Within a day or two of Juro's death or capture, Renis and Timon will have either heard of his demise or started looking for him. There are several ways the leaders might hear the news:
- Any survivors of the First Blood encounter will have reported back to camp and informed Renis or Timon of the fight.
- If the party reports the fight to local authorities the story will spread through the militia and from there to the rest of the town. If the party is prone to covering their tracks, a reward for the capture or disposal of the bandits might be in order.
- If the party sells off any recovered gear (weapons, horses, armor), the merchant involved will gossip about the transaction.
- Travelers along the route where the ambush took place might notice signs of a fight (broken arrows, blood stains, trampled undergrowth, a dead horse).
- They will investigate Juro's ambush site and try to discover what happened.
- They will attempt to track the survivors if they can discover a trail.
- Several lesser known bandits will be sent to town to make rounds at the taverns, listening to rumors and gossip. They'll have sufficient funds to buy a few rounds of drinks to assist in this task.
A week after the bandits have discovered all they can about Juro's demise, someone will disappear from the area near town, taken as a sacrifice by Renis's men (if the idea of human sacrifice does not fit your campaign, feel free to substitute a suitable victim). Somewhere near the site of the kidnapping the sign of Yullic (an open hand with ring finger bent), will be chalked on a stone or wall.
If the bandits have discovered the party's involvement in Juro's death the victim should have some tie to the group (a friendly NPC or a member of their family). It is expected that the sacrifice will be carried out, so select an appropriate target.
The bandits will take two days to get their victim back to the bandit camp, using all their woodcraft to obscure their trail. The next day Renis will sacrifice the victim to Yullic, god of disease and decay, seeking his aid in exacting revenge upon those that destroyed his brother. Yullic will grant his aid, granting Renis access to new abilities:
- Choking Spores (Fair difficulty) - The caster hurls a magical puffball of spores at the target. This breaks on impact, creating a dense cloud of poisonous, choking spores. Those within the 10' radius area of effect must resist (Fair) or be blinded and choking for 1-4 rounds.
- Diseased Sending (Fair difficulty) - The caster infects several mundane warm-blooded creatures with Fungal Infection, then sends them forth to hunt down a known target. The creatures will be magically guided to find the target, though they are restricted to their natural travel rate. Once they reach the target, they attack ferociously. Any successful attack by the creatures will infect the target with the Plague of Yullic. If the creature selected is normally a disease carrier, rats for example, the infection gains a bonus to potency (see below for the effects of the Plague of Yullic).
- Seed of Decay (Good difficulty) - The caster ritually plants the skull of a Fungal Zombie in a dark, moist location. In three days the planted skull will sprout, forming a Fungal Brain (see below for details of Brains and Zombies).
Renis will lose no time in applying his newly granted powers. His first attack will be aimed at the party's friends and allies. Renis will use Diseased Sending to infect known associates of the party. He will focus his attacks on victims whose absence will not be noticed, giving the sending time to take root, going so far as to infect farm animals or wild beasts near the player's base of operations rather than obvious targets. Subsequent articles in the series will outline the players' first encounter will the infections of Yullic.
Plague of Yullic
The initial symptoms of this disease occur a day or two after infection. Faint discoloration around the site of infection, watery eyes and nasal congestion, and overall itchiness mark the first stage of infection. These symptoms could easily be mistaken for a common cold. After a few days the insidious fungus will begin to make itself felt. In stressful situations victim must resist the effect of the infection or fall under its control for several hours. During this period the victim will behave like a Fungal Zombie. Resisting this effect will become more and more difficult each day the infection continues (one rank per day). As time passes signs of infection will become more obvious. Gray patches will appear on the victim's skin, they lose their appetite and curious soft bulges will appear on their torso. After 10 days the victim will completely lose control, becoming a full-fledged Fungal Zombie.
Victims can only be cured by magical means. After the initial phase of infection the difficulty of curing the disease goes up by one rank.
Fungal Zombies and Fungal Brains
Details of these creatures will be provided in the next article in the series. Stay tuned!