As part of the deal that took them from Pavis to Ronegarth, Duke Raus gave the PCs a land grant. Rabbit Hat was the name of the walled settlement and farmlands that made up the grant, and the PCs expressed an interest in visiting their lands. Daine, however, had some news for them.
Far from being a fully working holding, Rabbit Hat was currently, Daine presumed, unpopulated. The settlement had been attacked out of nowhere by Bison Riders from the Wastes. The few survivors fled to Sun County on hearing that broos had been seen in the area after the nomads had departed. As a result, the settlement was presumed ruined. Daine added that the Duke’s title to Rabbit Hat was also a matter of legal dispute with the Count of Sun County, although the case had lain on Sor-Eel’s desk in Pavis for years and was unlikely to be decided soon. Because of the likely presence of unquiet spirits, the shaman Stars-Not-Night was prevailed upon to accompany the party, as was a Storm Bull follower, Subodai the Uncouth, in case the broos were still around. Finally, a young Orlanthi mercenary, Oderic, also accompanied the group.
Having set out early in the morning, it took the party much of the day to make it to the outskirts of Rabbit Hat, on the east side of the Zola Fel, near the wastes, just south of Sun County. Their initial scan of the area suggested no inhabitants, but they decided to be careful, approaching southwest from the Beastfold, examining the sheep carcasses and making note of those that appeared to have suffered the ravages of brookind. They came to the settlement’s wall and followed it round to the gate. They entered the village and quickly scouted it, making note of the ruined adobe buildings, the cut down palm trees and the well almost surely defiled by broos. They secured the watchtower and assessed the scene. Nothing living could be detected. All that remained were corpses, a totem of some description to the southeast and a broken-down scarecrow in the rotting fields with their clogged irrigation ditches.
Two buildings remained intact. The first, the granaries, appeared inviolate, so the party was glad to have found a potential source of food should they need it. The second was marked on their map as the headman’s house and the party approached it warily, cautious of broos or worse. The main room was indeed full of offal and dung, tell-tale signs of broo activity. Corpses, evidently of militiamen, had been stuffed unceremoniously into the fireplace, with spears, helms and shields strewn around the place. Subodai detected chaos from an otherwise unremarkable stone in the corner of the room and from the next room.
As the party approached the other room of the house, they noticed the rotting bodies of two adults and a child. Entering the room prepared for a broo ambush, Grom found himself attacked by an angry spirit. He retreated from the assault and Oderic and Skye also found themselves victims of spirit attacks. The ghosts appeared to be those of the bodies in the other room – a mature adult male, an older, overweight man and a young girl. The party retreated further into the settlement’s main yard to enable themselves best to react to this unexpected attack. Grom soon found himself possessed and attacking Oderic, who himself was then possessed. Xaraya was able to cast a spirit screen spell and Stars-Not-Night handily defeated the third spirit while Skye and Subodai attempted to fight off their possessed friends. Skye remembered that Zorak Zoran himself had given her a use of the Free Ghost spell, so she was able to cast that on Grom, to the relief of the young girl’s spirit. Stars-Not-Night’s fetch then defeated the spirit possessing Oderic, freeing him. The party breathed a sigh of relief and regrouped. Searching the house again, the party somewhat luckily found a bag of hidden treasure, including an impressively jeweled golden circlet, wrapped in a skin that Subodai said was chaotic, and a ledger written in Firespeech. The party cremated the bodies of the victims of the broos and made a note to bring a priest to cleanse the house and well. By this time, some in the party were coughing or otherwise feeling slightly feverish.
The party then decided to explore the fields to the southeast and as they surveyed the area by the wall, they discovered a deep, tunnel-like hole that Subodai said stank of chaos. Presuming this to be the broo lair, Subodai was all for heading down the hole now, but he could also sense chaos to the east and south. Checking to the east, the party found, near the scarecrow, a bison carcass with a millstone around its neck that had been carved with the message “Pray Malia or Blood Die Small Cut.” Grom and Subodai felt even more unwell.
At this point, Subodai froze in place. The party could do nothing to move him. Skye followed soon after. The party began to look around for what could be causing this. Stars-Not-Night seized up. The remaining party members realized that the scarecrow had moved from the position they had last noticed it at, although it was still and seemingly harmless right now. Xaraya and Oderic leveled their bows at it and Grom moved over to hack it to bits. He took a mighty swing at it and landed a blow strong enough to cripple any human or broo disguised as a scarecrow, but all that happened was the scarecrow leaned to the side a little. He then felt a claw rip at him, although the scarecrow had not moved. Xaraya let loose an arrow that flew through the scarecrow’s arm, then froze. Grom aimed a blow at the scarecrow’s legs and toppled it, then froze too, just as another invisible claw ripped him. Oderic started retreating, aiming arrows as he went at the scarecrow’s head. Eventually, one of them shattered the pumpkin head of the scarecrow and all the other party members unfroze. Oderic realized that the scarecrow, which had looked as it had just toppled over, was in fact in a crawling position, looking at him. [GM note – TPK only just averted!]
The unnerved, unsettled party decided to take their leave of Rabbit Hat now and seek help for their wounds and their increasingly obvious maladies. Subodai refused to go and headed down the hole to kill chaos. The others decided to head to the Sun County village of Wyoth nearby. By this time it was night, and the party found Wyoth’s gate closed. Grom called for the nightwatchman, who asked what they wanted. Grom explained that they had come from Rabbit Hat, which they had found ravaged by broos and infested with disease. The nightwatchman called the headman, who told them in no uncertain terms to stay away from his village!
By this time it was pitch black and the party debated what to do. Skye and Xaraya suggested that they should try to make their way back downriver to Ronegarth now. Xaraya even discovered the appropriate trees to make a raft, but then realized no-one had the skills to pilot it. Skye, the impetuous Vingan, refused to give in, and set off on the raft while the others made camp for the night.
Skye soon found herself in trouble. Her raft ran aground on a swampy island, and she heard the sound of a Giant Toad. Before she could see it and arm herself, its tongue hit her on the head and knocked her out…
Xaraya, Grom, Stars-Not-Night and Oderic struggled back to Ronegarth the next day and were dismayed not to find Skye there already. Luckily, the beautiful High Healer Marcilla was there. She fussed over Grom, clasping him to her astounding bosom and curing him of the Creeping Chills and the Bleeding Disease in the process.
Meanwhile, Skye woke up in a damp stone cell. After a while, a newtling guard and an old newtling shaman entered. The shaman spoke: “You in Five Eyes. I Croaker, shaman. My Traskar find you, bring you here. Where you from, you have ransom?” Skye explained that she was an associate of Duke Raus of Rone, who would pay her ransom but would exact vengeance should anything happen to her. Croaker laughed and said he would send to Ronegarth, and release her back there on payment of the ransom.
Back in Ronegarth, the Duke expressed concern about the presence of chaos in Rabbit Hat, saying that the scarecrow was certainly a Jack O’Bear, and the tunnel entrance suggested something worse beneath the ground. As Subodai had not returned, the Duke said that he would send to Pavis for a sage knowledgeable in the lore of chaos and a dwarf who could help them in the tunnels. About this time, the ransom demand from Five Eyes arrived, which the Duke agreed to pay against his debt to the PCs. Grom and Xaraya decided to go to Pavis while waiting for their friend to be freed. While there, they arranged for the forging of armaments for the people of Weis, which would be delivered in a couple of months. As they made their way back with a Lhankor Mhy sage and a muttering Flintnail dwarf, Skye was being rafted back to Ronegarth. Soon the party would be on its way back to Rabbit Hat…