Arla wanted to take the tome to the seat of power for the Helian church, the mega-city of Stormbluff. There the tome would be safe and could be studied by the top priests of Helia.
The Longstream River flows very near the city and was the most logical mode of travel. The group moved on horseback to Westing and caught charter to Stormbluff.
Along the rode to Westing, they discovered a robbed caravan (Jacques!) and Ren deduced it was hobgoblin raiders from the Dawnwood. Some of the bandits wanted to investigate but Arla kept them on task. They moved farther and camped. In the early morning Kel spotted a group of ravens approaching in an odd formation. Getting a bad feeling, the group grabbed their belongings and raced for the forest. They watched the ravens circle and land in their abandoned camp. The birds seemed to be searching for something, as they fished through the remaining packs and sacks. Carl and Flervin studied them from afar and concurred that they were not ravens, but a single entity, from a plane of shadow. The ravens left, flying east.
The group arrived in Westing and booked travel. The trip down the Longstream was practically pleasant with no troubles to speak of. After a couple of days travel they rounded a bend in the river and were approaching the city of Conterra. A border fortress city that is often embroiled in war with Zasarin raiders from the south.
The city was smoking and it appeared it had been attacked. The streets were silent and empty. Only a few masked guards on the walls. A ship sat anchored in the center of the river. It signaled for the merchant vessel to pass on the left side, away from town. The ship flew the colors of the Battle Brothers, a mercenary force. The captain revealed that Conterra had seen so much war that the populace no longer had the stomach for it, and had given up their protection to the mercenary army.
The Battle Brothers’ ship, the Westward on Longstream, signaled that the city was closed to all travelers due to a plague. Carl responded if healers were needed and the mercs said yes, and requested any interested go to the tavern outside the northern walls of the city, the Cease Fire.
The merchant ship didn’t want to stop, but let the bandits off on a dinghy, returning some of their fee. The bandits entered the Cease Fire which was full of generally upset merchants. All complained about not being able to enter the city and sell their wares.
The bandits learned that a nasty plague had hit the city about a week ago and the city council had ordered the city sealed off. The inn’s soup was terribly watered down, as the barkeep said they were running out of supplies.
Many people sported masks or wrappings around their mouths. Everyone spoke of the plague starting like the flu or a cold and were very paranoid of each other whenever someone sneezed or coughed.
Soon a crazy looking hermit came from a basement stairs. He seemed to be a healer and was checking on people who flocked over to him. The group announced their presence and he took them to the tavern cellar where he revealed a concealed door that lead to his laboratory.
Down some older looking passages, past some metal doors where banging and moaning could be heard from, the group was lead to what appeared to be an armory from a bygone era. The room had been converted into an alchemical lab, complete with instruments of healing or torture, depending on your outlook.
Grimbur, who was a healer of sorts, revealed the nature of the plague. It began as a cold, feaver, chills, sneezing and coughing but soon progressed into a lethargic state. Eventually the victim seeks bed rest from which they fall into a torpor like state of near death.
When they emerge they are not themselves and seek only to violently attack any and all around them. They cannot be reasoned with, talked to or otherwise persuaded not to attack. The wounds from these attacks spread the plague much more quickly, with victims of these injuries moving to a similar state within hours of being wounded.
Grimbur revealed his recipe for a cure, which Carl overlooked and tweaked a bit, surprising Grimbur and making him practically dance with joy. He coughed and black phlegm came up, he showed the group a jar of the stuff on his shelf and it appeared to move on its own. He explained that the stuff was of a dark, old magic. It centers in the brain and heart of the victims – and he believes it is the impetus of their violent behavior.
From the other exit in the room, 3 battle brothers appeared and offered to lead the bandits to their stronghold. The group reluctantly agreed.