The Story So Far New Cyre to Liford
Ambushed at the ford
A little Breland town is willing to take in Cyran settlers. After some negotiation and charity, a group of hard working people formed an expedition to emigrate from New Cyre to Cat's Cradle. William d'Deneith volunteered to lead the expedition, and Rune went along to take care of them. Galinn, a mysterious eladrin, cut some kind of deal with one of the leaders, Ardnell, to come along as well. All went smoothly until they reached the local capital, Starilaskur. There the expediton picked up n'er do well Lisker, in a hurry to leave town. Thorn joined them as well, drawn to the families looking to make a fresh start. On the road, Galinn and Thorn tried to do some training with the settlers, in case of trouble
After leaving Starilaskur, the settlers picked up a travelling peddler, Denessia Jangles. The local smoothes their way into the small fishing village of Liford and they receive a warm welcome. News of the settlers precedes them. They hear about Brook, the shifter shepherd from Cat's Cradle who arrived and bought and bought sheep. While there, they learn of an outlaw on the run in the region, Lyta Giard. Konial of Hatherill, the local Orien mail-carrier, has wanted posters for her. She is wanted in Thrane for theft of alchemical reagents, with rewards posted for information about her (5gp), her death or capture (120gp) and the recovery of the stolen goods (240gp). He describes a group of bounty-men hunting Lyta on the road. He leaves before the settlers on the road to Cat's Cradle next morning.
They come at night
About midday on their last leg, disaster strikes. Lyta Giard and her band of brigands ambush the settlers while fording a creek. They seem to want the people themselves, not goods, but when Thorn spots a goblin, the fighting begins. When Lisker uses his black magic, he draws immediate attention from the bandits. Lyta orders her men to take Lisker alive. Many of the settlers simply find cover, a brave few face the bandits and many are hurt. Three goblins and Rago's twin sister, Roga, escape. Lisker suffers a lot of damage and erupts in a mass of jagged black tendrils. His transformation renews him, but he doesn't quite have control of it, and the things scar one of the mules. Late in the battle, the settler youth Tann taps into a hidden source of primal power to chase off the last of the goblins. Once the bugbear goes down, Lisker returns to normal and passes out. Only one of the settlers dies in the fight, but many of them are grievously injured and their beasts and vehicles are a shambles. The adventurers win the day, killing the bugbear Melgar and capturing halfling slinger Rago and Lyta herself (though she is badly injured).
In searching them, the adventurers find a +1 longsword (now William's), +1 long knife (now Thorn's), a healing potion, 40 gold and 40 silver.
The settlers pull together to get moving again, lent urgency by Rago's dire warnings of hordes of rats that come at night. Tann begins to talk to a raven-spirit and insists on taking Lisker's hand, and gets hurt - just like he promised. The most injured members go downstream in a few rough-hewn canoes William found, along with the eladrin. Thorn finds the woods unsettling - no life but birds. Once the wagons are repaired and the wounds treated, the settlers get moving again, the day wearing on fast.
After nightfall, the settlers circle up and set fires to defend themselves from the rats. As second watch rises, the rats find them. William raises the alarm before they can encircle the camp, but bears the brunt of the assault. They avoid the fires and go for the first living thing they can find, attacking fearlessly. The fight is not long over before Thorn warns that there are more rats gathering in the woods. After a tense wait, another swarm arrives, this time more coordinated.
The second time, two swarms tie up the heroes while a dire rat, Clooney, tries to reach Lyta. Clooney recognizes the William's dragonmark, as well as Thorn's attacking spirits, saying "Not Again! Sentinels and spirits will feed the night this time!" Clooney has some command of darkness, and must use it to escape. He leaves with a dire warning, "Sleep while you can." Tann suffers multiple wounds holding off the hordes with Rune's help. The rats themselves dissolve into a dark-ground-clinging mist after death and somehow nourish Lisker in a new way. Lyta wakes up and advises them to strike a sunrod. Lyta tells a little of the story of the rats.
The Bandits at the Castle
The caravan rests for the remainder of the night. In the morning, Tann has some sort of malady that makes him flinch from the sun, a curse from the bites in the night. Lyta hints that Lisker might have family from this area, and that he might be "high priest to whatever power is at work here."
They reach Cat's Cradle by midday. They find a farm that was attacked in the night, with no sign of the stock or the farmers. Again, Denessia vouches for the travellers to locals they meet and they press on to the bridge. There the reeve, Vidar Woodwright, greets them formally. They cross over to the town square and enter the impressive inn, the Chimera's Stand. The innkeep treats them to a full meal and soft beds. After Lyta fails to gain sanctuary in the Ghallanda enclave, the reeve locks up the criminals and releases Brook, accused of the money the town had entrusted to him.
The Shifter and the Shrine
Brook tells the PCs his story. html_removedHe was ambushed at the Ford. Lyta, Melgar and the goblins took him up the creek to a ruined castle. Something in the dark below the castle ate the sheep and his dogs, but he escaped. He was lost in the woods, but followed the spirit call from the waterfall shrine back to town. The shifter tribe believed his story, but Vidar didn't. He draws a rough map of where he thinks the castle is.
They make a deal with Rago for him and his sister (of she'll come quietly) of banishment. In exchange, Rago tells them everything that's happened to the bandits since they found the castle. Rago describes the clank (a kind of big early warforged) that is probably still there at the ruined castle. Clooney and the halflings are the first to investigate, and Clooney finds a mural of the lord of the castle, pictured with a big black hand and a giant rat. Clooney falls down a well and crawls out of the cave. First, he ate all the rations he could find, babbling in a foreign tongue. Lyta gets Clooney to talk and he says, "html_removedThe lord returns,' 'Scavenger Rat, Lord Blackhand, the devouring touch,' now he looks back into the dark cave, 'the night shard lives again, power out of darkness, lord of this land.'
Lyta thinks there's a dragonshard in there and wants it, so she traps the entrance, sets deadfalls on the trail to the castle and starts setting ambushes on the road. They catch Brook in one of these ambushes and then they catch Konial, the Orien mail-carrier. Konial tells them about the settlers, which is why they set their ambush at the ford.
In town, Tann meets Brook, who explains something of the Spirit Way to him, and urges him to visit the shrine. How to find it? "Just follow your nose," he says, then he heads off as night falls.
After the long interrogation of Rago, Rune goes for a walk and runs into Hazel and Burr, Brook's family. Hazel talks of Brook as if he's changed since being locked up, and he doesn't actually want to see them. After a few hours sleep, the Raven wakes Tann and William wakes to the sound of a distant Deneith Klaxon. The Raven leads them out in pursuit of Brook. The climb a trail beside the river, up a steep incline to the falls and the Joining Shrine.
On the island in the river, Brook has lost his mind. He seems to be torturing someone, and when the adventurers don't leave, a shadow-beast appears to bar their way to the island and the shifter starts shooting at them. Tann swats the shadow beast, then leaps the river, brimming with primal power. Brook fights even though he thinks Tann has turned into "one of them." Brook also identifies William as a Sentinel, who "left it here to feed on us." Despite unnatural resilience, Tann brings down the shifter with Rune and William's help. On the bank, the shadow beast reforms and fights Thorn and Lisker to a standstill. Lisker hits the thing with his black magic and it disappears, this time for good, but as it goes, Carric cries out in pain. Tann feels as if he has come into his full power as a warden. On the island, the adventurers meet Carric, the elf shaman of the shifter tribe. He tells them how Brook came to him confused and angry, demanding help against a disease consuming him. The shaman's spirit companion succumbed, "the Teeth seem to want spirits most of all."
Lisker reveals to William to extent of his dragonmark, a powerful abberant mark not seen since the War of Marks. Carric urges William to approach the stone cat at the head of the shrine. The Mark of the Sentinel reveals a ritual focus hidden in the eye of the sculpture. The valuable crystal (100 gp) makes the Eye of Alarm ritual permanent and when William touches it, he receives a stored memory, set by a Sentinel Marshall in the distant past. They, too, were fighting the Black Hand, and had allied with the spirits.
Brook recovers quickly from his wounds, but is still dangerous, controlled by the Teeth. In bringing him home, he attempts to escape in the river, revealing that he has become a wererat. The heroes bring him in before he can escape. Shaman Carric goes to help to shifter tribe, attacked that night by the rat hordes. He worries that others might be corrupted as Brook has been. The adventurers make the long trip back to Cat's Cradle.
Rousing the reeve from his rest, the adventurers imprison Brook in the courthouse again. Vidar uses a well-concealed pair of silver manacles to secure him and reveals that he was once trained to join the Inquistition of the Silver Flame in their war on werebeasts. He tells Rune what he knows about wererats, but can offer little insight into what's happening in his town. The condition is not normally infectious, only passed by birth.