weapon of some kind, Snorri confirming that despite being broken it is of exquisite make. Leaving the hideout the group begin walking as the sun rises, moving south-west back towards the village. Walking down the rocky hills into deep forests the group encounters some wolves, infected by the plague and frothing at the mouth. Killing the beasts Murray's new sword is revealed to burn those it strikes, splashing out molten metal on the diseased fur of the wolves. Washing off in a mountain stream the group continue past the two farms and arrive back at Notsur.

Stopping in to say hello to Beston and Blair at the Broken Arrow the group move to the fortified chapel at the centre of town and meet with Clovis, the healer. He is glad for the medallions, offering them to the group as a reward for bringing them back. He reveals that the thing linked to the amulets is himself. The amulets are bound by blood to an amulet that he carries and feed the plague and illness back to him. How he manages to contain the sickness and contain it he will not reveal but it becomes clear that he suffers greatly with the strain every day. He makes it clear that closing the portals to the Realm of Death will only slow the flow, not stop it. The only way to stop the flow is to kill the current Goddess of Pestilence. This idea excites Jimmy, ranting to himself about a "cosmic being". But unable to travel to the location of the Goddess at this point the group agree to go to the local barrows and close the portal there, at least slowing the spread of the disease.

Staying at the Broken Arrow for the night many of the group hit the innkeeper Agdan's supply of dwarven mead. Snorri stays sober and reads through Fletcher's journal, learning much about the Artificer's trade from the dead wizard. Jimmy negotiates with Agdan to purchase one of his wild pigs, believing the creature to contain the spirit of a mighty warrior. The next morning, hungover and blinking, the group travels out of the village and towards the barrows.

Barrows.jpg

Heading north-west the forest soon gives way to rolling green hills. Among the natural mounds sit a half dozen larger hills covered in dark stone rocks. The rocks are arranged in strange patterns and carved with ancient long forgotten runes. At the entrance to each barrow lies a stone door, carved into the rock itself in an age long past. And atop each hill stands a spattering of shambling figures, skeletons and newly risen corpses drawn here by the dark magic dwelling within.

Barrow skeletons and newly risen corpses are smashed aside in vast sweeps of Murray's new blade, shattered by Snorri's cannon and broken upon Galen's fists. The doctor fights with some skill, his hatred of violence not extending to those who flout the laws of life and death. Even Jimmy's new piglet cuts down the undead, head butting a skeleton into pieces with surprising ferocity. Moving towards one of the entrances the group are set upon again, the dark stones surrounding the entrance animating and liquifying into a strange ooze that flows over Jimmy and threatens to consume him. He is saved when Galen pulls him free and Murray cuts the ooze into a thousand burning pieces. Clambering down the broken stairs of the barrows the group are set upon by undead again. But these are not recently risen dead but centuries old skeletons still wearing their burial garb. They are smashed aside but not before one picks up Jimmy's pig and takes a massive bite out of its neck. As the undead fall silent Jimmy mourns his fallen friend, the pig he named "Oinkly".


Part IV: The Hunter

The silence of the tomb is broken as the heroes move deeper, encounter screeching spirits and more ancient skeletons. Murray's magic sword makes quick work of the ghosts while the undead are slain by shot, fist or arrow. Deeper in the barrow becomes more ornate, filled with traps to ward off would-be plunderers. Deeper in rusted suits of armour spring to life and heavily armoured undead rouse from their slumber to protect the tomb. As they begin to encounter more and more bodies Snorri insists that the group not rob from the dead and many gold filled sarcophagi are left unlooted. Moving into the ornate inner sanctum the group finds the source of the corruption here. A shimmering portal sits in the middle of an ancient chamber, guarded by a pair of strange armoured dwarves. The dwarves have not an inch of flesh showing, their faces covered in masks carved into expressions of pain and anger. They match the artwork seen within the Shadowfell fortress of the masked dwarves who dwell within that foul place.

Not hesitating for a moment Jimmy steps forward and casts dust into the portal. The Healer's magical dust does its work and the portal begins to close as the dwarves draw black iron hammers and move to attack. The dwarves move slowly, as if underwater, but resist all but the most deadly blow. Snorri finds his cannon's fire largely ineffective and even Murray's new sword burns less hot around the strange figures. In return the dwarven hammers burn where they touch, small wounds scarring and twisting the flesh. Eventually the figures are slain, their empty armour dropping to the ground as the souls inhabiting them are returned to wherever they came from. The portal closed and the barrow secure the group move to the outside, stumbling upon a stash of potions and scrolls as they attempt to find an exit. Eventually leaving the way they came in they make camp outside the barrow. Snorri identifies the potions and scrolls while Galen sees to their wounds.

Ignoring the others Jimmy makes his way off into the woodlands. Since the loss of Oinkly he intended to find a new pet and set out into the dense forest to track down a new friend. Following strange tracks he doesn't recognise he soon arrives at a forest clearing. Normally so aware of the lands around him he kept his head down following the tracks and by the time he head the growling from the forest around him it was too late.

Jimmy Hawkeye, who wandered into the den of a strange beast and was ripped to shreds.

Druid%20Hut.jpg

Unable to find Jimmy the group decides to travel back to the Village and await him there. They follow the river back to the road and travel south-west back to the village. Back at the Broken Arrow they meet up with Beston and Blair, still doing their best to make life in Notsur more manageable. Eating a strange meal of citrus and powdered meat the group settles in for a night of relaxation, still waiting for Jimmy to return from his hunt. The next morning they meet with the Healer and Clovis congratulates them on the closing of the barrow. As they had helped him he was willing to give them more information about how to reach the alternate realm known as the 'Fey'. He tells them that the Artificer's portal was operated with foci from each plane and that the druid, Telossk, had helped him in determining what elements to use. Leaving a message with the innkeeper Agdan for Jimmy the group sets out again to track down the Hunter, Telossk, and gain his assistance in operating the Artificer's portal.

Travelling back past the farms the group travels for a day and a night before reaching Telossk's hut. A simple house it is seemingly abandoned, the front flap floating in the wind and the torches cold for days. Drawing their weapons the group move in only to be thrown out by some supernatural force. Murray tries to go in again but is again thrown out, growing angrier each time. Eventually he draws his sword, molten metal flailing across the room and coating all within in burning hot liquid. A scream of pain resonates from the room as the invisible monsters is suddenly brought into sight by the burning metal. Their foe revealed the creature is blasted by Snorri and Galen until it lies still. In a swirl of wind the creature vanishes, leaving behind few clues as to its identity. There is also very little to determine where the druid is and even if he still lives. But in his pantry Snorri does find a shelf of strange coloured powders that seem to act as activation foci for the Artificer's portal. Each powder seems to align with one of the known other realms with a multihued sand seemingly the powder aligned with the Fey. As night falls the group camps out in the Druid's seemingly abandoned hut.


Chapter II: Other Realms


Part V: The Portal

A restless night follows in the Druid's abandoned hut, undisturbed but still restless. Galen expresses his wishes to travel back to the Village and unwilling to let him travel the wilds alone Snorri and Murray agree to accompany him. Travelling south through the woods they pass the barrows and arrive back in the village by midday. Sted Buckman and his caravan have arrived in town again, his wagons being unpacked and supplies carried in to the Broken Arrow or up to the Healer's enclave. As Galen heads up to see the Healer the others go into the Broken Arrow.

Over lunch they learn that the plague had spread in their absence, the city of Yartar now closed for quarantine on the orders of the Church of Light. Stedman also reveals that the dwarven city of Mirabar to the north had closed its gates for the first time in half a century, closing the upper settlement from the dwarven hold below. A strange newcomer also sits in the tavern, sipping at some watered down wine and drawing in a large book with a stick of charcoal. She speaks rudely to Snorri, insulting the dwarf even as she introduces herself as Tilly. An urchin from Yartar she had left the city just before the quarantine and accompanied Stedman to the Village. As Murray and Snorri move to leave she begins to follow them, convinced that they would lead her to her patron, supposedly a magical unicorn. Neither Murray nor Snorri have the tact to deal with the child so they decide to just let her come along.

Travelling on a now familiar path to the north the three strange companions pass the two farms and arrive at the Artificer's hut as the sun sets. Moving through the secret entrance and the magically carved halls they pass the rotting corpse of the Artificer and his assistant. The shimmering portal to the Shadowfell sits open still and now equipped with the Healer's magical dust Snorri closes it with a whip-crack and a flare of light. Over the following hours Snorri studies the portal and reads the Artificer's notes, eventually establishing how it works. Using the foci from the Druid's hut the stone circle shimmers and activates into a portal. The group steps through and are hit by a gust of cold air. Around them stand massive trees that create a layer of foliage that blocks out the sun. Despite this the area is well lit, the portal surrounded by henge-like standing stones carved with druidic runes. As Snorri and Tilly discuss whether this is the feywild a figure approaches, an ogre wearing leather armour and seemingly talking to himself. Tilly talks to him for a while, apparently fluent in Sylvan but eventually the ogre grows angry and attacks. A flock of sprites fly from behind the ogre and begin to shoot small bolts of magic that send the group scurrying into cover. But the tiny fey beasts are no match for the blasting ignus cannon of Snorri or the bolts of pure light produced by Tilly. As his sprites are slain the ogre's head is lopped from his shoulders by Murray.

Fire.jpg

Travelling back through the portal and closing it the group discuss what to do next. Having completed their deal with the Djinn they are more or less free to pursue their own goals. Snorri and Murray agree that it would be interesting to see where the other foci take them and begin to experiment with the portal. The first powder, a yellow sulfur, sends out a wave of heat as it is activated and before they can blink strange creatures leap forth from the portal. The size of small bears these dogs have cracked black skin from within which glows a red heat. The beasts lash out with flaming claws and jaws, ignoring the flames of Murray's sword and Snorri's firearm. It is only Tilly who saves them, her radiant blasts driving the creatures back and eventually turning them to ash. The beasts slain Murray and Snorri step through the portal to an incredible sight. Lava flows as far as the eye can see and the very air itself scorches and burns their skin. The sky is a broiling black smog. Even as his beard smoulders Snorri opens up his rifle and lets it soak in some of the energy in the air. Stepping back out of the portal they snap it closed.

Wounded from the battle and exhausted from their time in the realm of fire the group decide to rest in the Artificer's hideout. Setting out their bedrolls they set a watch and sleep on the cold stone ground. Exploring the Artificer's hideout Snorri discovers a shine to Dügmaroon, the dwarven god of research and invention. He spends the night praying at the shrine and when the others awake in the morning he informs the others that he has an idea about how they can return to the Shadowfell.

Placing some light grey dust in the focus point the portal shimmers open again, seemingly sucking light and colour from the room as it does so. Stepping through Murray and Snorri find themselves in the familiar terrain of the Shadowfell, grey and black hills and mountains covering a landscape lacking in any greenery or indeed any colour. A strange paved road splits the hills where the group appear and following the road for a while they spot a black stone castle in the distance. Even as they ogle the squat castle they are spotted from the road. A handful of blue crystalline figures begin to rush towards them, spitting bolts of ice from their hands as they are carried forward by frozen wings. Blasts of flame and radiant light smash them back and a charging Murray does the rest, his flaming blade easily cutting through the ice devils.

Travelling to the castle the group walk through familiar halls before reaching the room in which the Djinn still dwells. He is surprised to see them return but glad that they have completed their task. As they had taken the sword to the fey as he requested he would give them the information they requested. The source of the plague is a portal that stands at the end of the road through the Shadowfell. The ice devils were using the road to transport something and the portal was an unfortunate side effect of this. The portal was held open by an artefact and only be destroying that artefact could it be closed. Thanking him for his information the group travel back to their portal and pop back into the reality of the Artificer's hideout. Getting on his sending stone Snorri contacts Galen in the Village. They knew the source of the plague and would need all the reinforcements they could find in order to destroy it.


Part VI: The Shadowfell

The group sits in the artificer's hideout a while, discussing whether a trip back to Notsur was necessary to gather reinforcements. Snorri argues against it and eventually remains behind while Murray and Tilly travel back. The dwarf busies himself with burying the Artificer's body beneath a simple rocky cairn while the half-orc and child travel back through the dark woods and arrive at the village nearing midnight. They reunite with Beston and Galen in the Broken Arrow, also sharing a drink with the warrior Blair who had long ago accompanied them to the village. He had returned with Sted's caravan and having been regaled by Galen was eager to rejoin the group.

The next morning Galen does his best to rally the townsfolk to help them but finds few able to fight and fewer still willing. The Paladins cannot leave the side of the Priest and Agdan's mercenary days are long behind him. Only Beston and Blair agree to accompany him back to the portal. Surprisingly the Healer, Clovis, also agrees to join the group in their attempt to close the portal once and for all. His horse is saddled and he looks weaker and weaker as he travels away from his inner sanctum. Riding back up into the woods the group pass the village farms before arriving late afternoon at the Artificer's hideout.

Reunited with Snorri the dwarf reopens the portal and the now much larger group steps through. The Shadowfell remains the same as their last visit, a vast land of grey and black barely lit by a sun hidden by perpetual clouds. Ahead of them lies the long paved road and the black fortress dominating it. But the usually empty road is full of activity. Some two dozen ice devils of varying sizes walk in a motley formation around a chain of wagons. The wagons are pulled by large furred beasts of burden. Ducking behind a large rock the group watches as the train passes, too many for them to trouble at this stage. As the group hides Murray spots the shimmering of a portal at the top of one of the black stone towers nearby and once the army has passed the group makes their way towards it.

Shadowfell%20Tower.png

Intending at first to sneak in to the tower the game is given up somewhat when Murray drinks a potion and grows to twice his normal height! Ice devils blast waves of freezing air from within the fortress, smashing into the group until a massive Murray simply smashes through the ice wall blocking the gate. Spreading out in the fortress the group fight their way through ice devils who rush downstairs or spring from where they were waiting below. Murray smashes them aside with single smashes of his broken sword while Blair fights alongside him, rapier darting into necks and hearts. Tilly and Snorri sit back, blasting away with beams of radiant light and bolts of superheated metal. Any wounds are quickly dealt with be a diligent Galen while Beston summons up swarms of locusts or clouds of poison gas that slow and debilitate the ice devils. Eventually the group reaches the top of the tower where an armoured blue skinned figure stands before a shimmering white portal.

The figure summons forth a massive python made entirely of ice before darting away to fire arrows from a blue-glowing shortbow. Galen is grabbed by the massive ice-python and crushed by it's writhing body while Murray runs forward and attacks the strange figure. The figure dances away from his blows as the rest of the group try in vain to free Galen from the serpent. Eventually Murray summons his rage and shoots from his broken blade a stream of white hot flame that melt the figure into a pool of goo. Unsure about this new ability the group stops to rest a while, finding a stash of strange green speckled ingots in the bottom of the tower. Murray puts on the stranger's blue-tinted breastplate and Tilly takes his staff, the source of the ice python. The Healer casts a prayer of rejuvenation and the group searches the rest of the tower.


Part VII: The Plaguelands

As the Healer tends to Galen's wounds, to his discomfort, the group finds a box filled with alchemists fire in the basement. A score of vials sit in the box and they are soon distributed between those present. The group discuss their next move but Clovis tells them the source of the plague is within the portal atop the tower. Steeling their courage they all step through.

Stepping out into a cave formed of ice the group instantly feel that something is wrong. A feeling is rising nausea overcomes a few of them, emptying their last meals onto the floor of the cavern. The air itself smells rancid and the ice walls around them are greasy and muddied. Moving up through featureless corridors they come upon a massive ice crystal blocking the doorway out. As they approach the crystal is seems to animate, rushing towards the group and swinging wildly. Blasts of magic and sword blows seem to bounce off the unnaturally strong ice until Beston lobs a vial of alchemist's fire. The spreading green flame engulfs the creature and it screams in pain. Following suit a dozen vials are smashed over the beast, ice melting away to reveal a humanoid figure within. Without its shell the grey skinned creature within is quickly felled and the group moves out of the ice-palace into hellscape of a different kind.

A leafless forest of dead trees surrounds the ice palace while a broiling sky overhead has a slight tinge of green to it. The palace and sky are the only signs of colour but even their blue and green are far from vibrant. A paved path leads away from the ice palace into the treeline but the sounds of battle draw the group in the opposite direction. A group of ice devils are set upon by strange grey skinned humans with long bone claws. The humans are sickly and with a spit Snorri identifies them as no humans at all but undead. Believing the undead to be allies against the ice devils some are surprised when they turn and lash out with filth encrusted claws. A bloody melee erupts, briefly interrupted when a black scaled dragon appears in the sky and breaths a blossoming cloud of acid on the close quarters battle. Murray jumps up and wrestles down the dragon, holding its mouth closed until it disappears as suddenly as it appeared. Soon the ghouls and ice devils are slain but the group foster many bleeding cuts and bruises for their trouble.

Stopping to rest outside the ice palace the group sleeps surprisingly soundly, the Healer casting a ritual on them that mends their wounds and removes their tiredness. Snorri completes a ritual of his own, forging for Murray an ice shield made from the remnants of the beast within the ice palace. The light had not changed when the group rouse from their slumber, setting off refreshed along the road towards the strange sound of chains. Moving through the dead forest they soon find a man in a cage hoisted far above the ground. A thin man with very little hair asks the group to let him down and against Snorri's better wishes they do. Beston works hard to blast him free of his cage and Tilly names the man "Frazzles", later changed to "Frazzle Batches". The man thanks Beston for freeing him with a cold grin before disappearing entirely. That mystery behind them the group continues along the paved road through the lifeless forest.

The cobblestone path is long, weaving out from the trees and into a swamp-like area which gives off the smell of death. Blue flamed lanterns sit off the path and strange green skinned undead rise from the quagmire every few miles to attack the group. Snorri wards them off with his holy symbol while any who get too close are cut down by Blair's rapier or Murray's flaming sword. The ground becomes more and more marshy as the group moves on, the very air itself growing thick with smog and the smell of rotting flesh. Shells of burnt out houses are visible within the swamp while a single signpost points towards a ruined cathedral marked "Chei'br".

Dark%20Heart.png

The Healer leads onwards, drawn like a bloodhound towards the ruined cathedral. Within he finds a ground soft and marshy around a strange green glowing ball. The Cathedral is vast and rotting away and the swamp oozes with pus and excrement. The orb itself gives off puffs of green gas that cause the group to cough and retch. They had found the source of the plague. The Healer raises his holy symbol, a golden sun of the Lord of Light, above his head and begins to incant a ritual. White light emanates from him and threatens to overwhelm the green orb. But within the marshy ground things begin to stir.

Victims of the foul plague burst forth from the ground, their bodies distorted and spewing noxious gasses. Alongside them leap the grey-skinned ghouls, pestilent claws reaching forward towards the Healer. The group form up around him as the swarm approaches, his white light protecting them from the foul plague on the air. Wave after wave of undead break upon them, the slain bursting into blossoms of plague gas. Murray cuts them down three at a time, his massive flaming sword hewing into their plague filled bodies as a rage fills him. He darts away from the group, his bloodletting not holding back the undead but thinning them down before they reach the others. Those that pass Murray are met by Blair and Galen, furious kicks and a smashing shield sending them back as they try to push through to the Healer. Behind them stand Tilly and Beston, blasts of radiant energy evaporating the plague victims before they can explode and a whirlwind of magical air pushing them back to give Blair and Galen a moments rest. Snorri picks out targets with his ignus cannon, popping plague-ridden heads as they rise from the swamp. Minutes of bloody combat ensue, wave upon wave of undead cut down as they struggle to reach the healer. Beston begins to grow sick from the proximity to the plague while Blair and Galen received dozens of wounds from the ravenous dead. Eventually with a pop the tension on the air resides, the green orb bursting in a spray of light. The Healer's ritual is complete and the plague beasts fall into ash as his light blossoms outwards.

In the centre of where the orb once stood a young woman lies naked in a pool of water…


Epilogue

The Healer calls out to the woman, Constance, but she does not rouse from her stupor. Near death the Healer explains who she is. They were members of an order of the Church of Light responsible for healing and the prevention and control of diseases. Constance had decided that the mere control of diseases was not enough and had come here to try and hold back all disease and plague for all times. And she had managed for nearly a hundred years. But as the bubble overflowed the plagues that came out were far deadlier than those she held in would ever have been. The Healer was to take her place as the God of Pestilence, dolling out plagues and diseases where they belong and in manageable amounts so no build up occurred again. Tilly resists this proposal, asking why we could not simply have a world without plague. Snorri and Galen try to explain to her but her innocent mind doesn't agree. Eventually the group leaves, taking artefacts from the Healer to return to the material realms.

Moving back through the plague swamps and stone trees they find only scattered patrols of ice devils. Travelling back through the ice palace they close the portal behind them, closing another as they step out of the Shadowfell and back into reality.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License