I hadn't heard of Winterhaven before, but their message said they needed help with what may be a curse or an illness. That was enough for Kiira. She takes illness outbreaks seriously, especially since 'curse' was mentioned. She sent me along with Dorl and Sogash to see what was going on.Ember Safflower
The town's herbalist, Keesy Brahkose, wrote as much as she knew about the illness and its symptoms. She thought she had a curative but lacked some of the ingredients. It hadn't been long since we... well, most of Haranshire I think... was ripped away from Toril and place wherever this was. Fortunately, most of Thornwood was transported, too. So the herbs Healer Brahkose wanted, we had.
According to her message, she needed a good supply of:
Pygmy mustard seed
I'm only a passing herbalist, so I've no idea what that could cure. Those were mostly cooking herbs, except for the dried iregrass. None of that sounded suspicious but the illness did. I reviewed what I had on necromantic curses on the trip west out of Wylthlorum Ser and talked a few of my ideas out with Dorl and Sogash.
It took days to get to Winterhaven. I think by the time we got there, I had all three of us confused about what plague the town could actually have. My best guess? Bloodleech fever, which was the necromancer favorite to use on victims they intended to raise as undead minions later. Apparently, it made the 'undeath' magic easier.
Harlaton was along the way so we stopped there for a night. I'm glad we did. We didn't learn much but some of the farmers had heard of Winterhaven. They gave us a little more idea of what we were getting into.
Winterhaven, as it happens, past Harlaton, beyond the Churn River and on the other side of a place called Claspwood. A lumber and fishing town, they keep mostly to themselves. They had a hefty lumber trade with Newgate and Candlekeep and the 'lumber barons' were more about profit than people. Lovely.
We arrived at Winterhaven early afternoon. It's a good-sized town with the lumberyards up against the Claspwood forest. A small port was on the shore-side with plenty of space for two or three merchant ships. The rest of Winterhaven spread out in the middle.
It was hard to miss the mood when we rode into town. Hacking coughs drifted out of open windows and what few people that we saw had a haunted look to them. Most of the townsfolk were human or sileni, but both seemed equally sick. Sileni, or satyrs, are pretty hardy which made me think necromantic disease all over again. Dorl and Sogash didn't say anything but I learned to read orc facial expressions some time ago. They were as concerned as I was.
The locals were polite but kept their distance. But a little luck, and Sogash's orcish charm, got us a direction.
(( d4 Common Knowledge: d4 : ( 4+4+4+1) = 13 ; d6 : 4 ... so success with a 13 ))
Keesy Brahkose and her shop, "Roots, Reeds, and Remedies" was on the north side of Winterhaven. Two story, it had creeping ivy that covered one side. The window boxes on either side of the green front door were full of flowering herbs. It looked cheery, except for the twenty or so townspeople lined up outside.
Some looked pale, others had wheezing children with them. They all looked terrified.
I nodded to a hitching post nearby. Once we tied up our horses, the three of us got in the back of the line and waited.
It was a little over an hour before we got inside. The place smelled of burnt earth and sharp, spicy incense. Bundles of dried herbs dangled from the ceiling next to pots, glassware, presses, and other alchemical tools. Pouches of rare plants, spices, preserved animal parts, and more filled the shelves and tables. The place was packed.
Healer Brahkose was in the back of the shop fussing over a rack of herbs on a table already overflowing with powder. Next to the table was a cookstove supporting a pot threating to boil over with some gray froth. The Healer, a sileni, flicked an ear in our direction but didn't turn around until we stopped about arm's length.
We tried to not look imposing. Hard to do when you're a dark elf that has two broad-shouldered orcs standing behind him. Dorl took it upon himself to wander to the far side of the shop to try and reduce the sense of 'imposing'. I couldn't tell if that helped.
Healer Brahkose was terse. Not quite rude but close. She was working off her last nerve and it showed. Once I explained we were from Wylthlorum Ser, or Thornwood Keep, she relaxed a little. She relaxed a lot more when I explained we brought the supplies she needed, and no, we weren't sick.
That got her talking; both about Winterhaven and what this illness really was.
She called it the "Blackscour Taint". I'd never heard of it and asked more about it.
Blackscour Taint, as she explained, comes from the Blackscour fungus. Supposedly bitter, sharp, and once it gets onto water, makes anyone sick. She called it useless. I kept it to myself that Blackscour sounded like an ideal assassin fungus. She had enough to think about without knowing that.
The 'Taint' is a mold that grows inside someone who drinks water with Blackscour in it. Healer Brahkose said it takes root in a victim's chest and stomach. When they try to cough it up, the mold just tears them up on the inside.
Sogash asked how many have this Taint? Healer Brahkose said she guesses around thirty to forty, but at least three times that believe they have it which is causing a panic.
Worst part is that she doesn't have a cure. Not here. All she can do is ease the symptoms. That's what the supplies we brought were for. I didn't miss that 'not here' part. I asked her about that.
She said that she has an old recipe that came down from her grandmother. But the ingredients aren't any herbalism she knows. Things like Cinder Moss, some sort of pickled root called a Bitter Rat's Tail, and Ironknot mushrooms. Healer Brahkose explained she'd never heard of any of those. But her grandmother wrote about them in her journals.
Healer Brahkose was nice enough to let us get a look at her grandmother's journal. I pulled out my own and took some notes.
"Cinder Moss, only grows on the oldest tree in the forest"
"Picked Bitter Rat's Tail root, gathered under the deep moon."
... I saw there was a name there of someone or something called Ulzmila. Keesy Brahkose says that a forest hag who lives in the Claspwood.
"Ironknot Mushrooms, grows in dark places with lots of metal. Dwarven clan mine and forges."
We talked a bit more about the illness and this odd 'cure'. I told her that sounded more 'wizardry' than 'herbalism' but asked if she would try it if we found those ingredients. The Healer was a little dubious but after she looked out her front door at a new line of terrified customers, she agreed.
Healer Brahkose didn't have an idea where to look for any of those items. But she did say that Milon Rhoddam at the lumber camp might. He's part of a 'Lumber Consortium' and they've been all over the Claspwood.
We agreed to at least look. It was the best we could offer. Once we were outside we talked it out. Since none of us had set foot here in Winterhaven or in the Claspwood, we needed to go talk to this Milon Rhoddam.
After we untied our horses, we made our way to the west end of town to the lumberyards.