The Necromancer is chained up in gaol but is giving nothing away. All that the Crusaders have been able to glean from him is that there is an undead plague spreading across the Lost Coast, and Sandpoint is in its way.
“We need to know more about these undead,” says Seelah, “if we are to prepare for an attack.”
“Leave me alone with him for a minute,” says Amiri.
“That is not the way we do things,” says Seelah, frowning.
Lini sighs. “It seems we are left with legwork,” she says, “We shall need to scout outside the town.” Her tiger perks up at the thought of a trek.
At that moment, Sajan runs up carrying a small girl crying in his arms. He sets the child down and gestures for her to speak.
“Walky stick-men took my mommy!” she wails. “I want my mommy!”
The others look at Sajan. He stands upright, sticks his arms out sideways then flops his head to one side.
“Scarecrows?!” says Seelah.
They gaze out across the surrounding farmlands. The faint sound of cawing can be heard…
“We cannot cover such a wide area together,” says Seelah, “We shall have to split up. I will search the child’s farmhouse.”
Lini heads for the Desecrated Vault, Amiri for the Guard Tower, and Sajan to the Wooden Bridge.
Seelah approaches the Farmhouse. There are no lights showing in the windows. Tall wheat waves in the breeze.
Seelah steps onto the garden path and suddenly a Tickwood Boar rushes out of the field and charges her. She leaps the picket fence and the Boar smashes into it. Seelah stuns it with her Warhammer and continues up the path.
Lini and her sabre-toothed tiger Smilo creep into the Desecrated Vault. The walls are dripping with ooze. In the large chamber, a Zombie Giant is smashing statues with other statues. Lini summons the power of The Green and transforms into a bear. Smilo and Bear-Lini pounce on the Zombie Giant and two sets of claws tear it apart.
At the Guard Tower, Amiri is busy pounding a Bandit Henchman into the ground when she hears a creaking sound coming from behind her. She whips around to see a Ghoul Scarecrow looming over her, its pumpkin head aflame and its eyes glowing. It advances, flexing its paralyzing claws.
“Walky stick-man, eh?” grins Amiri, “Let’s see you walk on those!”
She slices through the Scarecrow’s wooden legs. It topples over and its head bursts open. Amiri bars the door and the Guard House is safe.
Sajan kicks a Goblin Warchanter over the side of the Wooden Bridge. He can hear it chanting all the way down. As he is listening to the echoes, a Siren attempts to ambush him but he is too fast and the bird-woman also plunges to her doom.
Seelah is exploring the deserted Farmhouse. There is no sign of the girl’s family. The backdoor has been broken open and there is a trail of stumpy footprints leading out into the back yard. Seelah follows the prints and discovers a Ghoul Scarecrow lashing a struggling woman to a pole. Seelah runs up behind it and slices off the top of its burning pumpkin head. It collapses in a pile of sticks and straw.
“Thank you!” cries the woman, “It was trying to turn me into one of them!”
“We have your daughter safe,” says Seelah, “Hide in the farmhouse until we have dealt with these creatures.”
The woman runs towards the farmhouse, but a Bunyip leaps out of the wheat field and rushes at her. Seelah is too far away to strike, so she throws her longsword and skewers the beast to an apple tree.
The farmhouse door slams and Seelah hears the clunk of locks. The child’s mother is safe.
Down in the Vault, Lini discovers a Ghoul Scarecrow trying to tie a skeleton to a pole. The skeleton keeps falling apart, but the Scarecrow is very patient. Lini watches it drop the skull twelve times. She cannot take any more and blasts it with a Holy Light spell.
The Vault is clear, so Lini heads to the Woods to join Amiri. As she enters the forest looking for the barbarian, her nature senses desert her and she triggers a Trapped Passageway. Smilo only just manages to drag her out of the way before the vice slams shut. Lini breathes a sigh of relief, but a Plague Zombie taps her on the shoulder and grins. Smilo saves her again by separating the Zombie’s grin from its face. Lini casts a Cure spell on herself and continues into the Woods a little more wary.
She finds Amiri in a clearing about to open a vine-covered barrow. Lini opens her mouth to warn her but is too late. A Skeleton Horde erupts from the burial mound and attacks the party and they only fight them off with some effort. Standing amongst the bones, Lini and Smilo look at Amiri. Amiri does not meet their eyes.
Sajan sees movement on the other side of the Wooden Bridge. He flips under the planks and hangs underneath the bridge as Rogors Craesby clumps across. Sajan recognises him as one of the local farmers, but he has changed into something else, a ghast. He must be the cause of the ghoul plague.
Leaving the Farmhouse behind, Seelah checks the General Store. All seems quiet.
Amiri cannot stand the waves of disapproval coming from Lini, so she leaves and goes to help Sajan at the Bridge.
Without the barbarian to distract her, Lini can feel the heart of the Woods. She soon spots the distortion caused by the undead, and finds a Ghoul Scarecrow stalking the forestways. It is out of its element amongst the Green, and Lini makes short work of it. The vines quickly absorb the Scarecrow’s wooden ‘bones’ back into the forest.
Amiri approaches the Wooden Bridge. She meets Ameiko Kaijitsu, owner of the Rusty Dragon, running the other way. Before Amiri can ask what she is running from, Ameiko disappears towards town. Amiri draws her Flaming Mace and steps forward. A Cultist leaps out from behind a tree, dagger drawn. One swing of Amiri’s mace both sends him spinning and lights him on fire. He runs off into the bushes trailing smoke.
Amiri steps onto the Bridge. Rogors Craesby stops mid-stride.
Rogors hisses, his undead flesh dull and pale. He takes a step towards Amiri, then sees her flaming mace and turns and runs back along the bridge. At the far end, Sajan climbs from his hiding place and cuts off his retreat. Rogors leaps at him, claws extended and fangs spittled. Sajan is twice blessed and evades the attack, catching Rogors full in the face with his fist.
Rogors staggers back and readies a paralyzing claw attack but Amiri is pelting across the bridge, a keen rage alight in her eyes. The planks rattle as she runs. Rogors hears her coming and diverts his swing to meet her but is too late. Amiri’s mace snaps his head around and he flips over the rope and into the ravine. There is no chanting as he falls, only an anguished wail.
Back in town, Seelah and Lini are gathering the remains of the Scarecrows. Sajan and Amiri join them.
“Their touch would turn you into one of them,” Seelah says, “Some of these were once townsfolk.”
They pile the wood, sticks and straw into a bonfire. Lini kneels in front of the pyre.
“As the tainted wood burns, their souls are freed.” she says.
The smoke drifts up into the sky.