Come morning, the party discussed this strange appearance of undead and, cautiously, made their way toward Lug River. As the landscape became more swamp-like around them, they crested a hill and were granted a view of their objective; large shanty town on stilts. Lug River was surrounded by open space on all sides, the forest clear-cut around it. Burn marks and brown patches littered the earth, and the town itself was surrounded by lengths of strange, metal bramble-like walls. Fields of wheat and other produce abutted the southern edge of the town, and the adventurers noticed the lack of a clear road leading into the community.
Making their way down the hill, Vahn took the lead, inspecting the strange burn marks. As he approached one and strode through it, he noticed a soft “click” and stopped moving. Looking down he felt around and noticed what looked like… metallic…bones. Not trusting the strange contraption he misty-stepped away, his sudden absence producing a shrill shrieking cry and an enormous fireball. Convinced that their presence was no longer unnoticed, the group decided to wait and appear disarming.
After a short time a the nearby wheat fields began to rustle and a group of resident appeared. Dressed in leathers and work rags, some with goggles or with heavy aprons, they all appeared covered in soot and grease, and all of them carried vastly oversized axes with apparent ease. The lead member introduced himself as Balg, and while he was initially very hostile, he eased up when he saw Lazarus’ pendant and heard the group’s story. After the brief, tense conversation, Balg agreed to lead them to Thorrfin, their leader.
As the group followed him through the minefield of what Balg named ‘Shriekers,’ he explained that they were forged using captured demon souls and binding them to the devices. Fed and recharged with a little bit of blood, they produced the noise and fire when stepped on before burrowing back into the ground. Constant attacks from barbarian savages, wolves, bears and giant spiders had caused the town to beef up their defenses in recent years. During this talk, Asade noticed a number of eerily familiar scarecrows and left to investigate. Finding an identical construct to the ones they fought at the Hinkelmann family farm, Asade began to rip it apart to inspect it. This, unfortunately, alerted Balg who tried to stop her and, when he could not, ran to the town. Asade, Ke’shin and Faelar attempted to hold him magically, and eventually, he succumbed.
Quietly apologizing and explaining their violent experiences with similar constructs elsewhere, the group requested that he continue to lead them on. No longer as friendly or talkative, Balg did so, as more guards with axes appeared to escort them. Thus surrounded by a small army of men with huge axes, they came to a three-building structure, steadily pumping out smoke from several chimney’s and the sound of metal ringing on an anvil.
The sound stopped and a large man sporting a huge, but well-trimmed beard exited. He introduced himself as Thorrfin and waved away Balg’s concerns, noting that the older man was cranky any time new people showed up. Speaking with the group he expressed shock that his brother, Lazarus, was still alive, and after hearing their tale called a town gathering to disseminate the information by chucking one of the enormous axes at a rope fastening a large log on a pendulum, which then crashed into a brash bell, creating a resounding noise.
Impressed by the unusual display of strength and unnecessary theatrics Vahn cried “I’ll get it!” and ran off to retrieve the axe. To his surprise it was light as a feather compared to his usual weaponry. Bringing it back, Thorrfin laughed and explained that this ‘magic’ was alloys; his people worked in the science of metals. Vahn inquired as to a suit of armor made of the wondrous material, and was quoted an extravagant price. Waving them inside he offered the group a hot, brown liquid produced from a nearby machine full of dials and steam valves, that invigorated all of them. Hearing their story of Lazarus and the scarecrows, Thorrfin seemed skeptical. Yes, he was aware that they were undead, but they’d kept the town safe from local beasts and never harmed anyone. A merchant had been delivering them for some time, he said.
Intrigued, Vahn asked more questions about these merchants, and about where they could be found. Uncomfortable with this line of questioning, Thorrfin interjected that both the merchants AND the adventurers were his guests, and protected in town by guest-right. No bloodshed was to be tolerated. Vahn readily accepted that, and asked where the merchants were. When he discovered they were presently at a farm up north, he inquired as to whether the farm was considered a part of the town. Giving him serious side-eye, Thorrfin was forced to admit that it was not.
Leaving the leader of this strange, mechanical backwater, the group was granted boarding room in a nearby stilt-shanty, and discussed their options. Asade, recalling Ke’shin’s earlier words about how the magic was designed to disallow violence to sentient beings, went to inspect another scarecrow, beast-shaping into a wolf, which caused its eyes to glow and begin to climb down off it’s pole…but then…stopped, looking conflicted. When she returned to her orcish form, it returned to its inert status.
Inside, the group talked briefly, and decided it might be best to pay this merchant a visit at the northern farm before the necromancer had a chance to return to town. They were unsure if espionage or violence would ensue, and decided to play it as they saw fit upon arrival.