The party was working at the Dreadwood Trading Post, a ways east of Burle and well off the main road. After months of boredom, days of rain, and just two days past the new moon something interesting finally happened: out of the dark of night, an old man ran screaming in complete panic, collapsing in the mud in front of the barracks where you had been resting.
The old man’s is Hunlaf, from Saltmarsh, and he and his wagon were ambushed on the road up toward Burle. Two of the guards he had hired were killed instantly by arrows to the back, and then it was chaos. Cloaked men drew swords and approached them. He, his son, and the remaining guard all scattered into the night. Hunlaf happened to run up the path toward the Dreadwood, and was sure that his son was with him and that they were being pursued by their attackers. He arrived at the trading post alone, though, and you think that perhaps the heavy rain and panic played with his mind a little.
He would not stop imploring anyone who would listen (you, as it turns out) to help him rescue his son. The paladin insisted on doing the right thing by charging off at once, while the bard ensured that the party was properly remunerated for any help they offered, which Hunlaf agreed to (to the tune of 10 gold pieces each). The paladin agreed to let the bard handle the donation of his share to the Church of Kord.
Your boss Kursac Greyheart, the dwarven owner of the trading post, let you know that if you ran off then you could consider yourselves fired. You secretly think he’s relieved that the more experienced guards at the post didn’t get caught up in the old man’s story. He let you take some rations for the road, and then you set off with Hunlaf, back to the site of the ambush.
Reaching the junction of the trading post’s path and the main road, you found two bodies laying face down in the mud with arrows protruding from their backs. The area was littered with tracks, though the rain was doing its best to obliterate them.
The wagon and horses are gone, and their tracks indicate they were taken onward towards Burle. Also, one set of boot-prints and four sets of prints from “something else” led overland to the southwest, toward a hill. Another set of boot tracks led southeast, back toward Saltmarsh, along with two sets of tracks belonging, again, to “something else”. You chose to take the road back toward Saltmarsh.
About 15 minutes down the road on the dark, rainy night, with the ranger well in the lead, you encountered two cloaked men and they immediately attacked. As you dispatched them, you realized that these were not men, or “no longer men” to be absolutely correct. They were skeletons, which explained the odd footprints you found.
Continuing down the path with Hunlaf’s dread growing, you eventually arrived at a human body laying face down next to a rock. The skeleton tracks stopped a ways shy of the body. The body turned out to be Hunlaf’s son, Cynfrith, a young man of 23. It appeared that in his panic he slipped in the mud and struck his head on the rock next to him. Hunlaf was inconsolable. You agreed to help him transport the body to Saltmarsh for burial.
You traveled the road down toward Saltmarsh for about four hours. Along the way, the rain finally stopped, and the sun rose behind a thick gray blanket of cloud. You first saw the seaside town just as the sun broke through the clouds. You were struck by the obvious opulence of some of the houses, especially on the west side of town. There was activity throughout, with calm smoke rising from several buildings, people walking the streets, children playing, and the business of fish taking place on the docksides.
You were met by a pair of guards at the west end of town. Hunlaf approached and explained the situation. The guards sent for a wagon and some better wrappings for the body, and you then accompanied Hunlaf and his son to the eastern side of the town, to the humble Temple of Fharlanghn.
You were met at the temple by Companion Gerald Isslor, a middle-aged human man. He knows Hunlaf and his family, and looked genuinely saddened to hear about Cynfrith. He, of course, offered to begin the process of preparing the body for burial. You were told that the funeral will take place the next day, and Hunlaf offered for you to attend as guests for the assistance you provided. He also paid you each 10 gold pieces, as promised. Companion Isslor let you know that you are welcome to rest for free at the temple until the funeral, which some of you may have been surprised to learn doubles as an inn. You took advantage of that offer, as you are all quite tired. A girl named Misha, and an unknown young man make sure you have everything you need, including food, drink, and all the comforts of a modest inn.