After the successful routing of the owlbears, Captain Tolgrith was anxious for the group to continue, as their success had been legendary so far. Not only was a threat to the Vale destroyed, but the group had also managed to find a rich seam of copper in the hills to the north. Tolgrith made sure they were paid for their find, and then encouraged them to continue, perhaps investigating the source of the polluted waters of the Petal River, or to search for more much-needed resources for Fort Thorn.
Neladrin suggested that they investigate the source of the pollution. Looking over some rough maps of the Vale, he surmised that, clearly, the source of the pollution would be upstream from Mist Lake. The Petal River passed close to Fort Thorn, so the group would start there and head north into the wilds of the Vale, searching for evidence of what could be causing that pollution.
Prior to their departure, the group approached some merchants who were making their way west through the Vale, and enquired about the sale of the owlbear hatchlings. After some back and forth between Durno and the merchant, the hatchlings were sold for over two-thousand pieces of gold.
Whizzbang and Aureon stayed behind at the Fort, while Neladrin, Dax and Durno struck north, following the river. They had outfitted themselves for several nights under the stars, and when they started their travels the weather was bright and dry.
It was a few hours later that the group spotted a strange creature feeding on the remains of what may have been a deer. It looked like a pile of rotting vegetation and smelled like a dung heap. This thing spotted them (with whatever it used for eyes) and shambled towards them, gurgling a need for warm humanoid flesh. Dax sprang into action and punctured the thing with a well-placed arrow, but aside from his magic weapon’s electrical damage, the puncture wound didn’t seem to do much other than anger whatever this shambling mound of rotting flora was. Neladrin conjured up a field of black tentacles that wavered and shook in a wide radius between themselves and the mound, and the thing began to move around the obstacle slowly. Durno and Dax continued to attack at range, and Neladrin brought forth a summoned dire boar to help in the fight.
It was at this point that a hobgoblin ran forth from behind a large stone, complaining about something to do with “dinner”, and made a line straight for Durno. Neladrin, for some reason, felt that a fireball was good way to deal with this exceedingly minor single threat, and blasted the hobgoblin to smithereens. Unbeknownst to him, of course, were the three other hobgoblins still hiding behind the rock, two of which were also killed in the blast. The final one ran out to attack, though it was badly singed. Durno dealt with it easily while the boar and Dax finished off the shambling mound.
The group composed themselves and continued north, ending up spending two days in the wilds, heading further and further north into the surrounding mountains while finding no apparent source of pollution. The decision was to head south again, where they encountered (and quickly killed off) a group of hobgoblin scouts. Taking the hobgoblins’ patchwork canoe, they followed the course of the river south. As they neared Fort Thorn, they noticed a strange film over the water which grew more noticeable and more metallic in smell as they headed south.
They continued downstream for a while longer before pulling the canoe from the water and continuing on foot. As they neared the north end of Mist Lake, they came across a strange scene; ghostly figures were crossing the river north of the lake, and when they reached the other side they began fighting an invisible enemy. The figures were cast back, apparently slain, falling into the water and befouling it with their ghostly blood. These shadows continued to cross the river, get slain, and fall back, over and over again.
Durno recalled that this area was the scene of the largest battle in the war of the Vale between Chelaxian soldiers and the barbarians who once held claim here. What they appeared to be seeing was a ghostly replay of that battle, the dead Chelaxian soldiers filling the river with their blood which, for some reason, flowed north against the current.
Durno crept across a nearby bridge to get a closer look, and the shadows payed him no mind. He moved closer, and they still paid him no mind. Wondering what to do, he took up his spear and made a threatening gesture to the enemy they could not see.
Suddenly, appearing in a swirl of black vapors, several undead creatures were standing before Durno. They had the appearance of rough barbarians, but their eyes glowed with a malevolent gleam. They turned toward Durno and attacked.