In a desperate ploy to survive this, Trissa rushed to the safe and opened it, pulling out one of those awful fetus things. We cleared out of the blood, hoping the creature would attack the knight. Since they hunted blood, we hoped the monstrosity would be attracted to the knight’s horrifying flow thereof. Covered in thick, viscous red, we stumbled away from the creature.
At that moment, a massive hooded man walked into the cavern. Darvin greeted him, and the stranger dropped his hood to reveal a shaved head and a large, brown mustache.
“Where is Asakku?”
Darvin glanced to the side. “We are working for the Grey Reach library association doing research. Asakku is helping us.” He gestured toward our monk friend. “Care to lend a hand?”
The robed man smiled and cracked his knuckles. “Good.”
Before we had time to process that, the blood knight stepped forward to Asakku and slid an amulet out of an opening in his wrist. Lifting it aloft, he laughed as bright light poured over everybody. I felt strangely good, and the rest of us perked up a little. Thankfully. On the other hand, the knight we faced now looked stronger than we had yet seen. I took a deep breath and grit my teeth as I circled around the spreading pool of crimson.
Triss headed over to Erevel and passed off the fetus, and the two shared a brief nod of understanding. The idea of using it disgusted me, but at the same time I didn’t see an alternative. Besides, the monstrosity deserved such an end if anything did.
The large man stripped out of his cloak to reveal a heavily oiled, muscular body, silken shorts, and a large, platinum belt buckle. Distracted by the… strangeness of the man’s actions and attire, I stared at him. I’d never seen someone strip off clothing to enter into combat with an armed and armored assailant, but then again I’d never seen half of what I witnessed that day. “Which one is Asakku?” he asked, glancing at Darvin.
Darvin held up a hand. “Sir, I shall regale you with tales of our research soon enough. However, I have other matters to attend to.” He then turned and shot a magic missile at the blood knight before continuing the conversation.
The oiled man didn’t reply and strode forward. He approached the blood knight and wrapped around him, dragging the monster to the ground. How the stranger did that without hurting himself while almost nude (quite awkward, really) with the knight wearing spiked armor… I don’t think I’ll ever know.
Our strange friend grappled the knight to the floor where we pummeled the hell out of it. Asakku decapitated the creature with a kick at the end of the conflict, and the monstrosity stopped moving.
I stopped to catch my breath, and Darvin again claimed we were doing research for the Grey Reach public library. The man identified himself as Heric and retrieved a letter from his pack, bringing it to Asakku. Erevel groped Heric’s backside, earning an unimpressed look. Between Erevel, Trissa, and Darvin’s gawking at him I felt sorry for the poor man.
Heric called us all to him, and he lifted a hand, creating a large bubble of water which burst and washed us clean. Though nothing can probably clean the image of how Erevel stared at him when his white shorts clung to him after the water rendered them translucent. I rolled my eyes.
When he tried to leave, he found the way was blocked. With a heavy, irritated sigh he sat down and told us to look for an exit and let him know when we found one. He also gave Darvin a potion of some kind and a small flask of oil.
After examining the monstrosity, I took its armor and weapon. With some cleaning and refitting it would suit me, I thought, and I claimed it after asking the others. We then cleaned out one of the barracks rooms and collectively piled into it and rested in shifts.
((OOC: We leveled up here.))
After resting, we investigated the final room, which sealed itself off like the rooms previous, trapping us inside. A large throne dominated the far side of the room, upon which sat a withered corpse in red robes. Around the throne was no small wealth scattered around its base. I studied the room while the others were distracted by the sparking lights—the corpse moved, its head turning a little to watch us.
Erevel spoke to the creature in Elven, and it broke free of the throne, standing. My hair all stood on end as I realized the corpse wasn’t a corpse but a living creature. It asked why we were there, and Erevel informed it of what our intentions were. After clearing his throat, however, the man switched to speaking Common. He identified himself as “Ahlset”, one of the major leaders in the war against the elves in the war over 900 years ago. Not being a historian, the name meant little to me, though Asakku’s jaw dropped. He offered us a reward for freeing him, gesturing to the treasure at his feet.
While the others talked over what to do, I walked over to the energy surrounding the door and reached out my hand to touch it, and the energy dissipated, though the sparkling motes of it in the room behind me intensified into a blinding rush before slamming into each of us. I don’t remember anything else until waking up with pain in our left arms.
Darvin and Asakku looked down at their arms and discovered a tattoo-like marking burned into their flesh. I can only guess that the rest of us have similar markings. Darvin identified it as magic of some terrible power that we couldn’t deduce the nature of. Ahlset, confused, relieved about being released from his prison, asked us what had happened, and Darvin reassured him that his mercenaries had, ah… found other employment. Despite the skill with which Darvin lied, Ahlset raised brows at him, his expression dubious.
Stepping out of the throne room, we discussed what we are going to do with this lich we discovered. Eventually, we settled on leaving after politely relaying to him that we were leaving. He said he was at our services until we die—that concerns me given the level of evil I sensed in him. However, there was no alternative. What could we do against a lich?
We agreed upon telling the lich we didn’t need gifts for saving him, though that plan fell through after we re-entered the throne room and Erevel—whom had agreed with me—immediately accepted some trinket or another when Ahlset offered. I rolled my eyes as the rest of the group followed suit. When it came to him offering me some token of
appreciation I asked only for ink to allow me to continue my practice of cartography. It would also enable me to write many letters. Perhaps someday I would write a book or keep a journal, though at the moment I had no way of doing such a feat.
Ahlset then asked us for the favor of finding him a workforce to help him reclaim and clean out his home. The force would be paid and kept well, but he wasn’t about to stoop to manual labor. I wasn’t surprised by that, though I remained concerned that he might not keep his workers alive. Ahlset did, however, make a valid point that corpses and dead things lacked finesse in doing things like carpentry.
Leaving the caverns, we discovered a long-abandoned camp on the way back to Oakhill. Darvin sensed no magic inside, so we decided to take a look. The skeleton we discovered there looked like an officer from our military from quite some time ago. Claw-marks across the armor and gnawing on the bones showed death by some form of beast. We investigated the camp and found several skeletons with similar injuries. There was one fresh body—perhaps a few days old—wearing rich clothing, clutching a lute, and carrying a satchel. Asakku informed us that there was a wolf in the area the same time the corpse was created, and someone on horseback came through here.
I found a blood-spattered and damaged map in the satchel. On the back of the map were letters written by some Cap. Theron Oxheart in 805. He spoke of finding some source of a curse. The camp was destroyed by night by a man with silver hair and some wolves. At the bottom was a note from some foppish bard who fancied himself an adventurer. The bard, Hank Henry was given the quest to slay a necromancer—likely the same one we were sent to destroy. It happened this year—something that concerns me.
Darvin, interested in Heric (and disappointed at his disappearance) asked Asakku what his letter was regarding. Asakku considered before answering.
“I will travel with you to the capital city to report to the king and the head of the Shield of Bahamut. However, following that I must depart. I have received a message from the head of my order that an ill wind blows from the shores of Pebble Island.”
I nodded. “Assuming that I do not receive orders to the contrary, I can accompany you once we have finished this. Rooting out evil and protecting the kingdom is my duty as well.”
“Care for some company?” Erevel smiled a little, tilting her head.
Darvin nodded. “Indeed. We should stay together—these strange markings on our arms should be investigated, and I feel we ought remain as a party at least until such a time as that mystery has been unraveled.”
Asakku smiled. “I welcome the company and the aid, friends.”
From there, we continued on to Oakhill to resupply for the long journey home.
Arriving in Oakhill, we discovered a cemetery that was not there when we came through on our journey in. When we investigated the nature of the deaths, we discovered wolves had killed several people in town. After speaking with the foreman and the hunter, he told us the creatures had walked into the center of town and killed folk.
Erevel told us that the law forbidding people in the forest was there for a reason. The earl may have special dispensation, but… One way or another, we resolved to help the folk here set up defenses. After doing a fair amount of work, we headed into the woods to find out what’s happening. Erevel and Asakku split off and stalked the wolves, seeing a pack of sixteen of them surrounding a white horse.
I spent that time working on the defenses. When they returned, they informed us of the situation. I was too tired to take watch, so I bathed and collapsed into bed.
I had only slept for a few hours before Erevel woke me, telling me the wolves were there. With my plate mail being resized by the smith, I donned my chainmail and joined them at the gates. We saw the wolves, but nothing of note occurred other than their presence near the town.
After sleeping the rest of the night, I woke with the sun and continued working on the wall and finished it just prior to noon. We spoke about the situation and decided to try approaching the wolves and their master. Perhaps they would listen to diplomacy. Perhaps not. But either way we would learn of our enemy’s skill and intent.
We headed out into the woods and Erevel called out in Elvish. The wolves surrounded us, and then out of the woods a unicorn emerged, turning into a man wearing white robes. He addressed us in a language we didn’t know. He addressed us then in Common, and then Elven at Erevel’s suggestion. The man identified himself as king of the forest, and said that those trespassing in the forest would die. We warned him of the Lich’s release, and he offered us our lives in exchange. However, he expressed the imperative that everyone else in the logging camp had broken the law and would be slain for it.
I attempted to ask for time to allow the men to leave, but he refused. The only trade he would accept would be an agent in Grey Reach—at which point I put my fingers in my ears and tried to hear nothing of what was said. I cannot hear of such a thing, but there is nothing I can hear about that. It turns my stomach to have such discussion go on around me.
Mouths moved in quick response around me, and everyone entered into rather intense discussions that I heard nothing of. I could, however, read hunger in Darvin’s face and disturbance and concern in Asakku’s.
Eventually, Asakku jabbed me in the ribs, and I lowered my hands. I learned the King of the Forest had offered us a kingdom to act as a buffer between the forest and Grey Reach. We accepted. Darvin seemed hungry for the chance to rule, though Erevel, Triss, Asakku, and I had little interest in a kingdom. I accepted the offer only as a way to get the people living therein out safely. However, the more I think about it the more my head hurts.
What in the name of Bahamut have we done. Us. We. We are kings and queens. I’m not sure I can wrap my head around this notion. Never in my wildest dreams or nightmares could I have ever imagined such a thing would happen. Much less under such peculiar circumstances.
Once we reached the town, Darvin told the foreman what had happened and, rather than negotiate, he left without a word. We then assembled the townsfolk and spoke to them about the situation. The smithy and tavern own opted to stay along with one tavern guard. Our kingdom is not off to an auspicious start: hostile territory, an angry earl as an enemy, and our entire population consisting of a smith, a tavernkeep who peddles drugs, a single tavern guard, five bumbling adventurers, and a nine-hundred-year-old lich.
Oh. Yes. This is going to go brilliantly.