On the way back to Sharn, the group passed through the village of Cedar Ridge. Everyone they encountered there seemed to be ill. The villagers were coughing and many were disfigured by lumps and growths under their skin. Seraphina wanted to leave immediately and leave them to their fate, while others were slightly more interested in finding out what the cause was. They stopped at the inn and questioned the barkeep, the bard and a warforged there. The warforged, Wycliffe, indicated other travelers had come and gone with no ill effects, but Seraphina was adamant that they leave. The barkeep indicated that most of the villagers, including the mayor had barricaded themselves in their homes and the town’s protector, a warforged named Bulwark had not been seen in a couple of weeks, about the time the afflictions began. When two villagers and the village healer brought in a screaming man, Seraphina left the tavern. The screaming man transformed before their eyes into a hulking brute who proceeded to beat the hell out of anyone near him, knocking Vistra across the room. They were eventually able to defeat the hulk-out villager and decided to confront the mayor.
The mayor’s house was locked up, as the barkeep indicated. They broke into the house and proceeded to browbeat and intimidate the mayor into doing something. The man was just as misshapen and ill as the rest of the village, barely able to walk. He screamed back at them, angry, frustrated, and frightened of this group of adventurers who broke into his home and demanded that he leave his home and lead by example. Eventually, they gave up on threatening the mayor and decided to check out the ruined castle where the barkeep said Bulwark made his home, at least, until they stopped hearing from the warforged.
Flickering lights appeared in one room of the abandon castle from the vantage point of the road leading up to it. In the dining room, the PCs found a large warforged lying on the ground near the table. An overturned jug on the table oozed a purple liquid (unrelated to the purple liquid they’d found last session…I guess I just like purple) and near the warforged’s head was a shadow that was NOT being cast by anything in the room. After a brief investigation, they discovered something that should not be: the warforged was passed out. They were able to converse with the shadow and it indicated that it had challenged the warforged to a drinking contest. When they investigated the upturned jug, the shadow demanded they hand it over. It wouldn’t say why, but just repeated its demand for the jug. Combat ensued and the shadow proved to be a superior opponent**. They fled with the jug, hoping to lure the shadow away and after some more beatings, the heroes decided to give the shadow what it wanted and handed over the jug. It headed for the river. They then returned to the castle and attempted to wake the warforged. Once awakened, the warforged (who turned out to be a Warforged Juggernaut Wizard) pursued the shadow and delivered an epic beatdown the DM was too tired to describe in all its epicness.
For their help, Bulwark gave the PCs a chest it found in the castle when he moved in. Bulwark said he would take care of the villagers and was confident he could reverse their affliction. They proceeded onward towards Sharn.
*And for the first time in my 30+ years of playing D&D, someone could attack the darkness and I didn’t have to smack them for being an idiot.
**In retrospect, I should have telegraphed the shadow’s weakness to the liquid by explicitly stating that it was avoiding touching any of the spilled liquid, but by this point I was already frustrated and a little angry that my table broke. Throwing the liquid on the shadow would’ve defeated it, but since they didn’t know that, they tried to beat it in combat, for which the creature was FAR overpowered for their level. I only pulled one punch during the combat though, so I’m at least pleased there wasn’t a TPK since the shadow’s opening salvo took EVERYONE in the area of effect to bloodied.