Mercian Intrigue

The Adventure Begins

Alton indicates that he is ready to leave immediately. He asks the other about whether the guide seems worthy and adds that he’s like to give him a shot.

“I can agree to that good sir. Thank you for your fairness and understanding. We will do our best to complete the task at hand. Lets grab some of the food and supplies from the barracks for this trek and be on our way.” With that, Nathan extends his hand to shake Sir Belwors and then turns to the others, in particular the guide,

“Well, I assume you know what task we have been sent on since you were no doubt eavesdropping on our conversation. What do you know of our task and the direction we will be taking. Also we will need to be informed on possible situations that might require specific gear, such as swamps, lakes/rivers we will have to cross, mountains, cold, snow, etc. Where are we going and what of its climate and almosphere. How long is our trek, how much food should we bring? Perhaps we should buy a wagon to carry us, our companions and all the hostages we rescue. They are not likely to be well cared for by their kidnappers and I doubt that when we find them they will be willing and able to flee quickly if necessary….in fact the trek back may be twice as long as the one going out? A wagon would speed our departure. We could ditch it when we got close and then come back for it when we t should not regularly be turned down. He also tries to get a few skins worth of water to take with them. Probably cant carry 2 weeks worth but he will take what he can in case drinking water ends up being hard to find.

Alton listens and the nods. “Me thinks a wagon would be most appropriate given the situation. But it honestly depends on how much money its goings to cost us all.” Alton nods and shakes the young guilds hand. “Yous be of use to us then, but i gots to ask, how are you with a sword in case things get a little hairy?”

The young man creases his brow when you ask him about his skill with a sword. “well I don¹t have enough money to pay for no sword. And I never killed anybody if that¹s what you mean. But my father used to teach me how to use a spear and I used to hunt with my old bow and arrow before it was broken. I haven’t ever been in a fight with men before, but I’ve killed plenty of deer and wolves and the like.” He looks at you with questioning eyes as if asking, ‘does that answer your question?’ he may not be a hardened veteran of wars but at least he knows how to handle a weapon. “I know a man on the way out of town who would be willing to rent us a wagon for the trip!” He pipes up, remember the wagon question, “he owes me a favor or two so he might be willing to lend it to us for cheap.”

Nathan nods in agreement and wonders what has the guide’s tongue?! After hearing the response and reaction from his new companions Nathan grabs Jack along with all his belongins and begins to follow the guide towards the edge of town to see if this person can cheaply lend a wagon. Along the way he converses with his companions and double checks to make sure they have everything then need. “luckily jack wont be too burdened on this trip thanks to the wagon! I hope we can afford this. probably should have gotten a loan from the barracks or Belwar himself! Either way this should be a fun trip…” Nathan scratches his head a bit… “does anyone know what our task is again?...i cant seem to remember the task at hand!? Go rescue some captive people right? My mind was kind of wandering during his long talk.”

Kalika is still slightly unsure of exactly what good a guide will do for them since they dont know where they are going… They’re going to have to rely on their own tracking and wilderness skills to find the kidnappers… But if it makes everyone else feel more secure she’d agree that the boy could come along. We do need to get him a weapon though, she thought and turned to the others saying “are there any weapons here that we could borrow that would be suitable for Gabriel to use?” Then she agreed that a wagon would be an excellent idea for transporting the hostages back to town. She didnt know about the others, but being a small elf, she wouldnt be able to carry any human back! Then she picked up her bag and asked Nathan if she could grab more bullets for her sling since she had all that she could carry but maybe Jack could tote some for her. After getting more ammo if Nathan agrees and finding a weapon for Gabriel if there is anything suitable for him, she follows Nathan to go check out the wagon.

Gabriel walks ahead of you down the streets of Freeport. He is almost constantly glancing back at you. You begin to think that he has never seen an adventurer before. Either that or he is worried that he will loose you and then never be paid. The man with the wagon for you runs a small stable close to the western gate of the city and greets Gabriel with a smile and a handshake. “nice to see you again Gabe! what can I do for you?” They speak quietly for a moment with the slightly chubby man looking over Gabriel at you every so often. After a time he pats him on the shoulder and Gabriel returns to you. “he said we could borrow a small wagon from him for as long as we want for only 5 gold. That¹s pretty cheap considering we don¹t know what we will put the equipment through. I told him about your donkey too Mr. Nathan and he said that the wagon is small enough for his to haul. I guess it will only fit the really hurt prisoners but that¹s better than leaving them behind. I had been keeping my things here while I was in the city too so now im ready to go as well.” Indeed, when the wagon is brought around Gabriel appears with a small pack, a bow, and a spear. He looks dashing is a poor woodsman sort of way that only the very young seem to be able to pull off. Hopefully this means your adventure is right around the corner!

Nathan approaches Gabriel and the man as they conclude their quiet discussion. He had not been really listening as he was distracted thanks to the unfamilar surroundings. He gazed about for a few minutes and then realized they were ready to go. he approaches and quickly gives the man a look over. He seems ok and Nathan offers his hand in agreement to the deal of 5 gold for the rental of the wagon. He glances at Alton and Kalika to see if they have any coin to split the costs of the money. He leads Jack over to the wagon and hooks him up accordingly. The donkey seems pleased as all of the load is unloaded off his back and into the wagon. The weight seems to be easier to pull than carry and Jack is pretty excited about that as he stamps his feet on the hard dirt to show his appreciation. Then, after everyone is settled up, he decides that its a good time to pay Gabriel. He flips him a few coins and say, “Youll get more depending on how well you do your duty young one! Plus we will of course give you a fair share of any treasure or gold we find provided you stay alive and do your duty to the best of your ability.” With that he turns Jack around and points him south on the road. Everything is loaded into the wagon and Nathan turns to the others, “Well thats it for me! Are you guys ready to go?”

Kalika checks out the wagon that the man presented to them. It’s certainly small, not room to carry more than a few men, but its a good size for Jack to haul, and would be able to carry the wounded back to Mercia. Also, a small wagon would be more likely to fit through any narrow passageways they might encounter. And for 5 gold… not bad. Kalika turns to Alton and says “Alton, what do you think about us splitting the cost of the wagon, since Nathan is generously donating his donkey to pull it?” She waits for Nathan to finish hooking Jack up to the wagon and then places her pack inside it, along with the extra bullets she secured from the barracks (or she assumes she was able to take more since she asked and no one said otherwise). Then, turning to Nathan, she said “Yup all ready! I’m excited to be getting back into the wilderness and out of the city! I’ll wait til we’re on our way out and then call Nailo, she’s probably sleeping anyway right now.”

Nathan has kind of a blank stare on his face when he erupts..”Who is Nailo!?...and how do you call her?..”

He glances around the area, “now where did Alton run off to? he was here just a minute ago!?”

Kalika is beginning to wonder a little about Nathan… he always has a blank stare on his face and seems to be distracted easily. Despite that, he was still rather attractive – for a half elf. “Oh, have I not mentioned Nailo before? I’m sure I have! She’s my good friend. She often accompanies me when I travel and keeps me company, warns me of danger, and helps me hunt. Oh- I guess I should also mention – she’s a black panther. She’s really quite beautiful, and rather tame – with people she trusts and considers friendly…” With that, Kalika trailed off wondering how Nailo would react to Alton…

Nathan’s jaw drops in disbelief…”ahh-ahh-uhh panther?! What does it eat?!” Nathan stammers as he quickly casts a glance at Jack the donkey who has pulled his cart to the side of the road within the reach of some fresh greens. “How big is it?? It doesnt eat halflings or small boys does it?! Well I am glad that I am one of the bigger people traveling with us!” Nathan chuckles as he casts another glance over at Gabe and Alton. With that he turns his face to the sun which has broken through the clouds. “Well if there is nothing more, we should be off! Gabe!” calling the boy foward he waits for him to come up beside him as he and Jack start off in a southerly direction. He puts his hand down on his shoulder and lowers his head a little to speak more towards him. “Ok, lead the way and don’t wander off too far ahead. You never know what might be lurking in the forest… In these times, no one is safe! not even little boys with wooden spears.” He pats Gabe on the back and proceeds to walk side by side with Jack down the road… glancing back once or twice to make sure Kalika and Alton are in tow.

Kalika laughed to herself at Nathan’s fear… an adventurer afraid of a panther… and she had just said the panther was tame and her very good friend… and, she looked down at herself, she was much smaller than Nathan and Nailo had never even looked at her as food! “Nathan, relax” she said “Nailo eats meat, but she won’t attack anyone who is kind to her, or anyone who I ask her not too… she mostly catches small animals like rabbits and squirrels and eats them.” “Although she might start eating halflings or small boys if they cause any trouble…” She quietly added, laughing to herself, as she followed Nathan and Jack along the path.

Alton tails behind everyone as things are moving. He agrees to splitting the cost of the wagon and nods to show he is ready. His hood is pulled over his head, but his head is held nice and high. He listens to the half-elf and the lady elf speak, but mainly he just watches the young boy. Something weird about this young man getting a wagon for so cheap, and happening to be listening to their conversation, and so eager to lend his help. Why would a boy be so ready to take on this undertaking, especially one that hasn’t ever seen combat? Alton decides he’d better make it his job to watch the boy. Can’t trust them farm folk, so poor they do anything for money. As they walk Alton hides his amusement at the two elves talking. “Panther you say? Black you say? Does it carry saddle bags?” Alton makes sure to hide his grin within the shadow of his hood. As they walk he stays rather quite, instead, his attention is focused on his weapons. He repeatedly thumbs his daggers making sure they are as sharp as he remembers, and he even hops into the wagon to load and work his crossbow. When he is satisfied he hops down, but leaves his bow drawn. “Best to be ready me thinks.”

“Sir, ill have you know I’m rather good with this wooden spear.” Gabe says with a smile to Nathan. Gabe hikes his small bag higher on his shoulders as he walks, apparently oblivious to the comments about being eaten by a panther or the wary eye Alton occasionally casts his way. He seems like any other farm boy, happy in his lack of complications and content with hard work. Sometimes he whistles a small tune as he walks, obviously not concentrating on guiding you anywhere because the road is still clearly marked with waystones.

The road winds along the coast southwest away from the hustle and bustle of Freeport. The walled houses and estates lining the road give way to farms and orchards and olive groves and after a few miles more they give way to grasslands, scrublands, and small groves of trees. The wilderness embraces you with a cool sea breeze and layers of clouds in the sky. Autumn is fast approaching and the days are becoming cooler. You can hear the ocean faintly over the hills and you know that you are close. The road even dips down to run right along the beaches in certain areas. The rocky coastline and crystal clear blue water are beautiful even in this so-so weather. Eventually, a few hours after the suns have begun their descent towards the west, the road begins to leave the coastline and curve westward inland. Gabe stops for a moment and takes a swig on the water from his skin. “we have a few more hours of good traveling time left but after that we should consider setting up camp someplace. We are on the stretch to Three Points, a village of farmers where I live. When we get there tomorrow evening we can all sleep in my house, so you wont have to worry about sleeping outside all the time. You are lucky I live this way or we would all have to pay for an inn or sleep outside constantly.” Gabe smiles at you and continues on.

When the group had traveled a couple of miles outside of the city, Kalika called Nailo. She appeared much faster than Kalika had anticipated and she figured that Nailo must have been following them waiting for her invitation instead of sleeping as Kalika had suspected. Kalika greeted Nailo and introduced her to the group, trying to be clear that these people were allies. Nalio looked up at Kalika with her round onyx eyes, understanding, but with a face that said “I’m exhausted.” Kalika thought about how this journey would differ from all of her previous expeditions… she usually traveled at night. Being an elf, she didn’t need sleep; a couple hours of meditation was all that she needed. And with Nailo being nocturnal, it only made sense that they gained most of their distance in the darkness hours. Kalika suggested to Nalio that she climb into the wagon and get some rest by pointing at the wagon moving slowly down the road ahead of them. A couple of hours later Gabe announced that they would be stopping soon and that tomorrow we could stay at his house for the night. “Silly humans,” thought Kalika, “What’s wrong with sleeping out of doors? I sleep outside every night and, in fact, have never slept inside a building!” “And also,” she continued in her mind, “Does he think we’re going to return to his house every evening for supper and slumber?? This could be a several week long endeavor and we’re certainly not going to have nice cozy cottages to shack up in every night along the way… and pay for an inn?!? Good luck finding an inn in the middle of the woods, or halfway through a field, or in the mountains… We’re adventurers, this is what we do! We can make camp…” She still had her original doubts about the usefulness of a “guide” to trained adventurers, and this child wasn’t doing much to relieve them… As long as the others were content with him, she’d keep her mouth shut, and as long as he didn’t lead them into danger or get them into any trouble, she was sure they’d be fine. Kalika stopped herself and took a breath. “Not everyone is the same as you, Kalika.” she said to herself. She realized that just because seeing everything that the earth had to offer and spending time in different places, and sleeping under different skies and treetops were the things she cherished most in life, it was not the same for everyone. “When we make camp we should take turns keeping watch.” she said to the group. “I only need about 4 hours, so if someone doesn’t mind staying up a little later, I’ll keep watch the rest of the evening.” It was a clear evening, and she was looking forward to a beautiful star filled night. It would also be a good time to catch Nailo up on the events of her day and the assembly. Nailo didn’t always understand everything Kalika said, but it was nice to have a friend to talk to.

Alton trudges along behind the rest of the group, his crossbow at the ready. His small frame doesn’t appear to be tense but, instead, he looks alert. However, he jumps when the panther appears out of the forest to their side. It seems clear that he was listening and watch or attempting to and had not discovered the feline stalker. After the initail shock, Alton settles back down. He listens to the the offer of the boy and he ponders. A farm house. Surely there will be no wealth to speak of. Also, what point is their sleeping in a house. “Thanks for the offer of sleeping, but it seems I think we should push on past your farm house, only resting for the Donkey. Time is essentail here. I feel greater reward awaits us if we finish our task with speed. It can only be to our advantage.” With that, he goes back to listening to their surroundings and peering into the woods. He still has a feeling that not everything was explained to them in the meeting hall.

Rocky, shallow hills surround you the further inland you travel. Grasses and clumps of woods can be seen in all directions by the time evening rolls around. When the sunlight begins to wane in the late afternoon Gabe begins to suggest making camp for the evening. He keeps glancing at Nailo with an apprehensive look on his face, apparently un-nerved about being so close to a wild animal that, under normal circumstance, would not think twice about killing him and feeding him to her young. The clouds of the day have stuck around for the evening and a chance of rain lingers on the air. Gabe pulls a large square of canvas that has been sewn into a sort of man-sized pocket from his pack and lays it on the ground. You think to yourself, ‘well that¹s a no frills way of keeping dry at night, the boy must sleep out a lot’. A fire comes to mind for almost everyone in the party and Gabe disappears into some nearby woods for a few minutes only to reappear a few minutes later with armfuls of firewood. He lays the fire quietly and soon a nice sized flame dances in the center of his impromptu fire pit.

Nathan nods at Altons comments for pushing on. Although the exit from Freeport was quite slow, traveling in open terrain makes them an easy target and time is not in the hostages favor. As they make their way towards camp Nathan unsheathes his longsword just as a precaution even though its unlikely that an animal would be in waiting right where they would make camp. He begins to quietly approach a clearing several yards off the road to the right, trying his best to move the donkey and wagon off the road and out of sight. His slender frame twists and curves between the low lying boughs and branches as his ears perk up. He listens and about to make sure no other creatures inhabit the area that they intend on spending the night at. Based on what he hears (assuming nothing), Nathan decides its safe and motions anyone behind him forward. He grabs some things from the wagon and returns to the camp with a bedroll, blanket and hooded lantern in his arms. “Alton, Kalika, Tell me a little bit more about yourselves!” I have not really gotten a chance to get to know you as well as I feel. Also, I have a surprise for the three of us in my pack for when we rescue these poor hostages.” With that he rolls out his bedroll in preparation for a night of story swapping and hopefully some rest as the trip so far has been a rude awakening compared to the easy past few days in the city. “I’ll have to get used to sleeping on the ground again i suppose”

Assuming Kalika hears and sees nothing suspicious, she sits down by the fire and addresses her companions. “I agree with Nathan and I’d also like to learn more about you all. But, I think, before I share anything about myself, I want to tell you all a little more about Nailo. I can see that none of you are comfortable with her presence, and I hope to make you feel more assured about your safety in her company.” Pausing to see that she has anyone’s attention, she continues “About three years ago I was returning home from one of my trips across the country. I paused one evening in a densely wooded area to rest. Midway through my meditation I heard a terrible screeching sound that instantly broke my concentration. The screeching continued and it was such a piercing, penetrating sound that I almost didn’t hear the other sound. The sounds of pain, fear, and distress that seemed to be coming from a very young animal. I was able to focus my hearing on the second sound and follow the cries. After a couple of minutes I came upon a baby panther, badly injured, bleeding, with a broken leg, and very close to death. It looked (and sounded) as if she had been attacked by a dragon, but somehow managed to get away. Not wanting to hang around to find out for sure, I scooped her up, wrapped her in my cloak to catch the blood, and took her back to my campsite. I cleaned and dressed her wounds, but was still not sure if she was going to make it, and she certainly wouldn’t have a chance if I left her alone, so I made a satchel out of my cloak and strapped her to my body. I managed to keep her alive until I reached my village, where I immediately fed her unicorn milk. After about two days on the unicorn milk diet, she regained her strength, appetite, and ability to walk. I had also made a friend for life. Nailo and I can’t actually speak to each other, but we definitely have an innate understanding of each other. She can sense when I want her to come to me, or when I need her to hide. She won’t hunt anything I don’t want her to kill – or anyone, and she really does make a great traveling companion and has been excellent company to me on many journeys since I found her.” Kalika paused to think if there was anything else she should add to the story, or if she had said enough to convince her fellow travelers that they could trust Nailo. She certainly wanted everyone to be comfortable since they were already in a dangerous situation, and she wanted Nailo to feel welcome, as the panther was already distancing herself from the group and was currently lying just outside the clearing in the woods. “So what do you guys think?” She asked the group. “Does that help you to better understand my and Nailo’s relationship? I hope that once we’re all more comfortable with each other we’ll be able to get to know each other better and maybe become friends.”

The clearing for camp is comforting after the long days march. Nailo disappears into the wilderness, presumably to hunt for her dinner. Everyone’s cautious looks and wary eyes seem to go unnoticed by young Gabe as he prepares for the evening and pulls a small loaf of bread out of his pack and smears some sort of soft cheese on it. Taking a big bite, “we are only one day’s hard travel from three points village. I only suggested we sleep at my house because we will need to sleep around there anyway. And if you folks are adverse to sleeping inside then that¹s no problem because my house is so small that someone will likely have to sleep in the barn anyway!” he laughs as he takes another bite of his bread and cheese and nearly gags on it. Coughing he gets up to get some firewood and lights a small fire for the evening. Looking at this young man you begin to think. He is guiding you through the wilderness, eating bread and cheese, using homemade weapons, and without any sophisticated equipment. It dawns on you that Gabe must be rather poor. Why else would a strapping young man need to undertake a dangerous mission when he could be earning a living in a safer, if less lucrative, live of work. Pity sweeps into your mind but you doubt that Gabe needs nor wants you pity.

Nathan, settles down and listens to Kalika tell her story of her panther, throughly entertained by her ability to capture her audience’s attention as well as the story of her compassion towards animals. He comments here and there as she tells her tale and then makes small talk with the rest of the group. Feeling the weariness creep over his body he decides to retire for the evening as the fire begins to die down. “I dont know if we really need to keep watch being this close to town and in the middle of Mercia. I expect most people and creatures would have serious trouble sneaking up on a full blooded elf in the middle of the woods.” He casts a glance over at Kalika giving her credit for her abilities with a nod. “Anyway, I am tired and we will need our strength when the fight is upon us in the coming days. Let us all get some rest” With that he cozies up to the fire and pulls his blanket up over his shoulders as the moon rises over the tops of the trees and the fire dies out.

Alton listens to the two elves talk about their lives. But, his mind is on other things. He doesn’t feel as if these two should even know his life story, because he’s quite certain that the truth would send them both packing. Also, he’s quite positive that no one is falling for the sewer cleaner routine. His mind is primarily focused on the events of the day. This whole mission seems questionable, and the reward seems to be lackluster. And he doesn’t exactly trust the guide. Evesdropping is something thieves, bandits, spies, and assassins do…After all, Alton’s one of the best at it. So he sits mainly in silence listening to their conversation. “Sorry Mr. Half-elves, I believes that this is the perfect place for an ambush. Close enough to town to not cause any traveling problems, but removed from the main road and in a large clearing surrounded by woods. And as for sneaking up on elves in the woods? Ain’t hard to do. Not even an elf can hear what makes no sound.” He grins. He also offers to take the first watch.

As the others begin preparing for sleep, Kalika settles in, leaning against a tree. “Ok, Alton, take the first watch. I’ll be meditating for about 4 hours, then I can take over, since I don’t need to sleep.” Kalika always appreciated her elven trait of not requiring sleep when she was in new or strange places. And her first evening alone with these men was no different. Even though they had spent the entire day together, they were still strangers and she didn’t entirely trust her companions. She sat and thought for a little while about what the next day, or next couple of days, might bring. There had to be more to the story than rescuing kidnapped servants… Before sitting down against the tree and preparing for the evening, Kalika uses the Detect Magic Level 0 Druid Spell (60ft). Then she uses Wood Shape to bend the tree branches into a platform 12 feet off the ground, large enough for her to lie down on. Then, she sat by the tree and thought, as below. After a couple of minutes, she climbed the tree into her platform and began meditating.

Nathan watches in awe as Kalika forms the tree tops into her own platform. When the transfiguration is complete he comments, “Wow! You can do magic!? That was amazing!” He continues to glance between the platform and the elven woman who so effortlessly formed the tree into the shape of her desire. After the conversation Nathan lays back down and rests for several hours until the light comes.

Alton nods to the elf and hops out of the wagon. Instead of setting up watch in the clearing he decides its best to patrol around the forest circling the clearing. He ensures his crossbow is cocked and loaded and sets out disappearing into the forest.

“Yes, I can do magic” Kalika responded to Nathan. “But not much. That’s about the extent of my skills right now. I’m still very young in elven years…” she continued, before lying back down on her platform and closing her eyes.

The night sets in quietly with Kalika meditating in her tree and Nathan, Alton, and Gabe sleeping on their pads on the ground. The fire that Gabe made gradually burns itself out and every once in a while Gabe will toss another stick onto it just to keep going. The patchy clouds keep the night from being lit by the moons or the stars constantly so a pitch black blanket occasionally covers your world. The sounds of the Mercian hills are all around you; the chirping of crickets and the occasional hoot of an owl. In between logs being thrown on the fire you are slowly awaken by new sounds in the forest. There is a rustling in the woods to the north and while you are slowly awakening by this disturbance, thinking its just a fox or something, you are awakened by an odd sound that you cant quite place in your memory. It almost reminds you of a dog chewing on a bone. You snap awake just as the clouds part for a moment and you are greeted by the sight of 5 large zombies shambling into your camp in unholy silence. They wield rusted long swords and what appear to be pieces of some wooden structure that they have torn apart. The wood forming some sort of crude club studded with nails. They wear scraps of armor that are hanging off of their rotting bodies. An eye hangs from its socket and one is missing its left arm, a clean cut, the zombie apparently a soldier in its past life. The zombies steadily walk towards Nathan, Gabe, and Alton in the moonlight with their mouths open, screaming in death but making no noise. They appear not to notice Kalika.

Nathan awakes from his slumber to the foreign sounds approaching from the forest. He quickly scans the edges of the clearing looking for the source. (checking for other enemies besides 5 zombies) (spot: 9+5=14) Assuming he finds only the five zombies gathered at the northern edge of the clearing, Nathan creeps over to where he thinks Gabe and Alton are sleeping. Only finding Gabe, he realizes Alton is probably already aware of and prepared for the incoming enemy. He shakes Gabe awake while reaching for his bow and quiver and quickly strings up an arrow to let loose towards the newly arrived threat.

Kalika hears the rustling at the edge of the clearing and immediately sits up on her perch. She silently calls Nailo, informing her of that they’re under attack and to approach with caution. Then she reaches for her sling and bag of bullets. She looks down and sees Nathan with his bow strung, prepared to launch an attack. Realizing her advantage over the enemy in that they haven’t noticed her yet on her perch up in the tree, she decides to wait before attacking, and assist her group by slowing the enemy down before they can reach the campsite. Remembering the night’s meditation, she concentrates on an Entanglement Spell, focusing her mind on a space 20 feet behind the zombies. Almost immediately, the brush around the zombies begins to grow up and around the 5 confused zombies. A limb from a nearby tree wraps around one of them, sweeping him off of his feet and tying him to the trunk. Another zombie becomes enclosed in a bush… The spell causes brush overgrowth to fill half of the clearing, with limbs and vines reaching out for any nearby object or person. Nathan grabs Gabe and pulls him back to the edge of the clearing. (Kalika realizes that she hadn’t seen Alton and hopes he isn’t injured or affected by the brush overgrowth.) As she begins to tire, she grabs her sling and fires a bullet at the closest zombie, aiming for his head. (Assuming the zombies are all entangled.)

Nathan, seeing the growing forest spring up before him and Gabe, backpedals away from the reaching vines and branches in shock. Amazed at the possibility of a sorceress in their midst, he watches in awe as the plants bind anyone or thing nearby. Since most of the creatures are bound, he takes this time to straighten his chain shirt and position himself in front of Gabe near the base of Kalika’s tree. He then readies another arrow from his quiver, notches it and aims at whatever zombie is within his field of vision.

The zombies shamble straight towards the tree occupied by Kalika with Nathan and Gabe nearby. When Kalika finishes her incantation three of the five zombies are rooted firmly in place but strain against their wooded bonds mouthing their silent screams. (unfortunately, because I am ruling this round as a surprise round, kalika cant attack this round, but we will save her attack for the first normal round) Nathans arrow flies true and pierces the shoulder of the nearest free zombie, a dark ooze gushing forth from the puncture wound. Gabe appears shaken by the zombies and is seen holding onto his makeshift spear with both hands, keeping the zombies at bay even though the creatures are 30 feet away and moving slowly. The two free zombies shamble forward another 20 feet by the time Nathans next arrow is readied. A whistle sounds for a moment and, as you look past the nearest undead, you notice the shaft of a small bolt protruding from the belly of one of the bound zombies. Alton is apparently opening fire on the rear creatures while they are bound, but he is still nowhere to be seen. It is obvious that he does not wish to be seen as that is his way.

Alton breathes deeply. It is early in the combat and already Alton is gasping for breath. His eyes are wide as saucers. Fear flows through his viens. Not only is he witnessing the dead walking, but also the forest is alive. The branches have been twisting, turning, grasping, and scratching for what has seemed like minutes. Nothing in the sewers and towns of the north have ever prepared him for this. But suddenly, Alton’s eyes catch a sight that stirs him to act. He focuses on the scene of the two free zombies barreling down on the Half-elf and the young boy. Gabe’s eyes are just as frantic and panicked. The Half-elf looks far more composed, but still, they are all in trouble. Alton launches into action. He peels himself from the tree he was using as cover and bounds forward. Bushes, branches, and grass reach for him, but with each attempt to make contact, Alton looks to be one step ahead. As he bursts towards and into the clearing with the vegetation on his heels, he pauses. In a lull in the attacks from the vegetation, Altons brings up his crossbow and fires. The whistling sound of the crossbow bolt cutting through the air can be heard again. The whistling sound terminates with a deadening thump. It finds its target in the zombie Nathan had already targeted. Its point protudes from the center of it neck unleashing a larger flow of the black ooze. Just after firing a shot, Alton’s fatigue catches up with him and a stray branch manages to knock the crossbow from his hand. With a quick motion, Alton pulls a small dagger from his boot and begins to move toward the unentangled zombies. “Aim for the same ones, Watches for a finger waggler! The Forests and the Deads are alive,” He shouts in warning to his friends.

Turning a quick glance towards Gabe and seeing the fright in the young boys eyes, Nathan focuses his attention on Gabe’s defense. With two of the zombies unhindered by the rapidly growing plants around them he decides that this will be his last arrow before going to melee combat. “Get up into the tree boy! Your little spear will do little to slow the undead!” he shouts to Gabe. He watches as the two zombies close in on them, now only 10 feet away from the base of the tree, as he strings another arrow into his short bow. He stares down the shaft of the arrow as the bow is drawn tight and hears the whistle of another arrow headed in his direction. He pauses, waiting for the source of the sound to show itself, only to catch a glimpse of a fast moving object lodge itself into neck of one of the zombies. Hearing Alton’s cry from the overgrown forest he again focuses his aim, this time towards the wounded zombie and lines up the shaft of his arrow and with its chest. “Hopefully we can take one down before it reaches us!” He lets loose the arrow with a twang of his bow and it finds its target with a resounded thud. The arrow protrudes from the chest of the wounded zombie as the black ooze stains its tattered coverings. Nathan considers notching another arrow but the arrow did little to slow their approach. He drops his bow behind him and unsheathes two shiny sword-like weapons, one a bit longer than the other. He then takes up a battle stance in front of Gabe, twirls his weapon in his hands, and waits the few seconds before the zombies are upon him.

Gabe snaps out of his fear-spawned trance and glanes at Nathan. “I’m not getting stuck up in some tree with zombies all over the ground!” Gabe clings to his spear, standing his ground in the face of the encroaching zombies. Two of the zombies struggle againts the wooded bonds that hold them but they are so slow that as they rip off the branches, more grow up and around them, holding them fast in place.

Kalika, watching her entangle spell immobilize three of the zombies, puts a bullet into her sling and aims at the zombie approaching the base of her tree. She hears Nathan and Gabe yelling and sees Nathan’s arrow puncture the chest of the zombie. Her bullet hits the zombie right between the eyes, knocking him off-balance. Knowing her entangle spell won’t last much longer, she yells down to her companions “The entangle spell will wear off soon, and we’ll have all 5 upon us again! I’ll try to conjure up another spell real quick to keep them busy!” Thankful that she had finished her meditation for the evening, she plans to summon a creature from the elemental plane of fire. She also thinks of Nailo, wonders where she is, and expects her to show up any moment and come to their defense.

The two free zombies finish shambling towards game and Nathan at the base of Kalika tree. It appears that zombies can move quickly when their prey is near. You are startled however when the zombies slow down as they move closest to Nathan and Gabe at the base of the tree. They appear to be sizing up their opponents and preparing to attack!

Alton watches that action thats all around him. He hears the zombies straining against their bonds and knows that if they don’t take one of the free zombies down before the others get here they are going to be in a lot of trouble. Instead of closing to melee with the dagger, alton lifts his arm and heaves it at the already injured zombie. The dagger wheels around in the air and the blade sinks to the shaft into the fleshy should of the zombie.(Z2) Alton watches with satisfaction as the dagger hits home and starts off moving towards melee with the intent of readying his mace and engaging the zombies.

Nathan, allowing his training and natural instincts take over, advances in a blur to engage the first of the two advancing zombies. The zombie, brainlessly lumbering towards Gabe and Nathan offers little resistance to Nathans blades. His swords slice into the creature creating huge gashes in its core. Dust, gas, and old blood spew out of the bloated undead body of the zombie as Nathan wheels around to face his opponent and continue his relentless attack.

The zombies shambling toward Gabe and Nathan have been reduced to one. One zombie has been slashed and pierced beyond recognition, lying in a slump on the ground, its fingers still opening and closing, trying to grab its prey feebly. Gabe, seeing that the zombies can indeed be killed attacks the remaining zombie with new fervor. His homemade spear catches the zombie in the thigh drawing a small amount of black ichor, the zombie attempts to swipe at gabe but is too slow. Gabe backpedals away from the beast a short distance and brandishes the dripping end of his spear towards the undead.

With one zombie down and another closing in on Gabe and Nathan, Nailo finally arrives at the clearing. She maneuvers around the entangled zombies, growling, and leaps at the zombie near Gabe. Her claws dig into the zombies chest and, as the zombie lets out a roar, she sinks her sharp teeth into its neck, tearing at the flesh. Kalika surveys the situation and realizes that something big has to happen if they want to defeat the zombies. Her entangle spell will be wearing off any moment now. At Nailo’s arrival, she is reminded that they’re not alone, and she decides to summon another of nature’s allies. She sees Nailo attack a zombie, and hopes for her safety. Kalika’s eyes roll back into her head as she travels to the elemental plane of fire to summon one of her friends, the Thoqqua. Immediately the Thoqqua appears by springing out of the rocks between the entangled zombies. Its body uncoils as it launches itself toward the nearest zombie, igniting everything in its path, its tail whipping around behind it and slapping the other entangled zombies.

Nailos teeth and claws rip deep into the zombies flesh. As the panther pulls away a small spray of black oozing blood mists into the air. The zombie staggers back away from gabe, severely wounded but regains its standing and mouths a wordless curse as it lunges back into the fray. Meanwhile, the Thoqqua bursts forth from its firey den and lunges towards the entangled zombies. The mounded zombie is caught aflame and crumples to the ground after a few moments of burning. Its corpse twitches for a few moments and then is still. Another zombie is struck by the springing beast and is knocked to the ground and lit as well. The flames quickly burn off the undeads tattered clothes and goes out, leaving a charred naked being who miraculously rises to its feet, badly hurt. The zombie that has been torn open by nailo now shambles back into the fray and swipes at the panther. Unfortunately for the zombie nailo is too quick for it and jumps backwards while letting out a low roar. The restrained zombie that is not already engaged with the Thoqqua attempts yet again to pull itself free of the snaking vines but appears to be loosing strength as the battle wears on. It fails to break free yet again.

Having launched the dagger, Alton reaches into the folds of his cloak. His hands find the haft of his mace hanging from its sling. He frees it easily and pushes towards the melee. Intent on ending this fight.

Nathan, fully confident that the fight will go in their favor, drops his defensive nature and lunges forward to attack the closest remaining zombie. He twirls his blades as he approaches and watches the zombie eyes swell with hunger as fresh meat approaches. Nathan spins away from the first swing of the zombies large arms and parries the next swat attempt, batting away a balled fist with the flat of his long sword. An opening appears as Nathan feigns to attack low and then spins and brings his blades around the back side of the creature. The zombie bends over to try and block the feign but is too slow to react. Nathan makes the turn and stabs his blades into the zombies back. Black ooze flows from the wounds as Nathan pushes the blades into the undead beast with all his strength. After they can sink no more he puts his boot up on the undeads behind and kicks his blades free.



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