IIIb. A Stand Against the Dark

Session Date: April 15, 2019 (continued)
Effective Character Level: 3

As they cautiously entered the forbidding tomb, Rudolfo supplicated his god for aid; Hanseath responded by bolstering the health of the cleric, the eldritch knight, and the paladin.

As large as the crypt was, even those with low-light vision could see only a little more than their counterparts. What they did see was an expansive and empty tomb, decorated with occasional stone statues or wall reliefs.

A sudden, booming voice interrupted them.

“Who enters here?”

Rudolfo paused. As a fellow dwarf, it was possible he could reason directly with the undead paladin. “We come in peace,” he answered the other, “to see why the dead are rising.”

A withered and rotten form shambled into the dim light spilling from the entrance. Before them stood a corpse–tall for a dwarf–clad in full ceremonial burial armor, yet carrying the same greatsword he held in life.

Its mouth hissed a stale breath unmoved for centuries.

“Peace…is not an option.”

And with that, the undead dwarf raised its arms. Sconces around them flared to light with a sickly green glow. A commotion began in the cemetery behind them–quietly at first, but quickly gaining in volume.

“Come!” the unholy paladin commanded. And the dead answered.

Theren the Warlock

As soon as the first shuffling sounds answered from the darkness outside, Theren put his hand on the hill dwarf’s shoulder. “May your mind be steeled against the coming dangers,” he breathed, filling Rudolfo with sudden resolve. In a battle against both the undead and an enemy divine worshiper, the battle would ultimately be won or lost on the cleric’s feet.

The party then carefully edged down the stairs, sizing up their foe before rushing in headlong. Theren watched Xervius raise his hand and point at Yesod…and then literally felt the undead paladin reach into the human’s mind.

Theren’s patroness had blessed him with the ability to see the charade that makes up the mind of each living sentient creature. But it seems he was not the only one with that ability. As the half-elf watched, Xervius subtly rearranged the images in Yesod’s head.

Yesod halted suddenly in his tracks, emitting a sudden, strange cackle. Then, he bent over, laughing in loud, strangled sobs.

Theren knew exactly what spell it was that afflicted Yesod, having learned it himself; what’s more, he knew exactly how to counter it. As quickly as he could, Theren pulled his slingshot from his belt and sent a bullet into Yesod’s exposed neck.

The human started in pain, then put a hand to his new welt. As his tearing eyes cleared, he glanced once at the warlock, perhaps in accusation, perhaps in gratitude. Then he hefted his greataxe and lunged into the fray.

Yesod the Eldritch Knight

When the foe had raised his arms, Yesod had approached tactically. He was fully aware of how quickly a typical dwarf could run; and he knew exactly how far away to stand to ensure he landed the first blow, if charged. He even tossed a bolt of fire (a newly-learned skill) at the monster, to goad it into committing the first mistake.

His tactical mind fell away, however, when his target pointed a withered hand towards him. Suddenly, Yesod was beset with the absurdity of what they were doing–entered the underground lair of an undead monster, in a futile attempt to somehow kill it again. How do you kill something that is already dead?

The sheer lunacy of their situation hit Yesod full in the face, and he doubled over in desperate laughter. His only hope was that his death would not be too drawn-out or painful…

A slingshot’s bullet hit him square in the side of the neck, and his thoughts regathered. His teammate had hurt him, yes–but it was pain that had cleared his mind. Amid Xervius’s mocking guffaws, a sudden fury beset him. Raising his greataxe in both hands, he threw caution to the winds.

“You hold the line against the skeletons!” he shouted to Rudolfo. “Theren and I will take this abomination ourselves!”

Then, in almost the same instant, he brought his weapon down on the monster with as much force as he could muster.

Rudolfo the Cleric

As Theren’s hand touched his shoulder, Rudolfo felt a calming influence enter his mind. Though the undead frightened him little before, he now felt almost detached from the proceedings, and he was able to act without hesitation.

When he heard the soil behind them buckle and give birth, he proceeded not into the crypt, but instead outwards, placing himself squarely between the new threats and his friends.

Five skeletons had risen from the ground to confront him.

“At last!” he roared. “An even fight! Come taste my warhammer, fiends!”

With the mental assistance from Theren’s spell, the undead were nearly an open book. Each of their movements were obviously telegraphed, and Rudolfo sidestepped or parried what might have otherwise been a critical blow. A few muttered incantations, and bolts of lights plummeted from the skies themselves, scattering at least one skeleton to rubble.

What feeble minds directing the skeletons soon realized attacking the hill dwarf was futile. Two managed to move past him to strike at other party members–in particular, at the squishy insides of the human rogue nearby. Still, the cleric held his ground superbly, alternating between striking at the foes in front and granting divine healing to his injured teammates behind.

Gariff the Rogue

The rogue encountered the most difficulty during their struggle against the undead, none the least of which was that he could not sneak attack any of the skeletons. It was difficult to find a weak spot in an anatomy that held no organs or arteries.

When the first skeleton stumbled into the crypt from outside, Gariff lunged at it bravely. It was not until it had been joined by four others that his courage faltered…but by then it was too late.

A clash of bony arms and weapons soon sent the human bleeding and slumped to the ground. As he felt his mind fade and a distant light begin to beckon, a surge of divine healing power entered his body, closing his wounds and setting him on his feet again.

Whispering a word of thanks to both Rudolfo and the dwarf’s patron deity, Gariff retook to his feet–to stare into the same lidless eyes that surrounded him. He was grateful when the hill dwarf pushed past him to take a stand at the crypt’s entrance, helping hold the tide of undead.

Gariff snatched a crowbar from his pack to better fight the abominations. Still, he had fallen a second time (and been revived a second time) before the battle had finally ended.

Lyman the Paladin

The cleric was not the only party member who could call on the aid of the gods. When battle had been joined, Lyman whispered a prayer to his own deity, granting a brief boon to himself, Rudolfo, and Yesod. Then he waded into the fight.

As pure fortune would have it, the half-orc was spared from bloodletting during this fight. That is not to say, however, that he did not see the desperate effort of those around him.

He saw Gariff’s resolve melt as he succumbed to the hail of blows.

He watched Theren stabbed once, twice, three times and sink to a knee; the half-elf’s eyes rolled but his fingers danced, as he desperately kept concentration on a vital spell.

He saw, too, Yesod beside him stumble as the undead dwarf cut into him with his greatsword. The human instinctively put his hand to his ribs, and the wound began to close–a touch of magic the eldritch knight was still learning to channel.

Above him, pinpoints of evil shone brightly in the eyeless sockets. Their undead foe laughed heartily with a chilling rasp.

“Ah, blood and thunder, just as I like it!”

The battle wavered on the edge of a knife–all too easily, it could fall to the side in one fashion or another.

“It is time to end this!” the half-orc bellowed.

Concentrating his ire directly on his enemy, Lyman swung again and again. Each cut was a mighty stroke, and metal flew in pieces from the foe’s disintegrating armor. Not one blow failed to hit, nor failed to stagger his target as it connected.

The living paladin prepared for one last strike against the undead, and his greatsword connected simultaneously as Yesod’s greataxe. Xervius the Sixth fell one final time, torn in twain by the sheer might of their combined attack.

Xervius toppled, and so too did his minions. As their bones clattered to the floor, the ghastly green glow of the sconces wavered and guttered–finally being replaced by welcoming yellow glows.

The crypt had been cleansed.

Related posts