A is for Academia
As the ground thaws and Spring is upon us, Elder Sonya brought together volunteers to head into one of Celestian's libraries on the trail of a journal that could have information on how to fight back the Ritual Hounds of the Kingdom of Islan Tel'Nava. With the help of experienced and green adventurers, they were able to recover information from one of Celestian's journals that gave them the information as to which sanctum and vault contained a scroll case with rituals to that end.
Unfortunately for our stalwart group of adventurers, there seems to be nothing but darkness on the horizon. Though the nights have been quieter, with less dead walking the lands, farmland has been razed. The military presence of the Kingdom has seemed to have lessened in recent times as well, roads to and from Knoch'Len being protected by the guard formerly of Baron Mercer and still wearing his colors but now working for the leadership of Knoch'Len.
Slitted eyes have been appearing, observing adventurers. They seemed to do no more, at least at first. Shortly after the recovery of the black journal from Celestian's library and the encounter with an intelligent, four-armed black creature seemingly covered in a dark, oozing substance, the same creature has been sighted near the town. Its stated intent is to destroy knowledge, and is the same witnessed in the Library.
Of late, there has been more presence from the seemingly benevolent fae, Rook and Branwen. Rook in particular has been frequenting the Dead Walk Inn and Tavern.
A pillar of light and dark energy erupted, days away from Knoch'Len, sending ripples of magic that could be felt by all in the village. It seemed to subside on its own, but as of yet none know what happened.
Another worrying trend has been the appearance of necromancy "recruitment" posters on the bulletin board, as well as the same bottle that appeared before Winter crept in, protected by a Circle of Power. None witnessed directly what force put them there. Corrupted dryads were also spotted near the village, and upon investigation, the home of the Bog Witch associated with them appeared to have been recently disturbed.
Certainly a diversion - if not a particularly comforting one - incredibly large chickens, some standing as tall as a man, have been spotted in and around the Dead Walk Inn and Tavern. A few were spotted outside, being chased by goblins (a few bearing cuts and bruises, as well as a saddle.) Some furniture was stolen and broken, presumably for use in an over-large nest. The tavern has also had a seemingly benign disembodied voice haranguing patrons.
Alongside the razing of farmland, the Azure-Neck allied goblin encampment was razed, though it has recently undergone rebuilding efforts from the tribe as well as townsfolk and adventurers.
Recently, two students from the Dawnhart Academy have gone missing, as well as Havrik, the town blacksmith. Of note, at Shad's Scholarly Works, the sylvanborn scholar Shadzeran mentioned he's had a run on Purify potions and Dispel scrolls and is running low. A few days before the expedition to Celestian's sanctum to recover the scroll case containing ritual scrolls to fight the Hounds, there were rumors of undead walking during the daylight.
L is for Learning
Unfortunately, those rumors were confirmed with terrifying clarity after a group of volunteers converged on the entrance to Celestian Dawnbringer's sanctum. There, while the group was gathering to head into the first trial room to gather seals and open the vault, a skull with a slitted eye appeared and disgorged undead that walked during the daylight and moved with intelligence. After they were joined by a former Baronial guard who was sent to them, news came that the situation was similar an hour away in Knoch'Len.
The various teams were dispatched to gather seals from the rooms of trials, also finding nodes of power that were suffused with the magic of Barran. With care and quick-thinking, the group was able to recover some of the same, as well as the locked scroll case, which is in Elder Sonya's care to be opened.
We can only hope that the efforts of the brave and cunning volunteers will lead to the end of tyranny toward ritual casters in time to fight the growing threat of more organized undead and whoever or whatever is behind the symbol of the crowned skull that keeps appearing...