[The story so far]
Session 10 - Of barrows and spiders
With a good night's rest, refreshed horses, and the company of two liveried soldiers of the Duke as guides (Henri and Jean), our party crossed the ford overlooked by the fort of Brun and headed into the forest that was said to contain the barrow mounds they sought.
[Note - I'm writing this several weeks after it happened, so I'll be brief-ish, and may have forgotten some of the fine detail]
It only too a couple of hours determined and uneventful ride through the forest before Jean reined in his horse and pointed down a narrow track that led roughly North off the main road. Clearly not as regularly used as the path they had followed so far, thin branches had grown across the way to block it and in the end it was more comfortable to dismount and lead their horses.
They came to a clearing soon enough and there, in front of them, they found three barrows, the middle one of which was largest and had an entrance with a scuffed path leading into it...
Leaving their horses outside, they headed in. Stone slabs of great age formed the walls, floor and ceiling of the first narrow stretch of passage, but after about twenty feet it opened out into an almost natural looking cave. The only clue that it had been made by men (?) was the level and reasonably smooth surface of the "cave". The disturbed dust, almost like something had been dragged, that ran through to an opening to the party's right suggested that it was also still used by somebody. Or something...
Light from the torch indicated two more openings. The first was only a couple of feet high and the need to crawl, coupled with the fact that there were only a couple of paw prints (fox?) in the dust near it meant the party ignored it. The other was more like an open doorway, and they couldn't resist, despite the trail in the dust going past it. What did they find?
Yup, giant weasels. Vicious things that proved tricky to fight, but Henri showed off an unexpected skill - combat stamping! Putting the boot in turned out to be an incredibly effective attack for him, earning him the nickname "Stamps" from the players.
Heading on, they followed the trail in the dust and discovered what had been making it - zombies! Specifically, shuffling men whose heads were thoroughly wrapped in spider webfoun s ("Oh s**t! Spider zombies! Aractheon!") and who didn't seem to feel pain.
Although there were only two of them, the narrow passageway removed the advantage of numbers from the adventurers, and it quickly went awry for them. Nomos lost an eye to their sharp, grasping hands while setting light to one of them (Stamps finished that one off with his trademark move). Dumnorix missed his opponent and lost hold of his pollhammer. Unarmed and off-balance, he was left apparently choking the last of his life blood out onto the cavern floor, face and throat ravaged by the foul creatures. Losing ground, and with the body of Dumnorix on the far sie of the zombies, Gowmac the halfling displayed a streak of heroism not often associated with thieves. He dived between the burning (but still active at this stage) zombie and the one who'd done for Dumnorix, grabbed up the fallen cleric's pollhammer and swung it with all his might [various DEX and STR checks kept the tension high], prety much being swung by it, and connected perfectly with the remaining zombie's head and shattering it [natural 20 making up for their abysmal rolling to this point]. All was still. Gabbling a half-remembered invocation to ALathea, Gowmac then poured the holy water he'd fished from Dumnorix's pouch... the bleeding stopped! Checking very carefully they found there was the faintest of breathing. He was alive! But only just.
Hurriedly, they scooped up their fallen comrade and rushed back to the horses, galloping back to Brun through the afternoon sunshine, hoping against hope that he could et be saved. Once back, they entrusted him to the Duke's personal physician and took it in turns to sit by his side.
Meanwhile, Dumnorix dreamed. [Our session actually finished at this point, but I sent a fairly garbled "dream" email to Dumnorix's player, outlining in in-game terms how to Turn Undead as it was something I or he had missed explaining during character creation. It also contained a quid-pro-uo instruction from Alathea - I have saved you, now you will destroy this nest of evil. A little spot of geas early on can be fun, don't you think?!].
Will the cleric survive? Will the others leave him to it and continue their adventures elsewhere? Will I write up the next episode before the end of May? All this and more, next time in Averaigne.