The city of Ulferveil draws visitors from across Ord. The roads in and out of the city are usually choked with travelers and recently has been no different. Several travelers unintentionally travel the roads nearly shoulder to shoulder, acknowledging each other over the course of many weary days.
The road comes to an abrupt halt. The only opening in the high stone wall for as far as can be seen, the western gate to the city of Ulferveil stands open. The portcullis overhead is thick with rust from disuse, but the militiamen on duty appear sharp and ready to repel any enemies they see–on either side of the wall. They pay at least as much attention to the men and women moving among the rotting buildings behind them as they do to the road ahead. From above, a young man dangling his feet off the top of the wall shouts down at the travelers. The militia react with annoyance.
“Welcome to Ulferveil! I hope you're not staying long! You'll regret it! In the meantime, got a coin to spare?”
In the center of town, Blackgrin Inn stands like a defiant old man, stubbornly holding to its age-old face of stone and mortar even as newer and more elegant wooden buildings spring up all around it. A weather-ravaged wooden sign hangs from two rusted iron chains outside the front door. The image of a grinning ogre with wild eyes is portrayed on the sign, with the words “The Blackgrin Inn” carved above it in rough letters. The stones of the building are cracked and worn, rotting weeds and vines snaking through them as if the building is suffering from some horrible, debilitating disease. The interior is warm and friendly, lit by torches and by a low burning fireplace, giving the establishment a comfortable atmosphere. On the walls hang beautifully-painted portraits and landscapes, most by artists long since passed from the world. Glath sits in his usual area and the proprietor, an elderly dwarven woman named Gilli brings him his usual ale and bowl of onion stew.
The militia drag him away within moments. They stop and question each party entering the city in an effort to keep undesirables out of the upper wards. They stop a kender druid who introduces herself as Whistle and claims to be on a pilgrimage across the land, hoping to visit the local sites in the city. Next, a sickly looking mercenary brandishes a letter of employment from the city's coinmaster Torfinn Val. He introduces himself as Damien Sephiran. Following him, is a noblewoman and priestess of the Empyrean church named Lady Camilla Hemet. She is let in without protest from the militia who feel bolstered by her presence. Next is a local dwarven ranger, a woodsman and guide named Glathkin Ordrak, who is living at the Blackgrin inn and is familiar to the militia, permitted to come and go as he pleases. Then comes a large black and silver carriage, driven by a well dressed man. He introduces himself as Maximilian Khard, a trader of magical goods and services. The militia direct these travelers to the Blackgrin Inn for the night. In the morning, they can seek employment, trade or whatever else their business calls them to.
The sun sets and strangely, business close as it does. The streets empty as the light fades, with little night life to be had. The only business still open, the Battered Axe. The weary travelers, eager to get a taste of the local food, more than onion stew, head across the street into the Battered Axe. Gilly encourages Glath to look after them as they seem to be a strange bunch. Glath grudgingly agrees and follows them across the street.
The smell of cheap ale and fresh bread hangs in the air. Amid brothels and peddlers, an edifice of rough hewn masonry stands on a small, unkempt property. A large wooden signpost stands at the edge of the property, marked with a symbol of an old, battle-worn axe. The words “The Battered Axe” are carved into the sign in the Thordic script. In the far right corner of the foyer, a slovenly old man dressed in sweatstained clothing sits barely conscious upon an old, weathered stool. His feet are bare and black with soot, and a puddle of what appears to be spilled ale has formed nearby. To the left is a wide storage area with hooks and crude shelving, adorned with all manner of weapons. The old man slowly opens his eyes and mutters something in a drunken slur.
“Leef yer weepins... ye... dam bastards...”
He then falls off his stool and passes out on the floor. Whistle and Camilla immediately moved to care for the clearly druknen man, as Glash strides by, taking a seat in the corner of the crowded tavern. His grimace keeps others from approaching. Maxi takes advantage of the distraction and pockets several of the weapons left unattended.
The common area of The Battered Axe is bustling with activity. Nearly every table in the establishment is occupied, with at least half a dozen barmaids ferrying drinks and plates of steaming food all about. Directly across the room is a cold stone fireplace. Over the fireplace hangs a wide, crude tapestry boasting “Strongest Drinks This Side of Ashmedai’s Gate.” The travelers find themselves all seated at Glath's table, the only seats left in the house. Menus of today's specials are written in charcoal on several boards above the bar.
Maxi flashes some thieves cant and gets a reply from the bartender, Carsoff. The bartop is scratched and stained to the point where the original surface is nearly gone. The barkeep slides over to speak in private with Maxi. He is disturbed only for a moment when thee young men begin arguing over who will drink a Hairy Barbarian, the drink referenced on the tavern's tapestry. Carsoff tells him that his contact in the City, Breas Norgaard is looking for a noblewoman named Lady Kelym Wynst who disappeared several weeks ago. Breas is under the impression that she may have been kidnapped by local gangs, but needs someone to investigate another possibility, that she is being held in the Still-Mind assylum. To this end, Maxi has been asked to investigate the asylum. She is offering a 500gp reward for the safe return of the lady.
Through the clamor of the crowd in the tavern, the party manage to overhear a conversation. At a table close by, two asylum guards are saying something about a patient who managed to escape some time ago. Rumor has it, this person may be hiding somewhere in the lower wards.The party begin to discuss the reasons why they came to the city. Aside from Glath, it would seem that the goings on at Still-Mind asylum seem to have brought them all to the town. From the bar, Carsoff signs the thieves cant message for "silence them" towards Maxi. As they discuss the asylum, they notice that several patrons seem to be eves dropping on their conversation. Maxi quickly changes the subject, worried that there may be something sinister going on.
As the time grows late, the tavern empties into the darkened streets. Tavern patrons flee down dark alleyways quicker than expected by the party. Carsoff warns them to not loiter on the streets, if the gangs don't get them, the vigilantes will. Their are no guards stationed in the lower wards and the streets at night are as dangerous as the deepest wilderness.
Crossing the darkened street fills the party with a sense of dread, as does walking past the dry well. "BAD WATER" reads a sign hanging over the well. As the party enter into the Blackgrin Inn, Glath turns around, sensing something. The sign over the well is swinging now.
From out of the well, something bubbles up. A glossy jet-black skull rises, peering at the party through the inns windows. Maxi snaps his fingers and extinguishes the torches in the inn. Glath and the rest of the party draw weapons as the other patrons scramble for a place to hide. The skeletal creature, composed of a ribcage and some type of dark tentacled form slithers out of the well. The stone floor and inn archway seem to bend and warp around the creature. Glath and Maxi unleash arrows into the creature. As the arrows strike it, they animate, flying back at the party. Damien and Camilla unleash their magics against the creature who replies with a maddening roar of whispering voices and a stream of acidic liquid. The party eventually prove more than a match for the creature, who bubbles into little more than a black puddle upon its death.
The party are unable to convince the other patrons of what they saw. Most end up believing that a local gang has sorcerers in their employ. Regardless, the patrons are thankful to the party for saving their lives.