“The Other Team's Bust”
Later afternoon of the 16th of Dasad, 1331 Avard.
In the shadows of the mountain pass, the remains of the Caerne Clan labored to erect the totem that would protect them from the night. The undead mostly came out at night. Mostly.
They were hailed from further up the pass. A man dressed in red leather armor, with an elf and a kobold by his sides, called imperiously to them. He demanded knowledge of a great ice creature, and of a man with it. His tone left no doubt in the mind of the family of Caerne that the man had no respect for them.
Telemon held up the dead man's frozen head, still gaping at something in abject terror. Dropping the head, Telemon nearly started a fight with the imperious man and his friends. Cooler heads prevailed, and god-mother Maleah and paladin Liam helped keep the situation under control.
The imperious man said that he was the son and heir of Baron Bruden Dunnigan, Lord of Lena. The son's name was Boredmin – and the frozen head had been his brother, Aredis. Boredmin used his status as a mage of Lok Magius and heir-Lord of Lena as a cudgel, expecting the 'peasants' before him to do his bidding.
The elf with Boredmin merely smirked at all of the exchange. He wore over his sky-blue leathers a white tunic with the elven sigil for 'pain' marked on it. His blue eyes were as cold as the winds of the pass.
The kobold with Boredmin spoke no common. The simplest of swords for hire, he kept silent for the most part, taking his cues from Boredmin and continually sniffing the wind. Boredmin had others with him, hidden out in the snow.
A pulse of necromantic energies from further up the pass left a visible shock wave along the softer surface snow. From beneath the snow and ice, they could hear things moving. Skeletons of orcs and kobolds, over a score of them, rose from their icy graves. And so did the skeletal remnants of an ogre, standing ten feet tall with bones as thick as most men.
The family of Caerne knew what to do, and they did it quickly, attacking the undead nearest the totem so that Orven and Maleah could work faster, to get the totem up and functioning. Maleah had already begun the incantation that would activate the totem, and Orven had started tamping the earth in around the totem to secure it.
The ogre almost reached Maleah, but was finally defeated. But before she could complete the ritual, another pulse of necromatic energies cascaded down the pass, bringing dark and shadowy life back to another score of ogran bones.
Boredmin and his crew did what they could, the heir-lord showing that he was a fire mage through and through. Finally, all of the undead went down. And the totem was activated, sending out counter-pulses to the pull of necromantic energies, and preventing the icy graveyards denizens from waking.
The heir-lord seemed less inclined towards his imperiousness, after seeing the 'peasants' in action. Each of them seemed touched by the gods in some way; even Telemon seemed possessed of some inner fire that the fire-mage could only begin to fathom. He reigned in his callous attitudes, somewhat, reminding himself that the lands of the Janis Duchy were foreign and dangerous – and that those peoples had once been Inquisitors, Mage Hunters.
Boredmin's other two crew joined him – one a quiet kobold that spoke common, the other a dour dwarf. The dwarf and Orven eyed one another, and had an instant distaste for one another. Caerne's family did not inquire, but noticed the tense situation. The quiet kobold spoke the common tongue, and seemed the most level-headed of the group, also serving as interpreter for the other kobold.
Aelar managed to bring in two mountain goats for dinner, and Lucard found a recently abandoned wagon beneath the snow. With fire-roasted goat in their bellies and the totem to watch over them, they felt a bit safer, though wary of Boredmin. Boredmin and his allies helped themselves to a great deal of the goat meat – although the quiet kobold respectfully paid for his small bites.
Another pulse of necromatic energies blasted down the pass, but was countered by the totem. No more undead would rise from mountain pass or Wirebeard's Ledge. The totem was named “Caerne's Ward” by the family; a name plate was created by carving the name and date into a srik carapace and mounted onto the totem.
And then the heir-lord was finished with the lot of them. He gathered up his brother's head, disgusted at not finding more of his body or the shards of the crystal that had killed him. Then Boredmin Dunnigan and his crew left the camp of the family of Caerne, trudging up the mountain pass in the night, the flaming head of Boredmin's quarterstaff guiding them.
The family of Caerne rested through the night, taking turns at watch, recovering from their harrowing day of fighting the undead.
In the morning, they set out north, to finish escorting Orven over the pass. They found the tracks of Boredmin easily enough, and followed for some time, gaining relatively quickly. Boredmin and his crew wore no snow-shoes, and thus had to force their way through the drifts and snow and ice, while the family of Caerne walked on top of it all. Even Orven had snow shoes, fashioned earlier that morning by Liam with the help of the elven brothers Lucard and Aelar.
There were several more pulses of necromatic energy, all countered by Caerne's Ward behind them, though they worried at finding the edge of the totem's effects. The paths of the heir-lord and his crew veered off and returned up Wirebeard's Ledge at some point, but rather than follow, Maleah and Aelar sent their spirit companions on to see where the prints went.
Just before catching up with Boredmin and his bunch, the spirit companions returned, telling that there was a cave of elemental dangers up along the top of the ledge.
Boredmin, it seemed, had come to the pass to find the cave and perhaps control its elementals. One of the elementals had apparently controlled Boredmin's brother, instead.
The Caerne Clan caught up to the heir-lord and his minions, and Boredmin immediately demanded that the clan make he and his some snow shoes, as well. Telemon was ready to beat the man's face in, but the noble insisted that if they were to travel together, then they would need to all travel quickly.
There was another pulse of necromatic energies from further up the pass, but luckily there were no bones nearby to animate. Boredmin rushed off to find the source of the necromatic energies, and the clan followed.
A horde of undead milled about a pillar of green flame, and in the center of the hellish green flames writhed a man like a puppet on strings. The pillar of green fire generated a considerable amount of necromatic power – and the undead, seeing the crew and the clan, attacked.
The kobold that spoke none of the Common tongue rushed forward in an attack – and then he went down.
A hail of arrows from archers and a hail of sharp bones from hurlers preceeded two hulking ogre skeletons, while orc skeletons raced forwards. The undead seemed stronger, tougher than those faced further down the pass, and the battle was fierce. Will and Maleah together countered the undead in several places, while Aelar and Telamon and Lucard fought one of the giants. Liam and Orven attacked another of the giant skeletons, seeking to bring them down as quickly as possible through the hail of thrown bones and attacking skeletons.
Boredmin, frightened by such undead, accidently unleashed a wave of fire that also burned the elf at his side. The elf, having had enough of such troubles, ran Boredmin through. The dwarf crossbowman of Boredmin's fired a quarrel into the elf, in return.
The clan, meanwhile, brought the fight to the archers and the hurlers. The quiet kobold managed to distract the skeletons long enough for the clan to close to beating distance. The four brothers were wounded several times, sometimes badly, but always they helped one another up and helped one another back long enough to get their second wind and take the fight back to the enemy.
The figure within the writhing maelstrom of green hellfire let loose with arcane bolts of force and vile bolts of necromatic energies, and fear was upon the clan.
And then it was over. Swaying on their feet, they realized that it was over. The figure within the greenish hellfire had been a boy of no more than fifteen, possessed by a spirit far more powerful than he, using a relic he should never have touched. A blackened femur from an elf, with owl feathers tied around its head, had been the focus for the necromatic pulses. Maleah and Aelar realized that the boy must have been flirting with necromancy, and then dominated by something more powerful. He had no clothing, and there was no way to identify him.
Lucard and Liam helped both kobolds recover from their terrible wounds, and even nursed the cruel elf. The hidden dwarf huffed off into the distance, and soon, so did the elf, in a different direction.
The clan was left with more questions than answers about the behavior of the crew, but realized there was an onus upon them. They knew the fates of the Lord of Lena's sons there in the pass, and felt a responsibility to return the bodies.
Minus Boredmin's purse, of course. Burials and transports of bodies were expensive, after all. Inside the purse, they found a considerable amount of gold, almost doubling what they had from River Crown.
Mid morning of the 17th of Dasad, 1331 Avard.
Met at my place in the pouring rain. Dinner was a free-for-all. The final battle ran a lot longer than I thought it would; it started at 9pm and ended around 10:30pm. There's been a lot of fighting, back-to-back battles, and more. Much of the next bit of story will call less for weapons and more for will, as they get over the pass and into a new land.
Had a *great* time! Found myself scrolling back to see what Ross decided on for the totem…teehee… Now, if I can just roll better.
Super fun session. I changed the recap a little to include the name of the totem!
I feel like we were just a bunch of peasants trying to prove ourselves, but now we've showed others that we're fully capable of handling our own.
Oh yeah, I also wanted to ask: What did we find on fire mage guy's body? A map of the cave and there was something else besides the purse.
He had a waterproofed leather case with his patents of nobility in it, along with a map of the Wirebeards' Ledge with the cave entrance marked in elven as Quidirikar. Boredmin Dunnigan wore red-dyed flame-like leather armor, and carried a redwood quarterstaff with red-gold inlay. He wore a fair-sized ruby inset into a gold ring on his left hand's middle finger; it could be unique enough that the family would know it as his. Boredmin's pack contained food, water, blankets, and a small but serviceable tent. His purse contained 28 gold coins, 15 silver coins, and 30 copper coins, all of Rakoran mint.