The Shadyglen Disappearances

This story is adapted and modified from the D&D one-shot that I wrote and ran for my group for Halloween.

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It is early morning in your camp, currently situated on the edges of a woodland and a grassland, where you and your adventuring companions have been resting for several days since your previous adventure. The Bard is practicing riffs on her violin just down the hill, the Ranger is preparing breakfast for everyone, the spellcasters are preparing their spells, the others are sleeping, and the Paladin is reading a letter that a messenger delivered to the group that morning. The Paladin gathers everyone together, and rereads the letter to all of you.

The letter reads:

We in our village have heard the tales sung about the accomplishments of you and your companions, and of your collective compassion for the needs of others. We reach out to you in a time of crisis, and require your aid. For a month now, villagers have been disappearing at night, and in increasingly greater numbers. Additionally, we have started being attacked by monsters at night this past week, who have left behind their dead victims. We have tried to send out scouting groups to figure out what is happening, but we are unskilled farmers, and we are torn between harvesting our fields before the frost settles in and the rains come, and searching for our lost friends. Our pitchforks and torches are limited for battle, especially should the monsters come in greater numbers. I do not know how much longer we will survive without swift aid.

Sincerely,

Sheamus of Shadyglen Village

You and your companions all agree to assist the villagers, and quickly pack up camp. Some mumble to each other about how much reward you are likely to receive from such a small village, and whether it will cover the cost of your time and resources, but a quick stern glance from the Paladin quiets them.

The road to Shadyglen is a pleasant one to walk along, especially during a beautifully sunny and decently warm day like this one. You skirt along the forest for some time, and catch glimpses of rabbits chilling out on the road before they scurry into the undergrowth when you come too close. On the other side are meadows that transition into cultured fields filled with barley. You cross a small footbridge over a shallow creek that weaves out of the forest, follows you beside the road for a short time, then disappears into the barley fields.

After a couple of hours of walking, you arrive at Shadyglen. The large village looks welcoming from a distance. There are several children out playing around the well in the middle, a couple of women are hanging freshly cleaned clothes on a line, and one farmer is passing through with a wheelbarrow and a sickle while another digs up turnips in a close by garden.

As the farmer with the wheelbarrow walks past you, you ask him where you can find Sheamus. He pauses. “Sheamus? Oh, I last saw him over at Martha’s.” He points behind him in the direction of a particular hut. You thank him for the information, and walk in the direction that he indicated.

Sheamus, the village elder, is currently holding a year-old baby for a mother who is kneading dough. The baby fusses and squirms, and Sheamus is getting flustered when none of his silly faces or funny sounds successfully distract the baby. He is more than relieved for the excuse to hand the baby back to his mother, who protests and glares at his back since her hands are covered in flour.

“Ah, you must be Tharivol and company!” he greets you. “I am glad that you came, and arrived so quickly. Come, let us go to the village hall where we may talk at ease.”

Sheamus leads you to a large building on the other side of the village. The interior is large and open. Sheamus grabs chairs from the stacks at the side of the room and arranged them in a circle for all of you. Once you are all seated, and quick introductions are made, Sheamus says, “We lost some more people last night – a group of teenagers snuck out to hang out in Farmer Jonter’s barn, despite my orders that they stay at home at night. They were attacked, but thankfully Farmer Jonter was nearby, and his shouts helped interrupt the attack. The monsters made off with most of them, but they left one injured boy behind, Gellina’s son Tombo, and Adelaide is tending to him in the Chapel of Pelor. Poor kid. I hope he’s survived the night. Mellanie, Athidale, and Dwayne were the ones taken by the monsters.”

You ask him for more details about the monsters. He replies. “Slim Jenkins, our local drunkard, claims he witnessed the monsters attacking the boys last night. Though, I’d take anything he says with a grain of salt, because he must have been stumbling home after being cut off by Hubert. Farmer Jonter must have also caught a glimpse of them, although he didn’t specifically say so.”

The Paladin gently asks about the previous victims. Sheamus replies, “Their bodies are currently in the chapel of Pelor, waiting to be buried. We’ve requested that a cleric come to perform the service, but our messages to the Church of Pelor in Dunnhill haven’t been answered. I’m sure that Adelaide will have no problem letting you examine their bodies if they could provide you with useful information.”

The Ranger asks for more information about the disappearance of the villagers. Sheamus says, “The tracks from the lost villagers seem to always be heading down the North Road. Raymond of Creekhollow, a local hunter, said to avoid travelling down the North-east Road when he passed through here about two months back. He merely stated that danger lurked down there, and refused to elaborate on what the danger was, but he was mighty shaken up about whatever it was. And if you continue down the North Road, well, that just leads to The Sunken Swamp where nobody lives and nothing much grows. We don’t go down that way. And when we go down the North-east Road, well, we hear noises that frighten us, and we’re forced to turn back for our own safety.”

You and your companions discuss what to do next, and the party decides to temporarily split up, then reconvene at the village hall within an hour. The Rogue and the Barbarian eagerly offer to talk to Slim Jenkins, who they assume will be at the tavern. The Ranger comments that he can talk to Farmer Jonter. When the Wizard asks about interviewing the hunter, Sheamus comments that Creekhollow is over a day’s journey away when following the Southeast Road. You decide to accompany the Paladin to the Chapel of Pelor, along with everyone else.

When you arrive at the chapel, a small building with a steeple at the edge of town, with a small fenced in graveyard behind it, the door is standing ajar. Inside, you see a woman who is slumped against the wall, her cheeks tear stained and her eyes red and puffy. Her clothes have red streaks across them.

The Paladin gently asks her what is wrong. She looks up, and past all of you as she says, “Tombo passed on this morning, when the first rays of sunlight streaked in through the door. I… I haven’t had the strength to deliver the news to Gellina and Harland yet.” The Paladin comforts the healer while the rest of you take the opportunity to examine the body of Tombo and the other victims. You notice a consistent pattern: they all have white faces, their bodies have been drained of blood, and they each have puncture wounds on their necks. “Vampires,” you all assume after a brief discussion.

You return to the village hall and await the return of your other companions.

The Ranger is the first to return. He informs the rest of you that Farmer Jonter didn’t see much of the monsters, but that they shrunk back from the torch that he was carrying, and fled soon after. The slowest of the bunch dropped Tombo after he slashed the torch at it.

The Rogue and the Barbarian are the last to return, and they are late when they do finally reappear, grinning a little too widely and laughing a little too loudly. You have to remind them about what their original purpose for visiting the tavern was, and they finally remember to relay the information that they learned. Apparently, the monsters were over eight feet tall, had daggers protruding from their mouths, and had wings but did not fly. You and the others all agree that the town drunk has indeed earned his reputation.

With the full group gathered once again, you discuss your plan of action. You decide to make some preparations before you leave. The Bard is tasked with inquiring if there is any garlic growing in or near the village, and requesting to buy several heads of it from the villagers. The rest of you will search along the edge of the forest for suitable branches to craft into stakes. Most of you successfully find branches and make stakes, and the Bard successfully returns with several heads of garlic.

You begin to travel down the North Road, which leads into the Shadyglen Forest. The road is overgrown, with the branches from trees hanging out into the open, narrowing the passage way. Despite this, you can see many footprints in the dirt, including some deeper ones that seem to have been made in the rain. In places, it appears that the villagers were dragged down the road. Beyond the fork in the road, the road goes up a hill, and there are no more obvious footprints. There is an old road sign. The top sign points to the Northeast Road, but is broken off. The second sign points further down the North Road, but is both faded and has deep scratch marks obscuring what was written there. The final road sign points back the way that you came, and says Shadyglen Village.

When you glance down the North-east Road you see that this road also leads up to higher ground, and the forest looks denser in this direction, and the shadows deeper. The Ranger examines both directions for continuing footprints, but is unable to determine which direction they went.

You remember that the hunter from Creekhollow warned Sheamus about danger down the North-east Road, and figure that he could have been talking about vampires, so you decide to go down it.

When you continue down the Northeast Road, the road gets so narrow in places that you are forced to walk single file. Eventually, you arrive at a clearing, where you see several figures walking around on two legs, but they are covered in dark fur, and have unusual heads. One of the figures notices you and snarls, “Turn around and leave immediately!” At his words, several more hybrid form werewolves come running over. Another states, “You are not welcome here. Invade our territory further, and we will attack you.”

The Paladin is about to speak diplomatically with the werewolves, but at the same time the Rogue and the Barbarian glance at each other, nod, and run to begin combat with the werewolves. The Barbarian yells, “You’re all hideous fart-faces,” while running forward.

The werewolves shift their stances, indicating their readiness to fight back. The rest of you are forced to prepare for the fight too.

The werewolves were not particularly prepared for a fight, and the battle is short and bloody. The werewolves do minor damage to a couple of you. The worst damage comes from friendly fire from one of the Wizard’s cone of fire spells, which in hindsight was poorly aimed. During the battle, the Paladin continues to attempt diplomatic discourse with the werewolves, and learns that the werewolves did not attack the villagers, while ducking from blows from the werewolves.

After the fight, and a quick, sharp worded discussion about initiating unnecessary combat, you and your party decide to continue down the North Road, towards the swamp.

You know that you are approaching The Sunken Swamp when the ground begins to feel squishy underfoot, and you see pools of water in the low spots. The air is filled with a fairly dense fog that obscures your vision beyond 30 feet ahead of you. Once again, you notice obvious tracks in the mud. The trees are spaced further apart, and soon the you are walking along a narrow strip of firm ground that meanders through the swamp, twisting and turning in multiple directions as you traverse it. In the distance, you see lights hovering above the waters, and hear the load croak of frogs. You come to an island where there is a crossroads, and here you must choose either the Left Road, the Right Road, or the Straight-ahead Road. There is a crudely made sign that points down the Right Road with messily scrawled handwriting that reads, “to the castle.”

You decide that since the Right Road with its road sign is the only unique one of the three options, that it’s the one that you should take. You follow the path that promises to lead to a castle for a stretch, and you do indeed see what can be described as a castle, because it is castle shaped, right down to the crenellations and the drawbridge that crosses a moat, although it is entirely made out of branches and not stones. Guarding this castle are a frog-like race that look eager and excited to defend their home. They peer out from the castle walls, and from behind the trees just behind you, and are joined by hovering balls of light.

The bullywugs and will-o’-wisps soon realize that attacking you was a bad idea. Once you slaughter the bullywugs and will-o’-wisps that are in front of the “castle”, the ones that were watching from the “castle” walls disappear. When you investigate around the wooden structure, you discover fresh tracks indicating that the remaining bullywugs have fled the area.

You return to the crossroads, and take the Left Road. You travel a short distance down this road, and arrive at another small island, on the edge of which is an ancient watchtower that is sinking into the swamp, and leans at a precarious angle. The top of the tower has crumbled, and the old stones lie in a heap that sticks up out of the waters of the swamp. You search the tower, and discover some old rusty swords, and several rotting bows.

You again return to the crossroads, and finally take the Straight-ahead Road. You follow this road for some time, arrive at the edge of the swamp, and enter into a region of grassland. In the distance you can see the vague outlines of old buildings. You finally have a clear view of the sky, and learn that the sun is setting. You briefly discuss whether you should press on forward and seek out the vampires at night when they will be at their strongest, but your concern for the missing teenagers urges you on without delay.

As you approach the village, you see that the buildings in it are dilapidated. The wooden beams are rotting, the bricks are crumbling into dust, trees have grown up through the middle of buildings, and tall grasses grow everywhere. However, the village is not abandoned, as there are figures aimlessly wandering around through it. Once a few of the figures notice your presence, their aimless movements stop, and they purposefully march over in your direction.

Your fight against the zombies and skeletons is successful, although time costly, due to the high numbers of enemies. It is now fully night time. You don’t find anything of particular value when searching the dilapidated buildings.

Once you have passed through the (once again) Abandoned Village, you can easily see The Crumbling Castle standing on a hill, overlooking the village, and an old cobbled road leads directly towards it. When you arrive at the castle gate, it is guarded by several vampire spawn, who watch you approach with amusement. “What do we have here? Willing sacrifices?” one of them asks. “Our master will be pleased,” another remarks.

You and several others pull out your garlic, and hold it in your off hands. Those who don’t have a free hand to use don’t get any garlic.

This fight against the vampire spawn is noticeably more difficult than the previous battles that you have fought this day. Those of you who are holding heads of garlic discover that the vampire spawn attack you with less force than those who were not fortunate enough to receive a head of garlic. The battle is still fierce, and you breath a sigh of relief when it is over, and the vampire spawn have finally died after they have each been dealt a final successful attack with the wooden stakes.

You heal some of your wounds before entering into the castle.

The inside of the castle has been reinforced with freshly cut wooden beams, with all of the side rooms blocked off. The entrance hallway is dark, but further in, the great hall is lit with magical light.

The captured teenagers from Shadyglen Village are chained to the walls, forced to stand with their hands locked in manacles and raised above their heads, while a regal looking vampire sits on a throne, reading a book to pass the time. Hanging upside down from a beam above the throne is a dire bat.

The vampire looks up at you, and chuckles. “Oh, desert for after my feast?” he says with a glance to the teenagers, and then back to you. “How delectable.”

This final battle is a difficult one, and requires you to use your best skills and abilities that you had been carefully saving up for this fight. To your dismay, you witness the wounds that you have dealt the vampire lessen every so often as the vampire heals himself periodically. You kill the dire bat first. Eventually, you manage to slay the vampire as well, stabbing him in the heart with a final blow from a stake.

After the battle is completed, you free the teenagers from their chains, and although they are eager to return home, they are also exhausted, and need to rest for some time before they will have the strength to walk. You scout around the area for any other danger, and conclude that it seems safe enough to take a long rest here for the rest of the night.

The next morning the teenagers feel well enough to travel, and you escort them back home, guiding them through the swamp and then the forest, until you return at last to Shadyglen Village. Their parents are overjoyed to see them, and even Sheamus has tears glistening in his eyes. The parents, once they have fiercely hugged their children, thank you all profusely, insisting that you all stay until they have had time to prepare a village feast in your honour. Sheamus motions you over to the village hall, where he hands you a bag of copper and silver that everyone in the village pitched in to create for your reward. That evening, you feast and enjoy the company of the villagers, spend the night in free rooms at the tavern, then return the next day to your base camp, wondering what your next adventure will be.

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