Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 13

This adventure was Friday June 5, 2015. E.G., T.F., C.H., A.T., and K.D. were present.

Paladin Raygar Brightblade arrives at the ruins of the church town. Wee Jack, Jere Collado, Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann, and Xorn are contemplating a raid on another abandoned house. The party’s first sweep of a cabin went extremely well; the zombies offered no resistance.

Raygar is always up for slaying undead – he leads the charge through the door of a second derelict house. Inside, the party encounters five zombies, again an easy fight against cowering opponents. Thus cleared, the other four houses await their turn.

Collado, Pann, and Brightblade bust into another abandoned dwelling. Half-Orc Ranger Xorn, in the mood to prank, hangs back outside the entrance, occasionally shutting the door to close his friends in complete darkness with the harmless zombies. Wee Jack raids a house on his own but finds the fight far too much a cakewalk. When he is done killing hapless undead, the dismayed Gnome Barbarian climbs to the roof of the house and keeps watch. There’s no sport in this hunt.

Eventually the party, despite holdouts and interference, clears out the remaining houses. Quick victories and paltry loot whet their appetites for a bigger score. The church is right here, and seemingly unoccupied – though crossing the boneyard gives the group pause.

Jere Collado focuses his faith and makes a Turn attempt at a section of the bone field that rings the church. His basic Turn is enhanced by the same mysticism that weakens the Undead after a Full Moon; as a Greater Turn, Collado’s effort destroys an unknown number of animated Skeletons hiding under the remains. The Cleric performs a few more of these enhanced Turns, across a wider area. Just in case.

A safer, if still gruesome, path now lies before the party. Picking their way through a jumble of humanoid bones, weeds, fragments of cloth and armor, the group passes the bone field and assembles before the church. Its doors are slightly ajar; no sound comes from within.

Wee Jack summons courage and swings one door wide open. His friends take a step back and grip their weapons tightly. Sunlight pours into the dusty temple, mixing with dull shafts of light trickling through stained-glass skylights above dark wood-beam rafters. The party eyes the dirty stone floor, the plain white walls blackened in places where Pelor iconography should be, and mounds of overturned pews. No movement. A feeling of disappointment – there doesn’t seem to be anything here. Carefully, Wee Jack steps inside, with Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann close behind.

From somewhere at the far end of the hall, behind piles of wooden benches, a woman’s voice calls out, asking if someone has come to help her. She sounds injured, or exhausted, or both.

Xorn, still outside in the fresh air and bright sun, is suspicious. So is Wee Jack. This unseen, seemingly wounded petitioner might-or-might-not be one of the Emissaries of Retribution. Wee Jack thinks, but doesn’t recall learning any of their names. If he had, he could respond to challenge and verify who she is. Rogue-Ranger-Samaritan Pann doesn’t care – he charges in, zigzagging between obstacles to bring aid to the injured adventurer.

Unfortunate surprises await the party. When Pann bolts off into the unknown, Raygar Brightblade and Jere Collado enter the former church of Pelor. The Paladin instantly recoils at the Unhallow permanently set inside the temple; Cleric Collado can sense it as well. This is a nest of evil.

Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann clears the last pile of pews near the altar, only to run headlong into an especially nasty-looking creature waiting in ambush. The foul humanoid Undead is fleshy, smells hideous, and is wrapped tight in loathsome, secretion-soaked bandages. It attacks the Gnome, having lured him close with a clever ruse common to its kind. The creature, and others like it who hide nearby, were alerted to trespassers by a Detect Good spell bound to the Unhallow. Wee Jack set it off when he stepped over the threshold.

Narrow, tight quarters hinder the party’s rush to help Pann. Noomfoodle is under attack somewhere near the far wall. Xorn does not stray from the exit; Collado and Brightblade weave into the maze and encounter the other creatures laying in wait, and engage in combat.

Wee Jack eyes the walls and ceiling and sees a better way. Rushing to a nearby column, the Barbarian climbs up to the rafters and leaps from beam to beam, making his way across to a perch above the fights in progress.

The oozing, mummy-like Undead are daunting opponents. One clobbers Pann and infects the Gnome with Gangrenous Touch, a persistent rot that drains the victim’s Constitution each round. Noomfoodle’s injuries drop him unconscious, but Fortune favours him – he makes the required sequential Fortitude saves and his body resists further spread of the disease.

Raygar Brightblade spars with a disgusting opponent. Collado blasts a different one with a force-effect spell. This will prove the only damage dealt by the party in the fight. Retreat quickly becomes the best and only option.

The Paladin dashes to the comatose Pann, drags him to relative safety near a side wall, then heaves him up to a dangling Wee Jack. With a tremendous feat of strength, the Barbarian hauls his fellow Gnome up to the rafters, loads him on his shoulders like a sack of potatoes, and scampers across to above the exit.

Ranger Xorn receives Pann and carries him outside. Collado and Brightblade cover each other’s retreat, falling back as the six misshapen Undead creatures shamble after them. Wee Jack is the last one out. He turns and steels himself to fight. Xorn hurls a javelin through the doorway and hits one of the Undead, dealing no damage.

Contrary to expectation, the Undead creatures do not pursue. Half hang back in the shadows. The others shuffle to the doorway, stare down the adventurers without leaving the sanctity of their unholy ground, and laugh horrible, gurgling amusement at the party’s failure. One, its true voice thick as mud, invites the group to come back again soon.

The church doors swing shut; grotesque laughter fades to silence behind them. Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann is stabilized and woken from comatose. Healing is shared around, and temporary attribute damage lamented. The adventurers cannot wait to leave. Perhaps in two weeks, after the New Moon, they might come back and have more success. Today they are lucky to escape with their lives.

It is now afternoon on the 23rd day of March, by the local calendar.

 

(end of Part 13)

 

Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann is now Level 4.

 

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About d20horizons

D&D player.
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