Dreyhan, Rothelar, and Fiona left the burning tower behind them as they climbed astride their horses and set off toward the forest, following the footprints further North along the road. As they watched the road stretch ahead of them, they couldn’t help but notice how the surrounding fog consumed the road, forest, and the distant hills. They watched lightning flash across the sky and strike the hilltops, but they never heard any thunder. Between that strange phenomena and the encroaching fog, they all felt a sense of foreboding danger.
They were swallowed by the fog as they entered the woods. The prevailing fog and forest canopy blocked all traces of light, which was of no concern to Dreyhan or Fiona, but Rothelar forced the group to stop while he scoured the ground for a rock, which he muttered over. Instantly the darkness was pushed back by a radiant blue light emanating from the rock in his hands. Satisfied, the party continued on their journey.
In addition to the darkness, the group the damp coldness of the fog settled upon them. Dreyhan shook himself, flinging droplets of water from his shaggy fur coat, much to the chagrin of the other two, who found themselves even wetter than before. But their attention returned to the road as they realized it was covered with water a short distance ahead. Not seeing any other route, they press on, hoping to soon emerge from the swamp. A short while later though, they were second-guessing themselves as the water had only gotten deeper. Other than the slightly wider gap between the trees, they weren’t even sure they were on the road any longer.
The trees pulled away from them and they realized they were entering a clearing. Fiona, distracted as she was trying to keep her instruments dry, was not the first witness of the gruesome scene awaiting them. Shock and horror struck each of them as macabre images slowly appeared from the fog. The clearing was covered in bodies, each having been brutally slain. Some of the men were hanging from trees, others were staked to the ground. The further they moved into the clearing, the more graphic the scene became. The leather jerkins they spotted marked the bodies as those of the town guards who had been sent to seek out the missing villagers.
The three moved as quickly as they could through the clearing and continued on what they hoped was the road on the other side. The light of Rothelar’s rock contracted slightly as the fog became even denser. Fiona and Rothelar picked up a magical presence permeating the entire area, and the dark, oily presence continued feeling stronger the further North they went.
Between the knee-high water, the pervasive darkness, and the magical power bearing down upon them, the group slowed considerably. The trees pressed in, making it nigh impossible to determine where the road was. Dreyhan and Rothelar suddenly realized that they had not heard any sounds of life in quite some time: no birds chirping, no squirrels rustling through leaves. The only sounds they could hear were the sloshing of the horses’ legs through the water, their own breathing, and the wind blowing through the trees. Dreyhan peered intently into the fog and spotted the vague, ghostly outline of a building ahead of them. He informed the group and led the way toward it.
They approached the building and discovered it was a church, half-submerged in the swampy water. They dismounted to investigate, and spun at a rattling sound behind them. They could make out six skeletal shapes, each holding a drawn sword. Behind them were another six skeletons armed with bows.
Dreyhan launched himself at the nearest skeleton, the flurry of his fists decimating the sternum and ribcage and causing the construct of bones to crumple into a pile of bones at his feet. Fiona pulled out her bongos and drummed out a peppy beat, adding strength to her cohorts’ spirits.
Distracted as they were by the skeletons, they failed to notice the man approaching until he started his encantation. Rothelar spun in time to see the man point his mace at the half-elf. Rothelar staggered as pain erupted across his flesh. Blood flowed from deep gashes that suddenly appeared on his chest and arms. The six skeletons wielding bows, drew back and let loose their quarrels at Dreyhan. The wolfan deftly dodged the arrows as the flew past, ducking and twisting to avoid them. But he wasn’t fast enough to evade all of them, and one arrow sank deeply into his thigh. As he faltered from the injury, a rusty blade was thrust into his abdomen, he looked up in time to bat away another blade swinging at his head, and caught sight of a third skeletal creature moving toward him, just outside of his reach.
The other three skeletons surrounded Fiona and tried to pin the gnome to the ground. She moved as quickly as she could and was able to dodge two of the blades, but the third found its mark, leaving a large, bloody gash across her back.
Rothelar ran between Fiona and Dreyhan, planted himself firmly and yelled, “Resuscitabo Immortui!” As he cried out the last syllable, light radiated out from him in a wave. As the wave passed through the three skeletons closest to him, the bones turned to dust, hanging in the air for a moment before falling to the earth. Dreyhan glanced at the sword impaling him before pulling himself off it and launching an attack on the one who wielded it. His furry fist tore the skull free, and he tossed it away as the rest of the skeleton fell apart before him. He took a step toward the last remaining skeletal swordsman and stumbled, one hand pressed tightly against the wound in his stomach.
Fiona pauses from her drumming long enough to cast a spell at Dreyhan, and he felt his muscles, sinews, and skin knit together again under the magical command of the gnome. He smiled his thanks at her and caught sight of the man behind them waving his arms toward the three of them, a wicked-looking mace in one hand. Absolute silence descended upon the trio. Fiona saw a sword stab at Rothelar from behind and she cried out a warning. He could see her lips moving, but could not tell what she was trying to warn him of until he saw the tip of a blade erupt out from his ribcage.
The six with bows paired off, each pair shooting at one of the three, and each pair having a shot go wide and a shot strike true. Rothelar grabbed the shaft stuck in his shoulder and pulled it out, then put his hand over the wound. Magic wove through him and healed the savaged internal organs and sliced muscles. He then swung his mace at the skeleton which had skewered him. The mace broke countless bones as it tore through the skeleton, leaving the rest to cascade silently to the ground.
Dreyhan ran hard toward one of the bowmen, feeling a pressure leave his head. He lauched himself into the air and took one down with a flying tackle. The construct shattered under the wolfan with a satisfying crunch.
Fiona stepped forward and slammed her hand down hard on one of the bongos. A thunderous shockwave emanated from it, obliterating three of the remaining skeletons. She and Dreyhan heard the concussion, but Rothelar just stared in amazement.
Having seen his bony army being ravaged by the three, the man fled into the darkness. The last two skeletons dropped their bows and drew swords, swinging them clumsily at Rothelar and Dreyhan, who were both able to easily deflect the attacks. Each responded with greater alacrity, leaving two more piles of bones in the clearing.
The last motes of bone dust settled to the earth and the Agents scanned the area, looking for any more threats. Finding none, they turned to the chapel and moved to the closed doors. Fiona’s low stature allowed her to get a much better look at the hinges of the rotting doors than the other two. The rust on the hinges had flaked away, indicating the door had been opened and closed recently.
Dreyhan grasped the handle and pulled hard against the door. The calf-deep water they were standing in pushed back against the door, but it slowly swung open. His keen wolfan eyes pieced the darkness easily and he saw several rows of rotted pews in the main room and an altar at the front. He led the trio inside, the light from Rothelar’s rock filling the chapel. Hanging on the walls were several murals covered in mold. The air was stale and musty, but Rothelar approached the altar to get a better look. He was pleasantly surprised to find it was consecrated to his own god, Zunelith.
Off to one side of the altar was another door. Dreyhan opened it and stepped inside. While the room was also filled with a musty odor, there was an additional smell of fresh death. He spotted a body in the far corner and he moved to it. The man was wearing leather armor and appeared to have been dead for several days. There was a well-cared for mace on the ground next to him. Dreyhan crouched near the body and studied it for a moment. He found a wound in the man’s side from which a foul odor emanated. There was a deep wound in the man’s chest, fresher than the gash in his side, and there was something wedged into the chest cavity. There was a bloody dagger near the man’s right hand, and a wad of paper clutched in his left. The wolfan pried the paper free and read:
I tried to fight them. They were at the old battlefield, through this unnatural swamp, the Ghost Knight and the Man in Grey. They use the dead, raising an army, I’m sure of it. In my disgust, I attacked. I thought I had them, I was mistaken. The Damned Sword the Ghost Knight wields struck me, it went right through my armor and I was forced to flee. It’s lesser damnations pursued, I think I may have lost them in this church.
They must be stopped. I can feel the change coming. I won’t let myself be taken. I won’t be used by the Grey Man that the Knight kneels to. Someone must stop them.
May Treen forgive me for what I am to do.
Dreyhan called for the other two and they listen as he read the letter aloud to them. Rothelar looked at the body of Belerion and wondered at what it must have taken for the cleric to have cut open his own chest and inter his holy symbol. With care, the half-elf picked up the body and carried it to the sanctuary. Placing it upon the altar, he took Belerion’s holy symbol and prayed to his goddess, Zunelith. Flames flashed from the stone, consuming the body. He paused for a moment in quiet introspection then retrieved Belerion’s mace. As soon as he grabbed the handle, his own holy symbol grew warm and he knew Doomblight was the name of the weapon in his hands. He hefted its weight then lead the group from the church.
Once again in their saddles, they set off in the direction their attacker fled.