Leaving Languard, the party headed south toward Wellswood and Don Galir to answer Borrin’s call. Of course, the party also had other plans. Instead of heading straight to Wellswood they decided to strike off the main trail and head south east toward Woodridge. Rumours of bands of armed men in the vicinity of the village had piqued their interest and this—combined with rumours of rising tensions around the currently lordless village of Longbridge-drew them onwards.
Just after midday, the heroes encountered an armed group of veteran troops under the duke’s banner. They dozen grim-faced, heavily armoured mounted warriors were escorting an armoured coach. As the group approached the adventurers the lead horseman ordered them off the road. Wisely, the party complied with the order and as the armoured coach pulled level with the group an order halted the horsemen. A black-bearded half-elf emerged partially emerged from the coach. The man introduced himself Aatto Kostia and he identified himself as a tax collector. By his rich clothes, he seemed an important person. Alice also noticed several pouches hanging from his belt that looked suspiciously like spell component pouches. The party quizzed the man extensively about what favours he could do for them and offered to investigate the apparently plague-infested village of Ashford for him. Sadly, no agreement could be reached and the two groups parted company after sharing minor news of various goings on.
Later that day, the party reached the eastern spur trail leading to Woodridge. On this secondary trail, their speed reduced as their wagon bounced over the rutted hard-packed earth. Around mid-afternoon the party spotted a ramshackle old building standing amid a stand of thickly growing nettles and thorn bushes. Intrigued, they despatched Orithur to investigate. The brave druid easily passed through the noisome stands of weeds and the like clustering thickly about the tumbled cottage. Within, the dwarf discovered two rooms in varying states of advanced decrepitude. One of the rooms was much colder than the other, and the canny dwarf thought a cellar might lie below the house. However, he could find no sign of such.
While Orithur investigated the inside of the cottage, his companions had been busy outside. Grogor completed a tour of the surrounds and discovered nothing more than more weeds, more nettles and the remains of a collapsed outbuilding of some sort. Meanwhile, the rest of the party had hacked their way through the nettles and briars surrounding the house and joined Orithur inside. Quickly, they discovered a swollen wooden trapdoor in the floor. Smashing through the door, the party discovered a small root cellar below the house. Super-cold air billowed forth from the cellar and Thangrimm advancing down the stairs spotted some suspicious mould growing on one wall. A torch was passed down and the mould was revealed to be brown mould. Edging closer to investigate, Thangrimm got too close and was enveloped in a zone of super-chilled air. The dwarf staggered back, but not before seeing a small, narrow hand-dug tunnel leading away from the cellar.
Clearly the party could not get passed the brown mould as they had no means of destroying the pernicious growth. Theorising there might be another entrance to the burrow they searched about the area and quickly found a small tunnel deep in a stand of briars and nettles. A stone partially obscured the hole, but Orithur was able to move about the area without impediment as he was so in-tune with the environment. Clearing the nettles and briars away, the party discussed their next move. Unsurprisingly, Thangrimm volunteered to enter the hole, and although he explored a little way down a sloping tunnel he was forced to swiftly retreat as a cavernously thin humanoid akin to a ghoul but moving faster—and worryingly frothing at the mouth—suddenly appeared from around a corner.
The party discussed their next move. Thagrimm volunteered to go back into the tunnel. Orithur fed his friend a potion that shrunk his size and then the warrior—assisted by Genobar and Orithur—once again entered the burrow. The creature fled deeper into the lair, but the party followed and quickly the foul thing was badly wounded from a barrage of thrown missiles. Annoyingly for the party, the creature took refuge in the same room in which the brown mould grew and festered. The ghoul-thing seemed unaffected by the intense cold, and the heroes dared not approach too closely…