A bit of deus ex machina, to begin the day. As the characters were having breakfast, Brenda came into work bearing news. Seems she’d had dinner with a “friend” the night before and had brought up the Anchorite’s auguries of the day, and her companion had had some insight to provide. What he revealed was a dirty little secret of the gnomes: the Daemons.
Armed with this knowledge, the party went to the Anchorite for further information. After catching the tail end of his morning service, they spoke at some length about demons and ways they could be fought. The Anchorite promised to provide them with blessed weapons and some of the Church’s cache to aid them in their quest.
They returned to the temple that afternoon, and Linnaeus made good on his promise, blessing their weapons and providing them with scrolls, rituals of protection, and a candle whose light would cause evil to flee. Wasting no time, they set out immediately towards the small farming community of Barley Row, roughly twelve leagues sinstward.
An uneventful night passed, and they continued their travels the following day. After a minor, easily-overcome skirmish with some overconfident bandits in the middle of a field, they arrived at Barley Row in the early evening. They were greeted coolly by Burton, a Cymru man unimpressed with the length of time it had taken the group to arrive. He told them that most of the disappearances had been people foraging in Diggswood Forest, but the previous night the Finch family, mother, father and daughter, had been stolen from their farmhouse. He called upon Billy, a big farmhand, to take them to the house.
The farmhouse itself, located at the forest’s edge, was unremarkable: a small, stone-walled, thatched-roof affair common to poor farmers. There were no real signs of struggle within; it appeared that the family had just gotten up and left in the middle of the night. The only unusual feature of the scene were all the animal tracks. Tracks were everywhere, tracks of wolves, tracks of cougars, foxes, even non-predatory animals like rabbits and deer. The tracks circled the house, but dissipated once they went into the forest.
The party decided to camp at the house in the face of the encroaching evening. Billy offered his family’s home and then took his leave, and Brennis used the ritual the Anchorite had provided to create a salty circle of protection around the farmhouse. They assigned watches and settled in for the night.
The night passed uneventfully, except for one strange occurrence. At one point during the night, the man on watch noticed a single wolf, sitting just inside the forest, watching him. The wolf did not approach the circle, and after a time, wandered off into the forest.
The following morning, the party resolved to head into the wood. They felt the best course of action was to sweep the entire forest, starting at the edges and moving in deeper, to attempt to find some sign of the missing townspeople and their captor. The first day of searching proved fruitless; the second day started out similarly uneventful, until the party encountered a half-orc druid previously unknown to them. He did not introduce himself, but spoke briefly about the temple which had been uncovered in an earthquake some time before and the evil it had released. After disclosing his location, he left, calling over his shoulder that the party should beware the walking corpses.
This warning in mind, the party approached the temple. En route, they encountered a strange and frightening sight: walking skeletons! They attempted to sneak past, but somehow the skeletons heard them and attacked. The fight went well for the party, and as the day drew to a close, they came into sight of the temple. Rather than entering the temple at night, the party created a circle of protection and hunkered down, warily keeping watch on the walking dead.