Once encamped at Pitchfork, where the road divided, Sir Brendan informed the 4th squad they’d be going East to investigate attacks on 2 small hamlets, while the knight would ride North to a fancy hunting lodge to inquire there.
The Squad wasn’t sad to see Sir Brendan, his captain, and his two squires go. The departure left the original three members, their new recruit, Denn, and Charlie to cook and clean up after only themselves now.
Without much traffic on the roads yet, the travel was easy. At midday, the squad stopped for lunch.
While munching and answering Charlie’s questions about the Watch, an unexplained force pulled Linfors to the ground. The others were pulled in varying degrees. Denn figured out first that if he unbuckled his sword, he could then move about. The metal in their equipment was being pulled magnetically somehow. After about ten minutes or so the strange force relented. Cohen searched his travel version of the tome he’d discovered previously for clues. What he discovered was that strange signs and portents indicate the coming of the celebration of the Underworld. A time when the power that holds fast the gates to Woldenock is absent and the dead are free to walk the land for a time. Notating quickly the events in his book, Cohen and the others remounted to continue to the Vale of Veritas.
The hamlet seemed abandoned and somewhat eerie when the squad rode entered. Young children played in the open center. Three men sat miserably in a set of hastily constructed stocks beside an auctioneer’s platform. The general store held the hamlet’s Princep (meaning first among equals), a shorter, heavyset middle-aged, well-spoken man named Andoran. He happily supplied the information the Watch members needed, until they asked for his opinion. He and his wife became nervous and were reluctant to divulge their suspicions for fear of incurring the ire of the Watch and the nobility.
Andoran’s theory centered around a famous bootmaker’s trademark. Such bootprints were left at one of the burned-out homes outside of town. These particular boots were expensive and therefore uncommon, almost exclusively sold to the noble and wealthy. The team then understood his trepidation and Linfors assured him that he was not committing treason by sharing his suspicions by sharing an anecdotal saying from his father, with which he is known to season all conversations.
Interviewing the men in the stocks provided little. However, searching them offered much more. Denn discovered that although their boots were unremarkable in make, the tops and shafts were chafed in the distinctive wear of chainmail. Osweald pulled paper and charcoal sketchings from one. At first the man appeared to be a nature-lover, what with the sketched trees and foliage. But, after a moment it became apparent that a house was present in each. It turned out to be the same house in each of the renderings – all from different points of view.
The team interviewed the blacksmith and gleaned more evidence against the three in the stocks. An altercation had apparently ensued after the smith inquired about some unusual additions to some tack. The squad deducted that the tack was for hanging barding on a horse. This was hardly the equipment of common trappers.
Tracking the bootprints of the men was difficult, but not beyond the abilities of the two rangers. The men had apparently taken precautions to hide their course to town. At the end of the tracks were the horses and equipment hidden behind a stand of trees and brush. The tack was all laid out according Watch protocol and training.
The rangers noticed a glint of sunlight reflected, most likely, from a spyglass off the east and up the side of a large ridgeline. Moments later, splashes of firelight could be seen through the sparse canopy in the direction of town. The four wondered over the possibility of catching up to the watcher with the last of the daylight waning in the western sky. When the scream pierced the evening stillness, the decision had been made for them. They would return to town posthaste.
The grisly scene opened before them as they burst onto the town. In the center of Veritas was an armored man standing upon the auction block cutting Andoran’s throat and pronouncing judgment upon the town. The squad went into action taking down these interlopers one by one. The team methodically worked through the opponents’ superior numbers. The fighting was brutal and difficult, but the Watch fought on. Though the team was sorely pressed, there was still hope. That changed when Cohen collapsed on the block while fighting the leader and, surprisingly enough, another cleric, the squad really began to worry. Soon it boiled down to only the leader and his armored dog remaining. When he realized he would not survive, he sent his dog out of the fight. The Watch took him down.
Cohen’s wounds were tended and it was determined he would survive. The rest of the town was not so lucky. The men were dead in the streets. The women had either been raped or murdered or both. The blacksmith’s shop was burned to the ground. Charlie and Reon stumbled from the backroom of the General Store after the fighting was over. The young Watch initiate was no longer as eager as he had been.
The following was collected in the wee hours of the morning:
4 suits of chainmail
1 suit of leather armor
1 short sword
1 MW set of lockpicks
1 double-sided waraxe
1 set of leather and plate combination armor
6 potions of healing
1 holy symbol
1 fancy breastplate
1 MW broadsword
1 MW dirk with etched scrollwork
1 keyring with 2 keys (1 small key, 1 large)
2 sets of manacles
1 Lucky (the likeness of whomever graced this coin has long since worn to unrecognizable)