ARRIVAL AT CULCHETH
After a full day and a half of traversing bleak forests and rocky wooded hills, the oppressive weight of the dark wood is lifted from you as you break out into the open river valley of northwestern Athkaria. Your comfort is short-lived, however, as a slight drizzle from the slate-colored sky bursts into a full downpour, soaking through your cloaks and into your armor—seeming to trap the chill in your very bones.
After a several hours journey through the river valley, just as the sun dips behind the distant horizon, you reach the ferry house that will take you across the river to the town of Culcheth, just in time for a warm bath and a hot meal.
The PCs approached the ferry house and noticed that no light shines from the windows but that some wisps of smoke drift up from the chimney. The PCs approached the door and find it locked and all windows are shuttered and latched.
The PCs break in and find an empty house with half-eaten food on the table and a low fire burning on embers. They searched around and Adreth ambushes them wildly from the clothing cabinet, swinging a woodcutter’s ax. Upon seeing the party he panicked, swinging at them and cursing them for their crimes.
The PCs calm him down and he collapsed in the corner, exasperated.
“Who are you? Why are you here?”
The PCs stated they wanted a ferry ride, but he refused:
“The town of Culcheth is no more. Last night I heard it—the howls of pain, the screams of children, and I sat here, hiding in my house like a coward. I could hear it clearly across the river. When dawn arrived, I looked across the river and saw nothing. No activity, no fires burning, nothing! I don’t know what massacre happened there but I’m not crossing that river!”
The PCs paid Adreth 100 gp for the ferry boat and to stable their horses. Then they crossed the river without incident.
Once the PCs arrived in Culcheth they found a town completely devoid of activity. Window shutters were broken, doors drifting ajar, pottery broken, fences busted down, but no signs of blood or bodies to be found. The PCs found some cooking pots with food in them, tables set with half-eaten food, and bedding disturbed.
TRAVEL AND CAMP
The PCs decided to leave Culcheth and head into the mountains toward Yssa. They had a day of travel into the dark woods:
After leaving the deserted town, you continue up the road toward Yssa. The road plunges into a thick forest, the canopy overhead still thick and oppressive despite the leaves shedding from the boughs in the cold autumnal wind. The road becomes less and less maintained as you ascend into the foothills of the Shieldwall mountains, picking your way carefully along a pitted and sometimes narrow road that winds ever upward.
The PCs set up camp and decided watches; something strange happened during the third watch:
Pulling your cloak tightly around you in the biting chill of the mountain wind, you notice that the forest has gotten eerily silent. Nowhere do you hear the usual sounds of distant howling wolves, the hooting of owls, the quiet flapping of bat wings—nothing but the gales of mountain wind, chilling you to the bone.
You hear what sounds like footfalls in the foliage, but you can’t seem to pinpoint which direction they are coming from. Soon after you hear what sounds like a strange chorus of hissing and grunting coming from an indeterminate direction.
[The PCs investigated]
Upon closer inspection the source of the noise—one of the noises becomes apparent—plunging out of the woods comes a man dressed in the clothes of a woodsman, but his eyes are vacant and red fluid oozes from various orifices and from strange reddish growths that erupt from his skin. He lunges at you hungrily!
[A PC is attacked by a zombie]
As the creature approaches you, you hear clearly a scream of torment within your skull, dulling your concentration and leaving you vulnerable!
THE VILLAGE OF YSSA
When the PCs finally arrived at the village, they found it deserted. After a few minutes of poking around, the first wave of zombies and swarms appeared. After their first battle, a second wave appeared, including a swarmbringer.
In the second battle, the PCs are attacked by a zombie of an adolescent with blond hair.