Roland and Katarina joined a small supply caravan leaving Old Northport, bound for Trademeet, with supplies and settlers for some of the small towns in between. On the night of the third day, an adventuring Gnome by the name of Dameris accidentally brought a Zombie Wyvren down upon the caravan, killing or wounding all but two of the soldiers before Roland took its head. Dameris, with the dangers of Northland thoroughly impressed upon him, agreed to join the caravan as far as Trademeet.
When they arrived at the first village along the way, they got more bad news. Each and every villager was dead, all approximately the same distance from the center of the village, all with terror frozen on their faces but otherwise unharmed. There was another squad of soldiers camped in the center of the village. They had arrived the night before, and the only living thing in the area was a man passed out in the center of the village. He was still alive, but still passed out, and freshly disarmed and manacled to a well. Roland, Katarina, and Dameris did a bit of investigation around the village – there were meals set and half eaten on tables, and the doors were all open, swinging on their hinges. The Bound man woke up before much more investigation could take place, and everyone gathered to him hoping for an explanation. Despite some percussive encouragement from Lieutenant Joseph, the Bound Man remembered nothing, not even his own name. Even showing him all the bodies surrounding the village could not jog his memory. Convinced of his innocence, Lieutenant Joseph set the dark man free. Moments after, however, proper twilight came, and with it came scavengers.
It started with a single figure cresting the hill. Eight other figures soon surround him, hunched and gaunt. After surveying things for a moment, The tall straight figure turned and left, while the eight feral shapes charged. The moved awkwardly, humanoids on all fours, but quickly despite that. They smelled like rot and death, enough so to turn the stomach’s of lesser fighters, but Katarina quickly discovered that they fell easily enough. The battle was brief, but bloody, and bloody is a bad thing with such undeath in the air. Four soldiers fell convulsing to the ground, one had his throat ripped out. The others eventually regained themselves. Roland suffered his own bite.
After the battle, the soldiers busied themselves removing bodies and tending to their dead and wounded, while Lieutenant Joseph asked it of the civilian fighters to give chase to the cloaked figure. That path led south, into the Dead Wood, until Roland, Katarina, Dameris, and the dark one found themselves in a very old graveyard. Here, Katarina spied some recent tracks which lead up to and inside a small mausoleum. The sarcophagus inside contained no body, however, only a roughly dug hole, dropping 40 feet to a series of tunnels beneath the graveyard. Four other exits from the tunnel system were discovered, but each of them was thoroughly blocked and barred. Eight humanoid and three large goblin-oid zombies guarded two of the exits, but not well. In the center of the large circular tunnel was what appeared to be someone’s living quarters, complete with a bed, a shit-hole, and a Ghast chained to the wall. The dark one was bloodied in the steel dance that followed. The room looked freshly (and hurriedly) vacated. A wet quill lay over some parchment, while a knocked over ink-vial was still dripping onto the floor. The parchment had some scratchings in it, indentations of whatever was written on the sheet above. With no tools or linguist, however, none of the adventurers could decipher the scratchings, so Roland tucked it away to be dealt with later. No other sign of the cloaked man was to be found in those pits, so Roland, Katarina, Dameris, and the dark one tried to leave.
They soon found their only way out – the hole they had come in from – was guarded by the cloaked man himself, raining arrows down on all who tried to climb the rope. He was diligent and tireless in guarding this escape route, so the heroes needed to be diligent and tireless in escaping another way. They found an ancient exit, long since blocked off by tombstones and fallen rubble, and began to dig. On and on the digging went, through nearly 30 feet of debris. More than once, the wall of rock fell onto them, but aside from some bruises, that only sped the process. While the dark one and Roland labored at their escape, Katarina and Dameris made sure to keep the cloaked figure sleepless and focused on their possible escape from the hole he was guarding. By twilight the next day, a full 24 hours after they first glimpsed the cloaked figure atop the hill, they were free of his underground prison and ready for some answers. The cloaked figure learned of their escape moments before being cornered himself, and prepared a small ambush for them, but the four heroes were not to be brought down after coming so far through darkness and undeath. Both he and his weasel fell to their swords and arrows.
The party then noticed that while the sunlight faded from orange to dark around them, a orange glow was maintained to the north – in the direction of the village. They arrived to find it was only a funeral pyre for the dead villagers, as well as a wake for the soldiers who fell. Lieutenant Joseph, after saying a few words, detached himself from the formalities to debrief the party and their captive. A lively discussion about the merits of torture was had, but the focus shifter quickly after Joeseph learned that a message had been sent by hawk. He sent the party off to get help at once, expecting an invasion. The party rode to Northport as fast as their mounts could take them. That very night, though, the dark one came down with ghoul fever. He spent the rest of the journey strapped to his horse. At the gates of Northport, the party was admitted on Phoenix Legion business, but the dark one was made to stay outside because of the fever, and because one of the guards recognized him as the Exile Cyrus. Katarina stayed with him. Dameris and Roland went straight to the Keep of the Phoenix, where they met with the Archdruid. After a quick explanation, he summoned the black dragon Philos through an obsidian mirror, who agreed to help the village in exchange for the node. Philos appeared to the party as a very tall, very dark man in black robes with gold embroidery and a high collar.
With the help of some potions and Philos’s manipulation of the very land they rode upon, the party made it back to the village that very night, where they were met by a small army of skeletons and zombies, led by a morgh. Philos ran down several on his way to the well, then dove straight into it, leaving the party to deal with the army. The party distracted a large portion of the army, to the great relief of the villagers barricaded in a house. With the maneuverability of their mounts, they cut off portions of the army from one another, then eliminated the fragments one by one. After a time, the earth beneath the feet of every undead, moving or not, began to tremble, then great claws of stone suddenly rose up to crush the undead bodily and drag them struggling beneath the earth. In a moment, all the evidence that there was ever an undead army standing there moments before was wiped away. A few moments later, Philos returned from the bottom of the well to assure everyone that the village was now very safe. Then he mentioned a powerful need to rest and promptly disappeared back underground.
The next morning found the area rejuvenated and full of life. Trees, plants, birds, bugs, everything seemed vibrant and healthy. Philos joined the party for breakfast. He explained the nodes and beams a bit, and that the others on this beam were almost certainly in danger. As he was bound to the first node and the party was traveling along the beam anyway, he suggested they look in on the other beams and let him know if there was anything suspicious. He then gave them a Silver Raven to serve as a messenger between them, and wished them good luck.