Lost Souls

Harvest End

A very bad time to visit Bright Harvest...

Moonday, 30th of Heccob, Year 3033

Some road-weary travelers arrive in Bright Harvest, a sleepy farming village in the province of Forsythe between morning and mid-afternoon. They arrive one by one, travelling alone - a heavily-armored half-elf woman named  Alonwyn, a pale hooded man with burning eyes named Alistair, a strange cloaked woman named Lilith, a hulking goliath of a man named  Korag-Gora, a rustic wander named Kvothe, a shady halfling named  Magnus, and a gnome engineer named Finthwik.

The villagers are anxious and unsettled by the appearances of the travelers. Hulking cloaked creatures armed with rusty scythes, referred to as the reapers by the villagers, follow and surround each traveler, just out of sight. Brother Birch, leader of the Bright Council, the governing body of the village, invites each traveler to the town center to meet with the council and explain their purpose, as they are setting the town on edge with their presence.


The Bright Council worries that the travelers are here to harm the village or to interfere with their harvest, as it is the eve Harvest End festival and they assume that such a large group of outsiders must have a nefarious purpose.

Finthwik explains he has come to propose a line of machines he invented that could aid in the annual harvest which is so important to the village, however he is shut down by the council, who claim that the harvest must be completed as it is has been for centuries. This deeply saddens Finthwik, whose goal it was to help them.

Despite the heroes’ annoyance, the council offers them an opportunity to prove their trust; if they go to the eastern pumpkin fields and retrieve the largest, most impressive pumpkin and bring it back that night to be used for the Harvest End ceremony the next day. Begrudgingly, they accept.

Before leaving on their quest, Magnus visits the local tavern to talk to a local farmer over an ale, but the farmer is visibly unnerved and anxious talking to Magnus, and won't reveal much. Dragging a large cart, the party marches along the eastern road and arrive at the field before sundown. Lilith uses her magic to create a pumpkin lantern to light their way. They are harassed by a large swarm of pumpkin beetles, which they easily destroy. The heroes find an abnormally large pumpkin and begin hauling it back to Bright Harvest as the sun sets.



As they are traveling, they are assailed by a pack of living scarecrows. Lilith casts light on the enormous pumpkin to illuminate the field. Finthwik hides behind the pumpkin, too cowardly to join the fray. Lilith casts a firebolt spell, and the flames send Alistair into a fit of dread, but he manages to overcome his terror and rejoin the fight. Alonwyn attempts to identify the scarecrows by using her divine sense, but she unwittingly discovers that Alistair is actually undead, and confronts him about this without the others realizing the truth. The party dispatches the freakish assailants and continue their journey back to the village.

Arriving back at the town center with the impressive pumpkin, the adventurers are perturbed by the ambush, assuming it was the doing of the Bright Council. Brother Birch deflects the concerns of the travelers and urges them to bed so that they can be ready for the festival on the morrow. They are offered lodging and food free of charge, so they hesitantly retire for the night.
 

Treesday, 31st of Heccob (Harvest End), Year 3033

The party awakens and each spend the day enjoying the festival, now treated with less fear and suspicion by the villagers. They, however, can’t help suspiciously eyeing a mysterious construct (covered by an enormous draping cloth) that has sprung up in the center of the commons.

Korag-Gora repeatedly tries to remove the cloth from the towering aspect, but is intercepted by the reapers. He decides to launch a javelin into it, which disappears without a sound. This action incites the wrath of the reapers, which move in to attack him, but Brother Birch stops them and persuades Korag-Gora to take part in the festivities, using his lust for competition as a selling point.

Korag-Gora pariticipates in a strength contest against Brother Oak, the largest and strongest member of the Bright Council, but Oak suffers a grievous injury from a falling tree trunk. Magnus fraternizes with Sister Olive, whose soulless voice and mindless personality disturbs him.

Sundown arrives, and the ceremony begins. The Bright Council gathers the villagers around the Common field surrounding the towering construct, bonfires are lit, and the reapers solemnly surround the edges of the field. Brother Birch offers Korag-Gora the honor of pulling the drape from the hidden construct, which he accepts.

He pulls it away with one strong tug, revealing a towering wickerman filled with livestock and living captives, including a priest that was speared by Korag-Gora’s javelin, and a head made from the pumpkin they retrieved the night before, now a hideous jack-o-lantern.

Brother Birch begins an invocation…

Ba'al – god of plenty, bringer of prosperity! We invoke thee on this night, on this eve of the Withering, to offer you thanksgiving for our bountiful harvest! We offer you blood! We offer you flesh! We offer you the suffering of heathens and the slaughter of swine! We offer you fire to usher in the Withering and the Dying Season! Please, oh lord, accept our offering of fire and pain! Deliver us from the bitter cold and the endless night, so that we may live to farm again in the warmth of the amber sun! Let us live to harvest again! (chanting) Sow the seeds, reap the wheat!

The Bright Council join hands and begin chanting in unison, “Sow the seeds, reap the wheat!” The villagers watch solemnly with distraught expressions as the reapers attempt to apprehend the party and drag them to the wickerman. As they struggle against them, the reapers are revealed to be hulking pumpkin golems animated by the Bright Council.

Kvothe is the first to act, enraged by the sacrifice of the animals, casting a thunderwave spell to disrupt the Bright Council’s ritual. The party works together to battle the strange golems which still attempt to drag them to the foot of the wickerman. Alonwyn tries to stir Sister Olive to turn away from the madness of the council and to accept the Light, but she attacks her with her ceremonial sickle.

After felling most of the Reapers, Alonwyn shouts to the villagers, inciting them to act and rescue the people trapped inside the wickerman. Stirred by her speech, the villagers grab ladders and saws to cut into the wickerman and free the prisoners.



Korag-Gora slices Brother Birch in half with one fell swoop of his sword, interrupting the conjuring of a magical flame to ignite the wickerman. Alistair cuts Sister Olive’s neck with his sickle, unknowingly causing her spirit to enter the wickerman’s ghastly head, igniting a ghostly white flame inside. Alistair is confused by this, then notices that the sickle is the cult’s ceremonial symbol and has a magical property in their ritual.

Unexpectedly, the rest of the council slice their own necks using their ceremonial sickles, causing their spirits to exit their bodies and ignite inside the jack o’lantern. Korag-Gora and Alonywyn frantically chop at the legs of the wickerman with their weapons, cutting through the interweaving branches in an attempt to hinder its ability to walk if it were to spring to life. Lilith casts an ice spell on the legs of the wickerman in an attempt to keep it immobile.

The villagers finish rescuing those trapped inside, leaving the wickerman’s cage-like torso empty of prisoners and animals. The last of the reapers are destroyed by the party as Korag-Gora climbs a ladder and stands atop the shoulder of the wickerman. He then attempts to pry the head off of it, but it won’t budge and his sword gets stuck in the thick weaving of its neck. Magnus fires an arrow into the face of the jack o'lantern, but it has little effect other than puncturing its surface. Korag-Gora retrieves his sword and slashes into the pumpkin's flesh, destroying its face and causing the ghostly, white flames to burst forth from it in a flare.

Alistair draws out and devours the soul of Sister Olive, which had already flown into the jack o’lantern head of the wickerman, dimming the light inside and slowing the process of its vine-like body twisting and forming. This act of soul feasting horrifies Kvothe, who physically assaults Alistair, thinking he is as much a foe as the cult.

Alonwyn climbs the other side of the wickerman, flanking its head with Korag-Gora. Together, they use their strength to pry the head from its shoulders, dropping it to the earth below and shattering it, sending the souls of the Bright Council flying into the sky. The wickerman’s twisting form loses shape and the vines and branches that held it together begin to unravel.

Once the dust settles, the party are revealed to be mostly unharmed at the foot of the wreckage of the wickerman. The villagers of Bright Harvest, overcome with gratitude, surround the heroes and begin to cheer and weep with joy, calling the party of strangers heroes for freeing them from the Bright Council and the reapers. The bonfires burn as the village begins to celebrate with drink and dance.

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