Evening of the same Day<<<<<<
As we watched, the giant zombie wandered off towards the north, the direction it had originally come from. Narmoran returned from the field, heading back to join us at the hamlet.
Elena volunteered to stand watch through the remainder of the night while the rest of us rested, getting some much needed sleep.
During the night, at some point, the remains of the zombies and skeletons we had fought all disappeared. Elena was unable to tell us what happened; she doesn’t remember falling asleep, but she also doesn’t remember seeing the bodies ever move. Yet they weren’t there when we checked in the morning.
Father Yinochek was visibly worried when Elena related the event of her watch and the missing bodies to him. He feared that the undead would simply be reanimated and return again later. At his suggestion, if we again encounter the bodies, we were to burn them after killing them.
We discussed the situation and decided to follow the path left by the giant zombie. It obviously had some sort of destination in mind when it left the hamlet last night; perhaps we could learn something by following it. We set off, heading north; following the extremely obvious trail the beast had left. Much to our surprise, the trail completely disappeared approximately a mile from the farms. The ground was unchanged, but between one step and the next, the trail simply ceased to exist.
This was a very unexpected turn of events; some powerful magic must have been in play. At a loss for what to do, we decided to head east, looking for signs of the other zombie group that had attacked us during the last night. If we couldn’t find their tracks, they must have a source nearer to the village; if we could find their tracks, we could follow them back to their source faster this way.
A half mile to the east of the giant zombie’s trail, Adas located an addition set of zombie tracks. The ground was much rougher along their path, but a faint odor of rot was still present along them. We followed them to the north for another mile before they began to fade out, as well. We followed them as long as we could, slowing down and backtracking when we thought we had lost the trail. About three miles north of the village, the faint tracks lead through a small dell next to a shallow creek. There, the trail became confusing, as if they had wandered around this location for some time. Looking around, we saw signs of an old campsite on the southern edge of the clearing.
Off to the north, above a low cliff overlooking the creek, we could see what appeared to be an old graveyard. It was obvious that someone or something had been digging up the graves recently, as the earth was torn open over several of the sites. None of the graves contained any remains that we could see. The gravestones were all weathered and worn, but we could make out writing on some of them. None of us immediately recognized the language, or even the script.
Elena and Thrain suggested that we could see if there were any remains still in the graves, and burn them to prevent them from being raised if there were. Kementir agreed, and offered to turn himself into something better suited to digging in the ground – a Kruthik. The form was a bit disturbing, but we agreed that would work much better.
While the dwarf and the druid were busy digging amongst the graves, Elena started gathering fuel from the thicket north of the graves to burn things with. However, as he cut clear several bushes for fuel, he revealed more gravestones heading back into the trees. This graveyard might be significantly larger than we had originally thought.
Leaving them to their work, Adas and Nakta went to go examine the remains of the campfire. The ashes were cold, and they couldn’t tell how long it had been there, but it still smelled slightly of smoke, so it was probably no more than a week or two. A collapsed lean-to shelter was just under the trees south of the fire ring, but it showed no signs of its former occupants. Looking around some more, Adas located a small garbage pile partially hidden under new growth.
Digging through the garbage remains, Adas and Narmoran found refuse that would be expected if someone had made this a camp for some time, as well as several unusual things: several handfuls of fired clay fragments, drippings of wax, and small glittering specks of gold. Piecing the clay fragments together, they assembled them into a rough orb with a small hole in one side leading into the center of the orb where a cavity was. Unfortunately, they couldn’t tell if they were simply missing a piece, or if the center was a design of some sort. We were unable to figure out what the wax drippings or the specs of gold were from, though we suspected a ritual of some sort.
Come noon, the digging party had failed to find any remains, or even full coffins, amongst the graves. If bodies had been buried here at some point, they were all gone now. We assembled by the old campsite to discuss our options as we ate lunch. Before we could do more that break out the food, we heard something moving around in the brush off to the south west.
About sixty feet away, a zombie stumbled free of the brush and wandered around in the clear. Though we were clearly visible, it made no move to advance on us. Narmoran drew his crossbow and fired a bolt at it, but missed, while the rest of us waited for Thrain to move forward.
The dwarf advanced toward the zombie, maintaining his guard; Kementir and Adas following closely. The zombie continued to behave as if it had no idea we were present. Loosing his patience, Kementir pounced on it, crushing beneath his claws. As he moved off its crushed remains, two of the zombie throwers we remembered from last night emerged from the thicket to the northwest. One hurled a glob of ichor at Kementir, another at Thrain, hitting both of them.
Adas summoned Tasha to distract the throwers, channeling a spirit through her to attack one of the zombies. A pair of skeletons rose up from the brush near the zombies, moving up to attack Tasha.
Elena crossed through the shallow creek between the party and the new undead, moving up to attack them. Providing cover for the rest of the party, Nakta dropped a blazing starfall on the undead; the radiant magic struck them more powerfully than usual, wounding two of them.
Narmoran took advantage of the distraction to vault over the muddy banks of the creek and charge one of the zombies, but his aim was off and it easily avoided the attack. One of the skeletons moved up to support the zombies, striking the barbarian a glancing blow with its longsword. Thrain charged the skeleton, striking it; his attack was weaker than usual as he was still trying to shake off the nauseating odor of the ichor the zombie had hit him with. Seizing the opportunity, Kementir leapt forward and flanked the skeleton, pouncing on it.
The other zombie moved away from Tasha, looking for a better angle to attack with; Tasha struck out with her claws, tearing away at its arms. It drew forth another globe of corrupting ichor and hurled it at Tasha, doing enough damage to dispel the spirit.
The other zombie hurled another glob of ichor at Narmoran, hitting him and weakening him while he tried to shake off the disgusting slime.
Adas moved forward to support the party, summoning Tasha back to harass the zombies again.
One of the skeletons, free of opponents, moved forward and hit Kementir with its sword.
Elena continued her advance, swinging at one of the zombies. Her blow missed, but she drew its attention to herself, giving the party time to finish off the other opponents.
Nakta crossed over the stream, launching a chaotic bolt of energy at a zombie. Her magic streaked through the air, but her aim was off and the bolt missed the undead.
From the trees to the south, a group of four zombies shambled out of the brush, advancing toward the rear of the party.
Narmoran shifted back out of reach of the zombie he faced, striking it with his glaive and inflicting a light wound. He then channeled several friendly spirits through himself, letting them take to the air and offering support to his allies.
The skeleton facing Thrain swung at him, weaving its sword through his defenses and lightly cutting through his armor. The dwarf retaliated with a crushing blow, cracking several of the skeleton’s bones. Narmoran used the magic of his armor to strengthen Thrain for future attacks.
The badly wounded zombie thrower slammed itself into Kementir, bludgeoning him and disrupting his concentration with its horrific odor.
Adas moved in closer to the party, launching a strike at the undead with a haunting spirit. It lanced in at the zombies, but was unable to affect their minds. Adas then abandoned his attack to heal Kementir and Thrain.
Kementir, Elena, and the undead they faced all exchanged blows inconclusively, while Nakta moved away from the undead and attempted to drop another starfall on the advancing zombies. Her magic struck one of them, but backfired, throwing everyone near her back. The one zombie the starfall struck collapsed to the ground, burned by the radiance of the magic.
The horde of zombies charged, managing to strike Adas once, missing with the remainder of its attacks on him and Thrain.
Narmoran let out a howl, striking a skeleton and badly wounding it. The skeleton ignored the barbarian, remaining focused on Thrain. It swung at the fighter, but Thrain blocked the attack and retaliated, killing the skeleton.
Kementir shifted free of the melee and hurled a lightning orb at the powerful zombies and skeletons facing the party. His magic inflicted light wounds on them, and the ground below them began to crackle with energy. The two zombie throwers swung their arms at Thrain and Elena, striking the dwarf but missing the warden.
Adas channeled the spirits of twin panthers at the two zombies. The magic swirled about them, striking both and tearing open wounds. One of the zombies collapsed beneath the onslaught, exploding in a cloud of disgusting goo that covered Thrain.
The remaining skeleton swung at Thrain, but even blinded by the explosion, the dwarf was able to dodge the blow. Elena swung a blow at the remaining zombie thrower, but it shuffled out of range.
Nakta attempted to drop another blazing starfall on the zombie horde, again killing one. However, her magic again backfired, throwing everyone away from her. The surge forced the remaining zombie thrower out of the area affected by Kementir’s lightning strike. The remaining energy shocked the zombie, crisping one of its legs.
The two remaining members of the zombie horde struck at Adas and Thrain. Though the fighter managed to block the blow, Adas was struck by one of the attacks.
Narmoran struck the remaining zombie thrower with his glaive, killing it. As it fell, it exploded like the last one. Warned to expect it by the last explosion, Elena and Tasha manage to avoid the cloud. Seeing his opponent fall, Narmoran let loose a howl of triumph, heartening his allies.
Thrain swung his craghammer at the remaining skeleton, blasting through its defenses and landing a crushing blow on its ribcage. Kementir pounced forward, clawing the zombie attacking Thrain. His blows tore the weak zombie apart, and he turned to face a new foe.
Adas shifted away from the zombie threatening him, summoning in Tasha to protect himself. She swung at the zombie threatening her master, but it dodged the spirit’s attack.
The skeleton swung its sword at Thrain again, finding an opening in his defense and striking him in the side. Elena swung her ax at it, but it dodged the warden’s attack.
Nakta hurled a bolt of chaos at the remaining zombie threatening Adas and Tasha, striking it. The magic coruscated around it, tearing it apart.
Narmoran charged forward to strike the last skeleton while its attention was divided between Elena and Thrain. Her glaive smashed its skull, and the zombie fell to the ground.
It was now mid-afternoon, and we paused to regain our breath and check for more enemies. We decided we had done about as much out here as we could today, so we dragged the remains into a clearing where Kementir burned them to ashes with his magic. Adas gathered together the fragments we had dug up out of the garbage pile, and we headed back to the farmstead for night.