Kit and Rask awake at 10 AM – the bustle of horses being fed and stabled, breakfast being cooked, and campfires being extinguished. It is a gray, damp morning at the Barrister lodge, nestled in the outskirts of the Kingsgrove Forest.
They awake to a scroll of parchment inside their caravan, somehow delivered from Cyrus while they slept. Inside, Cyrus offers some last scraps of advice and instruction, insinuating that the party should travel to Greencrest to the northwest if they are successful.
It is the day of the Lord Barrister’s festivities, due to begin in a few hours. The party begins to plan and prepare. Kit consults the rough blueprints of the estate that Cyrus offered – determining the likely location of the statue. They decide on false identities, Kit carefully scribing their aliases onto the blank invitations. While passing time, a late-arriving wagon breaks the general calm of the camps – clattering over the road and quickly parking in a secluded corner – the driver hastily climbing inside once settled.
With Rask’s assistance, the two manage to weave a capable “hammock” of rope to suspend within Kit’s voluminous garments, which they carefully lower the pewter replica into. After concealing a few more weapons and tools, the party gathers with the rest of the attendees and approaches the lodge.
Inside, they quickly locate the statue – prominently on display within the main atrium, guarded by a stern-looking, seasoned member of Lord Barrister’s personal guard. Some light-hearted small talk and careful observation reveals his fondness for drink – Rask slyly passing him glasses of wine while Kit (somewhat flamboyantly) provides an adequate distraction.
While plying the guardsman with drink, a rush of hushed gossip washes over the festivities: Martas Loyalar has arrived. The mystery of the late-arriving wagon is solved, but a new thread of gossip and speculation begins to spread through the crowd. Without pausing or acknowledging a soul, Martas rushes past the party goers and heads to Barrister’s fenced-off gardens. Almost wordlessly, the party agrees – Rask heads off to investigate Loyalar, while Kit continues to ply the guard with more cups of potent syrupwine.
The gardens are lush and well manicured. Noticing the posted guards are barely paying attention, Rask confidently approaches Martas and is surprised to learn that he is already known to the wardbaron – he nonchalantly references their “mutual friend” of Cyrus. Somewhat disarmed by Martas’ disclosure, Rask returns to the atrium to rejoin his companion.
Kit was productive during Rask’s absence. Red-faced and beginning to stagger, Barrister storms into the atrium to drag off his guard, pulling him through a throng of nobles and chastising him all the while. The very public and very loud admonishment quickly draws a sizable crowd, and an opportunity presents itself – Kit and Rask quietly position themselves.
Cautiously drawing from an internal reservoir of power, Rask conjures an orb of impenetrable, perfect darkness – just barely enveloping the glass display case within a far edge of the globe, the other edge cutting into the crowd of nobles. In the same instant, Kit places her amber eye carefully under her tongue and projects an eerie cacophony of kenku chattering and screeching near the epicenter of the crowd.
Panic ensues. While noblemen begin to panic and guards begin to rush around the premises, Kit deftly swaps the statues, placing the genuine statue into her concealed rope-cradle and swapping out the pewter facsimile. During the chaos, Kit and Rask slip off toward one of the outside exits of the lodge – easily blustering their way past a young, overwhelmed guard and leaving the premises.
Still swarmed by the nobleman crowding the exits and halls, the party is able to rendezvous at a tree stump they located before the event began – concealing the genuine statue inside and hastily returning to their wagon, along with the rest of the evacuating noblemen. Within the next hours the atmosphere of fear within the wagon camps begins to subside – simultaneously the gossiping begins to run rampant. More than a few hands gesture toward the Loyalar wagon.
Clusters of guards begin to patrol the wagon camps, searching through caravans and questioning attendees. Once they arrive at the Loyalar wagon, multiple patrols of guards thoroughly toss the caravan, throwing all of the contents out into the dirt. Kit pens a note to pass off to Martas, entreating him to meet at the secret tree stump at midnight. Rask successfully delivers the note to Martas as he finishes returning his strewn belongings to his caravan.
Night falls. The guard patrols and interrogations wane as the day goes on – Kit and Rask also being questioned by another high-ranking officer in Barrister’s retinue. Near midnight, the party slips away to the outskirts of the camp to the secret tree stump. Minutes stressfully pass before Martas suddenly “appears,” as if out of thin air. He is somewhat surprised to see his statue so unceremoniously waiting inside the stump, but equally delighted. Concealing the statue underneath a strange, magical cloth, he again vanishes – audibly stepping off back toward the wagons after curtly thanking the duo for their success.
In the morning, the wagons are begrudgingly permitted to leave the property as day breaks. Each caravan is given another examination before leaving through the guard post. All of the wagons in line watch as Martas’ wagon is again unceremoniously tossed, but after some time, he again is allowed to head south down the road back toward Sunderhold. The party leaves the premises, turning west toward the village of Greencrest.
The day-long journey is uneventful – hours pass on the forest-lined road quietly, and the party begins to calm their nerves after the events of the past two days. Their respite is cut short, however – Kit’s sentimental dagger begins to steadily grow hot and emit a ghostly glow as the caravan approaches Greencrest’s east wall. As they drive closer, a scrawny teenager is cowering behind a low, stone fence – terror painted across his face.
Kit confidently approaches and Rask clings to the cover of the trees. The youth stammers about monsters and beasts, pointing to a camp and clearing roughly one hundred feet away. Brandishing her maul, the half-elf straightens and marches down the path – instantly drawing the attention of three rotting, shambling human-shaped creatures after a few paces. Their bodies appear to have been decomposing for days – chunks of skin and flesh torn and hanging from their bones. Their bodies are peppered with grotesque, blackened lesions covering their bodies, each one sprouting ragged, oily-black feathers. Small beads of pale, red light shines from their lifeless eyes.
Incensed by the perversion of the natural order hungrily stumbling toward her, Kit swings her massive hammer wide and clumsily misses her first blow – right as Rask bursts from the treeline to deliver a sickening blow to one of the creatures with his quarterstaff. The group fights valiantly, delivering crushing strikes that would stagger any living being. However, even as jawbones and limbs are torn from their decrepit bodies the creatures barely register any impacts – mindlessly and desperately trying to tear into their prey without pause.
The youth manages to land some blows of his own – skillfully (or luckily) sailing chunks of rock into the yielding, brittle skulls of the monstrosities. Within a minute, the creatures are dispatched. Channeling her own source of power, Kit channels a massive burst of energy into her final swing. As her hammer crashes into the chest of the abomination it discharges as a deafening clap of thunder – the sheer force bursting the monster into dozens of pieces and throwing them in a wide, 20-foot arc. As the last body crumples to the earth, Kit’s dagger immediately returns to inert, cold iron.
The party manages to calm the elated and excitable lad – named Gavin, apparently employed at “The Library -” the very same inn the party has been instructed to locate in Greencrest. He confesses to stalking these individuals over the past couple of days – noticing they were somewhat “well-off” as they stayed in the inn two days ago, he thought he could follow them after they left town and perhaps purloin a few things. Instead, he found them “changed.”
It is not difficult for Rask to offer Gavin four gold pieces as “his share,” rationalizing that it is still a small fortune for the boy (if not quite a “fair” share). Elated, Gavin rushes off ahead of the party, now just a few miles from the village square.