We arrive at Drasuc. We find an inn towards the north. Talking to travelers, Strelok finds out the way will be cold, rocky, and snowy.
Zephyr’s Research — Might find in mountains: Frost drake, frost worm, frost and rune giants, glacier toad, huldra, irlgaunt, ice linnorm, shantak, shobhad, thunderbird, ice and mountain trolls, yeti, great cave lions, lantern goat, others.
We stock up on supplies and leave on the second dawn. We have a wagon, drawn by two horses. Zephyr rides in the wagon making potions; two people can be in the driver’s bench, and Strelok has his own horse. (Note: Zephyr can make 1 potion of Cure Serious Wounds for one 3/4 of a day, costing 325gp. Made so far: 4, sold 3 to Strelok at 600 apiece). It is currently midspring; it took two or three months for us to reach Drasuc.
The road is barren, and seems too quiet. We are headed to a place called “Timber”… ironic, since the only wood at this point is scrub. We come across boarded up, abandoned towns. Zephyr notices that the air begins to smell metallic. Food is very scarce, and there seem to be no birds. After traveling for 2.5 weeks, we find a village with people. Only 1/4 of the population seems to be present; all are skinny, underfed perhaps? They seem not to notice us. They go about daily routines in an absent-minded manner. No one is saying anything. When Sheila tries to speak to a woman: the women looks up but seems to look past her, then goes back to sewing, although the hole she is mending has long since been fixed. Sheila does a “lay on hands” sort of healing thing; the woman squirms, jerks as if she is being electrocuted; her face splits open from bridge of her nose to tip of chin. Zephyr detects no magic. The “people” suddenly all look at Sheila, seem to focus for a moment… then go back to what they were doing. Zephyr examines the body; still warm, split is clean and perfect, as if with a laser. There was NO BLOOD when the face split! The woman looks like she was in perfect health, aside from being a bit too thin. Skin tone is slightly off; waxy. Hayden cuts one of her wrists; blood flow is slow, and viscous.
Sheila tries to get the attention of another one, with the same result (looks up but doesn’t focus, goes back to what he was doing). She dabs holy water onto the “man”; no effect. Shaking person also has no effect, except for some drooling. Going into houses in search of rations, we find some places with tables set for a meal but abandoned; some are several days old. Knowledge Arcana checks do not reveal anything; this does not fit the profile of any magical afflictions known. We take some food supplies and head out.
We travel four more days to reach Timber. Still no birds. The metallic scent in the air is getting heavier. Can’t really distinguish more than that. There is a sign on the main road that directs us up a side path towards Timber. As we head up this path (4mi), we can distinctly smell blood. Timber is drenched in blood. The largest body part found is a pinky.
Zephyr casts Blood biography: Sea of voices from many corpses. Mostly human; suspect most of town is dead. How = terrible violence; sense of “being eaten”.
No carrion birds. We hear something that seems like voices coming from the center of the town. Zephyr can hear moaning from many different voices, along with squelching sounds. A knowledge Arcana check to determine the attacker(s) gives Zephyr a sense of “humans”, although the spray of blood implies something more animalistic. We see some footprints in the blood; they look like they were shuffling.
As the stealthy ones, Strelok and Hayden creep towards the noise/center of city (Hayden gets a blur extract beforehand). They begin seeing larger people-chunks. All organs, however, are gone without a trace. They turn a corner and see what look to be humans. They are clustered together and seem intent on something in the middle. Strelok uses Mage Hand to break a window on the other side of the clearing. The things stand up slowly. Their faces are split in the same manner as the dead woman from the previous village; a worm-like thing protrudes from the hole. They have sharp teeth and long tongues. As they rise, Strelok and Hayden see what the creatures were intent on: the corpses of the rest of the villagers, which they are devouring.
Strelok sends a fireball into their midst, and he and Hayden run. Zephyr and Sheila hear the explosion and see the smoke. Hayden and Strelok appear and yell at us to get into the wagon. As we take off, we look back to see the creatures coming after us; they are singed and moving slowly. After the tale is related, Sheila hypothesizes that Brother Javid may be in the gestational phase like the people in the last village… in which case, the “parasite” is now on the other continent…
We travel back the way we came. A week in (about a mile from the first village), we start smelling pennies. Crap. As we get closer, we hear screaming. Sheila feels compelled to help.
In the village, we observe a creature stumbling; it focuses on a living human, then breaks into a sprint towards them. The humans being attacked seem anesthetized; although they scream in pain, they do not try to get away. The creatures here have face splits, but not worms yet. When they notice us, they begin moving (“meandering”) in our direction. Strelok suggests that we go now. Several of us see one creature that looks different from the rest: it seems as though it is developing a ridge; hands are split down the middle, a gooy finger-like tendrils are creeping out of the split; mouth is much larger than the others. Does not seem at all disoriented, like the others. We drag Sheila back to the cart. Zephyr thinks she hears the ones from the other village coming (they don’t need sleep, so could catch up with us). We get in the cart and take off. Strelok’s gun jams. We see a second large-mouthed creature joining the first in pursuit of us (faster than stumblers, but still slow). Strelok casts fireball; doesn’t seem to have much affect. Zephyr fires a lightning bolt. One lesser-mouthed one falls, charred, but then gets back up.
We realize that if the group from Timber followed us, the other group will as well. We decide to cross a river and take out the bridge; Hayden and Strelok observed that they do in fact breath. When we stop to rest, we occasionally catch glimpses of them. We see that more and more are getting the larger mouths and split hands; they are maturing. We don’t stop to take any more rests. At the end of our second full day of walking, one of our horses dies. When we reach the bridge, we estimate that they are four hours behind us; we rest for that time. Sheila waits for them on the bridge. The biggest ones now have entirely new limbs growing from their old arms. They have become hunched. The head split has increased, and the frontal skull has bulged outward. They come within 30 feet of Sheila on the bridge, and she unleashes Channel Energy, which is essentially what killed the “woman” we first encountered. The creatures do not respond negatively, but rather seem almost rejuvenated. Strelok uses Fire Ball and Zephyr throws a bomb as Sheila flees the bridge. The ones on the bridge fall into the water, seem to be drowning. We take off again, but take a rest, keeping a careful watch. We rest for an entire night, but see no creatures. We travel on, continuing to take out bridges behind us; we do not see them for the rest of the trip back to Drasuc. Sheila goes to her shack; a low-ranking cleric of her church is waiting for her, and seems relieved to see her. She says to pack up: she needs to report to the high council. Something has happened with Brother Javid. Strelok and Hayden plan to go back to Amas just to get out of Oras.