The sea holds no longer beckons me, now that so many of my companions have been lost to it. Well, I suppose that I didn’t exactly lose my friends to the sea; I found them on our boat with their throats cut. So I suppose that it’s the drow, not the sea, that no longer beckon me. Regardless, our month aboard the ship was a grueling reminder of our recent losses, and I was relieved when the shore of Osiron finally inched above the horizon.
Of our original group, only I and Sorceron remained. But fortune had smiled upon us, and before we left Forestdale we had actually added two more members to our group! Both approached us on the streets, seeking adventure.
Guruthos was a shrunken elf (intentional, he claimed) riding on a dog. At once I found him to be intelligent, capable, and ready to please… but most dogs are! Guruthos made less of an impression on me, but we invited him to join us nonetheless. He had sought out Poppy, but still agreed to travel with us when I explained how Poppy had wandered off as soon as we had landed.
Our other new companion was a cohort named Perry. New to adventuring, he had not yet chosen a path in life and dabbled as a wizard and a cleric (though he was uncertain of which deity he followed, like so many of today’s youth). We took him under our wings in the spirit of charity, and because we no longer had a healer in the party.
And thus we sailed away, cast out of our home by both man and god, to try to save the distant land of Osiron from the Overlord’s invasion. My friends were gone, yet I remembered them fondly and still carried a little piece of each of them with me… in my pouch, to use as material components for my Alter Self spell.
We skirted the shoreline for a day before our able captain sailed into the harbor of The Outpost. This city, he explained, was a trading colony established by foreigners in order to connect the desert country of Antaria with trade routes across the sea. But as soon as we saw the lifeless streets and the disrepair of the buildings, we could tell that the city had fallen on hard times.
The harbormaster greeted us as we stepped on to dry land. We were likely the first ship he had seen in a week, and he was most certainly disappointed to find that we had come without goods to trade. He directed us towards the key locations in the city (chiefly the sole remaining inn, and the mayor’s residence) and gave us an overview of the Alswani people who lived deep in the desert. He also mentioned that in addition to the lack of trade, they had also recently been beset by zombies every night.
We thanked him for his time and set out in search of the inn that he had mentioned. Our first order of business was to find a new leader to replace Poppy. And within a few minutes of entering the bustling tavern, we identified that very man.
Roark the half-orc (a suitable description, but by no means his name) was the center of attention at the bar, though nobody was paying much attention to him. I spied on his conversation with the barkeep, and was impressed with his quick wit. It was clear from his full plate armor and wicked falchion that he was an adventurer. I then introduced us and asked him if he would join us as our leader, to which he immediately agreed.
Before long, the gnome who would become the final member of our party approached us. His name was… something having to do with “toe” and he claimed to be an alchemist. Most alchemists that I knew had been wizards, sorcerors, druids, clerics or the like, but he professed to be none of those. Nonetheless, we proved his worth to Roark by mixing up a potion, so he was invited to join us as well.
Perry proved to be an important party member by renting some nice rooms, and we then went to see the mayor of the city to inquire about the zombies. The mayor’s residence, though once grand, had fallen into the same disrepair as the rest of the city. He must have had little other business, because upon our entry we were promptly escorted to an audience with him. The mayor explained that as of late, zombies rose from the graveyard every night and wandered the streets. There was also word that the town of Shumia, a few days walk away, had also been affected and possibly more so. He had organized a militia to deal with the undead and so far the city had been kept safe, but he desired that the dead be made to remain in their graves.
I explained that we were quite capable of solving his problem, and negotiated a reward should we prove successful. We then went to the graveyard to investigate.
At the graveyard, we could see no signs of necromancy, save for the obvious signs of the undead crawling from some of the graves. I noticed that the oldest signs of unrest had centered on the newest graves, and as the nights went on progressively older graves had yielded zombies. We decided to wait and watch what happened that night.
No sooner had night fallen then an aura of necromancy surrounded us, and a dozen zombies crawled out of the dirt. The wandered around until they saw us, and attacked. In moments we had dispatched of them, and we were once again alone in the night. The necromancy around us was palpable, and seemed to be boundless… it wasn’t contained to the graveyard, but hung in the streets of the city and the surrounding desert as well. We decided to rest for the night at the inn and venture toward Shumia in the morning.
The trip across the desert on the well-worn road was uneventful, and we were pleasantly greeted by the townsfolk of Shumia. If we were hoping to find the cause of the curse in Shumia, however, we were mistaken; we were instead directed far south through the desert. There, we were told, was the ancient burial ground of the Alswani people, from which the undead had first appeared.
Once again we trudged through the desert, this time without a good road to follow. Based on instructions from the people of Shumia, we tried to time our arrival so that we reach the burial ground at mid-day, to best avoid many more undead.
As we neared the burial ground, we encountered a group of Alswani tribesmen. They were friendly, but cautioned us that their sacred land had been overtaken by the dead. They let us pass freely, but demanded that we not loot the graves of their ancestors.
As we neared our destination, I realized that our plan to get there in daylight had been thwarted. Above us, the sky grew increasingly darker; not the darkness of an approaching storm, but more like an unnatural, foreboding dusk. We climbed over a hill and finally could see the burial ground below us. It was vast, and in its center was the unexpected sight of a sprawling manse. All around it were hundreds or even thousands of undead. We saw skeletons and zombies, but also could make out the forms of ghouls and incorporeal specters.
We hid behind the hill and attempted to plot our way to the grand house, since we supposed that was the most likely source of the necromancy. The terrain was composed of separate hills, valleys, and plateaus, and we thought it likely that we could approach each area in such a way that if we were discovered by a group on undead, the other groups still may not notice us. It even seemed possible that we could avoid some of the combat outright through the clever use of some of our skills such as climbing and acting like zombies.
Alas, we were neither as clever nor as stealthy as we had hoped, and were attacked by vast hordes of undead, perhaps a dozen or more! We fought our way to the manse and eventually stepped inside.
By this point, we had no desire to fight more undead than we needed to, so we asked Guruthos to scout ahead and draw any monsters back to us. He began to open doors and soon returned to us being chased by flaming, exploding skeletons. We dispatched them fairly easily, but not before being somewhat burnt. Guruthos also discovered a kitchen with stairs descending into a dark basement. From far below, we could hear the unexpected sound of bubbling water.
Guruthos then left us in the kitchen as he explored the basement. He soon came back upstairs and told us of a strange man, garbed as a necromancer of Nerull, dumping a powder into an underground stream. We sent him back downstairs to surprise the man. In seconds it was all over; Guruthos surprised him with his deadly arrows, and the rest of us rushed down to kill him before he had a chance to do anything besides cast a darkness spell and try to slip away.
We examined the barrel and discovered it to be full of a strange powder. Even our alchemist was unable to identify it, save for the fact that it seemed to be some sort of disease-bearing agent. It was unclear what the man had been doing, or whether it was related to the surge of undead. We then took a few moments to catch our collective breath before venturing further into the mansion.