Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 16

This adventure was Friday July 3, 2015. T.F., E.G., A.T., K.D., and C.H. were present.

No-one stoked the fireplace during the night. Ranger Xorn, Barbarian Wee Jack, Paladin Raygar Brightblade, Cleric Jere Collado, and Ranger-Rogue Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann wake in their chilly and slightly damp storefront cabin. Rain came and went in the night; everything in the enclave is slick. Between the wood-slat boardwalk the mud oozes up with each step.

Party members weigh the cost-versus-effort of breakfast at the main hall or foraging the garden for it. A half-Orc guard, Tarbuck, stops to talk. Just down from a shift on the wall, the tired night watchman mentions seeing an interesting group of zombies to the northwest. They are dressed in similar outfits, and might be worth the party’s time.

Comfortable dining can wait. Back in their storefront to arm up and scarf down a quick few bits of trail ration, then the group leaves the enclave and circles to the northwest. It is not difficult to locate the Undead that Tarbuck saw; a few hundred yards off is that cluster of six humanoids.

Spread out in a line, intent on their objective, Xorn and his group quickly close the distance. These Undead are all dressed alike – not with the notable green sash of Corellon’s 13th Legion, but in swathes of fabric and turbans that also wrap around their faces. INT and WIS checks gain Collado and his friends no insights, regardless of how obvious the insight.

No formalities mark the onset of combat; simply that Noomfoodle and his crew move to within thirty feet of the shambling Undead, and hold their ground. There is caution against the possibility some or all of these are Wights. Spot and Sense Motive checks don’t betray any deception; the proof will be in the quality of the Undead’s attack.

The creatures move like zombies; quick in a short burst to make melee range, then slow and languid in their blows. Two enemies are unarmed; two swing scimitars and one has a falchion. The sixth zombie, kitted out in shiny splint-mail, carries a massive Great Falchion.

Xorn demonstrates the wisdom and patience of a Ranger versed in the art of Favoured Enemy combat. He moves and attacks with careful tactical consideration; leaving no movement unused, and re-positioning to avoid giving up flanking benefits.

Raygar Brightblade feels he has much to prove. Often labouring at trench-digging outside the enclave defenses while the others adventure, the Paladin fears he is falling behind the group in experience. So today his initiative and zeal are superlative; he Power Attacks and Smites Evil with extraordinary intensity.

On the inside of one wrist, Gnome Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann had carefully inked a reminder for himself, one he considers etching permanently should a tattoo artist ever take up residence in Riddley’s Crown. He glances at this notation and is assured that the Slashing weapons he holds, a short-sword and a dagger, are the proper tools for a zombie fight. Pann does not emulate Xorn’s principles of mobility; thus the Rogue-Ranger too frequently remains in easy reach of hostile walking corpses. He is the first to be dropped; a heavy-handed scimitar strike lays him out.

Next to fall is Paladin Brightblade. His ambition to take on the presumed leader of this zombie cult earned him critical hits from the vicious great-falchion. Wee Jack is alive only by the enhancement to Constitution gained from Barbarian Rage. He has two zombie kills to his name and might not score more.

Jere Collado is ready to save lives. Opening the fight with Divine Protection and Divine Vigor, Cleric Collado is less interested in engaging in combat than he is keeping a watchful eye over his friends. He sees Pann fall prone, and is there within seconds to stabilize the Gnome. Raygar’s severe injuries were a surprise to Collado, but Jere found an easy path to his friend’s side, healing him back into the fight. Then the Cleric risks approaching the enraged Gnome Barbarian to extend his life with a healing spell.

The outcome of this fight was never certain. The zombies had many attacks go their way, and the party cursed their luck. When the sixth and final zombie drops, there is an unexpected sense of relief. Newfound treasure seems all the more well-earned after this effort.

All but one of the zombies wore leather-scale armor; the leader had splint mail that Collado’s Detect Magic spell indicates as magical, at a +1 quality. All weapons are Masterwork quality, including a kukri in each zombie’s belt. Modest gold and silver are counted, plus two gems, one of which is quite valuable.

Items in a pack suggest the origin of these unlucky adventurers. There are vials of eye-black, a distillation kit, a strange packet of salts and ground-up herbs – and more than a bit of sand in pockets and pouches. These were evidently men from the deserts far to the south.

No healing potions, though there is a Potion of Darkvision. And to Wee Jack’s combined delight and dismay, there happened to be a Masterwork Small-sized Great-axe in with the zombies’ effects – exactly the weapon the Gnome just finished paying blacksmith Riis to forge for him.

Loaded with gear, the party retraces their steps back to the enclave. It is a short hike, and on the way they witness an unusual scene. There is a knot of four or five zombies ambling along a hundred yards to the north, not close enough to threaten the party nor give them chase. As Brightblade and his friends estimate the potential threat, two camouflaged ambushers emerge from the grasses on either side of the Undead. Within seconds, they take down all the zombies. Xorn Spots that the attackers are the two half-Orc Fighters or Rangers that arrived in town three days ago. Their prowess is the topic of discussion all the way back to Riddley’s Crown.

Dwarf trader Dredburn welcomes his customers and their wares for his consideration. He is especially interested in the distillation kit, complete and undamaged as it is, offering four times its list price to purchase. Xorn and Wee Jack are not swayed by the gold, knowing the tremendous innate value of the ability to generate pure drinking water out of any contaminated or questionable source.

Looking over the other items, Dredburn identifies the herbal mix as deep draught – a blend that, when consumed, provokes the body to retain water. Quite useful in hot, arid climates like those where the Southlanders had come from. The Dwarf remembers a party of them here last year.

After concluding with the trader, Collado leads the group to the blacksmith. Lanna Riis eagerly buys up the Southlander weapons, knowing their quality. She examines the Great-axe Wee Jack has just found. It is stamped with the mark of a master Dwarf smith. Riis frankly admits it of higher quality than she can construct. She is not far into his commission, and can easily fashion the Barbarian a Masterwork Small-sized Great-club instead. Others place deposits for items they would like made when Riis is done that job.

Xorn waited outside the smithy. He is still somewhat unwelcome after pranking Lanna Riis with that rotted Hide armor a week ago. The Ranger wanders by the stables and, finding the Redmond Brigade off to a late start this morning, gifts them surplus suits of leather-scale armor. The Ranger still believes their intent is foolishly dangerous, but he’ll give them a fighting chance to survive. His generosity is praised but his stern caution is overlooked.

It is now mid-morning on the 25th day of March, by the local calendar.

 

(end of Part 16)

 

Xorn is Level 5.

Wee Jack is Level 5.

Jere Collado is Level 4.

Raygar Brightblade is now Level 4.

 

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About d20horizons

D&D player.
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