Udett detects disease on the town well, and finds that the water is tainted with Blinding Sickness, but no Ghoul Fever. Annar ties a rope around his waist, and Ingmar lowers him in. Bobbing a few feet beneath the surface of the water, Annar finds a severed hand, clutching a wooden box and weighted down with a rock chained to the wrist. Annar easily fishes both and hand box out of the water, and Ingmar hauls him up.
The hand is human, Udett thinks it’s about a week since it was removed from the previous owner. The box is small and nondescript, but the lid is sealed to the rest of the box with wax, presumably making it watertight. Suspecting a trap, the party decides to head a quarter mile out of town before they break the wax seal and open in.
Inside the box, Annar finds a slip of paper, pasted to the bottom of the box and the lid, so that opening the box tore it in half. Spying the arcane marks on the paper, Udett determines that it’s similar to the alarm spell.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d get back in time to save any of your family and friends,” a reedy but sharp voice calls out from behind the party. They turn to see a short man, a hood covering his face down to his yellowed teeth, draped in a simple traveler’s cloak that splits down his torso to reveal the hilt of a blade at his waist.
“You did this? Who are you?” Ingmar asks.
“Someone who you’ve wronged a great deal,” the figure replies. The party starts to ask him other questions, but he cuts them off. “We can stay out here and chat if you’d like, but you probably want to rush back home and prevent my new friend from killing everyone.” The party looks at one another while the figure simply smiles, then they start running back to town.
As they’re running back to town, the players start to list off everyone that they’ve wronged throughout the campaign, trying to figure out who this person could be. They guess at least 10 names, include some people they’ve already killed, but they don’t guess correctly, yet.
Long before they get back, they can see pillars of smoke rising from the village center. Tatiana and flying Udett make it there first, and see their friends and family running about in a panic. Several of the villagers are being chased by grotesque humanoid lumps of flesh and fat – Udett remembers reading something about these creatures once, and realizes that they’re the Lavinian monsters known as demons. These ones are dretches, the lowest of the abyssal hierarchy. Something from around the corner of a building makes an unearthly roar – the sound definitely didn’t come from a dretch.
Charging into the frey, Tatiana lays into one of the dretches whose trying to kill a peasant. She lands several solid blows, causing the demon to cry and wail, but it doesn’t drop – these beasts have an unnatural resistance to damage she can’t bypass. Udett takes to the air and orders Carbonel to start stabilizing the wounded.
There’s a scream of pain where the howl came from earlier, and then a lumbering hulk walks towards the party. The thing looks like a massive animal from the eastern Lavinian jungles called a gorilla, but it’s head is that of a bear, and it has a pair of curved goat horns protruding from it’s brow. Udett knows it’s a demon, but it’s too powerful for her to identify properly.
As the rest of the party arrives, they realize that they’re too late to save everyone – the gorilla demon fells anyone within it’s reach, and Hjalmar, the stock boy that took over the general store when Brynjolf and Flynn disappeared, is torn apart by a lucky blow from a dretch. Most of the villagers have escaped, but Ulrich and emerged from the tavern to fight, and the blacksmith Cenwahl comes out from his smithy swinging a heavy hammer.
Tatiana presses on to stop another dretch from finishing off an unconscious peasant, when she hears a voice from right behind her. “Do you really thing you can save your soul? Do you think that I can’t?” It’s the mysterious figure from earlier. Leaving the wounded peasant to Carbonel and the dretch to Ulrich, Tatiana turns and attacks the figure with a flurry of blows. With astonishing speed, the unassuming figure draws a scimitar and parries and dodges all of Tatiana’s attacks. He then grins, backs up, and casts a spell – Udett recognizes the sobering tones of a greater teleport. He blinks away, but not far, only a block or two down the street, behind the gorilla demon but still in full view of the fight. “I already have one of you; how long before the rest of you realize you’re wasting your talents and join me?” he laughs. Someone finally figures out who this is.
Party, meet Mekketh the Whisperer. Don’t worry, party; Flynn’s already made all your introductions on your behalf.
Ingmar moves to handle the gorilla demon, while Annar, tired of this shit, charges straight at Mekketh. He tries to duck past the gorilla demon, but the beast’s huge hand lashes out and picks him up effortlessly. Udett starts hexing the demon while Ingmar lays into it with his holy sword – unlike the relics they got from the monastery, which only work on evil Gervasti outsiders, his warpriest enchantment cuts through demons just fine.
From the southern road, Mekketh calls out to the demon, identifying him as “Apaiel”. The demon looks at Mekketh, then snarls, but nods, and tries to cast a greater teleport of his own, but flubs the spell while trying to cast defensively. While the party continues to wail on him, Apaiel instead drops Annar and bellows into the sky, unleashing a thunderclap that injures the party and kills two of the wounded peasants.
Mekketh telepathically told Apaiel to stop wasting time with the party and get back to killing the defenseless villagers, starting with the blind mayor who hadn’t fled the scene yet, but the dice had other plans.
Frustrated by the demon’s failure, Mekketh teleports north of the fight and continues to taunt the party. “Did you find all of the children I visited while you were sticking your noses into places they didn’t belong? Are you sure?”
Bellowing a war cry, Annar charges towards Mekketh as Apaiel finally falls to the party’s combination of hexes and holy power attacks. Swinging his axe, Annar strikes true, and Mekketh howls in pain and rage as Annar deals him a blow that would have killed any mortal man. Mekketh simply snarls as thick black blood seeps from the wound in his side. He stumbles backwards as Udett summons a mountain lion to harass him, and snarls again as Annar steps up to keep him in range, but Mekketh casts a greater teleport – or at least, he tries to, but he flubs it just like Apaiel did
Two nat 1s for concentration checks. The dice wanted outsider death.
Annar strikes Mekketh once more before the Whisperer casts his spell successfully and vanishes. This time, he doesn’t reappear within taunting distance. He does give the party a parting farewell as he leaves, crying out, “Lord Harconus sends his regards!”
The party regathers and heals in case Mekketh returns, but the spirit is gone for now. They turn to the villagers, and heal who they can – still, four people, including poor Hjalmar, are dead, and three homes are gutted by fire. They start to discuss the things Mekketh said during the fight. They decide that they can’t risk that he was lying about the children, and ask the mayor to make sure every child in the village is brought to them to see if anyone else if infected with ghoul fever, or worse. Luckily for them, all the villages children are safe and accounted for.
While they wait for news to come in from the surrounding farm families, they also discuss Mekketh’s mention of Harconus. The party is split on whether Mekketh was telling the truth, and that Harconus is affiliated with the Elder Elemental Eye, or whether he was lying, for whatever reasons he had.
As they wait, Ingmar severs Apaiel’s head, and stuffs the noxious thing in the bag of holding. In addition, Tomas collects some of Mekketh’s blood from Annar’s axe, just in case.
-They spend a week in Kastoria to heal the illness and cure the blindness.
-They send letters to the surrounding communities, telling them to beware of strange illnesses.
-Tatiana checks on her manor; Nori is safe, and providing meal for the refugees from the north, but Enterro bars her entry to the manor – now that her aunt and uncle are imprisoned, the majordomo rules the household, and wants nothing to do with her.
-After the villagers are healed and safe, the party heads to Novo Ostia. Along the way, they stop at Edmund’s Run; their neighbors haven’t seen any invaders or plagues.
-On the road to the capital, the first of the season’s thundersnows arrive – the party takes shelter in one of the Horizon’s March way stations that Ingmar fixed up earlier in the year.
-Speak with the Spring cults, let them know a demon is/was involved. Asks them and the Tower to research possible means of preventing teleportation.
-Tatiana and Pandarus meet with Genevieve. She divines them both, and is sorry to tell Tatiana that her condition isn’t improving or slowing. She likely has six months left to live, and Pandarus less.
-Tatiana also stops by Stately Harconus Manor to speak with Redd. The summoner again suggests that she could replace her soul with something from the Far Realm, but Tatiana still isn’t buying it. Redd insists that she’s too hung up on the concept of “her” soul, and says that she should let go of her ego. On the way out, Harconus stops Tatiana and speaks with her. He thanks her for her service to Novo Ostia, and is pseudo modest about funding the rescue mission to the two villages. I’m pretty sure I’m missing something here, but I took pretty lousy notes that night.
-The party meets with the mayor. Ingmar asks her to have scouts watch Lothar’s movements during the winter; she assures him that scouts are in place, and the party will be notified if Lothar takes any unusual action. She also says she’s spoken with the Altenish and Grafteni ambassadors, but the response hasn’t been hopeful. Altenau does believe the threat is real, and they will field troops, but they probably won’t work together with Novo Ostia. Graftena is unlikely to commit to anything while tensions with Dahler rise. The party tells the mayor about the demon, and says that they’ve decided to head east to Zeta’s kingdom. They ask her for an official letter of introduction, but she suggests that they talk to the governor for that. Udett asks the mayor to send some soldiers to protect Kastoria during the winter – she says Lt. Drake and his 30 men will be sent immediately.
-The party meets with the governor, and he agrees to write them a letter. They also ask him more about Zeta’s position. He says that Zeta has maintained good relations with Novo Ostia to create a stable border to her west while she expands into the Empire to the east and south, and he doesn’t view her as a threat to Novo Ostia. She likely commands some 6,000 legionaries, but the majority of them are in the east.
-Udett speaks with Olaf. He’s looked into the merchants in town; Erwann, the biggest salt merchant, has stopped buying from his suppliers in Graftena and has started buying from Harconus, and has cut his prices to expand his market and push out the competition. One of the local herb and reagent merchants, Publius, sells many of the ingredients listed in the ledger, and he hasn’t changed his prices or started selling less volume recently. He’s also owned by Harconus.
-The party leaves a note for the Cowl saying that they think Harconus is linked to the EEE – they provide details of what they found at Darsen’s Grove.
-The party returns to the tower to speak with anyone who might know more about marrow stone. Genevieve is familiar with substance and what it can do, but she’s never heard of a golem made out of it before. She refers them to the local sage who knows the most about golems, an older, eccentric wizard named Hildegarde. In the upper floors of the tower, the party speaks with Hildegarde briefly. She knows (in a round about way) who created the marrow stone golem – a former sage from Vaasa that her master’s master knew. He abandoned the Tower for the EEE, and speaking of him is verboten, but Hildegarde is too old (and odd) to worry about politics.
-Before leaving the Tower, the party speaks with Archsage Taggart about the renegade sage. In very firm terms, he tells them that Hildegarde is mistaken, this individual never existed, and the party would be wise to abandon this line of questioning. They leave, but suspect Taggart knows something about this sage in particular.
-Ingmar finally gets speak with dead to work on Conlan, they ask three questions:
1: What do you know about Lothar and Mekketh’s future plans? – “The sun will set on you city for all time.”
2: What would be the best method to penetrate Lothar’s defenses? – “Surrender might save you.”
3: How can we win over some of Lothar’s allies to our side? – “Strength fears and respects strength.”