"Out of the Frying Pan" - Book I: Gathering Wood (reprise)

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #8 (part II)

Jeremy, Chance, Jana, Beorth, Ratchis and Kazrack continued marching south by southwest along the river. An hour after they battle with the skeletons, Ratchis said, “We should be seeing the oxbow soon.”

“What is an oxbow?” asked Kazrack.

“I was wondering the same thing,” said Jeremy.

“It is when a river or stream loops back on itself, and then the loop gets closed off from the river and starts to dry up,” Ratchis explained, and as if to exemplify the point, the oxbow came into view.

As they turned eastward at the oxbow as the herbalist had directed, a dark front of clouds rolled in from the west with frightening speed. A cold howling wind pushed at their backs, and they held their cloaks tight around their shoulders. Thunder broke above them and suddenly an intense rain came down in a constant torrent. The already setting sun was obscured by a deep grayness in all directions.

The party was immediately soaked and shivering, and visibility was obscured to just a dozen feet or so.

They continued onward in what they hoped was a straight line, led by Ratchis, and looking for the wild apple orchard that marked where they should turn southward again. After what seemed like too long a time, but was naught but an hour and a half.

They bumbled in the darkness and rain, when Jeremy felt something crunch beneath his boot. Looking down he saw it was a small apple. He looked around and wiped the rain from his eyes and then shielded them.

“I think this is the orchard,” Jeremy said, pointing to the small trees around them, and now the rotting apples underfoot.

“Yes,” agreed Ratchis. “I believe south is this way.” The tall man pointed what he hoped was southward, and from the mist in that direction emerged several figures. The shambled forward, in a line of about half a dozen. The rain pelted their blind eyes, and their flesh was rotten and covered in the tattered rags that were once sailor’s clothing. One had a rusted sabre through his gut, but still it walked forward, moaning softly. The cam with outstretched arms and blackened claw-like nails, knowing nothing but the desire to eat all flesh, to quench all life.

The companions prepared to meet them in battle, and suddenly realized as more appeared in the mist: They were outnumbered.

----

The zombies lurched forward through the rain, breaking up the party line into two groups, with Ratchis, Beorth and Kazrack in front and Jana, Jeremy and Chance in the rear.

The zombies grabbed at them with the stubborn and unyielding strength of death, rend the flesh from their limbs, the stench of putrescence coming off them in waves despite the torrential rain. Now that they were fighting for their very lives, pushing off the groping limbs, they could see that four of the zombies were not dressed as sailors, as the other four were

Three were dressed in frock coats with tall collars, with rotted flowers in their lapels, the flesh of their faces shriveled up in a permanent grimace, like a rich man recoiling from a beggar. The fourth of this group, was a woman in life, in a high collar dress with a many layered petticoat, high-heeled boots and her wiry remaining hair pulled back in a tight iron-colored bun.

Ratchis fought with his long-bladed hunting knife, cutting chunks of dead flesh off the sailor zombies, while Beorth did the same with his long sword. Kazrack, swung his halberd in wide arcs, cutting at zombies to keep them at bay, but they ignored the danger of the pole-axe’s broad blade and walked towards him, spurting a strange bluish liquid from their wounds. Jeremy was having a harder time, stumbling from blow after blow from the gnarled fists of the undead, as Chance hesitated behind him, and Jana swung her club ineffectively.

Standing back, Ratchis slipped the knotted and worn chain of cracked links from around his waist and began to swing it over his head.

“Nephthys, please send down your divine grace so that these poor slaves’ bodies could be put to rest and not made to toil in death as they did in life,” the tall woodsman cried, and two of the zombies turned and fled in the face of that divine power. Beorth hacked one of the sailor zombies down and turned to help, Kazrack who was fending off two, while Ratchis charged after one of the fleeing ones. He sliced opened the back of one revealing its spine and as it turned, he slice again quickly sending its right hand flying off in a random direction, spurting the blue foul smelling liquid in their bodies all over his face and chest.
Meanwhile, Jeremy was having trouble, Jana and Chance retreated from repeated blows they suffered, but Jeremy stood his ground, and soon his blood was flowing to mix with the zombie gore flying about. Beorth helped Kazrack finish another and in at the end of his vision saw a faint glowing green light in the woods. It pulsed twice and disappeared. Ratchis charged towards the zombie Jeremy was still fighting, as the Neergaardian had managed to fell one, but he arrived too late, as his companion fell from a harsh blow to the neck, dropping his swords in the muck developing beneath their feet. Ratchis stepped between the lurching zombie and Jeremy’s fallen form, as Chance and Jana crouched over the fallen companion. With a wide swing another hand was removed at the wrist. Kazrack turned to help Ratchis, and Beorth tried to finish another zombie as it tried to turn and move away from him, but it took one last swing at him knocking him down into the mud and shambled away. By the time the paladin stood and Ratchis and Kazrack finished their zombie, both it and the one Ratchis’ turned had disappeared into the night.

“How is Jeremy?” Ratchis asked in his gravelly voice.

Jana looked up from the injured Neergaardian, “He is stable.” And she looked at Chance, who nodded.

“Stay here and guard him. I am going to look for shelter. We need a place to rest for the night,” Ratchis said.

“Don’t you think we should find the mortuary?” asked Kazrack.
“Not in this condition, and not if we have to carry Jeremy,” said the woodsman and he was off. He returned a few moments later, and said he found a spot where two trees had fallen to create a natural shelter, where they might be out of the majority of the rain.

“Moving Jeremy will be difficult. He is stable, but still unconscious,” said Jana.

Ratchis knelt down on knee beside Jeremy and putting his hand over one of the now bandaged wounds spoke aloud, “Nephthys, may your compassion light heal his body and spirit so that he may fight to end the bondage of these undead abominations.”
And with that the wound closed some, and Jeremy’s eyes blinked.

“Ugh, I’, alive?” Jeremy croaked. “Ow, everything hurts.”

They helped him up and Beorth and Chance helped him hobble along to the shelter Ratchis had found.

They settled down for the night, and Chance fell immediately fell asleep, while the others discussed a fire and who would take watch.

“We should not light a fire,” said Kazrack, squeezing the water from his beard.

“It is cold and wet, and it may help Jeremy be more comfortable and thus recover easier,” said Ratchis.

“But some of the undead things escaped us, and the fire might draw them back,” said Kazrack.

“I do not think it would matter. It was the glowing green light that called them away, and regardless, undead can sense life and hate it. It matters not if we have a fire, at least in terms of the zombies,” said Beorth without emotion.

“Glowing green light?” asked Kazrack.

“Yes, it pulsed twice in the wood south of us as we fought. It was then that the zombies began to turn away from the battle.

Chance was in a position to see it as well, though I do not know if he did,” Beorth replied.

Chance snorted in his sleep as if in reply.

“Well, there may be other things about. I am taking first watch. I think we can live for a few hours before dawn without a fire, and I do not need the light of the fire to see by,” said Kazrack.

“Fine by me,” said Ratchis, unrolling a fur blanket and falling immediately to sleep.

Jana checked Jeremy’s bandages, and then followed suit. Beorth watched with Kazrack briefly, and then he slipped off his armor and slept as well.

----

The night waned and the harsh rain mellowed to a trickle and then stopped all together, leaving only the sound of the droplets dripping from the apple littered trees around them.

The first lights were visible when Chance awoke to find Kazrack’s head bobbing in an effort to fight off sleep.

“Kahs-rahk,” Chance said. “Gah ta slep, mahn. Ahm awek now and will watch.”

Kazrack grudgingly agreed and went to sleep.
-----

Anulem, 21st of Ese - 564 H.E.

Ratchis awoke hours later. The light of Ra’s Glory was reflected in each drop of rain clinging to the autumnal leaves giving the morning an unreal sheen that for a moment made him feel as if he might still be in a dream. Everyone else still slept. Chance snored lightly in a sitting position drooped over a log on his left. Pausing to breath in the chilly morning air, the large man got up to his knees and began to pray to his goddess. In time the rhythmic murmuring awoke Beorth, who stood and stretched. Beorth began to gather some nearby wood for a fire, when Ratchis prayer was interrupted by the not too distant sound of animal’s cry.

“Did you hear that?” said Beorth, his arms holding a few sticks of wet wood.

Ratchis stood and cocked his head. The cry came again, high-pitched and full of agony. Grabbing his staff, and not bothering to put on his armor, Ratchis ran in the direction of the sound.

Beorth dropped the wood and looking around for a moment grabbed his sword. He took off after Ratchis, who had already disappeared among the apple trees, leaving behind the others in ignorant sleep.

Ratchis came over a low ridge to see a huge animal sprawled out in a clearing. It was greater than six feet long and its body was covered in a thick, grizzled dark brown fur, and it’s face was lined and crowned with white. Its front legs were short and muscular and ended with long clawed paws, but as it dragged itself forward the woodsman could t ell that it’s rear leg was caught in a powerful metal trap, and blood oozed outward matting its fur.

As Ratchis slowly approached it, he could see it was weak and he halted one fearful moment as it began to yank at its trap wildly, convulsing in unfocused rage, screeching (as he had heard it before) and foaming flicking its muzzle. After a few moments, it settled back to trying to dragging itself slowly along again, but not gain ground. It’s breathing was heavy and labored.
Ratchis walked slowly around to its front an as soon as it sensed him it began its wild frenzy of movement again. This time is lasted much longer, crying out again and again in frustration, anger and agony.

After a few moments Beorth approached.

“What is it?” the paladin of Anubis asked.

“It is a badger, but I’ve never seen one this big before,” his gravelly voice was filled with pity for the creature’s suffering.

“Can you heal it?” Beorth asked, inwardly wondering if death might not be a better choice for the creature.

“If I got too close it’ll likely rip my arm off. In my experience, once a creature of this kind enters a rage it will not stop until it or all around it are dead. Since we have no way to subdue it, I guess I will have to put it out of its misery. It is almost dead anyway.”

Ratchis stood at the very edge that his quarterstaff could reach and taking one end in both hands swung hard and high over his head, striking the huge badger on top of the head with a sickening crunch. It let out a final blast of breath and ceased to move, blood seeping slowly from its mouth and nose.

Ratchis and Beorth looked at the creature silently, when suddenly they heard a grizzled voice call out, “That there’s my kill, boys. Ya best stand away!”

---

Meanwhile, Kazrack awoke with a start and the feeling that he had overslept. He stood up and saw Chance where he slouched over drooling. With a grunt he looked and saw Beorth and Ratchis were gone, and he kicked Chance awake. In the distance he heard the cry of the huge badger, though he did not know what is was.

“Huh? Wha?” Chance said groggily, putting his arms up reflexively

“Where are Ratchis and Beorth?” Kazrack asked roughly.

“How sha ah nah? I whus sleepin’!” Chance said, annoyed.

“And you were supposed to be watching!” Kazrack yelled in something close to a fatherly tone.

“Well, ah whus tired, `n it whus light out. Ah figured we whus safe fer a while.”

“Well come on, let’s find them,” commanded Kazrack.

“What about Jana and Jeremy?” Chance asked.

“I’m awake. You think could sleep with his bellowing? Go ahead and go find them. I’ll watch Jeremy,” said Jana groggily.

Kazrack took up his halberd and took off in the direction of the animal sounds. Chance followed behind.

“Bad enough I’m wounded,” said Jeremy rolling over. “I think I have a headache now.”

---

A tall and broad man stepped out of the trees. He had an unkempt hickory beard, saucer-like eyes, long brown hair and wore a long thick coat of bear fur over his leather armor. He also wore a fur hat, and carried a spear.

“That there little badger is mine,” he said in a gruff voice, smiling. “That’s my trap. It was my bait.”
“That’s fine,” replied Ratchis. “We had no intent on taking it.”

“Yeah, well that’s good. We don’t look kindly on poachers around here.”

“We are hunting zombies, not badgers,” said Beorth.

“Zombies?” the man spit, and looked at Beorth in the eye. “Whatcha be wantin’ them fer? Ya can’t eat them and they got no coat to speak of.”

“We need to destroy the menace,” said Beorth.

‘Well, a menace they are, but they ain’t too bad. If there’s only one or two ya can get rid of them pruty easily, and if they’re more, you can always outrun `em,” the hunter said.

“I am Beorth, servant of Anubis,” the paladin said. “And this is Ratchis.”

The hunter looked Ratchis up and down and grunted.

“They call me Jack-Knife Hawkins,” he said.

“Do you run into the zombies a lot?” Beorth asked.

“Well, I be seeing these past relations every couple of fortnights, been kinda more regular like lately though,” Jack-Knife said.

At this time, Kazrack and Chance came walking up towards them.

“Heh, don’t see many Stonefolk around here,” Jack-Knife said, turning to begin cleaning the badger body.

“Do you know where the zombies come from?” Beorth asked.

“Probably the ole crypt over yonder hill,” he gestured to the south. “Now, if you all will excuse me, I gotta clean and skin this beastie, and that’ll take the better part of the day.”

“Ratchis?” Kazrack said.

“The sound was just this animal caught in that trap,” Ratchis said.

“It doesn’t matter what it was,” Kazrack said. “You should not have left without telling anyone. It is not safe.”

“Beorth knew I left,” Ratchis said simply beginning to walk back towards camp.

“But Beorth came with you,” Kazrack said.

“I could not let him go into possible danger alone,” Beorth said in his normal quiet tone.

“But you left us alone and asleep,” said Kazrack.

“We did not go far,” said Ratchis. “It worked out fine.”

“But it might not have,” Kazrack insisted.

“But it did,” Ratchis said, flatly.

They returned to camp, where Jeremy achingly awakened to join the group in a meager morning meal, and receive healing from Ratchis by the grace of Nephthys.

They then headed out across the orchard, past Jack-Knife Hawkins (who was still dealing with his kill) and over a hill and up another until they came to an incredible sight.

Beyond the second hill, buried in a huge pile of rubble stood what seemed to be a mastaba; (67) only the very top (and possible entrance) was visible, along with the slightest hint of stone steps that led down into the rubble. The doors to the tomb atop the oblong base were flanked by statues that must have been twenty feet tall or even taller, as only their torso and above were visible. While both statues were of black stone and jackal headed, the one on the doors’ left had a solemn countenance and medium build. It had its arms folded across its chest, hands near its shoulders, the right holding a crook (68), the left an ankh. The right hand statue had a face with a fierce and snarling countenance. It was broadly built and it’s right hand pointed forward, a serpent entwined about the forearm. It’s left hand was held at it’s waist, below the line of the rubble.

They could also see a small shack to the right of the structure. It looked dilapidated and old, set among tall harsh grasses. Behind the mastaba peeked the remains of what appeared to have once been a very large mansion long ago burned down to the foundation.

“How did that thing get covered in rubble? There are no nearby cliff faces or mountains or even hills close enough for an avalanche or earthquake to cause such a thing,” observed Kazrack.

The rest wondered silently.

“Well, at least some of the answers to our questions will be found here,” said Beorth. “Let us go down to the shack and see what we can find out about this place. The statues on the right is Anubis in the traditional stance of guardianship, while the one on the right is Set the Tyrant.”

Beorth, Chance, Jana, Jeremy, Kazrack and Ratchis made their way down to the old shack. In the front of the shack had a boarded window, and a slab of off-white stone about 7 feet long and 3 feet wide lay in the yard.

Racthis stepped up to the door and knocked loudly with his big ham-fist.

Kazrack called out, “Hello?”

Ratchis knocked again, more loudly.

“Go away! There’s no one here,” cried someone inside, a man whose voice was made high-pitched by anxiety.

“We’ve come to see about the zombies that trouble this area,” called Beorth through the door.

“Go away,” the voice called again. “Leave us alone. They haven’t hurt anybody!”

The party paused and all looked at each other.

“How do you live out here by yourself?” Kazrack asked.

“Go away,” the frantic voice cracked. “Leave us alone. I haven’t done anything to anybody. I won’t let you hurt them. People always want to hurt them!”

At this Ratchis threw all his weight against the door. It shuddered, but held. A high pitched scream of fear came from inside. “Go away! Go away! You aren’t allowed in here! Go!”
Ratchis slammed against the door again and it swung open violently. The large man stumbled with his unexpected success, but could see the pudgy form of the man inside shuffling madly away from the door as he screamed.

“Get out of my house! You aren’t invited! Go out! Ah! Ah! Don’t hurt me! I won’t let you hurt them!” he cried over and over.
Regaining his balance, Ratchis charged into the shack and tackled the man who struggled pathetically, his weak blows and loose fists ineffectively keeping the brawny woodsman from grabbing him and dragging him outside.

“Get off of me!” the man screamed. “Let me go! You’ll never get me to let you hurt them! Leave me alone!”

Ratchis dropped the man on the ground. He wore simple woolen pants, worn leather shoes, a vest, and his thinning hair was plastered to his pimply scalp. The man got up awkwardly and tried to run away, but Jeremy blocked his way, and Ratchis pushed the man back to the ground.

“Stop!” said Ratchis roughly. “We are not here to hurt you or anyone else.”

The man looked up expectantly at Ratchis. “What are you here for then?” the man asked meekly.

“We are here to destroy the zombie threat,” said Ratchis.

“There are no zombies!” the man screamed, and tried to get up, but Ratchis placed a knee in the man’s back, keeping him down. “That’s my family. I have to protect them! Don’t hurt them! Don’t hurt them!”

He began to sob uncontrollably. “Why do you want to hurt my family? Why? Why?”

“Your family?” Jeremy asked, stepping closer. “You do know they are all dead, right?”

“They are not dead! I’m supposed to take care of them! Why are you so evil? Just leave us alone!”

Meanwhile, Beorth and Jana looked around the shack. The two windows were nailed shut, and the little light in there came through cracks in the boards and shutters. The place was disheveled. There was a simple cot in one corner, and a pot-bellied stove in another. A crate held a collection of shovels, brooms, mops and a crowbar. The most obvious feature of the shack was a strange stone cap in the floor. It was round and fit perfectly into a hole in the floor; metal ring was in its center. Above it hung a thick metal hook connected to a chain, which was run through a pulley to a wheel on the wall by the door.
Outside, the shack’s former occupant continued to cry, now having been bound by Ratchis.. His face turned a bright red and his voice became a constant shriek of consternation and lamentation.

“Go away! Go away! Leave us alone!” he cried over and over again.

“We are trying to help you,” Jeremy said, in his best attempt to be soothing.

“I hate you! I hate you!” the man said through his madness. “Set curse you! Set Curse you!”

Jeremy stepped away from the man in fear, “whoa!”
“Set curse –“

He did not get to continue his curses. Kazrack stepped up and with a well-placed punch to the temple knocked the poor man out with one blow.

Everyone looked at the man’s crumpled form and shook their heads.

“He’s crazy,” said Chance.

“He was calling down Set to curse us,” Jeremy said quietly and with some fear.

“He thinks those zombies are his family,” said Kazrack. “How does someone become like that?”

“Living among the dead for years, I would guess,” said Ratchis.
Ratchis lifted the now unconscious man and brought him back into the shack and placed him on the cot. He searched the man and took the only two things the man had. A simple gold ring with an inset ruby and a pendant on a leather thong. The pendant seemed curved like a green fang and was made of malachite. It was about two and half inches long. He gave the items to Beorth is hold.

In the meantime everyone looked around, but could find no clue as to what was causing the zombies to be created. The only thing left to do was to use the hook and chain to lift the stone cap and explore the area beneath the shack.

Beorth place the hook in the ring and then turned the rusty wheel and was able to lift the stone cap out and swing it over and place it on the ground beside the dark gaping hole.

Ratchis stood by the whole and waited a second and listened. The sound of soft shuffling became apparent.

“Kazrack, cover me I’m going in,” Ratchis said.

“Wait, it’s dark in there! How will you see?” Jeremy called.

But it was too late, Ratchis leapt down in to the darkness.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

(67) Mastaba: An ancient Egyptian tomb with a rectangular base, sloping sides, and a flat roof.

(68) The crook is a scepter-like badge of station wielded by the gods of Ra’s Pantheon and the pharaoh-kings of old. It appears as a short cane with a rounded end.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #8 (part III)

nto the darkness Ratchis leapt, but to his trained and inhuman eyes, the room was a world of reversed shades of gray. He landed on a slab of stone not unlike the one that they had seen in front of the shack, but was off-balance for a second as the small form a boy that must have been no older than 11 years in life came at him.

“Eng! Eng!” was all the boy could say, dressed in a fine quilted jacket of molding velvet. The boy’s face seemed to have been powdered with make-up, but in places where it was faded the chilling sight of bluish pallor could be seen. His teeth were blackened, and one eye was swollen to be out of proportion with the rest of his face.

The little boy zombie grabbed at Ratchis, but despite being off balance, the woodsman was able to move out of the way, and place a hard kick to the boy’s head knocking him backward.

“What’s going on down there?” Kazrack called, sticking his head down the hole, using his dwarfish vision to pull out Ratchis pull out his long hunting knife and dive at a foe that was out of his arc of sight.

Ratchis leapt towards the zombie with a wide cut that punctured the swollen eye, causing stale blood, pus and that strange blue liquid to come bursting out in spray. Ratchis put one hand up, and the zombie undaunted, seeming to still possess the undying enthusiasm of a child lurched forward and grabbed the large man’s off-hand arm and yanked hard, sending pain shooting through Ratchis’ shoulder. He pulled his arm back and swung again, and this time the former little boy’s head plopped over, still attached to the neck by a patch of skin and some sinew, sending another burst of ichor into the air. The zombie toppled over, motionless.

Kazrack dropped down through the hole, using the lowered hook and chain to guide him, just as Ratchis stepped off the stone slab. The slab was about seven feet long and three and a half feet wide, and made of a off-white stone that was stained with spotches of something rust-colored in some spots and brown in others. Blood. There were also stains of unidentifiable blue stuff and green stuff. The slab was up against the western wall.
In the northwest corner, a coffin was propped up, and in the northeast corner was a rack of priestly garments and funeral clothes. The southern wall was a stone sideboard covered in bottles and jars of unidentifiable stuff (at least not using darkvision (69) ). In the east wall was a set of narrow double doors, that seem to have been plated with beaten pure gold, to depict a jackal-headed man standing before gates. Behind the gates were countless figures looking out beyond them into the room. (70)

Eventually, the rest of the party followed into the small room, bringing a lantern down with them. The still unconscious form of the care-taker (or whatever he was) was lowered down as well, and laid down beside the sideboard.

Ratchis and Kazrack debated placing the care-taker into the coffin to keep him out of trouble if he woke up. Ratchis was against it, fearing that if the party did not return from what was beyond those doors the man would die a horrible death, but if merely left tied up there was a good chance he could eventually wriggle out of it. Kazrack grudgingly agreed.

Meanwhile, Beorth examined the bottles and jars on the sidebar and found that among them were the familiar tools of a mortician, and for performing autopsies. The jars held embalming fluid and the preserved bits of the dead, like hearts, a brain, eyeball and a tongue. He then walked over to the golden doors and examine the bas-relief in detail.

“Wow, thassa lutta gold,” Chance said quietly to Jeremy “Ah wonder how heavy it is.”

“Probably very heavy, but not impossible to get off and out of here with some determination,” said Jeremy, eying the gold greedily as well.

“Whaddya say we try ta git these off later?” Chance said, trying to be quiet.

“Hey,” admonished Jana, overhearing. “I think that is a very bad idea.”

“Av carse,” said Chance, looking at the young girl. “We wus jast kiddin’. Weren’t we Jeremy?”

“Of course,” the Neergaardian replied.

Jana rolled her eyes and stepped over to look at the stuff on the sidebar for herself.

Chance elbowed Jeremy and winked. Jeremy nodded.

“A tomb lies beyond here,” Beorth announced. “We shall enter, for Anubis does grant permission for those that work in his name to enter these forbidden and sacred places for the purpose of destroying the evil that does desecrate it.

Ratchis and Kazrack pulled open the doors, and beyond was revealed a very small alcove, beyond which was a very narrow passageway that went onward into pitch darkness. It was barely six feet high, and Ratchis groaned realizing how difficult passing through such a space was going to be for him.

It was agreed that Kazrack, being the shortest would lead the way, with the rest following in this order: Jeremy, Beorth, Jana, Chance and Ratchis taking up the rear.

The crept along the passage way of loose brick and packed dirt, coming to wooden supports every dozen or so feet, which cause them to duck their head s even further. Ratchis was particularly cramped, dragging his quarterstaff along behind him. Jeremy held the lantern. He knew that if they were attacked by something while in this passage he would be particularly vulnerable, and he soon realized would block the escape of the others. It was too late to do anything about it now.

The passage had the slightest upward grade, which Kazrack immediately noticed. There was the slightest cool breeze which carried a fetid smell on it coming from the direction the party headed. They walked and walked, the cramped conditions giving them the impression that they had been marching along for hours with no change, except the deepening of their breaths.

Eventually, Kazrack heard a crunch beneath his feet and felt some small thing landing on him from above. At first he thought that the ceiling of the passage was crumbling, but looking closely it appeared as if the passageway walls, floor and ceiling were moving – squirming was an even better word – and now he could see thousands upon thousands of insects crawling about the passage, in and out of cracks in the walls. Kazrack took another step forward and could feel the bugs crawling up his body, down his neck beneath his armor and with his beard. He could hear their carapaces clinking off his helm.

“What is this stuff?” Jeremy said, stepping into the infested area.

“Bugs,” said Kazrack, but he should not have opened his mouth, because the moment he did a large waterbug popped right in. He spat it out disgusted, and just continued and the party followed, filled with loathing for the predicament they found themselves in.
They could hear the chittering of their legs and mandibles, and the crunching beneath their feet, and along the walls as they smeared the countless bugs. Jeremy looked and bugs had even crawled within the lantern, some smoking in the flame, others floating dead in the kerosene. Ratchis held the hood of his cloak over his head and crouched down lower, trying to shield himself, and Jana kept her mouth tightly shut and covered her ears with her hands. Beneath her cloak she could hear her little friend happily chopping down bugs.

“Yum, yum! Good bugs! Bugs good!” it said to her in her mind.
Chance merely shrieked every time he felt a large bug under his clothes and would smash it with an open hand. Beorth walked stoically through the infestation without reaction.

The narrow passageway had gone about 200 feet or more when it came to a simple wooden door, that Kazrack pushed open. The light from the lantern spilled out into the space beyond. They broke through cobwebs into a tall crypt. It had a sandstone floor, and the ceiling was lost in the darkness above. Wooden stairs lined the walls going up and around, held in place by tall wooden supports. The walls of the chamber where brick and mortar, and the right hand wall held five long tapestries, some of which were in tatters.

The center of the crypt was dominated by a large sarcophagus made of gold, and bronze. It sat upon a stone bier, and was decorated with the bas-relief of a woman’s figure, arms crossed upon her chest. All around the sides of the sarcophagus were etched figures paying homage to gods. It was flanked by two tall torch scones that were unlit. Just a little behind the large sarcophagus was two more sarcophagi perpendicular to the first one. They were both made of fine lacquered wood, one red and one blue.

“This place has been defiled,” Beorth said softly. “Whatever evil lingers here shall be destroyed in the name of Anubis!”

The party spread out, Beorth examined the large sarcophagus, as Jeremy and Chance went over to the tapestries and began to push them aside to look for other entrances/exits. Ratchis went and stood by the stairs, while Kazrack looked at the red and blue sarcophagi, without touching them.

Jana merely stood and observed, and then said suddenly, "Do you hear that?”

Everyone stopped and listened. The wooden stairs were creaking with the movement of many feet. They could hear the now familiar “eng” sound as a half dozen or more zombies began to slowly descend upon them.

---------------------------------------------------

Notes:

(69) (In Aquerra) Darkvision cannot be used to tell details like writing or small scratches or impressions in things.

(70) These are a depiction of the gates to Anubis’ Realm.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #8 (part IV)

Ratchis, Beorth and Kazrack moved to the stairs to intercept the zombies. Kazrack took the very bottom of the stairs, while Beorth and Ratchis set themselves up along the stairs so that they could attack at their legs when they came into reach. Jeremy got his crossbow ready, while Jana stood by one of the sarcophagi and lit the sconce near it. Chance moved into a far corner, as far away from zombies as he could get.

The zombies hobbled awkwardly down the stairs. Ratchis slammed one with is quarterstaff, knocking it into Beorth’s waiting sword. The zombie unphased by pain and tendons hanging loose from its legs, continued walking right into the blade of Kazrack’s halberd, even as it tried to reach for the dwarf. It was the same zombie in the high collared velvet frock coat that they had fought before, but his hat was now askew, and drooping from rainwater. It continued to try to reach him, as more zombies piled in from behind, not heeding the danger. Ratchis and Beorth struck fiercely at two more, as the line of undead became jammed on the narrow steps. The zombies cared nothing for danger or height, and began to simple walk off the edge of the steps plummeting atop Beorth and Ratchis.

They quickly made it to their feet, but not before the zombies had ripped some the very skin from their flesh with their hardened hands and nails. The zombies clamber to their feet, but Beorth and Ratchis struck quickly. Ratchis’ stopped moving, but another fell off the steps to take his place. Meanwhile, even more zombies made their way down the stairs, nearly overwhelming Kazrack. But the dwarf rallied, as more zombies toppled over to get at the paladin and the follower of Nephthys. The dwarf cut a swath through the zombies remaining on the stairs and ran up to meet more coming down. However, at that moment, Jana called out. And Chance’s voice was heard above the cacophony to cry, “What in tha nam of Bes is that?!?”

An incorporeal hand bathed in green light, floated up behind Beorth and began going forward to touch him. He moved to get out of the way, but the zombie to his side made it difficult to dodge, and he felt the hand’s icy touch, feeling a painful chill down to his bones. He shook of the cold, but it left him feeling worn down. Jana came up behind one of the zombies attacking Ratchis and gave it a hard blow with he club knocking it down. Meanwhile, Jeremy had been taking pot-shots on the zombies on the stairs, even those bolts that hit them, did not slow them down at all. Now only two zombies remained, but the ghostly hand attacked Beorth twice more and twice more and twice more he felt the bitter cold that wounded him deeply. He swung at the hand, and the blade of his sword went right through it with no effect. Beorth felt the undead hands grab him again from behind, and he almost fell off his feet, and he painfully tore himself out of the creature’s grasp and stepped away to swing a deathly blow with his long sword, cleaving deeply into the thing’s skull. Grey matter and blue embalming fluid erupted from the wound splattering on Ratchis, Jana and other zombies. Beorth turned back around in time to see Jeremy take a running leap up and over the large sarcophagus and go for stairs to aid Kazrack, but he also saw a terrifying sight

The hand had disappeared, but the lid of the blue lacquered sarcophagus burst open and from it emerged a tall figured wrapped in the white stains strips of cloth of a mummified corpse. It’s eyes were deep set as if it’s the flesh of its face had desiccated leaving only a graying skull, but red eyes burning with hatred glimmered there.

“Bes protect us!” Chance cried.

“I will feast on your souls and you bodies will remain behind to serve me,” the mummy-thing said.

“Oh my god - It can talk!” cried Jeremy from where he spotted it on the stairs, but he continued towards where Kazrack was stepping over the body of zombie he had torn in half with his halberd.

Beorth walked towards it with his sword raised, while Ratchis finished off his last zombie. He turned into to see the creature pummel Beorth with his bandaged hands knotted in a double fist. Beorth stumbled backward, as Kazrack appeared on the steps above and behind the mummy-thing. It seemed to sense him and stepped back beneath the steps. Ratchis let loose with a bottle of the holy water, but misjudged and the bottle shattered open in the sarcophagus the creature emerged from.

“Well, at least I sanctified his home, so maybe he can’t go back in there,” Ratchis said, with optimism.

“You will pay for that sacrilege,” the mummy-thing said, its voice seemed distant and scratchy as if spoken through great constant pain.

Above Jeremy passed Kazrack and positioned himself for shot at the thing with his crossbow, while the dwarf pulled out a bottle of oil and readied it. Ratchis tried a javelin, which the thing stepped deftly out of the way from. He stepped forward and Jana came over from behind Ratchis and around Beorth and with a word of magic pointed finger at the thing and a ray of green light struck it directly in the chest.

It merely looked at here and spoke in that unnerving voice that tapped each rib as if they were exposed and his words were an icicle, “Is that the best you have?” And with that, it fired the same exact kind of ray at Beorth. The laughter that followed was chilling, but fortunately, Beorth was able to shake off the debilitating effect. Kazrack seized his chance and smashed the ceramic oil flask over the mummy-thing’s head and shoulder, causing oil to spill down his arm and chest.

The creature roared as Ratchis let loose with another javelin. Beorth pulled out his bottle of holy water and passed it to Jana, and as Ratchis charged the mummy thing.

“Corvosa!” the thing said as it pointed at Ratchis, and for a second the half-orc felt a cloud come over his mind, but the aura of courage and free-will that surrounded him by the grace of Nephthys (71) allowed him to shake it off, and his attack was not interrupted.

Kazrack dropped a torch upon the mummy, and a curtain of flame exploded from it. The scream it let loose sent a near-paralyzing fear through the party, but Kazrack began to run down the stairs to join the fray, while Ratchis took a swipe with his large hunting knife, feeling the blow of the mummy’s strength, as a burning arm came crashing down on his shoulder. The flames burned the tall woodsman, but he did not retreat, instead he swung again and the mummy-thing’s hand at the forearm came flying off, sending a spray of ichor around the room.

Beorth teetered on the edge of unconsciousness from his wounds, but Jana stepped forward to get line of sight to fling the holy water, when suddenly Chance charged from the corners with an attempted blow from his short sword into the creature’s back. Chance’s own enthusiasm worked against him, as he over shot his target, and the thing turned quickly striking Chance with a single heavy blow which sent the red-headed young man tumbling away and gasping for breath.

It seemed that the flames would not spread and began to die down, leaving a blacked stain around the creature’s neck and chest. Kazrack made it down the steps and Jan let loose with the holy water vial. The glass smashed on the creature’s head, and where the water touched him, steam rose and again it cried out, and charged right for Jana – With a single blow she was on the ground, bleeding to death. Kazrack came around the mummy-thing, flanking it with Ratchis’ help, but suffered the blow of the thing’s stump as he got into position, groaning loudly as the weight came down on him.

Chance crawled over to Jana and began to try to bind her wounds, and Jeremy came bounding down the stairs. Ratchis and Kazrack traded blows with the thing, and twice more it struck Kazrack with all its undead might, until the dwarf’s face was bruised and he looked like he could barely stand.

Ratchis stood back and called to his goddess, “Nephthys, please fill me with your healing light so that I may triumph over this being of evil!” But even as his wounds began to close of their own accord, Kazrack shoved his halberd blade into the mummy-thing’s chest, and with a fierce jerking motion to the left and then right, the coils of cloth began to fall away with the weight of absorbed ichor. The mummy stumbled, and fell to its knees, and as Kazrack lifted his pole-arm for its killing blow, “I may fall, but fear followers of Anubis. Fear! For his son will rise and all righteous shall go astray!”

And with that it crumbled into a pile of bandages and dust.
The chamber was silent, and the party stood still filled with the terror of the creature’s presence.

End of Session #8

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Notes

(71) Friars of Nephthys are surrounded by an aura which grants a +2 resistance bonus to mind-effecting spells and effects.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Re: More, more, more !

Sammael99 said:
We want more !


There will be another installment tonight and every night until it has caught up to Book II - I predict about 13 or 14 more installments.

Thanks for reading Sammael - I think you are the only one doing so. :D
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #9

“Father Anubis, please grant your stay of death upon this young girl so that she may continue to help to do your work in this mortal realm,” Beorth said, laying his hands upon Jana’s head. She stirred and her eyes fluttered. “Rest, Jana, you will be alright now.”

The girl slowly sat up and leaned her back against the crypt wall.

“What do you think that thing meant by, `his son will rise’?” asked Jeremy.

“Did he say, ‘his’ or ‘my’?” asked Kazrack.

“He said, ‘his’” replied Beorth.

“Well, I think we should search this place a bit more,” said Kazrack.

Kazrack spent the next few hours carefully searching the southern wall behind the tapestries, while Beorth examined the etchings on the golden sarcophagus for clues and Jana rested. Chance merely sat beside Jana, trying to comfort her. Ratchis, convinced that the wooden stairs must along the inside of the rubble-covered structure they had seen outside, made his way up the stairs, being careful to step lightly. Jeremy followed, but the loud creaking of his boots on the steps cancelled any attempt Ratchis made to remain quiet.

Kazrack made his way up to where the stairs came up through a floor to a narrow corridor. Worried about going too far without aid, he made his way back down. Jeremy’s torch had flickered out and he was startled by Ratchis coming by him in the dark.

“How do you see in the dark like that?’ Jeremy asked.

“It runs in my family,” Ratchis said, by way of explanation.

Kazrack’s dwarf sense of stone and structure could find no anomalies in the stone work, and Beorth found no particular significance to the hieroglyphics (72) around the golden casket.

Deciding they needed to rest after such a grueling combat and before exploring the upper chamber, the party made their way back down the narrow tunnel, through the countless bugs and back into the room for the embalming of the dead. Here they found the care-taker had awakened and was wiggling his way up on the bier and towards the chain that hung through the trap door. The man began to scream as soon as he heard the party approach.

“Let me go! Let me go!” he cried. “I hate you. You evil bastards! You killed Cousin Ernie. You killed him! You killed him.”

“He was already dead,” said Kazrack.

“Anubis wanted your family to rest,” said Beorth.

Tears began to stream down the pathetic man’s face, “Why’d you kill me family? Why? Why? Why are you so terrible? He was just a little boy! A little boy! Set curse you! Set. . . “

Kazrack knocked him out with one punch again.

“He is scary when he starts to say that,” Jeremy commented. The party climbed up the chain and handed the insane care-taker up through it. They went outside and camped a few score yards from the shack, making sure to replace the stone cap before leaving, bringing the man with them.

The night passed without event.


Ralem, 22nd of Ese – 564 H.E

Morning found Ratchis climbing up the rubble that had the mastaba mostly buried. The steep pile was loose in many places and he was extra slow and careful in his ascent. He then began to noisily pry the wooden boards that were nailed into the soft stone around the doors to the tomb on top.

“Ratchis! What are you doing?” Kazrack called up. The tall woodsman did not reply. Thinking that he had not heard, Jeremy made the perilous climb after him.

“Jeremy! Where are you going?” Kazrack called.

Jeremy looked back down, “I’m going to tell him that I don’t think everyone can make this climb.”

At the top Jeremy informed Ratchis of this, and after a few moments of judging the distance and lowering a rope, Ratchis agreed that climbing up would likely be too tough for Jana and Chance.

Ratchis climbed back down followed by Jeremy.

“Why did you pry those boards off?” Kazrack asked in his usual parental tone when someone has done something he disapproved of.

“I figured that if we end up in that chamber, we might need a quick way out,” Ratchis said.

“Why do you insist on doing things on your own all the time without consulting anyone else?” Kazrack said with frustration.

“It only makes sense. It thought we might explore from that direction – but even though we cannot do that it is best that we keep an extra way out,” Ratchis explained with much effort.

‘Fine,” the dwarf replied.

The party began to pack their belongings and prepared to enter the area beneath the shack once again. As they were about to enter the shack, Ratchis sighed and looked at Kazrack.

“Do you have a hammer?” he asked.

“Yes,” the dwarf replied.

“Can I borrow it?”

With Kazrack’s hammer tucked in his belt, Ratchis made the slow climb back up the rubble to the tomb doors.

“What in the name of hell are you doing now?” Kazrack called.

Chance and Jana laughed, while everyone watched Ratchis hammer the boards back in place. Eventually he climbed back down.

“What did you do that for?” Kazrack asked, his mouth agape at the odd behavior of his traveling companion.

“I realized that those boards were keeping something in. I was afraid something would come out and get away or cut us off if we left the boards off,” Ratchis explained.

Kazrack growled, and Beorth was his usual impassive self, but Jana, Chance and Jeremy laughed. Beorth and Jeremy removed the stone cap again and this time the bound and gagged care-taker was tied to his bed. They all went down and braved the endless bugs again and came back to the chamber where they had fought the mummy, and made their way up the creaky wooden steps.

As they began the ascent, Beorth groaned, still feeling the effects of the previous day’s battle. Chance who was walking up behind him, laid a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “I know your wounds ail you, but perhaps with a little bit of luck you’ll be feeling better soon.”

Suddenly, the aching of Beorth’s wound lessened and he could feel them closing some. He looked to Chance, who put a finger to his lips and smiled.

The last set of steps opened at one end of a narrow hall. They walked down the hall past a series of bas relief engravings of heroes of some kind fighting a mummy creature, being killed and animated to serve as guardians and servants. Beorth looked at them closely for clues, worried that the heroes in the carvings might be images of the party made by some form of magic, but that was not the case.

At the other end of the hall was a stone door, with a hinge mechanism that made it seem that from the other side it must appear like a bare stone wall. Beorth stepped forward to examine the door with Ratchis, and Chance stepped up to look as well, Kazrack now stood between them.

“We need better light,” said Beorth. “Ratchis and Kazrack may be able to see, but the rest of us are going to be in trouble.”

“Elochem,” said Kazrack, the dwarven word for light, and suddenly the end of Beorth’s staff glow with a bright light in a 20 foot radius. Everyone turned and looked at Kazack, whose mouth was wide open in amazement.

“How’d I do that?” Kazrack asked.

“What did you say?” said Beorth.

“I said the word for light in dwarven and suddenly, poof!” Kazrack was amazed. He looked at his halberd and said the word again, but nothing happened.

“I definitely hear, shuffling of some kind on the other side of this door. Get ready!” Ratchis said.

Ratchis and Kazrak pushed the stone door slowly open, and immediately heard the shambling of zombies behind. They dug in and pushed harder catching two zombies between the door and a perpendicular wall. They pushed back, but the bones of the inner one could be heard to start crunching as embalming fluid pooled beneath the dwarf and the half-orc’s feet.

Pressing their backs against the door, they could see they were in a short and narrow corridor or alcove that opened into a much larger vaulted chamber, with a statue of a snarling jackal-headed figure against the wall to their left which seemed to continue onward to another hallway on across the chamber. More zombies moved slowly towards them, but Jeremy and Beorth came forward to stop their progress, and push the zombies back into the larger chamber. Jana and Chance followed, and after one last hard push to finish off the crunching zombie, Ratchis moved forward to join them, leaving Kazrack to finish the other by himself.

The vaulted chamber was definitely the inside of the tomb they had seen atop the mastaba. The walls were lined with two rows of vaults for the dead, one row above the other, with a narrow space above them. A few of the stone seals were smashed open. In the front of the tomb two large columns flanked the double doors.

Jeremy and Ratchis took on two zombies immediately around the corner, while Beorth stepped beside the statue to face another. Jana and Chance hung back, to move in if someone needed help. Another zombie was crawling out of one of the broken seals. These zombies were all dressed in fine velvet clothes stained with embalming fluid and grave dirt.

Kazrack quickly dispatched his opponent, and left the other for Jeremy to finish, going over to face an approaching zombie that looked like it might flank Beorth. The paladin noticed a few nearly invisible strands stretched out across the chamber – but thought perhaps it was a trick of the eye, as the zombies seemed to be able to walk through them as if they did not exist. However, when Ratchis stepped over, he felt his movement arrested by something, and looking down finally noticed the fine threads; but too late! Ratchis jerked and raised his arms, and felt one of the ultra-fine threads snag his arm as well, and before he knew it several of these very sticky lines were holding him hopelessly in place. Two zombies moved towards him, as if these threads did not exist to them.

Meanwhile, Kazrack was having trouble keeping the door open, so he let go suddenly leaping back into the hall the party had emerged from. The zombie shambled forth past the door towards Chance who yelped and turned brandishing his short sword. The red-head stabbed forward sinking the blade deep into the dead flesh, but the piercing weapon did not seem to do much, but Kazrack’s halberd blade did. The dwarf opened the door and stepped out flanking the undead monstrosity and cleaving deeply into its hip and sending it down, but however it immediately began to try to get back up.

As Ratchis struggled with the threads, the two zombies that flanked him, began to rip violently into his flesh. The large man grunted in pain, and continued to try to break free. Beorth stepped up, and sliced deeply into one and it turned towards him. Jeremy still struggled against his one foe. And then, the thread became easier to see as it quivered all about. It stretched from the statue of Set, across to the columns, and from one set of vaults to another. And from atop the crypts to the left of the statue, emerged a horrific creature.

It appeared as spider, bone white and hairless, it’s body a good foot across, it’s legs twice as long. It crawling towards the trapped Ratchis, and one zombie moved away from him towards Beorth. The spider walked lightly on its near invisible webs until its deep green fangs were right in the woodsman’s face. He could see that one fang was broken at about the half-way mark, but as the maw came closer he turned his head, and felt the deep and painful bite puncture the flesh of his neck and shoulder – something like liquid heat flashed through his veins, and he felt his muscles begin to harden and become immovable.

Beorth chopped a zombie deeply, and it folded in half and tumbled, it’s entrails snaking out on the marble floor. Jeremy finished the zombie he was fighting and moved to attack one that was still on Ratchis, it turned to face him, and the Neergaardian hesitated, feeling weak from his loss of blood, the repeated blows of zombies having taken their toll. Chance squeezed past him and chopped at the webs holding Ratchis, and Jeremy backed him up, holding off the zombie that had been beating on the half-orc. The bone spider turned away from the now paralyzed Ratchis and climbed up on the statue of Set, hanging over Beorth. It sunk it fangs deep in the paladin’s side, and he felt the liquid fire tighte his muscles in place. And soon, he could not move either.

Kazrack finished the zombie that Chance left him with and came rushing out to the main chamber, in time to see Jeremy finish the last zombie, and the spider climb over the frozen Beorth and bite Jana. In a moment, she was paralyzed as well.

The bone spider came bearing down on them; the webs allowing it to go anywhere it wanted. Chance withdrew back into the hallway, as did a severely injured Jeremy. This left Kazrack alone to deal with the spider. He struck a heavy blow from over his head onto the spider’s body, causing a puncture that squirted blue liquid, like the embalming fluid they had seen before. It got past his defense, and bit quickly, and retreated waiting for the poison to come into effect. Kazrack gritted his teeth through the pain, and the poison did could not overcome his dwarven constitution.

Meanwhile Chance and Jeremy talked:

“Git bachk ot there, Jeremy!” Chance said, pushing his companion back towards the main chamber.

“Yeah, I know. I’m just hurt really bad. I need to catch my breath,” Jeremy said, and readying himself moved to join Kazrack.

“Wait,” called Chance and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Bes, Bless this brave worry. Give him a chance for his luck to change.”

And suddenly Jeremy felt his wounds begin to close, and the warmth of divine healing power. His eyes widened as he turned and stared at Chance.

“Wha. . .?”

“Just go!” Chance said, pushing Jeremy back in the room. Jeremy confidently strode forward, longsword in one hand and short sword in the other.

He stepped beside Kazrack, in time to see the spider bite the dwarf deeply again. The blue venom dripped from the wounds, large punctures in the dwarf’s scale mail, but still Kazrack fought on. The only two of the companions left fighting they struck the bone spider over and over, small cracks appearing in its exo-skeleton. The creature bit the dwarf a third time, and when that failed to work, yet again, it bit Jeremy, but by now the swordsman’s adrenalin was pumping, and the venom did not take hold.

Kazrack struck another devastating blow to the creature and it clambered away, climbing back up to where it came from atop the crypt vaults. Jeremy and Kazrack could not see where it went because it climbed back too far into the shadows.

“Wey ahve ta git the others otta here,” Chance said, chopping at the webs about Ratchis. Jeremy moved over

Jeremy walked over to help move Jana and Beorth, but Kazrack climbed atop the crypts across from where the spider had fled. He left his halberd leaning on the wall, and unslung his crossbow, taking aim at the now visible spider, cowering against the far wall.

He fired, and the sound of the bolt bouncing against the exoskeleton echoed in the tomb. Kazrakc reload and as he fire again, the creature came scrambling out of its hiding spot towards him. The bolt hit it near one of its eight empty eye-sockets, and more ichor splattered. But the bone spider did not slow down. It climbed down the web and back up at Kazrack biting at him, but the dwarf turned and put his foot in the creature’s face, to give it less of a target. The dwarf slid off the crypt onto the floor and reached for his halberd, the creature followed and bit the dwarf again. Another deep puncture, had the dwarf reeling, and blood staining his clothes, but he did not stagger. He brandished his halberd and turned.

Jeremy sighed, and ran back over to help with the spider. He rushed over and slammed it hard with his long sword, causing a large crack to appear in the outer casing and more of the blue liquid to gush forward. It tried to retreat again, but Kazrack did not give it a chance, slamming down his halberd axe blade where the thorax met the top of the creature. There was a sickening popping sound and the creature stopped moving.

Weakened and near death themselves, Jeremy and Kazrack let out long slow breathes, and the only sound was that of Chance chopping at the threads around Ratchis

----

What seemed like an unreasonably long period of time passed, but finally Ratchis began to stir, but the venom left him with a weakened constitution. Jana also felt the strain of the strain of the venom, and lowered herself to sit on the floor with her back to the wall. Only Beorth seemed unaffected by the venom, when he regained control of his movements again.

Kazrack searched the other alcove looking for a secret door that matched the one the party came through, but after 20 minutes of searching decided there wasn’t one there.

Still aching after calling the power of his goddess down to heal him, Ratchis asked Beorth for the pendant with the malachite stone back. He compared the curved green “stone” to the tooth in the spider’s maw, and measure it held it up to where the broken one was. If not for the clasp it looked like it would be a perfect fit.

“This pendant was made from this spider’s tooth,” Ratchis said, handing it back to Beorth. “Hold it out.”

Ratchis prayed for the vision that allowed him to see magical auras and the pendant shone brightly.

“Necromancy,” he said. He looked about some more, but nothing else in the room shone. Beorth put the pendant away.
It was then decided they’d burn the webs away, and so Ratchis lit a torch and set them ablaze, and the party retreated back through the door and down to the lower level to rest and wait out the flames and smoke.

After waiting a good three hours, they climbed back up the stairs and open the door to allow the smoke to clear. Except for Ratchis, who went outside, pried the boards off the doors and came in through the front.

“This place must be destroyed,” Beorth said. “It is a place of evil, and goes against the will of Anubis. Having no means of consecrating and warding it, it must be destroyed.

Using a rope, and with Kazrack slipping into the space between it and the wall, the party toppled the statue of Set . The heavy black stone slammed into the marble floor, and everything shook and there was a frightening echo of a sound, followed by a loud cracking of stone, as a fissure appeared and widened where the head had struck. The statue was still in one piece, but the floor below them did not seem to be holding up to well.

“I think there is a shaft of some kind below us,” said Kazrack, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“Maybe we can collapse this whole place,” Ratchis suggested.
Kazrack examined the two columns in the front of the chamber, and noticed that large wooden blocks were used to help support the columns.

“If we can knock out or burn the supports, this whole place should come down,” Kazrack observed.

So the plan was put into action: Kazrack, Beorth, Jana and Chance went back down the stairs and through the bug-infested corridor and up into the shack, where they dragged the caretaker outside.

Meanwhile, Jeremy climbed up on Ratchis’ shoulders and shoved rags covered in oil among the column supports and in the spaces between the supports and the stone itself. He then lit one and then the other, leaving a pile of wood and debris burning at the column’s base as well. They then ran out and climbed down rubble, waiting for the fire to do its job.

They waited for a long time as the care-taker moaned and cried non-verbally as he was still gagged. They have nearly given up hope of the fire’s catching, and Ratchis was creeping back towards the rubble-buried mastaba to climb up and check, when they all heard a loud boom and crash, and smoke and dust came billowing out of the double doors. Ratchis ran back to where the others waited safely, and suddenly the crash was deafening as the entire tomb, mastaba and rubble disappearing into a black cloud. Black smoke and dust climbed high into the air, and the party retreated further back. The sound of tumbling and cracking stone filled the area, and nothing could be seen for a good long time. The sobbing of the crazy care-taker could not be heard.
Eventually, the smoke cleared to reveal a rubble-filled depression in the ground where the mastaba had stood. The party avoided walking there not being sure of it’s stability. Ratchis lit a torch and went into the cabin, knocking over an oil lamp he set fire to it as well.

“We don’t need anything climbing out that way,” he said, and the party agreed. However, the care-taker did not agree. He had worked his gag off with is tongue and lips and let out a long mournful wail.

“You’ve destroyed everything!” he cried. “You burned my house! You burned my house! You destroyed the crypt! You killed my family! Why are you so evil? Why are you so evil? Why? Oh, why? What did I ever do to you? Why?”

Kazrack stood by him fist raised, so when the man opened his mouth to curse them, he closed his mouth and just sobbed pathetically, occasionally repeating “my home”.

--

The party began to march back towards the orchard to camp for the night before making their way back to the main camp and the rest of Crumb’s boys.

“I think we have one day to make it back or they might leave without us,” said Beorth.

“Yes, he said we’d be in Stone Bridge for 3 or 4 days. I think tomorrow will be the third or fourth,” Jana added.
Ratchis had tossed the bound and babbling care-taker over his shoulder, but he squirmed and wriggled and fought too much, the woodsman let him fall off his shoulder with a loud wind-knocking thump and began to drag him along. The man continued to fight and claw to slow down their progress, but Ratchis was just too big an strong. And when he finally gave up fighting, and the ground became broken with sharp rocks, Ratchis picked him back up again, though now the man’s spirit was broken by bruises, cuts and skinned knees, elbow and chin.

Making camp where they had two nights previous (where two fallen trees created something of a natural shelter), the dropped their gear and rested their battle-weary bones. Ratchis dropped the care-taker who after a moment of catching his breath, went back into his seemingly endless tirade against the party.

“You are all going to pay for this. Evil like this does not go unpunished,” he screamed over and over with righteous fury. “I was only doing my duty like my father taught me. I was only protecting my family. You are bad people. You will suffer greatly for this.”

“Do you want something to eat?” Ratchis asked him.

“You will pay! You will pay!”

Ratchis shoved some jerky in his mouth. The man chewed it up hungrily, and then continued on his tirade. This was repeated several times, until tired the bound man began look uncomfortable.

Ratchis looked at him curiously, “Do you need to relieve yourself?”

The man nodded. Ratchis looked around at the snickering faces of his companions (except Beorth who was impassive as always) eating their rations. He sighed, and stood and led the man several yards away by a tree. And lowering the man’s pants said, “Go ahead. I’ll be right over there.”

Ratchis walked away and waited a few minutes admiring the orange of the sun melting into a blur behind the mountains to the west. However, when he looked back to where he had left the care-taker, he saw him awkwardly hopping with his pants around his ankles, back towards the south. Ratchis ran to tackle him, but the man tripped, his chin slamming heavily against a rock, and causing an explosion of blood.

Ratchis grabbed him.

“Nooooooo!” he wailed. “Let me go! Let me go! Why are you tormenting me? Let me go! I haven’t done anything. Please! Please!”

This pathetic begging continued as Ratchis covered him back up and carried him back to camp.

----

“What are we going to do with that guy?” Jeremy asked.

‘We will bring him to Kennoch. He will know what to do,” Beorth replied. “The man is sick. He needs help. Perhaps Kennoch can cure him. What we are going to do with the amulet is more of my immediate concern. I bet it was what made that green glow I saw the other night, and if so, it controls, if not creates undead. It must be destroyed.”

“Yes, I was thinking the same thing,” Ratchis agreed. “Let’s try.”
Once again, Ratchis borrowed Kazrack’s flail and Beorth lay the pendant on a rock. Ratchis slammed it again and again with the weapon, but when he stopped and looked, there was not a scratch on the thing. He tried several more times, until his arm was growing numb from the exertion. However, the pendant did not break. Sighing, he handed it back to Beorth.

“We will have to ask Kennoch about what to do with this as well, it seems,” Beorth said, referring to the pendant.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

(72) Hieroglyphics are used to mark tombs, crypts and sacred places. They are less and less often used form of communication, which was formed to give two different messages at once – the obvious message depicted by the characters and a secret message to those familiar with the specific hieroglyphic form that the figures represent, spelling out words.
 

Sammael99

First Post
Re: Re: More, more, more !

nemmerle said:



There will be another installment tonight and every night until it has caught up to Book II - I predict about 13 or 14 more installments.

Thanks for reading Sammael - I think you are the only one doing so. :D

I don't know whether I am or not, but I really love it. To be honest with you, I never thought I'd be taken to reading someone's campaign logs, but yours are so well written and full of flavour that it's one of my daily treats. Incidentally, since I'm dishing out compliments, here are the top things I love :

* low-level menace : the way that the characters face low-level monsters and menaces and yet it feels heroic
* you take your time : this is something I can't do anymore, mainly because we play twice a month, 4 hour sessions, when we manage even that. It makes me want to move the plot forward faster, and I lose on the flavour side
* fleshed out world : the world shines very strongly through the story hour. I haven't read anything on your website, but I want to discover the world through the narration, it feels a lot better
* religion : I love the way religion is strong in your game world. It's something I haven't really managed to imprint in mine, mainly, I believe, because I haven't had time to flesh out the cults before we started play...

Anyway, reading your SH has made me want to contribute mine, even though it's in French, so that's all thanks to you !
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
SAmmael, thank you for your kind kind words. . I am glad you like it so much and I am glad you are posting your own story hour . . .If I could read French I'd be right there :D

Anyway, look for another installment late tonight (as it is Buffy night tonight). . maybe I'll put up two just for you ;)
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Isilem, 23rd of Ese - 564 H.E.

The party spent an uneventful night in their make-shift shelter, and the next morning they marched to the river and then turned north. Ratchis led the care-taker with a rope from his wrists, and the man plodded along silent and sullen.

The march was long and slow, and Ratchis and Jana still felt the majority of the effects of the spider venom they had been injected with. They (especially Jana) grew tired more easily, and the party had to stop often.

They arrived at the site of their fight with the skeletons just before mid-day and had a meager meal.

They continued onward, passing a barge of sand being polled up the river. The boatmen waved and the party waved back and hurried on.

It was overcast and already getting dark when the party arrived despite only being mid-afternoon. Before they even pierced the perimeter of the camp, they could hear Crumb’s Boys cheering, and the flame of a bonfire licking against the gray sky.
They came in camp to see Crumb’s Boys around the fire, cheering and drinking.

“Hooray Devon! Hooray Markle!” they cried.

“Hooray! Hooray!” the tipsy cheers went up with the tongues of flame from the bonfire.

Jeremy and the others saw Frank and Gwar sitting by their own meager campfire not taking part in the festivities.

“What’s going on?’ asked Jeremy.

“I am going straight to Kennoch’s,” Beorth interjected and walked off, pulling the care-taker along with him.
Gwar looked up, “Hi guys. Some of us wondered where you’d disappeared to.”

“We were dealing with the source of the zombies,” replied Ratchis.

“Well, zombies attacked the camp while you were gone,” explained Frank, chewing on some beef jerky.

“A whole lot of them,” added Gwar. “Most people panicked, but Markle and Devon took care of most of them. You should have seen Devon, he took out six of them himself. Not all at once, of course. He really seemed to be enjoying himself.”

“Finn and Carlos were able to take one out together. They are pretty proud of themselves, though Finn puked after the fight was done,” Frank said with a smirk. “Then again, it was more than I did.”

Jeremy went to find some ale and a bite to eat, and Chance went with him. Ratchis and Kazrack hurried to catch up with Beorth who was on his way to town, and Jana simply watched the foolishly drunken Crumb’s boys. Markle caught her eye and waved, he was sitting with “the Square”. She nodded her head and exhaustedly walked towards her tent.

Markle intercepted her, “Been having fun?” he asked.

“Looks like you have been,” she replied wearily.

“You look tired, I just wanted to tell you that the time is coming soon for you to return that favor we talked about,” Markle said with his dashing smile.

“Ok, we can talk about it another time?” Jana said, opening the flap of her tent.

Markle placed a reassuring hand on the young girl’s shoulder, “Of course.”

From across the camp Chance looked on with a fierce grimace, and Devon could be heard above the ruckus screaming for Kamir to bring him more ale.

---

Beorth walked slowly to Kennoch’s house (73) , as he was tired and the even more exhausted care-taker plodded along. Ratchis and Kazrack easily caught up.

As they approached Kennoch's house, they saw a lone figure entering town. He wore studded leather armor, and had a large pack with a long sword sticking up from the top. He used spear as a walking stick, and had curly brown hair and a salt and pepper beard. It was the one of Crumb's Boys who had disappeared when the wagons had broken down. Kazrack hailed him, but he walked past ignoring them and heading towards camp.

Kennoch let them in, his soft face smiling at their return.
Beorth explained as best he could about the care-taker, and sat the crazed man in a soft chair. The care-taker meanwhile had begun to scream and rave again when the brought him into the house.

“You are all gonna pay! You will pay! You will pay! He’ll get you! He’ll get you! You killed them all! I was supposed to protect them!”

Kennoch’s face grew stern, ‘Sir, this is a house of Ra and must show the proper respects to his sacredness when here.”
‘Damn you! Damn Ra! Damn all of you!” the crazed man began to froth at the mouth as he screamed over and over.
Kennoch stood up straight, and face took on a stern and severe countenance, that the others did not think possible of his youthful looks. “Silence!” he commanded.!

The care-taker gulped and was silent. Sweat bored off his brow and he sat perfectly still. He still had a look of utter fear on his face.

“It is not in my power of faith to heal this man’s mind,” Kennoch explained. “But there is a temple of Ra in Princeton, perhaps one of the Sunfathers (74) there can help him.”

Beorth pulled out the pendant. “We believe he used this to control and command the undead.”

Kennoch took the pendant in one hand and waved the other hand over it calling to Ra to give him divine sight.

“Yes, it is very powerful. Necromancy and enchantment. This is and dangerous thing and should be destroyed or dispelled. Unfortunately, that too is beyond my power, and this cannot be sent to Princeton on a caravan like this man can be.”

They all paused in thought, and the care-taker’s heavy breathing began to slow and relax.

“Perhaps you can bring it to Princeton?” Kennoch asked. “It is about six days or seven days east of here.”

“Aye, we cannot,” Beorth replied. “We already are signed on to go to Gothanius to help them with their problem. We have made an oath. Do you know of any temples of Ra in Gothanius that we can go to where this thing can be done?”

“Well, I know little of the Little Kingdoms, but the people of Gothanius are descendants of Herman-Landers, good Ra-fearing folk. I am sure you will be able to find someone there who can help.”

“The we will take it as out charge,” Beorth replied.

The three at a small snack with the priest of Ra and returned to camp. They all slept like rocks, while the rest of the camp continued to celebrate the victory over the zombies.

Osilem, 24th of Ese – 564 H.E.

The next day those of the party who had not yet done so collected their stipend for winter gear fro Deet of Ptah, and found a local furrier, who sold them coats, cloaks and boots of various animal skins. Jeremy was very happy about his silver fox fur cloak, until he got back to camp and saw that Devon had a very similar one. Kazrack was annoyed that the rabbit skin hat he bought still had the ears on it, making him look rather ridiculous.

The group returned to town and camp, Kazrack announced that he was going to try to find a buyer for some of the stuff the party had found. Ratchis pulled out the care-taker’s ring and passed it to the dwarf.

“See how much we can get for that,” Ratchis said.

“Do you think it’s right for us to sell the man’s ring?” Chance asked. “Et es his ohnly possession en the warld.”

“As far as I’m concerned that ring will help for pay for us to find a way to destroy that evil pendant he has,” Ratchis replied. “These types of costs must be balanced by something.”

“I agree,” said Beorth.

“Oh, good!” said Chance happily. “Ah juss wanneda mack sure.”

Unfortunately, Kazrack was not offered the prices he desired from the grizzled old man who had set up a table and scales in the center of the rustic town. He returned to camp and gave the ring back to Ratchis to hold.

Tholem, 25th of Ese – 564 H.E.

Early the next morning the band of would be dragon-hunters gathered their things. Kamir ran about like a chicken with his head cut off, helping everyone to take down and pack their tents. Kinney and Horung loaded up two mules Crumb had purchased and the wagons and the oxen were gone. From here on end they traveled by foot.

They crossed the stone bridge the town got its name for and turned north to walk on the west side of the river, walking into the strong breeze that blew the smell of pine down on them. As they walked they climbed ever so slowly in elevation, and the river fell further and further below their line of sight until it was just a distant murmur at the base of cliff to their right.

That night they slept in copse of trees away from the cliff, and

Deet appointed watches to split the night in three.

Balem, 26th of Ese – 564 H.E.

This was another day of travel, and a night of cold camping.

Teflem, 27th of Ese – 564 H.E.

They traveled onward for another day. The stony trail they followed meandered away from the river for most of the morning, but came back in the afternoon; winding its way through low shrubby pines. Crumb’s boys entertained themselves by seeing how far they could kick pine-cones.

As the afternoon waned, the path led the group near the very edge of the ravine as it skirted around a stone plateau which obscured the top of the path. As they came around there could be heard the sound of many deep voices of men going, “Ooh!” and then the sound of clanging metal and breaking rock, “ahh!” soon followed; over and over again.

“Duh ya know what that es?” Chance asked.

“I’m not sure,” said Jana.

The sound continued and they came around the corner.

Ooh! Clang! Ahh! Pause.
Ooh! Clang! Ahh! Pause.

Chance began to sing to the rhythm of the sound in his pleasant tenor, “Thas tha sound uh da man workin’ on tha chen-gah-EEEE-an! Thas tha sound uh da men workin’ on that chen gong!”

On the road they saw a large group of men chained together at the ankles, using hammer and picks to clear and flatten the very road that Crumb and his boys were following. The nearly two score men on the chain gang were guarded by about a dozen heavily armed and armored dwarves, who watched Crumb’s boys carefully as they passed. Other dwarves could be seen going over plans stretched out on a large stone. Tents and fires revealed the plateau above to be their camp, and Crumb decided this was a good place to stop.

“We could probably make another mile or two before it gets dark, but I think we might as well rest near the safety of these good dwarves than take more chances than we need to on the road,” Crumb explained, and the mules were unpacked.
Ratchis made his way towards the dwarves.

End of Session #9

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes:

(73) Remember, Kennoch’s house also served as the Temple of Ra.

(74) Priests of Ra and sometimes referred to as SunfathersS.
 

madriel

First Post
Just for the record, nemmerle, I'm rereading Book 1 as you post it to the new boards. Still enjoyable the second time around.:)
 

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