Snow drifted around them as they trudged back from the haunted darkness beneath the mountain. By the time they were halfway back, the drizzle of snow had become a torrent, and only the sheerest luck got them back to the village in the snow-battered early darkness. They collapsed in the inn, lungs burning, flesh numb, grateful to be alive.
They were also startled to find that the elven warrior Kira had somehow tracked them out to this tiny town. She did not seem overly inclined to get her story across to them, and they were not burning with the need to know, so the matter dropped and they anticipated her brutal death-dealing hands joining them on the return trip to the haunted crypt.
The snow got worse, then worse still. For days, they huddled in the inn, keenly feeling their isolation and vulnerability. Wedged between the end of Nuzagoth’s season and the coming of Scythia’s month, they felt the death in the cold, and the howling fury of the monstrous blizzard that sought to crush the town beneath its squirming weight.
For five days, unrelenting storm. Then, a full day of digging out, discovering the drifts that averaged out to about four feet of snow dumped on the town. Hiking back to the crypt was thoroughly impossible.
Undeterred, the rescuers discussed the matter with the locals, and by the end of the 7th day since they returned from their first expedition, they were prepared to leave the next morning, transported out by dogsled across the wild dunes of snow.
Optimistically, the dogsleds could help return loaded with treasure. Realistically, they will be able to strap the corpses of their comrades to the frames, returning them for burial in consecrated ground.
When they left that gruesome eternal night last time, they knew that somewhere in the depths, a necromancer waited for them. Time granted by the storm, and a fresh supply of corpses, suggested the coming confrontation would not be easy. But neither was leaving a necromancer at their backs.
Grimly determined, the adventurers clutched at the dogsleds as their guides stoically called to the dogs, and the frames lurched over the unbroken dazzling snow, white as a burial sheet.
No turning back now.
Varthes 28, 1231
Euclid, Tempest, Torey, Landru, Rothchilde, and Kira clung to dogsleds for the grueling 4 hour ride. Upon arriving, they set up a lean-to and rested out of the wind as the peasants dug a way down to the crypt door.
As they headed in, they saw pitch and oil smeared to the right, and decided to leave that tempting bit of disaster for later. They approached the metal doors that had previously been the site for a grand melee with wolves and a werewolf; this time, skeletons lurched from one doorway as something pounded on the other door (that was spiked by Tory.)
Tempest and Kira fought their way past the pressure of skeletons into the room as the door was thrust aside by zombies with armor bolted to their corpses and weapons replacing some hands. Rothchilde webbed them in place to wait their turn, but this isolated Tempest and Kira in the room—an alarming development as a deathwolf (undead werewolf) lurched out of the darkness at them with a clotted growl.
Tempest and Kira dispatched the monster with ease and repeated blows, and after burning off the web, the rest of the party began the slow work of chopping down the toughened zombies.
After a hard and breathless fight, they slammed the metal door to the new hallway, and regrouped. Through the secret door, they found the grand stair, besmeared by much traffic and dragging of sticky things. They headed down the stairs with Rothchilde’s sphere aglow, and they were unmolested by shadowplayers.
The tomb below was empty; something dragged the huge pile of vampire victims out of the room. Grimly preparing themselves to meet those victims in battle, the invaders trudged back up the many stairs, heading to the former succubus lair.
Her corpse was missing as well, and no treasure had been left in its place. The invaders returned the the corridor fondly remembered for many battles, ready to go on, with a clearer sense of the various monstrous undead they would likely face.
Nothing prepared them for what lie beyond the door. The succubus skeleton had been animated, alright; and it flared with infernal fire! Pinions of bone were wreathed in flame, and the unholy thing flung fire at those facing it. Rothchilde countered with a blast of ice from his Ice Thorn, but that would not be enough to put the monster down.
Tempest charged, with Rothchilde at his side ready to neutralize fire. Kira followed, with Landru, right on their heels. As they dashed down the corridor, they realized too late—
—tumbling down the pit trap, they crashed down 10 meters below. Most of them controlled the fall fairly well, and they were not too severely hurt. However, they were trapped, and the flaming skeleton ambled closer, to fling fire down upon them as they were helpless to retaliate!
Euclid donned sword and shield, dashing out to the hall and leaping over the pit trap, crashing into hand to hand with the skeletal thing and driving it back. Tory followed, with a rope to pull the captured invaders to safety.
As the invaders in the pit tried various strategies to escape, Euclid slashed away at the monstrous skeleton; in retaliation, it detonated in a gust of hellish flame, knocking him flat and burning him badly. He healed himself and slowly rose as the bones pulled themselves back together, and a desperate prayer to St. Midrian gave him protection from the energy of its second burst; still on his feet, he grimly whacked away at the reforming skeleton with his shield.
By now, he had bought the rest of the invaders enough time to get out of the pit; Tory lowered a rope, Rothchilde levitated out, and they all ended up back in the corridor. Tempest raced down to support Euclid, and a frenzy of bashing later saw the skeletal demon splintered beyond repair.
Resting long enough to regain perspective, breath, and some magic, they left the corridor behind and continued on. They found a crypt with tombs, and Tory’s elvensight realized to his dismay that the friezes lining the walls were actually waiting corpses that staggered to the attack!
The drained victims of the vampires surged at them, reaching for them, to pull them down and chew holes to drink their luscious blood. Rothchilde webbed the central attack in place and assisted Landru in forcing the horrific undead back, as Kira and Tempest chopped through the other flank, with Euclid and Tory guarding the rear.
Arms growing weary from the rise and fall of their deadly weapons, the invaders watched with surprise as the surviving unwebbed thirsty ones pulled back and headed down the stairs.Burning those trapped by web, the invaders cautiously followed.
They found many undead standing around a bier where a black-robed man gently snored. Daring, they arrayed themselves to attack. Heavy crossbow bolt, arrow, and mystic bolt crashed into the sleeper, killing him at once; all the undead collapsed like puppets with their strings cut. Investigating the dead body (including a swift decapitation) they found it still warm.
As Kira nabbed the head for her bag, Tory searched the corpse, finding an iron key—and manacle scarring, bruises, signs of torture. Perplexed, the invaders pulled back a bit, then explored the rest of the level, unsure whether they had gotten the necromancer or not.
They found the necromancer’s quarters, with his disgusting relaxation device and a trunk loaded with generic robes but many fancy shoes. They read a bit of his pompous and monomaniacal diary, in the best tradition of romance novels reading the most purple bits aloud.
Continuing on, they also found the treasure room. Tory shone with enthusiasm as they opened chests of coin. Euclid found Lord Rudia’s sword. They also found a box with scrolls; Rothchilde determined they were maps, about a thousand years old each, indicating the location of a city (Yeilan?) and something called the Sheltered King’s lair. Hm!
Baffled at the absence of the necromancer, they experimented with locking and unlocking the stone pocket doors with the iron key, and in wary frustration they retreated to the upper level.
One of the tombs had its stone lid shifted to the side; they realized the necromancer had hidden as they hacked their way past!
Pursuing his tracks, they emerged outside to find that the necromancer’s smooth talking had not fooled their guides. The necromancer, dressed as a bandit (with very fine silver buckle shoes) was beaten and lashed to a dogsled.
Delighted, they rewarded their guides with a pittance of their loot that was still sure to improve their quality of life greatly. Tempest sternly ordered them all into the crypt for the night, and the following morning they took their loot and the corpse of the necromancer back to Port Selver.
It was an eventful night. Euclid prayed at Rudia’s crypt, and got the sense that if the sword could help recover Yeila that was more important than it resting here. His devotion also caused Dracoris runes to glow on the reptilian statues; “Alorn” on one and on the shadowed cowled woman, “Yeila.”
For her own inscrutable purposes, Kira lopped the necromancer’s head off and kept it. The others were not entirely comfortable asking why, and no one else wanted the head, so it seemed a mutually agreeable if somewhat disturbing arrangement.
The necromancer was defeated, his minions collapsed, the treasury of the monsters looted. Also, the party now had two intriguing maps, and a fantastic Alornite blade. It seemed easy enough to pass the time dividing up the loot while waiting for a riverboat to navigate the ice floes on the river so they could head back towards civilization. Port Selver did its best to throw a feast, the heroes were honored, and the haunted darkness was left far behind.
Thanks to Mark for handling loot tracking and distribution.
I populated this map with monsters and treasure, but used a map from “Heroes of Horror.”