Three days on a river flowing north, the Lionshields, and their newfound compatriot Dalr Garisson, have been under a perpetual dark cloud: incessant rain, ungodly humidity, sweltering heat by day and near unbearable cold by night. But worse, perhaps, were the screams from the surrounding forest. Screams of the dying and the howls of the predators that stalked the nightlands.
On that third night, the Red Moon rose slowly above the horizon, hanging there through both night and day. Come morning, they had entered an inlet fed by a waterfall. Mooring at the dock, the band spread out to explore, uncovering a collapsed cave and several tracks, some of which were peculiar.
Nod and Kari pressed forward, spying a farmhouse guarded by what appeared to be a Northman. As they approached, Nammosi, Peron, Elrian, and Dalr came upon a curiosity… a marionette, of sorts, but seemingly alive.
Elrian recognized it as a carrionette, parasitic demons that live off of human misery. Disguised as toys, they look to steal human souls, exchanging their form for one of flesh, creating even more havoc.
The carrionette claimed to be Onfri, the local baron. His soul was snatched three months prior and left within this marionette to rot while the demon thing took control of his farmlands.
Wary, the group agreed to look into his plight. The marionette Onfri suggested they try “The Wise Woman of the Wood”. They set out, with Elrian and Dalr off to let Kari and Nod know what they’d found, while Nammosi and Peron pressed on toward the woman’s grove.
Meanwhile, while Kari guarded the outside, Nod had been invited into the farmhouse where he met Stave, an old greybearded Northman, his daughter Hylda, and the halfling, Kelbo Waggins. Nod learned Stave was cousin to Onfri, the local baron. They were staying in his cabin, while the baron bedded in the nearby tower.
Nod asked about the Highwayman’s Lute and Grenadier. It turned out they had passed through here some three months back, but moved on, by sea, to the kingdom of Highdragon.
Rejoining the others, Nod, Kari, and Elrian headed for the tower to speak with Onfri, hoping to learn more about the mummers, but also so that Elrian could investigate the carrionette’s story.
Peron and Nammosi made their way toward the woodland grove and the Wise Woman there. They took note of being watched by scarecrows in the bountiful fields of cabbage and pumpkins. Near the barn, they were confronted by Alva Einhorne, a ranger sworn to these lands. Peron persuaded him to join them, telling him of the carrionette’s supposed curse. Alva agreed to lead them to the Wise Woman beyond Grimwood.
Nod, Elrian, and Kari left Dalr outside as they were invited into the baron’s tower. There they met Cassandra, a Red Moon Priestess, and Young Onfri, son of the baron. Onfri the Elder was busy, but his son answered their questions calmly. Kari had a bad feeling however, and opened a side door, startling Lisabeth, the baron’s wife. She lashed out with a Hold Person spell, ensnaring the Half-Orc. Nod, caught off guard by the suddenness of the assault, was similarly held by the cleric, while Young Onfri mercilessly beat on Elrian. When Onfri the Elder joined the fray, Elrian was quick to cast Banishment, sending the baron away, but it was just a matter of time before he fell to the barrage of martial damage, especially once the cleric had joined in, with her cruel mace.
With Kari trussed up on the baroness’ bed, and Nod tied down on the lounge, they tossed Elrian’s dying body next to the Tabaxi, but Nod came too and was able to cast Healing Word, rousing the bladesinger who quickly cast Mirror Image and surrounded their captors.
Elsewhere, Peron and Nammosi finally arrived at the glade with Alva. They mulled over the words of the carrionette, of how he, as Onfri, had made an offering to the Wise Woman three months previous to ensure a good harvest after years of struggle. As they entered the grove, they spied an enormous cave gazing out from the forest. Strange firelight danced within the gaping maw, coming closer. Then, from its depths, stepped a massive wicker man, some twenty feet tall. They could see skeletal remains inside its wicker frame, and unnatural fires blazed from within.
to be continued