Out of spells and in need of rest, and unable to return to Ironguard Motte due to a raging blizzard on the surface of the Barrowmoor, the Army of the Light dares to rest the night in a barrow mound, with consequences. Meanwhile, in Irongaurd Motte, a zombie lord attempts to take the life of another member of the party while pretending to be a beggar.
We left off in the Barrowmaze moments after the Army of the Light successfully destroyed an undead squirming with rot grubs through the use of fire and Cobalt, our paladin, smashing it with his Saint’s Mace. The group new it was time to head back to Ironguard Motte, for they had encountered many undead, and in the Barrowmaze, each undead encounter creates a tick mark next to your Wisdom score, and if the encounters meet or exceed your Wisdom score, you will go insane. Already some group members were beginning to get a little paranoid and there was some twitching and involuntary shaking among some. They made their way to the nearest exit, battling ghouls along the way adding to the undead burden on their minds. Upon getting up the stairs they usually take – which leads into a secret barrow mound chamber and an exit to the surface – they saw that there was a howling wind outside (well over 30 mph), and snow was falling heavily. There was already more than a foot of snow on the ground from a previous storm that passed through in recent days, so they knew that slogging through this blizzard would not be wise. But could they – should they – try and camp here? They chose to give it a chance. Setting up barriers at the entrance point at the top of the 10ft stairs where the barrow mound met the outdoors, as well as where the barrow mound met the stairs leading down into the Barrowmaze, the group set up watches and tried to get some rest to regain health and spells. However, the undead in the Barrowmaze had other plans…
Recently some of the necromancers/undead of the Barrowmaze seem to have taken notice and began taunting the paladin, Cobalt, and Gnoosh, the gnome rogue/illusionist. Placed sporadically throughout the Barrowmaze the group was finding notices written in blood or chalk taunting them with messages such as: “we know where you are” (even though Cobalt and Gnoosh both possess scarabs of inescapable location). Just as first watch was beginning, they heard shuffling footsteps and and those with darkvision saw slow moving zombies stumbling their way up the stairs. Behind the footsteps they heard a voice say “tonight you will get no sleep.” One of the spellcasters didn’t want to waste any time and launched a fireball down the 20 ft. stairway, and the zombies were easily dealt with from the resulting explosion, along with causing part of the stone walls and ceiling to collapse, and the torches blowing out as the fireball absorbed all the oxygen in the area.
The players wanted to ensure they got rest, so they sent down a few of their group (about 5 of their 14 characters) to a room near the bottom of the stairs and waited for more zombies and their lord to return. Strangely, on the wall written in blood they saw the words “I wonder if Gnoosh is still alive?” They puzzled over that in their room waiting for the zombies to return, but couldn’t think about it for long, for just as the second watch was beginning, more shuffling was heard and the raspy voice again said, “I said you would get no rest this night!” This time the group hidden in the room at the bottom of the stairs emerged and attacked the zombies from behind. The zombie lord – a swifter and intelligent juju zombie – taunted them, but his words and actions were not enough and the group ganged up and destroyed him. They then moved in toward the regular zombies heading up the stairs. The group at the top also wanted in on the action and as the waves of rotting bodies made their way up characters attacked with polearms and some attempted combat maneuvers to try and push the zombies onto their fellow zombies on the steps below, but bad rolls meant the weapons always just missed. Some of these failed strength and dexterity checks meant the characters went tumbling down the steps several feet (sometimes causing some subdual damage from the bruising).
Eventually, with character physically exhausted from stairwell tumbles and 24 straight hours of combat, spellcasters out of spells, and sanity in the balance with nine different undead encounters putting those with average Wisdom scores in mental danger, the group finally got the third watch to rest in peace. But they needed more than just the restfulness of third watch to get enough sleep to regain spells and hit points. So they awoke the next morning still groggy and sore from only about 2-3 hours sleep. Fortunately, the blizzard had passed during the night and the sun was bright in the sky above. So they made their way back to Ironguard Motte, but the trip back was slow, since there was a a foot-and-a-half of snow to walk through for an entire day.
As the main group was returning, I did a quick cutaway to Ironguard Motte and a quick one-on-one with the player running Gnoosh. Gnoosh was walking back to the Army of the Light’s building near the center of town after leaving the central market and heard the sounds of a beggar in an alley way with his cowl pulled over and covering his face. The beggar asked if the gnome could spare some change. It was so cold (roughly freezing), and Ironguard Motte also had roughly foot of snow on the ground. Gnoosh tossed some silver pieces his way so that he could buy some food and drink in a tavern and warm up. The beggar’s hand swiftly reached up and grabbed them and with the same motion the cowl fell back and Gnoosh could see the milky yellow eyes and taught, sunken skin of a zombie – a juju zombie! His fist with the silver piece struck Gnoosh in the face. The punch took him down nearly a 1/4 of his hit points. Gnoosh responded by casting dark chaos and dark tentacles emerged from his hands and began to strangle the zombie master. He punched again, Gnoosh was now down to roughly half his hit points. But most lucky for Gnoosh, his spell squeezed the un-life from the zombie before he could be struck anymore from his hard, dead, fists.
Once the main group returned from the Barrowmaze they set about preparing for a good long two month rest (every character needs a week of rest for each undead encounter they have to regain peace of mind, and with nine encounters, that is nine weeks to regain their mental equilibrium). During this time had a conversation with the Captain of Ironguard Motte and learned that several of these intelligent and swift zombies had somehow made it into the gated and walled city, and the Viscount was concerned. When we next game, 9 weeks will have passed, December will be giving way into March, winter will be coming to an end and spring beginning in the Duchy of Aerik. What awaits the adventurers next?