You leave the ruined homestead and travel north, leaving the creeping, bubbling, stinking swamp waters behind you with every step. Although not rushing, you make good time in your homeward journey. Stopping under what seems to be a safe rocky alcove for the night, you get Leia to wake you before the middle of the night – she does, just before she again spasms and drops to the ground unconscious. Worried, you check her vital signs and make her as comfortable as possible and then settle in to watch and wait out the rest of the night.
As before, Leia awakes in the morning, but seems worse than the day before – her face is hagged and ashen, her movements slow and pained. Travelling slowly, you find you must aid her in walking now, least she fall.
Only about a day and a half away from Tolk you hear a wailing yell not far away – “Heeeeellllppp meeeee!” Startled by the noise, you move to investigate, but bereft of support, Leia drops to the ground in a faint, you move her gently into some bushes to hide her. You rush to towards where the yell came from, following a track through the trees and come upon a small farmhouse. A man keels out the front, head in hands, sobbing loudly. “My boy, you have to help my boy he cries” looking at you with crazed, red rimmed eyes. “He is inside, I don’t know what to do!”.
He rushes inside and you follow, entering the main living room of the house. He moves down a small hallway and pauses to open one of two doors, you follow him in. The room smells of death and blood, the boy is in the bed, covers over him. You pull the bedcovers back to find the body eviscerated – blood and entrails staining the bed a deep red. The boy has obviously been dead for some days. You tell the man as much, he shakes his head not understanding. More forcefully you say “I can’t help him, he is dead”, the man snaps and with a half yelp-growl he grabs a rake that was leaning on the wall and swings at you!
He succeeds in landing some wild blows, your amour soaking up most of the punishment. You temper your blows, attempting to knock him out rather than kill him. Trying to calm him, he yells wildly, and rushes from you into the back room of the house, slamming the door behind him. You hear things breaking and the thumps of rake strikes, as the man rages in the room. After a minute or so, there is silence, you cautiously move to the door and push it open.
The sight that meets your eyes is brutal to behold. The room is a charnel house, with body parts strewn on the floor and furniture. A dark language is scrawled in blood on every wall, and the stench is terrible. The man stands in front of you, body relaxed, but eyes blank. “The Master demands” he utters quietly, the words echoed in the dry scratching of bones as a skeleton moves past him to attack you! The fight is furious but over quickly, you knock the man unconscious and shatter the skeleton to dust.
Quickly inspecting the room, you decide the room contains the bodies of two small children and a women. Dragging the unconscious man back into the main room, you close the door to the horrible sight. Leia finds you in the room, watching the unconscious man. “This house smells of death. Who is this man?”. You explain and you both wait, hoping to talk to the man about what happened. He awakens and immediately comes at you. You knock him to the ground again and he slumps, motionless. Seeing that the situation seems pointless, you and Leia move back to the Old South Road, and continue your travels.
After a time, you come across an old man pulling a cart in the opposite direction. Seeing Leia and realising your plight, he offers to help, which you accept gladly. Travelling deep into the night, you find out some things about Gerald the old farmer who agreed to help. Mostly he is happy to talk, but looks at you sideways when you ask how much he made at the market.
Finally you make it back to Tolk, Gerald goes to make his good byes while holding his hand out to you in a suggestive manner. “Could you help an old man out for helping you good sir?” he asks. You turn him down, insulted that he would ask for something you were about to give freely. He turns and leaves, shoulders slumped, not looking back.
You move quickly to the Temple of Banim, and find Doro to make your report. Leia is taken by concerned colleagues to the infirmary section of the temple grounds. When told, Doro is concerned by your findings, and when you give him the wrapped icon of Kroosh he says "it dangerous to touch such unholy icons, but better we deal with it than some innocent finds it. When told of the crazed farmer he murmers “this is not good, such evil things to hear of”. He takes the drawing of the symbol you found on the Swamp Gnoll and indicates that he will pass this on to the military.
Once you have finished your tale, Doro hands you a pouch as a reward for volunteering. He asks if you would like to accompany him on the morrow to investigate the farmhouse and try and find Gerald to make sure he is ok. You agree to without hesitation. The next day you meet Doro early and travel light to the small farmhouse.
You lead him to it and seeing no one around, Doro pushes open the door. You grimace at the sight that greets you. The farmer has been nailed to the wall of the main living room, opposite the open door. His skin is flayed from his body and every part of him has been cut open. The air is thick with flies and the smell of blood. Like the back room, the living room is daubed in the same bloody foul language. Taking up most of the floor, a large symbol of Kroosh is drawn in blood. Doro is furious, he growls “such evil, we must burn this place to the ground”. The farmhouse burns, flames going some way to cleansing the unholiness of the deeds that were done inside.
After a fruitless search for Gerald, you travel back to Tolk. Once there, Doro thanks you and leaves you to your studies.