On the 4th day, after the groomsman killed four of their horses including Relb’s cavalry horse, the group splits up. Gide, Taer, Willup, Jonas, Derek and Bull stay in town while the rest of the group decides to explore the area, following the Mayor’s suggestion. By days end, the mayor has imposed a curfew and the exploring group has not returned. Gide is disappointed the Geri’s divinations of the stars have not revealed anything about their dreams and is worried that his “brain” is gone. With nothing left to do, he interviews Tanner Holmraf again, trying to sense any deception in his words, but cannot – though he admits to being nothing more than an aide to a herald and not a herald himself – either casting doubt on his tale or reaffirming the distance the Duke is trying to keep. When the rest of the party does not return, the people begin to get very nervous at sundown. Bull tries to keep the town watch pulled together but soon people are accusing each other and tension mounts. Gide is concerned about the strange effects of passing of time around them – starting with the tapestry and including the high volume of flies and accelerated rate of decay for dead bodies.
On the 5th day, in the morning, reports come in of a hired hand attacked and killed on a farm at the outskirts of town. Taer tries to recruit a local hunter, first with words and next with wine and words but he fails. Willup reminds Gide of his offer about the silver in Cerran’s Grant and that he is one of the Elon – the gypsies – and has some small ability to track. He would do this for Gide maybe in exchange for early release in the future. Taer gifts Gide his heavy armor – it no longer fits him after his transformation, though Gide’s fitted armor works better for now he has a backup later. Willup tracks eastward – the direction the party left, intending to follow on their journey to see if the effect area was shrinking. They stop at the farm where the attack occurred on their way out of town. Two figure attacked from surprise and seeming vanished up into the air. Tracks, cover and the state of the body reflect the dagger attacks and effects seen. The body is writhing with maggots when they get to it – advanced decomposition in hours not weeks. They burn it and can find no other clues and continue east. Nothing is found in the eastern direction but the buzzing begins after 3-4 miles. They return west, going back through town then towards Bergen, to mark the area effect there and run into a half dozen Umbakian regular infantry attacking 2 men on horse back. As you round a bend in the road, some encounter ahead halts you in you tracks. None of those involved has seen you as you make for cover and inch your way to a better position. Ahead about 70m they can see 2 figures on horseback, surrounded by a half dozen men in uniforms. In the few moments the situation explode into violence. One of the mounted men rears up, plunging down on a assailant with a terrified animal. The horseman is stuck from the side by a slashing spear and spills off his mount as it runs, terrified, in your direction. The other rider tries to pull out of the encirclement but the attacks try and pull him from his horse.
One man is pierced and falls from his horse as Gide and Taer charge in. The other leaps on 2 soldiers from horseback. Gide sees one of them run for cover before the fight is joined. The fight is a hard fight a sergeant, four leather clad spear men and a scout (left the area) are their opponents. The Umbakians shout in unison and use their high tongue to execute military orders. They may not be veteran soldiers but their tactics make up the difference. It is a hard fight, a long fight and Taer and Gide take several wounds and their armor endures much punishment. In the end, their leader even recognizes Gide, trying to goad him into misstep. After the last spear man runs away, the sergeant fights to the death. During the battle, Taer calls upon his goddess for the first time, resulting in a (coincidentally only – though he does not know) mammoth fumble on his opponents part. After the battle, one rider lies crying for help and bleeding on the ground – his arm a bloody mess and broken to the point that it will likely have to be amputated. The other is older and makes to bind of the wounds of his friend. He wears some sort of formal dress and the crest of an unknown lord. He asks for aid you for his friend. Once the wounded are seen to, he introduces himself as Christopher Redkind, junior herald of Baron Chervold G’marne of Westmere in county Faer. He says, “The wounded boy is Topher Jones – my aid. I believe I have found the Gallants – for whom I am searching on orders from my master. Braddon Bog can be only a short distance away – let us adjourn to that place and see to my friend and i will explain to you my mission.” Gide manages to pull risky bit of first aid but saves the wounded couriers arm against all odds. They gather up the Umbakians gear, the 2 couriers and return to town to inform the Mayor and find refuge for the men.
His master, the Baron, his name is Umbakian by name, but his henchmen will point to 400 years of service to the Duke of Dunstrand; his family left Umbak and its political infighting for a more stable condition under what the patriarch consiered a “fairer” man of the time – the Duke of Dunstrand. He brings greeting from his master. He will explain where the barony sits and that as a bordering territory to Bar-Innis he has a great care what happens there and has decided that he must know more of Dierdre’s agents. He asks them to detail what they know of the civil war, and adds that he can be trusted to say nothing ill either way of Berithor or Dierdre. He claims to have come from the court of Berithor and gone on to Bergen – where he can say the Umbakians hold the populace in fear, extorting goods and services for next to nothing for their crusade. He came upon the Umbakians they just fought who hinted that there was another party sent ahead of them a while back, whose orders were to let nothing through on the road to Braddon Bog. He will portray his master as a crafty politician caught in between greater powers and struggling to safeguard his own interests. He claims that the Baron is even now in Monaides under the guise of trade relations, and seeks the party’s return so that he may speak to them in person.
Gide provides some scattered details, probably only confirming what the herald knows already. Really, the herald is nothing more than introductions. The herald knows little of his master’s plans involving the party, and is only there to extend personal greetings and to get to know their character “in the field” as his master says. He will say they are traveling on to the east once their message is delivered. to meet with his master at the Tower of the Stag. Gide points out the situation and that there will be a problem until he can unravel the mystery of whats going on in Braddon Bog. The herald agrees to stay – though the Mayor complains about another mouth to feed when they arrive and explain the situation.
The 6th day after arrival is trying. Despite blessings from Fiongala, Willup can find no trace of the rest of the party. They do stumble across the remains of an Umbakian camp – larger then the force they encountered – perhaps the force referred to in conversation with Cristopher. The remains of an Umbakian raiding party is 3 weeks old and consisted of about a dozen on horses and came from the west. No corpses are found, just the campsite near the town. There is blood on the ground though, even bird and small animal maggot ridden carcasses are layered n top of the site – very strange. About 400 silvers worth of goods can be scavenged. The trail leads toward Braddon Bog, but strangely it slowly vanishes. A careful eye will spot many dead flies where the tracks end – though they are almost totally decayed and gone. The flies have eaten the mud and remains of the track – killing them! There’s been no other sign of the escaped Umbakians from the last fight. The townsfolk are starting to turn on each other. More assaults, robbery, and starvation. That night a woman is attacked in the market as the sun goes down. Her belly is ripped open. Her cries keep the townsfolk awake all night – she will not die nor can she be knocked unconscious.
On the 7th day Taer tries to persuade the villagers to end her suffering. With the mayor’s help they do, and Gide does the deed quickly in silence. The body is already festering with maggots and is burned. Few people are now eating or sleeping. Willup cannot find traces of the rest of the group. Finally on the morning of the 8th day he finds the picket line of horses and the old road leading into Tanegulch woods. The woods prove to be alive as they seek for more tracks and evidence. It literally attacks them – branches, moss, briars and roots – except on the road. Taer and Gide set off without their easily spooked horses and the rest of the Gallants tries to keep order in town, operating under Bull. The mayor takes them aside to tell them about the road they found. It leads to tarly Castle.
The Tarly family (now reduced to the Tarlwise branch locally) was once a very prominent and powerful family locally. They were the original rulers of braddon Bog. 300 years ago, the uncle of the Earl returned from a long career of adventuring and petitioned the earl for the right to build his own fortified castle in Braddon Bog. It was ideal for the Earl, and so he approved, hoping to gain a real, defensible ally in the lowlands. Tarly Castle was built on a rise, and a massive project hiring many locals filled in a surrounding bog land to make ordered fields and a stretch of good, solid land. Tarly Castle is the only castle ever built in the Lowlands. Wendel Tarly built his castle and founded the hamlet of Lenore, sister to Braddon Bog, outside its walls. His faith in Mizras, lord of battles sustained him in his long attempt to build – for it was veritably a war itself. Consutruction disasters and constant shifting plagued the castle. When it was completed, 8 years later, he was an old broken man. His faith and fortune deserted him, and he died, penniless and alone in his crumbling castle. All who visited returned with broken bones, crippled, and some few died from falls or drowned. Over the years the caslte has fallen in on itself. No one goes there because it is too dangerous to try and scavenge the materials. For those seeking treasure, none was ever found, and many lost their lives or their health seeking it. Rumor abound of loyal servitors and peasants who would not let their dream of greatness die – still serving their lord, spirits tending fields and livestock long since gone from the mortal lands. Tarly castle is nestled amidst the small forest of Tanegulch Woods, about 3 miles from Braddon Bog itself.
Gide remembers that Lord Wendel made his fortune fighting in the north. He adventured in the fallen Kingdom, fought the undead, fight the savage tribes and giants of the north. It is said his amassed fortune was more than the castle represents…
The mayor says its been a long time since anyone spoke of it, the locales talk about it in whispered tones. The road is long since vanished, as have anyone who remembers it. A few may be open to sharing what legends and rumors have been passed down. The group spends much coin and supplies in bribe to try and ferret out information without rousing any suspicions.
Rumors about Castle Tarly:
- He had friends from his adventuring days come through town once after the castle was built – they never returned from the castle.
- Some say he was in league with the Orrish in the swamp and an Everdark worshiper – the castle was going to be his base to launch attacks from.
- Strange lights appear above the forest and the spring and winter solstices.
Gide notes that it is strange that though the folk normally hunt small game around there (rabbits, etc.), no one in the town can remember going near there for the last few months at all.
The herbalist, midwife’s and healer of the town pass over much of the healing they have left to the adventurers at the insistence of the Mayor.
The Road to Tarly Castle
The road is an ancient overgrown affair, barely noticeable now. You can barely see the wagon ruts which once carried supplies to and from the place – It seems as if nature itself wanted to obliterate the path, for unless you knew that it was there, you would likely overlook it ten times over. Though road it may once have been, the overgrowth is dense; you will have to make you way single file. The road to the castle is obscured. Tanegulch Woods has overgrown the mile and a half winding stretch of road. The distance to Lenore is just under a mile, but the road follows the most solid surface to ensure travel was unimpaired, even through the rainy seasons. The party can easily track the road once they know where it starts – for there are stone markers every one tenth mile until the ruins of the Hamlet of Lenore. There are several encounters along the road. Once they see bone-thin woman in tattered clothes, holding an infant to her chest. She staggers into the road, one hand raised. He hair is thin, torn in patches. She looks near dead, and in a rasping voice asks for alms and food for her child. Taer sees the holes in her flesh and warns Gide not to provoke her. The pair give her food and alms and she passes them on. Several times they probe the woods, only to be repulsed. The wind seems to whisper, telling them to “gooooo baaaaack” several times. At one point Taer says they should be close to Lenore. Hacking through the underbrush, they stumble into an overgrown area that was once clear. Ahead they see an overgrown clearing surrounding the remains of a watchtower. The tower is a crumbling ruins – it looks dangerous, though the ruins are still the defensible. The remains of the road is easily navigable here – running right past the watch tower. They pass too the crumbling gatehouse – finding evidence of the fight that took place here and sensing something wrong – but no one attacks them.
Ruins of Lenore
Ahead the road opens to an overgrown area devoid of any but a few trees. The woods surrounding the town of Lenore or the Castle were never cleared much. They are dark and tangled – you feel the roots of the woodlands dig into soil that is evil, cursed and the wood soaks in that curse. The foundations of many buildings can be seen, all crumbled into the earth and few left above a meter tall. Even from the distance of 80m you can smell fetid death. The faint sound of flies buzzing can be heard. Nothing stirs here… a cold aura of fear washes over you. Your senses say nothing is there, but you sense something is not right. Beyond the town lies Castle Tarly. You must go through the town or approach the Castle through the dense and evil woods. Small patches of mist drift across the town surface, no higher than your knees.
They can see the trail leading to the old Church of Gaia. They begin to slog through the mud of Lenore’s ruins. As they approach the town, a few white forms can be see moving in their direction. A great black mass of flies rises above the town. A black cloud descends – biting, stinging, panicking animals around and imapiring your vision. Soon the white figures turns into a march of a dozen… no, more, maybe two dozen skeletons. Armed with spears they advance on you. Shambling zombie horses lurch from the mud. The smell of death and fear of overpowering and they flee from Lenore. The undead do not move beyond the town’s ruins. Gide asks Taer if he can sense anything… the follower of the fox goddess stretches out his intuition and finds a solitary spirit of the air still clinging to life, anchored by the sacred ground of Gaia. He senses anger and pain.