RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

DM log-- back to Harkenwold 3

I reckoned a little update in mid-break would keep everyone in the mood. This DM log is being written in a holiday house at Lake Tahoe, California. My brain is very relaxed, which you’d think would result in especially brilliant and lengthy prose. Let’s just see about that.

In the morning of 25 Patchwall (see the timeline) the party, including Concorde, gathered itself for the last push northward toward the King’s Road. They followed the creekbed and passed up the spot where the fallen bridge gave them some trouble just a few days before— though it seems like months. While in the thick of the forest they were hailed by a lone elven voice: Keyenna, the leader of the band that ambushed them the evening before. She called Kat Rosie over for a peaceful conference. Kat returned and related that Keyenna was here without knowledge of her clan, who would not understand why she was helping a band of outlaws, the reputed killers of Immil. But the elf leader acknowledged that the party’s warning about the approaching dire bear saved lives—though it came a bit late (this said with some vexation), the warning came all the same, and gave them the head start they needed to outrun the beast. In thanks, Keyenna gave Kat some tinctures made from a local plant which should cure the river fever that was so badly slowing Theren and Jorn. This did the job well, and soon the party made very good time, boosted by their talents for fast travel.

When the party found the cart track following the south bank of the White River {note: this was King’s Road in previous log version, but that road is north of the river, and the party did not cross the river}, they headed east, continuing their fast pace. They joined the King’s Road and headed south. As they got near Harkenwold, they saw a grisly sight: tied to a tree facing the road was a skeleton. As they approached, its head lolled weakly and a faint fire glimmered in the bony sockets: it was undead. Unlike most animated skeletons, which are dry and crusted with grave dirt, this one seemed freshly made. It was blasted of its flesh, bones still shiny with damp blood and marrow. An arcane reading revealed that it still glimmered with the same dark energy that withered Moosook. This likely was Fenstrom’s work, using the chaos shard that he took from Malareth. Those in the party of a bent toward justice insisted the skeleton be freed to fight fair. This exchange was very brief, with one blow shattering its bones and draining it of animate energy. {It was a minion.}

The party crested a hill to see Harkenwold’s village center, its humble thatched roofs basking in the weak autumn sun:

As they grew closer, however, things looked less bucolic. The streets were empty, with hasty barricades of wood against the doors. At each entry, figures slowly swayed: skeletons, of the kind they just met on the road. They were at the doors of the village center’s small buildings, but not breaking in. They were only occasionally scratching at the wood and shuffling by the boarded-up windows through which movement could be seen.

The party decided stealth was not possible and instead mounted a charge into the square to fight the minions. As soon as they did, a crackling, sparking star fell from the sky, slowly, pulsing with smoky light. The skeletons looked up at it and instantly changed their behaviour, clawing fiercely at the doors, pulling away the barricades and hammering at the wood. Frightened screams emitted from the buildings’ many inhabitants. Now the skeletons looked like they were breaking in with fervour, and there was not much time before they would succeed. The party decided quickly which building to save first: the inn, which sounded like it held the most people, as well as Baron Stockmer. Saving that place would save the most lives (and just happen to win the largest amount of monetary gratitude). Kat Rosie fell to the ground insensate when the charge began, but Stek hit the ground running, and barrelled through the skeleton assaulting the door, and into the inn. Soon its inhabitants were escaping. The other buildings were not faring so well. In danger was the Snake’ Head, where Theren’s shady acquaintance Lev spends most of his time—he would be a good source of extra firepower. The peacekeepers’ barracks might contain someone who could help defend the party. And the herbalist Zumtleheath had her little shop under attack, and she could be heard calling out in distress. Though she was no fighter, she might give some kind of healing or protective advantage.

Amos, as is his wont, charged into the middle of the fray without any protection from a defender, and was quickly beset by a new problem: a group of four zombies climbed up out of a well and set upon him. Fortunately Stek soon barged out the other side of the inn to absorb the blows. These zombies looked like they were recently killed and raised adventurers—the backpacks were the giveaway—and held the hilts of long-since-broken weapons. One of these deceased adventurers was Bastian’s previous party-mate Mikal, a discovery that chilled the bard to the quick. This zombie seemed to remember a bit of its former role and tried to call upon Erathis to attack the party. Erathis having no truck with the undead, the lance of faith instead struck Mikal, but the resulting chaotic blast also endangered others. Bastian used his diplomatic skills, then an intimidating mein, to remind Mikal of his previous devotion to goodness and wholesomeness, and this made the zombie pause in its attacks twice.

Soon a new complication arose as, with a burst of flame and smoke, two figures stood up on opposite rooftops. These were skeletons ablaze with a fire that soon spread to the thatched roofs they stood on. They hurled flaming orbs at the party, often setting them on fire. The buildings they were on soon burned with enough ferocity to cook their screaming inhabitants.

Meanwhile, Theren was determined to save Lev to get his help. The skeleton minons were still breaking into buildings and ravaging those inside. Dispatching the skeletons hammering at the door, Theren entered the Snake’s Head only to find one terrified (and drunken) patron, who explained that Lev had just escaped out a window. Theren moved on to rescue Zumtleheath, but was a shade too late and his sword swung a bit too slowly to fell the surprisingly fast skeleton who broke down the halfling’s door. Just before Theren could dispatch the abomination, the skeleton minion decapitated the screaming, terrified woman right in front of Theren. It was a grim and horrid scene. Though the party was instrumental in saving many of the village’s helpless residents and they all fought well, the death toll rang loudly.

Once all the enemies were dead, the victims related what had occurred: earlier that day, just hours before the party arrived, a horde of skeletons swarmed into town. The panic and mayhem was great, but the party realised that nearly nobody had been killed in the fracas, as if the skeletons were ordered not to kill but to herd the villagers into barricading themselves. This they did. Meanwhile, Fenstrom had swept through town, firing necrotic spells and cackling with glee. Again the party realised this seemed more designed to terrify than to kill. However, when they went to the little temple of Pelor where the cleric Koogan had kept the body of Ercullum, they discovered that Koogan was a direct and pointed victim of Fenstrom’s. The wizard had charged in, swinging a horrid rod capped with a skull, hitting Koogan square in the face. The body of the cleric showed that the face had been blasted off, stripped right down to the wet bone underneath.

As for Ercullum, his body was gone, having been carted away by skeletons under orders of Fenstrom. In its place was Ercullum’s very agitated uncle Ernst, who blamed Zepher for inviting all this trouble. What demonic spell had been cast on Ercullum’s body? It was showing no signs of decay at all! This must have made it the ideal target for a wicked necromancer to turn into a zombie. Ernst was inconsolable.

The people had huddled in the barricaded buildings for hours, jumping at every scratch at the door and leering skeletal face in the window. Fenstrom was nowhere to be seen or heard. Then the skeletons all began trying to break in, and the heroes made their assault.

In the aftermath, the party received the gratitude of the many rescued townspeople, who gave them all the earnings they could spare from the festival sales. Also most gratified was Baron Stockmer, who reverently gave them three gems which had been passed down through his family for generations. Popping up in the celebrations was Lev, who said that he had escaped in order to get a better vantage from which to fire his crossbow. Theren found this hard to believe. Lev buddied up with Theren and said he had something important to tell him. Theren took up Lev’s invitation to talk somewhere privately. As he was ushered into the Snake’s Head, Theren saw Lev slyly lift a gold chain from Theren’s pack. Theren ignored this and brought it up later, to Lev’s amusement. Lev wanted to offer Theren a chance to take advantage of something he heard Fenstrom saying to Moosook. Daggerburg Keep was riddled with shortcuts that only Fenstrom could use, by somehow using a fountain in the Keep which allowed Fenstrom to slip through cracks in the walls, and thereby passing up most of the Keep’s fortified defense rooms—it turned out that Fenstrom hated interacting with his guards. Lev proposed that he and Theren “ditch the losers” in the party, set off as a pair, get to Daggerburg (Lev knowing where it was, and refusing to tell Theren), and make off with Fenstrom’s loot as the wizard was distracted by the rest of the goody-goodies assaulting him. Theren agreed with this plan, privately planning to leave a trail of clues to allow the party to follow him and Lev to their destination.

The party resolves to get to Daggerburg Keep next. Fenstrom must be repaid for this horrific assault on their home town, seemingly designed to infuriate them into a howling revenge. The best way to figure out the nature of the trap is to spring the trap. With all speed they head for Daggerburg, before Fenstrom can prepare his defenses any further.

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