Upon arrival to Archon’s Fall, a small group strangers meet at the Lion’s Pride Inn. Sayer, keen to break the ice, swaggers over a few frothy pints of ale. The group waits eagerly for their fourth to arrive; for the expedition had requested a group of that size. Suddenly a small regiment of porters worked their way through the room with a large trunk that appeared quite heavy. In it’s wake appeared a gnome, who introduced himself as Thaddeus Wopplegrinder. Finally complete, the group reports in for their appointment with Lord Aetherion Tourek.
“Your arrival is fortuitous, adventurers … for disconcerting reports have been arriving throughout of the day. I can use any help that I could get.
These reports speak of abductions from the nearby settlement of Bellview. Local authorities have little to no manpower to probe the surrounding area themselves; so have petitioned our services. We have reason to believe through reports received that the disappearances will continue if further action isn’t taken.
If you’ve an inclination to help, your mission would be twofold. First, I would have you report the situation to my field agent, Morinth. She is surveying a matter I suspect may be of some connection, and can be found in Darrowmere, a woodland settlement due east.
Second and certainly more compelling, you would investigate and put an end to these abductions, if that is in fact the nature of the situation. What at first seemed to be an isolated account of displaced townfolk has developed into a rash of missing persons. Bellview is an autocratic territory; they are governed locally by a counsel of elders. They should be able to provide you with any information that they were able to deduce.
You can proceed whichever way you see fit, but I would suggest you depart this evening. I’ve prepared suitable mounts to speed you across the plains, as necessary. I will also forward you a percentage of your earning to facilitate accommodations.
Travel well, friends … and good luck."
The guildmaster answers a few questions for the group. Og formally requests a written mandate to act as proof of their commission to the Explorer’s Guild, which Aetherion issues accordingly. They decide to head for Darrowmere, camping at a nearby ridge while en route. The elf Akasha, strumming a tune softly to herself as she keeps watch over her new companions, senses danger incoming and roused the rest of the group. In a flash a small pack of dire wolves surged from the nearby brush and were upon them.
After the hard fought encounter, the group laid to rest the great hulking beasts. An eerie quiet descends upon them as everyone regains their composure. The wolves were alarmingly large, considering what a typical size for the region is. They also seemed quite desperate; attacking humans would have been quite dangerous with only a pack of three. Og attempts to sense a divine (or otherwise) ubiquity in the area; he feels the presence of a very slight celestial power among the slain creatures, but that it seems slightly … off. The group then commenced to take turns butchering the pelts into scraps.
Come morning, the party was eager to be rid of the site; they continued unhindered to the road to Darrowmere, on the edge of the Verdant Thicket. The few travelers they encountered, mostly merchants and the like, were heading from the forest retreat. Before long they entered the city proper.
The found the Darrowmere lacking much hustle & bustle; the folks meandering through the area seemed happy to keep to themselves. It was hard to tell if they were deep in thought or if they were completely devoid of any of it. In an attempt to gain some attention, Akasha, with the help of Og, stings a tightrope from a hillock to a tree across the clearing. In an act of acrobatic brilliance, the young elf cartwheels onto the line before her companions toss up her loot. She then sang a ballad of unity between all sentient life and the natural world surrounding them.
A crowd began to form, all of which are deeply moved by the aria. Many tears were shed, not least of which from from the vociferous dwarf sculptor Hergen Blaythe. He explained, while wiping away thick globules of tears with a violet handkerchief, that the Black Swan was a common hang-out in town for those visiting the area. If they were searching for someone, “… there’d be as good a place to start as any”. He began chopping brutally at a block of expensive wood while he guided the group to the tavern.
The Black Swan was a far livelier scene than the subdued streets of Darrowmere. The group made themselves comfortable with their new friend, probing the dwarf with questions. He spoke of the legend telling of Darrowmere suffering some sort of blight that wiped out the populace some two centuries ago, as well as a bit about moving of the church to the city proper. He was forthcoming with information, though he admits that most of what he could say was conjecture. Sayer, seeming to be thoroughly impressed by the dwarf’s skill with woodshaping, attempts to buy the carving once it’s finished. Hergen, still deeply moved by the melody and feeling quite affable with the group, gifts the ‘finished’ product to the freelancing corsair.
The group take in the environment around them. Several pockets of groups in their own dialogue are taking place all around them. They do notice a single hooded figure sitting in solitude in a corner booth all by themselves. Sayer approaches, followed closely by Og and the rest of the group. They uncover Morinth Rheinhardt, who reveals what she knows about the happenings of Darrowmere.
She explains of a group of townfolk who have been having clandestine meetings, though she could not pinpoint any members, where and how they meet, or their purpose in said meetings. She also explains that the area has been slightly destabilized, what with the increase in violence from the creatures in the forest. She seems flustered by all the happenings. Being an experienced field agent, even she feels over-burdened by the gravity of the situation. Needing to check on a few things, she leaves a way to contact her through a ‘dead-drop’ system.
With that, Morinth rushes off … perhaps leaving more questions than that she answered.