Matt (Barron), Mariel (Leah), Coby (Warin), Chris (Malag), Jeff (Amathar the Grey), and Norsk (Brian) are returning cast members.
As we left the party, they were recovering from the ambush that had nearly killed several of the party members. After resting there overnight, with the delay allowing for Leah to catch up with the group, Norsk to refine his methods of assassination, and Barron to learn new spells (this time, to Amathar's amazement, casting them correctly), the party chose to follow the ogre trail to a cave on the nearby hillside. They left Thic Duc meditating in their cart to keep it safe.
Barron sent Mr Crackers into the cave to scout, but all the party heard was a sudden roar of rage followed by a thud. Barron experienced phantom intestinal pain shortly after that. The party concluded the cave was probably occupied, so in a sense, the scout completed his mission successfully.
The party advanced into the cave with weapons out, meeting one ogre at the entrance armed with a large hammer. Malag traded blows while the rest of the party entered the cave, prompting a second ogre to emerge from the shadows at the far side of their cooking pot and join the fight with his axe. Warin's healing kept Malag alive (barely!) long enough to kill the first ogre. Norsk backstabbed the second ogre, and Malag finished it off.
The cave contained treasure in a variety of forms. Mr Cracker's body was recovered from the stewpot, even more dead than before. The party found approximately a thousand gp worth of loose coin in a hidden nook within the cave. The ogre's battleaxe turned out to bear a minor enchantment, as did their frying pan. Closer investigation suggested the frying pan had once been a shield, and Malag returned it to its original use. The stirring utensil, once the stew was removed, bore the letters "MM" and radiated magic. Amathar figured out it might be a wand, and Norsk suggested pointing it at Mr. Crackers' corpse in case it bore the enchantment Animate Dead. The party begin guessing what the command word might be.
It turned out to be a wand of Magic Missile, with the name of the spell as the command word as well. In order to confirm this, the party repeatedly tested it by saying "Magic Missile", causing a sudden flash of magical light from the wand and a small explosion from Mr. Cracker's body. Before long, the only thing left of Mr. Crackers was a pair of wings, a pair of feet, and two singed goblin hands.
The party continued along the road towards the ruined temple at Bone Hill, reaching the point where the path split from the road to lead up the hill. A sign marked the departure point: "Ye Olde Temple O' Undeade Hordes" with a skull and crossbones.
After consulting the ranger (natural 1), the party decided this would be a perfect place to camp for the night. The heavy tree cover would help keep them in darkness, sheltered from the sun and harder to spot by travelers along the road. And the nearby undead from the ruined temple would doubtless scare off bandits or wildlife.
The party set up camp and divided into watches. Barron planned to spend the night seeking a familiar, something that many wizards do as part of their apprenticeship, but his unusual (to say the least!) magical schooling had previously prevented him from having any opportunity to do. Also, the tragic death of Mr. Crackers so soon after the bird's return had probably left him feeling unpleasantly lonely.
When Warin's watch rolled around, Barron was still quietly chanting, but a faint moaning could also be heard coming from the forest. Warin stepped out briefly to investigate, traveling far enough from the camp to see dark shapes shambling through the trees towards the camp. He returned to camp to wake the rest of the party, demonstrating an unusual degree of foresight and wisdom for this party of adventurers. The moaning undead followed him.
Before long, the rest of the group was awake and prepared, though Barron was still lost in his spell and Amathar was elsewhere in the forest collecting spell components. Malag and Norsk hurriedly donned their armor while the creatures approached Barron's oblivious form. Warin, already in his armor as he was standing watch, moved to just behind Barron and pulled forth his holy symbol. "Stop!" he cried out forcefully... and the front rank of zombies stopped. The second rank, plus a few on the edges, continued forward. Somewhere nearby and safely invisible, Amathar carefully counted: 16 zombies, all moaning variations of "brains" in harmony. And... two strange creatures just past the wave of zombies, fighting with each other. One of them appeared to be a ... small flying lizard? The other, a fleshy and disgusting creature that smelled of brimstone.
Malag and Norsk stepped to one side, Pyro and Leah to the other. Norsk's backstabs were useless against undead, but he was able to help wittle them down to size. Malag's two-hander was chopping up dead bodies like so much firewood, until the moment when he let go of the blade while it was still stuck within one of the bodies. Cursing, he switched to his bastard sword and shield, but the pause was too much, and he went down under tooth and claw in the next round. Norsk and Amathar tried to pull him free.
Warin, meanwhile, was having fun playing with his new toys. "Zombies, attack your undead brethren!" he cried, and those closest to him turned to attack each other.
On the other side of the fight, Leah and Pyro were holding their own against their pack of zombies until Pyro succombed to his wounds and fell. Luckily, Warin was watching, and with some shouted prompts from Amathar, directed the zombies attacking Leah and Pyro to attack the quasit instead. Pyro's wounds were bandaged and Leah moved to help Malag.
While the fight raged, Amathar was conversing with the small flying lizard. After a false start in his rusty Draconic, he was able to make himself understood. The small flying lizard was calling for them to help him against the quasit. And, even as the zombies under Warin's control were tearing the quasit to bits, the little demon was regenerating and calling for help as well.
With the combined efforts of Leah, Amathar, and Norsk, the zombies eating Malag's body were driven off long enough to pull him to safety. Warin stepped in to direct them to attack the quasit as well.
With all of the zombies under Warin's control, and tearing the quasit to bits as fast as the tiny demon could regenerate, the party had time to think. Amathar asked the pseudodragon it's name -- which turned out to be Alphonso -- and if it knew how to kill the quasit. Alphonso replied that he didn't know, but maybe try fire? Fire usually works.
The party instead suggested Barron choose one of the two creatures and hope that the other one disappeared. He chose Alphonso, and the quasit did indeed disappear with a mournful scream. It appeared Barron had found his new familiar.
After considerable discussion of next steps (with Warin's backup zombie band doing Thriller), the party decided to return to Restenford to revive Malag, restock their supplies, and consider their next move.
As they passed the site of the previous ambush, however, they caught sight of movement around the pile of gnoll, wolf, and ogre bodies. Some sort of carrion feeder was consuming them!
Barron launched his new familiar into the air to scout the situation. Alphonso circled the pile of bodies a few times, reporting the "some sort of bloodsucking bats" were feeding on the corpses. One of the bats saw him circling, and took off in chase; Alphonso fled back to the party with the creature in close pursuit.
Bravely Barron stepped forward to save his familiar, drawing the wand of magic missiles and shouting "Magic Missile"! The only thing that came from the wand was smoke, however; it was out of charges thanks to the gratuitious overkill the rest of the party had applied to Mr. Crackers earlier. Warin stepped forward helpfully, hurling the huge two-handed warhammer he had taken from the ogres, but it flew into the woods without coming anywhere near the flying creatures. While Alphonso screeched in his tiny dragon voice for help, Leah stepped forward with her bow out into point blank range, took careful aim... and killed Alphonso with a single shot right through his draconic heart.
Barron immediately collapsed in grief and psychic backlash from the loss of his familiar.
The rest of the batlike creatures took off, winging their way towards the party. Leah, Pyro and the emotionally disabled Barron were out front with little help close by. Leah was able to knock the first creature from the air with her next arrow, but that gave the rest time to close with her. With Malag dead, Amathar invisible again, and Barron disabled, only Norsk and Warin were close enough to help.
Two of the creatures flew at Leah, aiming at the same spot on the back of her neck. The first landed there despite her wildly swinging bow, sinking it's vile proboscis into her flesh. The second arrived a moment later, impaling the first creature there. Both of them begin to vigorously suck Leah's blood from the wound, and she collapsed to the ground paralyzed by their poison.
Pyro managed to snatch one of them off of his mistress, scratching her only a little with his bite, but succombed to poison himself as two others attacked him.
Three more angled for Warin. Two of them struck true, feeding from his blood, and the third filthy creature struck one of the first two. Apparently chain feeding is a thing among such vile creatures as... "Stirges," muttered Thic Duc from his meditative spot on the cart, "I have seen these things before, and they are called stirges."
Warin fought off the poison, swinging his mace at the stirges draining his blood away. Sometimes he did as much damage to himself as he did to the creatures themselves, but one by one they fell. Leah staggered to her feet, fighting off the poison just in time to come to Pyro's aid, with Norsk joining the fight as well. Barron shook off his emotional shock as Pyro feel, taking out of one the creatures with his dagger. One by one the stirges fell, some of them already weak from their fellows' blood drain.
After taking careful stock of their situation, the party continued to Restenford, and arrived there without further incident.
To be continued...
For reference: 200 cp = 20 sp = 2 ep = 1 gp = 1/5 pp
|Player||Character||Race||Class||Level||Experience Total||Next Level||Funds|
|Dean||Thic Duc||Human (mostly)||Monk||5th||28,506xp||47,500xp||$3,142|
|Matt||Barron||Hobgoblin (by polymorph)||Thief / Magic-User||5th/3rd||6,785xp||10,000xp||$5,664|