Curse of Darkness XII - The Restless Dead

Greenfield

Adventurer
This is a portion of our Curse of Darkness campaign that I never posted. To preface: The Gatekeepers to the Land of the Dead had gone on strike, so to speak, and had closed the gates. People could die, but their souls had noplace to go. Some stood in the Penitent's line forever, some became a haunting spirit of some sort, and those few with the strength of character could realize where they were and why, and return to their bodies. They would live on "borrowed time", which is to say that when the gates finally opened again they'd be called down.

The Gatekeepers had set a price for opening the gates again: We had to travel to the land where they didn't believe in an afterlife, and there spread the word about the land of the dead. That land was called Chin (China, in modern terms), where they believed in reincarnation.

On the road we met a Gnome named Ignominious T Padfoot, a circus acrobat by trade (or so he claimed). Also, one our company died, then made the roll to find his way back.

We pick up this tale as we enter one of the great cities of Chin, the dragon Kingdom:

Cast of Characters:

Seburn – Half Elf Barbarian 3/Wizard 6
Marcus – Human Rogue 3/Cleric 6
Imagina – Human Wizard 5/Cleric 4
Sylus – Half-Elf Ranger 5/Druid 4
Penn – Half-Satyr Bard 9
Iggy – Whisper Gnome NPC Rogue 7/Sorcerer 1
Carralon – Human NPC Merchant
*******
The wheels of the heavily laden wagons were a chorus of creaking complaints as the caravan entered the walled city of Shandu. Carralon made a show of grumbling as he paid the entry fees, but was really quite pleased. Although they’d been plagued by troubles, they’d weathered them well, and in fact had made remarkable time on their long journey.

Penn pulled his hood tighter, to shield against both the early winter cold, and against prying eyes. The last thing he needed was someone else accusing him of being a demon. They were near the end of their long road. The caravan master had said that he planned to sell about half of his goods here, then travel by river barge to the port of Tsanjin. He’d ply his trade about the country for a few months, then sail for home. But whether he left tonight or next spring, his need for caravan guards was nearly at an end.

Sylus scowled slightly as he entered the city. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong, he just didn’t like cities. Of course, they’d been traveling past villages and farm steads for weeks, but for him cities were just too many people and not enough green. The only song birds you heard there were in cages. The very thought made him ill. One thing caught his eye though. There were long, fluttering pennants beside the gate, pennants depicting an animal he’d heard of, but never seen before. It was a great cat, gold and black, and the depiction ran a chill down his spine. “I’ve seen that before.”, he said quietly. “I dreamed about a cat like that. It was huge, magnificent.” The vision so entranced him that his scowl faded, and his horse shuffled to a halt.

“Move along, don’t block the way. You can gawk later!”, barked one of the gate guards.

Sylus touched his heels to the horse’s flanks and they began to move again, but still Sylus craned his neck to look back at the banners. There was something compelling about them…

“Better watch where you’re going.”, Imagina chided him. “If you’re not careful, you might run into something you like.”

“If you want to look at tigers, go to the grand temple in the main plaza.”, Carralon laughed. “This is the City of the Tiger. It’s their emblem and their patron. In the mean time, we’re off to the inn. You’ll like it. It’s called the Teak Tiger, in fact. You can meet with us there, when you’re done sightseeing.”

“The temple is in the main plaza?”, Seburn asked. “I was told that that’s where the Palace is.”

“Aye, and the Imperial Guard as well.”, Carralon added. “The three faces of Chin are the church, the Emperor, and the army. Everything in the entire land revolves around one or more of those three.”

“Why do you care about the army?”, Marcus asked his fiery-headed friend.

Seburn drew forth a folded and sealed packet of papers. “We sold the Mongol weapons we took from the field back in Nengoa, but we get paid here.”, he reminded the others. “And since they don’t like our gold, the more of theirs we have, the better.” Then he smiled, and added, “The more gold of any kind we have, the better.”

And so the companions set their sights on the towering spires at the civic center, and tsk-ed their horses into a soft canter.
***
The crowd was quite deep in the central plaza, despite the nearness of sunset. A group of men stood on three raised dias, addressing those gathered.

“Yau Chun!”, the man in elaborate armor called, reading from a long list. “Yee Chang! Quo Leung!” The list was long, and the recitation continued. And with each name called, a young man would step forward. In some cases, if the man called was too young, an older man would hold him back and step forward in his place.

“What’s going on?”, Penn asked in a whisper.

“We are going to war, and each house must send their eldest to join the army. If the eldest is too young, or is a girl, then the father goes to service.”

“And if there is no suitable man in the family?”, Penn asked, again in a quiet voice.

“Then a duty is paid, enough to hire someone to fulfill their obligation.”, the helpful man replied. “But don’t worry, outlander. They’ll call for mercenaries soon enough. You’ll get your chance.”

Penn nodded, then drifted back to his companions to share what he’d learned.

“I guess we’ll have to wait until they’re through.”, Seburn said, impatience grating on him. He wanted his gold so he could go get a cold bath and a colder drink.

“We aren’t broke.”, Penn reminded him. “We have all that coin we found in the Ogre’s fortress. We can get paid tomorrow.” Then he saw the look of determination on his friend’s face and sighed. The hardy Scott loved his gold, and loved it most when it was in his hands.

Sylus attention was elsewhere though. The speaker had taken the center platform. To his right stood a tall man with pale skin, in robes of richly embroidered silk. His clothing and the entourage behind him marked him as a man of great importance. But to the speaker’s left stood another party of men. Their robes were simple and clean, Saffron and jet in color, and beside their leader lounged a tiger. The creature really was as large and as magnificent as depicted on the city’s standards. It seemed at ease, neither collared nor caged, and it rubbed its head against the leader with obvious affection. The hunter was entranced by the very sight of the creature.

Finally the long list was finished, and the soldier called for mercenaries or other volunteers. Many people turned to stare at Seburn and Penn, the obviously armed and armored outlanders. A way was made clear for them, and the soldier gestured, beckoning them forward. They advanced, as that seemed to be expected of them.

Penn bowed, as he had seen so many others do, and waited to be addressed.

“You have the look of warriors about you. Are you seeking employ?”, the soldier asked.

“We are already employed.”, Penn explained. “While it would be an honor to serve under your command, our current master has not yet released us from his service.”

“Then why are you not with him now?”, asked the soldier curiously, though there was a hint of accusation in his tone.

“Our caravan has just arrived this day, and our master has granted us the freedom of the city while he conducts his business. However, when he leaves in a few days, we shall accompany him once more.”

The soldier nodded, satisfied. While the smooth tongued outlander’s frightful appearance might inspire the men, he might also intimidate them, so it was probably best if such a being were not to march with them.

“Do you have other business here then?”, he asked, preparing to turn away.

“Yes, sir.”, Seburn declared, offering the sealed document. “We fought Mongol raiders before we reached Nengoa, and took trophy’s from the field. The captain of the guard there bought the weapons from us, for the army, and gave us this. We were to be paid here.”

The man unbound the folded packet, examined the seal on it, then broke the seal and began to read. “Hmm. An impressive array. How many did you lose in the fray?”

“There were six of us on duty when the raid began.”, Seburn said with a hint of pride. “Each of us accounted for four of their number, and none of us fell.”

The soldier raised an eyebrow in doubt at the boast, but then tallied the arms and armors listed, and nodded. Such men would help their cause greatly. He began to stroke his narrow beard thoughtfully.

“They came at us in waves, allowing us brief respite to regroup.”, Penn added to explain their apparently miraculous success. “I believe they were scouts who saw the caravan and got greedy. They thought they could take the whole prize for themselves.” He didn’t want to mention the use of magic, as they had been warned that the Emperor was seeking arcanists and alchemists in his quest for immortality.

“Hmm. You were lucky.”, the soldier concluded. “I’ve never heard of Mongols traveling in such small groups.” He gave the document another good look and, satisfied, folded them under his arm.

“I am Captain Yee. Seek me out tomorrow, at the training field, and I’ll see that you’re paid. I’d give you your gold now, but the paymaster’s office is closed.” He waited for the outlander’s to nod agreement, then turned smartly and marched away to join the new recruits.
***
The crowd was thinning, though some of the curious stayed to watch the demon and the red haired savage talk to the Captain. Sylus, while waiting for his friends, found himself drawn towards the temple priests, and the great cat. They had stepped down from the dias and were discussing the coming war amongst themselves. One of them saw Sylus in his plain robes and noted his almost glassy-eyed stare.

“Welcome, traveler.”, he began formally. “Do you seek the guidance of the temple?”

“I’m not sure.”, Sylus admitted, tearing his eyes away from the great cat. The man he faced was of wiry build, his head shaven, and only slightly taller than the Half-Elf himself. Yet he had a peace about him. “Centered” was the word that came to Sylus mind, as if he knew himself completely and was content with it all.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”, Sylus said, in an effort to start over. “I’ve never seen a cat like that one before, yet I’ve been dreaming about one for a week now. Each night he’d visit my dreams. He was smaller than that one, and his colors were white instead of gold, but he was the same.”

The monk was startled, a look that was startling in itself, for he had seemed beyond such things. He excused himself, gesturing for Sylus to wait there as he hurried to talk to his companions. There was much discussion, and a few looks of shock before the leader came to address Sylus directly.

“You say the spirit of the tiger visited you in your dreams. How can this be? You are an outlander, and of the forest fey. Your people neither sleep nor dream.”

“My father was of the forest fey.”, Sylus explained, adopting their local term for Elves. “My mother was not. I sleep and I dream. As for me being an outlander, well, yeah I guess I am. But I had the dreams anyway.”

There was more hurried discussion before a decision was made. “Do you seek the tiger, as he has sought you?”

“Yes.”, Sylus said firmly. “I ran with the wolf for a time, but that didn’t last. Now I know why.”

And so Sylus was ushered into the temple of the Tiger.
***
The inner courtyard was kept clean by the labors of many acolytes, and several could be seen hurrying about as Sylus entered. As he waited there more seemed to be finding reasons why their business might take them there, for he was an odd sight, and the rumors were spreading fast and furious as the iron pen was assembled.

They were confirmed when one of the senior handlers brought out a young tiger, white and black just as Sylus had envisioned. The animal was wild and anxious, pacing his cage and occasionally throwing himself against the bars in rage.

“This is the test.”, the handler explained. “You will enter when you are ready. You will either walk out together, or you won’t walk out at all. Is this truly your wish?”

Sylus nodded sharply and approached the cage. Carefully he settled down outside the bars, just beyond the reach of the great cat’s claws. He bowed to the beast, then brought his magic to bear. Soon he and the tiger were in communion.

To those who looked on, it seemed as if he had been possessed, for he rose onto all fours, his body moving in a sinuous imitation of the tiger’s own. The senior monks, however, had seen this before, and explained to the younger students: “He is now speaking to the cat as an equal. We will see if the tiger accepts him as one.”

Sylus caught the tiger’s gaze and held it with his own. “I would hunt with you, away from iron and stone walls. Will you hunt with me?”

The cat matched his stare and grew still, his posture a mirror of Sylus’ own. “I hunt quickly, in snow and silence. Cold wind, hot blood, mountains and forests. Can you hunt with me?”

Sylus replied, “My home is mountains and forests, snow and silence. I have hunted in cold night, and known hot blood. It is far from here, far from iron bars and the walls of man. The journey is far, and needs patience. Are you a patient hunter?”

And so the exchange went on. Sylus entered the pen with the creature, and they faced each other with no barriers between them.

One of the older students looked angrily to his master, questioning why such a rare prize might go to an outlander. The master silenced him with a look.

“Your heart betrays you.”, he admonished the boy. “If you enter the tiger’s home with such anger, seeking to own him, you will surely perish. See how this one moves? He seeks neither domination, nor offers submission. It’s possible that he may truly understand the spirit of the tiger. If he lives to see the sunset tomorrow, the two will be as one.”
***
The innkeeper at the Teak Tiger was surprised by the generosity of the foreign mercenaries. Carralon had taken a private room, as befit his position, and the drovers had taken a common one, each of the mercenaries wanted separate chambers. The dark skinned woman’s desire was understandable, for it would be improper for her to share a bed with any but her husband. But the horn-headed one had also asked for a private one, with a large bed. That left the red haired one and the balding one, who might have taken a shared room but chose instead to pay the extra and get private ones as well. The tiny drover had even paid for one of his own, which meant his private rooms were all but filled. He rubbed his hands together in glee, for with most of the men in town leaving to join the army this was a windfall when he needed one most.

Imagina had headed for a bath house, while Penn and the others got settled in. She could clean herself with magic just as easily as any of the others, but no flit of the fingers could match the sheer luxury of soaking in hot water, especially after weeks of travel by wagon and horseback.

When she returned, cleansed and perfumed, the front room of the inn was overflowing with people.

To the locals, travelers meant news, which was always welcome, and despite his odd appearance the foreign demon told a good story and sang well. So the music played and the rice wine flowed, and the party went on into the night.
***
“Captain Yee?”, asked the soldier on duty at the gate. “Yes, he’s working with the new recruits. You can see his standard there, at the south end. The golden Dragon.”

“Thanks.”, Seburn said casually as they left. Then he got a good look at that standard. “That’s a dragon?”, he aske in surprise. “It doesn’t have any wings.”

“I think that’s what the dragons look like around here.”, Marcus answered, though he was confused as well.

They found the Captain red faced with fury, gesturing with a fan and getting more angry with each passing moment.

To call the formation before him “disarray” was to insult disarray, and to even call what was there a “formation” was a severe stretch. The air was thick with dust and the training instructors kept shouting at them to pick up their feet as the drilled.

Seburn was inclined to wait until the Captain was ready, but Penn thought that it looked like the Captain could use an excuse. He caught the Captain’s eye and bowed with a smile.

The Captain made a slashing gesture with the fan, then stormed over to the companions.

“Calm down Captain.”, Seburn advised. “You can’t control them if you can’t control yourself.”

“Oh, I’m calm.” Said the captain with a smile, all traces of rage melting from his face. Of course, he waited until he was sure none of the soldiers could see the change. “I’ve trained raw recruits before, and these are no worse than any other. Better than many, in fact. More than half of them know their left from their right, which can’t be said for the ones from the farms. But I need them to fear me, at least to begin with.”

The Captain walked with them as he talked, explaining how a commander controlled the battlefield, and how his sub commanders could read the fan signals. The paymaster had their monies ready, and they concluded their business happily.

But before they departed the Captain had a suggestion. “If you’re looking for a few days work while you’re in town, the city guard could use some help.” He gestured towards a group of men who were already drilling with weapons. “We ended up taking almost half of the city guard last night, so their commander recruiting as well. Just kids, most of them. They need someone to help train them in street fighting. It probably won’t match your usual fees, but…”

“But it will keep us out of trouble.”, Penn finished for him, laughing.
***
The next day, Penn, Marcus, Iggy and Seburn all reported to the local constabulary.

“Iggy, I’m surprised at you. This seems out of character.”, Marcus admonished with mock severity.

“No’ really.”, the Gnome replied in his heavy Londinuim accent. “They’s recruiting kids to this job, and the little ones need to be able to stay safe. Besides, it never hurts for someone like me to get in good with the law, now does it?”

They each had their own small group to work with. Iggy taught teamwork, advising each of the smaller ones to pick a larger partner, then back them up. He showed how to flank, how to take advantage of their small size in tight quarters, and how to protect themselves.

Pen taught it almost like a dance, showing them the advantage of the light blade and the quick step.

Marcus tried (and failed) to treat them like students in a religious school. He ended up trying to inspire them with tales of Hercules, but he was no story teller, and the tales of foreign demigods left them disinterested.

Seburn tried to teach them the way of fighting from a position of strength. He worked on training dummies, showing them how to put your weight and power behind every blow, but his outlander style and barbarian fighting technique earned him little respect. Finally, infuriated by their lax attention, he laid into the practice dummy with a single power swing, releasing the stored spell from his weapon.

The result was spectacular as his blade clove clean through the timber frame, and the entire thing nearly exploded into flame.

They finished the day with mixed levels of success, and retired to the Inn for an early supper.
***
“Seburn of Dumphreys? Marcus de Roma?”, asked the guard captain as he entered the common room.

“Yes?”, the pair responded, almost in a single voice.

“The Magistrate would like to see you.”, the man said, semi-fromally.

“You two have fun.”, called Penn as the pair rose. He moved towards the clear spot by the fireplace, unlimbering his lyre as he went.
***
The pair were escorted to a small garden area where a well dressed man was just finishing his supper. They recognized him as the second most important looking man in the plaza the previous evening. An aide addressed the two outlanders.

“This is Provincial Magistrate Qwang See.” He announced, then paused expectantly.

Marcus realized that some response was expected, so he bowed to the Magistrate and replied, “I am Marcus de Roma, and this is Prince Seburn of Dumphreys.” Seburn didn’t think to bow, and after an uncomfortable moment Marcus straightened and took on an expression of interest.

The Magistrate gestured to his aide, who continued. “His excellence has heard reports of ‘Prince’ Seburn’s battle prowess, and in particular of his marvelous magical weapon. He asks if the Prince’s blade is available, as such a weapon would inspire and rally the troops in battle.”

Seburn paid attention this time and responded directly. “The blade was the dying gift from a dear friend. I couldn’t part with it.”

The aide looked at the Magistrate, who frowned slightly and tapped the arm of his chair with one finger.

“His excellence would hope to see a demonstration of its power, to be certain that what he has heard is true. He suggests that, if it can’t be sold then perhaps an exchange of gifts might be in order. He says that he has a fine collection of blades of his own.”

Seburn carefully took his blade and scabbard off, and offered them to the Magistrate’s body guard. “Better to know that the power is in the blade, not the man.”, he explained, though he had a bad feeling about what was to follow.

As training dummies were set up in the garden, he felt he had to warn the Magistrate. “The power of the blade doesn’t manifest with every strike. It needs time to regain the power.” He didn’t want to admit that he had to replace the magic in it for each use, as admitting to being a spell caster was problematic. He also wished Marcus hadn’t addressed him as “Prince”. The Magistrate was clearly skeptical of the title.

As the bodyguard drew the hand-and-a-half blade his face lit with wonder, for he felt the power stored within. He took a couple of practice swings, to get the feel of the foreign weapon, then struck at the first of the wooden forms. Again, the power of the blade flared, and the wooden manikin burst into flames.

“The power is gone, Excellence!”, the guard exclaimed in surprise. “It is still a masterful blade, but the fire is gone.”

“Fascinating!”, declared the Aide, after exchanging looks with the Magistrate. “His Excellence has never heard of a blade whose power must rest. Extrordinary.”

“Yes, it is unusual.”, Seburn agreed. “Typically the power can be used once per battle. Sometimes I use it to drop my first foe, and put the fear in my enemies, sometimes I save it to finish a mighty enemy, if such a man is present.”

Your excellence, if I may ask, why was I summoned?”, Marcus interjected.

“Oh, that.”, replied the aide, apparently reading his master’s mind again. “You preached heresy to the city guard today, did you not?”

“Well, I, uh…”, Marcus stammered, caught completely off guard.

The Magistrate looked at the Cleric with disdain, as if being forced to attend to some unpleasantness, then waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal.

“Ah, very good your Excellence.”, beamed the aide. “To the mines with him!” He then turned his attention back to Seburn. “Are you sure you couldn’t be induced to sell the blade? As you say, with proper tactical use it’s ability to inspire the men would serve our Emperor well.”

Seburn looked on in dismay as guards appeared to either side of Marcus, ready to take hold.

“I’m sorry, but the blade is not for sale.”, he finished sadly.

Obscurous”, Marcus intoned, ducking and twisting as he did so to avoid the grasp of the guards. Instantly the region was covered in billowing, thick mists. He curled his legs beneath him, drawing into a tight ball and rolling backwards, beneath and away from the grasping hands of the guards. Then he slow-sprinted across the grassy garden, to vanish in the silent darkness beyond the circle of torchlight.

“Well, that was rude.”, came the voice of the aide from somewhere within the fog. “The guard will have him before dawn, in any case. Do you need a safe escort back to your Inn? The city can be confusing at night, particularly if you aren’t familiar with it.”

Seburn was stunned by the complete separation in the man’s attitude. To casually condemn a man to a life in the salt mines, and then pass pleasantries with the next breath.

“I think I can find my way, thank you.”, he replied, and made his way out of the mist shrouded gardens.
***
“Penn!”, came the loudly hissing wisper from the doorway. The Bard looked up and saw his friend peeking inside, but for some reason trying not to be seen. He nodded to show that he’d heard, then looked pointedly towards the rear door before continuing his song. Breaking off mid tune would draw more attention to the moment than it needed. Marcus would have to wait a minute.

When he reached the end of that ballad, he bowed, announced a short break and took his leave, making a point to leave his hat where it was, to show that he’d be returning. Even the best of us have to go out back eventually, and that was where he headed.

Marcus was standing in a deep shadow by the side alley. “Penn, I need to hide and stay hidden. They sentenced me to the mines.”

Penn looked at his friend dubiously. “What did you do this time?”, he asked.

“I just told stories, like you do.”

“If you told them the way I do, you be getting silver, instead of getting sentenced. Still, it’s not as if we didn’t expect to have at least one of us in trouble.” He drew out the drab silk sweatband they had picked up from the other travelers and handed it to Marcus. “Use this to disguise yourself. You’re a boney-thin man, about my height, with a curved scar on your right cheek where a horse kicked you. Western, not local.”, he added, as Marcus began to invoke the magic of the circlet. “You speak the local language well enough, but you have an accent. Oh, and you shouldn’t admit to speaking the local language very well. You’re jst another drover, at least until we’re clear of this city.”

By the time the pair had finished, the magic was complete, and Marcus looked like just another teamster from the caravan, and the pair went back inside together.

Seburn entered about three ballads later, and Penn smiled and nodded to him to let him know that everything was under control, at least for the moment.
***
The evening finished quietly, with a final song, a final drink, another final song, and the innkeeper finally herding the people out. Penn made it a point to share his evening’s take with the man, even though the inn had had a full evening selling rice wine and cakes.

The guard had visited several times seeking Marcus, but no one had seen him all night, and there were far too many people there to keep a secret.

Marcus bedded with Pen that evening, since his own room would be watched.

And all was quiet and restful. Until the scream…
***
 

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Greenfield

Adventurer
The peace of the night was shattered by the piercing scream that came from the hall, and Penn tumbled out of bed and headed for the window, out of sheer habit.

Marcus, however, reacted more directly, grabbing his weapon and heading into the hall, with Pen close behind.

Seburn, Iggy, Carralon and Imagina were on the scene in an instant, and the drovers thundered up the stairs from below a moment later.

A maid was staggering back from an open doorway, her face a mask of shock and fear. The bloodsmell that came from the opening was almost overwhelming, and as the crowd jostled to see, the reason became clear. The bed was absolutely soaked, dripping red, and a young couple lay sprawled across it, their throats cleanly cut.

The Innkeeper shouldered his way forward, then blanched and began to shake in fear. “No, not them, not here!”, he stammered, over and over again.

The night watch was sent for, quickly. While waiting for the guard to arrive, some bits of sense came out. These two were aides to the Imperial Magistrate, who was visiting the city to oversee the military recruitment drive. They were the children of noble houses in the Imperial capitol, training with the Magistrate to prepare them for the high positions that they were destined for. Their murders, in this inn, probably meant death for the Innkeeper and his entire staff, and didn’t bode well for anyone else present either.

“Did you notice?”, Iggy asked, pointedly speaking the Roman tongue instead of the local dialect. “The blood on the bed is fresh, but the edges of the wounds are black and clotted. They were killed a while ago. Somebody tried to make this look like a fresh kill, but it isn’t.”

At that point the night watch arrived, and the inn was surrounded by guards. Nobody was going anywhere until this was sorted out. A holy man was sent for, to investigate.
***
Marcus and Imagina looked on in professional interest as the circle was drawn and the candles set out. No one had yet even touched the bodies, but instead stood back to give the Sukenja plenty of space to work.

The candles were lit, along with a small brazier of incense, and the holy man sat down cross legged on the floor to begin his prayers. After proper supplications were made, and after what seemed like many long minutes, his prayers were answered. Two spirits appeared in the room, one to each side of the bed, directly adjacent to the slain bodies.

The Sukenja bowed low (quite a trick from his sitting position), and asked them directly, “Do you know who killed you?”

Without hesitation they pointed directly at Penn, Marcus and Seburn. The girl said, in a quavering voice, “I will never forget that face!”, while pointing to Marcus, of all people. It was quite a shock to many there, since he was wearing the face he had made up earlier that evening, courtesy of the disguise magic.

The guards made to seize the outlanders, and they surrendered their weapons with good grace. Penn, however, got the Sukenja’s attention.

“Look at their wounds. They weren’t killed here, nor were they killed recently. Ask them when and where, please. It’s important.”

The Sukenja looked at the Half Satyr’s demonic face with obvious distaste, but did as he was asked.

“We were killed during our evening repast, at the Autumn Teahouse, near the river. The sun was just setting.”, they replied together. This lead to other questions, but at least this news would spare the Innkeeper and his staff, and probably all others not specifically accused.

The guard were stern and far from gentle in their handling of the prisoners, yet the trio had oddly serene smiles on their faces as they were hauled off.
***
The Palace of Justice was ablaze with lamplight, and the square outside was ringed with gawkers who took dark delight at the sight of the outlanders being dragged within. It is a universal truth that, no matter where you go in the world, there are those who will flock to see an execution, and that was exactly what these people were hoping to see.

Within, the trio were taken to one of the larger court chambers, and a crowd of onlookers followed them inside.

All bowed as the Provincial Magistrate entered, his makeup hastily applied and still in the process of adjusting his robes. The Imperial Magistrate followed, and if it was possible the people bowed even lower.

“These three have been identified as the killers, Excellence!”, the guard captain announced. “They await your pleasure.”

It was clear from the Magistrate’s face that there was no pleasure to be had here. He would have to answer for the deaths of these favored ones while in his service, and it was clear that he would not suffer alone.

“Do the accused have anything to say before sentence is passed?”, asked the man to the Magistrate’s right, apparently speaking on his behalf.

“Yes, Excelence.”, answered Pen, looking up from his supine position. “May I rise to address his most excellence?”

The speaker looked at the Magistrate, received a nod, and gave permission.

“I would like to question a witness, if I may.”, Pen began. “Will the Provincial Magistrate consent to this?”

Surprised, the lesser Justice agreed before even his spokesman could intervene.

“According to what was learned, the victims were slain at sunset, during their evening meal. May I ask where you were at that hour?”, Penn began. “I am not accusing, of course.”, he added quickly, “I merely need to confirm the relevance of your testimony.”

The Magistrate spoke in a clear, firm voice. “I was in the Garden of Jasmine, watching a demonstration of a particular magic weapon.”, he said.

“Who was with you?”, Pen asked.

“My spokesman, my guard, and someone who resembles that man.”, He said, indicating Seburn. “Also a foreign heretic who fled justice.”

“Was it not his very man?”, Penn asked, seeking a firmer answer.

“It looked like him, Fey ears and flame hair, but it’s hard to be certain, in light of the murders.”

“The weapon, was it rare?”, Penn pressed.

“I’ve never seen one like it, though I didn’t handle it myself.”

Upon request, Seburn’s blade was produced, and the head of the Magistrate’s guard came forward to examine it.

“Yes, it’s the same weapon.”, the man said. “The same odd balance, the pommel crest matches, and…”, he paused as he drew the blade, “… the power in the sword is unmistakable.”

“Thank you. Sir.”, Pen said with a small bow.

“I myself was at the Teak Tiger inn at that hour, in the common room, playing and telling stories.”, he added. “It is my profession, and there are any number of witnesses. More than a few are members of the city guard, in fact.”

There were murmurs from the crowd, as many present had also been attending the performance.

“In my land there are magics that can separate truth from lies. If such are known here, I beg that they be applied in our case.”, Pen asked in closing. “The bodies were arranged so as to make it appear they were killed late this evening, far from the actual crime scene. It’s obvious that someone is trying to cast blame as far from themselves as possible. If the magics are too costly for common criminals, then I will pay the cost for there is nothing common about this crime.”

The Magistrate considered the request for long moments, then looked to his spokesman.

“You are outlanders, and do not deserve any special treatment.”, the spokesman began. “However, the judgment and perception of the Provincial Magistrate should not be left in question, for he speaks with the voice of the Emperor, and none can be permitted to doubt that voice. Have the True Telling prepared.”

A different Sukenja came forth, richly if hastily dressed, apparently part of the Imperial Magistrate’s entourage. Like his predecessor he began with prayers and supplications and the burning of incense. Then he produced a candle, as thick as a man’s forearm and as red as blood. He lit this from the incense brazier and solemnly handed it to Penn.

“Speak only the truth.”, was his simple warning.

“I am called Penn.”, the Bard began. “This evening, at the hour of sunset, I was at the Teak Tiger inn telling stories of my homeland and singing songs. I have not killed anyone since we encountered a Mongol raiding party several weeks past. I did not know the deceased I am accused of killing, I did not kill them, and I have no idea who did. I suspect that they were killed by enemies of ours, seeking to cast the blame on us.”

The flame burned clear and serene throughout the entire speech, and both the holy man and the Magistrate bore looks of open disbelief at this fact.

The candle was passed to Seburn who took it without hesitation. “I was with the Magistrate at sunset, in a garden of this very palace.”, he began. “The last time I killed anyone was during a Mongol raid on our caravan. I didn’t even know this couple existed before we saw their bodies tonight, and I certainly didn’t have anything to do with their deaths.”

The candle flame continued to burn cleanly, and Provincial magistrate looked relieved at this development, for it meant that he had not been fooled and his judgment was beyond question again.

Penn took the candle and carefully handed it to Marcus, then began to ask direct questions.

“Did you kill either of these people?”, he asked.

“No. The last killing I was any part of was on the way here, when the Mongols attacked.”, he answered.

“Do you know either of these people?”, Pen asked.

“No, I never saw them before tonight, and I don’t know their names even now.”

“Were you at the Autumn Teahouse at sunset, or at any time today?”, Pen asked.

“No, I was downstairs at the Inn the whole time.”, Marcus answered firmly. The candle flared brightly at this lie, drawing gasps from many onlookers and a sharp glare from the Magistrate.

“I won’t ask which young lady you might have take upstairs.”, Pen said, attempting to cover his friend’s slip. “Instead I will simply ask, did you arrange for someone, anyone, to do any killing at all, under any pretext, at any time, any place in this land?”

“No. The Mongol raid was outside this province. I had nothing to do with these killings, and I couldn’t even guess as to who might.”, Marcus replied, sweating slightly.

The candle was returned to the holy man, who bowed to the court and pressed his bare hand down on it to extinguish the flame.

Penn bowed deeply to the assembled Magistrates and their spokesmen, and concluded, “Someone attempted to deceive this court. It wasn’t us.”

The Magistrate looked troubled. He whispered to the Sukenja, an act almost unheard of in such a proceeding, and listened intently to the reply before continuing.

“There must be a formal hearing convened on the matter, for the crime is grievous and must be paid for.”, the spokesman announced. “But summary judgment is not in order at this time. Your weapons will be returned to you when…”

The formal ending of the hearing was cut short by panicked cries from outside, the clang of an alarm, and the deep, penetrating call of a hunting horn.
 

Azkorra

Explorer
Quite well remembering the characters from your previous instalments and always being fond of some nice murder mystery, I am really looking forward to seeing how this will "penn" (couldn't help myself here :heh:) out.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Well, funy thing about this one. The adventure happened several years ago. I was digging through some old stuff and came across the tale and decided to post it. But there's a segment missing, the part that should go right about here. So I'm re-writing it from memory. It's taking a bit of time, as I have this nasty habit called "work" that takes up a lot of my time. And I do appreciate the comments. To be honest, I wasn't sure anyone had read any of the tale. Personally, I think the standard any campaign shoud be measured by is this: Would it make a good story? I like to think that our campaign meets that standard.

In any case, the tale will continue, just not immediately.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
***
A messenger appeared in the courtroom. “Begging the Magistrate’s pardon, but there is a 12 foot tall Elf in the courtyard, accompanied by a pack of hounds.”, he explained, as the horn sounded a second time.

The room began to empty, with half the crowd pressing forward towards the courtyard, and half seeking another exit.

The companions quickly gathered their weapons and other possessions and headed out.

Standing across the courtyard from the entrance was an Elf the size of a Stone Giant, dressed in hunter’s greens, and bearing a huge horn. Beside him stood a midnight-black stallion, twenty-five hands tall if he was a finger, while grouped about the plaza were a pack of huge hunting dogs the like of which mortal man had seldom seen. They were black and grey, the size of ponies, and the shadows seemed to congregate around them, so many could be seen only by the glint of torchlight in their yellow eyes.

People had come out, awakened by the sound of the horn and the general commotion in the plaza, but found themselves unable to approach the dogs. There was something about them that terrified.

Seeburn and his companions quickly found themselves at the fore of the group, as the crowd drew back and spread out.

The Huntsman drew breath and sounded his horn for the third time that night. And Seeburn fell over, dead.

In his place stood, well, Seeburn. His spirit was clearly visible, stripped of mortal imperfections, the silvery form stood free, the very essence of the man.

“Seeburn Malhart of Dumfries, I have come for you.”, declared the Huntsman in a deep, rolling voice. “Your time has come and gone, and now it’s time to move on.”

Seeburn knew what this was: The Wild Hunt was a well known tradition in his homeland, the call of horn and hounds on the moors during the nights of the full moon. The Hunter’s moon, as it was called. He knew who this was, and he knew the rules.

“I Challenge!”, he cried for all to hear.

The great Huntsman smiled. “I was hoping for some true sport. Well done.”

The moment was interrupted by the High Priest who had attended the court proceedings. “This cannot be. You have no place here, no power in this land. Be gone, foul apparition, back to your foreign lands and your foreign gods.”

For the first time the Huntsman seemed to notice that there were others present, and chose to break tradition by addressing the Priest. “There is a law that is older than you or I, a law so old that not even the greatest of gods dare to deny it. Where ever a man falls, he falls, and his mortal remains belong to that land. But his soul belongs to his gods, and none may bar them from their due. I am Hern the Hunter, servant of Vandos, the master of the Wild Hunt. We of the Hunt are the gatherers of souls for Arwyn, who is the god of the underworld, Tor. I have come across the breadth of the world for this one, as is my right. I will not be denied.”

Turning to address Seeburn, Hern spoke again. “You know the rules of the challenge? After a brief head start, we will pursue. You will run as a man runs, through the streets and across the land. Walls will hold you and brambles can blood you. You may take nothing of your mortal life with you though. If you can stay free of the pursuit until the dawn, you will live again. If you are caught however, you will become one of the Sluagh, the hounds of the hunt, and will never see the afterlife. Are you certain that this is what you want?”

“I made my challenge and I’ll live with it.”, Seeburn answered firmly.

“If I may.”, spoke the Bard, when there seemed to be a break in the conversation. “If he must run as a man runs, can he use things he finds along the way, as a mortal man would?”

The Huntsman pondered this for a moment, then nodded his agreement.

Quickly Penn unhooked his own magic belt, with the pouch of spell components attached, and cast it down in the square. “Do you think you can find that, Seeburn?”, he asked with a smile.

Hern’s visage darkened for a moment, then broke as he laughed, loud and clear. “Well played, little mortal. But know you this: If anyone actively interferes in the Hunt, for or against my prey, they become part of the Hunt, valid prey for my hounds. So take care what other games you might play this night, or my arrows may just find you as well.”

Then the Huntsman looked up at the perpetual overcast and, with a wave of his arm, swept the sky clear, revealing a blaze of stars, and a full moon. “This night the world of men and the world of the spirits are as one. The moon has risen, let the hunt begin!”

“Enough of this!”, thundered the Magistrate. “Arrest them all! I don’t know what’s going on, but I will not have this in my city!”

“You have one minute, Seeburn Malhart of Dumfries.”, declared Hern, ignoring the Magistrate’s bluster. “Use it well.”

Obscurus!”, intoned Markus, and immediately a section of the plaza was covered in thick fog.

“Foolish mortal, you have interfered!”, thundered Hern. “Run!”

“I was just trying to stop the guards.”, the Jovian protested.

“Then you would have laid that on the guards, or on yourselves. The only ones cloaked are Seeburn and the Bard. His head start is running. You should be too.”

Seeburn burst from the fog, running as no man had ever run before. His body sculpted from moonlight, the muscles in his legs stretched like cords beneath the skin. His hand swept low for a moment, scooping up the precious bit of magic that had been left for him to find, and then he was away into the night.

Markus turned to Penn imploringly. “Help me!”

Penn had retrieved the spell component pouch from his fallen friend’s body and begun to conjure. His plan had been to preserve Seeburn’s remains until his friend had use for them again, but he heard the pleading in Markus’ voice and knew that if he didn’t help, the Cleric would certainly die. But if he did help…

“Get in here!”, he called as the winged mount appeared. Then, addressing the Celestial Hippogriff that had come to his call, he said, “Take them to the waterfront, south end. I’ll follow.”

The heavenly creature took Seeburn’s body in his front claws as Markus sprang onto his back, and then they were away. Penn was already summoning again.

“Can I come with you?”, asked Imagina, watching as the guard began to gather.

“Why not. The more the merrier!” And they were away.
***
Seeburn ran through the streets, living moonlight in avenues of midnight. He felt the cobbles beneath his bare feet, the wind through his hair, the cold night air in every breath he took and, though he was dead, he had never felt so alive. Behind him he heard the baying of the hounds begin, and felt the madness of the Hunt claw at his heart. He knew that behind him they flowed through the alleys and avenues like cloud of smoke, spreading chaos in their wake. All who heard the howls of the Sluagh were possessed by the pure primal essence of the Hunt, the madness that lives deep within all men. Glancing skyward he saw the Huntsman mounting the heavens on his stallion, his bow nocked with a shaft the size of a javelin. And he knew that if he could see Hern, then Hern had a clear shot at him. He swerved down a side street.

Into an alley he dove, up the slope of an unhitched cart, to a fence and then to a low roof. If he had to run as a man, he was going to run where the hounds couldn’t follow. And though he had seen many a smart hound in his days, he had yet to see one that could climb a ladder.

His hand found the edge of a tiled overhang, and he hauled himself upwards. Looking down he saw that he had come away with a few feathers left by an obliging pigeon. “Avian”, he intoned, and felt the magic take hold. And then he needed no ladders, carts or fences. The wind bore him up, and upward he flew, then suddenly downward again as he once more spied the Huntsman.

He heard the whoosh and clatter of the shot as he dodged through streets and alleys, a crooked path intended to deny his pursuers a clear shot or a straight run. The hounds would have a merry chase indeed as he lead them over every fence and wall he could find. Then, as his short lived magical flight began to fade, he recalled the spell pouch that had been provided for him, and after a few seconds his hand found what he needed.

Metamorphosis Persona”, he chanted. Again the magic took hold, and he felt his form lighten and lengthen. And again, he flew, this time on wings of silver and silence.

He looked back and saw the nightmare that followed, leaving chaos in their wake. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed, and across the city he saw small fires beginning. He headed for the edge of the city.
***
Penn urged his mount forward, calling to the one ahead as he did so. “To the western wall, quickly.”

“I thought we were heading for the waterfront, where the Merchant’s barge is supposed to be.”

“The Huntsman heard that instruction the same as you did. “, explained the Half-Satyr as he hunched low to speed their flight. “And I hope he goes there. I don’t plan to be anywhere near that spot.”

Ahead he saw Markus calling down the wrath of his father, Jupiter. Lightning struck from a clear sky, dancing all across the city. “And confusion to my enemies!”, the Cleric cried in semi-mad glee, as appropriate for the scion of a storm god.

“What are you doing?”, the Bard asked in dismay. “Do you even know where those are going?”

“No.”, replied Markus, “and I don’t care. The Magistrate wants me in the salt mines, the priests want my head and the Huntsman wants my soul. I’m not going to make it easy for any of them.”

And then it was a race, a race against miles an minutes as the city walls approached, and the magic of the summoning threatened to fade. They cleared the wall and then dove for the ground. Markus’ mount faded first, it’s time of duty expired, and the cleric found himself summersaulting across the ground. Penn and Imagina managed a slightly more decorous dismount, managing to land on their feet as their steed returned from whence it came, but their flight was far from over.

“Run”, said Penn, as he grabbed Seeburn’s ankles and struggled to lift.

Marcus grabbed the fallen hero’s shoulders, and together they manage a hobbling run away from the city walls. Markus may have been able to continue for a time, but the load was more than Penn’s slight frame could bear for any distance, and soon he was ready to collapse.

“This isn’t going to work.”, he gasped, as Seeburn’s body slipped from his grasp yet again. “We have to do something else.”

“Why do we need to carry him at all?”, asked Imagina. “The guard aren’t worried about him, and the Sluagh aren’t after either his body or me. Let’s just get his body and me to a safe place, then you two can run.”

The simple wisdom of that was so wonderful that Penn could have kissed the priestess, then and there. He took a moment to catch his breath, then began summoning one last time.

When the Hippogriff appeared, the Bard instructed it, “Take Imagina and my dead friend wherever she would go.” Then, to her, “Look for a stand a of trees, someplace near the road but out of sight. You have less than a minute before the mount is gone, so go quickly.”

Then, without looking back, he and the Jovian cleric ran for their lives.
***
Seeburn cut an evasive course towards the northern gate, then swept up and over the city walls, clearing the ancient stone by scant feet. Ahead of him stretched miles of farmland and forest. To his right he saw the southern road shining in the moonlight, a canal beside it like a ribbon of silver. He followed the two, his wings driving him through the night swift as an arrow. Behind him he heard turmoil and chaos, and the baying of the hounds. But ahead lay life.

He stayed low, his wingtips almost touching the water on the downbeat. Behind him he knew the Huntsman rode the night sky even as the Sluagh coursed through the streets and over the fields. Rise enough to avoid the pack, and he’d be an easy target for the Huntsman’s arrows. Still the exaltation of flight and the fear of the hunt a heady mix, and he found he was enjoying the chase.. He also discovered that, though he “ran as a man”, he didn’t get tired. That weakness had been left behind, along with his other mortal frailties.

The canal gave him an idea. He was close enough to the ground that, even though he left no footprints, his scent would remain in the air, and the pack could follow wherever he went. Normally, when so pursued, canny prey would take to water to try and break that scent. While that would do him no good against this pack, the canal would slow them. He began to sweep left and right, a long weaving path that would drag his pursuers back and forth through that canal, costing them precious time. If they were going to catch him this night, they’d have to work for it.

He snuck a glance over his shoulder. There, silhouetted against the hunter’s moon, rode Hern, wondrous and terrible to see. And the Sluagh, the hounds of the hunt, flowed over the city wall like a dark tide.

He drove on, hard.
***
Penn and Markus were almost ready to congratulate themselves. The Hippogriff had left no scent for the pack to follow, and their abrupt change in course appeared to have fooled them, at least for a time. The fleeing pair began to think they might have evaded them entirely. Until they heard the echoes of their baying behind them.

“Do you hear that?”, Markus asked, suddenly alert. “They’re between the city walls and us, you can tell by the sound. They’re on our trail. Can you call for more flying mounts?”

“No, I used the last of that to carry Imagina and Seeburn out of harm’s way.”, Penn replied. He knew that he could transform himself to take wing, but Markus had no such option. He wouldn’t abandon his friend that way. So instead, he ran.

The pair pressed on, perversely staying on the road as much as possible. Not only did it afford them easier travel, but they wouldn’t leave footprints on the hard cobblestone, and their scent might mix with that of the thousands who had used the road in recent days.

Penn, whose cloven hooves made him the faster of the pair, took time to lay false trails, setting off to the side then doubling back on himself, to try and confuse the trail.

Their path took them past a low orchard, whose scent hung heavy in the night air, and the pair took the opportunity to take cover and rest. The pack might be tireless, but their mortal prey had been up all day, and was quickly growing tired.

“You are one of the most devious people I’ve ever met.”, declared Markus, without preamble. “Can you think of anything to confuse our trail?”

“I’m not a hunter or a tracker, but there may be something.”, the Fey said, after a moment’s thought. Reaching up, he pulled down clumps of blossoms from the trees. “First, a bit of magic.” He sang a brief tune that became an incantation, then he began to gesture at the two of them, as if sweeping away dust. “That will clean us, drying our sweat and lessening our scent. Then we rub ourselves with the blossoms, to mingle our scent with the orchard itself. Make sure you get the bottom of your feet.”

Anything else?”, asked the Cleric as he busied himself with the aromatic herbs.

“Yes. Run.”

And the pair were off again, taking care to moderate their pace this time. Like it or not, it was going to be a long night.
***
Seeburn pushed himself hard, his flight taking him over a vineyard, where the grapes grew in long, well tended rows. “I wish they were brambles.”, he thought to himself as once again he set a weaving course, to lure the pack into fighting their way through the rows.

Then, ahead, he heard a dreadful sound, one that chilled him straight to the marrow of his bones. The baying of hounds. Somehow the pack had split, and half had gotten ahead to cut him off.

He glanced back towards the road and saw an escape route. His transformation was almost done, but he had another. He headed for the road, and the canal that ran along side it.

Metamorphisis”, he incanted again as he hit the water. Now his form changed again. Gone were the wings that had borne him so well. Still he did not miss them. In their place were webbed fingers, gills, and broad feet. “Let them follow my scent under water”, he thought to himself as he doubled back towards the city.

His legs drove him through the water faster than a man could run, faster than many birds could have flown. He was almost chortling at his own cleverness when the first arrow plunged into the water scarcely a hand’s breadth from his side. His trick might have fooled the hounds, but the Huntsman, riding high in the night, had seen him. He cursed himself for a fool for forgetting Hern, for swimming so hard that he almost certainly left a foaming trail in his wake.

He spied a side channel, a culvert that cut beneath the road and took it without hesitation. The low stone bridge would provide him with some cover. He’d wait here for a moment, then double back at stealthier pace, and resume his route back to the city.

He waited a hundred heartbeats, then crept out, back to the main channel. Almost at once, pain lanced through him as an arrow creased his side. The water might be a refuge from the pack, but it limited his movements too much. He drove forward, hard, then aimed upward like a salmon mounting a waterfall. Momentum carried him up to the bank, where he landed on his feet, already running.

He took refuge in a nearby orchard, where the thin canopy of leaves would shield him from Hern’s sight, then took a moment to examine his wound. The magic of the Bard’s borrowed belt helped staunch the bleeding, but didn’t close the wound entirely. And from the road, he heard the sound of the pack. He ran.

He saw that Hern had brought his horse in low, so he could peer beneath the edge of the trees, and the Sluagh followed their master. The fleeing hero decided to take a chance. It might anger the demi-god, but he had few options. After all, what could Hern do to him for the offense, kill him?

Infernus”, he intoned, rolling the odd bit of sulfur and droppings together. Fire sprang from his hand, racing to a point beneath the rider, then erupting into a great explosion that lit up the night.

To his surprise, the Huntsman fell to the ground, his flying mount slain. The field was scorched, and the smell of smoke filled the air.

He saw Hern rise to his feet and decided not to press his luck. He dove for cover as the first of the arrows whistled his way.

Through the trees he dodged, and over a low wall. If he could reach that waterway again, with Hern grounded and on foot…

He cut left, sharply, then dodged to his right, back towards the road. And… pain.

Somehow he couldn’t move. A single shaft from the hunter’s bow had driven completely through him, pinning him to a tree. He struggled to free himself, but his strength failed him, flowing away like water. His feet fought for purchase, and he pressed against the rough trunk of the tree, to no avail.

“You have run well, mortal.”, he heard Hern say. “But it is over.”.
***
Penn and Markus were near the end of their strength. The eastern fringe of the sky was lightening, showing that dawn was close. But the hounds of the Hunt were closer, and the pair could barely stagger.

“We’re not going to make it.”, gasped Penn, peering through the morning haze for sight of the pursuit.

“I’m sorry I dragged you into this.”, Markus replied. One impulsive moment had doomed them both, and there was nothing he could do about it.

“Nonsense. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”, the Bard lied. “We almost got to put one over on the gods themselves. What more could a performer like me want as his final act?” He paused to pant for a moment, the chill air raw against his throat. “Still, we almost made it. An hour more and we’d have won.”

“An hour?”, panted Markus, a note of hope sneaking into his voice. “Can you buy me one minute? We may get out of this yet.”

Penn dragged up his last reserves, hoping that his friend’s idea would work. “Metamorphosis”, he chanted, changing form one last time.

“What in Tartarus are you now?”, asked the Cleric, nearly choking on the sudden stench.

“Trogdolyte”, the Bard smirked. “If they’re going to follow our scent, I’m going to make them pay for the privilege.” Then he began to move, managing a slow, staggering run. He ran in a small circle around where they had stood, then spiraled outward, spreading the foul smell as far and as wide as he could.

Meanwhile Markus dragged himself to his feet and cast about, looking for a suitable site. Spying a pillar at the edge of a lane, he headed over to it, measuring it with his eye as he moved. Not the best, but it would have to do.

“Come on, I’ve found it.”, he called, waving to the Bard.

Penn resumed his own form, nearly retched from the stench he had left behind, and joined the Cleric. “What are we going to do?”, he inquired.

“Climb on my back. We’re going to cheat.” Then, nearly falling from the weight of even the Fey’s slight build, he began to incant: “Petrous Morphus”, he intoned, and together the pair stepped into the stone pillar, becoming one with the rock itself.
***
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
As a note: The Meld Into Stone spell we used at the end shouldn't have worked. Caster only.

The player made an honest mistake, and the DM missed it. We let it stand.

As a side note: Even though the adventure to China wasn't mine, the Hunt was. I was the DM, with the odd duty of trying to hunt down and kill my own player character.

We ignored the Wild Hunt write up in MM V, going instead straight to Celtic mythology. The Sluagh were based on Shadow Mastiff. The scene was epic, with a two packs of these, over a dozen in each, running through the city at night. Every time one of them bayed, howled or growled, everyone within 300 feet had to make a Will save or be taken by pure panic. And they got lead through pretty much every quarter of that city, all in one night. We, as PCs, might not have done that good a job spreading the word of the Afterlife, but by the time that night was over the entire city had gotten the message.

More will follow.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Okay, I lied, I think.

More won't follow. More has preceeded. It turns out tht I posted this tale, including the "missing" parts, earlier. It just wasn't with the rest, a few pages down.

Look for the whole thing under the name "The Wild Hunt".
 

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