Camp, and a Hungry Wolf
While Preen, Jonathan and Lini are sitting around their campfire, enjoying their evening meal, a wolf appears at the edge of the clearing. It is clear to see he is very skinny, and Jonathan deduces with his nature skill that it is scouting. Preen jumps up, his rapier in hand, expecting the wild animal to attack. Knowing that wolves hunt in packs, he turns to face any other wolves in the darkness. Lini casts speak with animals and learns by means of a brief conversation that the wolf is very hungry. Lini tells him that they are not prey for him, and that he should look for his meal somewhere else. If he or his pack attacks, they may well pay with their lives for that folly. The wolf backs away, staring at the gnome cleric. He understands what she says. Then he turns around and runs off into the forest.
Sitting back down around the fire to finish their meal, the adventurers continue their conversation about the wolf and their mission. When they decide to go to sleep, Jonathan volunteers to take first watch. Preen is surprised, he had not counted on having to stay awake for a watch, but then again, this is the forest, and not the village. Lini will take second watch and Preen surrenders and says: “I guess I’ll have third watch then…” Nothing untoward happens during the night, and when dawn breaks, Lini and Jonathan wake, partially from habit, partially from the light. After breakfast they continue their trek. Unseen to the others, Preen leaves some meat at the campsite for the hungry wolf.
That wolf sure looked hungry. Not even dangerous, really. Just down on his luck and then some. With all the food we’ve been given and brought, I’m pretty sure we won’t miss some of this jerky, and that wolf needs it a lot more. If he’s even around still….
The Serpent of the Lake
On their way to the crypt they pass a broad stretch of the river, almost a lake. At the shore of the lake-like section of the river they see a dark shape. Upon closer inspection this appears to be a humanoid creature, human sized, clearly dead. Jonathan sees that his torso has multiple bite marks, in the shape of a big circle – approximately 70 cm in diameter. He figures out quickly what has been the cause of this demise, and says to the others: “Stay away from the water, it is dangerous!” He then explains to the others that the man was killed by a giant snake, that lives in the water. When they cautiously walk a bit closer, the bite marks become also visible to Preen and Lini. The man appears to have been dead for months already. Despite the apprehension of the danger in the water, they all fill their waterskins and continue in a brisk walk (at least Lini is walking very fast). After about three hours walking, they reach a gorge. It starts to rain.
The Serpent’s Gorge
They have reached the Serpent Gorge, and they know that the crypt is at the bottom of this gorge. They are looking for an easy way down, but failing to find anything other than a rather steep and slippery path, they are still considering the route down when Preen grins broadly and calls out “Last one down buys drinks when we get back!” and sets off down the slippery slope – accepting that he will slip, he nimbly skis down the slope without a tumble or a fall.
We’re going to have to make our way all the way down there anyway. May as well have some fun and do it in style!
Lini follows, but with less secure footing she slips and crashes headfirst into a tree (4 non-lethal damage). After recovering from this impact, she continues more cautiously and has more success this way. Jonathan goes last, and while this initially goes well, he also loses his footing and meets a tree on his way down (4 non-lethal damage). Annoyed by this blunder, he gets back on his feet, grabs a piece of loose wood, uses that as a board and whooshes down the remainder of the path, passing Lini, and impressing Preen, who silently wonders why he had not thought about that method, and gives the performance a big applause. The rain is pelting down right now, and they quickly set on their way toward the crypt, expecting it to be at least dry inside.
When they make the final bend and reach the entrance of the crypt, they see a horrible scene in front of them. Two horses and three ponies lie dead in a pool of blood. They appear to have been killed by crude blades and claws, and appear to have been dead for about two days. The door of the crypt is slightly ajar. Underneath one of the horses lies the remains of a human – a skeleton with no meat remaining. When they come closer, they see that the horses still have their saddle bags. Preen looks into the bags, and sees that a lot is missing, but still finds rations for two days, two big pillows, a quiver with 10 blunt arrows and two pints of lamp oil. Lini casts a spell, detect undead, and finds the presence of undead creatures. After some time she feels a faint aura of six undead creatures coming from behind the crypt doors (about 60 feet distance). She ends the spell and informs the others of the presence of the undead creatures. They mentally prepare themselves for fighting undead creatures, likely skeletons, judging the skeleton under the horse.
Into the Crypt
Preen opens the crypt door, and Lini lights a torch. By the light of the torch they see that in the room behind the doors there has been some fighting. Two dead bodies lie on the floor, surrounded by a number of inanimate skeletons. Preen sneaks inside and circles the room. Lini and Jonathan follow, but initially stay close to the entrance. Preen reaches a door to the side, from behind which a soft moaning can be heard.
Then Lini and Jonathan also move forward towards the two bodies. Reaching the bodies, they have just passed some of the inanimate skeletons when they hear a groaning, rattling sound and the skeletons start to rise all around them. Even knowing to expect six undead creatures in the crypt, they have let themselves be surprised and surrounded – surely an awkward position for a fight. Because a fight is what follows.
Preen however appears out of nowhere behind one of the skeletons to stab it in the back with both rapier and dagger. Neither attack however makes an impression. The skeletons appear to have been blessed by some unholy might, as they keep striking true with Lini in particular taking a lot of damage. She has to channel the might of Gozreh multiple times to heal herself and her friends before the skeletons seem to have lost their accuracy and Lini has some breath to spare to turn the same energy against the skeletons, harming them. But again the skeletons seem oddly protected, as not even two attempts end the skeletons existance.
Jonathan meanwhile had more effects with his mace and has put two skeletons down. Preen, shouting out his frustration at the lack of effect of his rapier and dagger, throws down his weapons and leaps at the two skeletons still facing him and Lini. Suddenly – seen only by Lini – his hands have spawned claws as he lashes out, unfortunately to no more effect than his earlier attacks. The skeletons however strike Preen, knocking him unconscious and leaving him on the ground bleeding. In a final effort, Lini calls on Gozreh again and manages to channel her deities energy to the effect she had been hoping for, robbing the skeletons of the foulness animating them and leaving them as a pile of bones on the floor. Lini and Jonathen then rush over to Preen, who awakens after Lini’s healing spell restores him (+9 HP) .
With a little bit more forethought, they would have been able to deal with those skeletons a lot easier. Of course my unending string of 20’s did not help much.
After taking stock of the situation, Preen goes towards the two bodies, and recognizes them as Garrel and Varg, two men from Kassen and friends of the Mayor. In the bags next to them he finds again a big pillow, two quivers of blunt arrows, rations and some smoke sticks. “Looks to me like they came here intending to pull a prank on us – and found more than they bargained for…”, he states, finally realizing that they have good reason to be cautious on this journey after all.
“Did that really happen? Did I really just… grow claws like that? What’s going on with me? After the things I discovered I could do, now this? Oh… Did Lini notice? I don’t think Jonathan could’ve seen, but Lini?”
From behind a closed door they again hear the soft moaning sounds. Their emotions tell them to rush forward to rescue whoever it is that they hear moaning. But with the damage already sustained and their powers nearly exhausted, that would seem foolhardy. Thus, they contemplate leaving the crypt for the night and coming back in the morrow.
“Should I ask Preen? About those claws? Or should I keep an eye on him instead? What’s going on with him??”