Adventure log: Steal Heart
Nine days after the battle of Pallmoor Gates, Clinton is outside of the city, summoning a new animal companion (a viper) when he is visited by Vayama. Vayama indicates he was watched the battle from above, and passes news that as a result of Dessicatia Rottli’s spell and the Wicker Man incident, great evils appear to have been summoned across the land, which has been manifested in earthquakes and sink holes that have appeared across the Duchy.
Meanwhile, in Tyn, Father Hubbins indicates that he is to leave to return Father Jannus’ remains to Armsby Abbey, and asks the party to deliver the remains of Sir Renton to his daughter, who is holding the fort of Oaken Breach along the River Red.
First, Hubbins leads the party to the inactive teleportation Sphere, buried under the collapsed Temple of Light, where the wizard Aron the Awesome leads an investigation into the powers of the sphere. Aron indicates that he has already magically searched for any sign of the sage Jeribold, as well as others that were “disintegrated” by the sphere, and either they are dead or not reachable by his magic.
However, Hubbins indicates he has tried to use his speak with dead ability to question Porkins and was also unable to do so.
The powerful wizard Maximillian, conducting his own investigation, informs the party that he intends to return to Lakewood in a week, where he maintains a crystal ball in his tower, and that the party can visit him then for another attempt to discern the fate or Porkins.
In the meantime, the party is introduced to the bard Golden Boy, a bard from a distant land who is collecting a history of the war, and is following the party to gather information about their exploits to record for future knowledge.
Sailing the Argyle up river to Oaken Breach, the lady Devra Renton greets the party and thanks them for delivering the remains of her father. The soldiers at the Breach talk about the long harsh winter and the lack of supplies. When the party is about to retire there is an alarm. Devra summons the party to help question a sickly hobgoblin that was trying to escape to the river.
The hobgoblin came from Steelheart, a mining town a days ride to the north, between the river and Wood Lake. The hobgoblin indicates that the Vermese and goblinoid are quickly abandoning the town, after a harsh winter and low morale was compounded by a mysterious evil that has been plaguing the area.
Devra asks the party to go to Steelheart and offer any remaining Vermese gold and safe passage to leave the town quietly. In return, she offers the party a percentage of mining profits from the town for five years.
The party accepts and proceeds north in the morning, when they encounter two hobgoblins fleeing south on sleds being driven by worgs. The party fights the creatures and kills them. As they proceed to the town, they encounter a camp site covered in tremendous amounts of blood and hear a strange mournful howl in the distance.
On arrival at Steelheart at night, the party quietly gains access to the town, leaving their horses in the woods and charming a guard, who indicates that all of the Vermese have left and the town is now run by Fostran, the former herbalist of the town. Guards notice the guard is missing from his post and a search party finds the party in town. Meanwhile, Pat senses that the horses are under attack, and Brother Darkness flees into the night.
Fostran explains that, since the Duchy left Steelheart to fend for themselves, he considers the liberated town to be independent, but offers to reconcile if the party kills a pair of owlbears to the west, that have been plaguing the town. He offers the party refuge for the night, during which Pat has a foul nightmare about the minotaur from the Battle of Armsby Abbey.
Suspicious about Fostran’s motives, the party agrees to find the owlbears. They are soon beseiged by a blizzard and attacking hobgoblins and humans that appear to have been infected by some disease- their skin white, their forms dessicated, with long claws and fangs. As the party kills these creatures, a powerful flying creature with the head of a deer and an emaciated body with burned, frostbitten limbs attacks Clinton in the sky in his bat form.
The creature attempts to go incorporeal, dragging Clinton along with it, but Clinton manages to scare the demonic creature away with a flame strike.
While continuing up the hill, the bard Golden Boy sings a song to counter the affects of the creature’s howl which can be heard in the blizzard, in so doing, an elf, Sazaraq, finds the party. He explains that he was a Vermese captive in Steelheart that was freed by Fostran but exhiled from the city along with others, who were killed by the demonic creature, which is actually a powerful evil Fey known as a Wendigo. Sazaraq believes that Fostran summoned the Wendigo with evil rituals and vile acts of cannibalism which started with the Vermese, but he believes Fostran has lost control of the creature and his own hunger now feeds on villagers.
Sazaraq warns that the Wendigo is very young, but gains strength with each victim that contracts Wendigo fever, and will soon be too powerful for anyone to stop. The party returns to Steelheart but is attacked by the Wendigo again, even more powerful already. The creature goes incorporeal with Golden Boy, but Radcliff provides Sazaraq with ghost touch sun arrows which he uses to hit the Wendigo, who is again stunned and flees, leaving Golden Boy alive but bitten with the fever. Golden Boy uses his spell to guide the party back to the town through the blinding blizzard, the town seems to be missing but this is proven to be a trick of the Wendigo.
Back at the town, Clinton flies into town to find Fostran and finds the home of his wife, while the party waits at the tree line. The Wendigo attacks a third time and the party again just manages to drive it off before it can escape with a victim. The party enters the town and confronts Fostrans wife at home, when a Nightmare version of the Minotaur from Pat’s dream attacks in Fostran’s home. Fostram himself, using witch-like beguiling powers materializes and attacks, silencing the group with a silence seed and neutralizing the spellcasters. His wife assumes the form of a half-wolf half-woman. After a pitched battle, Nadila is beaten and the nightmare minotaur is destroyed, and Fostran is cornered by the party and killed as he turns into a Wendigo-like version of himself.
When the smoke clears, Nadila is gone, but the party finds a trap door with the bones of people that Fostran has consumed. Showing this to the townspeople, they leave Sazaraq and the money with the town and give them orders to wait for re-supply from Tyrese forces at Oaken Breach. The party continues to Lakewood where the curse of the Wendigo and the werewolf Nadila can be removed.