Eleint 7 – 8, 1479, Year of the Ageless One
The smell of a smoldering campfire caught the attention of the group of adventurers from Longpine.
Farther along the road, the group spotted a brown canvas tent just visible within a thicket. Save for the soft rustling of leaves nearby, the area was deathly quiet.
Rowan scanned the surrounding area for any sign of an ambush. Recently, he had heard of robbers who have taken advantage of the undead scourge that had been plaguing the Eastern Vale. Some, it seemed, would willingly risk encountering undead to get their hands on a coin purse. Soldiers from Bear’s Head, now stationed in Longpine, have been patrolling the northeast road to Hluthvar, along the edge of the Reaching Wood as well as parts of the Eastern Vale to ensure that the area was safe.
Adventurers too, have been helpful in that regard. Many fortune seekers from across the Realms have been slowly making their way into the Vale. News of a horde of undead terrorizing the Sunset Vale had spread far and wide. Longpine even began selling charters to adventuring companies. Many made their way into the Vale from Longpine and were never heard from again, while some returned to the Wolf House, the only tavern in Longpine, to talk about their escapades into Death Vale, as some adventurers were starting to call the Sunset Vale.
A sudden rustling from a nearby large bush caught his attention.
“Come out, whoever you are,” Rowan yelled. He aimed his bow at where he had heard movement coming from. “No use hiding. We know you’re there.”
A man—or rather what was left of a man—came stumbling out of the thick bushes. Half of his face was missing, although parts of it were still clinging to his exposed skull. His outstretched arms looked as though they had been ripped to shreds by some powerfully clawed animal.
Immediately, Galenndan and Brandis noticed other similarly looking figures emerge out from behind bushes and nearby trees. The remains of a half-elf, its throat torn open, started walking towards the group at a slow pace. A large burly man with its bloody chain mail rent in places, ambled out from where the group saw the camping tent. An elf, his bowels half hanging out of his midsection, followed close behind. It still carried a crossbow slung over its shoulder. The others too had weapons—like longswords still sheathed—on them.
It looked as though they were surprised by someone—or something—and had died before they even had the opportunity to fight back.
“They’re zombies!” Rowan yelled.
Brandis raised his bow and fired at the nearest undead—the man with what was left of his face. The arrow flew straight and struck the thing in the leg, puncturing through its skin and then shattering bone. The zombie teetered once and collapsed on the ground.
Rowan turned and shot at another zombie and struck it in the arm. Galenndan followed up the attack by focusing his mind and unleashing a psychic attack on the zombie Rowan just shot with an arrow.
All of a sudden, everyone saw an undead creature leap out from a large pine tree a short distance away. It leaped towards another tree some forty feet away. Hanging on to a large branch, the undead growled in fury at the adventurers.
Rowan immediately recognized the creature as a ghoul.
He knew what may have turned the former adventurers into zombies. Many in the Eastern Vale had heard that a Zombie Plague was spreading across the Vale. Adventurers reported how slain comrades turned into an undead within a day or more after being attacked by an undead creature they encountered—even after they had rested and regained their strength. It became apparent that the Zombie Plague was exactly that, a disease. Some, with stronger constitutions it seemed, were able to stave off the effects of an undead attack, while others required curing spells from clerics or by the use of scrolls.
With all that in mind, Rowan can only hope that he and the others can make it through the deadly encounter unscathed.
Two zombies were now making their way down the road, while the third zombie was trampling its way through bushes to get at the adventurers.
Brandis shot one of the zombies on the road in the torso. His shot caused it to stop dead in its tracks.
Meanwhile, Rowan took two quick shots. One hit the ghoul on the tree while the other struck the zombie pushing its way through the undergrowth. The arrow struck the zombie’s arm. The shot tore the arm off and caused the zombie to spin and then drop to the ground. It never got back up again. Rowan then made his way towards the ghoul.
Back on the road, Galenndan, a sun elf psion from Iriaebor, focused on the immobilized zombie on the road. His psionic attack easily broke through the zombie’s mental defense. Galenndan then quickly sifted through what was left of the zombie’s mind for the mental representation of himself that was still within it. As soon as he found it, Galenndan brutally ripped it out!
The effect was twofold. First, it damaged a part of what was left of the thing’s brain. Second, it made him temporarily invisible to the zombie.
The ghoul up on the tree climbed down and was starting to make its way towards the adventurers.
At the same time, Brandis ordered his hawk companion to fly over the still-moving zombie on the road. The zombie tried to reach for the bird darting in and out around it. With the undead distracted, Brandis was able to get a shot in with his bow, striking it in the chest.
Rowan saw the incoming ghoul and shot it. It didn’t slow down as it tried to leap at the half-elf ranger. But, it misjudged the height of a large boulder between it and Rowan. Its legs struck the boulder in mid-leap and fell to the ground.
The zombie that was immobilized started to move again. Moaning out loud, the undead thing quickly covered the distance between it and Brandis. It clawed him as soon as it reached him.
The other zombie was also coming as fast as its torn and decomposing legs would allow.
Brandis, hurt by the zombie’s attack, took a careful step back and shot past it, striking the other zombie in the leg as it was making its way towards Galenndan. The zombie moaned and nearly fell, but it lurched forward, intent on making a meal out of the psion.
Brandis took another action and shot at the same zombie. He struck it in the leg again. This time it did fall to the ground. But, to his surprise, the zombie was still desperately clawing its way forward.
Rowan quickly moved up to the ghoul as it rose. From a few feet away, the half-elven ranger pulled back at his bowstring with all of his might and shot two arrows at the thing’s chest. Both arrows buried themselves to the fletching. Rowan then took a careful step back while he kept his bow trained at the ghoul in front of him.
The ghoul desperately tried to move and reach for the ranger who—to the ghoul’s surprise—quickly fired yet another arrow. The arrow struck the ghoul, again in the torso. But this time, the arrow kept going. It broke through the thing’s ribcage and severed the spine as it continued its deadly flight through the ghoul.
With the surprised look frozen in its face, the ghoul fell face-first on the ground at Rowan’s feet.
Galenndan, trying to avoid the zombie that had reached him, fey-stepped on top of a nearby boulder. The zombie, momentarily having lost its meal, looked around. It saw the elf on top of a nearby boulder and ambled over. It tried to claw at Galenndan’s leg but missed as the elf kicked its arms away. Galendan retaliated with a psychic mind thrust that hurt but did not kill the zombie.
Brandis aimed his bow at the zombie who moments earlier was on the ground. It had just stood up when Brandis shot it in the leg. His arrow shattered its left knee. Its useless leg gave out and the zombie fell to the ground, never to rise again.
Rowan quickly looked around and saw the zombie desperately trying to claw at Galenndan who was standing on top of a boulder. He knocked another arrow and fired. The arrow sped towards the zombie and struck it in the torso. It fell on the grass in front of the boulder.
With the battle against the undead won, the group searched the area.
They searched the zombies and found coins on them. They rummaged through the tents and found an adventuring charter that was recently purchased from Longpine. It had the stamp of Bear’s Head on it. The charter stated that the adventuring company known as The Company of the Broken Blessing had just recently formed and were going into the Sunset Vale.
They were novices, Rowan thought. They never stood a chance against the more powerful ghoul.
Their search also yielded an enchanted shield. On the elven zombie, they discovered a map showing a huge forest with a portal of some sort drawn on it. Two words were written above the drawn portal: Shadow Gate.
They then gathered the undead bodies together and burned them, lest they somehow return to harm other travelers.
When all was done, the group returned to Longpine to rest and recover.
Along the way, all knew that Brandis had been struck by a zombie during the battle. They wondered if he had contracted the Zombie Plague. But they all knew that only time would tell if their worst fear would be realized.
Will Brandis turn into an undead?
100 gp, 200 sp, and +1 light shield