The late afternoon was cold, heavily overcast and drizzly as Team TPK made their way along the road towards the ruined town of Thundertree. Their purpose was to find the druid Reidoth, who could tell them the location of Cragmaw Castle, the last place Gundren Rockseeker was known to have been taken. Reidoth was known to be in Thundertree, which was also Tai Ni Dong’s home town.
“So is Thundertree big, small, in between?” asked Bonnie Basher. “And what happened to it?”
“Small,” replied Tai Ni Dong. “Mount Hotenow happened to it, erupted and covered it in hot ash about 15 years ago. My family had to flee with everyone else to Neverwinter, and then didn’t settle, we just kept moving around. I’ve always wanted to go back.”
“The farmers here are back,” said Eric, waving at an isolated farmstead with wheat and corn growing in the fields. As a priest of a goddess of life and agriculture, he appreciated the well maintained rows of grain.
“It’s good farmland here, close to the Neverwinter River,” said Tai Ni Dong. “Close enough to Neverwinter to ask for help if orcs or worse come raiding.”
“Does everyone in Thundertree have weird names?” asked Guinne.
“No, Tai Ni Dong is the name I took when I joined the monastry in Wayfork,” smiled the monk. “My old name isn’t me anymore.”
Around the road were fields of wheat, stretching as far as the eye could see. The clothes of an ill-made scarecrow flapped in the cold breeze. Suddenly, they became aware of a moan coming from the scarecrow. Looking more closely, they realised that it was a young man tied to a stake.
“Cut him down,” ordered Bonnie.
“Oh, we thought we’d leave him up there to enjoy the view,” snapped Guinne. “Honestly Bonnie, leave your sergeant’s orders in the past, we know what to do.”
The party ignored the banter, they were used to the two rubbing each other the wrong way. Bonnie was an ex-soldier, a stickler for discipline and order, while Guinne was a free spirit who often did things impulsively and not always according to the plan. When it mattered they were there for each other.
The young man looked to be around 16 years old and was suffering from exposure; he had sunburn, which Eric mentioned was odd. It had not been sunny yesterday, maybe the boy had sensitive skin. Eric used some salve from a healing kit on him and gave him some water. He recovered enough to be able to tell his story. He told the party that is name was Elias and he was attacked by his parents when he got home last night from visiting his friends, Alina and Edwin, at a nearby farm. His parents beat him severely and tied him to the stake, where he had been hanging all day. He feared that his parents had been possessed by evil spirits and might have also attacked his friends.
“Let’s find out,” urged Goldi. Her face showed concern and compassion for the young man.
They followed the track up to a large, sprawling farmhouse on a slight rise dominating the landscape. The farm showed signs of once being better kept. Now, the hedge fences were wild and untended, the doors were unpainted, and tools lay in the open. However, smoke rose from the chimney, and a small herd of cattle grazed in a nearby field.
“Father has been getting old,” said Elias, noting Eric’s disapproving look. “Our last farmhand left about three months ago. I probably could help him more.” The boy still seemed unwell from his ordeal, he stumbled occasionally and was squinting as if he had a headache . Eric suspected he may have been up on the stake longer than he remembered.
Bonnie knocked on the door. After a few minutes, the door was opened a crack by an old man with a tear streaked face. He was initially unfriendly, which turned to outright hostility when he caught sight of Elias.
“Take that demon-spawn away!” he demanded, almost on the verge of hysteria. They could hear wailing of what must be the man’s wife inside the house. The man slammed the door closed. Elias was grief stricken.
“They must be possessed, or become mad,” he said. “Please help them.”
“It’ll be getting dark soon,” said Fizbo. “We need to sort this out so we can make camp.”
To be continued…