To Seek the Stars
Hoxton stands tall, clad in unpolished scale armor. He appears to burn quietly with an inner fire, and seems to regard the world with contempt at times. When at ease, he lets his massive mace rest on the ground, using it as though it were nothing more than a walking stick. His head is shaved bald, and his armor has religious script sealed onto it with wax.
Gregory Morrow stands at just over 5 feet tall. A Human boy of perhaps 13 years, he is quiet and shy. A brown bowl hair cut style complete with blue eyes matches an aqua colored cloak he wears. A quarterstaff that he spends his time swinging around (with surprising) skill for a kid is the only thing about him that seems out of the ordinary.
CHAPTER 1; HEROIC ADVENTURE START.
It’s a beautiful autumn day, the beginning of Rurik’s first fall without Undead patrolling the streets. In the early morning fog, two figures find themselves at the Temple of Horus in Rorik. Initiate Hoxton, citizen of Rurik and one of the first to embrace the New Ways, summoned by the temple on urgent business.
The second, Gregory Morrow, a local boy apprenticed to one of the local druids.
Your mentor told you little, for he didn’t seem quite to know much himself, save that the Daltrithaar priests had asked for a representative of the local druidic Circle to take part in some sort of joint activity, an attempt to bring the Old and the New together and help reconcile the two.
You both arrive outside the doors at about the same time. The Temple of Horus is a new construction, though modest in size. Unusual in town as its built primarily of stone, though in style it seeks to be as unobtrusive as it can.
You have both probably seen each other in town – at the very least Hoxton is well known in the village for his quick embrace of the New Gods of the north and his devotion to them.
Gregory Morrow: “Hello Sir Hoxton.”
Hoxton: “Gregory, isn’t it? Have you come to embrace Horus? There are few from town with the foresight to do so.”
Gregory Morrow smiles shyly, “No I come on behalf of the Order. Though I do not know exactly what my task is. Just to say hello and be friendly I think, hehe.”
Gregory Morrow: “Urp, uh why are you here Sir Hoxton?”
Hoxton: “I was summoned here on urgent business. Whatever Horus wills that I do will be done. Much like you and your Order, I suppose.”
Gregory Morrow: Check the door, is it locked?
nay, it opens easily.
Gregory Morrow: Peek inside.
Within, the temple foyer occupied by a large statue of the hawk-headed god Horus, his marble pedastal adorned with carved sigils. Before him, a small fountain. To either side, in the wings, small shrines to other deities, one Cat-headed, the other bearing the features of a serpent.
Hoxton: “Beautiful, isn’t it? I never tire of seeing it.”
Hoxton strides into the room, mace thudding gently against the ground with each step.
Gregory Morrow nods and follows a tad behind.
A white robed priest paces to one side, visibly flustered. A black robed woman, liberally adorned with gold and silver jewelry, kneels in silence before the snake-headed shrine in the right wing.
You have both seen the white robed priest before; Hiram, the local priest of Horus and the highest ranking (and only) official of Daltigoth in Rurik.
An older, soft-spoken man, perhaps in his fifties. Since his arrival, he’s spent much of his time in Rurik out about the town, doing what he can to help the common people. Despite his efforts though, the old gods remain, and the new can at best claim equal rights.
Your entry into the foyer proper causes him to cease his pacing, and he waits patiently for your approach.
Hoxton approaches Horus, kneeling in supplication and saying a small prayer. On rising, he goes to see Hiram.
Gregory Morrow bows before the priest and holds his hands together in a symbol of peace.
Hoxton: “Light be with you, Hiram. How may I serve?”
Gregory Morrow: “Here by request of the Order Ambassador Hiram.”
He bows slightly in response, smiling warmly. “Gregory, isn’t it? How is your mentor? Hoxton, I’m glad you could make it on such short notice.”
He sighs, “I assume you’ve both heard some of the rumors from the logging parties? All this nonsense of shapes in the mist and odd clanging and banging and what-not?”
Hoxton: “Indeed… I have told some of the loggers that Horus would protect them, but they refused to go and work – it is not good to have them spooked so.”
Gregory Morrow: “She is doing well. Oh and she sends you warm greetings on my behalf. No I havent heard, is there a way we can help?”
The old priest frowns, “Truthfully I’m not sure; we’re as in the dark about what’s going on as the loggers are. I have a hunch, though, that it has to do with the old king – even a year later, his influence continues to haunt this land. I fear the Undead are at the heart of whatever troubles the woodsmen.”
Hoxton: “Undead? If they are stirring again, this can only mean trouble.”
“As you say, nothing good can come of it. I’d like the two of you to go out to the eastern logging camp and discover what’s stirring up this trouble – and stop it if you can.”
He continues, “Even if you can’t, if we had something concrete we can send word elsewhere for assistance.”
Hoxton nods solemnly. “If we can, Hiram, I will get to the bottom of this. I am not sure what the Order was thinking, sending this young one on such a mission.”
“His mentor has a great deal of faith in him.. and sometimes the young can see what we old men cannot.”
Gregory Morrow shakes his head, “The Order believes in survival of the strong. I must learn or I will never grow.”
Gregory Morrow: “I believe I know the way to the logging camp. Its a distance from our grove but I have traveled the path to and from there many times.”
Hoxton: “This is good news. I have not ventured much into the woods. It seems you are already proving your worth, Gregory.”
The old priest smiles, “See? Appearances can be deceiving.” He pauses a moment, “Oh. I almost forgot, when you arrive at the camp, I sent one of our trackers in that area to begin investigating, one Selene Zhefir.. she was one of our pathfinders during the campaign. She may be of assistance.”
Hoxton: “Selene Zhefir – I will remember this. I hope that she will know more about the source of the disturbance.”
He frowns, “I wish I had more information that might be of assistance, but we really haven’t much to give; we are still strangers here, despite our best efforts.”
Gregory Morrow: “I believe I am set on supplies. Is there anything you need before we depart Sir Hoxton?”
Hoxton: “I have my faith to sustain me, Gregory. I am ready to depart now.”
Gregory Morrow: Can I find some cheap rope in town for less than 1gp?
The priest looks at Hoxton, deep in thought for a moment, “Faith may move mountains, but gunpowder makes them disappear. Zeal is no substitute for the proper tools. We learned this during the war.”
Being you, you can probably get some for about half that.
The locals think highly of the druids.
Gregory Morrow: great!
Hoxton: “This is true, Hiram, but there are legends of giants grinding bones into dust to make into food. What better tool for that job than a trusty pestle?” Hoxton hefts his mace, feeling it’s reassuring weight.
The priest nods, conceding the point, but growing a little impatient from the look of it.
Gregory Morrow: “I will lead us the way there then. Be well Hiram, we will report back as soon as possible.”
Gregory Morrow heads back outside.
Hoxton follows after Gregory.
You head outside.
Gregory Morrow: Get my bearings and then set out for the logging camp.
Around you, the town continues as normal, blissfully unaware of the horrible happenings just beyond town limits.
Gregory leads you out of town, along the cart-width path leading north-east. Birds sing in the trees, and a light breeze rustles the autumn leaves.
Hoxton: “Truly a beautiful day.”
Hoxton continues walking, enjoying the crisp autumn day.
Gregory Morrow: As soon as we get out of town, whistle for my wolf companion.
Gregory Morrow: “A wolf will be comming soon, it is friendly. Do not be alarmed. It will help guide us.”
Hoxton: “I had expected as much, with you consorting so closely with nature. As the Light is always by my side, I suppose your Wolf is always by yours.”
A few moments later, a wolf comes stalking out of the trees! It lunges up to Gregory, tackling him playfully and slobbering all over him, much to the amusement of the normally dour and taciturn Hoxton.
The DM will no longer be held responsible for the behavior of party pets.
Gregory Morrow russles the wolf’s mane and then sets it to defensive mode.
Nick (Gregory Morrow): Ill handle its commands np.
The wolf will now attack anything that attacks its owner, but will not agro on its own.
Hoxton: “This is a first for me… I have not seen a wolf act as a dog. Normally they are creatures to be destroyed when seen.”
By the time you make the two mile trip to the logging camp, the sun is high in the sky and filtering through the trees, casting shadow all about you.
The camp itself is a small outpost of civilization; a few long, low wooden sheds, open on the sides, provide shelter for cut timbers, and a crude sawmill has been erected nearby. A few oxen are penned to one side near a couple of carts, and a few men go about their business in subdued fashion.
There are a couple small buildings, probably for supplies and bunks, but you expect most of the workers commute.
Hoxton takes a look around, looking for Selene.
You see a few people, but most seem rather too masculine to be candidates to be a Selene.
As you look about, you note that for loggers, crossbows and sidearms are rather abundant.
Gregory Morrow: “They seem on edge.”
Hoxton: “Fear is the mind-killer. If you give in like they have, it will slowly destroy you.”
Gregory Morrow: “Lets find someone in charge.”
A combination of your odd appearance and your lupine friend eventually bring a stocky, fiery-haired and bearded fellow stomping over. He has a very un-loggerly axe thrust through his belt and a crossbow leaning on his shoulder.
Hoxton: “I’d say he looks like a good candidate…”
Gregory Morrow: “Hallo there sir.”
Hoxton steps forward and offers his hand to the fire-haired man. “Peace of Horus be to you, friend. I am Initiate Hoxton and this here is Gregory.”
Gregory Morrow: “Im Gregory, not the wolf.”
He comes to a halt, looking at the proferred hand a moment before taking it, “Saxtus Horwell, at yer service. Can’t say we were expectin’ visitors, certainly not ones of your calibre. Wot can I do for ye?”
Hoxton: “We’re here on a mission from… well, the mission. We’re looking for a scout, one named Selene. We’re here to resolve the unrest in the area.”
Saxtus looks at you for a moment, scratching at his beard, “Selene? Northerner? She left yesterday on a scout, should’ve been back by now, though, said she’d be back by this mornin’.”
Gregory Morrow: “Which way did she travel?”
He pauses in his scratching for a moment, turning and peering out of the camp in various directions before finally coming, apparently, to a conclusion. He points north-east and says, proudly, “That way – west.”
Hoxton: “Has that been the direction of most of the disturbances?”
“Yes sir. South an’ west, always.”
Hoxton: Intelligence check [1d20-1 = 13]
Hoxton points off in a completely un-mentioned direction. “So from over there?”
Gregory Morrow: “It is still early enough to get a good days travel again if we were to set out now.”
“Err, no sir, that’s northeast, yer honor.”
Hoxton: “Right – you have the best sense of direction, Gregory. I’ll follow you.”
“Well, its about noon.. I’d say you could get a fair distance by nightfall, if’n you wanted to stay out after dark.. I wouldn’t, though.”
“But thats why I’m just an ’umble logger, not a priest like you gentlemen.”
“But my gran always said the world takes all kinds, so I should be thankful for my fortune an’ not hold you gen’le folks up any longer.”
Gregory Morrow: Does it get cold this time of year?
Hoxton: “Horus thanks you for your assistance.”
Gregory Morrow: If so I will ask the loggers for some basic camping gear, blankets and the sort.
Not too awfully cold yet at night. Its a rather comfortable 60-70 most of the time yet.
Gregory Morrow: “Ok, let us be off.”
Gregory Morrow mutters a quick mantra for our safe journey and then sets out in the direction of the missing scout.
Hoxton drags along behind, muttering oaths to Horus.
Setting out from the logging camp, the first thing you notice is the quiet.. there are no birds, and the only sound is the crunching of leaves under your boots and the whispering of the wind.
Just outside the camp, several patches of recently turned earth are noted with crude wooden markers.
Gregory Morrow: “Unnaturally quiet.”
Gregory Morrow: Check for snares/traps and then examine them.
Hoxton: “It is well it should be quiet. This is a place for the dead.”
They appear to be fresh graves; the newest was dug less than two days ago.
You count four graves, the oldest a week ago.
Gregory Morrow: “The situation does seem bad. The loggers are burying their dead here it seems.”"
Gregory Morrow says a prayer for the renewal of their bodies and then continues on.
Hoxton presses on behind Gregory.
The path Saxtus put you on is far less travelled than the one that brought you to the camp in the first place. The brush closes in on the trail, and in places its barely wide enough for one man to walk.
Spot checks, perhaps?
Alex (Hoxton): HERETIC!
Hoxton: Skill [Spot] [1d20+1 = 2]
nice. Class act, that.
Alex (Hoxton): Fuck, my nose is huge.
Hoxton trips on a tree root.
Alex (Hoxton): Damnit.
Alex (Hoxton): I’m classy
Gregory Morrow: Skill [Spot] [1d20+4 = 23]
Gregory, you notice, to the side above Hoxton, a tree with a lightly scored branch.
About head height on an adult.
Gregory Morrow: “May be some markings on that branch.”
Gregory Morrow: Move in to take a closer look.
Something very deliberately appears to have marked this branch, carving a deliberate symbol into it. They look like they were made with a claw, perhaps a large cat.
Gregory Morrow: Take note of the symbol, do I recognize it? Show it to Hoxton also.
Hoxton: Intelligence check [1d20-1 = 2]
Fortunately, I only wanted it from Gregory. You didn’t need one to know what I told you.
Alex (Hoxton): True.
Alex (Hoxton): But It helps to see if I can finally kickstart Hoxton’s dumbass brain!
An interesting, if somewhat vain hope.
Gregory Morrow: Intelligence check [1d20 = 12]
You think you remember seeing similarly designed characters in the temple earlier.
Not the same, but similar enough to possibly be the same alphabet.
Gregory Morrow: “Hmm.”
Gregory Morrow: “Maybe Hiram will know what it means.”
Gregory Morrow: “We will have to ask him when we return.”
Gregory Morrow: Trudge on if there is nothing further odd about the tree.
There appears to be another way through the trees in this direction, though it doesn’t appear to be a used path.
meaning, it doesn’t seem to be in use by the loggers.
Gregory Morrow: “Lets head down this way a bit and see if it leads anywhere.”
Gregory Morrow: Any sign of anyone passing thru at all? Footprints, ect.
Can I have a survival check?
Hoxton: “That sounds good to me. You are, as they say, the tracker.”
Gregory Morrow: Skill [Survival] [1d20+6 = 25]
Also, your wolf is getting agitated.
There are tracks, but they’re very faint. Booted, but whoever it was was very light on their feet.
Gregory Morrow: Off we go following the tracks, carefully.
You creep after the tracks, the wolf easily following them even when you occasionally lose them.
Hoxton tries not to lose Gregory.
The wolf seems rather fidgety and agitated over the whole thing.
Gregory Morrow is a bit wary at the moment as well.
Spot checks, both of you?
Gregory Morrow: “Lets try to move quietly Hoxton.”
Hoxton’s armor clanks in agreement.
Hoxton: Skill [Spot] [1d20+1 = 8]
Gregory Morrow: Skill [Spot] [1d20+4 = 6]
Alex (Hoxton): I win!
Alex (Hoxton): Also, uh…
Hoxton falls over another tree root.
Hoxton: [1d20 = 7]
Hoxton: MS = 3
Gregory Morrow: Skill [Spot] [1d20+1 = 5]
Hoxton: “…I tire of this forest.”
Nick (Gregory Morrow): lol
Fortunately, that cobblestone broke his fall.
Wait.. cobblestone?! Dun dun dunnnnnn…..
Hoxton, there is a cobblestone infront of you. It has a dent shaped somewhat like your nose. Gregory, you see a cobblestone with a dent shaped like Hoxton’s nose.
Gregory Morrow looks around, “Why is there cobblestone in the middle of a forest?”
Hoxton: “…I would hazard that there used to be a structure here, but it has fallen into disuse.”
Gregory, you pick out several others in the area, broken and old.
They seem to be in an area about three yards across.
Gregory Morrow: “There must have been an old village or settlement here.”
The area lacks truly large trees, mostly saplings.. the larger trees are outside that width.
Gregory Morrow: Spend a few minutes searching the cobblestones and area in general for any clues.
As a druid, you can tell most of the trees here are virgin timber.. the only newer growth is in the area of the cobbles; there was no settlement here, unless it was in the trees.. and you’ve never heard of such settlements in this land. They seem to be the sort of thing you’d use on a road.
Gregory Morrow: Ah, how far does it continue?
It seems to continue sporadically for quite a while, as you resume walking. The tracks continue to follow it as well.
Hoxton’s balance has become the DM’s mouth.
Alex (Hoxton): lol
Gregory Morrow: Continue following the tracks, I will move ahead about 20 yards and keep eyes and ears sharp for anything.
You continue on for what feels like miles. The way is dark even with the sun overhead. Several miles on, though, the path ends at an old stone archway.
The arch is about the width of the old road.
Gregory Morrow waits for Hoxton to catch up, “Quite strange aye Sir Hoxton?”
Through the trees to either side of the arch, you see the occasional pillar of cut stone and, in places, piles of old rubble. The old growth timber ends on this side of the line – beyond is nothing but newer growth.
Hoxton: “I’ve never seen the relics of an old civilization before. It intriegues me. I wonder if there is an old temple up ahead?”
Gregory Morrow: “It has to be something like that.”
The wolf whines and paws at the tracks, still heading ahead.
Gregory Morrow: “The tracks lead into it.”
Gregory Morrow moves forward carefully.
Hoxton follows behind, matching Gregory’s pace.
Within, while trees dot the area, you see a relatively open area.. old stone walls and, in places, the ruined remains of old stone walls, outline a large square area. Within, you see what must be the remains of buildings.
Trees grow here and there, but many patches of ground seem barren, without even grass.
Patches of earth seem freshly turned.
Just inside the arch, you notice a small pile of ash and a few partially burnt logs.
Gregory Morrow: “That looks like a camp.”
Hoxton: “…people were not buried here recently. I fear it is quite the opposite.”
Gregory Morrow: Head over to the burnt logs and try and determine if it was recent.
You’d guess whoever it was was here an hour or two ago.
Gregory Morrow: “I fear you may be right.”
Gregory Morrow: Do the tracks end here or do they move on?
Hoxton: “This is a bad place. This is the place we were seeking.”
Gregory Morrow: Skill [Survival] [1d20+6 = 24]
You manage to keep on the tracks long enough to ascertain that whoever it was did continue on.. but they seemed to have gotten much more careful in these ruins.
You lose them within a few yards; your wolf does not.
Gregory Morrow: “Assuming these tracks were those of the scout, she went deeper in.”
Gregory Morrow: Follow behind the wolf.
You follow the wolf as it slowly creeps forward, sniffing as it goes.
Hoxton follows the blood-hound.
It pauses at a wall, ears folding back against its skull and growls.
It falls silent suddenly as a black-and-red fletched arrow buries itself in the dirt infront of its nose.
Gregory Morrow: Quickly try to see where the arrow came from.
At a guess, on top of the wall the wolf stopped at.
Gregory Morrow: Look up.
Your faithful hound whimpers, tail between its legs, and darts behind Gregory.
Hoxton looks up at the wall, trying to piece things together.
A dark, shadowy figure, draped in a mottled grey-brown cloak is perched on top of the stone, bow leveled and an arrow half-drawn.
Hoxton: “By the Sun of Horus, you must be Selene.”
A female voice, “Who the piss are you?”
Gregory Morrow: “Lower your weapon please, we are from the logging camp!”
Hoxton: “…now that’s not necessarily true. Horus sent us by way of Hiram.”
The arrow goes a little farther back as the bow creaks under the strain, but she lets it slack off when Hoxton speaks.
Hoxton: “We certainly came from the logging camp, but only passing through.”
Gregory Morrow: “That is right. Sorry I just didnt want you to shoot us.”
“Who told you where I went?”
Gregory Morrow: “The bulky red haired man from the camp, we asked to find you because we were asked to help you in discovering the reason behind the attacks and try to solve them.”
Gregory Morrow turns to Hoxton, “Was his name Saxtus? That does sound right.”
Hoxton: “It is so. To tell the truth, I’m not really sure he knew where you went. He seemed confused.”
“Aye? I want to show you something then.”
The figure flips the arrow off the string and drops down noiselessly to the ground, before heading off towards a patch of bare earth by one of the walls.
Hoxton hurries over to her as fast as his legs will carry.
Gregory Morrow: Follow.
She moves from section to section, brushing dirt aside with her boot, before finding what she’s looking for. She finally points, “There.”
Gregory Morrow: See what she is pointing at.
It seems to be a stone grave marker set into the ground. The dirt before it seems to have been disturbed recently, though how recently you’re not sure.
It’s worn, but some of the carving is still readable.
Hoxton takes a closer look at the carving, trying to make out the wording.
Did you both get that?
A Weathered Grave
Nick (Gregory Morrow): got it
Hoxton: “…this makes no sense. He was alive and well just a few hours ago…”
Selene: “You understand my concern when you said, at first, you were from the camp.”
Hoxton: “… have they all.. risen…?”
Gregory Morrow: What year is it now?
Selene: “I can’t imagine they’ve all risen, they wouldn’t be killing themselves off if they were all corpses. But at least Saxtus is, unless he has a twin.”
Hoxton: “A twin with the same name…is unlikely.”
Gregory Morrow: “We should dig up the grave to confirm our suspicion.”
Hoxton: “That would be like me coming across another Brother Hoxton, who was also my brother.”
Hoxton: “…you wish to defile a sacred resting ground?”
Selene: “I’d say this place has already been defiled.”
Gregory Morrow nods in agreement with Selene, “We must make sure, for the good of those still alive.”
Hoxton: “..I will have no part of it. If you must defile this man’s resting ground, I’ll not have it on my hands.”
Hoxton walks off a few paces and sits on a broken wall.
“I also don’t think this is holy ground. I haven’t had long to investigate, but..” Selene fidgets, shifting from foot to foot, “I think.. that this is a military outpost.”
Selene: “Yawgmoth, the lich who used to rule this territory – he used Undead soldiers. Everyone who died, their souls passed on – usually – but their bodies belonged to the state.”
Hoxton: “Whatever it was, or is, this place is tainted with evil.”
Gregory Morrow: “And so he had the dead brought here and buried to be used as… reserves?”
Selene: “Here and many places like it.. we’ve found them elsewhere. I just never imagined I’d see one so close to the border – and with Yawgmoth dead, I don’t understand why the Dead still walk.”
Gregory Morrow: “Something else must be making them walk. Someone who has it out for the town.”
Selene: “And this seems to be where they’re working from, if our friend Saxtus is any clue.”
Gregory Morrow: Look around, how many graves are still undisturbed if any?
Its hard to tell.. you can’t see everything from where you are, but most of them seem to be undisturbed.
Gregory Morrow: “What should we do then? Report all of this back to Hiram or try and uncover more information?”
She shrugs, “I was told to try and stop it, if at all possible. I get the feeling Hiram would prefer to see this solved locally, rather than have to call for help.”
Selene: “We don’t really have much to tell him yet, either.. other than that there seem to be undead roaming about, originating from here, we don’t know much at all.”
Gregory Morrow: “Do you think the one doing this… animating of the dead will return here? If so we can set up an ambush and wait.”