Our intrepid adventurers, currently in the town of Three Hills, are summoned to the home of one Sagemaster Volrane, known throughout the realms to be knowledgeable, wise in the ways of magic, and a valued advisor to lords and kings alike. Volrane is a retired wizard who keeps an active interest in the world as a whole, and often hires adventurers for investigations or other tasks that have taken his notice.
Volrane informs the group that many caravans from the town haven’t arrived at their destinations, and unfortunately the local lord’s armies are tied up elsewhere. The local constabulary doesn’t have the kind of manpower to deal with the situation, and so he is willing to fund an independent expedition out of his own coffers. He offers the group 500 gold just to make the trip; any information they can bring back will result in a greater reward, and if they are fortunate enough to eliminate the source of the interruptions, Sagemaster promises an even greater reward. The group agrees, and the Sagemaster informs them that the source of the caravan hijackings appears to be occurring around a small village called Darkhaven.
Volrane indicates that some strange fate befell the town of Darkhaven, and only the current residents of Whitehall may have information of what occurred there. Whitehall is a small farming community, located a day’s walk from Darkhaven proper, and Volrane believes the group would be best served by going there first. The group makes the trek to Whitehall, fortunately uneventful, and finds the local inn upon their arrival. A few questions and a promise to return for drinks later convinces the innkeep to direct them to the village elder for more information.
The village elder, Kelryn, is remarkably reluctant to give them any information. It’s obvious that he knows something, but he keeps brushing off the group with vague statements about how they’re better off just not knowing, and leaving Darkhaven well enough alone.
This was actually the start of a skill challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with the new 4th edition and how skill challenges work, essentially the group has to use a series of skills available to them in order to beat the challenge. Depending on the challenge at hand, it could be any combination of skills, but most likely diplomatic skills for bargaining or information gathering, active skills for disarming traps in the middle of combat, or trying to close a demonic portal while fighting off a horde of monsters… that sort of thing. The catch is that you have to have a certain number of successes before you get a certain number of failures, or you lose the challenge.
The group tries to convince the village elder to reveal what he knows so that they can avoid any more missing caravans. Dorn, being impatient, tries to intimidate the old man (which results in an automatic failure, and earns more than a few verbal lashings from the group as a whole). Fortunately, after a little sweet-talking (and guilt-tripping) by the rest of the group, Kelryn is willing to cut them a break, and he begins to reveal some information.
“Darkhaven was once a peaceful place. I grew up there, and lived there until I was a young man. Life was simple, and the village thrived despite being off the beaten path. One day, an actor named Silas Mauvais moved into the village, and decided to build a theater. His idea was that the theater would serve three purposes; a place for him to hold shows, an attraction to bring visitors to the village, and as entertainment for the people of Darkhaven. With the village’s permission, Silas built his theater.
Time passed, and Silas met a local woman and fell in love. They married, and in time, decided to have a child. Silas’ wife, unfortunately, died in childbirth, leaving Silas with a beautiful baby girl that he adored and cherished. Silas named his daughter Terina, and she grew to be a beautiful young lady. When she was in her late teens, Silas was asked by the village council to visit a nearby city for supplies, and he agreed. He said goodbye to Terina, and promised to return as soon as he could.
A week later, Silas returned to the village and his home to discover his daughter dead. Angrily, he sought answers from the village council, and no one knew how she had died or who had done the deed. In his anger, Silas locked himself in his theater and would not come out. Soon after, the eldest children of the village turned up missing, and many witnesses saw Silas capturing them and returning to his theater. Night after night, horrific screams kept the villagers awake. They tried to break into the theater, but dark magic and ghastly creatures prevented their entrance. Many people died.
I left the village in order to try to get help from the king’s army, but by the time I returned to Darkhaven, unfortunately alone, the village was abandoned. The few people that were left were hiding in terror or completely mad. I left Darkhaven and took up residence here in Whitehall. I have lived here ever since.”
Kelryn pauses to collect himself, and then continues. “No one is really sure what happened, but we do know that Venn, the blacksmith’s son, was greatly taken by Terina. I believe that perhaps he paid a call to her when her father was away and perhaps she rebuffed him. That is my best guess, and it seems logical enough, for when Silas returned to Darkhaven, Terina was dead and Venn was gone from the village. At any rate, I do not believe that Silas is still causing trouble – he was in his late sixties when he went mad, and that was more than fifty years ago. If there is anything else you wish to know, you should speak with Aria, our village baker; she is Silas’ niece.”
The group sought out Aria at her local shop. Aria turned out to be a kindly, middle-aged woman eager to provide them with information, as well as rations for the road. She wasn’t able to provide much more information than the elder, but she was able to tell the group that when Terina’s body was found, Terina’s blood was literally everywhere in the house. Silas blamed the villagers and the village council that no one noticed that she was dead until Silas discovered her, and no one had any leads.
The group stayed in Whitehall that night, and decided they would head to Darkhaven the following day. Even from a distance, it was easy enough to see that there was a dark cloud surrounding Darkhaven. Another uneventful trip to the village brought them to Darkhaven’s gates where they found the remains of the two missing caravans. Near the caravans, the ground is dead and sandy, and the remains of the merchants are near the wagons. The corpses appear mummified, perhaps even drained, though there are dark dried pools around the corpses where they have bled out. Kevara searches around and takes a closer look at the bodies, but is unable to find any magical residues. Investigation of the corpses further indicate that the merchants’ throats and wrists were cut, and some even appeared to have been strangled with a heavy rope. Despite the dessication of the bodies, the eyes are intact and appear to be vacant and staring. These merchants have been dead for weeks, but the bodies have not rotted in any way.
As the group investigates, they are attacked by strange wooden toys with razor claws. They dispatch these strange abominations with relative ease, but as each dies, a blue light escapes from the body and a tortured voice screams its horror to the sky.