As we approach the camp, Zephyr/Duke Relis suddenly jumps to his feet looking to defend himself. I see clearly now that this is a man who that has seen battle, as he lowers his weapon in recognition of who we are, beckoning us forward. We reach the camp with no other complications, and are pleasantly surprised to find our comrade Sti’vun; who rejoins us after a brief side quest.
I listen with half an ear as the group talk to the Duke. He allows us to camp with him upon hearing that we’ll lead him to the carriage he was after – in return we get a tidy profit for a couple of hours work. The Heroes of Woodcrest aren’t complete mercenaries – we just sometimes need a little motivation.
He proceeds to tell us how the “Broken Crown” group – that ambushed them this night – have started attacking various areas in the last 6 months, and how they have no real information about them or their structure – as they seem to attack from the shadows. He continues on about how the thugs we met in the tavern were meant to be his makeshift army – as if he used his real army from the kingdom, then the Broken Crown would be alerted that he was on to them. Personally I feel the reasoning is pretty dodgy, and looking at the faces around me it’s clear that some of the group feel the same. He segues on from this to say that he could use some help, but at this point I’m drifting off so I conveniently miss the rest.
He proceeds to bitch/complain a bit longer (the positivity is absolutely emanating from him) before we all call it a night and take a long rest, with a number of us taking watch when needed. There’s a horrible stench in these woods during the night, or at least that what Enna and Sti’vun say in the morning. I decide to believe them as it’s the first thing they’ve agreed to this whole trip! Am I the only one here that’s amazed? They elaborate a bit and say the smell was like rotting flesh, which is just what I want to hear first thing in the morning as I’m eating breakfast. Can’t blame them for bringing it up though, as it’s better to know about potential zombies/undead then a surprise attack later on.
We march the hours needed and approach the carriage, which is STILL burning since we last left it – definitely an illusion – surely the resident racist should have seen that by now, what kind of mage is he anyway? As we get within a few hundred feet of the carriage, Enna charges back to give us the good news; we have some guests – a pack of wolves surrounding the overturned carriage.
Typically, the wolves decide pretty quickly that they don’t want us anywhere near their new spot – making a bee-line for us. They prove a f***ing handful as they are absolutely rapid, having the advantage every time they strike. We finally slay 6 wolves a little battered and bruised, with notable highlights coming from Wrenn, who pulled a critical hit out of his arse to get the first wolf (admittedly very impressive – bonus brownie points), and a smooth team combo when I burned a couple of wolves and Enna finished both of them off in one movement with her trademark short swords. Of course my defence was obviously a highlight – but it’s not good for team dynamic to constantly focus on the star of the team, so I just smile and compliment everyone on their skills. I’m so nice.
Relis conveniently uses some bullshit excuse about wanting to see how capable we are instead of helping us – an action I do not approve, and make a mental note of. However, he quickly makes amends when he confirms that “It’s so obvious it’s an illusion” when talking about the carriage fire – called it! Salzar falters and just about convinces Relis that he knew it was an illusion the whole time, though Relis is more interested in asking the big question of why. Why would someone create a distraction like this? Something they seemingly wanted us to find? We leave him to it as we ponder our next move.
It is at this point we summarise our options as:
1) We head back to Ponterin and speak to Zander reporting our progress so far.
2) Send a raven to Zander reporting our current progress, then we travel to Southmire – where Relis wants us to join him and aid him directly in the fight against the Broken Crown.
3) Send a raven to Zander, then make for the surrounding forest to investigate the undead in the region. This may potentially lead us to a Broken Crown base.
Personally I like option 2, but the majority like option 3 better – which is fine by me. To attract the ravens quicker we skin the wolves – which lands me a nice wolf pelt – and wait for a short while. The ravens don’t take long once they smell blood, and 3 perch by the wolves. Wrenn – using his abilities – talks to one and convinces it to send a message to Zander for us. With that done we head into the woods.
As we walk, it doesn’t take long to see pieces of rotting flesh (accompanied by a foul smell) dotted about on low hanging branches. Wrenn cleverly uses these to triangulate where the overriding stench may be coming from, and a 30 minute walk north leads us to an abandoned mine. The stench is so foul here that we KNOW we’ve found something big. Reluctantly, we make a few quick preparations then head inside the mine.
It’s immediately pitch black as we stroll through the mine, which is fine for most with their night vision – but not me! I’m about to get a lantern out, but some of the group get there quicker. Comically, Salzar tries to light Wrenn’s lantern with a click of his fingers, but fails – bringing great amusement to the party. Is this his roundabout way of helping the team bond? I shake my head still amused.
As we walk, the path splits. A mineshaft stretches down to the left, whilst on our current path there are two doors; one that seemingly leads to a storeroom, and another that may lead to something bigger at the end of the hallway. Helge, Sti’vun, and Enna want to check out the potential storeroom, whereas Salzar, Wrenn, and I want to see what hangs out down the left mineshaft. At an impasse, Wrenn brings out a coin and we decide to flip it. One rigged coin toss later, and we start making our way down the left mineshaft.
As we walk down the mineshaft, we see ruts in the ground – insinuating mine tracks – and a faint light in the distance, which would probably take 10 minutes to reach. A couple of minutes down the shaft, the light starts to refract weirdly. A bit freaked out, we all get startled as we see the cause of this – a 10ft cube with a skull in it. WTF? How the does something about 10ft wide appear out of nowhere? I immediately use my divine sense but get nothing – very surprising, considering we were expecting undead and this certainly fits the bill (for me at least). Enna does a quick arcana check and senses a magical creature. Sti’vun even throws a rock at the thing but it just disintegrates upon touching the cube!
[Shit is going down]
Panicking, everyone gets behind me as we get some semblance of a formation going. We throw a barrage of ranged attacks at the thing, dealing more damage to it than we have any other previous creature. Frustratingly, it seems like it can just soak whatever we throw at it forever. We’re at the point where some of us improvising our weapons – as Sti’vun lobs a flaming torch at the cube – but it soaks it up and comes ever closer to us, literally getting-all-up-in-my-grill. I can see clearly now that the cube is made up of gelatinous matter – and getting stuck in there is not something I want to think about. Having no intentions of bolting back down the mineshaft, I roar in defiance and unleash a newly learned skill – Divine Smite.
I crash my longsword straight down the middle of the gelatinous cube, expecting the worst…………but to my – and the party’s – surprise, the creature is incredibly sliced clean in half(!) slowly seeping into the earth. We’re all elated to come through that unscathed, drawing big sighs of relief, and decide to finish our walk to end of the mineshaft – after Salzar collects a sample of the gelatinous cube.
We continue the walk uneventfully and reach the end – into daylight. There is an ancient road that continues on from here, but nothing else. We take some notes, then head back though the mineshaft.
We turn left at the end of the mineshaft, and check out the door closest to us. Surprise – it’s a storeroom, though what’s actually revealing in the lack of meaningful supplies in here. It’s completely devoid of anything that living people can take – furthering my suspicions about the potential undead here.
We finally walk all the way down the main mineshaft, and find a room that contains an Acolyte and 5 Zombies (!) Our suspicions about the undead are now fully realised. Without hesitation the group goes straight for the jugular, and Sti’vun gives us a great advantage from the start as he deals with the Acolyte – incapacitating him – allowing us to question him later.
The group then methodically goes about killing the zombies – or should I say Salzar does. Here we are, hacking these zombies for fun, but they just….kept….getting….up. It was so ridiculous that at one point a zombie got back up from dying 4 TIMES IN A ROW before Salzar finally put it down. While all of us had terrible luck at dealing finishing blows, Salzar seemed to have stored up all his luck from the year, using it right now. The smug racist was going 3 for 3, but didn’t get the chance to kill the 4th and 5th Zombies as Enna finally stepped up to the plate and used her short swords to finish the last 2 zombies simultaneously. Pray to the lords above, I don’t think any of us would have lived in peace had he killed all 5.
We proceed to look for loot/investigate the room, with Wrenn and Salzar finding a piece of paper on a second mage – this one already dead – in the corner. The piece of paper contains a message, but the language is unknown to all of us. We also see that there is an altar on one side of the room, covered with blood – this is not pleasant.
We crowd around the knocked-out mage and wake him up. As he wakes, he takes some moments to gather the situation, before introducing himself as “Reamus”. He immediately converses with Salzar informally, referring to him as a “brother”, with most of the interrogation happening between the two. After a while, Salzar unties Reamus from his bonds; something I’m certainly not in approval of, but can understand. The Acolyte wasn’t giving us any useful answers, so we needed to try a different approach. This however, leads to nothing new for us, as Reamus keeps repeating “he must rise” to bat off any questions he doesn’t want to answer. By this point I’ve grown tired of his babbling and am about to say something, but Wrenn gets there first, slitting Reamus’ throat in an instant. He’s obviously had enough of that prattle.
I don’t get time to think on this though, as our mage brings out a pink vellum parchment inconspicuously given to him by Reamus. On further inspection I see that looks like…….yes, that is indeed human skin. Disgusted, I see that there are more of the currently indecipherable messages written upon it – which Wrenn and Salzar found earlier. Clearly deciphering these are important….