Blood and Honor

Episode 4 - From Rybalka to the Devil of Darkwood

The party managed to locate all the supplies on the manifest, but there was far too much to carry to get everything back to Skolland in Cerl. It was suggested that only the most valuable items be taken as proof of contract fulfillment, but scavengers could fall upon the place and discover the rest. It was at that point that someone recommended heading to the nearby town of Rybalka since that’s where the provisions were supposed to go in the first place, it was closer, and the party could get assistance there.

Rona sang to raise the spirits of the weary party:

We’re going to Rybalka
We’re happy to be gone
We’re a crazy bunch of assholes
With a bunch of shit to pawn

The group moved through the snow, slowly taking in the new and alien sights and sounds of the remote village. The smell of cedar wood burning along with the searing flesh of wilderness animals was carried along as the smoke from small log cabins mixed with the valley mist. Large poles made from solid wood and carved with all manner of animal faces stared at the party members like trapped lost souls begging for salvation.

Many of the log cabins displayed elk horns above their front doors, while others sported large wooden discs with eerie faces carved in traditional Echian fashion. It seemed quite strange that after taking the village of Rybalka that the Klave Clan did not rid themselves of all the silly wooden idols the original Echian settlers so prominently displayed.

Just then a man with skin the color of ash stepped out in front of the party and looked them up and down. His eyes were dark, almost black, and he gazed into each person’s eyes, seemingly piercing to the soul. “You are new here; today you live, but you have the smell of death upon you. See Sulwotik at daybreak to be cleansed, or the beasts of the wood will come for you.” The tall man then turned and walked away back into the mist from where he came.

“Don’t mind him” said the captain, “Just another Vikmordere loony. A local family that still hasn’t quite come to terms with idea of settling.”

So the party went to the Bugg Inn, and it was relatively run down and torn apart. Bugg himself was there and asked the party what they wanted. They wanted to get word to Skolland, the valet to the Baron of Lampshire. He instructed them to go to the town hall.

The Rybalka Town Hall is a striking structure decorated with onion domes. Oddly enough, there was the carved wooden head of an eagle protruding over the entrance. Double wooden doors opened inward, presumably so in times of heavy snow, access can be maintained. Upon the wooden doors were the carvings of many local animals in the traditional Echian tribal style.

The great hall had wooden beams crisscrossing the ceiling and a long, old red carpet covered in stains and mud stretching the length of the wood lodge. A roaring fire blazed away in a great hearth, radiating a significant amount of heat into the large structure. The entire building smelled of wood and smoke, and the sound of someone reading aloud could be heard from a back room. The jingle of chain mail armor greeted the party as they struggled to shut the enormous double doors.

Two of the Rybalka village guard emerged from behind a drawn curtain in a side room and approached. Both the men wore slightly damaged chain mail and carry long blades at their sides.They were dirty and smelled quite foul. One of the men sported a curled mustache, which he twirled as they approached. The other donned a tweed cap and coughed.

“Hail travelers and welcome to the fine village of Rybalka. This day, on the edge of the last foothold of civilization that you show true honor and allegiance to the king of your kingdom,” said one of the guards.

The other man snickered and said, “Ah, they heard enough, Nolan! Let ‘em relax. I bet they wanna talk with Igor and get away from our stink.”

The man with the mustache turned to face his fellow guardsman. “Barret, have you learned nothing of honor and respect in your time here? Those who fail to follow the ways of the God of War will fall in battle. You must remain alert and always represent yourself and our village in the- ”

“Ah, shut it.” The other guard chuckled and motioned the party onward. “Mayor Igor Leonid is in the office. Just go on in.”

The party members pushed aside the red curtain which hung over the doorway and found a man sitting behind a huge wooden desk. He was writing feverishly, and sweat dripped down his face. He glanced up and grinned from ear to ear. “Ah ha! You have made it! Very good!” He dropped his quill and walked out from behind the desk. He wore only an undershirt and pants cropped short with a pair of huge fur boots. “I am Igor, Mayor Igor Leonid of Rybalka, the village on the very edge of the great Echian Kingdom! I pledge allegiance to King Owen Ivor and will uphold the laws of the Echian Kingdom until the day death takes me. I trust your journey was a safe one? Please, sit down, have some whiskey. Tell me your names and a bit about yourselves.” The mayor pulled up some stools from the corner of the room, poured liquid into small glasses, and pushed them toward everyone while he drank from the flask.

Rona drank with the mayor and offered him entertainment. He said it had been a long time since they’d had a skald in these parts, and he welcomed the offer of story and song. The mayor also paid the party and sent men to retrieve the rest of the items that the party had hidden in the cave. Finally, he spoke of things occurring in Rybalka, most notably some Kyladians that had come to town, which was a very odd thing. They could be found in the Thirsty Serpent Tavern. Also, there had been a break-in at the local library.

The party decided they could use some food and perhaps more drink, so they found their way to the Thirsty Serpent. It was a large building which looked like a two-story log cabin. It was quite large, and the sound of laughing and drunken ruckus escaped the cracks around the wooden door at the entry.

Above the entryway hung an old wooden sign upon which a twisting sea serpent with its tail wrapping around a mug of ale was carved. Pushing the doors open revealed a large barroom, warmly lit by a glowing fireplace and a raging wood stove. A long wooden bar faced the kitchen and was lined with rough and tough looking men covered in dirt and sweat. They pounded ales and talked about their day while enjoying the company of other laborers.

The inn keep, a spry looking young man with a handsome grin, rushed to and fro attempting to appease his customers. A serving boy brought plates of steaming venison and potatoes out to the round tables where the captain and his men sat. There was one seat left at the captain’s table and he motioned at the party should one of the members you to join him. But as they walked in, everyone stopped drinking and turned to stare. It was obvious that they didn’t encounter outsiders too often, and they didn’t look very friendly.

Rona sat down, took out her lute, and started to play softly as the party was served food and drink. The mood started to improve, so she continued to play a bit louder and sing a jolly tune. Meanwhile there was an elf sitting away with what looked to be an entourage; those were the Kyladians. The red elf had a massive glaive, and he gave Ignis a cold stare as Ignis, being himself, went over to introduce himself and make friends. This elf’s name was Uri, and he was tired of being stuck in Rybalka. He grudgingly accepted the party’s invitation to hang out together and possibly investigate the library situation.

The group wanted Rona to talk to the captain, so she went to his table and did so. The pertinent information gathered was that a hunter went missing and the library got broken into. A shepherd was tending his flock, and some sheep went missing. So he hired a hunter to go after a wolf, and that hunter went missing in the Darkwood. It wasn’t completely unheard of, but it was out of the ordinary. Also, the library break-in was odd because the only thing stolen was a book of genealogy of the town that the librarian/alchemist was working on.Rona, having heard tales of lycanthropes, conjectured that it was a werewolf and wanted the book to hide bloodline information.

There was no room at the disgusting Bugg Inn, so the party camped and went to the library the next day. They met with the librarian named Maestra. There were claw-marks on the door halfway up like where a human would scratch if they had claws. There were also broken branches outside the library and a few bits of brown fur. Rona asked if there were any bloodlines that were strange, and Maestra said no, although there was some inbreeding. However, that was not uncommon. Rona then asked if there were any families that were not forthcoming with information, and he said the Vikmordere clan, but that was to be expected because they were out in the wild and didn’t like these folks. Once again, Rona stated that werewolves were likely.
Uri’s huntress stated that if werewolves were to blame, the group should not go unprepared. They asked the alchemist for alchemical silver, but he needed silver to make it. The group split up to get sources. Rona sought an audience with the mayor to discuss the situation and hopefully get some assistance in either coin, weapons, or silver. Uri accompanied her, which was the beginning of a very strained relationship between the two.

Silver was found, and crossbow bolts were made. The party headed into the Darkwood for werewolf hunting. They followed tracks, and a heavy rainstorm moved into the area. Before long, the entire group was soaked and chilled.

As they approached a pile of ice-covered rubble, a human voice called out. “Get away! I’ll kill you! He’ll make me kill you! Get away! I can’t do this… I… someone please… stop me…” There was a human man in blood-stained clothing nearly torn to shreds and hanging from his water-soaked skin. He clutched his head tightly in his hands and screamed as if his mind was being torn asunder. “He’s going to make me kill you! Don’t you understand?!”

The party asked who, and he replied, “The Devil of Darkwood.”
“Who is the Devil of Darkwood?”
He would not, or could not, give a clear answer.
Rona asked if he was a werewolf. He replied, “How did you know that?”
Ignis asked if he took the book. He replied, “How did you know that?!”
He begged us to kill him.
“How can we find him?” Uri asked, referring to the Devil of Darkwood.
“He lives in a cave.”

The party dispatched the man and went into the cave. There were indeed werewolves, and the fight was long and gruesome. Finally, a demon appeared. The group, awed, tried to make a plan, but the demon flew off and disappeared before they could do anything. Within the cave proper, the party found an ancient stone table with stolen alchemy equipment on it as well as some additional apparatuses.

We went into the cave, fought some werewolves and tried to fight a demon. But the demon flew off and disappeared. Within the cavern proper the party finds an ancient stone table with the stolen alchemy equipment and some additional apparatuses. Also, the party found strange fetish dolls discarded by the devil. Three were able to be matched to werewolves the party had killed, but the fourth did not match anyone the group had seen. Rona cast Suggestion on the doll in the hope that she could force whoever its counterpart to go to her, but she could immediately tell that it resisted.

The book of genealogy was found, and the last entry was about the Vikmordere family. Inbreeding was definitely happening in that family, but the most pertinent piece of information was their connection to a druid circle called The Emerald Grove.

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