Night begins to settle over the swamp, cloaking the dense undergrowth in darkness and turning the water's surface to black. With it comes a clinging, creeping fog, rising from the water like a spectral steam. The fog surrounds you, its dampness caressing you like cold, dead hands. The swamp seems to retreat from the mists, its sights and sounds disappearing into some unseen distance. All that remains visible is the cold, choking fog. Even your companions seem far away. For a moment, everything is quiet. What few sounds you can hear are amplified by the surrounding mists: your own breathing, your beating heart. Then the fog begins to dissipate, fading away as quickly as it appeared, leaving you and your companions alone in the dismal swamp. A sign sticks crookedly from the mire, reading “Marais D’Tarascon, 5 miles” and pointing down the swampy river.
The five adventurers stood in the soggy muck bewildered. Pulling his robe up to keep it out of the mud was Brother Alexander, a monk of the Order of Tendai. Reginald Drakeman, a man sired by a long line of valiant fighters, was reassured by the mass of the bastard sword Goblin-Cleaver strapped to his back. When Sir Richard “Dick” Dragonblood quickly scanned the area for evil, the paladin sensed it everywhere. The enigmatic assassin Hattori Hakkoshika carefully sheathed his deadly ninja to after seeing no direct foes. Finally Zookpen the Befuddler, master of illusions, stood to his full height looking around, which, for a gnome, was almost to Sir Dragonblood’s title.
Even through the darkness, it was apparent that a storm was brewing on the horizon. Seeing the only clue of civilization was down-stream, the group decided to trudge through the overgrown banks toward Marais d’Tarascon. Because of the shadowy swamp, it was hard to even tell the time of day. Occasionally, noise from the river would alert the companions. They took notice of some shapes floating in the water that resembled logs. Pulling up to the shore to investigate further, they were surprised by a massive crocodile lunging at the easiest morsel: Zookpen.
Thinking quick, the ninja Hattori hit the beast in the eyes directly with a smoke bomb, allowing the gnome to jump away from the closing maw. Reginald struck the beast with his sword taking out a chunk of scaly flesh. The group finished the croc off and because of their experience in the adventuring field, decided to gut it and see if it had interesting contents in its stomach. Surprisingly, the group found a potion in the stomach intact, which the little illusionist determined to be a potion of fire breath. Reginald, a trapper by trade, collected the croc pelt to be sold.
They continued on towards Marais d’Tarascon. Suddenly, they found themselves in a small clearing with absolutely no noise. Hattori then noticed three giant toads hidden in the brush, and as they reared their heads back to launch their prehensile tongues, the ninja used the potion of fire breath to envelope the amphibians in flame. One of the toads hit the fighter, but Reginald hit back, splitting the toad in half. A dart from the gnome and a cleaving blow from the paladin finished the toads.
After the skirmish, the group noticed a strange sight: a covered wagon in the middle of the swamp. They approached carefully to see a group of Vistani. The leader was named Scarengi, and waved the adventurers over. Three colorfully dressed children ran around, as Carloni, son of Scarengi, split wood for a fire. Scarengi’s wife Carloni was cheerfully preparing dinner. As the group sat round for dinner, a voluptuous young woman exited the wagon. Valana, Scarengi’s daughter, was a trained fortuneteller.
She sat by the men (and gnome) and mystically casted the stone tiles in her hands. “The lost one has called you!” she gasped. “The dead will walk with the coming storm, and you must find a way to put them to rest. If you cannot, the rain will turn to blood! It will drown you-you and all of Marais d’Tarascon!”
Scarengi quickly ushered his family to the wagon. Unnerved by the prophecy, the group took watch and slept as best as they could. When the night was about to break, a sleepy Zookpen was on watch. He was startled to see Valana in the doorway of the wagon. “Beware the madman,” she hisses. “Beware his blood.” She then disappeared back into the wagon. Zookpen, straining his brain to comprehend the warning, nodded off. When they all woke, the wagon and the gypsies were gone.
Before Valana’s strange fortune telling, Carloni had pointed the group towards Marais d’Tarascon, stating it was only a mile downstream. Seeing the fast current of the river, Sir Dragonblood, a shipwright in a former career, easily fastened a makeshift raft and the five were sent down the water. The swift current slowed during a widening of the river. In the distance, a light seemed to float above the water level. As they neared, they saw it was a small shacked on stilts.
The small raft settled next to the raised house and Sir Dragonblood yelled a greeting to no avail. Before Brother Alexander and Hattori could scale the ledge, a rope ladder was lowered. Hattori nonetheless climbed the side of the house stealthily. The other four pulled themselves up the ladder to find a shut door. They cautiously entered to find a single room well lit by lanterns. A barrel of clean water sat in the corner next to crates full of food. On the far side of the room sat a young blonde man, mumbling disordered sentences to himself and clutching a book. Upon examination, the book was a small poem book with a inscribing on the cover that read, “To Luc, my beloved brother.” Signed “Marcel.”
Deciding that this was not worth their time, they turned to leave. Hearing padded footsteps behind them, they turned to find Luc following them. In the distance, smoke rose as a sign of civilization. With a shrug, Sir Dragonblood took a lantern to help guide their way. Luc let out a shriek and started slamming his forehead against the wall. Quickly replacing the lantern, they got back on the raft, Luc in tow, and headed for the village. In the distance, the storm was growing.
Marais d’Tarascon is as normal a village as it comes in Souragne. The first building that the five adventurers happened upon when strolling up was the Full Moon Inn. Presenting a chance of recuperation and reconnaissance, they headed towards it. After buying a hot meal and a few drinks, the barmaid Katha told the adventurers a strange story.
“Over a week a go, Francois, a local fellow, well he fell dead right here in the common room. I was taking a break in the kitchen at the time, resting my weary feet near the back door. I remember, just before people started hollering in the common room, I got a whiff of some awful odor blowing in from outside. It was kind of like rotten meat—not that we serve any here, mind you—but worse. Luckily, I've got quite a strong stomach. In fact, I was just about to go outside to find out what could be causing that odor when the screams began. Then I saw Francois being carted off to be buried. You know, I forgot all about that awful an odor until just a few days ago when old Fiora mentioned that she had smelled it too. I'd lock your door when you're sleeping if I was you. Everybody in the village does now.”
The group, after learning a new lead, rented a room and decided to leave Luc inside still mumbling sayings, since he had received strange looks from the other patrons. The five headed to Fiora’s hovel, which was just down the lane. They could not help notice the large walled cemetery up the hill from the church. Fiora’s shack was boarded and locked. Knocking on the door, an elderly woman’s voice called out, asking for Teresa, her daughter. The adventurers convinced the old woman that although they were not Teresa, could be of assistance. The old woman told them that she had seen “foul flesh eaters” in the cemetery, and now she was worried because Teresa never returned from work on the Tarascon Plantation two weeks ago.
A strange middle-aged man strolled up to the group, declaring them a disturbance of the peace. His mindset quickly changed when the group acknowledged the strange events in town and assured the man they intended to help. Constable Gremin breathed a sigh of relief and helped them in the direction of the plantation, which was just past a poorly tended field. With slumping shoulders, he asked the group to keep an eye out for his missing son.
After a sloppy stroll through the field, they found themselves facing a large exotic building in disarray. A knock on the door yielded no response, so they looked in a building. A few servants were setting the table for dinner. With the feast ready, one of the servants lifted the lid to the main course: a severed human arm!
The ghouls lurched towards the door, smelling a fresh meal. There they met Sir Dragonblood, who called upon the power of his gods to turn the fiends away. Two of them turned and fled, but one was locked in combat with Brother Alexander.
During the melee, the fighter Reginald was raked by a ghoul claw and was paralyzed. The tide turned with some explosive darts from Zookpen and the steady sword of Sir Dragonblood, and the ghouls were dispatched. As the paladin lined bodies outside for last rites and identification, the others in the group searched the building. They found the remains of several villagers, including parts that matched Teresa and Gremin’s son. A very narrow and tall painting hid a Tarascon family heirloom in the form of a magic halberd.
The group rushed for town to get the help of the constable and the town priest in burning the plantation and giving the corpses peace. When they arrived to the town, however, a small gathering had amassed in front of the church. A priest exited the building followed by a few men carrying a coffin. The funeral procession made its way up the hill and would have been nothing out of the ordinary, except for the bangs and movement from the coffin!
Thinking this some sort of witch hunt and that some innocent soul was about to be buried alive, the adventurers demanded the townsfolk release the body. With some quick thinking, Zookpen cast “Suggestion” on the constable and he ordered the release. They quickly opened up the coffin to find the undead form of Jeremiah d’Gris. The zombie lurched towards the crowd but was quickly put down for good by the mighty fighter and paladin.
The crowd, strangely enough, quietly departed as if this was not an uncommon occurrence. The pallbearers gathered the corpse back into the coffin and continued on to the cemetery with the priest. Constable Gremin shook off the spell, apologized for his outburst, and then expressed his relief of having the adventurers back. He had been alerted to a strange sight in the middle of the town.
Bringing the group to the side of the small road, they were surprised to see a dark red stain on the ground. Sitting on the stain was a strand of red licorice. When asked if anyone was missing, the constable remembered that one of the barmaids went home the night before and had never been seen. He also said that Mordu, a hermit who lives in a shack down the lane, often made licorice to sell at the inn.
As the group made their way to Mordu’s shack, a mysterious woman was repairing the Tarascon family plantation’s door. Although cautious (Hattori setting up for a death blow from the back window), Mordu was all too excited to talk to the group about the Cult of the Swap God. Despite his ramblings, the old cook was able to lend aid to the group. A special formula of healing potion was bubbling on the stove, and he sold it to the group. He also had heard rumors that the elder brother, Marcel, had been killed by undead a few weeks prior.
Before leaving, he told them of the Tarascon townhouse might hold answers to the Cult of the Swamp God. The townhouse, situated across the street from the church, was locked up and dark. After knocking again to no answer, the door was promptly broken down. Inside, the rooms were all furnished but not used for some time. Dust covered everything.
Searching all of the rooms, the group found a study that had seen recent use. A quick examination of the bookshelf yielded a hidden compartment. Inside, there was a black cloak with pockets of licorice along with a scroll case. It seemed that this was the home of the killer. A debate ensued over the best way to fight this evil. The fighter, who had experience in tracking, found footprints leading from the window to the study. A trap was devised that included making the ninja invisible and hiding the illusionist under a bed in the room where the murderer seemed to enter. The other heroes made a clamor of leaving the building and going to the inn, hoping to convince the killer they were all gone. They did not even notice the elven woman who had started repairing the door of the townhouse.
Meanwhile, Zookpen was waiting nervously under the bed. Suddenly, a dagger embedded itself into his side. The killer had been in the room and knew about their trap! What he did not know was that the invisible assassin was in the same room. Hattori struck the foe with his short sword, and the killer turned towards him. “You should not have come to Marais d'Tarascon,” the madman hissed. “And you should not have brought that whelp of a brother with you! You have forced this confrontation! Let the blood be on your hands as you taste the blade of Jean Tarascon!”
Back at the inn, the Brother Alexander, Sir Dragonblood, and Reginald Drakeman were sipping ale and coming up with a plan for capturing the killer. Suddenly, the paladin had a very bad feeling and they rushed back to the townhouse. Brushing past the woman working on the door, they went into the room to see an unexpected sight. On the bed were many copies of the gnome throwing darts at Jean Tarascon, who was waving his dagger blindly towards the assassin. Badly outmatched, the Jean was quickly killed, his streak of murders ended.
The group walked out of the house to see a crowd of people with the constable and priest in front. They demanded to know what happened, and after some negotiations, they convinced the crowd that the murderer was dead. With a cheer the group was hailed as saviors of the town. But just then, the building storm broke hard. Everyone rushed to the inn to enjoy the victory.
The night turned into a drunken festival. Most of the party played card games with maids hanging around. Despite the violent storm, the inn was a joyous site. Luc was even present with his head bandaged (the candles in the room had gone out and one of the tenants had heard him knocking his head on the door). Ending the games (which the paladin won) they decided to reveal the contents of the scroll case. It was a mysterious parchment with sayings that seemed to be the ordered versions of Luc’s ramblings.
Priest Brucian, seeing the scroll, came over to talk to the heroes. He related the story in which Marcel Tarascon, Luc and Jean’s older brother, had died. Brucian tried to raise Marcel from the dead, but something had gone wrong. Jean had cried out and ran away with the corpse of his brother. “I do not think the worst is over in Marais d’Tarascon,” he said quietly.
As they were talking a flash of lighting showed a mysterious figure standing outside of the door. It crashed through and lifting an undead finger towards Zookpen (who had the scroll), lurched forward to attack. It was quickly put down as a soaking wet villager reached the door. Breathless, he squeaked out, “The dead are approaching Marais d’Tarascon!”
The heroes stumbled into the maelstrom, passing the devoted elf that had already started to fix the inn door. They ran to the fields on the south of town to see a glowing green mist full of lurking bodies. It was slowly heading towards the town. They rushed back to town to find Constable Gremin and Priest Brucian in a heated debate with the rest of the town next to them.
“You must help with the town defenses!” Gremin pleaded.
“No, you must find Marcel’s body,” Brucian exclaimed. “I am certain that it holds the key to the terrors which have befallen us!”
The party chose to end Marcel’s control of the undead. They recommended that everyone get inside and lock every entrance. Knowing well that the only place a risen lord of zombies could stay safe was in the cemetery, the five rushed up the hill into the dark site. A ten-foot high wall bordered the cemetery with mausoleums rising from the ground in case of swamp flooding. They made their way to the old part of the grounds, which was bolted by a heavy lock. On the other side were undead, waiting for a meal.
The fighter and paladin went to work trying to break the lock as Brother Alexander scaled the wall and landed in the midst of the zombies. He was surprised to see an undead bugbear that had been part of his family’s slaughter. In a flurry, he started to land blows against the foe. Hattori also climbed the wall and started to hail blowgun darts down upon the undead.
Despite the well-placed stunning shots, the monk was quickly overcome. As the warriors broke through the lock and kicked open the doors, Alexander was smashed down as the zombies started to eat him. Right on cue, the mysterious door repairwoman showed up to fix the museum doors. Seeing the immediate danger, she unleashed a powerful bolt of lightning that ripped through the zombies. Alexander, now a half eaten zombie, rose from the ground to attack his former allies, but was quickly cut down.
The elven woman pulled back her hood and introduced herself as Chinta Kari, a wizard who was employed in town as a carpenter. Hearing screams of death over the walls, they quickly started checking the large mausoleums in the old cemetery. Inside they found flaming bats, skeletons, and ghouls. Instead of fighting, they simply locked the various dead creatures back inside. Reaching the end of the site, they entered a vault with six stars on the door.
A familiar voice started speaking behind them. “Look for the scroll where the old rest fine, behind the stone where six stars shine. The finding, however, will cause much rain, beware the time of the falling rain.” Luc stood repeating this verse, his eyes focusing on the last great mausoleum.
They all readied themselves by the door, and then went in. An intense horrid stench flooded their senses and caused many of them to wretch and cough. They entered to find a strangely lit tomb with a throne on the far side. Seated was a haggard figure that rose and spoke in an undeadly raspy voice, “Welcome to my domain. I am Marcel Tarascon, lord of the undead. Give me what I seek. Give me the scroll of the six signs . . . or join the rest of Marais d'Tarascon in living death!”
Looking down, the floor was littered with freshly mutilated and eaten corpses. With a wave of his arms, several bodies rose and went to attack. A stronger zombie remained by Marcel’s side. Before melee could ensue, Chinta Kari released a ball of fire that enveloped the tomb. The first wave of zombies was quickly cut down. Marcel and his ju-ju zombie guardian rushed in to fight.
This was a sign of Hyskosa as told by the scroll in Zookpen’s possession. The zombie lord and his minion shrieked and looked into the sky, reveling in the sign. This distraction was all the heroes needed to destroy the ju-ju zombie. Marcel started to summon more to his aid, but was put to rest by the combined fighting prowess of the five adventurers.
The adventurers returned to the town to find the hoard of zombies wandering into the swamp and eventually collapsing into the ground. People started coming back out of their houses, relief flooding their eyes. Brother Alexander was honored as a hero of the town, and the heroes were healed and re-equipped. The villagers kindly ushered them towards the border of the town to leave. The five heroes were a reminder of the dark times, which the town wanted to quickly forget about. Whatever lay ahead of them, the Mist raised up somewhere on the road and when the fog faded, unknown adventure awaited.