Shards of an Empire

Into the Dark Forest

Date to be specified, Evening<<<<<<<<

We returned to the hamlet shortly before dusk. Our exploration of the ancient graveyard had yielded several clues, but we still had no idea how it all fit together. Thrain kept muttering about Father Yinochek, but he didn’t have anything to back up his gut feeling.

We split up to get some rest and keep watch as night fell, Thrain watching over the gate, Kementir keeping an eye on the back of the fortifications, while Elena and Narmoran got some sleep. Adas and Nakta followed one of the children to go help the priest in caring for the adults.

The night passed uneventfully until around midnight, when Thrain reported that he had seen movement to the northeast, at the edge of the area illuminated by his sunrod. Uncertain if this was the prelude to another attack or something else, Thrain continued to watch the undead creatures. Though they wandered at the edge of his vision for several minutes, they made no move to approach closer to the village. Indeed, after a few minutes, they turned around and moved away from the walls, out of the area lighted by the sunrod. The rest of the night was quiet, with no more sightings to report.

Date of the next day, Morning<<<<<

Though they had remained up the entire night, Thrain and Kementir insisted they were good to continue. As we debated our best course of action for the day, Yinochek, accompanied by Adas and Nakta, emerged from one of the houses to join our discussion. We related to him the details of what we had seen the previous day, omitting any mention of the clay fragments. The priest agreed that the graves we had seen would be unlikely to produce the zombies we had encountered. He suggested that they might have come to this place with the necromancer or whatever the cause of the troubles was. He told us that, though slow, zombies were tireless and could easily be marched overland for long distances.

Unfortunately, he was unable to suggest to us the location of any nearby, recently used, graveyards. Apparently none of the farmers had died in the last several years; furthermore, as a priest of Pelor, the care of the dead was not in his domain. Lacking any better ideas, we agreed to explore more of the surrounding countryside, looking for a camp or site where the undead seemed to be concentrated. Yinochek requested that Nakta and Adas remain with him for the day, as he felt they were making progress on learning about the disease that was affecting the adults of the farmstead. Since we were going to just scout the area, we agreed that they should stay behind and try to help the village – that was why we were out here, after all.

As we were about to leave, Yinochek seemed to remember something. He mentioned that there was a small forest a few miles to the east of the farms that was infrequently lumbered when a large tree was needed for something but otherwise ignored. Since almost no one went into the depths of the woods, it made a good location for a hidden camp. Though his recollection seemed a bit providential, his reasoning was sound, and we agreed to check out the area. Thrain again muttered about the possibility that Yinochek was setting us up for a trap or ambush, but even he had to agree that we ought to look into it. After all, the best way to catch an ambusher is spring their trap when ready for it.

We travelled to the east for about an hour, heading towards the woods the priest had mentioned. Narmoran took the lead, keeping his eyes open for signs of undead or other possible ambushers. We made it to what looked like the edge of the woods uneventfully. The forest ahead was much more substantial than the small, surrounding thickets of trees. A dense canopy of leaves and braches blocked out much of the sunlight; wherever a gap presented itself heavy undergrowth had seized on the rays of light. Fortunately, we could see several rough trails that wandered into the deeper parts of the woods, so we wouldn’t have to hack our way through the brush immediately.

We slowly worked our way into the woods, Narmoran again taking point. Perhaps it was just the diminished sunlight under the cover of the leaves and branches, but we all felt like we were being watched by an unfriendly presence. About half a mile along our trail, Kementir waved to get our attention. His keen elven hearing had picked up something out of the ordinary, moving around in a small patch of brush up ahead. Narmoran, still on point, stealthily advanced towards the thicket while the rest of us prepared for action. Unfortunately, the barbarian managed to step on a dry branch, loudly cracking it in two beneath his foot. All attempts at stealth blown, he charged forward towards where Kementir had heard movement. He slowed as he approached a large oak tree, listening for any responses to his loud charge. Though he didn’t hear or see any movement he did notice two man-sized creatures laying at the base of the oak ahead of him. Two skeletons, equipped similarly to the ones we had faced the other day, were waiting motionlessly near the oak. They made no movement that the barbarian could see, having completely ignored his crashing advance.

Hoping that they might somehow have missed him, Narmoran retreated back to the rest of the party to report his observations to them. We moved up towards the skeletons, circling around to approach them from the back side of the thicket where the cover was lighter. Having pointed out their hiding spots, the entire party easily saw them; they still made no movement to respond. Having grown tired of the stealthy approach, Kementir shifted into beast form and charged the nearest skeleton. Its stationary posture would have made it an easy target for the druid, but as he leapt into the air to pounce, the skeletons began to move. The first one adroitly dodged the pouncing druid, swinging its longsword at him. Kementir was able to dodge the blow, his momentum throwing off the aim of the skeleton.

The second skeleton charged forward through the brush, swinging a blow at Elena, but the warden absorbed the hit on her armor, avoiding any damage.

Thrain charged forward, swinging around Kementir and smashing his craghammer into the skeleton threatening the druid. His blow cracked several bones, drawing the attention of the undead creature. Letting out a howl, Narmoran charged forward and landed a powerful blow from his glaive on the same skeleton, cracking more bones on the suddenly overmatched monster.

Elena, shrugging off the attack of the second skeleton, smashed her great axe in to her skeleton, blasting through its defenses and forcing it to focus on her, leaving the other skeleton surrounded by her allies.

The battle seemed well in hand, but we heard a blood-chilling howl emerge from another thicket to the northeast. Something leapt forth from the trees, charging into Narmoran. Its ragged claws ripped across his back, drawing blood and draining some of his strength. It bounded away before the barbarian could respond. The creature was dressed in ragged, blood-stained clothes, and though it resembled a man, it had obviously died some time ago. Its eyes glowed with an unholy light as it looked back at us. Based on stories we had heard, it could be nothing other than a Wight.

Hearing a crackle of energy coming from the trees the wight had just emerged from, we saw a second wight walk into view. A dark, crackling energy danced between its hands. Drawing back one arm, it hurled a globe of energy at Thrain. Having been warned by the charge of the first wight, the dwarf managed to dodge the crackling orb as it flew by him. It struck the ground, and when the energy dissipated, we could see that a small circle of dead plants in what had previously been the vibrant, living floor of the forest. This must be one of the nearly mythical Deathlock Wights – intelligent, malevolent undead possessed of strong magic skills.

Hoping to finish off the opponent in front of him, Kementir pounced on the skeleton that he had originally attacked. Its attention still on Thrain, it was unable to avoid his attack. He crushed it beneath his pounce, finishing it off. The remaining skeleton swung at Elena, its sword maneuvering through her guard and cutting a deep blow into her.

Having been freed of his enemy by Kementir, Thrain turned about and charged the deathlock, but it moved with uncanny speed and dodged his attack. Narmoran, likewise freed of opponents, charged the wight that had clawed his back. Though fast, it was unable to dodge the barbarian’s glaive. It cut into the undead creature, but the wight seemed to ignore the wound.

Elena, trying to shrug off the stinging blow of the skeleton attacking her, responded with her ax. The blow cracked more bones, but she was unable to land a powerful strike.

The wight, ignoring the wound it had received from the barbarian, charged Thrain, but its claws were unable to penetrate his strong armor. Unlike when it attacked Narmoran, the wight did not bound away out of reach this time, instead staying near Thrain.

The deathlock turned its face on Thrain and the glow coming from its eye sockets brightened. Seized by an unnatural fear, Thrain stumbled back away from the magical wight. A new skeleton emerged from the thicket the wights had occupied and charged at the fear-stricken dwarf. Swinging its longsword, it struck the dwarf, further shaking his resolve.

Still in beast form, Kementir turned from the skeleton he had finished off and pounced on the skeleton threatening Elena, breaking several of its bones and giving the warden a chance to strengthen her defenses. The skeleton stubbornly attacked her again, but she was able to defend herself this time, stopping its strike.

Thrain, thinking the wight a greater threat, ignored the skeleton that had charged him and swung at the wight. Unfortunately, its unnatural speed allowed it to dodge his blow. The skeleton he had neglected seized the opportunity and swung a blow at his unprotected side, badly wounding the dwarf. Drawing on his dwarven stamina, Thrain shrugged off his wounds and took a more defensive stance.

Narmoran charged after the wight, his glaive again cutting into it. Though his second blow was even stronger than the first, it still ignored the barbarian.

Elena, having had a chance to focus, swung her ax at the skeleton between her and Kementir. She blasted through its defenses, cracking several bones and badly wounding it.

The wight continued its attack on Thrain, its claws tearing through his armor and inflicting a light wound on the dwarf. Its icy touch drained some of his stamina, and it tried to move away out of his reach. Shrugging off the blow and the draining touch, Thrain struck the wight, smashing his craghammer into the undead creature. The skeleton at his side again tried to take advantage of his inattention, but the fighter managed to defend himself this time, catching the strike on his armor.

The deathlock hurled another orb of necrotic energy at Thrain. His attention divided between the wight and skeleton that had just attacked him, Thrain was unable to avoid this strike. The dark energy struck him, draining the strength from his legs and immobilizing him. Stuck in place, he still managed to block the next attack from the skeletal swordsman.

Seeing Thrain being overwhelmed by attackers, Kementir abandoned his attack on the nearly defeated skeleton confronting Elena, and charged north to try and draw the attention of the undead focusing on the surrounded dwarf. The wight again demonstrated its speed, dodging the elf’s pounce.

Free again to focus only on the warden, the skeleton swung its sword again at Elena. However, she managed to deflect the blow, her armor absorbing the brunt of the assault.

Thrain attacked the troublesome skeleton that continued to threaten him, but was unable to swing around the undead creature’s shield. However, he managed to shake off the icy feeling the deathlock’s strike had left in his legs.

Narmoran, fearing Thrain was in grave danger, went into a rage. He struck the wight with a powerful blow from his glaive, cutting deeply into it and killing it. He called forth his spirit companion to assist Elena, and then channeled healing energy through Thrain and Elena, restoring their strength.

Elena attacked the skeleton in front of her one last time, smashing its skull into fragments. The remaining bones fell to the earth, the dark energy animating them spent. She turned away from the remains and moved to help the rest of the party in its attack on the deathlock.

The feeling of incipient victory fled, however, when the deathlock redirected its dark flow of energy to the fallen wight. With a shudder, the undead creature regained its feet; the deepest of the wounds Narmoran had inflicted closed before our eyes. Turning its attention on the party members threatening it, the eyes of the deathlock again intensified their glow and the same dark fear that had afflicted Thrain struck at the entire party. Kementir, Narmoran, and Thrain were forced back, though Elena seemed unaffected, being farthest from the wight.

The reanimated wight charged at Kementir, but it seemed to have not regained all of the speed it had previously demonstrated, and the druid was able to dodge the attack. The skeleton that had been threatening Thrain pursued him as he was driven back by the deathlock. It swung its longsword at the dwarf, working its way through the weakened defenses of the fear-struck dwarf to cut into him.

Kementir shook off the fear and pounced on the reanimated wight, striking it across the back. Its reflexes were noticeably slower than they had been previously, and it seemed less able to shrug off blows now.

Returning its strike, Thrain landed a crushing blow on the skeleton, blasting through its defenses and smashing several bones to dust. The dwarf seemed to draw strength from his blow, readying himself for the next attack.

Narmoran, still in the grip of his rage, charged at the deathlock. His charge brought him near the wight, and its claws raked his side, draining his stamina. Shrugging off the attack, the barbarian smashed a blow into the magic-using wight. He crashed through its defenses, and his powerful attack tore deeply into the creature. Elena took advantage of the distraction to charge the wounded caster, her axe cutting into its back. The deathlock tried to rake its claws across Elena, but her armor held under the attack and Elena avoided any injury.

Left alone by his allies, Kementir remained facing the reanimated wight. Its next attack was still too slow, though, and the elven druid easily dodged the attack.

The remaining skeletal swordsman again found a weakness in Thrain’s defenses, slipping a blow through and cutting deeply into the dwarf.

Kementir pounced on the weakened wight, finishing it off again. He yelled to his companions to keep the deathlock on the defensive, so that it could not raise the wight again.

Thrain returned the blow of the swordsman with one of his own, crushing more bones beneath his craghammer.

Narmoran continued his assault on the deathlock, his features becoming more feral as he drew on his heritage as a shifter to empower his attacks. His next swing smashed through the remaining defenses of the deathlock, and cut deeply into its skull. The undead creature finally fell to the ground, the unholy light fading from its eyes. The rest of the party surrounded and quickly dispatched the lone skeleton still standing.

We took a moment to regain our strength. Before we continued our exploration of the forest, we dragged the bodies and remains of the undead into a clearing where Kementir used his magic to burn the remains beyond the ability of any to raise them again.

Searching the bodies prior to burning them, we located a peculiar medallion hanging around the neck of the deathlock wight. Made of what appeared to be iron and covered in old blood stains, the design defied description. Just looking at it made us feel uncomfortable, as if it were trying to warp our very souls. We wrapped the medallion up in its necklace and Narmoran volunteered to carry it in his backpack until we could find someone to examine it further. As soon as it was out of sight, we all felt much more comfortable.

We searched the nearby thickets, but were unable to find anything special that the undead might have been guarding. It being still the morning, we agreed to explore further into the woods. After about an hour of following the wandering paths through the forest, Kementir and Narmoran called for a halt. Up ahead, the forest looked darker and more uninviting than what we had been in so far. Looking closely, Narmoran pointed out several trees that had enormous patches of webbing stretched through them, looking like oversized spider nests. We decided to carefully move ahead, looking for any giant arachnids.

After a few minutes of advancing, Elena called out a warning and pointed up into the trees alongside the trail. Perched up in the braches, a large, man-sized spider crouched. At her yell, it broke into motion, scampering along a branch for a short distance and hurling itself from the tree at the warden. Elena hastily threw herself to one side, barely dodging the attacking beast.

Kementir was the fastest to recover, and shifted into a beast even has he pounced towards the spider. Showing remarkable agility, the arachnid skittered out of danger. Off balance from the narrowly dodged leap, Elena swung a weak blow at the spider threatening her, but missed it.

A second spider silently leapt from another tree at Thrain. Unaware of the spider until it landed on him, the dwarf had no chance to avoid the attack. The weight of the monster drove him to the ground, and its fangs pierced his armor, dumping burning venom into the fighter’s blood. Thrain rolled to his feet and took a swing at the spider, but was still dizzy from the attack and missed the monster. Shaking his head, he shrugged off the effects of the poison. Narmoran charged to his assistance, striking the spider from behind, his glaive cracking into its carapace.

The first spider attacked Elena again, and this time it managed to sink its fangs into her, its poison burning through her blood and the pain slowing her actions. Kementir pounced on the spider while it was attacking Elena, his claws striking the arachnid. As he moved to strike, a third spider leapt down from the trees at him, but it missed the swift elf.

Thrain tried to maneuver around the spider attacking him for a better angle, but his attack missed.

Narmoran, free of any immediate opponents, channeled two spirits at the newest spider threatening Kementir, but her attacks were unable to affect the strange mind of monster.

Elena got bitten by the spider attacking her again, and her strength began to fail as the poison burned through her. Kementir shifted to flank the spider attacking Elena, and his pounce cut into its carapace, wounding it again.

The third spider, free of any immediate threats, gathered itself and leapt into the air at Narmoran, but the agile barbarian dodged the attack.

Elena staggered as the poison continued to burn through her veins, and her answering attack missed the spider threatening her.

Thrain was bitten by the spider facing him, and again felt the poison coursing through his veins. He drew on his dwarven constitution, regaining some strength. Trying to injure the spider facing him, he made another attack, but again it dodged.

Narmoran channeled a healing spirit through Thrain and Elena, hoping to buy them more time. He then let out a bellow and struck the spider threatening Thrain with a brutal attack, immediately following it up with another. Both blows sliced deeply into its carapace, gravely wounding it. He then shifted away from the spider that had pounced at him, hoping to put some distance between himself and the threat.

Elena, reeling from poisoned wounds and the surge of healing magic from Narmoran, was unable to avoid the spider’s next attack, taking more damage. Kementir pounced on it, tearing into its soft inner flesh.

The spider that pounced at Narmoran skittered after the barbarian, but its attack again missed.

Elena again struck out at the spider in front of her, finally managing to land a blow. Having regained some of her strength, she drew on her inner reserves, strengthening her defenses.

The spider facing Thrain, badly wounded by Narmoran, gathered itself and leapt into the tree branches overhead. Thrain took a parting swing at the creature, but it moved too quickly and his blow connected only with empty air. The wounded spider skittered out of sight along the tree branches.

Thrain moved up to flank the spider threatening Narmoran, smashing his craghammer into its back and crushing part of its armor. Flinching from the blow, the spider inadvertently avoided Narmoran’s follow-up attack.

The wounded spider facing Elena leapt away from the warden and skittered along the forest floor, trying to put distance between itself and the party. Freed of opponents, Kementir charged the remaining spider facing Thrain, but his attack missed as the spider dodged it. Abruptly lunging forward at him, the spider sank its fangs into Thrain’s arm, more poison coursing through the dwarf’s veins.

The party surrounded and the remaining spider and continued to batter at it. Wounded beyond endurance, the spider tried to leap to safety in the nearby trees, but Thrain caught it with a final blow, smashing it back to the ground and killing it. The two wounded spiders that had leapt free of the fight were now hidden in the surrounding trees, out of our sight.

We took a short rest, binding our wounds and shrugging off the last of the poison’s effects. Uncertain if these spiders were the only ones present, we agreed to search for their lair. Even if they had nothing to do with the undead menace, clearing them out would still make the area safer for the farmers and villagers. We would continue our search after we finished this rest.

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