Friday & Satyrday, 12th & 13th Midsummer
In their search for Senkara’s father, Elpidius, the party first visited the Long Draw, one of Praestan’s few serviceable inns. Their elven disguises deceived the barkeep, who told the group that Elpidius was held under “work arrest,” forced to continue managing the village’s accounts under Abnego’s ever-watchful eye. This new information pointed the party towards the Village Center, Abnego’s seat of power and Elpidius’ prison. Though the guards initially denied the party access to the accounting office, Alyndra fascinated them long enough for the other three to sneak in a back door. They quickly found an exhausted and bedraggled Elpidius, and after Senkara revealed her true identity to the wary elf, the group convinced him to join them and escape to Nova Dominium. Unfortunately, smuggling Elpidius out of the Village Center proved considerably more difficult, and the party was quickly apprehended and brought before the village despot.
Abnego, surrounded by his elite retinue of enforcers, quickly recognized Senkara and began mocking Elpidius, claiming his daughter’s attempt to rescue him was a crime only punishable by death. The party attempted to use their connection to the Thieves’ Guild, including the mysterious chest their contact provided, as leverage, but once they provided the chest Abnego decided a merciful response to their assistance was to merely hang them in the morning. His arrogance was cut short, however, when he finally opened his package. Once Abnego turned the key, he immediately died screaming as a seemingly endless fountain of golden scarabs erupted from the chest, consuming everything in sight. Chaos ensued, allowing the party to flee with Elpidius in tow, scarabs literally biting at their heels. With some clever thinking and more than a little luck, the party was able to escape the doomed village, turning their horses around to watch as Praestan was completely consumed by a mountain of swarming insects.
The ride back was long and quiet, as the group contemplated the horrid fate they had unleashed upon Senkara’s childhood home at the behest of the Thieves’ Guild. As they moved through the countryside they noticed the murder of crows in the surrounding trees had grown considerably, further increasing their sense of unease. Nova Dominium appeared on the horizon, but as they approached, a lean, 9-foot tall hooded figure blocked their way. After speaking a few verses in a raspy tone, the mysterious humanoid disintegrated into hundreds of crows, and the entire murder descended on the heroes. Leaving the horses as a distraction, the party made a break for the walls of the city, with Senkara and Cedric helping Elpidius keep up in their mad dash. With only minor injuries, the party safely found their way inside the walls of Nova Dominium, the murder of crows dispersing behind them.
A great deal had happened in their absence. Upon returning to the stable to report the loss of their horses, the party found the surly stablemaster mauled. Inspection of the body revealed that an annis hag, most likely associated with the witch cult and the tall figure that confronted them on the road, had attacked him. The group then returned to Southwatch Lighthouse, only to find their javelin trap had been sprung and an elf lay dead on their doorstep. Drevitt confessed that a number of elves posing as customs officers had tried to force their way into the lighthouse using magic, but he fended them off with the help of Senkara’s trap and the timely arrival of the City Watch. The old wrestler was happy to help, but requested that the PCs not ask him to guard the lighthouse again – witches were simply too far above his pay grade.
The group rested, granting Elpidius sanctuary until they could bring him to Polonius in the morning. The next day the adventurers returned to the Temple of the Dawn to request further healing for Elpidius and themselves, but were shocked to find Lumen Nalia in a comatose state. Overseeing her treatment was a striking elf cleric, who introduced himself as none other than Lumen Zaphkiel, renowned member of the Contego Populum. He informed the party that Nalia was the target of a sea hag’s evil eye effect, a powerful curse that would claim her life if she did not receive magical aid. He was watching over her while the rest of the Contego investigated the crime scene. At this point the group split up in order to cover more ground and tie up loose ends.
Alyndra ran to Thevane Crispwillow and purchased a scroll of remove curse, the only item that could possibly help the afflicted lumen. Zaphkiel was able to successfully dispel the evil eye, and in a few moments Nalia returned to consciousness, shaken but otherwise unharmed. She informed Zaphkiel and Alyndra that she had noticed some unusual activity by the waterfront, and was attacked by witches and the sea hag that cursed her when she went to investigate. She provided the two adventurers with the address where she was ambushed, and requested that they follow up while she recovered.
Senkara returned to Polonius’ home, where father and grandfather were tearfully reunited. Elpidius presented the party with his magic items from Praestan (claiming he no longer had any need for them), and Polonius signed over the deed to his ancient warship, Scythe, to Senkara, fully acknowledging her as his grandsaughter. Scythe’s state of disrepair made it little more than a nominal gift, but the party decided to rebuild the great flagship once they acquired the necessary funds.
Meanwhile, Cedric and Keela visited Victarion’s Restaurant and Winery, where their code phrase reunited them with their Thieves’ Guild contact. The mysterious elf commended them on handling the task intelligently and obediently, and explained that the “Woodhaven Project” was originally a front used to establish a smuggler’s haven for goods being shipped north for sale. The intent was to found a “racially equal” trading village so as to establish positive relations with Northern buyers, but Abnego’s self-righteous coup made Woodhaven a liability. To cover their tracks, the Thieves’ Guild imported the scarab swarm in an extradimensional space with the intent of eliminating every inhabitant (innocent or otherwise) and wiping the village off the map, then letting the nighttime temperature drop kill off all the beetles; it would be as if Woodhaven had never existed.
After a quick rendezvous and exchange of information, the reunited group teamed up with Zaphkiel to visit the address Nalia had provided. They found little more than an unoccupied tenement, but upon further investigation discovered numerous, hastily scrawled notes stuffed into a mattress:
“Gervais Tripdirt – son Ethan addict, gravekeeper, records of dead in file beside bed.”
“Marisa Montea – tavern owner and barkeep, strong willed, popular and well connected – DO NOT HARM!”
“Baldwin Brayer – son Dilwin is lame, patrols wharf front and lighthouse mostly.”
“Donal Loye – lover Miley left him for church – pilgrim, naval customs officer, manifests kept on desk (present) or in cabinet (past) – MAY HAVE TARGET INFO!”
“Lyst family, lighthouse – father Carver, strong but dull, wanted for murder, hiding out – mother Teya, covering for Carver, small and frail – daughter Isabel, healthy, POSSIBLE CRONING CANDIDATE!”
“Lighthouse Infidels – Cedric, human spearman, strong body, will unknown – Alyndra, halfblood bard, Flats native, close with Marisa – Senkara, halfblood thief, good senses, SISTER? – Keela, gnome SORCERER???, thrush familiar, strong will – all adventurers, DANGEROUS, do not confront directly or alone, kill only if exposed, watch out for traps in lighthouse!”
The party immediately realized they had stumbled upon a trove of reconnaissance information obtained by the witch cult. Without time to consider the deeper implications of some of these notes, they immediately sought out apparent targets the witches had deemed high profile.
Their first stop was at Gervais’s house, since the group already had a good rapport with the old gravedigger. They found him in hiding, terrified after he was visited by a group of elves demanding his records of the dead. Zaphkiel identified that their intention likely focused on using the corpses of mass murderers as potent undead; since Gervais had the records of where they were buried, they likely meant to steal the information from him. The party convinced Gervais to stash his records in a hidden cache and wait for their return.
The group next visited the Brayer home, but stumbled upon a far more ghastly scene: Baldwin, his wife, and his son were all killed in a similar fashion to the Lysts, with no readily apparent motive. The party realizes the targets in those notes are in dire peril, and immediately rush off to warn the last potential victim: Donal Noye.
They found him in the customs office, milling about with several other employees. When they announced their presence, the clerk at the desk insisted they leave right up until she learned they had a member of the Contego Populum in their midst, at which point she invited them in. Suspecting a trap, the group requested they meet outside, arguing with the clerk until she grew frustrated. Deciding she was caught, the woman dismissed the veil over the office, revealing that all the employees were now zombies and she herself was the sea hag responsible for Nalia’s prior condition. A fierce battle ensued, in which Keela blinded the hag with glitterdust while Senkara, Alyndra and Zaphkiel fended off the oncoming zombies. Cedric tumbled past the corpses and skewered the hag; with their leader dead, mopping up the remaining zombies proved simple. The group found the manifest mentioned in the note, but realized that one page was torn out. The only remaining entry of note was a reference to a single empty warehouse near the wharf. With no other leads and a pressing need to find the missing manifest page, the party set out for this warehouse. Alyndra, Cedric, Keela and Senkara now understood that these witches were to be some of their primary adversaries, and as a way to unify their cause and spite the cult, they agreed to name their adventuring party " the Lighthouse Infidels."