Finally, the day had come for Kallista, Trillian, Blucher, and Sharker to end their compulsory service in the army of Karrnath. From here, they could either sign their release forms and go on their merry way, or re-enlist and continue to serve their proud but ailing nation. Only one thing stood between them and this fateful decision: one last patrol duty shift.
Captain Donovan roused the squad from their barracks at the crack of dawn, just as he had every day for the past two years. “I have to say, it has been a pleasure serving with you. Each of you has grown into soldiers that I can be proud of, and it saddens me to see any of you leave. But the day ain’t over yet! Gather your things and meet me out front.”
While Kallista and Sharker still hadn’t made up their minds about re-enlisting, Blucher was leaning toward continuing his service and Trillian couldn’t wait to be released. As they weighed their decisions in their hearts, they set off into the Nightwood forest near Korth on their last official mission.
Later in the afternoon, as the group followed Captain Donovan’s lead through the underbrush, he suddenly stopped short and signaled for silence. Ahead of them, a trail through the forest just big enough to almost be called a road crossed their path. The captain gave the signal to take up ambush positions, and crept ahead across the road as the others shuffled into formation.
The group watched as Captain Donovan entered a rocky clearing and disappeared behind a large boulder. As he did, several strangers, some archers and some with clubs and nets, appeared from behind the rocks and attacked! It looked like they were trying to subdue and capture the group, when Captain Donovan reappeared and demanded that they lay down their weapons and surrender!
Baffled by the turn of events, Sharker’s insight told him that the captain did not seem like himself and Trillian’s arcana determined that he was not under the influence of any magical effects. The group fought on, determined to avoid capture and defeat their attackers.
The archers’ concentrated fire on Blucher proved too much for him and he eventually got knocked out, but not before making short work of one of the club-wielding attackers with three swift blows (on his turn, on the warlord’s turn, and on the attackers’ turn!). Kallista had to act fast to rescue the fallen half-orc while Sharker and Trillian distracted the others. When Blucher was revived and the fight had gone sour for the ambushers, Captain Donovan and the wizard hastily retreated. The wizard could be heard saying something like, “Perhaps you trained them too well,” to the captain as they fled.
Collecting themselves and trying to figure out what had just happened, the group found a rolled up parchment that looked like a tactical map of the area they were standing in, including sniper spots and an arrow indicating the direction from which the captain had led their approach. Sharker recognized the writing of some of the notes as Captain Donovan’s own. Their attackers also all bore pendants that Trillian recognized as symbolic of a sect of Blood of Vol cultists.
The group tracked the wizard and traitor captain deeper into the forest. The trail led them to a cave in the side of a large hill. Inside, they found a nest of kruthik eggs. They know the eggs were kruthiks when they disturbed a pair of them eating something and were attacked! Two more kruthiks burrowed through the wall and joined the fight. Trillian the wizard was assaulted by the latecomers and fell back to cast spells, but she wandered too close to the nest and the eggs hatched. A quick spell took care of the three hatchlings that appeared, and Kallista made her way over to assist with the last of the latecomer kruthiks.
By then, the group was exhausted from the patrol, the tracking, and the battles thus far and decided to camp for the night. The next day, they explored the rest of the kruthiks’ warren and discovered that the burrowed cave gave way to a worked stone masonry hallway. Proceeding cautiously into the darkness, the group came to a spiral staircase at the end of the hall, and ascended it to a set of double doors.
Sharker picked the lock and did not find any traps on the doors, but the group could hear indistinct chanting coming from the room beyond. As quietly as he could, Sharker cracked the door open to get a peek inside. He saw an horrific ritual being enacted by more of the Blood of Vol cultists. A large glowing rune drawn in some unidentified powder dominated the center of the round chamber and four cultists stood opposite one another in each of the cardinal points surrounding the rune. In the center of the rune, the body of a deceased tiefling was suspended in the air as magical energy flowed into it from the glowing rune. At the far end of the chamber, the mysterious wizard and Captain Donovan stood, flanking a shimmering magical portal as they observed the ritual.
Kicking the door in, the party interrupted the ritual and attacked. The group focused their initial assault on the nearest cultist, quickly cutting him down. Then, Blucher broke off to one side and contained two cultists single-handedly, as the rest of the group fought off the fourth cultist. With the ritual broken, the body in the middle of the rune collapsed to the floor in a heap. Angrily, Captain Donovan issued a final warning to the group: “I will say this one more time: lay down your arms and join us, or die where you stand!”
They didn’t. The group fought and defeated the cultists, the captain, and their partially-completed tiefling corruption corpse abomination, thanks to a successful Sleep spell from Trillian, some thrilling acrobatics from Sharker, some timely inspiration from Kallista, and the all-out toughness of Blucher. The mysterious wizard managed to escape again, stealing away through the portal before the end of the battle.
The group tried to question the captain to get some answers about his betrayal and the cult he served before his dying breath, but as their superior officer he was especially resistant to their interrogation. All they managed to get out of him was confirmation that he was aligned with the Blood of Vol and that their goal was to train new soldiers and then convert them into a powerful undead army to preserve the tradition of Karrnath.