The night after freeing the slaves from the orcs was a cold one, and everyone huddled around their campfires in the snowy ruins of Murat. Guyver put meat on the menu by killing a moose with a great show of mechanical sportsmanship. You all questioned Melvin, a human member of the Diggers Guild who was a member of Greta’s expedition. He told you how they were taken by surprise by the orcs, and how the rest of the expedition dropped everything and ran for the airship while he tried to salvage equipment and was left behind.
Meanwhile, Maelgyn was having a surprised reunion with 3 of his former villagers. Elyk and Elya, siblings who worked at the tavern, were overjoyed to see another neighbor alive and well. They were out gathering firewood and herbs in the woods when the town burned and knew nothing of its fate. Gregor, a hunter from the village, was silent. Later he approached Maelgyn and told him in a low voice that he had been returning to Murat as the catastrophe struck. The catastrophe was a giant beast, and Gregor was convinced it was Maelgyn gone berserk in animal form. He told Maelgyn to leave and never come back.
The following morning, you took off in the Albatross with Melvin, setting sail for Cal Bolgar, a dwarven city not far from Murat, to seek help for the freed slaves. Arriving there, the party split up. Maelgyn went to drink and contemplate what he had learned, in the process meeting a very decent bartender. Sigrun followed Maelgyn and spent most of her time fending off unwanted advances from a dwarf bro. Finn and Daelwyn tried to con Cal Bolgar citizens by using magic to convince them an ancestral spirit wanted them to give money to Daelwyn. It worked. Daelwyn also met a man convinced the bearded spectral Finn used to deceive the dwarves was a relative of his.
With help deployed to the freed slaves, the party set off for the nearer of the two remaining expedition sites, a small village called Tristram (ominous background music). As they approached the tiny village, the rains, mists, and gray skies seem almost oppressive. A large number of farm fields seem almost untended.
The few streets in the town seem nearly deserted, so the party goes into the one tavern they find in the main square. The three patrons of the bar don’t respond to their entrance. The bartender wouldn’t respond except with grunts and glares.
To investigate, Finn attempted to detect magic. Immediately an overwhelming atmosphere of magical influence was clear to his senses. And just as immediately, the bartender and his patrons began advancing on Finn in a very menacing way. The party attempted to restrain them while Finn mustered a dispel magic spell. This created a bubble clear of magical influence around the halfling. You were able to question the bartender in the minutes of clarity Finn’s spell bought. He appeared to believe that it was a bit over a year ago and described a song coming from the ground that he couldn’t get out of his head, then everything got fuzzy.
You restrained/stunned the bar occupants, but peered out the window to see that in every window in the square a villager stood, staring unblinkingly and menacingly toward the tavern. As you exited by the side way, villagers began to pursue you, slowly, silently, and implacably. You raced through the town, with Maelgyn carrying Finn as he desperately tried to maintain his anti-magic bubble. Your destination was the second “church” spire, an abandoned academy that seemed as good a place as any to hole up.
You arrived at the academy to find its doors and windows boarded and locked, with a crowd of silent villagers glaring and waiting outside of the bubble’s range. Maelgyn transformed into a rat and slipped under the closed door to find a humanoid figure with a club waiting for anything that might open the door. Outside, consultation with Vannay through Daelwyn’s flower proved fruitless. You were just about to break down the door when a voice from inside spoke; the figure on the other side of the door was an old woman and still had her wits.
In the safety of the academy kitchen, you became more formally acquainted with Nicolette, a priestess of the same goddess of secrets that Sigrun worships. But she reacted with disgust and anger at the sight of Sigrun, saying the dwarf was an exile and oathbreaker, and that the very fact that her companions knew her faith so freely was evidence of her further culpability. In exchange for food, Nicolette reluctanty agreed to share some of her more pertinent secrets.
The church of secrets had heard tell of a secret Imperium ruin, deep beneath Tristram. The contents were unknown, but it was thought to be some sort of storage facility, and it was suspected that access could be gained through the disused catacombs beneath the town. The abandoned academy appeared the perfect cover acquisition, and Nicolette came to use it as a base for ventures into the dark. But then the town went insane, and she has been surviving on scraps and forays into neighboring houses ever since. She showed you the excavated hole in the basement which was the extent of her explorations, and wished you well in discovering whatever mischief had caused the present situation.
Now it is time to go into the dark.