We made our way to the first actual battlefield in the season. The scoutmaster wants us to check things out and make sure there were no unpleasant surprises waiting for either side, then either come back and tell them about it or take it apart and let them know, as the case may be.
There are a couple of farmsteads in the area, that usually supply the armies that meet here, though the advance scouts reported there were no signs of life at either, which is… unfortunate. There is also a large cave that’s probably playing host to something large and unpleasant. We were asked to investigate our choice of it, while another team will be sent to the other. I fully expect we’ll end up doing both because the other team will get wasted. We elected to try the cave first.
There was no vegetation around it, only a single tree. It also smelled rather rancid. Miaako and my horses were uneasy, though Anusk didn’t care and the mule of course did not give even the slightest of fucks. The cave seemed to have some sort of phosphorescent moss growing on it, which I suppose made it easier for those who can’t see in the dark. The tunnel was big enough for a horse, so of course we brought Anusk along.
There were spiders immediately inside, though they didn’t seem interested in our presence. Which was frankly strange. Miaako suggested that spiders are usually only this passive when they have plenty to eat… and we didn’t see any cocoons in this first cave. Ceor heard something breathing further down. Something large. The tunnel got smaller as we went on, nearly too small for Anusk. Whatever else was down here seemed to be asleep, thank goodness for small favors.
Turned out to be an owlbear. Because of course it was.
Reeshka, Miaako, and I were able to sneak into the chamber and get out of Ceor’s way, because subtlety is not the strong point of followers of Mavros. (I originally suggested backing away quietly, then sealing off the cave. Unfortunately, that was likely not doable. So we went for the direct approach.) Somehow, Ceor managed to mount Anusk for a charge.
Likely this will prove amusing.
This is the first time I’ve seen us successfully make a sneak attack. We should do this more often.
Though really, I expect us to do far more to it before it was able to wake up.
Meanwhile, Ceor discovered there was a web in the way. And then he was promptly bitten and Anusk was clawed. Then Miaako slipped in rancid meat and other less identifiable things. Fortunately, they recovered and were able to poke it to death. Upon a closer examination, some of the spider silk can be harvested for ropes. We’ll mention it to the army and hopefully get a finder’s fee.
That just left the spiders, which should be taken care of before they get hungry. Ceor charged one and bounced off, while the rest of us were somewhat more effective with the other. The one that we were focusing on came up and got into Miaako’s face, and perhaps surprisingly, he finished it off.
Ceor was having difficulties. I can’t have that, so I shoved a magic missile in its eye. Reeshka managed to peg it, but Miaako almost shot Ceor. Fortunately, Ceor managed to shove a sword through it finally, and finished it.
That bit of nonsense taken care of, we continued on to the closest farm. It looked like no one had been there since winter. Fields unplowed, buildings abandoned and in disrepair. According to the veterans, it was a small family of kobolds with some larger folk that was supposed to be there. It looked like there was some damage to one place on the wall that seemed more like someone took an ax to it than general decay, and the furniture on the porch looked more smashed than collapsed. The ground looked untouched, or at least, since the last set of storms. The windows were completely obscured with mud and dirt.
There was no way to tell what had happened without going inside.
When Ceor kicked open the door (because of course he did), we discovered five corpses in various stages of rotting. One had fallen down the stairs, or what was left of them, while the others were sitting in rickety chairs.
And that was about the time they got up to come say hi.
One of the kobold corpses pawed at Reeshka and Ceor got stabbed by a rusty sword. Frankly, the one mangling Ceor seemed the bigger threat at the moment. Things got a bit out of hand, and then Reeshka lit them all up with glowing holy light. For all that she seemed to be attracting all their attention, they seemed more intent on feeling her up than actually doing harm. I dropped another one; Disrupt Undead is a situational spell, but this is exactly why it never hurts to have it prepared. Miaako and Ceor where somewhat effective, but apparently Reeshka took offense to their caresses.
Once they were down, we checked things out. The kobolds looked like they’d been stabbed in the heart. Upon closer examination, it looked more like they’d been sacrificed, rather than killed in combat. All of them except for one that was a big skeletal thing, maybe a half orc, looked the same. Everything but that one looked like they’d been dead three to six months. The big one looked like it had been dead closer to a year, and when Ceor examined it, a little metal disc was dislodged from its skull. It had a skull with a ring of bones, which was the same symbol the bandits on the road at the start of the campaign season had, the same as was being flown at the keep That Asshole had taken up in, and the same sealing the letters That Fucking Gnome had.
That was about the time Miaako and Reeshka heard something in the other room. Ceor didn’t even have to break it, it just crumbled. There were, of course, more zombies. Two more kobolds, a half orc, and another one of those skeletal things. Despite Ceor being the enormous guy with the large sword, Reeshka seemed to be a more enticing target. Miaako managed to graze one, and then Ceor got one in his face. Fortunately he was blocking the door.
Fighting kobold zombies is tricky. They’re so goddamn short it’s hard to aim.
Reeshka, apparently having had ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT, turned into a glowing elemental of pure energy, and marched straight through the one in Ceor’s face. It sizzled and crumbled some. Then Miaako stuck his dagger in it and it fell down. Ceor then bisected the one he was tangled with. Then he stepped forward and damn near caught an arrow with his face.
The archer was hiding behind the table, and as I was tired of missing, I threw a force missile in its face. Reeshka charged through another zombie, then reached back and channeled energy into it, and it just crumbled.
Then Miaako tried to shoot me in the back.
Ceor, magnificent fool that he is, charged straight forward and onto the table, and shoved his sword through it and rummaged around. Fortunately, he managed to avoid having the favor repaid. Reeshka charged right through the big one and repeated the trick of force feeding it positive energy. And that was the end of that.
I found a letter on one of the shelf, that had been left here some months ago. It was to fucking Cindersong, of course. It basically it said to be careful not to leave any of the bodies outside when he set up the “waystations”. I expect it was from Bloodstone, but the signature was charred to illegibility. Same handwriting, though. The burn marks looked about the size of a gnome’s finger. Either under orders to burn it or he just doesn’t like Bloodstone, I don’t know or care.
Ceor said that the skull and ring of bones symbol had been drawn on the table with what looked like blood, but of course he’d completely destroyed it with all the jumping on it by the time I could look at it. I found another little metal disc in the skull of the big thing, which wasn’t surprising. Reeshka wanted to take a look at it. After some careful inspection, she was able to determine that it was made of corroded iron. The regular zombies looked to be about the same age as the others, three to six months, while the big one was about a year old.
Some more poking around revealed a loose floorboard. There was a somewhat rotted leather sack underneath. 23 gold and 19 silver, probably the savings of the family who lived here. Not much, they probably lived pretty close to the bone. Well, they don’t need it anymore, so there’s no harm in taking it.
The horses started raising a fuss, so we went to check on them.
More zombies had shown up. Of course. The mule was staring them down, and Anusk practically radiated an attidude of ‘you run and I’ll kick your ass’ to the other horses. Reeshka ran up to the big one and smacked it with positive energy, which is really entertaining. Miaako missed, as per usual. Ceor tried to hit it, but rebounded off the armor.
Reeshka then got stabbed. Hard. One tried to get around to flank Ceor, only to be met with Ceor’s sword and the mule’s hoof. I’m sure it regretted that course of action. Ceor and Miaako were apparently mad about Reeshka getting mauled, because they killed the fuck out of it.
Unfortunately, I had neglected the one that tried to get around Ceor, and it sunk some truly nasty claws into me.
You do not do this.
I set it and the other one on fucking fire. The one that hit me promptly crumbled, and the other one burst into flames.
And then Miaako managed to just knock its goddamn head off. The mule seemed to approve.
It was about the same as we’d already seen, sacrificed and another metal disc. In looking around to see if any more of those assholes were around, we found a root cellar completely full of rotted food and a six by three stone slab drenched in gore. Lovely. But at least no more zombies.
I still think we should burn the place to the ground. We’ll pass that along to the army to take care of. Ceor mentioned that the mule should haul the bodies into the house, in jest of course, but it was a poor joke.
We decided that was enough for one day, and made our way back to camp. The team that had been sent to check the house we cleared had decided to dawdle and let us catch it, and were getting chewed out. The other team that was sent to the other farm hadn’t reported back at all. I’m sure will find them tomorrow in one stage of animation or another. We passed the word along to the scoutmaster. He was pleased to hear about the spidersilk and less pleased to hear about the zombies. He said that someone would be dispatched to fire the farmstead that we cleared.
We had recovered three longswords, three longbows, and 58 arrows that will be sold to the army. The armor had been literally bolted onto the skeletons. I’m hoping that means they’re just the officers of Bloodstone’s army. Though it’s somewhat troubling that no one has no reports of an unknown army or mass disappearances that would indicate Bloodstone had killed all witnesses. And it seems that his forces have been coming towards us; while we’ve probably already taken out part of his vanguard, but we’ll run into everything he’s left behind. And that’s assuming that he’s just been moving in a straight line…
I need to do some more research on this matter. I know off hand that Bloodstone was the name of a clan of dwarves that settled in the canton of Winterheim, a human line that was tied to the Mage Kingdoms but was supposedly wiped out, and an elven line that retreated to the Summerlands. I suspect that the Bloodstone we’re dealing with is related to the human line because of the connection to the Mage Kingdoms and the relentless fascination with the undead, but I’m not sure.
In any case, we’ll stay the night here to rest and recover, and tomorrow we’ll go clear out the other farm. I’m sure we’ll find more of the same when we get out there.
And won’t that be fun.