The Heros began the adventure as strangers to each other, lured together by a promise of work and material rewards.
Answering a flyer nailed in the market square of the city of Aslov, a major city in the Free Lands, calling for men and women of stout heart seeking adventure, each member answered with their presence at the Four Sheaves Tavern in a small village just outside of the city.
The party became aquainted while awaiting their potential employer who eventually arrived in the late morning hours. His name was Rodgar ap Annwn, a farmer from the village of Dalsetter.
Rodgar offered the party 50 gold scields apiece to take a wagon to the village of Dunross and collect a shipment of flour. From there, the four was to be taken to the village of Dalsetter. The adventure was expected to take three days travel between each village.
Rodgar explained that Dunross has a large mill, which serves the neighboring farming villages. Grain is transported to the village and stored in granaries before being ground into flour. This gives each of the smaller villages in the surrounding area access to a mill without the expense of having to build and maintain their own. The baker in Dalsetter has sent word to Rodgar in Aslov that he is out of flour after a poor harvest and with the cold winter approaching, they are going to need emergency supplies if they are to survive the winter.
The party headed north towards Dunross along the northern trail from Aslov. Shortly after the noon hour, as the party was heading into the lower hills at the feet of the Jagged Peaks Mountains, they were ambushed by a scouting party of orcs. This scout party used bows with cruel man killer arrows. The party took cover from the missile attack and returned fire of their own by way of spell and arrow. Soon, the orcish scouting party was slain. Not much of value was recovered from the corpses of the fallen orcs. A few gold scields, a dagger obviously taken from some previous human victim, and tall riding boots that had the toes cut out to fit the feet of the leader of the scout party.
As the sun began to set, the temperature dropped steadily and the sky cleared. The party came upon a travel tower, a refuge constructed and manned by the Roadwardens who protect the trade routes and byways of the land.
Two snow-covered wagons were standing outside of the tower but there was no sign of life. The tower’s main door was ajar and there was no smoke from the chimney.
The party found that the horses that had been hitched inside of a small manger at the base of the tower had broken free and had galloped away to the north east. The wagons had shredded canvas coverings. A crest showing two crossed barley stalks over a letter “D” was imprinted onto the shredded canvas but was badly torn and faded. Inside the wagons were the ramins of many barrels, all had been smashed or ripped open. A small amount of flower residue remained blown among the snow.
Inside the tower, the party found a scene of destruction. Dried blood stained the floor of the downstairs area. The fireplace was dead and cold, firewood scattered over the floor. All of the furnishings of the downstairs were smashed and scattered. The stacked crates of provisions provided by the roadwarden also smashed and their contents gone.
Hearing a moan coming from up the stairs to the second floor, the party rushed to investigate. There they found a similar scene. The Roadwardens that garrison the towers were found dead, their bodies stripped of flesh and clothing. Something had picked their bones clean. They had formed a sort of protective ring around another group of bodies also eaten to the bone and died in place. Their notched swords found at their sides. In the rafters of the tower they found a sole survivor that was badly wounded and near death, a warrior named Whigruff Runolfsunu who was a caravan guard for these wagons. Whiggruff told the party that they had stayed an extra day at the tower to make repairs on one of their wagons when a swarm of rats unlike anything he had ever seen attacked the tower and killed and destroyed everything in it. Whiggruff had lashed himself to one of the supports before losing consciousness beneath a sea of vermin. He did not know where they came from or where they had gone to. The party concluded that the rats attacked four days prior to their arrival.
The party provided what healing and aid they could, and prepared the bodies of the dead for burial in the morning. The horses and hay from the manger were moved inside of the tower. They talked through the night by the warmth of the fireplace in the tower as Whiggruff came and went from consciousness.
The next morning they were ready to travel on to Dunross. After several hours of travel, they passed through a small copse. Lying in the middle of the path was the body of a riding horse. It was riddled with arrows and a large chunk of flesh had been hacked from it’s hind quarter. Nearby, lying in the scrub, the body of the rider was found with a single, black, man killer arrow in his back. The rider carried a letter that party recovered. It read:
A foul plague of rats has descended upon Dunross in a ceaseless tide! Ther vermin are devouring our flour stores, and I fear within a week we will have nothing left. Our soldiers are hard pressed to guard what provisions remain.
Disease is rife, and we have little hope of stemming the tide without aid. The village is now quarantined to prevent the pestilence from spreading.
We would save the supplies and abandon the village, but alas, we have few wagons. We had no idea the infestation would continue!
I beg you, for the love of our people, send soldiers, ratcatchers, and healers with all haste, lest we all be doomed to famine this winter!
Your loyal servant,
Mayor Umbold ap-Rutger_
The party buried the body of the rider and drug the horse off of the road for scavangers. They traveled for a few more hours before setting camp. Lean to shelters and tents were put up around a large camp fire pit and the group settled in for the nights watch and well deserved rest as the temperature plumetted below zero.