Starday, Abadius 31
The guard towers were not empty.
I’m not sure why a necropolis needs guards anyway – aren’t dead and undead people enough of a reason to steer clear? – but these headless wonders seemed to be everywhere. The biggest problem in dispatching them is that they look so … startling, that it causes people to freeze up sometimes. This has happened to myself, and Sparna, and others. While you’re struggling to refocus, they get free attacks on you. And their attacks are not just physical damage – they do something deeper. At some level, they just make you feel weaker, like they’re also draining life force yomehow. And every one of them can do this startle thing from a distance. They are most easily handled one at a time; with a group it’s far too likely that at least one of them will startle you.
And so we’ve developed the strategy of separating them with walls of fire. The wall not only visibly blocks them and their startle ability, but also does them damage. Ivan is also great at picking them off with arrows.
So as they started to come out of the guard towers, up went the usual wall of fire. I got a swing at him as one walked past me, but then without even turning, he startled myself and Kali. While we stood stock still and gathered our wits, Kali, Sparna, and I watched Radella and Qatana destroy those that walked through the fire. When I finally recovered, most of the headless were dead, and Radella got the last one before I could move closer to take a swing. Disappointing.
Qatana ran into a guard tower without backup, per usual, to check it out. I quickly followed her, and we found that inside the tower was a room that looked to have alcoves suitable for bodies. A door at the far end led to a more ornate room with room for a few more bodies. All looked like they’d been disturbed, but whether by grave robbers or these headless creatures themselves I couldn’t tell. There were pictures of the dead attacking the living which, given the history of this place, I have to believe were a late renovation.
Exiting the guard towers, Qatana next went to the bridge. There were runes on the supports of the bridge, that seemed to translate to “Here the dead walk. Trouble them not and do not bar their path.” And there was a whole pile of magic surrounding the bridge, according to our staff who could see magic. Qatana tried crossing the bridge and was stopped – we surmise the abjuration magic we detected is an anti-life field. We were not able to dispel it, so for now we decided to go around it.
Suishen gave me air walk, and others used either air walk or fly to cross the bridge. Radella received darkvision since she was the most adept at finding traps and would be near the front. We judged that the caravans would be safe since there could be nothing behind us, and everything in front of us had just been killed.
Ahead lay a purple glow, and as we approached we found that it came from a pool of water surrounding a tree like pillar. The ceiling looked like a night sky, with tiny lights resembling stars. The pool seemed deeper than we could see, and at the end farthest from us, on the ground there was a corpse.
“Undead” warned Ivan briefly.
Qatana reached down to take its sword, and it came to life. Or at least, it attacked. It had glowing red eyes, which is always a good clue to identifying enemies.
We surrounded it easily, but at the same moment, a creature entered the room to the north – looked to be a yeti, according to Sparna. Now there were issues on two fronts. Kali summoned (ironically) a dire ape, and the ape and Sparna battled the yeti while the rest of us battled the revenant. I managed to put a final blow onto the revenant and was going to turn my attention to the yeti, except Qatana again reached for the sword. And it sprang to life again and we had two enemies again. The revenant actually got ahold of Qatana at one point and started to squeeze her, but it was Radella this time who brought it down and saved Qatana. Meanwhile Ivan managed to nail the yeti with some well shot arrows and it too fell.
There was healing all around and then we noticed something flitting about on the tree/pillar. Qatana stepped to the water’s edge, and it came over and touched her. She visibly withered, and I rushed over to attack it and with a particular adept hit, Suishen momentarily created an even bigger burst of flame – perfect timing! But our blows didn’t seem to damage it as much as I might have thought they would.
We quickly realized that weapons of force – magic missiles, spiritual allies, that sort of thing – was our best bet. But at about the same moment it got through my defenses and touched me as well … and, just like Qatana, I suddenly felt weaker, like I’d lost a step. I backed off, and the group slowly attacked them (there were 3 altogether) by force and distance weapons.
And just as we were getting the upper hand, two more yetis appeared near the corpse of the other yeti. Ivan threw up a wall of fire, and it looked like the battle would never end when Kali paused with a distant look on her face and yelled, “The caravan! The caravan is under attack!” She cast haste on us all and we all hurried back as fast as we could. For Ivan and me, with airwalk still in effect, that was as fast as I could run. Others required another application of a fly spell.
The sounds of battle led us to the rear of the caravan, where we found Ameiko, Sandru, and Shalelu grimly holding back more of the headless wonders. Ivan immediately threw up the ever-ready wall of fire to put some space between the undead and the caravan. I immediately moved to protect Ameiko, who threw me a quick look like, “took your time”. I asked Suishen for protection from cold, on a hunch, while we waited for the undead to try to come through the wall of fire. Others began to arrive, and Sparna used his flight to stay above the undead while still being beyond the range of their startle ability. Radella was able to engage them and start slashing at them. I think she laid the killing blow on all three.
I had thought we were lucky to have gotten back to help before any of our party was seriously injured. Ameiko, of course, was my first concern, but Sandru seemed stricken by grief. I asked if he were seriously injured, and he gaped at me momentarily before gesturing to the ground beside one of the wagons.
There lay Bevelek. Dead.
We’ve been very occupied with how this quest has affected us and our lives. We are scions now, and heir to the throne after Ameiko. We have been learning new skills and spells, and acquiring new magic items, and to some extent enriching ourselves, in the name of increasing our chances of success, but because he’s a driver and not a swordsman or a woodsman or a cleric or a wizard, we have not done the same with all of our companions. The idea was that they would never face danger, but when danger came anyway, he grabbed a sword and did the best he could. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was startled by the headless undead and made easy prey by his hesitation.
A quick discussion with Qatana, Kali, and others revealed they felt similarly. I think we have a consensus that if we can, we will resurrect him. A gentle repose applied now will allow us to acquire the components necessary for that spell … which may take some time. But he is important to our journey and our goals too.
It’s the right thing to do.