Dudley (paladin of Torm) and Kormier (warrior priest of Torm) exited the military service after serving together so it seemed only natural that they seek fame and fortune in the wilds by forming an adventuring company. They journeyed to Bay Town, in the north of the land, and there they met and partnered with Malchor the Mage. They were hiking towards Cairnpur – on the Merchant’s Run – but got a bit off track. When they stumbled upon the Nar rider Thunderbear and his string of horses, they were pleasantly surprised to learn he would join the venture – for now everyone rides! The quartet is en route when they meet Bababobo, some sort of scruffy hermit – er, ranger – who points out that they are heading in the wrong direction.. He is moving a bit further southward along the Rawlinswood because of rumors of a lichlord called the Rotting Man raising some sort of force in the woods. He is headed towards Maracrath, and offers to lead the party there. A day or two later, he joins the party as a partner, though the mission is as yet undefined.
Arriving at Maracrath, the party makes the acquaintance of Crusty, who is a professional caravan guard grown bored of the routine. He offers to ask around, since he is a local and the party are all obviously not. His questioning soon leads to leads and one of the leads leads to an interview with a merchant. The merchant has come into possession of a small castle and asks the party to secure it for his arrival. It appears that the threat of the Rotting Man has dried up the pool of local candidates, so the deal is swiftly struck, and the party rides on with a map and a letter.
Two days later, they arrive within sight of the ‘castle’ – more of a manor house, though it does bear some fortifications. It sits atop a small rise that surveys a half-mile or more of cleared ground. The ranger points out the futility of stealth and rides up to the front door. The group pickets the horses a short distance away and investigates the open doors. Dudley strides down the hallway and hammers loudly on the nearest door, bellowing loudly that all must quit the premises.
That gets a trio of traders to pack their goods and depart peacefully. A quartet of goblins is less inclined to leave and so they are slaughtered. The doors are opened, one by one. A talking statue, a cleric of Tempus, another three traders and their donkey, a room to a door to a room full of wolves – strange, a door that cannot be opened. The group pauses after completing a circuit of the outer hallway and rests a moment before entering the inner portico.