The Looming Flames

All Flesh Must Be Eaten

"From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties"

Having spent the night above-ground for the first time in many days, the party awakened refreshed and reinvigorated. But with the bodies of both the three slain adventurers and their fallen companion Fenrik in tow, the mood was melancholy. Thus they traveled back to Crossford mostly in silence. Nearly halfway through the three-day journey they encountered another pair of adventurers: Galascaron Faelandaerl and Theonascence Volancetheon. As the two groups cautiously greeted each other, introductions were made and motives revealed. The duo explained that word of the twig blight sightings had reached The Gnarley Wood and concerned the druidic order that resides there. They dispatched the young druid Galascaron and the ranger Theonascence to investigate. The party was quick to point out that they had discovered the source of the wooden abominations and had dispatched both it and its maker. With gratitude, and wishing to hear further details, the druid and ranger offer to accompany the party back to Crossford.

After another day’s travel across the fertile landscape the adventurers arrive at the gates of their destination. They are greeted by guards who recognize some of their number as those who were banished by the mayor some days ago. The party quickly explains where they have been and what they found. They also point to the bodies they have brought back with them. The guards immediately recognize Gedric Valis and inquire as to the manner of his death. As the party explains the guards send a runner to fetch Lord Mayor Boren Rathgate. After a brief, tense wait, the mayor arrives and is apprised of the situation. He speaks with the party and is grateful for the return of Gedric‘s body. He tells the party that the others were unknown adventurers who came into town over a month ago. They shared tales of riches and glory and easily recruited the young Valis heir. They all left headed west one morning and everyone assumed they had traveled far from Crossford. The mayor was crestfallen to learn what had actually transpired. The runner is dispatched to inform the mother of Gedric, while the mayor explains that he will lift his previous banishment and allow those members of the party to enter the town again. However, they are quickly informed of new laws governing the open carrying of weapons in town, and must pay for a license and also peace-bond their blades while within the town’s walls. The party acquiesces, and as they are in the process of heeding the new law Moren Valis arrives. Upon seeing her slain son she begins to sob uncontrollably, while simultaneously apologizing for her lack of decorum. Maraxus is quick to console the woman, who begins to explain that her son had always wanted a more exciting life. He had grown up listening to stories of his grandfather, who was a paladin of St. Cuthbert. The armor and sword he carried had been his grandfather’s. The Lady Moren begins to weep more as she explains that her bloodline dies with her. Her husband passed away some years ago from illness and Gedric was their only child. She realizes that Maraxus is himself a righteous warrior and insists he take the family blade. She tells him that it is called Silverspike and that it will serve him well. Begrudgingly the paladin accepts the offered sword, swearing to honor it, and her family with its use.

The mayor instructs the party to leave the dead adventurers they brought back and the town will see to there burial. Moved by the scene of the grieving mother the party is quiet as they make their way into town. They return to The Aleing Halfling to procure rooms, some good food, and stout drink. Both Maraxus and Korlund leave to attend the burial of their fallen companion. As the day wears on each party member in turn heads off to attend various personal errands and sundry tasks. As night begins to fall, all but Hothwyn (the ranger prefers sleeping outside) finds their way back to the inn for supper and a good night’s rest in a bed. This does not go as well as planned however as the night’s peace is shattered by the screams of someone in distress.

Awaking and attempting to gather their wits, as well as their gear, the party hurries into the poorly-lit street to see what the commotion is. Upon entering the street they are able to see a horrified woman, babbling incoherently between sobs about a dead person she has just seen. After calming her a bit she is able to tell them where she saw this body and the adventurers are off to investigate. Just a little over a block away they come across the body of a middle-aged human male, slain very recently. His vest and shirt torn open to reveal a ghastly carving in his flesh. Korlund and Marvolo agree that it appears to be similar to the symbol for Vecna’s cult, but it is not exact so they cannot be certain. An alarm is raised as there is a murderer or murderers loose in Crossford.

Hothwyn had found a comfy perch in a large oak on the edge of town to make his bed in. This is where he was when he was awakened by the sounds of steel ringing on steel and shouts muffled as they give way to a sickening gurgling. He hastens to the sounds and finds himself standing at the west gate of the town, doors swung wide open, with two dead town guards at his feet, watching five cloaked and hooded figures ride fast and hard away from town. Hearing the alarm raised and calls of “murder!” fill the night, he makes his way towards the location of his companions.

Once rejoined the party begins a frenzy of discussion, relaying what has transpired as the streets fill with curious and concerned citizens, as well as furious guards demanding answers. During this time of explanation there are suddenly more screams emanating from elsewhere in town. As the crowd silences to better determine their location, more terrified screams come from other directions. As the guards began to split into groups and head off into various directions, the party runs towards the latest shout they heard. They are lead only a few blocks away as a constant stream of pleas for help are made. Arriving at a coppersmith’s shop they realize the howls of terror are coming from the upstairs dwelling. Baiard makes quick work of the door and they begin to ascend the stairs. Upon arriving they are greeted with a most gruesome sight: one of the “dead” adventurers they brought back for burial is standing over a woman and preparing to strike her. Acting quickly the party attacks the ghoul and manages to destroy it before it can harm the woman. However they quickly discover that it was too late to save her husband, whose ravaged corpse is also in the room.

The hysterical woman seemed to gravitate towards Tulin for some reason, and would not release her hold on her. The bladesinger instructed her companions to go on without her and thus the adventurers ran back out into the night to confront whatever else was roaming about. In almost no time they encounter more people being attacked by what appear to be more ghouls. After a few more such encounters, a couple involving skeletons as well, the chaos seems relentless when the party happens upon a row of burning homes. From one of the houses screams of terror emanate and Baiard is the first to charge in. Rushing towards the back of the house and dodging flames as he does, the dwarf warrior soon finds himself face-to-face with the ghastly sight: the undead form of Gedric Valis has someone cornered. Still clad in his scorched armor, graying flesh torn from his fingers to reveal needle-like bones, the creature that was once Gedric grasps Baiard and at once the battle-rager is stricken with a supernatural paralysis that he cannot resist. At this moment others from the party enter the house just as “Gedric” is moving to finish the dwarf. In the ensuing fight Marla manages to sneak around to the rear of the house and coax the terrified woman that “Gedric” was preparing to feast on out a window. After destroying the undead thing, the party retrieves Baiard and exits the home that is quickly becoming an inferno.

As minutes pass the dwarf slowly regains control of his body and appears unhurt from his ordeal. The night seems much more calm, as if the horrors that have terrorized Crossford this night have been subdued. Then quite suddenly more screams tear into the night. Rushing to offer aid the party finds that the newly dead are also rising up to inflict bloody harm on the living. The adventurers move immediately to destroy this new menace.

As Tulin is helping her rescued victim leave the bloody carnage of her home, the elf too becomes privy to this new threat as the torn body of the man in the house slowly animates and lunges at the pair of women. Combining her magic and swordcraft the elf dispatches the abomination and hastens to find her companions. Reunited the party moves methodically through the town, instructing citizens and offering assistance, both martial and mundane, when needed. As the night begins to buzz with a different kind of activity, the wails of grieving new widows, the shouted orders of guardsmen and community elders, the party starts to make its way back to The Aleing Halfling for a hard drink and a soft bed…

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