Trace of Breath
Chapter 3 of the Quest to Free Barfield
On their way to Tor’s Hold from Harken, they see a farmhouse being attacked by Iron Circle brigands with wolves. The soldiers are caught by surprise, not expecting to confront experienced fighters, and are quickly vanquished. They do manage to set the farmhouse on fire, though, and one of them is killed by a crossbow through the window. After the battle, the heroes call for those inside to flee the burning building. A young woman emerges, dragging the unconscious body of a wounded Raelle (225 XP; 250 gold and 4 sets of Iron Circle clothes).
The Gatekeepers work together to rescue two children from the burning building, then extinguish the growing fire (XP 175). The children’s mother, Ilyana, exclaims “Thank the Righteous Powers you came when you did! I thought we were bound to be reunited with my poor brave husband.” Hearing that they seek to thwart the Iron Circle, she says, "You are truly a gift from the sky! My husband and his friends were slain in Tor’s Hold for resisting these brigands! Now, I’m afraid the people have lost their spirit. If my house had gone, all hope might have been lost, but thanks to you I might have something that can restore their hope.” She takes them into the basement, where the walls are lined with weapons. She opens an ornate chest and presents Taima with a sacred object . “Remind the people that the strength of Sigsilon runs in their veins as much as their blades!” A religion check of 27 still failed to identify “Sigsilon,” and when asked, Ilyana said, “it is not for me to say.”
Taima and Calumnior are able to heal Raelle. After an hour of ministration, Raelle’s eyes flicker open, “Who… are you?” Her eyes fall on Polycarp, and she scrambles away, her hands searching for some kind of weapon. “Illyana, run!” she says weakly, “I’ll try to hold them off!” Diplomacy DC 15 (+4 bonus from Ilyana for putting out the fire). “What a relief! I thought Kord had abandoned me when Harken was overrun." When asked what had happened to her, she explains, “The Iron Circle happened. That filth, Ptolemy had his soldiers smuggled into the village under the guise of travelling gypsies. Probably about 50 fighters, when the rest blew in through the South wall, with magicians and a flaming devil to complete the set. I fought to save the people, and I lost track of Torodrin, our Eladrin Gatekeeper, and I’m afraid he died with the rest of those poor folk. They killed so many, just capturing enough to serve as slaves, and enough children to keep them well-behaved.”
They also interrogate a surviving brigand for information about what awaits them in Harken, likely a patrol consisting of a mage, 6 soldiers and possibly a rage drake (which became the subject of debate between Calumnior and Camden who each wanted to claim it as a mount).
The heroes spend the night to recover their strength, hiding the bodies (tying up the survivor in a shed) and masking the signs of battle from passers by. A patrol does come to investigate, but the heroes use their stolen Iron Circle uniforms to bluff their way out of the situation (XP 175).
During the night, Polycarp dreams of Harken Village as it was several years ago, he sees the undamaged roofs and still-living villagers staring down at him. His stomach twists in agony, a burning that spreads through his whole body as he stares into the eyes of Denubis who holds a bloody knife. Polycarp gasps into consciousness covered in sweat, realizing that he has just relived the death of Bartley.