Our third session found the players delving deeper into the haunted keep both literally and figuratively. They pretty much finished exploring the ruins of the eastern tower and then delved below the keep. What they found below may likely take the campaign in a different direction than if they had handled it differently. I don’t want to mention spoilers above the break so if you want to know what I’m talking about, go read the recap of the third session or continue reading here.
Jason and Jon were missing this session. Rather than have two of the three players play two characters, Alok and Thorbird were essentially missing in action. More on this below. My DM comments, as usual, are in [brackets and italics]. There are potential spoilers for The Haunted Keep from the Moldvay Basic D&D set, The Haunted Keep from Dragonsfoot, and N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God.
After dispatching the troglodytes and a further discussion with Eldwin, the party elected to return to Bronby as their new “patron” suggested. Waiting until dark so as to minimize the chances that they’d be spotted, Thorbird headed back to Odgi’s while the rest headed to the Golden Grain for a fresh meal, an ale, and good night’s sleep.
The following morning, Edda, Gabor, and Laila all headed downstairs for breakfast. Sitting at a nearby table were Lutz, Hans, Fisk, and Hadi! Hadi, however, was not himself. Like the other three, he was largely non-responsive, lacking emotion or inflection in his speech, and generally just “out of it.” When asked about Adil and Lamya, his expression grew even more blank…almost as though the question “broke” whatever cognitive faculties he had remaining. When asked if he knew where Adil was, Hadi just looked around him and responded no.
[If I hadn’t mentioned her yet, Lamya is the woman that Hadi and Adil had been serving, as guards, on her travels to Dalstag (the largest town in the Dale). She was still missing.]
Bertram explained that Hadi had been found just wandering around outside and so he brought him inside to keep him safe. The party expressed concern that Adil was still missing and Bertram suggested that maybe the quartet of near mindless ones could look around for him. Hoping that these four might lead them, if not to Adil, then to something interesting, the party agreed. Unfortunately, once outside, each of the four just wandered in a different direction with no real purpose or clear destination.
[I think they may have even just stopped and stared off after walking just a short distance…almost as if their brains couldn’t process or focus on the task at hand.]
At this point, concern over Alok came to the fore of party’s thoughts. Checking his room, they found that his gear was missing and that the bed did not look like it had been slept. When Bertram was asked about this, he shared that Alok had left very early in the morning and that Bertram had already cleaned the room. Alok had provided no message for his companions nor had he told Bertram anything about where he was going or what he was going to be doing.
Since the posse search for Adil had proved less than fruitful, Bertram was asked about the location of the farmhouses of Lutz and Hans that had burned down. Perhaps some clues could be found there. The innkeep provided the information. Before heading out, the trio of adventurers decided to go fetch Thorbird as he also had not yet joined them. Unlike Alok, Thorbird was found in his “quarters” at the Slumbering Serpent [that’s the name of Odgi’s place]. He and Odgi were both in a drunken oblivion, slumped together behind the bar. Gabor posed the pair in a rather compromising position before the sober adventurers headed out. Odgi mumbled something about Charlene as he held Thorbird lovingly.
Following the directions that Bertram had provided, Edda took the lead. Her prior life as a woodswoman proved quite useful. The wagon track that the party was following did not look like it had been used in quite some time. The farther the party followed it, the more disused it appeared. A couple of miles out of Bronby, the track had all but disappeared just as some structures were spotted. A pair of long-abandoned farmhouses and assorted outbuildings were at the end of the track. All looked as though it had been years since they had been occupied and certainly did not have any signs of fire.
Despite thinking that they might have followed the wrong track, the trio decided to explore the ruins anyways. No clues or anything of interest was found in either of the farmhouses. As they came out of the second farmhouse searched, five armed men were waiting outside. Lutz, Fisk, Hans, and Hadi were all there holding spears. The fifth figure was someone the party had encountered at the constables a few days earlier, presumably one of the constable’s deputies. This “deputy” said that the trio of adventurers were under arrest for trespassing. Laila retorted that the farmhouses were abandoned so how could they be trespassing. The deputy suggested that the group drop their weapons and come quietly.
Needless to say, adventurers did not comply. The quartet were ordered to kill the trespassing trio as the deputy retreated. They did so, monotonously chanting “kill, kill, kill” over and over again. So, with heavy hearts, the party fought and killed all of the four. The deputy fled for a copse of trees and hid. Edda circled around the copse to prevent any retreat while Laila cautiously entered. She heard a small sound to one side followed by the sound of something thudding on the detritus a short distance away [a rock tossed by the deputy as all of the players immediately figured out]. The deputy rushed out and attacked. Edda joined the fray and the constable’s man was killed in short order.
Meanwhile, Gabor had given up any thought of pursuit, weighed down by his armor and gear. Instead, he began to strip the bodies of Lutz, Hadi, and the others. Gabor was convinced that he would find fang marks of some sort to indicate that the four had been bitten by whatever was changing the villagers [per one of the rumors that had been heard.] Gabor found nothing but his activity did raise the eyebrows of Edda and Laila, especially after the pose he had left Thorbird and Odgi…both wondered out loud about what sort of priest had they aligned themselves with.
Gabor did take the deputy’s chainmail as it was rather non-descript. Although all felt that Hadi and the others deserved a decent burial (the deputy was not included in those thoughts), they had no tools with which to do so. Instead, the bodies were dragged into the forest so someone casually passing by would not spot them.
Instead of heading to the keep and dealing with the bandits as they had been hired to do by Eldwin, the trio decided to explore another area that Bertram had claimed had burned down…the village’s temple. It was easy enough to find. A short distance north of Bronby, the burned out husk of what could easily have been a temple was found. A graveyard sat next to the ruin. Soot-covered walls and floor made of stone had survived the fire, but the roof and much of the interior was destroyed.
The main alter, also made of stone, looked like it had been sundered. It was impossible to tell if this had been a result of the fire or if something else had sundered it.
A set of stairs leading down was found. Hoping to find something to provide a clue about what has been going on, the trio lit a torch and headed down. A rather large cellar was found. As the group began their exploration, a shuffling noise was heard from the darkness, followed by a groaning. A creature that appeared to be covered in horrible but old burns shambled to the edge of the torchlight. It growled and made a threatening gesture but then slowly moved away.
Thinking that it might be afraid of the torch’s fire given its burns, the party pressed forward. The creature retreated at first but then stood its ground. When attacked, it returned in kind but not force. While Edda’s blow struck solidly, it didn’t even seem to faze the thing; the thing’s blow in return nearly was nearly mortal. Much to their relief, the undead priest [as the players labeled the thing, presumably thinking it was the priest of the temple who had been reportedly killed in the fire] did not follow.
Instead of heading back to Bronby, the adventurers decided to look around the graveyard [perhaps seeking their own final resting place?]. Laila specifically started to search for headstones for Lutz and the others, thinking that perhaps they had died and the group had been interacting with some sort of zombie. Their search turned up nothing of the sort but they did find that thirteen graves had been exhumed and the bodies were missing. All looked to be graves of adults from the size.
Disturbed and wounded, the trio headed back to the Golden Grain to recuperate. On the way back, they stopped at Odgi’s to check on Thorbird. The pair of drunks had shifted position and looked like they had been fighting with each other, both had bruises, fat lips, and the like. Ale had clearly put an end to whatever disagreement had led to the fisticuffs [that whatever obviously being the compromising position that the pair found themselves in]. Gabor lay the two side by side facing each other, a little too intimately than they would like. Again, Edda and Laila wondered about the religious rites of their companion.
Back at the Golden Grain, they inquired of Bertram about Adil and Alok, hoping that one or the other may have returned. The innkeep said that neither had. In addition, the other four had never returned from their “search” for Adil. The party shared nothing of what they had encountered but it was pretty obvious that they had been in a fight or two before settling down for a good, long rest.
After resting, a visit to they mayor’s was in order. The party largely filled the mayor in on their activities, leaving out, of course, their encounter with Eldwin. Mayor Ormond shared that he knew that Lutz, Hans, Fisk, and their families had gone missing but he had not known that any of them had returned. The party asked about the burned down farms and the mayor shared that the farms of Lutz and Hans were to the north of Bronby and not to the west! In fact, the two abandoned farmsteads to the west had belonged to the mayor’s cousins but they had left years ago.
When the group shared the information about their being attacked at the farms, the mayor shared even more interesting information. The deputy, from the description provided, was a man named Donavan. Both Donavan and Constable Grover had gone missing some time back. When they returned they weren’t quite themselves for awhile. Others in the village, such as Bertram, had also been away for a week or two at various times but seemed fine when they returned. So while some folks who went missing and came back had “changed,” it didn’t seem possible to identify everyone that might be involved. Bertram, despite his pleasant demeanor, certainly seems involved. [What might that mean for Alok? Bertram said that he had left but was that true.]
The party also shared that they had not yet finished exploring the keep and that they planned on heading back to deal with the bandits. They also let the mayor know about the undead priest at the ruined temple and the thirteen graves that had been exhumed and the bodies missing in the graveyard. This all seemed to be a bit much for the mayor and started to grow a little hysterical. His guard, Traver, escorted the party out, insisting that they come back and report as well as noting that it would take some time for him to get the mayor to calm down.
With that, the party decided to not return to the Golden Grain but head to the Slumbering Serpent to find Thorbird and clean the place up a bit. It looked like they’d have to be staying there in the future.
[And that’s where we ended the session. Hopefully, I didn’t miss much of anything this time.]