With winter making itself felt across Belicht, Vlad is grateful for the relative lull in demonic activity. Not able to pursue Hilde at this time, he has spent the last few weeks ensuring the glassworks will run without him, and doing his minor demonologist related tasks around Vendig (wardings, report investigations and the like). A few days into Descending Air, Aujak calls a meeting with the group members in town (Vlad, Laima, Mal, and Hailong), having received a message via the city father that the Doctor, Demi and Pyotr are in need of assistance. They were last heard from as they departed for distant Kerker Hall and its village. Given the nature, and the delivery method, of the message, its clear they are pretty desperate, so the group gather their gear and head off. Its a 3 day journey via stagecoach, with Vlad and Mal riding their own horses due to lack of space in the coach.
At the end of the second day, they approach the coach-house rest stop, where they plan to spend the night before the final day of the journey. However, as they approach they see evidence of fire damage, and the gates appear to have been broken open. Investigating carefully, they find maybe a dozen corpses that seem to have been dead for 4-5 days. Wounds all seem to have come from ‘hot’ weapons, cauterized. A few more corpses are found in the inn. A funeral pyre is hastily constructed, and the gates are closed as best is possible to provide some defense over night.
As darkness creeps over the area, several ghosts of burnt soldiers appear around the pyre. Vlad approaches them and tries to converse with them. They demand that the group leave their land immediately. When asked why, they respond that they have orders from the Headsman. They draw their weapons and advance on Vlad, the blades edged with flame. Laima tries to bribe the guards, who descend into discussing the technicalities of their orders. Mal then launches into a long story and ‘variety show’ telling of his adventures, and manages to entertain the ghosts until dawn. As soon as the ghosts have dispersed for the day, the group makes for Kerker village as fast as possible. During the ride Vlad recognizes the effects all this ghostly activity is having on the surrounding lands, as it shows evidence of slowly becoming a giant shadowland – a very worrying development.
That evening they arrive at the town, and are greeted happily by the Doctor and Pyotr, evidently glad of the help. The village itself is a mess, with marks of combat against the dead everywhere. After discussing the situation in the evening, and a good nights rest, Vlad and Pyotr head into the forest the following morning. Vlad intends to summon the Forest King once more, and see if it is willing to help against the ghosts and encroaching shadowlands. Pyotr skillfully leads them past the local dangers, as some areas now have active dead during the ‘daytime’. They reach an appropriate clearing, untouched by winter or death, and Vlad starts his rituals with Pyotr keeping watch for anything untoward. After a few hours, Vlad finishes, and one of the tree’s reveals itself to be the Forest King… or he inhabits it… or something. Vlad was never sure how they materialize like that. Vlad explains the situation as best he can, playing on the danger to the forest posed by the dead. Unfortunately, the Forest King, already an angry being with a distaste for humans, blames the humans for the troubles brought to his forest, and finally states “You humans are useless, and responsible for unleashing horrors. Leave my forests.”. Vlad and Pyotr head back to the village hurriedly. While technically a success as the Forest King is going to deal with the dead in the area, the larger ramifications of this are likely to be unpleasant.
That evening, the group once again discuss the situation, and formulate a dangerous plan: to go into Kerker hall, find the anchors of the most powerful ghosts and destroy them.