“Bones to Dust”
Afternoon of Dasad the 10th, 1331 Avard.
Lucard, Aelar, Telamon, and Maleah set out across the snow-covered plains for Gull's place. The horse they had found at the farm hold had been one of Gull's three horses, and so they set out to check on him. The north wind was chilly, and so they upped their pace to a hard march.
With an hour left till sunset, they spied Gull's place in the far distance – and bodies all about. They ran in with weapons ready, but as they got closer, they could see that the bodies belonged either to livestock or to the skeletal remains of orcs. There were signs of a fight, and frozen blood in the snow, along with hoof prints from more horses than Gull owned.
They figured that Sir Tyrne had ridden through, and helped rescue Gull. The bodies had been left, though, and night was coming on. The hay was still in the barn half of Gull's long and low turf building, and so they drug the bodies and the bones in out of the wind – and set fire to the hay. The fire roared hot and fast before burning long and slow, and put off so much heat that inside of the sod building turned to glass on that end of the building.
In the morning, they set out north and east along the Sunset Creek, toward Simon's place, where Sunset Creek and the Western Cold River met. Simon and his family were well, Sir Tyrne having checked on them the day before – and gone through with Gull's family, rescued from the undead. One of Simon's sons had seen the glow on the horizon to the south and west, but they could only hope it was the barn burning.
Simon told them, too, that their brother Liam and the blacksmith Sir Tucker had both stayed the night, and set off at sunrise for River Crown. They had been told about the loss of Caerne's place, but if the party hurried, they might could catch Liam and Sir Tucker.
As the party hurried out along the Western Cold River, they spied a storm front coming. As they made progress, so did the storm front. Within a mark, they had caught up with Liam and Sir Tucker, and the family was reunited. Telamon and his brother did not get along well, but they knew they were family. Neither had word on their father, William, but both still hoped he was alive.
With the storm coming on quickly, they opted to make for Wyanne and the Weavies. The Weavies were a fair-sized brood, with the widow Wyanne living in a building nearby. They were half-way to River Crown and sat the juncture of the Western Cold River, and Mud Snake Creek. The storm was on them before they could make the juncture, with white-out conditions and bitterly cold winds.
Maleah's adopted will-o-the-wisp lit the way for her memory, and they made it to the Weavies ere long had gone by. The Weavies were startled at the knock on the door, but reassurances and the good-natured barking of the Weavies' three dogs gained them access against the storm.
Inside, they warmed up and caught up. Sir Tyrne had gone by early the day before, but not been by since. Telamon and Liam seemed distant from the children – reminded of the little brothers and sisters they had lost at Caerne's place. Lucard and Aelar, though, warmed to the children for the same reasons. Maleah's will-o-the-wisp, more often simply called 'Will', fed off of the good-natured energy of the children and their peals of laughter, as Lucard and Aelar entertained them.
The dogs began to growl. A quick reconaissance by Will revealed bone-white undead moving through the white-out with no difficulties, massing to assault the Weavies' place. Some diplomacy convinced the Elder Weavie to get into the root cellar with his family, and leave the fighting to Caerne's vengeful children, whom had already been armored by Sir Tyrne and proven themselves against the undead at Caerne's place twice already.
Skeletons beat down the main door, but the party was ready for them, Sir Tucker and Liam in reserve. Will kept watch over the barn, and when skeletons beat down that door, Telamon and Maleah responded. The battle was fast and furious, with arrows streaking into the building from the bitterly cold white outside. Aelar's spirit falcon gave them a lantern of light just inside the door, even as the dogs helped take down one skeleton. Within moments, even the terrible skeleton leader astride his horse was cut down both from within and from behind – Telemon using the side of the building to guide himself back around to Will's light.
No more attacks came, and the home was resecured. The bones of all the skeletons, including the horse's, was beaten to dust at the hearth. Liam and the others convinced the Wyanne and the Weavies to flee to River Crown as soon as the weather let up. Only River Crown had enough people to save them en masse. Lucard and Aelar had tried to convince Simon of the same, but they had failed in their arguments, and could only hope that Simon and his family were all right.
The storm was gone by morning of the next day, and they set out along the river, the Weavies' livestock helping to pull Sir Tucker's sled with its load of iron pigs for the forge. The family moved as quickly as they could against the cold, the elven children of Caerne helping to herd the livestock such that they broke trail, Maleah helping to take care of the children, and Liam helping with the rest. Telamon kept a wary eye out for trouble, as the dogs cautiously sniffed the air.
They made River Crown by noon, and they were welcomed by Sir Tyrne and several others. Sir Tucker went to work at the forge, turning out weapons for the people. Caerne's children were given the northern section of the city to defend: the mill, the miller's, and several homes besides. The mill had a lateral wind mill that was offline in the chill of the winter, and Lucard and Aelar set about constructing an observation platform atop the wind mill.
Liam, noting the state of repairs among their weapons and equipment, was given leave by Sir Tucker to use the metals found at Gull's place to forge a good broad sword for his brother Telamon. Maleah spent her time at the temple, helping make holy water and 'holy maces'. Sir Tucker had taught them a trick long known to the dwarves, of setting out a bowl of holy water with a stick in it, and letting it freeze overnight into a mace that could be used once or twice to whack the undead before it shattered.
Telamon found some time to romance one of Gull's daughters, whom had made it to River Crown safe and sound. She was quite a comely lass, and had ever been fond of Telamon. He, in turn, had taken a renewed interest in the lass after the disaster that had befallen his family.
The sun set, and Maroth rose in the sky, throwing dim red light on a calm landscape of white turned red by the giant world nearby.
And then the undead horde was seen from the observation platform atop the wind mill. The two elves were warm enough against the wind in their many blankets and sail cloth, though they chilled at the sight of so many undead. One stood out, taller than the others by the height of a man again.
The alarm was sounded, and Sir Tyrne and those that had horses mounted up. Those on foot massed as well, with Caerne's children held as a reserve. The mounted men rushed forward into the battle as best they could, their horses somewhat hampered by the snow – but so, too, were the undead. The first ranks of the undead were scythed down, before the fighting turned into a melee. The men afoot waded into the melee, and the mass of undead yet to fight parted, splitting into two wings that made for River Crown. And through the maelstrom strode the remains of an ogre, still partially covered in the strange plate of the ograns. Its axe blade alone was the size of a man.
Caerne's children met the attacker head on, peppering it with arrows until it charged full into them. It would swing and knock one into the snow or barely miss or just manage not to chop someone in two, while Will and Aerlar's falcon harassed it, as everyone tore into the beast with everything they had. And then it went down in pieces.
From inside the town, they heard the other battles dying down. Sir Tyrne and his men had mounted up again, and used the well-used streets of the town to their advantage, mowing down the undead wherever they might be. The 'holy maces' did their fair share of damage, as well. And then there was only the howling of the dogs and the wailing of children.
Evening of Dasad the 14th, 1331 Avard.
We met at my place, and dinner was gumbo. I made too much; I had a full gallon of gumbo in the pot when everyone left! Still remembering some of my old tricks as a DM, and reaching back into an old grab bag for ideas and plots and how to make things run smoothly. With five players, there is some lag time in between combat rolls, but I think I know how to tidy that up a bit. (Thanks, Todd! Sometimes you give DMing advice many months in advance of me needing it!)
The role play is fantastic. Everyone slips between fiery-driven character and laughing-carefree player quite easily, and it makes for some great gaming. That Ross and Bo and Bill have known one another most of their lives makes them an entertaining bunch that plays off of each other both in and out of game. They've made me and David and Sommer feel quite welcome, and the group as a whole has benefitted tremendously.
The party made a skills challenge to help fortify the town, and their amazing multiple successes really helped make their section of the town, and the town as a whole, much more defendable against the undead. Bo's avenger rushing into the battle with ethereal wings flying him in against his foe, a two-handed scythe held high, is a particularly memorable event of that evening and that final battle.
Great session all!
I'm normally a quiet player because most of the people I've played with in the past always found role-play hokey (more hack-in-slash types I guess) but with this group I think we're going to have some great sessions whether we fight or not. I've also never played a character whose main stat is charisma so hopefully I'll get to roll even more diplomacy checks :)