The group has successfully brought an end to a hundred-year grudge between the dwarven Bladebright clan and the Morn family of Dagger Falls. With the return of the murdered clan members, and Randal's show of honesty and integrity, the dwarves have agreed to end the enmity between their clan and Randal's family. With victory behind them, the group returns to their new keep, to see what progress has been made.
By this time, it is early autumn, and the dwarven workers are working at a frenzied pace to complete repairs to the main keep before winter. The work is going relatively smooth, but it looks like they will not be able to rebuild the outer walls until after the spring thaw. What this means for the group is that without an outer wall, they could be vulnerable to attack should the Zhents try to reclaim the surrounding territory.
They know they must outfit the keep with the necessary weapons and soldiers to defend it, and soon. They spend the next week putting out notices in the area, looking for hirelings and anyone who has anti-siege weapons for sale. But, before they have a chance to catch their breath (figuratively speaking), a new problem rears its head.
A rider arrives at the keep a few weeks after the group returns from Tethyamar. He bears a general notice, which is to be delivered to all settlements within a three days' ride of Dagger Falls. It states that as of today, Dagger Falls has been quarantined to prevent the spread of a strange "dream fever" that has struck the heart of the community. Victims suddenly fall ill in their sleep, punctuated by a high fever, and all attempts to cure or wake the sick have failed.
The fever has spread at an alarming rate, infecting over 30 people so far since the first reported case just a few days ago. To add to the strangeness are reports of dwarf-like shadows seen running through the dark alleys of the town. What it all means is anyone's guess, but Randal is taking no chances with containing the spread of the fever. Anyone who thinks they may be able to help is welcome to try, but all are warned to "enter at your own risk".
Considering the recent events with the local dwarves and their temperament regarding Randal Morn, the group is very concerned that these incidents are all related. There are many possibilities, one of which might be reprisals from the more radical members of the Bladebright clan. Even though the leader of the clan, Mordran, declared an end to the feud between the clan and the house of Morn, some of the members may have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Then there was another, more sinister, possibility. It could be the fruition of Colderan's curse, as was written on the wall of the dwarven stronghold in the Eagle's Eyrie. By entering the abandoned stronghold, and removing both the remains of the dwarves and the sword that was crafted to slay Colderan, the group may have inadvertently triggered the curse and unleashed it upon the unsuspecting citizens of Dagger Falls.
The group departs for Dagger Falls the very next morning, hoping to bring a swift end to the curse they may actually be responsible for. They arrive in town around noon, and immediately seek an audience with Randal. The group informs him that they wish to help, but are reluctant to mention their own speculations.
Randal brings them up to date on the happenings in town. The situation has become worse than originally believed. Since the fever began, three people have died from the illness, and seven more have gone missing. Among the missing, taken just last night: a shepherd, taken from his field; an 8-year-old boy, stolen from his bedroom; and a widow, who lost her husband to the fever the night before her own disappearance...
The group has begun an investigation into the cause of a mysterious "dream fever" that is plaguing the town of Dagger Falls. By talking to various people around town, they learn some tidbits that may be of use. First, all the incidents happened at night. The incidents included sightings of "shadow-dwarves", the butchering of horses a few nights ago, and dark-leafed vines suddenly sprouting from the roof of one of the inns. Second, there have been reports of large patches of vegetation in the area suddenly dying overnight, becoming dry and brittle where it was once green and lush.
After gathering these first few clues, they travel to the site of each reported incident to uncover more details and search for more clues. For starters, they discover that the victims of the dream fever do not lie peacefully in their beds. They toss fretfully in their slumber and mumble incoherent phrases, as if trapped in some sort of nightmare. Those in the most advanced stages become thin, pale, and ever weaker, until their breath gives out a few days later.
Not in the mood to view the remains of the dismembered horses, the group's last stop is at the tavern where the dark-leafed vines sprouted. They casually ask around about the incident, and any others the patrons may have noticed. Among the patrons are a few priests of Lathander, the god of spring, dawn, and renewal. They gladly talk with the group about recent events.
The priests have taken up temporary residence here and in boarding houses around town while they attempt to rebuild their temple. The temple was destroyed in a fire 8 years ago, during the Zhent occupation. Only since the Zhents were driven out of Dagger Falls has the priesthood been free to rebuild.
Their efforts were halted a few days ago, however, when several of their priests and workers finally cleared the debris blocking the entrance to the basement area, the only part of the temple left undamaged by the fire. They attempted to enter the basement to retrieve several ceremonial items from the storage areas, but were driven out by large half-bird, half-insect creatures with hooks for hands. They lost 2 acolytes and 6 workers to the monsters' attack, and so have kept away from the basement until they can find a way to get rid of the creatures.
With no other leads to follow, the group decides to investigate the burnt temple. It is already after dark when the group arrives, and they spot a group of dwarf-sized shadows trying to sneak through the rubble of the temple. As the group watches the creatures in silence, they begin to notice things about the creatures that dispel the theory of dwarves. These creatures, though roughly the same size and shape as dwarves, are covered in dark vines full of thorns, and eyes that glow a dark violet color.
The group carefully follows the creatures through the dark alleys, until the creatures stop outside a small house, and attempt to break in. The group attacks with a barrage of missile weapons, catching the creatures completely off-guard. A quick battle follows, and Zendril is struck by one of the creatures before it dies. He reels back as a sharp pain goes through him, temporarily stunning him. The pain subsides to a dull throb, but leaves him with a large welt where the creature struck him.
When all the creatures are dead, the group has a chance to get a close look at them. Nataya spits at them in disgust, recognizing what they are. They are wood woes, also known as nightshades. They are plant-like creatures created by necromantic magic and which breed through killing other plants and animals. Their bodies are covered with a poison that causes extreme pain and is capable of rendering the victim helpless.
However, these creatures do not appear to be typical nightshades. Nataya notes that the creatures they just fought were much more powerful than they should have been. Also, one of the creatures was carrying a strange circular net made of thousands of dark silk-like threads. When checked for magic, it radiates an aura of ethereal energy. Theranion spends over an hour studying it, before correctly guessing it to be a rare item known as a Net of Dreams, which is designed to capture the life energy of a sleeping creature.
They quickly surmise that the nightshades and this Net of Dreams are the cause of the dream fever, but it does not explain the large beasts that attacked the priests of Lathander, the missing people, or the fact that these nightshades appear to have been magically enhanced. There is also the matter of who created the Net, as nightshades are not capable of crafting such items, and do not normally use magical items unless in the service of someone more powerful. If they are to find out any more, they will have to delve into the depths below the temple..
The group enters the basement of the Lathander temple, to seek out the source of the nightshades, and put an end to dream fever plaguing the town of Dagger Falls. The main basement area is mostly storage, with crates and barrels scattered haphazardly around the room. In the eastern wall, there is a large iron gate, which blocks entry to the crypt area.
Theranion finds the lever to open the gate, and the group enters the crypt area. It consists of a wide hallway, which winds around a central room. Only the center 5 feet of the hallway is safely passable, as the floor has dozens of plaques and stone markers lined up in neat rows along the length of the hallway. Along the walls are small alcoves with stone statues marking where the most important church members are buried.
The group rounds a corner, and discovers a set of metal doors with the holy symbol of Lathander embossed into each of them. They carefully open the doors, and discover a private chapel, complete with all the required items to hold a worship service. Though no one has been here in years, the chapel is pristine; no dust settles on the pews, and the gold and silver ceremonial set is completely untarnished.
Roc's first instinct is to claim the "treasure", but a disapproving glare and a "Don't even think about it" warning from Nataya stops him cold. Roc also notices that neither Theranion nor Zenril even dared go near the items (I wonder why). Nataya may not be a priest of Lathander, but she will not tolerate stealing from any good-aligned or benevolent church.
Zendril turns to leave, and as he exits the room, he steps INTO a gelatinous cube. Miraculously, he avoids the effect of the anesthetic slime, and scrambles back away from it. If it weren't for that bit of luck, he could have become the creature's next meal. The group destroys the creature with ranged weapons, and carefully proceeds back out into the hallway. (Ah, there's nothing like a silent reminder of why you don't blindly walk around a corner!)
As they reach the other end of the crypt area, they discover that someone (or something) has demolished a section of the crypt wall, revealing a natural tunnel beyond. From the debris pattern, the group can tell that the culprit broke through the wall from the tunnel side. They quickly find out who the culprit is when a hook horror comes charging at them from the darkness!
Hook horrors look like a cross between a wingless vulture and an insect, but with two large hooked claws for hands. They are large, ferocious creatures with a constant appetite for fresh meat. The group quickly guesses that this is one of the monsters described by the Lathander priests, and they find this creature not quite as easy to defeat as other brutes they've faced. It slashes madly at the group members, surprising even Theranion at how easily it is able to get by his defenses. A few minutes later, and the group is left nursing fresh wounds as the creature lies dead at their feet.
They begin down the tunnel, all the while keeping their weapons in their hands, just in case another of those creatures would appear. They are discovering that one of the major drawbacks of having a human in the party is the need for light. With it, their vision is limited to at most 30 feet, while monsters native to the dark can see them coming a minute or two in advance.
After traveling several hundred feet down the sharply winding tunnel, they come upon a natural cavern, about 60-feet in diameter, which is dominated by a ring of large, strangely glowing fungi. These fungi are in various stages of development, with the most developed among them appearing to be incubating nightshades. Nataya lets out a mild curse, just as a group of adult nightshades attack the group from all sides...
Nataya, Roc, Theranion, and Zendril have discovered a series of caverns under the town of Dagger Falls, while investing the cause of a mysterious disease gripping the local population. They are barely in the caverns, when they are beset by nightshades, which were waiting in ambush for them.
The battle is furious, and a Fireball spell from Theranion destroys the ring of nightshade fungi in the center of the room. The nightshades are momentarily distracted, turning their attention suddenly to save what they can from the flames. Their efforts are in vain, and the group finally gets the advantage in the battle. Nataya wastes no time in tossing the bodies into the fire, her disgust with the creatures growing by the hour.
In one of the passages leading out of the cavern stands a thick wall of thorn bushes, and several shapes seem to be moving somewhere on the other side. As the group carefully draws close to investigate, several needles fly from the bushes at the party. Theranion lets loose a fire spell on the bushes, and the group quickly retreats as the smoke fills the tunnel.
While Zendril waits for the smoke to clear, the rest of the group decides to explore one of the other tunnels for a few minutes. The tunnel they head down has several 10' drop-offs along its length. The drop-offs look as though a river once flowed over them. After a few hundred feet, they come to a swift-moving underground river, which judging by its course, probably empties into the Tesh River. There are the remains of a natural stone bridge here, though the middle section has long since collapsed into the river.
The river is too deep and too swift to swim across, and the gap in the bridge is too wide to jump or vault across. With few other options, the group turns back the way they came. They get no more that a few dozen feet before they see Zendril scrambling toward them from the direction of the cavern in a panic. They soon realize the cause of his frantic running when a half dozen hook horrors chasing come into view behind him.
Zendril doesn't stop running until he is well past the rest of the group, and Theranion uses his Wand of Fire to soften up the creatures before they reach the group. Even then, the creatures tear into the group, and the group finds itself in need of healing and rest before they can continue. Once rested, they head back to the tunnel that originally had the wall of thorns.
Zendril uses his stealth skills to explore the tunnel ahead, just in case any more dangers await. He comes to a wooden door, and a dog on the other side immediately starts growling and barking. Roc hears the noise from further down the tunnel, and confuses the muffled sound as that of another hook horror. He gives his dogs the command to attack, and charges down the hallway with his two war dogs in the lead.
Zendril hears Roc's dogs coming up behind him fast, and knowing their berserker tendencies, frantically scales the wall to get out of their reach. The dogs charge up, and while one starts scratching madly at the door and the ground under it, the other jumps and tries to get a bite in on Zendril before joining the other at the door. Once Roc gets to the door, he calls off his dogs, and a nervous Zendril carefully climbs down (he swears to this day those dogs are out to get him).
Once the rest of the group arrives, they open the door, and find a ravenous guard dog on the other side. It's not much of a fight, as the dog has been tormented by the nightshades and has gone without food for days. It charges blindly at whatever is closest until it is finally struck down.
Beyond the dog is a small entranceway of sorts, with a door leading into a larger room. The group carefully opens the door and looks in. The next room is a dusty old crypt, most likely one of the original mausoleums below the town cemetery. Inside the crypt is a group of skeletons, standing guard at an archway on the other side of the room. With determination, Nataya steps into the room and brandishes her holy symbol just as the skeletons attack. A second later, her holy symbol flashes, and half the skeletons are shattered into dust.
The remaining skeletons are dispatched quickly, and the party approaches the archway on the other side of the room. A horrible mix of smells and inhuman sounds seem to come from the hallways beyond. Considering both living and dead creatures have thus far guarded the place, the group silently enters, uncertain as to what they will find...
The group has been exploring the caverns under Dagger Falls for a few hours, and has come across the entrance to an underground mausoleum with connecting tunnels. They are currently faced with three corridors, which lead to different rooms and crypts. After a few minutes, they decide to take the right-hand corridor.
The corridor leads bends to the north, and ends in an oak doorway with a small room on the other side. Roc heads in first, and is attacked by a Homonculus, a creature which commonly serves as wizards' familiar. He is bitten by the creature, and immediately falls asleep from the creature's tranquilizing poison. Theranion and Zendril manage to get in a few good blows before it flies off down the corridor and out of sight.
They are unwilling to leave Roc behind to pursue the creature, so they begin exploring the room. There are doorways leading from the room to the west and east. The western door opens into one of the first three corridors the group faced earlier, so the group decides to explore the eastern door awhile. As Theranion heads to the eastern door, he notices a strange crack running along a section of the southern wall, and investigates.
He probes the area, and discovers a secret panel concealing a stash of books and potions. Though none of the books are magical, they do contain useful information for creating a variety of minor magical items and potions. With a spring in his step, he collects the items and distributes a small share them to the rest of the group.
Next, Zendril opens the eastern door, and reveals a crypt with eight wooden tables arranged inside. One each table is a sleeping body -- those of the missing townspeople! Despite their best efforts, the group fails to wake any of them. They decide that the only way to wake them is to find the culprit that put the victims here in the first place. However, they are not sure about trying to wake the person on the last table. She is dressed in priest robes bearing the symbol of Cyric, the Dark Sun.
On their way back out into the corridor, several nightshades attack the group. The creatures fall fairly quickly this time, as the group has gained some experience in dealing with them. Immediately after the battle, three of the sleeping victims awaken, confused and scared. After consulting the books he found earlier, Theranion figures out that the nightshades were somehow created by using the life forces of the sleeping victims. Killing a nightshade that was created in this manner will free the victim from their cursed sleep.
Armed with this new knowledge, and with Roc groggily shaking off the effects of the homonculus' poison, the party escorts the 3 freed victims back to the surface, then returns to the mausoleum to continue the hunt. They next head down the opposite corridor from the chamber of the sleepers, and encounter more of the nightshade creatures. Beyond the creatures is another door, which opens to a carved stone tunnel.
Down the tunnel they find another door, and upon opening it, discover a strange web with little electrical charges running through it. A bolt of electricity suddenly lances out at Theranion, and he barely ducks out of the way. This "creature" proves a bit daunting, as every physical blow against it sends a mild shock through the attacker's body. When they have removed the offending substance, they discover another small cache of treasure, which appears to have been placed here very recently.
They continue down the tunnel, and come to another river crossing. This stone bridge is intact, but is partially submerged. The group manages to carefully cross the bridge, and continues until they reach a large stone doorway at the end of the tunnel. The door is very cold to the touch, more so than the surrounding rock, and there are strange noises and the sounds of a low incantation coming from the other side. With extreme caution, they slowly open the door and peer inside...
The group has been hunting down nightshades in an effort to free the victims of the dream fever. They have discovered that these nightshades were created by draining the life force of sleeping victims, and killing a nightshade reverses the effects. Their hunt has led them to the end of a carved stone tunnel, where they are just now opening a large stone door.
The door opens easily enough, its hinges still in good working order. Inside is a large crypt, with a human male dressing in robes surrounded by two nightshades. The human spins around, and snarls at the group, "What the?...How DARE you disturb my work!" He then motions for the nightshades to attack, giving them orders to capture the group.
The group will not be captured so easily, and draws their weapons. Theranion makes a bid to the human to cease the attack and talk, but the human retorts that the group has already interfered enough with his plans. There is a flash of light from the human's hand, and the entire room suddenly sprouts vines from every corner, as though summoned by an Entangle spell.
Zendril manages to duck out of sight of the human, and attempts to circle around him just as the human casts the spell. Everyone but Theranion and Nataya find themselves trapped by the vines, and the human begins casting another spell. Though Theranion and Nataya manage to avoid being entangled, they must struggle to move even a foot through the tangle of vines. Nataya quickly grows weary of the process, and draws her bow to shoot down the nightshades.
Theranion at first tries to engage the human (who is obviously a wizard), but when his sling bullet hits the wizard, it merely deflects away, shattering one layer of Stoneskin surrounding the wizard. Theranion then casts Magic Missile at the wizard. His spell fizzles upon coming in contact with a magical globe that flashes around the wizard. With few other choices, he tries to engage the wizard in melee, but the wizard merely Blinks around the room, firing off snide remarks between spells.
Theranion and the human wizard continue to engage in a spell battle, which Theranion soon loses. The wizard heads for the door, passing through the tangle of vines as if they weren't even there. As a last-ditch effort, Theranion pulls out his Rope of Entanglement, and tosses it at the wizard just as the wizard retaliates with a Fear spell. Theranion is hit fully by the effects of the spell, and curls up on the floor, trembling uncontrollably.
Even though the rope entangles the wizard, he is able to activate a magical ring on his finger, and conjures a wall of thorns to block the doorway, temporarily sealing the group in the crypt. Nataya manages to reach the entrance, and begins hacking away at the wall, despite the cuts and scratches inflicted to her arms by the magical thorns. Theranion finally comes out of the spell-induced fear, and Zendril manages to free himself of the vines.
When they finally cut through the thorn wall, they find Theranion's magical rope laying on the ground, and the wizard nowhere in sight. Theranion gets a strange idea, and pulls out his Wand of Fire, shooting it back into the crypt. The fireball ignites the vines in the room, filling it with smoke. When no one emerges from the smoke in the room, Theranion grumbles a bit, realizing that the wizard has escaped.
With a little time to rest, Theranion sits down and starts to sketch from memory the facial features of the wizard he just faced. As he finishes the sketch, the face looks disturbingly familiar. As soon as the crypt is clear of smoke, he heads in and searches the room. One of the tombs has been opened, its occupant missing, and engraved into its side is a name that sends a slight shiver down his spine -- "Colderan Morn, Mage-Lord of Dagger Falls"
The group has been investigating the strange dream fever that has swept through Dagger Falls. Thus far, their investigations have revealed much more than they bargained for. The person behind the recent troubles is none other than Colderan Morn, back from the dead after almost a hundred years. The group's first confrontation with him did not go very well, and he seemed to be toying with them even as they struggled to defeat him.
Now, he has escaped, and the group is left to once again nurse their wounds. They head back out of the mausoleum to replenish supplies and try to get some much needed rest. When they are finished, night has fallen on the town once more. All that is left is for them to find Colderan and finish him.
They head back down to the mausoleum, and search every corner for clues as to where else he may hide. Theranion notices several tiny air shafts in the ceiling, leading at an angle upward toward the ground above. He uses his engineering skills to determine where the shafts come up to the surface, and leads the group back up into the town.
Using verified maps of the local area and landscape, Theranion pinpoints where the air shafts will come up to the surface. The group heads to a grassy knoll to the west of the town, and finds the remains of a crypt entrance. This was once the main entrance to the mausoleum and tunnels below, but was deliberately collapsed and sealed after Colderan originally died.
The group searches the area, and Nataya finds several recent tracks in the soft ground; one set of human tracks, and several sets of nightshade tracks. In order to give the group a chance to sneak up on their quarry, Roc stays about a hundred feet behind the others, letting the elves silently take the lead. Barely an hour later, the group comes to the edge of a twisted grove, where Colderan is performing a strange ceremony with his nightshade minions keeping watch.
The group has a plan for the wizard this time, and Zendril begins sneaking around the edge of the grove, preparing to sneak up behind the wizard once the rest of the group has the wizard and his minions distracted. He is halfway around when he tries to push a low branch out of his way, and it snaps clean off. He instantly jumps for cover, quickly finding a place to hide.
The nightshades are immediately alerted by the snapping of the branch, and the rest of the group has no choice but to attack immediately. Roc charges out of the bushes, while Nataya lets loose a barrage of arrows and Theranion unleashes a spell centered on Colderan. As the group begins their assault, the nightshades split into two groups; one group attacks with spears while the rest stay to guard Colderan and attack with their darts.
Colderan is caught off-guard, and cannot activate his defenses before Theranion's spell hits. While Nataya and Roc take out the nightshades, Theranion prepares another spell against Colderan. Colderan is quicker than Theranion this time, and summons several jermlaines to his aid. Theranion is forced to defend himself, and Roc switches to his bow to attack Colderan while Theranion takes care of the little critters.
Realizing he will not be able to sneak up on the wizard now, Zendril pulls out his daggers and begins throwing them at the wizard. This draws the attention of one of the nightshades, which charges at Zendril. Between the scattered fighting, Colderan manages to conjure his spell defenses, and retaliates against Theranion. Theranion manages to clear away the jermlaine threat with a Shockwave spell just as he is hit by several Magic Missiles.
By now, most of the nightshades have been dispatched. While Zendril and Nataya finish off all but the two nightshades guarding Colderan, Roc switches back to his sword, and charges at the wizard. He barrels straight at one of the nightshades as it moves to block, and sends it flying backward with a powerful backhand. He continues his charge at the wizard, and is hit by one of the wizard's fire spells.
Nataya and Zendril finish off the last of the nightshades, and join up with Theranion, pelt the wizard with missiles while Roc slashes away at the wizard's magical wards. Colderan lets out a few more spells - and a lot more muttered curses - before his wards give out and the group gains the advantage. Roc takes one final swipe at the wizard, and takes his head clean off!
Colderan's death is unusual, to say the least. As his body falls to the ground, the flesh turns grey and dry, then starts to decay from his bones with seconds. After only a few minutes, all that is left is a crumbling skeleton and those few magical items he possessed. It appears that whatever magic had been used to raise Colderan from the dead was not permanent, which meant he had to use magic (and possibly the life force he stole from the various townspeople) to sustain himself.
There was one more problem for the group to ponder. Colderan obviously did not raise himself, and nightshades lack the magical prowess to perform such a ritual. That meant someone else had to have brought him back, and Nataya has a very strong suspicion it has something to do with the sleeping priestess they found in the mausoleum.
The group heals its battle wounds, then heads back to the mausoleum; to the chamber of the sleepers. There, they find the remaining victims waking from their sleep, most scared and confused. One however, is raving mad, grumbling about how she'd "kill that ungrateful wizard if he wasn't already dead!" and other such musings. She stops her mumbling immediately upon seeing Nataya, and they each lock a hateful gaze on the other.
Nataya draws her sword and takes a step toward the priestess of Cyric, ready to cut out her black heart. Theranion jumps in quickly and tries to calm her, stating that there are better ways to deal with the priestess. With a mischievous grin, he whips out his Rope of Entanglement, and wraps the priestess up tight. This elicits a slight chuckle from one of Colderan's other victims, and the group heads back up to the surface to turn the priestess over to Randal.
With Colderan destroyed, and the priestess who raised him from the dead now in custody, the remaining victims of the dream fever begin to recover. Randal remarks, quite accurately, that this is the second time the group has saved the town of Dagger Falls, and the third time they've come to Randal's aid. There is nothing more he can give them, except for more land grants around their castle and a seat on the local council.
For the time being, the group has a chance to relax, and make some last minute preparations to their castle for the coming of winter...