Heretofore read the notes of the DM, as transcribed in his lovable assistant, the codex of Duri.
As you scrambled atop the walls of Khakal after your daring run through the horde of shamblers, you left the wall with Loerson, a halfling cleric of yondalla. He took you down to the woodorking shop where the elves and halflings remaining in the town of Khakal were working on making new arrows and spears out of re-purposed wooden furniture and salvage.
“So, welcome to Khakal, saviors. Name’s Loerson – I’d have the band play your song – but I only heard it the once and we don’t have a band. That Hralf is good with the harp though, yes? We have some more ale, but not a lot. Enough for you, only guests we’re going to get in a long while. Let’s give you all a once over…” Spotting Layla’s wounds, Loerson cursed. “where did you get those? Even if it weren’t from the rotters, Out here in the wastes, a wound could fester and stink in hours. The very air is poison, an alchemical smog that seared the lungs and burns the eyes. You feel it too, yes? I think it’s worse for the elves. My clerical specialties are more in the form of protection rather than healing, but Danielle will do what she can, if it gets worse.”
He described the general scene to you – the city was suspicious of necromany at first and even hung up a supposed necromancer to a wall in the center of town and drove out a few others who were suspects. The halflings were also treated badly until the shamblers became more prominent and it became clear that no person was doing this alone – confirmed in part by the fact that the necromancer who was strung up reanimated as well. Loerson suggested you either talk to the mayor or to talk to Flekhya, the halfling druid who built the walls and was leading their defense.
“Let me introduce you to Clyde, the mayor, He’ll give you the lay of things. Though you’d probably be better off talking to Flekhya, seeing as she built most of these defenses and has been leading the ramparts whenever I’m not there. Just that… I don’t want to give the image that the halflings have taken over the elves’ town any more than I already have. They’ve only just warmed up to us, you see, and it just took a thousand corpses and a couple demons to bring them around!”
“I figure you all earned the truth when you saved my cousin Fustar back in Odisvalk. Should have never left, really, but things were bad. And right when I’m thinking about leaving these elves and going back home, it gets bad here too. But like it or not, Khakal is my home now, or what’s left of it anyway. I’d give you the key to the city but we don’t have much beyond couple of ‘shops’ and some sick houses.”You learned that the mayor might have a spellbound and headed off to make use of it. When you got to the mayor’s temporary office/‘mansion’ you found him cowering behind this same spellbound, lamenting the pointlessness of resisting and despairing in his town’s condition. In the depths of his despair, Clyde ranted to himself about the terrible condition his town is in.
“Rust, corrosion, wind, rain. The nibbling teeth if mice and the acrid droppings if insects and the devouring jaws of time. The war of nature upon our devices, of chaotic forces upon the works of mankind. The energy and structure that we have pulled from the land is being inexorably pulled back into it, sucked luke water down a hillside. Before long, if it hadn’t happened already, there wouldn’t be a single two story building left in the kingdom. elvenkind built here a world that should have taken millenia to die, but we are seeing now that it may only take a few months to go out. Decay is the only constant here, and all is rot and dust, cinders beneath our feet.”
Eventually, Elythia managed to bully the mayor and use her pearl to commandeer the spellbound, which seems to be tied to the gift she was given by Skalla back in Odisvalk. The grpup, after much debate, names it “George” and then Layla tries to determine his personality and favorite colors, etc. This caused quite a moral stir in the group. Elythia decided he could be a tool and took him for her use. this, of course, was not before they discovered that George’s favorite color is Red.
Heading to the wall, you all met with Flekhya and she described the patters that shamblers walked in, as well as the fact that some of their ‘martyrs’ went over the wall after they were infected and killed one of the poxmen. This felled many of the shamblers when it happened, so theoretically these poxmen control the shamblers. She also described the fact that she thinks the other poxman is watching her, occasionally appearing across town, just staring. She thinks he might be bored, which gave Elythia an idea to coax him into a duel with her new ‘champion’, and it appeared to have worked. ‘George’ was dropped down past the wall to start killing shamblers with Rooke’s trident, and on the topic, Rooke also handed his crossbow with the explosive bolts over to Thomas. Thomas crept down into the ruins to hide out for an ambush – an idea the rest of you seemed to share – and awaited the approach of the poxman.
Bloated, potbellied, and smelling from over one hundred feet away, he removes his helmet to reveal a misshapen head with two bulbous flies eyes on either side of his head.
Laughing and cheery, he asks them “Would any of you, by chance, happen to be a knight? You have killed my servants, and by their screams, I knew I had finally encountered a worthy opponent. Come, it has been far too long since I had a proper duel. Honor bids me offer you a fair challenge, and bids you accept as well, I think”.
The party agreed heartily, there should be a duel, and they had a champion for the monster to fight. “I am Feculus, of the Duchy of Bitterbile, Knight of the Order of the Fly” The bloated warrior raised his rusty blade in salute. “Might I have your name, good sir/madam?”
As you all yell out in unison “George”, his tongue flicks out and swirls in the air, and he says “ah, it is a good name. it has a good taste. I am honored to take the field against you, so that you might receive my gifts. The Maggot King rules all things, not just sickness, and he shall soon rule this land as well. But fear not! My armsmen will not interfere. This is a duel of honor, after all.”
As he shoulders his pitted axe – more of a cleaver really – a cascade of flies lift off from his back and arms to swirl about in a strangely patterned dance. The sound of the rotflies’ wings crawled into your ears and into his mind. Your spines ached.
As the duel proceeded, George initially held his own but was eventually driven back by the heavy blows. At this, Elythia decided honor is overrated and sprung her ambush, prompting the others to attack in kind. Enraged and now wounded by all manner of projectiles, Feculus roared, gurgling phlegm and worse fluids, and then clove George in twain. Upon this moment, Marie leapt from the battlement to thunder-punch the monster, but was quickly cut deeply in the shoulder and knocked to the ground. As arrows and magic continued to rain down on Feculus, and the shamblers closed in, it hacked her leg from her body. He was shortly thereafter killed by Elythia’s fire, but the damage was done.
The good news is that the shamblers collapsed or fled once the poxman was undone. As the corpses were set upon by the halflings and elves, each burned to prevent them from rising again, the party stabilized Marie and then looted the corpse – as is their way. Pillaging the body, the party aquired his rusted greataxe, coins, gems, and a couple of art items, as well as a crude map made of elf-flesh. It appeared to detail the movements and locations of the other ‘plaguelords’, and may be useful for locating the source of the disease.
Before they could realize what a powerful tool this could be, they were interrupted by a revolting scene. Quickly, remarkably so, the body of the thing that called itself Feculus broke into parts, and those parts into smaller, before rising as a cloud of black, bloated flies, which begin to buzz and hum in a sour parody of a voice, and a face forms in the cloud -
“so good for us to meet at long last! I am Rakadishu, the father of abundant life. The elves have been… reluctant to come and speak with me, so that we might birth millions of new writhing souls together. I am so very glad you have come, it has been so dreadfully lonely since they boxed me in, with nothing but this lovely, shimmering well. I would very much like you to come and see it, my garden grows around it so nicely…” The body then shudders and collapses on himself.
This spell of confusion and anger was broken when the halflings joyfully ran over the wall to begin ‘cleaning up the mess’ – with Loerson happily exclaiming that they should ’Burn those corpses, before they rise again!" Musushi wasted no time setting about lighting things aflame, which has become a disturbingly common activity of his since landing in Brondoriond.
It was not long thereafter that Thomas noticed a black maggot crawling away from you in the direction of the wormstar. Quickly destroying it, the group saw with more surprise that a figure emerged, gasping from the remains. The form that stood before you was immediately recognizable to Layla as releases the Angel Suriel, First Among Equals. First she shudders in joy at being released, revulsion at where she has been, and then pain as she is too close to the heart stone. She bolted to nearly a 100 yard distance and speaks to them from there.
Her link was tenuous, and much of her energy was spent simply resisting consumption in her larval cage. She fears she is dying, and imparts a number of grim facts to the group. “exposure to your dragon stone pains me – I fear I may never return to Hestavaar. Even from here, it withers the soul and burns my lungs. I am dying – that artifact of Old Athran is powerful indeed.”
The ratemen they intercepted days ago were her agents, sent to perform a task for her that was undone by the party’s actions. Without the potions and notes, or the tools, she cannot make a curative brew. She also attempted to cut the canker out herself, even stooping so low as to recruit trolls in the attack, though she is quick to state that even that was not so low as what Naphrem has done, giving you that stone and unleashing powers beyond his own control.
As she was fighting the plaguebeasts alongside a group of trolls and “Throgg – an ‘angel’ of Erythnuul, if you can call him that – the shame is, I saw him fall, slain by the duke who caged me. Crafty bastard trapped me in that worm while I was fighting his lord, and then two on one, they cut down Throgg and took from him his hammer. With it, they could crush the rest of the trolls with ease. I think they let me see it on purpose – to lend despair to my pain. It worked.”
In the end, it became apparent that the divinations of Laergnan were correct – that when they party entered the veil, that the sun would darken, and much sooner than ‘it was supposed to happen’. As Musushi implored ‘where are we supposed to go now’? She responded with a saddened, dreary suggestion.
“Follow the star”, she said, pointing at the nightmare of pulsing worms, coiling around one another in a sickly glow, hanging low in the sky. And with that, she turned, and plodded slowly into the mists, arms limp at her sides, to find a patch of loam to lay in – her star’s light fading, and her desolation complete.