On orders from Bishop Nolam the brave heroes set out for the village of Bucear, an out-of-the-way place in the forests near Dorne’s Pass. Several months of reports indicates villagers had been mysteriously disappearing without a trace as well as patrols from the nearby stronghold.
It’s early spring as the players enter the woods, and as dusk approaches they reach a high point in the road allowing them an excellent view of their surroundings. From the place where Bucear is situated they can see a thick collumn of smoke rise into the sky, still a few hours march away.
Full of unease they decide to make camp for the night. During Corwin’s watch, as daybreak is closing in, the ever-watchful rogue hears some rustling in the bushes outside camp followed by a twig snapping. He silently wakes the others and Alloran conjures a magical light. At the edge of the light they see the silhouette of a man hunched over a bush, close to the ground. Corwin immediately shoots at it with his crossbow and hits. The shape doesn’t move at all. On inspection they find a dead man, a peasant by the looks of his clothes and body, badly scarred and cut. Two large arrows (and a small crossbow bolt) are stuck in his back. The direction he approached from is that of the village.
They break camp and follow the road for a while. At about an hour left until they reach the village they decide to err on the side of caution and circle through the woods to enter the village from the north. As the sun breaks over the horizon they approach a shallow stream and a treeline.
The treeline ends at the foot of the hill, with a large stable on top of the hill. Corwin sprints up and hides behind a toolshed, trying to remain as invisble as possible. At the stable he sees one of the large doors is slightly ajar, and a hand lies limply on the ground, sticking out of the door. He runs over to the stable and vaults up to the hayloft window and inside to see if there’s anything mysterious inside. He only finds hay and grain on the hayloft. Meanwhile the rest of the heroes, waiting at the treeline, hear a loud noise to their right. Suddenly a large, brown bear emerges from some bushes, looking confusedly at the players. Ronar steps in front of the others to shield them, while Alloran mutters a few words of power. Suddenly a spot right in front of the bear emanates with loud screaming and yelling. The bear panics and rears up on two before turning tail and runs away. Having given up their location with the loud noises they sprint up to the stable instead.
Taking refuge in the stable they find the body of a young man and four dead horses inside. It looks like they have been cut by a combination of blades and sharp claws. The horses have been chewed on as well. They find nothing else of interrest here, so they go out to scout the terrain.
On the other side of the stable, at the foot of the hill, they can see Bucear... Or what’s left of it! The entire village is burned and blasted to the ground. A huge shallow crater of ash and burnt ground covers about a kilometer radius, leaving only a few houses near the hill standing, though highly ruined. Two or three houses stand intact, but the rest have fallen in on themselves or burned down.
Suddenly Telena spots some movement among the ruins closest to the stable. Three shadowy beings flit back and forth among the shadows of the ruins, trying to get closer but not daring to leave the confines of the shadows. She notifies the others, and Corwin walks downhill, intending to shoot at them from the halfway point down. As he readies his crossbow he’s suddenly shot at by three large, black arrows, one of them embedding itself in his shoulder and throwing him back onto the ground.
As the fighter and rogue battle the three shades, all a little shorter than a man, three new shades ambush the rest of the party from behind, one of them considerably larger. The three shades down by the ruins are quickly dispatched, disolving into ash and drifting away on the wind as they die. The two smaller shades in the ambush also meet their end after only a few clashes of weapons or from being burned with divine fires. The large shade proves to be a challenge though, being both resilient and powerful. The combined might of the party managed to kill it eventually, but not before it went into a berserker rage that increased it size, which it used to pummel Ronar into the ground.
After a short rest used to heal and clean up they searched through the ruins of the village, not finding anything but burned houses and bodies. No more sign of shades.
Looking into the crater they see something near the epicentre. Approaching slowly and carefully they can see that it is a large black crystaline boulder, facetted and mirror-like in its reflections. As they get within 10 meters they can see the air around it shimmer as if in a heat daze, but feel a cold emanate from it, fast approaching freezing temperatures. The ground it rests on shows signs of rimefrost.
Thinking to err on the side of caution, Telena decides not to touch it directly, but rather uses the end of her quarterstaff to poke it. As soon as the wood touches the crystal, thin tendrils of shadow reach out and envelops the staff and cleric, fast as an arrow, and suddenly sucks back into the crystal, leaving the party looking dumbfounded at the empty place Telena occupied just a few seconds ago…