After a quick conference, and recognising the wearied and battered state of some of the party, it was decided to make the quick trip back into town, to restock, reinvigorate, and re-evaluate.
Winterhaven, though, had other ideas. Presented with closed gates, and a couple of worried looking militia manning the walls, the party was given the grim news by Lord Padraig: The town was now under threat from a horde of the restless dead, with several villagers already falling victim to the revenants…
No rest for the wicked then.
Joreb, loquacious as ever, asked Lord Padraig’s permission to at least restock the party’s supplies. The good Lord gracelessly acquiesced, whereupon the Paladin spent what appeared to be the entirety of the group’s hard-earned loot on a spiffing new set of armour for himself. Luckily Merry was absent at the time, seemingly distracted by the food stalls (and the buxom wench manning..er, womanning, the stall)…
With determination and will, and some fancy new plate armour, the group marched themselves down to the cemetery.
From the gates, all looked calm: the graves undisturbed, the late afternoon sun dappling through the autumnal leaves of the few withered-looking trees amongst the worn gravestones.
Merry, avid as ever to throw himself into the action, slunk forward and nimbly made his way into a scouting perch in a nearby tree. Glorien, elf-silent and with drawn bow, followed close by. The two scouts spotted the eldritch glow emanating from a circle of arcane runes further into the graveyard.
In a potentially foolhardy move, Glorien loosed a flurry of arrows at the circle. Luckily, nothing untoward appeared to happen, and the scouts motioned for the rest of the party to advance.
Advance they did, with only Mikal – still bearing the mental scars of having already being ambushed once in his short adventuring life – wisely hanging back and gravitating towards the shadows in the lee of a tomb, keeping a wary eye on the nearby graves.
Advance they did – straight into an undead ambush!
As the skeletal horde clawed its way out of the dry ground, another surprise met the adventurers, as a bewitchingly beautiful elf maiden stepped forward from a tomb to the north. Glorien and Joreb gasped, recognising her as Ninaran, the elf who had sent them on one of their first quests. Before he could open his mouth to call a greeting, however, Ninaran drew her bow, notched and loosed an arrow in one smooth motion – only his elfin reflexes saving him from a skewering strike. Engraged, Glorien raced forward to engage in a duel of arrows, as the undead minions closed in…
Merry, furthest into the graveyard, was the first to feel the bite of (admittedly rusty) steel after being mobbed by the ambulatory bones. Desperately trying to avoid the blows raining down, Merry was unable to defend himself, as with an unearthly howl, a Grave Hound bounded its way down the steps of the mausoleum, and launched itself at Merry, who was knocked prone by the vicious bite of the hellish canine.
The rest of the party drew close, Jonn Redgar exhorting his companions to strike true; Joreb, new armour shining brightly in the afternoon sun, smiting virtuously at the undead menace; Glorien, ignoring the clumsy strikes of the minions to send arrow after arrow at the elf Ninaran; Mikal, drawing the shadows close as he marched forth to curse and blast corpse after corpse…
But still they came on! More howls from the mausoleum, as two more Hounds bounded into the fray, striking at Joreb and Jonn. Beset, the two strongarms of the party could do little but struggle under the onslaught, landing blows where they could, and exerting themselves mightily to aid the smallest party member, Merry. Merry himself, though now able to dodge the attacks of the clumsy skeletons, could seemingly do little about the snapping jaws of the hounds, and he felt himself weakening, necrotic energies coursing through his diminutive frame.
Words of encouragement from Jonn urged Joreb to greater feats, and he managed to free himself long enough to call on the favour of Pelor, creating a circle of sanctuary for the party.
Mikal, seemingly encouraged, drew upon his arcane knowledge: A sneering curse on his lips, he stepped shoulder-to-shoulder with Joreb, and directed a wave of thunderous energy at the crowding undead, searing the rotting fur of a hound, and blasting some corpses; then, with a malicious glint in his eye, he called forth a maelstrom of fey energies with which to assail the other hounds. Joreb, so close to the warlock, was unlucky enough to be caught up in the arcane burst, but thankfully escaped unscathed…
Elsewhere, Glorien managed to render Ninaran unconscious, but found himself beset with yet more undead, and left to fend for himself – the rest of the party still tangling with undead menaces of their own. An elf is never defenceless however; though he took many blows, Glorien was able to use his elven agility to break free and send his foes back to the realms of the quietly dead.
By the time he turned to see how the rest of the party was faring, it was all over bar the shouting. Mikal danced across the battlefield, drawing fey mists and shadows around his figure, only to appear behind his foes and blast them with eldritch power. Jonn and Joreb had teamed up to smite the remaining cursed and weakened hounds, whilst Merry dispatched the last of the skeletal minions with typical brashness.
Breathing heavily, and wiping their weapons clean of necrotic ichor, the party looked around, taking stock. Whilst Merry and Mikal rifled the long dead corpses, Joreb marched over to their unconcious captive, tying her securely with ropes. Turning his attention to the circle of runes, Joreb aided Mikal in the cleansing of the circle, thus ensuring no further abominations would rise.
Ninaran was searched, and a piece of parchment (along with a small sum of gold), was found in her pocket. The letter revealed that she was in league with Kal Arel(?); it also revealed a password to be used somewhere on the second level of the keep. She was summarily slapped out of her unconscious state, and brusquely questioned. Intimidated, and realising it was best to be truthful in such a situtation, she quickly revealed all – how she had worked with Kal Arel(?) to divert the heroes on at least one occasion, and how she had reported to Kal Arel(?) on the actions of the group. Babbling on, and fearing for her life, she also revealed a genuine nugget of information – the passphrase in the letter was a ruse, and the real one was thus: “And life fails in the dark”.
Showing typical mercy and justice, the Paladin agreed to speak in defence of Ninaran. Merry, though clearly dumbstruck, held his tongue and the party returned to town, whereupon they recounted the afternoons adventure to Lord Padraig. With Ninaran safely locked up, Joreb then wheedled some cash out of the clearly destitute Lord, and the crew took the chance for a hearty meal and a good nights sleep…
Loot: 139 GP
XP: 1075/5 = 215XP each