“Ashes to Ashes”
Evening of Dasad the 9th, 1331 Avard.
They sat around the second hearth in the home of Sir Tyrne le Boeuf, and brooded. That afternoon, they had retreated from their farm hold to the village of River Crown, having cremated the remains of their family. They were all still in shock.
Maleah was a tall woman that would sit motionless for hours, and then move with surprising grace. Deeply religious, there was ritual in almost all she did. She had been god-mother to all of Caerne's children and grandchildren, though her age seemed impossible to guess. Maleah had been god-mother of five of Caerne's children, and twenty of his grandchildren. There were only four grandchildren left – all that remained of Caerne's offspring. Caerne's second wife, Maleah's long-time friend, an elven woman by the name of Kaalaenala… she, too, was dead. Maleah herself had put Kaala's body on the funeral pyre.
Will o the wisps were drawn to powerful emotions, feeding off of them as a plant feeds off of sunlight. The carnage and the sorrow of the undead attack had lured a baby will o the wisp into the farm hold. Rather than let Sir Tyrne or any of the others kill it, she had taken it upon herself to raise the energetic creature. Though her lord had his misgivings, he agreed that every creature has a right to live until it does truly do evil. Maleah took in the small creature and named it 'Will', helping guide it to feed off of the rage and hatred and hopelessness and anger and despair without becoming an embodiment of those very emotions. Maleah found the raising of a newborn something of a comfort, given the losses to the family.
William Caerneson was missing, having disappeared late on the 7th of Dasad, travelling out of River Crown back to visit his family. His wife Esmerelda was dead, and so were two of his sons. The eldest son, Liam, had been apprenticed to the village smithy. Both the smithy and Liam had gone to Fasra for supplies, and so Liam was assumed safe. Liam's younger brother Telamon had survived the conflaguration and the assault, and was deep in anger and grief. His father William was missing, and his brother Liam in Fasra, but everyone else was dead, including his two younger brothers. There was nothing he could have done to save them, and all that was left was vengeance and a deep-seated anger.
The brothers Lucard and Aelar had one another to comfort, though it was a small comfort. Their parents were both dead, as were their grandparents on their mother's side. All of the Caerne Clan had been reduce to just the five of them, and it tortured them, angered them, drove them. Lucard stared into the fire, sharpening his only weapon, a scythe salvaged from the farm. Aelar could only close his eyes and relive the horror of that night in terrible detail, wondering if there were anything he could have done.
One of Sir Tyrne's people in the village of River Crown had seen the glow on the horizon, late in the night between the 8th and 9th of Dasad. Sir Tyrne and several men-at-arms had mounted up and rode to assist his friend Caerne. The barn, the only structure on Caerne's farm hold with much wood, had caught fire – as had the winter's store of hay. The fire had been started at some point during the attack, and Sir Tyrne and his men finished off what undead remained alive. The four ragged survivors were in poor shape, but Sir Tyrne and his men assisted them, and cremated the rest of the family in the hopes that they would not be reanimated as the undead.
From there, Sir Tyrne had taken the shaken and shocked remainders of his friend Caerne's family back to River Crown. He patched them up as best he could, gave them food and rest, and let them stay before his second hearth. He also gave them what weapons and armor he had; old, patched pieces of mail and knicked swords and many arrows. He knew the family would return to Caerne's Place to look through their farm hold, and Sir Tyrne did not want them to perish should there be more undead.
The elderly knight-paladin also had to dispatch messengers to check on the other farm holds, and ensure their safety. But, not during the night, for the the undead were the strongest. The family of Caerne had fought a small army, and it had taken most of the day to find all the pieces of skeletons and zombies and other beasties, and put them to the remains of the fire and burn them. Putting the younger children's bodies into the fires had been the hardest. In all his many of years of campaigning, Sir Tyrne felt the deaths of children the deepest.
The four of them stared into the fire, and were vaguely aware that a dwarf came to demand aid from Sir Tyrne. The knight-paladin had no one to spare, and the dwarf desperately wanted to cross over the mountain pass. He was crazed to think such; it was the middle of winter, and there was two feet of snow down in River Crown. The dwarf left in frustration, for neither his demands nor his gold would free up valuable men from River Crown, especially after an attack by the undead.
In the morning, the sun was bright and crisp, and the remains of Caerne's family set out on ice-covered snow. The bitterly cold winds were driven back by red-hot anger, but the three hours it took to march to the farm hold through the snow sapped their strength.
Cattle lowed outside the farm hold, most of the herd still intact, and one of Gull's horses nearby for some reason. They explored the remains of the farm hold, including a time-consuming excavation of the cremated remains to ensure that every one of Caerne's children and grandchildren had been accounted for. Someone – perhaps a bandit – had ransacked Maleah's home and one other. Everywhere the undead had been, desecration was still felt. Only Maleah's home and the family temple had survived their ravages more or less intact. One of the building's beams had been cut clean in half. One of the stones had been removed from a hearth, the mortar left intact, by one form of undead.
Maleah found the hidden place of her dear friend Kaala, Caerne's elven wife. Kaala had stashed away a purse with gold in it, as well as a purse with silver and coppers and bits of jewels. There was a portfolio of documents in the elven script – and one of the documents was encoded in some way. Maleah's old friend Kaala had never told her about that particular document.
They managed to find one of Grandmother Kaala's earrings, and Kaatrinae's silver necklace, but most all other jewelry was gone. The cremated bones of the family had been ravaged by someone. The boot print in Maleah's home indicated at least one man. But the snow of the previous night, topped by crusted ice, hid all trace of the bandit.
Telamon blew his horn once for every death there at Caerne's Place. Frozen tears marked his cheeks, and the cheeks of those outside. Inside, Maleah paused in preparing warmth and food for the boys, remembering her lost friend Kaala and all her children and step-children.
The cattle lowed in panic, and when they stepped out to see what was the matter, they realized that half the herd were undead. The undead cattle charged, but daylight and an ever-burning anger helped the party organize, slaughtering the undead cattle as they stampeded through the open gate of the farm hold.
One of them spied movement on the horizon, far to the southeast, and they had to investigate, to see if it was more undead. Leaving Malleah's hearth and the farm hold behind, they set out through the snow to follow the direction of the movement.
After an hour's hard run, they spied four figures walking towards Gull's place. The four figures had little meat on their exposed bones, and wore no clothing. They were undead, their joints rippling with black, necromatic energies, and a black core of pulsing black energy in their rib cages.
Telamon and Lucard let fly with arrows, and were met in turn by archers; two of the undead fired back. The archery battle went on for some time, both sides whittling away at one another, until the other two skeletons closed and charged. The battle was brief, and afterwards Telamon set to breaking every single one of the skeletons' bones so that they could never reanimate again.
Afternoon of Dasad the 10th, 1331 Avard.
We met at my place on THU14JAN2010, and ordered Papa John's for dinner. David was stuck up in Chicago and unable to attend this first session, but as it was the first session, the storyline David had for his character easily let us move on without leaving him behind.
The brutal cold caused many an Endurance check against a DC of 22 – modified to 17 because of their cold-weather gear and furs. Each hour's failure cost them a healing surge, and it was three hours to Caerne's Place from River Crown, and another three hours out chasing the undead – leaving them three hours from anywhere with three hours left in the day. Cue the tense music.