Session Three: Life and Undeath
Part One: The First Wave
Our intrepid adventurers had been traveling from Eaglemure to Bloomingburg on the trail of Tero the Necromancer, and were now about a day away from their destination. But they were traveling on safe roads, and did not set watches, so it was only the fortune of having light sleepers among them that saved them from being devoured by ghouls.
Those light sleepers were Chava and Oldrian. Chava, suddenly awake, drew her crossbow and fitted one of her ten-bolt quivers to her leg. From the tent doorway, she could not make out what had made the noise which had woken her, but when Oldrian (similarly armed) joined her, he saw clearly what it was: zombies. The two stepped out from the tent and began shouting to wake the party. Crossbow and bow loosed their shafts but failed to bring down any of the creatures. Facing off against them, Oldrian found that these undead moved with uncanny swiftness… and they were looking back at him.
As the rest of the party (minus Milo and Cerys) came to wakefulness, all of them glad that they had elected to sleep in their light armor, the ghouls rushed into the camp and pursued the rogues and rangers. Chava immediately made for a tree and leapt into it, returning fire only when her perch was appropriately established. Oldrian retreated from the attacking undead, attempting to slow them with repeated arrow shafts. Yantse prepared his trident and short sword to retaliate when the ghouls would charge him, while Akorn stepped out of the tent, completely disoriented, and didn’t identify the attacking ghouls until they were already on top of him.
Milo and Cerys awoke last, too disoriented from deep sleep or dreams to be aware of the combat until it was already in swing. But as soon as they were awake, they were ready to fight. Cerys’s rapier was surprisingly effective against the ghouls, and she drew their attention off of the startled Akorn so that he could retreat to a safer distance. Milo, meanwhile, grabbed his hammer, took stock of the situation, and fired off first one and then the other grappling hook, latching to trees to create chest-high trip chains.
It was about this time that Oldrian, who had established a safe distance to use his bow, decided that the ghouls would overwhelm them if they weren’t slowed down. Using a ritual he had learned from his time in the wilds, he called for aid from the nearby trees. With entangling roots covering the area from which the zombies had attacked, the trees obliged. Many ghouls were locked in place, but the few adventurers caught in the ritual’s area (Yantse and Cerys) were able to evade entrapment.
With his trip chains now useless, Milo wrenched them free from their holdings and retracted them. Hefting his hammer, he realized that his party members were in trouble: Cerys, who had always been a good duelist, was much worse at fighting four ghouls at once, even with the help of Chava’s crossbow. By the time he had reached her, through the tangle of roots, she had been pulled down by the teeth and claws of the ghouls. Even as he began smashing the undead aside, he saw them gnawing at her pallid neck.
Akorn had reached a safe distance from which to throw his knives, but once again his perceptions failed him. Neither he nor Chava (beside whose tree he had stationed himself) heard the ghouls until they were once more upon him—a second set which had snuck around to flank them. Fleeing from the zombies as he tried to retaliate with his daggers, Akorn hoped that someone could help him against four undead.
That help came unexpectedly, as Yantse’s tent suddenly burst aflame. Out from it stepped two familiar figures, armed and ready for war. Within seconds, Amora was beside Akorn, her flaming ball and chain crushing his pursuers and drawing their attention to her. Carter emerged from the tent as well, his gloved hand glowing as shards of ice launched from his fingertips.
Cerys had fallen, and Milo knew that if he didn’t get her out of harm’s way she would be dead… if she were not already. Yet with the entangling roots still filling half the campsite, there was no way he could lift her up and retreat safely from the ghouls, who could easily follow. And so he did the best thing he could: he continued smashing them.
The battle began to shift when the ghoul attacking Akorn bit through his armor and delivered the disease present within its flesh. The retreating dwarf suddenly found his muscles stiffening, his legs unable to take him to safety and his arms unable to strike back. Aware but completely paralyzed, he hoped that help would come from his friends. Yet Amora was dealing with her own opponent, and Chava, holed up in her tree, had run out of bolts. Only Carter, whose reservoir of damage-inflicting spells was shallow, was able to strike back against the ghoul who had stunned his companion.
Yantse and Oldrian finished off their foes handily, finding that the battle was finally winding down. It was at this time that Kieran, who had been awoken by his dinosaur to hunt (a deinonychus named Cyw, who had been affectionately named “Chompy” by Milo upon their first meeting), finally returned. Mounted atop the dinosaur’s back, Kieran observed the tides of the battle, and as soon as the ghoul terrorizing Akorn finally fell, the young elf child recognized his companion’s paralysis. He raced over and immediately assessed the dwarf’s condition. What he found was that Akorn had been struck by a temporary paralysis, which would wear off within 10 seconds. But he also discovered a deeper, more subtle affliction: a disease that had not yet finished incubating within the dwarf. Given enough time, Kieran believed he could search the wilderness off the road and find the herbs needed to produce an antidote. Finally, the ghouls had been slain to the final two, which Milo set to work destroying. As the other fighter in the party, Amora raced across the campsite to join him, crashing through and setting fire to Cerys’s tent in the process (I should note that neither flaming tent set fire to any of the tents’ contents). Finally, by Amora and Milo’s hands, the last of the ghouls finally fell.
When Kieran’s player arrived for last Sunday’s session, she brought with her a little plastic deinonychus to be the miniature for Chompy. Shortly after seeing the mini, someone joked that she should get blue-stick and affix her mini (my Meriadoc Brandybuck) to the back of the dinosaur, as Kieran rode Chompy often. I adamantly opposed the idea, as paint chips off of metal models VERY easily, and I didn’t want anything to happen to the hobbit! However, when I sent Milo’s player to get water and paper towels to clear the battle mat, he returned and quietly placed a small ball of white/blue-stick in front of Kieran’s player, and I ceded my argument.
Part Two: Arriving Unscathed
After the battle, the party split into two groups to resolve the aftermath. Kieran and Oldrian scoured the forest for the curative agents they would need to cure Akorn’s disease (with ample contributions from Milo, who insisted that all Akorn needed to do to be cured was eat lots of acorns! Carter eventually had to cast Hold Person on the exuberant dwarf to keep Akorn from being smothered by handfuls of the nuts), while Yantse, Amora, and Milo tended to the partially-eaten corpse of Cerys. Yantse, with no visible sign of remorse at his friend’s loss, suggested they behead the fallen Cerys to prevent her from raising as a ghoul. Yet Milo resisted, saying that Cerys deserved some respect, and if they were to burn the body, they didn’t need to defile it first. But Yantse ignored him, and went to slash it anyway. Seeing this, Milo made a parry roll—if he couldn’t talk Yantse out of it, he would just prevent the merfolk with force. When Milo rolled a 19 on his parry, he was really proud.
“Oh look,” was all Yantse’s player said before revealing the opposing roll.
With Cerys now headless (and Milo upset by his ill luck), the group set fire to her body and left the ashes at the campsite. Cerys would not return to plague them as an undead.
Around dawn, Akorn’s curative drought was completed and the bitter potion drunk. They were all exhausted after the battle, yet they could also make it to Bloomingburg in one day’s travel. Despite their weariness, the group pressed on. When Carter’s stamina gave out, Amora carried him; and when Akorn’s stamina also gave out, Milo tethered a piece of raw metal to his back as a sled and allowed the weary dwarf to rest on that as they continued to town. That dinosaur pulled Akorn like a champ. (Natural 20s on both the strength and constitution check!)
In Bloomingburg, they wasted no time finding an inn, identifying one that Yantse knew and going straight there to sleep. Even as overexerted as she was, Amora offered to be an entertainer for the inn to pay her room, and impressed the innkeep enough to be eagerly welcomed. The group immediately passed out and didn’t wake up until the following morning.
The following morning began their process of finding the Necromancer. Splitting up for better coverage, the party… well, some of the party… sought out news of Tero or of undead attacks. They found nothing they did not already know, though Oldrian encountered several guards during his pass through town. These guards, apparently doing routine rounds, stopped and questioned the half-elf, inquiring about his activity, his people, and about trouble on the road. As they clearly despised bounty hunters (one kept saying as much), the ranger kept his answers vague—he and his party was on their way to meet a mutual friend, and had no encounters along the road from Eaglemure. Fortunately, it appeared the guards were not suspicious, and they let him go about his business.
After meeting up with the rest of the party in the late morning, Oldrian found Milo on the roof with Kieran and Chompy (the dinosaur made a habit of sleeping on the roof, when inns would obviously not take him in). While the dwarf went on about making things for the dinosaur, it became apparent that a third party was needed in this discussion. Or a fourth, perhaps, when Oldrian mentioned that he knew an invocation which would enable him to speak with Chompy directly. That idea went over quite well.
Meanwhile, as the three on the roof debated about dinosaurs, Amora wandered the town looking for something of her own. And both Yantse and Carter, together with Akorn, located the man they had heard about who had been attacked on the road—the man who had become a bit of a celebrity in Bloomingburg. He was a jeweler’s assistant, and judging by the guard standing out front, it looked like business was overwhelming.