Kristin and Kenebet stepped down into the farmhouse’s basement and were immediately assaulted by the smell of blood and feces, the heavy scent of death on the air. They descended further and quickly found the source of the smell; in the center of the room lit vaguely by a lamp dangling from the ceiling was a pile of bodies. Four in all, they bore the ragged claw marks of the creatures that had been dispatched above. Kenebet mumbled a prayer to Gen as she knelt down next to the macabre pile and voiced what they were both thinking, “What do you think they were doing?”
Kristin shrugged and opened her mouth to say something when both paladins began to feel something familiar, like a tingling at the back of their minds letting them know that evil was near. In unison the two women wordlessly reached for the bodies and one by one began shifting them aside. At the bottom of the pile, glinting faintly in the dim light as if the blood could not mar its perfect surface was a small blue bead hovering an inch off the ground. Kenebet and Kristin stared for a moment, shocked stunned and confused all at once. “Did you two find anything down there?” The loud call from where Brother Loquehand was keeping guard stirred the paladins from their shock.
“You could say that.” Kristin quietly mused as she reached to pick up the bead. Kenebet quickly held out her canteen and Kristin dropped it in without another word. They stood and quickly made their way back outside, the stench in the air all of a sudden seeming pervasive and overpowering. They emerged into the cool night air and were immediately enshrouded by the claustrophobic mist that seemed to cling to this land at all times. Loquehand stood guard just at the top of the stairs, the lantern hanging from the stick in his backpack making him the most distinct thing in sight, he quirked an eyebrow, “Are you two alright, ya look as pale as a landhugger on their first trip ta sea.”
Kenebet and Kristin glared at the sailor, Kenebet spoke up, “The air down there became very… offending.” she paused to take in a deep breath of fresh air to emphasize her point, “We did however find another one of those beads; it was under a pile of corpses… we couldn’t sense it at first, it was very strange.”
Loquehand shrugged, “Nothin ‘bout this isle’s made sense yet, don’ see why ited start now.” As the other two conversed Kristin set about looking for tracks in the grass surrounding the house. Before long she found the same heavy trail leading off to what she could only presume to be the next house. “Oy,” She called to her companions, “Are you two going to just sit there jawing or are we going to catch up with this thing?”
They were nearing town, they were sure of it, but there was no proper way to tell. Everything was obscured by that thrice damned fog. Darius, Tam and Borchaire stumbled their way through the thick curtain of mist, never able to see more than ten feet ahead of them, leading the two frightened children they had found in one of the old farmhouses. Tam looked down to the children as they began to lag behind, their small legs barely able to carry them on. Tam frowned then bent over and took the children into his arms, he lifted their small frames with ease and resumed walking, “Do not worry young ones, we shall be safe soon.”
Borchaire slowed his pace till he was even with Tam, “do you need a hand with them?” Tam smiles, “I’ll be fine, these children are no burden.”
With Darius leading the way the small group reached Edenmore fairly easily, as the buildings loomed out of the mist as formless shapes they picked up their pace. They headed straight for the inn and wasted no time going inside. Darius began to head upstairs, almost an afterthought he turned and said, “I’ll go get the innkeeper.”
Darius briefly disappeared upstairs then returned with a shaken looking innkeeper trailing behind him. Laury looked haggard and was dressed in a hastily donned robe, she looked about to snap at the group until she saw the children, now unconscious in Tam’s arms. She whispered quietly, “Those are Adrian and Bella’s kids. What are they doing here? What’s going on?”
Borchaire responded in an equally quiet voice, “The alchemist that killed that man earlier broke free from the jail. He killed the guard and moved on to the surrounding countryside. He murdered these children’s parents but missed them, so we brought them here. Can you care for them, we must rejoin our companions.
Laury stuttered for a moment then nodded, “Alright.”
Tam turned to Borchaire, “I will be staying here and seeing about barricading this building and sending word to the surrounding farms. I have a bad feeling about tonight and I will not leave these children undefended.”
Borchaire nodded, “Alright, good luck to you.” Without another word Borchaire and Darius ran outside to catch up to the rest of the party.
After exploring three more farms and fighting off their twisted occupants, Kristen, Kenebet and Loquehand had resigned themselves to the fact that this had become more of a cleanup than a chase. The Alchemist was moving more quickly than they had anticipated and his knowledge of the surrounding land left them no way to cut him off.
Their mood was angry with a tinge of anguish, each paladin affected deeply by the tortured farmers they had had to put down. Each twisted body they destroyed further honed their desire for retribution. This is the mindset they were in when they arrived at yet another farmhouse at three stories tall it was the largest home they had encountered thus far. The tension in the air was thick and the mist parted just enough to give them a clear view of the front door, almost inviting them in. The paladins checked their weapons, preparing to go in and clean up what would inevitably be a home full of monsters.
Suddenly, a man’s scream of pain rolled out across the heavy mist. Without another thought the paladins charged towards the door, re-energized by the first sign of human life they had heard all night. Not even checking the door Loquehand put his shoulder down and barreled through. Wood splintered and the door burst inward, the paladins paused for a moment as their eyes adjusted to the surprisingly bright light, then they took in the scene. They stood in the entryway to what must have been the richest home in the area, the walls were decorated with paintings, the curtains were of great quality and the furniture looked comfortable and inviting. This was all marred by the copious amount of blood sprayed throughout the room. In the center of what must have been the living room was a row of bodies, twelve in all, each facedown with blood oozing from a single wound in the neck. Kneeling over the last body, a thickly built man who was still twitching, was the alchemist.
The only part of him that was familiar was his long gangly form, though even that had been grossly exaggerated. His skin had become dark blue and leathery, with patches of scales emerging seemingly at random. His limbs were long and exaggerated giving him a spider like appearance, one arm ended in a hand sporting what could only be described as talons, the other cut off abruptly with a bone white needle sticking out of the thick stump. In the split second it took the party to take in the scene, time seemed to stand still, their thundering heartbeats the only thing they could hear. The alchemist looked up, his face a mockery of what it had been, his lips had fused together and his hair had fallen out, the irises of both eyes had vanished leaving only two milky orbs staring out from sunken sockets. He wrenched his right arm up, dragging the needle out of the corpse’s neck, blue fluid dribbling out in its wake. A wave of pure emotion rippled out from the creature that was once the alchemist, striking the paladins like a hammer blow, hate. They all staggered slightly and the creature capitalized on the moment to run to the nearest window and hurl itself out.
With the creature gone and the paladins dazed, the corpses on the floor chose this moment to start to move. Almost unnoticeable at the onset, the sound of popping was the first thing to draw attention. Like so much popcorn, the popping continued, it rippled through the bodies and was soon accompanied by audible crackling and snapping. The paladins looked on in horror as the dead farmers mutated before their eyes, their limbs extending and dislocating with a loud pop then twisting obscenely till the bones snapped and cracked. This did not go on long before Kristin stepped forward, “You know what we have to do, get to it.”
Kristin, followed by Loquehand then Kenebet, drew their weapons and set about making sure the farmers never finished rising. After the bloody work was don’t Kristin wasted no time leaping out the window after the creature and finding its tracks, she paused a moment then shouted, “It’s heading back to town, we’ve got to follow it!”
The paladins raced away from the bloody scene as quickly as they could, there would be time to put the bodies to rest later, and they had a monster to catch. They met up with their companions following the same tracks that had led them there and with a brief explanation set off once more. Impossibly long minutes ticked by as they sprinted back to Edenmore, each breath wrenching itself from their tired bodies. When they finally neared the town, their pace slowed, and taking the last few steps into the town proper, all the fog vanished. Tstood in a bubble, the fog literally pushed back by something giving them a clear view of the creature at the center, the alchemist.