The establishing shot…

The sun is setting across the ice peaked mountains to the east, casting long shadows. Sitting in a valley of light is Barta. Thick stone walls border the town, an imposing sight in the untamed land around it. Adding to it’s power is, a tall keep of grey granite, carved from the land itself. Something is wrong here though, even at great distance it’s possible to see people gathering in worried groups around the gate house and at the keep doors a form in robes begs a crowd for silence.

In the fading light, three of the finer buildings cast odd silhouettes. Rooves have collapsed, windows been stoved in and fences flattened. The caravan of pilgrims and traders comes to a halt. From the high vantage point of the Pilgrim’s Road it seems Barta is not the safe haven they hoped to for. A pity, it’s the only civilisation for miles.

Running Man

As the caravan slows, regarding the chaos before it, screams for help can be heard approaching. A man comes running out of the woods nearby, hands waving trying to catch the attention of the caravan. In the torn robes of a priest the man seems young, his face cut and scraped from his flight.

It’s not obvious what throws such fear into him until you hear it as the wind changes, from the thick woods a frenzied barking chases the figure. Half way to you he risks a look back and tumbles. Foot catching on a stone.

Out of the woods six wild dogs appear, short glossy black fur wrapped round lean muscles. Led by two huge hunting dogs the pack closes in slavering and barking for the mans blood. Their prey scrambles but whether through terror or exhaustion you can see he’s not going to get away.

Combat

The dogs: Six big dogs come surging out of the woods, two large hunting dogs with shining glossy coats at the center of the pack and four others with jet black fur around them. They dash towards the man, and will reach him in two rounds and start to attack unless something else distracts them. Use the blink dog stat block but with health reduced to 15 for the two big dogs and the mastiff for the four other members of the pack.

When playing the dogs it’s important to remember they are not in their right minds and attack wildly, often just going after whoever last attacked them. The two blink dogs won’t use their teleport ability to close on the man. Though these fey creatures are mad they will recognise the threat coming from the players when attacked and will use their teleport ability to close the gap and bite the players they see as the biggest threat. If any player is bitten by any dog they need to roll a DC12 constitution check or contract Rabies. This illness causes no immediate symptoms but is known by anyone with the medical skill to need rapid treatment  or it will result in the player going mad followed by death over an extended period of time!

Players: A perception check (DC13) reveals that they have foam round their mouths and rabid. Any player who spots this knows that the dogs are diseased and will attack anything and everything they encounter in a frenzy. The man is on the ground 30 feet away from them and scrambles 5 feet forward every round but is so exhausted he can hardly move. The priest has cast ‘sanctuary’ on himself and has 10 hit points this by no means makes him immortal though. Anyone who tries to help him get away by carrying or dragging him has their speed halved as he needs a lot of support.The players are together in the caravan heading towards Barta and seem to be the only members willing to get engaged in this man’s plight. The other able bodied adults are scrambling to help get their families to safety.

Scouts

The priest is breathing hard on the floor (presuming the characters saved him), his clothes torn and his leg is bleeding from a large dog bite. He is almost unconscious and seems completely exhausted. With the dogs dead and the man safe the players can take a moment to breathe. A few moments later up rides Fros, the elder. An old half elf woman whose few remaining white tufts of hair sit in a horseshoe round the bald top of her skull. Hawkish eyes look over you and the scene taking it all in. Not liking it.If the players have not already spotted the foam she does and tells the group that anyone bitten by the dogs will need to be healed in town. She’s wary of the chaos ahead though and as de facto leader of the caravan she uses that authority to ask the heroes for help. Asking them to take the priest and seek out healing, for him and those of the party who are wounded. She also asks the players to find out what kind of welcome the caravan can expect.

Developments

A religion check (DC10) shows that this is a priest of Talan. He has little on his person and seems to be in ceremonial robes not travelling ones.

The priest is exhausted, even if healed he is still so tired that he can only manage a few words, burbling about the ‘Pitch giant.’ and muttering that ‘I’ve failed, I failed.” If the priest was killed by the wolves (happens if the players don’t interfere or get unlucky) then Fros instructs the players to take his body to be interred in town. Fros will provide the players with a stretcher if asked either for the body or the unconscious man.

An investigation check (DC12) finds a small pouch in the small of his back in which sits a tightly folded note. The note is scribbled on in charcoal and is smudged by travelling but it can still be read…

“I tracked it, it didn’t care or notice me. It went far downstream past the crooked oak and it pulled up the whole tree. As I waited for the crunching to stop I looked up and it was gone. It’s steps just vanishing. I fear it has crossed the Dragon’s Well and I am nowhere near a ford to follow it. I write this note as the are things out here. Far off in the distance I hear the baying of dogs as if a great hunt is going on and I can hear the lords and ladies chuckling at me. Priestess Kinswal, please let my family know I didn’t fail Talan through cowardice. I hope with my sacrifice we can find this monstrous thief and reclaim our lords relic.”

Gatekeeper

To reach the gate the players must walk through a tent town some few hundred yards outside of the town. A motley collection of tents and shanty like sheds made of rough wood. Burnt stumps of foundations can be seen poking through the grass. It’s not a welcoming place with people staring at the newcomers with distrust.

The are empty stalls all along the route as they players near the gate it’s obvious that no one is working today. Even from far away the damage is clear. Something big tore a path through this shanty town. The damage starts at the gatehouse where the doors have been warped back. Wooden beams as thick as a dwarfs thigh have been bent inwards without breaking, .

A DC12 check will allow the characters to spot that all the metal fixings have been removed from the gate but they can see no evidence of tools being used.

Around the mangled gates a mob has gathered and is yelling at the soldiers standing in the opening. Seven guards in steel breastplates and red tunics are arguing with the crowd. Led by a portly sergeant who is bellowing over the lot of them. Ordering them to return to their tents, which is only making the people more agitated. It’s difficult to reach to get through the mob, and the players will need to work out how to get through. The mob isn’t antagonistic towards them but every single one person wants to get inside and isn’t above pushing and showing their way in to do it.

Developments

The players can solve this challenge in any way they see fit. Exactly how they handle it is up to them but these are innocent people and actually hurting them won’t earn them any respect from the Sergeant. The mob is made up of peasants, either locals or weary pilgrims come to see the Sword of Talan. They can ask the mob what’s going on, and with a persuasion check (DC 12) some of those in the crowd will pause in their pushing to share one of a few things.

  • A monster attacked the town last night and killed the Priestess.
  • A demon was summoned in the town and destroyed the church.
  • A giant was sent by the great dragon to come and collect a tithe from the Mayor, when he didn’t give it destroyed part of the town.

It should be made quite clear that these people don’t actually know what went on inside. Everyone heard it of a friend of a friend. Still there is a consensus that a big monster came. Which certainly fits the damage done to the gates. Once they push through Sergeant Vottin immediately recognises the man they carry as a junior priest named Jaf and says he’s been missing since the attack last night. He tells you to carry him through and head straight for the church. He claims he can’t spare anyone to help you due to the mob.

Quick notes on RPing Sergeant Vottin. Vottin is an sharp guard but a little overwhelmed by the current chaos. He’s more used to sitting behind a desk and would prefer if the current mess could be sorted out quickly and efficiently. His main concern is he doesn’t want to see anyone get hurt. If the players make a mess of clearing a path through the mob the Sergeant will force them to wait, calling for his two assistants to escort the players into town. His guards are Selwyn and Milton two young soldiers who tend to only give one word answers to any questions and are not particularly friendly.

 

Damage to Barta

Presuming the players get past Vottin the gatekeeper, they then enter the town where a trail of destruction leads straight down the main street. The overhanging roofs on one side of the street are torn and jagged. The street is littered with broken tiles that have shattered from a two storey fall. In the town mournful sounds seem to reverberate round every corner, keening sobs that echo with loss. Adults stand dead eyed in the road looking at the damage to their homes.

If the players follow the path they see what is quite clearly a smithy with the roof caved in. The lights are out and the shutters sealed. Opposite this is ‘Tin’s Kit and Provisions’, the windows on the first floor of the house seem to have been pulled out and dropped to the floor. A gnome is aggressively sweeping up, outside, copper haired and reedy he greets the players. Introducing himself as the proprietor and saying if they need anything at all he will be open later today. Before rushing inside, yelling at someone unseen

Moving into town they then come to a junction up ahead is the church, even at a distance they can see its doors are also forced open, the ornate design is cracked and the wood peeled back. At the fence surrounding the church they can see an older woman standing on the rough stones so she can loom above the crowd who she is speaking calmly but forcefully too. When the players arrive she immediately parts the crowd and brings them into the church directing you to bring Jaf inside for healing. Leaving her congregation outside.

Church

Now inside the priestess introduces herself as Mary Kinswal. She pulls you to one side of the ruined church, this small place of worship has been heavily damaged. The pews have been pushed apart, tapestries knocked off walls and a large steel bound cabinet dotted in gold and glass lies smashed on the floor. The priestess starts casting healing spells on her apprentice and offers those bitten bitter potions to drink from a small chest set into a recessed alcove. These potions cure the players of rabies. All the while she speaks with them of what happened.

Role playing – Priestess Kinswal

Motivation: Mary Kinswall cares above all else for the town of Barta, believing that the ‘Sword of Talan’ offers the single best way to make it’s people safe. Her faith overrides all concerns and unless the group give her exceptional reasons to doubt them she believes they have been sent by Talan to help reclaim the sword.

Personality: With the church that holds the Sword of Talan being her responsibility this provincial priestess is has a good sense of people and the tides of fate. An older warrior cleric herself she is retains much of her old strength and is not easily made afraid or dissuaded from a path of action. Her stubbornness comes from knowing her faith will stop the threats that can’t be slain with a blade.

Past: Mary Kinswall has toured much of the Alterlands, bringing justice and healing to those who needed it in even the darkest places. She is a War domain cleric of Talan and has served in battle alongside Lady Parrax. She is revered in town, the Owlbear head that is mounted in the great hall was slain by her after it attacked one of the nearby settlements.

What she knows

  • (WV) A wolf headed beast made of tar and pitch came out of the wilds, powerful dark magic animated it.
  • (WV) It came directly into the church, pushing through the wards and magics. Seemingly unphased.
  • (ARQ) Those who attacked it directly were sucked into it’s surface, consumed into it’s bodies by an unbelievably strong force.
  • (P-DC15) Mary attacked it as well with magic and her mace, both felt thwarted as if the creature could completely ignore them.
  • (WV) It didn’t actually fight back, instead going straight for the sword. Destroying the reliquary and then leaving and jumping into the Dragon’s Well river, apparently not concerned by the fall.
  • (WV) Jaf followed using some of his innate magic to keep up and follow it

Investigating the reliquary

Smashed on the ground is a case that clearly used to display something of great value. Now it lies broken and ruined, the glass smashed and the gold etching twisted and bent. 
 
The players can clearly see that the cabinet is inscribed with the runes for ‘Taliburn’ the true name of Talan’s sword. It would seem that whatever destroyed the cabinet has obtained what it wanted. If the players paw through the wreckage they can spot a few things. 
 
  • The blow came from above, smashing down through the top of the reliquary into the cabinet below.
  • The are coins spread around, mostly copper and silver but with a few gold.
  • Investigation DC15, The damage completely avoids any of the steel parts of the reliquary.
Click this link for advice on how to use the Role Playing guide here.

Into Barta

The players are then asked, politely, to leave by Priestess Kinswal. She needs to clean up and help Jaf recover.

This leaves some time for the players to explore Barta. The town is currently in lock down so they’ll find it hard to leave. The can go any number of places and they may be inclined to investigate the theft of the sword. They may just choose to rest. Either way we not move to the next story beat.

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