It’s a warm summer evening, close to perfect. A cool breeze blusters in from the northwest, carrying with it a promise of the encroaching autumn, but at the moment it simply brings a welcome relief from the heat of the day.
After spending most of your day traveling back to town and reporting in to collect your bounties, you’re just happy to be able to relax in comfort. For what seems like the first time in ages, you’re not so worried about what might be lurking just around the corner or behind the next door as you are about the terrible prospect of draining dry Arumn’s Dagger’s stores.
You’ve just finished a great dinner and round of drinks, happy to have something besides trail rations or cold food. Just as you are about to raise a toast to your deserving host, a rumpled shape staggers through the alehouse’s open door.
Startled by the intrusion, but before you can act, the figure crumples to the floor. The bartender dashes over and turns the stricken stranger onto his back. " Marceus!" he gasps, and then looks back up at you, his face filled with dread.
You rush to the man’s side. he’s alive, but barely so. He’s literally been beaten to withing an inch of his life, and his right leg is broken and twisted. You roll him onto his side and he groans loudly as the bones in his battered leg crunch together.
His eyes flicker for a moment and then open wide. His gaze, clouded by pain fixes on you. Just before he mercifully passes out, he reaches up and grabs your shirt.
“My son,” he whispers through his battered lips, “they’ve got my son!”
After searching the area around the Alehouse, the group decides there is no immediate danger. When asked, the barkeeper informs the party that Marceus is a wealthy merchant who frequents his alehouse, always pays in full and never casues trouble. He often recruits some of the barkeeps’ friends for jobs and is generally accompanied by his son, Lucente. Upon searching Marceus for more wounds, they find 50gp in his pouch and rings still on his fingers. Appearantly the motive of the attack was not robbery. When Marceus is awake he tells this story.
“It was horrible.” he says, his voice barely a whisper. Any hint of the merchant’s natural jovialty is gone.
“My son Lucente and I were riding along the road, just like we’ve done dozens of times before. A couple of hours from here, though, in the shadow of those old woods, it all fell apart.
“One moment I’m riding along, and the next thing I know my horse throws me..
“I look up to see Lucente fighting these things for his life. He has his sword out, and he’s laying about to his left and right, but there were just too many of them.
“I managed to struggle to my feet, and then they’re on me as well. As short as a human child they were, with skin the color of black earth, and eyes as round and dark as those of some netherwordly beast. And they had spears.
“I fought back as best I could, tried to recover my blade from my horse, but it was no use. Before long I was overcome. As I fell once again, I saw Lucente being dragged from his horse. I cried out his name as he disappeared from my view. Then I knew nothing.
“When I awoke on the road later, night had fallen and Lucente and our attackers were gone. And so were out horses, well most of them. I staggered off in the direction of the nearest haven I could think of, and ended up here.”
Marceus offers a handsome reward of 1000gp to whoever can bring his son back alive. He would go himself but almost passes out in trying to get up. The Party agrees to go find the boy, in return for such a high reward. After taking a moment to make prayer at their respective shrines, the group takes the road back long Marceus’ path. Two hours later they come across the partial remains of a horse, some broken weapons where it looks Lucente made his stand, and a hastely covered trail leading off the road into the woods. Looking up the group can just make out the top of a broken tower far back from the road. The party has little trouble following such a bloody trail all the way to the base of the ruined tower. The outbuildings have long since fallen to pieces and only the flagstones of a small courtyard and the tower itself remain to mark a small keep that once must have stood here. The moss covered stones show no wear and no one seems present, but still the trail ends here.
Upon inspecting the ruins of the tower the party spooks a nest of Dire Rats into attacking. The group easily dispatches this simple foe with the loss of a couple arrows, and prepares to continue the search.
The game ends here for the night, as our time was short. The party is leery of possible ambush and eager to discover more about the keep and its mystery.