Shards of an Empire

A New Beginning

Note As in my previous adventure logs, this is a story written from the perspective of an outside observer, detailing your exploits and adventures.

Turoth, the 24th day of Chahur, in the 10th year of the rule of Oduth VI and Umista III.

It was a sunny clear afternoon as the three companions headed south along the rough market road. The three formed an unlikely group of companions: Fjior, the proud but young dragonborn, seeking a name and a place in the wider world for himself and his clan; Astra, the savvy eladrin agent, seeking the freedom she lacked in the enchanted cities of the fey court; and the human Lady Alexandretta Radwanska, known to her friends as Dretta, a minor scion of a noble house in Belach, seeking experience and fame in the wilds. On their way to the new frontier in Kurtan, they chanced upon an unexpected adventure.

Along the edge of the road, off to the east lay a stone circle. Ancient monoliths stood in a circle around a crude altar stone; their timelessness in contrast to the rise and fall of civilizations old and new. This day, though, they played host to a much less permanent group. As the companions walked by on the path, shouts and war-cries emerged from the stone circle, as three small creatures hurled javelins at the party. Short-statured and covered in a scaly skin, they were recognizable as Kobolds. Often shifty bandits or sneaking raiders of isolated farms and undefended caravans, picking a fight with three well-armed adventurers was unusual for such a small group.

The initial volley of javelins resulted in some glancing hits and more clean misses as the party rushed in to bring the fight to the raiders. Fjior swung at a kobold sheltering behind the central altar stone, but the agile creature twisted away from the punishing blow. Astra faired better, her swing connecting with the kobold harassing her, dealing it a mortal blow. Her companions cheered, knowing the kobolds were doomed now that they couldn’t rely on distance and thrown javelins.

Suddenly, new cries could be heard above them. A new kobold rose out of hiding from atop the stones farthest from the road, blowing a dented horn, and prodding forward a drake that had been concealed as well. The drake let out a loud hissing roar, and dived off its perch. It swooped over Fjior’s head, snapping at him as it passed. It came to rest atop the stones across the circle, still hissing at the party.

Rumbles coming from the road behind them made the party look back and see a strange, man-sized beetle dig itself out of the dirt and gravel at the edge of the road. Waves of heat rose off its back, and some dried grass near where it emerged had begun to smolder. It opened wide its mandibles, hissing a strident call, and licks of flame dripped out of its mouth.

Seeking to control the new threats, Fjior swung a mighty blow at the kobold before him, cleaving its head clear of its body. Releasing a bellow, he turned and ran towards one of the pillars beneath the drake. With a surge of strength, the dragonborn grabbed the top of the stone and pulled himself up, crying out a challenge to the drake in the name of his god, Bahamut.

Dretta swung at the last kobold on the ground, but the wiry creature dodged her blow, scampering back out of range. Another javelin, this time from the kobold atop the stones, struck her. Though her armor kept her from being pierced, the weight of the impact rocked her back, obviously causing her some pain. Seeing its chance, the kobold facing Dretta turned and ran away, having seen the companions cut down two of his fellow ambushers, and having no desire to continue the fight.

Sheathing her sword, Astra pulled out her loaded crossbow and sent a bolt flying into the fiery beetle as it shook itself free of the last of its concealing burrow. It punched through the insect’s carapace, causing it to hiss in pain. As the heat from its body caused the fletching to burst into flame, the beast charged forward, opening its mouth wide. The flame leaking out of its mouth thickened and a gout of flame blasted over Dretta and Astra, licking at the stones supporting the fight between Fjior and the drake. As the short-lived flames died out, both Astra and Dretta looked singed but still ready to continue the fight.

Distracted by the flames engulfing his companions, Fjior was struck by the drake as it launched itself at him; it snapped at the dragonborn with its maw as it flew across to another stone. The dragonborn roared in outrage, taking a lumbering leap across to follow the drake. However, distance was greater than it looked, and the dragonborn failed to fully clear the gap, only barely making it to the next stone, but sprawling flat before the drake.

Astra reloaded her crossbow and put another bolt down the no-longer flaming mouth of the giant beetle, but before she could back further away, it lunged forward and wrenched at her arm with its mandibles. Though she managed to tear lose, the crushing bite obviously pained her.

Calling out inspiring words, Dretta infused the dragonborn with strength, rallying Fjior to defend himself. The drake lunged at the prone paladin, but he managed to roll aside and avoid the strike. Continuing his roll, he rushed to his feet, shoving the drake back to give himself space. Letting out a shattering roar, he drew upon his ancient draconic heritage and spewed forth a cloud from his mouth, arcing with electricity. It engulfed the drake before him, as well as the final kobold that had been directing the creature. The drake released a pain-filled hiss, but the kobold was no match for the energy. Convulsing from the shock, it fell from the stones and was dead before it hit the ground.

The fight up above seeming well in hand, Dretta turned to her attention to Astra. Again, she called forth reinvigorating energy, strengthening the eladrin and letting her shake off the worst of her injuries. Dropping her crossbow, Astra snatched up her sword and struck the beetle, cracking its carapace further. The bug staggered back from the blow, but flames again began to drip from between its mandibles.

Back above, with a hiss of triumph the drake’s head darted forward at Fjior. It bit the holy symbol hanging around his neck, snapping the chain and tearing it away. It shuffled backwards, its wings unfurling as it looked to escape with its new treasure.

Fjior’s cry of outrage echoed among the stones, but his companions had other worries. The beetle opened wide its mouth again, and the licks of fire began to thicken as it prepared to release another firestorm. Astra desperately lunged towards the beetle, hoping to silence it before it could finish, but her sword glanced off the thick shell, leaving it undeterred. As the flames rolled forth, Astra continued her lunge, turning it into a dodge as she dropped out of the path of the fire.

Unfortunately, Dretta was not as quick and was again caught in the blast of fire. Still weakened from the glancing javelin strikes and the first blast of fiery breath, the final wave was too much for her; she collapsed to the ground, small fires burning in the grass around her.

Above her, Fjior and the drake exchanged inconclusive blows, as he looked to finish the beast off and it sought a safe path to escape with the stolen medallion. Astra recovered from her desperate dodge, twisting back towards the beetle and striking her sword deep into its body. It collapsed with a burbling hiss, and its eyes began to haze over.

Seeing its options disappear, the drake desperately hurled itself from the stones, heading east towards the hills. Fjior took a parting swing at the drake, but the buffet of wind off its wings rocked him and ruined his aim. The dragonborn let out a cry of rage after the drake, but it continued to fly as fast as it could to the east.

As Astra scooped up her crossbow, loading another bolt into it, she called out for Fjior to tend to Dretta. Steadying her aim, she took a parting shot at the wounded drake, but the distance proved too great; the bolt fell short of the target and the thief flew on.

Dropping to the ground, Fjior placed his hands above Dretta, calling on his god to heal his companion. A surge of energy flowed through him into Dretta as she awoke with a shuddering breath. Still too weak to rush off, the companions bound their wounds and searched the remaining bodies for any treasures or clues.

The drake flew off to the east, disappearing behind a range of hills several miles away.

On the bodies of the kobolds, the companions found three remaining javelins; each kobold was also armored in crude, smelly hide armor and carried a wicker shield, light but effective. The kobold felled by Fjior’s lightning storm had a purse with 30 silver pieces inside it.

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End of a campaign

Schedules and other conflicts have terminated the previous campaign – but feel free to read over some of the earlier information to get a feel for things. And welcome to the new players.

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Abandoned Graveyard

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.

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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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A dark village

We left Kurtan to go to the aid of a village beset by dark forces.

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Travelling

We covered a lot of ground, literally.

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Mysteries of the Hive

We returned to the hive to unravel the magic we had found

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Victory in the Hive

We killed the big bug

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Assault in the Hive

We got into a big fight in the Kruthik Hive

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Exploring the Hive

We explored more of the Hive.

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