The small crowd looked to the road-weary man expectantly. The firelight danced in his eyes as a humorless smile crossed his lips.
“The fire is getting low, and I think I may have one more tale to tell. A story about the dangers of getting what you wish for…”
When he was a young man, some years before his tutelage with the elves of Ylhurandy, Blackhawk was seeking inspiration for his first poetic epic. One adventure nearly proved the end of him, and showed him just how deadly and unpredictable Davokar could be: an expedition to find the legendary Skofnung Singasteinn. This stone of lore was said to cure any wound inflicted by a blade and transform its wielder into animal shape at will.
The Player Characters are guards hired by the treasure hunters. They have been promised a 5% cut of the profits each for their assistance, on top of the fame that will naturally come from such a find. Blackhawk, having not yet achieved his standing as a skald, is to receive a 2% cut of the profits as the group’s negotiator and cook, although anybody that partakes of his meals will quickly discover that he dramatically overstated his culinary abilities.
All of the preceding has already been resolved when the adventure begins, and the players jump into the scenario on the morning the expedition leaves Thistle Hold, bound for the heart of the Black Pitch Mire where the Skofnung Singasteinn is rumored to be.
The Expedition Party
The Journey Inward
It’s 150 km northeast as the crow flies from Thistle Hold to the center of the Black Pitch Marsh, the first 120 km of which are through “Light Davokar” while the last 30 are through the Marsh itself. For the purposes of overland travel speed, treat the marsh as “Dark Davokar” thanks to its lack of clear paths and its treacherous footing. The party has horses supplied by their employers for the journey, which can also carry their equipment should they choose. The party can decide on their pace each day.
While nothing specific needs to go wrong on the way to the mire, no journey through Davokar goes exactly as planned. Roll on random encounter tables, pull foes from the Core Rulebook or the Monster Codex, or include roleplaying encounters with encountered Cultural Beings. The Queen’s Rangers have a forward operating base somewhere to the east of the Columns of Haganor, and while the Vajvod tribe is relatively friendly with Ambrian explorers the same cannot be said for the aggressive and territorial Karohar peoples that inhabit most of the land the party will need to pass through.
The treasure hunters insist on secrecy for their mission and refuse to discuss the details with any of the cultural beings they may meet. Should the party choose to go behind their employers’ backs, the accounts are erratic. The Skofnung Singasteinn, to hear it told by the locals, is nothing more than a myth. No, it’s actually four stones which all share the same properties. It’s a stone set into an ancient wedding ring, or a necklace, or it’s a masterfully faceted emerald the size of a troll’s fist, or it’s an uncut opal the color of dried blood. It radiates corruption, or it radiates purity, or it glows with a soft blue inner light. It attracts forest creatures, or perhaps repels them. The list goes on. The only piece of the tale that never varies is that the stone makes noise constantly and it is (probably) marked with an eldritch and alien rune.
Whatever the case may be, the party will arrive at the edge of the Black Pitch Marsh after four days’ ride (unless they press the pace or are forced to reroute). By the time they make their camp at the marsh’s edge Blackhawk is already three verses into his latest masterpiece, The Saga of the Stone Hunters, which takes certain liberties describing his own contribution to the expedition. Now begins the process of actually locating the artifact.
This is suspiciously easy. With a successful Vigilant test the party can hear a very faint hum in the distance, so low they can feel it in the soles of their feet as they approach the source of the noise. The Skofnung Singasteinn is a 30 km slog into the marsh, but the thing itself is unmistakable when they arrive at it.
Things Found and Things Lost
The stone is not what the treasure hunters expected. It’s a rough pillar of rock two meters tall, sitting alone on a barren stretch of bog. The near-deafening hum is clearly coming from it and it’s marked with a strange rune. Touching the stone yields no results, nor does any weapon or supernatural ability seem to be able to mark or shift it. Frustrated, the treasure hunters call for the party to make camp some distance away and discuss what to do next.
When the sun sinks below the horizon, the deep hum abruptly cuts off, the sudden silence sending a chill down the spines of all present. An ethereal green light fills the area, and a voice echoes out as the ghostly figure of a man appears: “Who dares approach this place?”
The ghost is a deildeghast, the spirit of a person who tampered with boundary stones in life and is cursed to fruitlessly try to return them to their original place for all eternity. It relates its condition to the treasure hunters, who express outrage at the absence of a proper magical stone. It reveals that it can grant them the power they seek, but only if they put the stone back in its proper place.
The treasure hunters are quick to agree, and if the party helps then the stone can be moved with a [Strong-5] test. If the party refuses, the treasure hunters order them away and move the stone themselves.
The moment the stone is back in its place (roughly 15 meters from its original spot) the spirit laughs maniacally at its new freedom and swoops down to envelop Erlan in a shroud of green fire. He howls as the corrupting flames twist his flesh, instantly transforming him into an undead monster. He lurches toward the party, the dreadful hum now emerging from his tortured throat. When the party has killed Erlan and his body drops to the ground, it is immediately swallowed by the mire.
Flight Back to Ambria
When the party makes camp for the first night, as yet unaware of their predicament, Emmett offers to take first watch. The party awakes in the morning to find him gone and the horses dead, with signs of a struggle. There is no [Vigilant] check to awaken, thanks to the second-tier Soporific Aura. The body of Emmett can be located half a kilometer off, strangled from behind. From here it is a race to the forest’s edge, with the Undying Stalker hounding them each night.
The undead monster only gets stronger each time it is killed. If the party can restrain or evade it for a night then it does not increase in power, although this is difficult given its strength and Life Sense. It’s 150 km back to Thistle Hold, or 120 to the nearest border southeast (if the party can navigate successfully).
The Undying Stalker