1st Bear of the Grim Moon
Some fancy maneuvering, reinforcements from town, and a pretty arrow design in my armor later, we earned access to the cave we saw the prophet run into. I’m not sure who’s animating all these undead (Maybe the prophet? Would explain his fetish for corpses we found in his tent, but that would take a lot of time and energy, and he has only been here a couple weeks. Coulda been Aldric too – distracting the townships with undead is a good move.) but I’ll have to remember to thank him or her later – these bastards are way tougher than some ruffians in town. Mort was too weak to carry on, so we left him at the mouth of the cave with the townies. They said it was in the hopes that Mort could use his healing runes to patch people up, but I have a feeling that was code for Mort was too terrified of the creatures to go any farther, just like when he ran back to town when we first saw their den. I don’t know why Princess Kayah insisted on bringing him along.
As we gathered together and prepared to enter the cave, Beredjek started mumbling something about being hungry. I pressed him and he said he hadn’t eaten for the couple days. While I understand not eating while on a hunt, there’s a plentiful food supply all around him. I’m not sure what’s stopping him. The princess seems a bit repulsed by his eating habits, but I’ve seen stranger. The way I figure: if Beredjek is strong enough to survive action taken against him when he feeds and the brain in question is too feeble to ward him off, then nature is just doing its job. I’ll keep that in mind as long as he’s in the party; never know when he might decide we look like a tasty snack. Maybe we can feed him Mort if he tries to run off again.
The cave opened up into a large featureless cavern. The lack of rock formations or any discernable natural features led me to believe at least part of this cave was dug. Oh, that and the fact that somebody had prepared a welcoming party for us: Zombies and skeletons and rot wings, oh my! A horde of zombies raced towards us, skeletons drew bows at us from atop a wooden perch, the rot wings eyed our fleshier parts looking for a chance to swoop down and strike, and in the back something was hurling up snot balls and looked ready to chuck em at us. I think I’ve seen Beredjek do that before… After an uplifting war-hum from Olorien, the fight was on!
Kayah burned away the first wave of zombies before anybody else so much as moved. Olorien charged straight at the next wave, kicking one in the face. Knowing he couldn’t take too much punishment, I ran after him, steeling myself for the fight to come. He and I got mixed up in an intense melee with the zombies, distracting me from the real threat – I got raked in the back from the rot wings and took a snot ball to the face. Apparently it had acidic qualities because it burned hotter than that Lizardfolk gumbo those Bullywogs had me try after our hunt. Things were looking grim as Olorien and I were overpowered by the zombies’ sheer numbers.
Suddenly, something changed in Olorien. I saw in him something only a seasoned warrior like myself could recognize – the lust for battle. Olorien used his hand to launch into the air. For a moment, time seemed to slow, as Olorien’s body gracefully whipped around in the air and birds flew out of crevices we didn’t know Olorien had. Then he brought his legs round to bludgeon all three of his foes, leaping off the last one to land a few feet away. It happened so fast I could barely tell what he had done. Seeing his blood lust renewed my own; I let out a mighty roar and waded back into the fray.
I took a quick look around to get a picture of the whole battle in between sword swings. Beredjek had overwhelmed one flank of skeleton archers, but another was still taking pot-shots at us from the other side of the cavern. The sound of bones snapping brought me back to the more immediate problem – Olorien had struck one of the zombies so quickly that in confusion the zombie swung at one of his mates. I figured we might as well polish these sods off before planning our next move. A few sword strokes later we had a pile of zombie appendages at our feet. Beredjek and the acid bomber appeared to be in some sort of duel. Wizards – you leave them alone for two minutes and they start throwing snot at each other. Kayah, meanwhile, seemed to be handling the rot wing problem – her blinding flashes of divine light kept them from flying around properly. However, I saw that the remaining archers were lining up a shot at our intrepid casters. It did not look like they could afford that kind of distraction right now. Pointing them out to Olorien, I grabbed two of the zombie heads lying on the floor and booked it towards their wooden platform.
The skeletons hesitated a moment as they watched their shafts sink into not Beredjek but the heads of their own mates. The emotionless bastards casually nocked more arrows and lined up shots for my head. Fortunately this kept them from noticing Olorien until he had already leaped into them from the side and knocked them off the platform. Olorien and I were able to take out one fairly quickly, but the other had fallen out of view on the other side of the platform. Just then I heard magical explosions coming from that direction, and decided to put a stop to it before anything nasty happened. I knocked out the supports of the platform and collapsed it on top of the last skeleton, and then… silence. Beredjek had finished off the acid spitter. Our group had vanquished yet another horde of undead.
I took stock of my condition. The arrow shafts that had lodged into my armor in a decorative pattern were gone; I must have used them to stab somebody in the heat of battle. Other than that my scale armor was holding up just fine. Hardy stuff; worth every gold piece the tiefling I took it from spent on it.
With a moment to ourselves we had a chance to look around and plan our next steps. The cave continued in a series of tunnels, but most of these were blocked off by rubble, maybe a cave-in. I could’ve tried to clear them, but it is unlikely the prophet bothered to block up a tunnel after him. There were two tunnels left open. Somebody had scrawled “FLESH” over one and “BONE” over the other, both in Common. I’m not sure who could’ve written it – these undead don’t seem to communicate with each other. Nor do I know why. I suppose it could have been a sorting process for the necromancers – have your minions harvest the caracasses and send bones to one tunnel and flesh to the other for a quick and simple reanimation process. Our group started discussing their options. Olorien and Kayah pointed out that we’ve been through a lot already and recommended reinforcing this position and setting up camp for the night. However, for every minute we stopped moving the prophet got a minute farther away from us. I wanted to press on, and Beredjek announced that he was also eager to get moving. We stood there bickering for a while, until I was about to defer to Kayah – at the end of the day I’m still responsible for her health above anything else. However she saw what I was doing and put a stop to it: “Gak’ril, why do I have to make every decision! I’m sick of it! Make up your own mind for once!”. I didn’t need to be told twice; I ran off down the “FLESH” tunnel. Kayah chased after me – “Gak’ril, that’s not what I meant!”
Kayah and I followed the tunnel until it spit us out into a hallway. Well, it was like a hallway – one with zombie-filled pits in it. Between us and the other end of the tunnel stood a corpse cornucopia, as if somebody had taken a bunch of bodies and smushed them together to form one creature. Kayah called it a “flesh golem”. I have to hand it to whoever is in charge of the undead here – they’ve got a wicked sense of humor. While Kayah and I stood there bickering over what to do, the golem… it’s hard to describe. It sort of oozed its way toward us. At least somebody in the room knew how to get things done. I pointed as much out to Kayah, “See, bold moves win fights!” She seemed rather more concerned with the giant blob of flesh advancing on us. Rolling my eyes, I stepped in front of the beastie. It either had to go through me or fall in the pits. It decided I was the better option. It picked up speed and raced straight towards me… and bounced harmlessly off my shield. I laughed as the creature tried to figure out a way around me as Kayah brought the heavens down upon it, flesh falling off it en masse. This was going to be a piece of cake.
Then the creature formed a huge arm and batted me aside. I crashed into the wall. Stupid. You never let your guard down in a fight. Not for a second. Kayah trembled as the golem advanced on the girl I had vowed to protect. One so different than the scheming tricksters The Kingdom called “politicians”. This girl had within her the same valor and noble spirit her adopted parents showed when they stood against the Dracolich Aldric. Memories played out in my mind: sorting through the carnage, unable to tell my own brother and sisters from my vilest enemy because the bodies had been so horrifically mutilated; returning home to find all the tribes’ tents in flames; forced to watch our children die as I desperately tried anything to staunch the bleeding. As the flesh golem began to beat Kayah, that same rage I felt on the day I lost everything surged through me, commanding me to kill. The purpose for the strength I constantly seek became clear. I only had one thought: Not again. Never again.
I threw myself into the creature, knocking both it and I into a pit. It threw me off, once again into the wall, but I barely felt it. I was up again. I threw my shield and charged again, prepared to chew my way through it if necessary. I was about to leap back into the pit with it, until I realized the creature had stopped making noises. My shield had embedded itself into the wall. Sitting atop it was the creature’s head.
As if from a great distance, I heard Kayah say, “Well, that took care of it, eh, Gak’ril?” I looked toward her. “Gak’ril?” She was safe. I fell to my knees. The bastard had apparently hurt me worse than I thought. “Gak’ril, are you all right?” The last thing I remember is the floor rushing towards my face.