On sturdy horse backs, the traveling was much quicker. Dwyn caught sight of a number of tracks left behind by a group of other riders that had taken this route recently. could tell by their rigid formation that they were Hellknights, six of them.
Treading lightly, the rain slowly started to pick up, and the water in the Conerica river began to rise. They reached a sleepy village called Woodthorp, a small and hidden town inside what had slowly become a swamp after several years of flooding of the Conerica. Unfortunately, a number of Hellknights remained at a post outside of the town.
The Hellknights stopped the Heroes before entering the town, asking if they had seen a half-elf called Dwyn. Dwyn’s Hat of Disguise was well in use by this point, and he denied meeting anyone of that description.
In passing, after allowing them to enter the village, one of the Hellknights reminded them to keep their undine slave, referring to Syn, on a leash.
The town they found was small and pitiable. With only six buildings and a population in double digits, Woodthorp was not impressive.
The inn was still well kept and stocked, and they were still welcomed like any other traveler. Speaking to the barmaid, Dwyn was able to learn that a certain red-headed half-elf had passed through town, and seemed to be following the Hellknights.
The town was also plagued by a pair of problems, and neither could come at a worse time. One problem was obvious: a Hellknight occupation. The Hellknights planned to take the old closed distillery on top of the hillock as a Hellknight base of operations near the center of Isger. Second: people had been disappearing for the past week. A guard, a woman and her child, and several laborers. And if that weren’t bad enough, the son of the previous proprietor of the distillery, Becher, had gone into the swamps to find the deed to the distillery in order to show the Hellknights that they couldn’t legally take the building. Becher and a few townsfolk had gone in search of the barrel-aging caves where wine had been kept for aging while the distillery was a winery and vineyards grew about the town.
Learning of Becher from a survivor of the expedition, it was clear that his wounds were inflicted by Ghouls, undead creatures with a degree of intelligence.
Gathering themselves for a muddy trek, the Heroes of Logas pulled themselves through the flooded swamp, past dangerous flora, and into the barrel-aging caves, where several ghouls already waited for them.
Dispatching the ghouls, they found that the deed ad already been taken by Becher, and they followed a secret tunnel to a small stone house outside of Woodthorp. Becher was inside, clutching a heavy strongbox with the deed inside, and several Ghoul-wounds.
He received attention quickly, and they brought him back to the village through a back door to the distillery. They wound up inside the closed and dusty building, soon enough to hear a heavy knocking at the door. The Hellknight Lieutenant Ralkas demanded that they evacuate the building for the Hellknights to begin repurposing and filing reports.
Becher told them that he had the legal documentation claiming his family’s ownership, and the Heroes made sure to give it to him.
Little did the heroes know that the deed they had was a fake, with a special enchantment that would force the first person to look at the deed to take it for himself. Ralkas did just that, and ordered the arrest of those who would obstruct him.
The Lieutenant was knocked unconcious, and the junior Hellknights agreed to a truce for now.
Before anyone could get any further in negotiations, Ghouls began to pour from the forests surrounding Woodthorp, and fell upon the tiny town with claws and fangs. They were held off and destroyed by the Heroes and the junior Hellknights together.
After finding the real deed under the false bottom of the strongbox, they had no reason to stay. Ralkas was revived and had the situation explained to him, and the Hellknights went on their way from Woodthorp.
Becher thanked the Heroes for everything they had done, and asked them to wait as he went to collect a reward for them. As he ran to the other end of the distillery, a figure was spotted in the catwalk above the still room: Pallos.
Smiling and scheming and always, Pallos confessed that the Ghul infestation was his doing, and that his pet “Gonzo” was feeling a bit famished.
A muscular and gargantuan troll, with an unsettling pale complexion and long wagging tongue burst into the distillery and eyed the helpless Becher. Pallos laughed as he disappeared from the catwalk and the town in an instant.
The troll was distracted from Becher, and the Heroes managed to fell the beast, preventing the spawning of more of these monsters.
Returning to the town itself, the guards, whom Lanus had made sure were better equipped, had successfully held off their own incursion of Ghouls and kept all innocents inside the inn. The heroes were thanked by the mayor of Woodthorp and given a book with strange magical properties. Apparently a kind wizard had given it to them long ago, a kind wizard named Pallos.
Woodthorp was left behind, and after a day of travel the capital of Elidir was finally reached.
The town was well-guarded and well-cataloged by a precise and strict set of laws and highly trained forces. The Hat of Disguise made sure that Dwyn wasn’t recognized, and the heroes decided to investigate a few things.
Dwyn asked around about the blood-red-haired half-elf girl, but no one could say for sure if they had seen her.
Syn, seeing the party’s lack of ability to adequately research this cult they had been pursuing, and lacking any arcane talent whatsoever, he sought out a noblewoman by the name of Aurine Tayner who had a talented wizard named Hanes Oldwar in her employ.
Lady Tayner was a paranoid mess, asking Hanes to examine every scrap of food she ate for curses, claiming that men in white masks were searching for her. Dwyn disguised himself as a wizard and played the part in order to keep Lady Tayner sane and have Hanes step away.
Hanes sat down with Syn, who asked him to identify the book that was given to them. He identified it as a powerful magical artifact, and asked where they had found it. Syn replied that they had found it in Woodthorp, and that some old bastard gave it to the town. Syn also inquired Hanes if he knew anything about the Cult of the Open Armed. Hanes claimed that his employer believes that she had found several books that they wanted to get away from her, but he hadn’t looked through them too extensively, claiming that there was nothing to worry about.
Syn assured him that there was plenty to worry about.
The Heroes decided to stop at the Lady’s estate and have a look at these books themselves.