The party became really impatient so went to find a job to kill time. Given that the kingdoms Shearing Ceremony had just taken place (a time when children now considered adults are sent off to find their own way before they can return to the family) there was a lack of jobs available, except for one. The request looked as though it had been ignored for some time, but it wanted people to deal with vampires plaguing a farmstead 2 days on horse away from town, pay: negotiable.
The cleric and paladin were barely contained in their excitement to go fight vampires, and so urged everyone to accept this job and leave right away. I’ve got a large group, 8 PC’s, so most of them were “OK we have to kill another 10 days anyway, so we may as well.” They took their provisions and set out immediately. After 2 days travel, and one very exciting night of killing a cow in the bushes with a lightning bolt, they arrived at the farmstead.
The paladin and bard first approached an elderly woman using an outdoor kitchen situated in the center of the buildings. She was exasperated, wondering why anyone would have taken this job, but sends one of her grandchildren out to fetch her husband, the patriarch. In the meantime, the rogue and ninja begin to entertain some passing children with daring Acrobatics checks and find out that there are four generations living here.
The old man returns and praises the group for answering his call, saying the last group of adventurers from a month ago simply left without solving his problem. He tells them the story of how he finds a cow every two weeks just into the thick forest line slashed with no blood, and none on the ground. He takes most of the party to the northwest corner of the property where he has buried the carcasses beyond the family graveyard. The graveyard has small headstones, and long wooden stakes driven into the ground 18 – 24 inches from the headstone. The place he has buried the slaughtered cows has several stakes run through into the ground as well. He then tells everyone he is confident that “they” will be coming again in the next few nights.
The Cleric says thank you for the information and sends him back, promptly beginning a discussion about the sanity of this old man and having doubts that there is a legitimate job to be done. The bard throws out the suggestion that he could be a werewolf and not know it. The wizard rolls profession astrology, and I tell him that it is the last few days of the Full Moon cycle for this month (yes I track specific days according to the setting calendar). Suspicions are aroused, and they decide to stay at least one night to see what goes on, with an emphasis on the old man’s actions. At this point, 3 out of 8 just want to kill this old man.
Night comes, the freezing rain rolls through, everyone stays awake, planning to sleep during the day. Nothing out of the ordinary happens, until the old man walks out of his home before the dawn. He walks out to the middle of one field and stands there for 10 minutes before walking back into his home. The rogue follows him into his bedroom, where he simply went back to bed. Looking about the room, the rogue sees an old battered broadsword and some rusted chain-mail displayed on one wall. The rogue gets pissed that this farmstead doesn’t even have anything worth stealing.
The next day; cold, wet, tired, and frustrated everyone meets again. The old man thanks them for the first night of vigilance and is absolutely certain “they” will show up. The cleric asks if they can dig up one of these cows and examine it, to which the old man agrees and takes the party to the East side of the farm, opposite from where he took them the day before. There they see more stakes driven into the ground. Dismissing the old man again, a second discussion of just leaving starts. The bard speaks to some younger family members, and they state that the last group of adventurers visited over three years ago and that the old man has become increasingly more senile. His middle son some time ago had exhibited the same symptoms, but had ventured out late one night and they found him with dagger wounds from the dagger he carried. The older and younger son exhibit none of these symptoms. When pressed, the young lad reveals that the family has suffered under this for generations, and he feels bad admitting that they are simply waiting for the patriarch to pass away so that his eldest son can take over.
Digging where the cow was buried, the party discovers no carcass. Stakes have bee driven into the ground seemingly at random. The 3 good PC’s are the only ones who don’t want to kill this old guy at this point. The cleric argues, give it one more night, we’re just killing time anyway. They all sleep in the barn and prepare for a long night of sitting in the cold rains.
The night starts no differently, but they spot some movement along the cow pasture fence. Small humanoids carefully removing a section, luring a cow out, and repairing the section the removed. The druid wildshapes to an Owl and follows them, seeing a group of 6 goblins luring the cow to what appears to be a tarp, before slashing it long all arteries and bleeding it out.
The druid changes back, scaring all the goblins off, then begins walking back to the farm to gather the others. The whole party gathers around the dead cow. Even the cleric and paladin are angry now. Promised vampires, now they are left to deal with just goblins. A few mention one problem though, why are these goblins just draining the blood from a cow and not eating it? “This doesn’t make sense” gets tossed around a few times while they track the group.
After spending some time tracking, the party spots where the goblins are. Too many to count from their position 300 feet away, and definitely doing something. The wizard offers to give everyone about 45 seconds to move forward and he will throw two fireballs into the camp. The plan goes smoothly and right as everyone is about to burst from the tree line into the small clearing, two fireballs rock the area, killing all but one goblin. Everyone springs into action as the druid’s animal companion drags him to the ground, followed quickly by several others diving in with weapons. The rogue, in a moment of clarity, uses his two immovable rods to pin the goblin to the ground and begins to say something about interrogating him. It fell on deaf ears as the animal companion continued to maul him and the ninja delivered a final killing blow.
Quickly assessing the situation, everyone agrees that this was the actual problem and take back proof in the form of ALL the corpses placed into a portable hole. On presenting the evidence, the old man got angry. “I brought you here to deal with vampires, not the goblins of Dymrak Forest!” The more the party pressed, the more defensive he got until shouting for them to leave his property. The old woman apologized, and sent them on their way with one final meal.
On travelling the remainder of the day to the main road, they stopped to make camp. Cold, rain soaked, sleep deprived, and frustrated, a few fell asleep with contented full bellies, fully unprepared for what awaited them the next morning.
The early morning watch spotted a figure approaching from the farmstead. As it got closer, they seen a man carrying a child in nothing more than bed clothes and no shoes. They rushed to him as he forced out “‘They’ came in the middle of the night and began killing. I grabbed my youngest child and ran, but no one has followed. The horrors…” and he began to break down.
With little else to go on, the paladin offered the man her spare set of travelling clothes and the blanket under her horses saddle. The cleric gave him a bag and provisions for several days. The wizard gave him some coins. “Flag down the first caravan and get to the nearest town.” Then everyone prepared for ward and rode back to the farmstead they so despised just one day ago.
It didn’t take long to understand what the man had said. Only a few hundred feet from the farm stead, the road was littered with mangled bodies of all ages. The farmstead itself looked much like the goblin camp they had attacked two nights ago. Littered with bodies, the buildings had sections of wall torn out, doors knocked down, every human, and every animal butchered mercilessly.
The owner was one of the few not cut down by a blade, but he had curious puncture wounds on his neck within the bite mark. The ranger looked through everything left and made a swift determination. Skeletons caused most of this carnage. Their new prey placed no effort on hiding their presence, and the party came upon a keep nestled in the thick forest, just as night had fallen. Everyone got close enough to notice the Skeletons patrolling the top of the wall, but the skeletons also seen them.
Now they must storm a castle.