The following takes place at the same time as the party’s misadventures in the town of Windswept. (This solo adventure’s purpose was to catch Maria up with the party, or close enough.)
Maria Vega is ordered to report to the Temple of Ishnara in Aquileia, where the revered mother tells her that the town of Windswept is rumored to be plagued and could use a healer.
Maria: “You’re just trying to rouse me from my drunken stupor by getting me to go do something useful.”
Priestess: “Yep. Here’s a hundred gold for expenses.”
Maria: “Heh. Fair enough.”
Maria rides Peony down to the town, which is suspiciously silent and empty-feeling. Her first stop is the militia compound, which is full of diseased militia, but also their commander Marcus Valerius, who, along with a squad of fifteen men, remain untainted. From Marcus she finds out that a) the disease started in the town square and b) it started a couple of weeks ago, right after the Empire fought off and captured a Dark Elf Corsair ship and took its elven captives as their own. Some were sent to Aquileia’s Legion.
Maria goes to check out the town water supply (the well in the town square), and purifies it, just in case. She finds the infirmary totally empty, rather than, as she’d expected, full of dead bodies — it hasn’t been used in days. She leaves a note on the door announcing its imminent reopening once she returns from a few quick errands, and knocks on doors between the infirmary and the militia compound to let people know that it will soon be open and to pass the word.
Back at the compound, Maria asks where the heck all the healers are, and is given four home addresses. She asks for a messenger to be sent out to announce to the town that the infirmary is reopening, but there aren’t enough healthy men; Marcus suggests finding a kid at a tavern somewhere.
At the tavern, Maria chats up the innkeeper (in a timely fashion), hears more about the disease, how it started, who its first victims were, and so forth. She pays the innkeeper well for his time and trouble, in hopes of future good will. Then she goes to the healers’ homes, and discovers them dead — with bodies locked in rictuses of pain. It doesn’t take her long to recognize that they died roughly around the same time of ingested poison, made to simulate the plague, rather than dying of the plague itself. She administers last rites to all the corpses.
She heads back to the infirmary, which is now full of people who need attention, thus giving her ample samples of the disease. She carefully studies and cares for many victims, and categorizes the disease as a) magical, b) spread by touch and by water, and c) that it has at least three stages; first flu symptoms, then a red rash accompanied by comatose sleep.
The third stage, she discovers when her comatose patients turn bright red, grow claws and fangs, and turn into Athnea-type demons. She evacuates the infirmary, sending those townsfolk still uninfected or in stage one off with as many healing supplies as they can carry, and instructions to use them freely, then holds nine demons off at the doorway (so that only two of them can attack her at a time). Once they’ve all been subdued, she injects them with a knockout drug and thoroughly binds them with bindings also soaked in knockout drug (to put them out again when they inevitably try to bite their way to freedom).
Then she barricades the door from the outside, leaves a note about what’s inside on the door, and makes the executive decision that this is too big for her and it’s time to go get help.
She’s also realized at this point that this disease is obviously sent by agents of Athnea, given the type of demon inhabiting the villagers, and that the most prominent Athnea worshippers in the entire world are dark elves. The elven ‘captives’ may have not been captive at all; it seems like an ideal way to soften up the Imperial coast for a more serious attack.
Oh, and some captives were sent to Aquileia.
So rather than abandon the town, believing that she’s the only healer present, she goes back to the militia compound to get a messenger (hoping that this time they won’t blow her off, and prepared to browbeat them into obeying her if necessary). However, they’re under siege by demons, so while they’re clearing out the compound, she writes letters to the head of the Aquileia Legions, the Ishnaran Church, and the Aquileia Senate, then grabs Marcus and his horse and says “saddle up brah, time for you to go save the Empire.”
The two of them head for the gate, which, they discover, is being held by Snow Cleric of Athnea and her Seven Elves.
Maria, primly: “Greetings, cousins.”
Athnea Cleric: “Cousins?! How quaint, Ishnaran rhetoric about how we’re all one big happy family. In your dreams, bitch.”
Maria: “This is your one warning. Stand down and let this man pass, or suffer the consequences.”
AC: “And where is he going? Aquileia, to warn them and the Empire? What exactly do you think is happening here?”
Maria: “Well, I think that this might be the first stage in a larger attack on the Empire. A first wave of corsairs are sent to soften up the coast with a demoralizing plague that infests the Empire with demons under its enemies’ command. With Aquileia in chaos, weak as a newborn babe, the key to the Empire’s defenses will be as easy to pluck as a ripe plum. And if that happens, I fear I would be terribly disappointed.”
Marcus: “Honestly, I think I’d be rather upset.”
Maria: “Yeah, we’d really be quite put out. So I’ll ask you again, cousins — will you let us pass?”
AC: “No, I don’t believe I will. Kill the Ishnaran and her man!”
Maria, grinning evilly: “Bring it on.”
Together they fight off the elves until Marcus, who has been thoroughly buffed with defensive spells, is past the gate and free to escape to Aquileia. They see that quite a few infected demon-people have already been sent out of the town to spread the disease, but that’s not a reason to not warn Aquileia, particularly by speedier-than-demon horse. Maria promises Marcus that she will not leave his townsfolk to die; she will remain and do everything she can to save them.
She retreats from the seven warriors and the cleric before they can kill her, goes back to the militia compound, rallies the men there, and once all the demons /there/ are dead, leads a squad of militia to retake the town gate. They kill all the warriors but one, who they take captive along with the cleric; after being thoroughly searched and dressed in appropriate prisoner attire, the dark elves are thrown into the militia brig for interrogation. Men remain at the gate and at the militia compound to secure both.
Before Marcus left, he mentioned another group was in Windswept trying to solve the problems of the town. In the interests of meeting up with any remaining uninfected townsfolk/adventurers, she sends up a Legion signal flare from the compound, its message writ bold in red light across the sky:
ALLIES OF WINDSWEPT AND THE EMPIRE, ASSEMBLE AT THE MILITIA COMPOUND TO REGROUP AND REPORT. ENEMIES ALSO WELCOME IF YOU WANT TO SAVE US THE TROUBLE OF HUNTING YOU DOWN.
Transcript of Letters held by Marcus Valerius
TO: Aquileia Legion, Church of Ishnara, Senate
FROM: Centurion Vega of Ishnara, Windswept Militia Compound, X/X/XXXX XX:XX
Windswept compromised by magical disease, sent by Athnea agents — dark elf corsair connection probable, captured elf maidens suspicious. Disease is ransferred by TOUCH and WATER; quarantine those who have touched maidens (and those they’ve touched thereafter); switch to emergency water supplies. First stage of disease is flu symptoms; second stage is red rash with comatose sleep; final stage, completely red skin, claws, fangs, black eyes, transformation to (or possession by?) demons of Athnea. Try to contain maidens and disease from Aquileia. Call exorcists.