Derek Harkshire was a one-time Red Lion who then settled down as a minor noble in Arness. About a year ago, he vanished in the night after receiving a cryptic letter. All he took with him was his sword and his armor.
Since then he has been spotted in the company of undead and evil soldiers in the service of Baron Edwards.
Worst of all, Derek is accused of murdering Count Alron Tarris. For this, Duke Harcourt has stripped House Harkshire of all lands and titles and proclaimed all Harkshire’s to be enemies of Nent.
The Letter and Derek’s disappearance
Oh so long ago, when the party first met in Arness, Smoth was living with his parents in their manor house. One day, the family butler, Mendes, came to Smoth very distraught. According to Mendes, Derek had received a cryptic letter late in the night. It said (paraphrasing…so long ago…):
Derek, a promise was made a long time ago and now it must be honored. You know where to find me.
Derek gathered his sword, armor, and horse. Then, in a solemn ceremony, he drew his sword from its scabbard and swore that the blade would be bared until his work was complete. Mendes was confused, but sensed the gravity of the situation. At that, Derek told Mendes to burn the letter and speak of it to no one. Then, Derek rode off into the night.
Rather than destroying the letter, Mendes took it to Smoth, asking of the significance. He also gave to Smoth Derek’s scabbard, a gift from the King for Derek’s service as a Red Lion. Unable to puzzle out the meaning of the letter, Smoth only knew that his father had ridden south, so he decided to follow.
Nent and the attack
A week or so later, when the party was resting in Nent, it was attacked in the night. Swarms of undead were coming off ships in the harbor and killing citizens in the streets. The party managed to fight their way to the docks, cutting through zombies and skeletons along the way.
At the docks, they faced several soldiers clad in matte black armor, with helms painted as skulls. As they fought, more soldiers on a nearby galleon rained arrows down onto the party. At the stern of the ship stood a man in gleaming armor with a sword in his hands. When it was clear that the party would overwhelm the soldiers on the shore, he called out for the ship to undock and leave. Even over the clamor of battle, Smoth was able to identify his father’s voice. The ship left the dock and sailed out into the night. However, Smoth was able to learn that the soldiers were members of Baron Edwards’ elite squadron, the Body of Death.
Mensington and the Body of Death
While in Mensington, the party learned that the Body of Death is an elite squadron of soldiers answering directly to Baron Edwards. They are recruited and trained in isolation in his keep on the cliff overlooking Mensington. Not much is known, except that the training is brutal and many do not survive.
The Haunted Keep
Some time later, the party found itself investigating a haunted keep. Shadows had been terrorizing a nearby town, and the party was tasked with finding the source and eliminating it.
Near the keep, the party came upon a group of non-hostile ghosts. They were drawn to Smoth, somehow recognizing him. They managed to communicate to him that if he were able to destroy a nearby marauding shadow, they would speak with him.
Inside the castle, the party found several shadows and a headless ghost. They destroyed the shadow, but the ghost seemed impervious. At one point, it jumped into Smoth’s body, and using Smoth’s sword, attempted to cut his own head off. Disaster was narrowly averted, and Smoth managed to force the ghost out. However, when they were connected, Smoth saw some of the ghost’s last memories of life. He saw his father’s young face, as he drew back his sword, then swung it at Smoth/ghost’s neck. As his severed head bounced along the floor, he glimpsed 2 other figures: one in a deep cloak, and a sneering man in full plate with a religious symbol on it. Then everything went black.
After escaping the castle and the ghost, they met again with the ghosts outside. One of them jumped into Smoth’s body, allowing Smoth to view his final memories. This time, Smoth was with a small army besieging the castle, led by Derek Harskshire. In the night, the army was attacked by shadows. As the men fell, they rose immediately as shadows, turning on their former companions. Soon enough, Derek ordered his men to kill anyone who came close to falling to the shadows. In mere minutes, the battle was over and the survivors laid on the ground, sapped of their strength by the shadows.
The same to figures from the other ghost’s vision came out of the castle and approached Smoth/ghost and Derek. The cloaked figure spoke to Derek, obviously recognizing him. He had specifically spared him, and offered him his life in exchange for service. Derek refused immediately. At that point, the figure mentioned Derek’s pregnant wife.
“If you will not serve, then I will take your wife and unborn child. She will be my wife, and he shall be raised as my son. You shall not die here, but shall serve me eternally in a state of undeath.”
At this, Derek’s composure broke, and through tears, he agreed to the figure’s demands. The sneering man in armor stepped forward, brandished a holy symbol, and restored some of Derek’s strength. Derek and the cloaked figure headed towards the castle, and the last thing that Smoth/ghost heard was, “First Derek, I have a gift for you…”
At that, evil sneering cleric turned towards Smoth/ghost and said (in a Spanish accent), “Yes, I see you there. I know you’re alive. You too shall serve my master.” At that, he pulled out a black onyx gem and roughly shoved it into Smoth/ghost’s mouth. However, before he could cast the spell, Smoth/ghost was able to summon the strength to draw a dagger and stab himself through the throat.