(GM note: I didn’t take good notes during this and the next few adventures, so apologies that they aren’t as detailed as the previous recaps)
Our heroes realized that not all of the vision had been accounted for in their expulsion of the broos from the Vilnar headwater caverns. They discussed the visions with Leotychidas, Homophilus and Cleombrotus, who said that all clues pointed towards a village called Black Rock, on the western outskirts of Sun County. The party marched through the heat of Fire Season to the village, moving through dead fields, a deserted village and past up dried up streams. At Black Rock they were greeted as emissaries of the Count by the village headman Fethal, a former Sun Dome templar, and his cocky son Varloz. They pronounced a feast in honor of the visitors that night, and Fethal insisted that the militia would drill for the visitors the next morning.
At the feast, the party noticed some strange things. Grom noticed that the youths of the village were unruly and uncouth, particularly for Sun Domers, although he was distracted by an attractive young widow. Xaraya noticed that there were few young men, as opposed to teens, and that Varloz spent much of the time leering at her. That night, Leo and the other Domers were asked to sleep in Fethal’s hut, while the unbelievers were asked to sleep outside. Suspecting something was up, Xaraya, Skye and Grom split up watch duties. When Grom was on watch, he was approached by the young widow, bearing her child with her. She said her child was sick, and she needed to take her to the Earth Temple, but wanted a strong man with her to keep her safe. Grom agreed, because there was something threatening about the place. They proceeded to engage in increasingly affectionate conversation. After she left the child with the crone at the Earth Temple, she asked Grom to retire with her, but Grom, though tempted, refused.
The next morning, Grom and Leo supervised a drill session. They declared the Black Rock militia in severe need of discipline and proceeded to start knocking it into shape. While they were doing that, Xaraya, Skye, Homophilus and Cleombrotus searched for information, with Varloz acting as their guide along with two militiamen. They found the crone in the Earth Temple had lost her wits, although she did try to show them writings in a language no-one understood. Climbing the rock slide to the waterfall above the town, they found a shack that housed the village shaman, a woman who seemed compltely and utterly terrified by something. Xaraya tried reasoning with her, but failed.
Looking from the top of the cliff, they spied a pool and barn in the distance. Remembering the presence of a pool in the vision, the party insisted on going to investigate, despite Varloz complaining that it was just some fields and a barn. Xaraya called Grom to join them, while Homophilus went back to join Leotychidas in training the militia. They made their way along the cliff top and down to the barn area. Varloz looked more and more agitated. After Grom opened the barn, they suddenly came under magical and missile attack from hidden opponents in the grain fields. On top of that, Varloz and the militiamen turned on them and shut the barn behind Grom, locking him in. Varloz killed Cleombrotus with what was obviously a magical spear. Skye faced off against Varloz while Xaraya dealt with the other militiamen. Grom failed to reach the barn skylight, so took the simple expedient of ripping down planks from the barn wall and made his way back out.
Eventually Skye killed Varloz, who had failed to control the magics of his spear (and took the spear for herself), while Xaraya and Grom finished off the other militiamen. They then turned their attention to their hidden assailants, by firing burning arrows into the fields. The assailants fled, and the party noticed they looked like children. The children were fast, and made off over the plains to the southeast under cover of the smoke. The party managed to find tracks and followed them.
After a while, they lost sight of the children, and then lost the trail. Recovering it, they found that the children appeared to have been picked up by a band of Sable riders – Xaraya’s tribal enemy. Continuing on, the party indeed encountered a band of Sable Riders – a Lunar provincial survey team, headed by a charismatic young officer named Hazphar Phraates, and an Iron Centurion named Dalmades. Xaraya and Hazphar, a sorcerer, proceeded to flirt, while Dalmades and Grom sized each other up and agreed to duel the next time Dalmades visited Ronegarth. Hazphar revealed that his command had indeed come across children in the plains, and out of charity had taken them off to the southeast, where they appeared to know some settlers. Hazphar did not know where they had gone precisely. Despite their mutual attraction, Xaraya was sure Hazphar was not being totally level with her.
Reaching what seemed like a dead end, the party decided to return to the barn, which they explored. They found a horrific sight, with mutilated corpses hanging in the barn and evil phrases carved into the roof. They also found a series of pouches that Xaraya recognized as fetishes – including a male testicle and a lock of hair that Xaraya realized had been taken from the shaman in a ritual of spiritual castration. They also realized that the pond had been artificially created by a small dam of rocks, and that this had caused the drying up of the fields and stream below. They removed the dam, and as the pool emptied, they discovered a skeleton of a young teen.
First, the party returned to the shaman. With her lock of hair returned, she seemed to gain in spiritual strength, and was able to speak. She revealed that the village was beset by a particularly evil and chaotic spirit, one that had carnal power, that had tortured her, taken her spirits and killed her fetch. The shaman was too weak to help, but begged the party to destroy the spirit.
The party girded their loins and set back for the village. There was no-one to be seen. The party first explored Fethal’s hut, where they found more obscene carvings and a blood-stained dagger stuck in the roof. Skye secured the dagger in her bag and the party searched the other huts. They found cowering woman after cowering woman, most of them pregnant. One of the women was the widow Grom had met the previous night, with her baby, but she looked much less attractive than she had. Questioning revealed they were all pregnant by the same male, but it was not Fethal or any other man the party knew of. The women were all terrified of “The Mistress” above all.
The decided to explore the Yelmalio temple next. As they filed over the bridge in the center of the village, Fethal and his men came out of the temple in battle formation, while Skye felt something moving in her bag. Skye looked, and found a tiny naked woman attempting to pull the dagger out of the bag. When Skye moved to pick up the woman, the tiny figure grew in size to twice the height of any of them. Grom swung his sword, hit the woman in the head, and, miraculously, she disappeared. (GM note: critical hits against unarmored, even if mystical opponents are extremely useful)
Fethal’s militia fired bows ineffectively. Xaraya responded using her new legendary ability of Deadeye – and skewered Fethal through the eye. Another healed him, but Xaraya promptly did it again! Others had been brought down by Skye’s missile fire and Grom was closing, looking like an Avatar of Humakt the God of Death. The rest of the militia fled, but Xaraya found Fethal was still alive and conscious, though dying. Fethal confessed that he had brought the curse upon the village by killing young girl by the pond in his youth. She had returned as a vengeful spirit, and had mastered him, and the rest of the town, killing the men who resisted and fathering a gaggle of children from hell, Varloz being the first. He then expired.
The party entered the temple, where they found a bound and gagged Homophilus, and a naked Leotychidas, crucified above the altar. Homophilus revealed that the Mistress had spent hours writhing with Leo, who was now exceptionally weak. They rescued their friends, and went to the Earth Temple. By careful interrogation of the crone, they were able to ascertain that she had a blessed shovel, which would put angry spirits to rest by proper burial. Using the shovel, they buried the skeleton they had found. The shaman said that she believed the spirit had departed.
The party was left with a village with no men and a host of pregnant women, likely carrying chaotic children inside them. They resolved to take the women to Horn Gate, where Skye believed the healers could remove the chaos inside them safely. As they left, they burned the cursed village and marched back to Ronegarth full of regret and sorrow at what had befallen the people of Black Rock.