The Highway Comes to Harbuckle
The story The administrators of the city state of Albanerran have been attempting to construct a major highway over their domain to reach the royal Travertine mines 160 miles to the south in the town of Kamston. The project, known affectionately as the dirt loop, has been plagued with problems and delays of every sort and has pushed its schedule back time and again. The project has been under construction for over 12 years now and is tens of thousands of gp over budget. The king himself, usually leaving such matters in the hands of administrators has now taken a personal interest in seeing the project finished, for the sake of the astronomical expenditures to the royal coffers.
For the past year he has offered a contract to anyone willing to finish the road, and is willing to pay handsomely for its completion. The contract worth some 50K gp is an attempt to relieve the top heavy bureaucracy of the kingdom of the fiscal responsible of the project, to alleviate the cash hemorrhage being bled off by kickbacks and bribes.
The first company to attempt to make good on the contract, called themselves "The Albaneeran Construction Coaster". A local group of masons and engineers associated with the local guilds. Within 2 months , the firm was bankrupt and the head of the company, one Viscount Willem Macy, was found dead in an alley behind a house of ill repute.
The next company attempting the contract, a group of local masons, didn’t even last 1 week before they all mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind their tools and horses.
The current contractee is the "BlackWind Trading Coaster", a large tradeing company who are attempting to not only complete the road for the offered sum, but the job could lead to another contract transporting the thousands of tons of Travertine from the royal mines to the city where it can be used to construct government works.
Blackwind has several lobbies in the house of lords, as the company is a powerful organization and has helped make the fortunes of many of the lords themselves. The company has petitioned the crown for use of the citys convicted felons as a labor pool, and as a condition has offered to supply their own guards and take care of the prisoners, as well take a reduced sum as the cities resources will be used.
This has prompted the king to grant a trial for this new system. The trial which was set to start three months ago has paid off in dividends. In the three months since blackwind has taken the contract with forced labor, the road has stretched another 22 miles, including bridges and tunnels.
In the last few weeks the work has once again come to a standstill. Blackwind reports that the work is coming along on schedule but royal inspectors claim the crew has not advanced in a fortnight, and are stuck at the north bank of the StoneWash River at the village of Harbuckle Drift.
Behind the scenes
1) many of the problems of the road are natural, poor planning has contrived to stall construction by placing the road through many of the roughest parts of the kingdom for "convenience sake", when it would have actually been more convenient to skirt these areas.
2) The local Lord of trades is waging a shadow war with the cities Lord Minister of the royal engineers. The Lord Ministers was making a fortune off the kickbacks and bribes on the construction of this road. The lord of trades supported the idea of using free contractors because he could get kickbacks from the guilds since the contract awards would be his responsibility. The two have used everything from political clout to hired thugs to undermine each others progress. The LM had the head of the guild company killed and the LOT’s new plan is in hiring the blackwind and suggesting using convict labor, if successful would put the royal engineers out of business as they could undercut the cost of keeping such as firm.
3) Blackwind is greasing every palm it can in order to keep its labor pool. The few architects and engineers they have hired are using guards who are hardly better than convicts themselves to drive the prisoners to move faster.
4) The situation in the town of Harbuckle Drift is rapidly falling apart. The town which has always been an out of the way place is now the focus of the crowns sight. The town is little more than a farming village with a small central plaza surrounded by a few merchants. Blackwind has shifted the main course of the road in order to intersect the small town. The main feature of the town is a grave yard with some 500 plots. The towns main historical note was that 70 years ago the town suffered an invasion of zombies by an evil wizard who was attempting to overthrow the city of Albaneeran. The plot was put down with the help of the alban mage tower but the town has never been the same. The people are extremely superstitious and revile any magic. The head of the town is a pseudo-priest of Hotta(the god of justice), called The Right Reverend Zep Hayson. Rev Hayson is a devout puritanical man who preaches the fire and brimstone doctrine of the worship of Hotta but is not gifted with powers of Hotta, as the doctrine he preaches is not exactly in line with Hotta’s portfolio. The "First Evangelical Church of the Sacred Fire of Retribution" claims the center of the plaza, and though a quaint farming communities church, it is an impressive structure, and claims the entire population of the town as its congregation.
The Local church is protesting the intrusion of the road through their town as they believe the road will bring more evil into their midst. The Rev Hayson is inspired by the many new members of the church and is being used as a puppet by the Lord Minister to stall the work being done.
He believes foul magic is responsible for the problems the town is having including fouled wells, dead cattle and ruined crops.
Harbuckle is to be the final battle field between the lord of trades and the lord minister, though neither wants the crown involved. Both have moved plants into the vicinity and and are waging war on each other. At night the guards of the prisoners are leaving many of the prisoners and fighting the people who were planted by the lord minister. The bodies of those being killed are being inturned into the graveyard on top of the bodies of others.
The deeper story is the blackwind project leader Johan Johanson. Johan was kicked out of the mage tower in another city when he was caught tampering with dark magic beyond his control. He is a skilled engineer and used his skill to gain his position on the project in order to uncover the grave of the necromancer, from 70 years ago. He has on his person a scroll of speak with dead, which he will use on the body of the necromancer to learn the location of his spellbooks. He will fight the hardest to keep anyone from moving him. He is trying to perpetuate the local church into believing the necromancer is back so that they will reveal the location of his body.
The king himself asks the PCs to undertake to find out what is the holdup on the road. By royal edict he makes them royal inspectors and asks them to get the work moving again at whatever cost.
A PC is taken aside while at a bar and told he could get a lot of money and a high position in the assassins guild if he were to expedite the escape of 5 prisioners from the work crew. He is given a bag of gold.This is the lord of engineers man.
Bramm is told that evil is afoot in harbuckle, and that he must be a champion of righteousness to destroy it. The person who tells him this is the lord of trades man.
On the way
The PCs are attacked by a band of 20 highwaymen
In Harbuckle the pcs are attacked by more goons , as well as some zombies, raised by johansen.