The Westraven Witch
The following adventure background should be read aloud to the players JUST PRIOR to starting the adventure (and timers):
A century ago, the sleepy little hamlet of Westraven played host to tragic events unrecorded in written history.
The local baron and his family came to stay a few weeks at the village inn, “slumming it” as it were, with the commoners, to allow time for their nearby citadel to be repaired following the successful repulsion of a small humanoid invasion. During their brief sojourn, the baron’s eldest daughter, Dahlia, had opportunity to mingle with the villagers, something not afforded her during a youth spent in the castle under the watchful eye of her father. A beautiful young girl blossoming into womanhood, she was exhilirated to find herself the subject of much attention from local men, both young and old, much to the dismay of the baron. As their stay came to a close, her younger sister, Rose, revealed to their father secrets told her in confidence by Dahlia: that during their two weeks in town, she’d allowed herself to be seduced and bedded by no less than four of the locals.
Incensed by his eldest daughter’s indiscretions and the disgrace he felt it brought upon the family, he called a public meeting in the town square the next morning. There he surprised everyone by having his own daughter, Dahlia, hung publicly for her harlotry. Amongst the crowd, a fight broke out. Each of the four local suitors, shocked by what had been revealed and armed with the weapons of their trades, spiralled into a chaotic free-for-all melee that would see all four men dead within minutes, while horrified kinfolk could only look on, mouths agape.
The baron took his other daughter and left, and the village of Westraven quietly and shamefully mourned the five deaths. The story of that day was never recorded in the history books, but passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, as a parable to caution against loose morals. Over the years, the finer details of that day have blurred, and the story has transformed to include warnings that the corpse of Dahlia – “the Westraven Witch” as she has come to be called – would come visit unscrupulous young ladies at night if they should stray in their chastity. Such incredible tales were little more than fancy, of course, until…
A week ago, a villager passing near the graveyard spotted a young woman inside, huddled over an open grave and crying. As they approached, she let loose a blood-curdling scream and ran off into the night. After alerting the town watch, an investigation was conducted the following day, to find that the grave in question was that of the girl, Dahlia. It had been unearthed and the body taken. Looking like the work of graverobbers, the town watch began questioning people. At next light, the townsfolk were horrified to discover the graves of the four suitors had also been unearthed and the bodies removed.
Now it looked like an elaborate prank, designed to frighten the people of Westraven, and on the hundredth anniversary of the tragic event, no less. Hoping to quash any rumors before they began – and before they no doubt reached the ears of the royal descendants – the mayor had the entire town watch lay in wait at the graveyard the next night, hoping for some clue as to which “demented youth” might be behind such disgusting treachery. The break of dawn saw no survivors amongst the dozen. The troop was masacred, flesh rended from their bones in a bloody and frightful scene. The rumors have spread like wildfire: the Westraven Witch has arrived, indeed, and with the restless spirits of her suitors alongside!
The town is defenseless, and reinforcements will not arrive for days. Unless a solution can be found before nightfall, it is feared the Westraven Witch will emerge with her entourage and destroy everyone! The mayor consults the local priest, who – after praying to consult the oracles – devises a last-chance plan: if a group of bold adventurers, using a Shadow Portal ritual at her gravesight, can enter the netherworld and destroy her before nightfall, the town might be saved.
Armed with the necessary scroll and what weapons and equipment the town could provide, our intrepid adventurers set out in search of hope, unsure of the way, or of a way back. It’s ten in the morning. Nightfall – and possibly the death of the town – will arrive in about twelve hours.
Casting the ritual at the empty grave of Dahlia, you find yourself enshrouded in total darkness. Beneath your feet is something solid, but buoyant. A cool breeze brings a smell of salt air.