Title: Reegel's Tomb, Part One
Date: Mid Dalan, 1333 Avard
Synopsis: The company investigates the tomb of Reegel in Kaerling, and finds a necromatic arsenal of traps and the undead.
Afternoon of the 25th of Dalan, 1332 Avard.
Corrin spent most of her time near Aeron, who spent most of his time either at the Ducal Mage's tower, or at the Swaddled Blade. There was always something to see, something to nose around in, or somewhere they needed to go to reference something they found in the other location. Because Arkhan had expressed an interest in the spear Mother Kalia had, Corrin managed to bring the spear to Aeron – who suggested she put it back.
The Guard were growing used to Corrin, and despite her propencity to steal things, gave those things back when asked and was so innocent in appearance that it was hard to stay mad at her. The citizens of Chasadan were getting used to keeping a hand on their purses or valuables whenever Corrin was near, and it was hard to be mad at the child-sized, wide-eyed little woman. The Guard were so accepting of Corrin, and Corrin returned anything she took (when asked), that the thought of theft charges never seriously entered anyone's mind.
Aeron, for his part, investigated the town of Kaerling that had existed before the ogran invasion. Kaerling had never been very large, really no more than a village, and had a rather fluid population of ranchers and farmers. In reality, Kaerling had been no more than a larger farm-hold. However, the priests kept notes, as did a few merchants, and so the investigation into Valen's work continued, despite Kalburn Stonehammer's warning. It was William's thinking that if the danger Valen had discovered was still out there, then the danger must be found and dealt with.
Greff continued writing his guide to taverns and drinks. On the eve of the Freeze, one of the last transports to arrive from Teras before the end of the month, were eight orcs. The Guard had become suspicious of anything from Teras, and the orcs were a considerable consternation. With Greff taking on the onus of any misdeeds, and a small detachment of Guards assigned as escort, the orcs from the Orchid's Dew were welcomed by Meridian Explorations.
The largest of the orcs was named 'Tiny' in the common traders tongue, though his ogran name was Vrig Skycaller. Tiny was by no means the leader of the group, being somewhat lacking in the intelligence department, but like the rest of the orcs, he had seen his fair share of combat over the years. Tiny fought against the elephant-sized srik ants for several years, before being assigned to invade Rakore, where he fought against the dwarven Stonehelms. Tiny had tasted human and dwarven flesh, grown up with a desert elven skull as a play toy, learned hard how to defend himself with cunning against the ogres that saw him as being too large – and thus, a threat to them.
The other seven orcs had equally bloody backgrounds. Kir Sandeyes was the one the others turned to for advice, having once achieved the difficult rank of 'corporal' while in the ogran armies. Kir and the rest had taken many oaths while in the service, and their newest oath to King Feldspar Graniteshoulders rather than Supreme Leader It'zak the Ogremai made little difference to them. Kir, like most of the orcs, knew that It'zak had nearly led the orcs and all the ograns to their destruction by invading Rakore. The Rakorans had fought them hard, and only when all seemed lost, had unleashed their mages upon the invading ograns. So many orcs died that day, that the orcs ever since had an innate fear of mages.
Greff had been a long-time friend of the orcs. Many thought Greff a half-orc of some sort, although his appearance was truly more gray than green or brown. Despite his background, Greff had treated well with the orcs, and the laws of Rakore had often enforced equal treatment of the orcs, despite their terrible pasts. When Greff had offered to hire orcs, who would in turn work for the Ducal Mage of the Janis Plains, many of the orcs at the Orchid's Dew were too afraid to leave Teras. The orc world had changed, because of the mages, more so than because of the srik ants.
Kir, and Tiny, and the other six orcs that had responded, felt it was time they confronted their fears. Many orcs had given up their weapons to become workers, becoming pacifists. Others still retained their weapons and their cunning, and even realized that Rakore's enemies were their enemies as well: the Inquisition's Third Crusades had been aimed at the orcs; the Fourt Crusades aimed at Rakore. To work for a mage, in a former Inquisition-aligned people's lands, was a challenge the toughest of orcs looked forward to.
Though relatively weaponless, Kir and the others felt they could work with whatever was available to them, and so they had answered Greff's request for labor. Greff, they could trust, and in trusting Greff, perhaps they could do even more.
Some of them sent their monies back to their clans in the orc duchy. Others were free of the duchies, owing to no masters save the one where they worked. Hard workers, stevedores by their most recent trades, the eight orcs answering Greff's call were no dummies. Despite that, their command of the common traders' tongue left them sounding like retarded children. And, deep down, the orcs felt that it was good to relax and be orclings again; there would be time to be ferocious killers again, soon enough, they imagined.
Greff set them up at the warehouse, and carefully explained that they couldn't eat anything without permission; otherwise, all of Chasadan might go into an uproar if their dogs started disappearing, or the orcs started looking at children with grumbling bellies. Working with Aeron, Greff set up a food delivery system to take care of the orcs and keep them relatively contained at the warehouse until the citizens and the Guard could get used to the orcs.
On the first day of the Freeze, Aeron traveled around the village farm-holds outside of Chasadan, looking for farmers and ranchers that could provide for the orcs. He also sought out those who knew Kaerling or people who might have been from Kaerling. At the larger farm-hold of Ordnoth Aethlgar, Aeron found both. The Aethlgars were original inhabitants of Kaerling, and their farm-hold was not far from the cemetery of Kaerling. Ordnoth reckoned that he could work on direct pay for Ducal Mage's people, but was none too keen on dealing with orcs – who, after all, had destroyed Kaerling.
Aeron, however, was persuasive and patient and compromising enough to work out a deal where Meridian Explorations minimized direct contact with the orcs, and obtained a fair amount of food in return for a more than fair pricing. In addition, Ordnoth's poorer and spoiled foods could even be included in the mix, for the orcs truly were omnivorous with little care for what they ate, so long as they ate a lot. Kir was about average for an orc, weighing in at some 200 pounds. Tiny was larger, weighing in at some 300+ pounds. Eight orcs could eat a lot of food, and with a good exchange of coin, the Aethlgars would be willing to try – but weapons would be near, just in case.
Aeron made a mental note to make sure the food wasn't poisoned.
The cemetery of Kaerling was odd, and it took Aeron a moment to figure out why. During the two days of the Freeze, there was no sunlight. The huge red bulk of Maroth eclipsed the sun, and so, despite the hour and the lack of real cloud cover, the lands were bathed in a reddish light and darkness. The only light in the cemetery came from Aeron's holy symbol, illuminating a hundred foot swath easily enough to read by, and too bright to look at directly. The light from the symbol made shadows along the ground move and sway, and Corrin darted about, fascinated by the occasional moth or bug drawn to the light.
Until the War of the Undead, bodies had been buried in cemeteries. After the war, bodies were cremated. The cemetery of Kaerling showed depressions before the gravestones remaining, where the dead had clawed their way out of of the earth. But there was a swath nearly as large as the light Aeron's symbol put out, where the graves where untouched. Many grave slabs were broken, many head stones leaning out of place, but the ground around one slab in particular was still intact. No undead had risen from within that zone.
At the center of the zone, was an intact slab of stone with the name Reegel and the symbol Aeron had seen on Kalburn Stonehammer's ring. And next to the slab of stone was a fresh grave, with a block of wood bearing the rough Common inscription of 'Valen'. Kalburn Stonehammer had returned, already, and buried Valen next to Reegel.
Ordnoth Aethlgar had not known Reegel, but his grandfather had. Ordnoth's grandfather had never been afraid of anything; had even stood toe to toe with a bear and had half his face ripped off by the bear. But Ordnoth's grandfather had been terrified of Reegel. Kalburn had laughed maniacally at the thought of finding Reegel, perhaps talking with him. The records at the Ducal Mage's tower and in the Swaddling Blade had obscure, strange references to Reegel.
Aeron took Corrin, and went in search of the others. Near 'noon', with Maroth dominating the sky with its reddish light, auroras visible at its poles, Aeron returned with Corrin, as well as Arkhan and Greff. Corrin's giant spider, translucent and somewhat hidden in the dark light, was also nearby.
Aeron explained what he had found, and showed them all the pattern of the unbroken graves. The mystery was too intense and too relevant to simply ignore, and so Corrin had her spider drag the stone grave covering off – revealing smooth marble stairs going down into the depths.
Aeron's light was the only illumination, and it shined off of silvery inlays in the marbled floor, and off of the polished walls and ceiling. The work was dwarven – Corrin had no doubt of that, raised as she was by dwarves.
They worked their way down into the tomb's hallway, moving cautiously. The inlays at the bottom were the symbols of Brigain, God of Destinies and Storms – and the skull symbol of necromancy. There were biers set into the corridor where bodies should have rested. But there were no signs of the bodies. When Corrin was asked about the strange holes in the marble floor, she could only guess at them being drains – perhaps for blood or water.
Two wraiths materialized from within some of the dozens of biers, and their mouths widened, sucking in the air and dragging the company towards those ghostly maws. Greff stepped on a plate that shot teeth – human teeth, coated in some vile poison – shooting up from the holes and into his skin. Jets of flame and some hellish, ghostly darkness spouted from the ceiling. The wraiths continued dragging the company forward, through the traps, assailing them with such force that they felt they were being ripped apart.
Corrin, aided by Greff, shut down the traps as quickly as she could. The pressure plates and the tubes for the traps were finally secured, as Arkhan and Aeron focused on the two wraiths. The wraiths were insubstantial, and weapons and the wraths of gods did little to them. They continued phasing through the biers, attacking, drawing, dragging, ripping at exposed flesh and armor. Finally, the gods had had enough of the disdain of the two undead, and they were destroyed – but in being destroyed, phased those nearest them through the walls of crypts.
Aeron found himself in a long hallway, his light shining brightly. Corrin's voice from one direction told him which way to go – but so, too, did skeletal bodies that advanced rapidly. The skeletons were fast, their bones filed down to points, their hands nearly like blades. Aeron fled quickly towards Corrin's voice.
Around the corner, Arkhan was suddenly there, his huge shield and his plated armor protecting him from the worst the skeletons could do. With Arkhan defending, they all retreated, step by step, until they could run.
Greff, Corrin, and Corrin's spider pushed and pulled the slab of stone into place just in time.
Corrin's spider used its spinnerets to seal the slab of stone in place as they stood around, hands on their knees, catching their breath.
Aeron had seen the missing bodies, behind the skeletons. A mass of zombies, their dessicated flesh still attached to them, had been moving slowly through the corridor of the tomb, moaning their damnation.
Noon of the 27th of Dalan, 1332 Avard.
Arkhan is a TANK, and well suited to his role. Ross played him very well in that regard, and many kudos to Dave, as well, for Aeron's fast healing. Those vortex wraiths were doing a number on the company, in conjunction with the traps, so it was good to see the resident thief hard at work, too.
No game next week, as Ross and Bill will be heading up for RenFest, soon followed by myself and Sommer. :) Woohoo! When we resume in two weeks, we'll see what happens next at Reegel's tomb – if anything. If I were the company, I'd bring in the whole Swaddled Blade contingent and put the undead to rest once and for all. But that might compromise the company's investigation, somewhat. ;)
All characters have 20,000 experience points and are 9th-level.
Dang wraiths. Sure is nice having a bandaid around. :p
I'm guessing that Arkhan is going to take the task upon himself (and the party of course! wouldn't want to leave you guys out ;-P). His call for reinforcements will be when his lifeless body is brought back up to the surface, and the task still undone.