Location: Forests west of Rilan
Date: Late Trical, 1333 Avard
At Thalessa's farm hold, the future was looking grim. Unseasonably cold nights and a deep blizzard had announced the arrival of winter a bit too early. The shades that had attacked the farm had wiped out the sheep and the rye. The potato stores were still intact, and would be fine for the next year, but making it through the winter would be difficult. Thalessa had little wealth left to spare, other than the runestones she had been accumulating. What little she had left would get the families through the winter, but they had no margin for error.
One of Gaben's boys returned. The snows and ice had buried many plants that usually held on through the winter, but they had revealed an old stone manor, partially buried under a landslide, just up the valley. The farm hold was visible from the manor, but the manor was difficult to see from anywhere but almost on top of it. The manor seemed haunted.
Fearing another problem with shades, Wellby and Mara went to investigate. Working cautiously, they could see just enough inside to determine that there was at least one warforged within. Rather than tackle it themselves, they headed for Rilan.
Minetta and her father had received a commission from the king to investigate the warforged. Those remnants of the Storm Wars were still sometimes found, although most had no power supplies to speak of. Some few had been found that still worked, but they were rare. The commission required that the tinkerer acquire knowledge and parts regarding the warforged, and he had settled on Rilan – a central location in the kingdom – to base his operations. His shop was located near the docks with access to a nearby warehouse, and he had acquired enough parts and pieces to put them on display in the hopes of attracting trade.
Mara and Wellby enticed Minetta to leave with them, and the three returned to investigate the mostly buried manor after an evening in the farm hold. Minetta entertained the children and talked with the adults, and got a good night's rest.
In the morning, the three of them took one of the wagons with them, pulled by three of the mules. With luck, the warforged would be safe and inactive, and could be transported back to Rilan.
There were fresh prints in the snow, leading into the manor. They came from over the ridge, from outside the valley, so Mara and Wellby suspected one of their neighbors, or an outlander.
The manor was mostly covered in dirt. Perhaps half a century earlier, it might have been mud, but it had long since grown through with tress and brush. Only a corner of the manor was exposed to the outside, but the inside looked to be more or less intact. How it was not filled in with mud and dirt was likely due to long-faded magics that protected the manor. The cobbles were barely visible in some areas, and dirt and small bones littered the corners.
Mara took up a defensive stance, while Wellby scouted the perimeter of the room. Minetta examined the warforged, and saw that the spark crystal was in shards, its power long since lost. There were often backup, smaller crystals to keep the memory core intact – but even the backup was shattered. The warforged was completely dead.
Wellby peeked into the next room, and saw the body of Arnold, sometimes called the Walker. He was a hermit that walked the lands, occasionally staying the night at one farm hold or another. He was a decent sort of fellow, knowledgeable in herbs and game animals, always bringing more than his share when he came to visit. Arnold was the sort that needed to be alone, most of the time, but when the urge to visit with people came, he would take a walk and see what had changed. His corpse lay face down, a bejeweled box open beside him.
Wellby examined the box, seeing the image of a dragon done in mother-of-pearl on the inside of the box. The room was otherwise empty. Arnold had no wounds that they could find.
She closed the box, marveling at its construction and beauty. When she opened it, again, a dragon attacked them. The dragon burst through the door of the room, shattering rocks and stone, its maw gaping and ready to rend the flesh from their bones.
She dropped the box, and it landed on its side, and then tipped over, closing the box. The dragon… disappeared.
Other things within the manor, however, began to move.
The warforged at the entrance strode into the room. From each of its forearms, blades of metal extended, and it began to attack them. A second warforged fired bolts of metal at them from each of its forearms. A third warforged came in from another room – and it fired not bolts of metal, but ghostly skulls at them that aged the flesh and caused rot wherever it touched.
Minetta flung a rope up into the ceiling, and climbed it, calling for the others to join her. Wellby needed no encouragement to flee up the rope into the magical, extradimensional space. Mara was last, but made it up the rope, her metal plate armor protecting her from the bolts and blades of metal – but the ghostly skulls took a toll on her, ignoring her plate armor as though it was tissue paper.
Up in the extradimensional space, they rested for a moment, pondering their predicament. Minetta said that the warforged could not move without their spark crystals, yet the one with blades was, impossibly, moving.
The ghostly skulls gave them a clue. The warforged, were possessed.
Knowing what they faced gave them courage. Working together, Mara jumped down first, battering at the first warforged with her two-handed sword until it gave way. Minette and Wellby worked to keep the other two warforged distracted and off balance. One of the rooms had mushrooms that released a noxious smell, causing sneezing and bleary eyes. The warforged were, of course, immune. Despite that setback, the three managed to take down first one, then another, and finally the the third in a brutal, quick battle.
They went through the manor, finding little else but rare herbs growing in an exposed, roofless room. The illusion box had apparently given Arnold the walker a heart attack. The possessing spirits within the warforged had likely been there since the War of the Undead, trapped until a blizzard knocked down enough foliage to expose the manor to the outside world.
Outside, several brigands tried to steal their wagon and their mules. Mara cut the down with extreme prejudice. Thalessa's farm hold was too close to failure to allow leniency.
DM's Notes: With Michael on vacation for a bit, Caileb and Sualy wanted to return to Thalessa's farm hold. They have some plans for Mara and Wellby that intersect with their other characters, and this seemed not only a good time to open up possibilities, but also to get a tinkerer in Rilan near Eingrim.
None to date.