We had been enjoying good ale at the pub as Joeske distributed our new items, and gold. My fine new magical elven leaf armor is not as heavy as my old hide, and should make my movements in battle much easier. As we were finishing our ales, the Sheriff came to us in hushed tones.
Given our reputation of taking care of odd problems, he came to us with a dilemma. A few days ago, two men were found dead, and their companion was found raving mad standing in the middle of the road. Given the men’s reputations as con artists and tricksters it was not a stretch of the imagination that they had finally been caught and pushed for one of their many misdeeds. What brought them to the Sheriff’s attention, and now is that just this morning two more bodies were found in the sawmill. That got our attention.
We all saddled up and headed out to the sawmill. It was upstream and was a necessary, but known nuisance for its neighbors. The previous few nights it has not been running, but the previous night it ran all night causing quite a stir; when the morning shift came in to start, they found the bodies. Soon as we arrived Morfin and I started looking for clues. One of the victims, Banny Harker, was found pinned to the wall by having the tool hanging pins bent over his ankles and wrists, and in the middle of his chest a 7 pointed star had been carved. Also his face has been peeled off with a sharp knife, and his lower jaw removed. Josek commented that by removing the lower jaw the spell ‘Speak with dead’ became useless. This corpse would be telling us nothing.
The other corpse found was the daughter of the local general store owner, Katrine Vinder. Our own Tyrell had gotten into trouble with him when he had been in a compromising position with his youngest daughter. Now list oldest daughter lay on one of the machines, her head split in two by a splitters ax, and the same star carved into her as well. Rumors told that she and the man would meet here for late night trysts. The sound of the machines would drown out the sounds of their lovemaking. Something found them here last night.
After a closer examination of the bodies, I found that each had a series of claw marks, and not claw marks made by any animal I knew of. It was as if a human had grown those long claws. Not a pleasant thought. We also found a terrible stench clinging to the girl’s fingers. Looking closer we found a foul, undead substance under her fingernails. She had scratched and clawed herself at her assailant. She went down fighting that was for sure.
Despite the number of people who had been in the sawmill that morning Morphin and I were able to find a set of tracks leading from the dock into the mill, and back out again. This could mean one of three things. One, the creature came to the mill on a boat, tied up, killed them, and then took the boat on down the river to escape. As no boats were seen near the crime, it did not seem likely. Two, the creature, most likely an undead, had walked down the river to the dock, climbed out, killed them, then went back the way he came. Three, and the most likely to me, was that it was on the other side of the river, walked through the water, and up into the mill, then went back the way it came.
While the others were arguing over how they were going to search the other side I turned into an Eagle, which to my surprise startled everybody EXCEPT Lexi. In my winged form, I was able to soar above the trees, and search out the other side of the river without dealing with a boat or other means of transportation. After about fifteen minutes, I spotted the same footprints coming out of the marsh and going in. I couldn’t’ track it from there. I flew back to my companions. I started to explain to them what I found until I realized all they were hearing was the squawks and screeches of an eagle. Hating to have to do it so soon, I changed back into myself, and gave them my report.
We needed to examine the other bodies. Thankfully, they were being kept in the cool basement of the barracks. While the others went and got more information, I went to look more closely at the bodies themselves. Just as our sawmill victims, their jaws were missing, as well as their faces. They too had the seven pointed star carved into them. After closer examination, I found that they too had the same claw marks as our more recent bodies. This did not bode well.
After recapping what I found, with what my companions had found we headed for the local insane asylum. Telchar had found that the seven pointed star we had seen was actually an ancient Thesalonian rune. A local scholar, and former adventure lived in town was able to tell him about it. We were going to have dinner with him later tonight. Lexi and the other’s found out that the place where the con artists were killed was the ancestral home of Lexi’s beau, Aldern Foxglove. That bit of news seemed to pale Lexi, but I chose not to comment on it. It is safer for all of us that way. I also learned that the charlatin’s had a companion, Grayst Sevillam who had survived but had been driven mad. He was currently at ‘The Saintly Haven of Respite’, better known as Habe’s Sanatorium. Thinking it was our best option, we rode to the sanatorium to speak with the survivor. We were not sure what we were going to find. It was not a good place to be.
Erin Habe, the owner, had been studying the poor man. The man had contracted ghoul fever, and was slowly succumbing to it. We did manage to get some information out of him. He had been told to give Lexia a message from “His Lordship.” Soon as he did so his transformation was complete. Thankfully Telchar was ready to smite the thing should it turn aggressive. None of us seemed to be pleased with how Habe had been treating his patients, but we couldn’t punish him physically. Let us just say if he continues to do more harm than good he might get his ledger called due.
When we got back to town, someone was raving about ‘killer scarecrows’ near the Hambley Farmstead. We chose to investigate them despite it been near nightfall. The first scarecrow we ran into was a goul and did not last long. The next Telchar chose to just stab it. Unfortunately, there was a man inside it and Telchar nearly killed him. Thankfully, Joesek reacted quickly and kept him from dying. Once he was off the pole, and Telchar had apologized, Joesek and I examined him. We found that he was in the final stages of ghoul fever. He was not long from this world and there was little we could do for him. Joesek offered him last rights before sending him to his god as painlessly as possible. This put us on alert the whole way to the far. As we neared the far we heard odd howling, and rustling in the fields. We made to charge into the barn, but all the horses but Traveler and Starshadow started to balk, Morphin’s horse even bolted, once he was off it.
We discovered why when we got inside. In the far corner was a group of ghouls and what I learned later to be a Ghast, that let off a stench you would not believe. If you were not strong of constitution, you would be heaving your dinner for a while. Hoping to stop them from advancing too quickly cast a spell to entangle them in waist high weeds. Great try but it only managed to catch my companions. Thankfully they really did not have to move because we beating the crud out of those things when they advanced. Morfin and I took on two of the ghouls, while Telchar, Tyrell, and Bagheera took on the ghast and other ghouls. Thankfully, Morfin and I both have Elven blood so the paralyzing effect of the ghoul’s bite did not affect us, unfortunately, Tyrell was not so lucky. He would have been a goner if not for Telchar turning those things to mush.
The battle done we must hold up in the barn and wait for those things to come to us. The thick grain of the fields makes travel through them at night not just dangerous, but surely a death sentence. I heard the undead howls and unsettling sounds linger.