Eleint 8, 1479, Year of the Ageless One
The plan was simple enough.
But as the great dwarven writer from Luruar, Jonn Steinbeckoned, once wrote, “The best laid plans of dire mice or men can often go cockeyed.” And soon enough, the Company of the Siren’s Song was going to find out just how “cockeyed” things could get.
Everyone knew they were walking right into a trap.
But the plan was to spring the trap that Breeanan said was being laid for the adventurers. Everyone agreed to play along in the hopes that Vrikus, the ghoul lord, would free Breeanan and her daughter, Sahra, if she followed Vrikus’s command to lure the adventurers into the trap.
At least everyone hoped that Vrikus would keep his word.
The halfling ranger, Deb, along with Therand took a good look at the street they were all on.
To them, it looked like a perfect place for an ambush. There was a small tunnel entrance on the east-side of the street just before where the street suddenly disappeared into the center of town—or rather what was left of the center of town. The tunnel, based on how it connected a tower and a house, suggested that it may serve as an entrance to a courtyard or may lead to another street.
At the end of the street to the north stood a large two-story building. The sign in front of it—that of an earth elemental holding a foaming mug of ale—proclaimed it as The Stone Brewery. Everyone immediately remembered the fine ale—The Defiant Bastard’s Ale—that was brewed from The Stone Brewery and was then exported to many places across the Realms, including the town of Bear’s Head.
Meanwhile, a single-story building, Hluthvar Merchants’ Guild Hall—as the sign above its door indicated—cordoned off the street to the west.
Just as they saw earlier, the town’s center which they suspected served as a marketplace or an area for gathering and hearing the latest news in the Vale, had long ago sunk into the ground. Now, a large gaping hole dominated the center of Hluthvar.
From about a block away, everyone could see that the hole was at least twenty feet deep and very wide—perhaps nearly a hundred feet judging from what they could see of the northern part of town. There, they spotted other buildings—homes and businesses—standing precariously at the pit’s edge.
While the others walked towards the pit’s edge, Deb and Therand stealthily made their way down a narrow street to the east. The halfling went around a large building and squeezed his way through a narrow gap between the building and an adjacent house. There, he stopped and peeked around a corner. He saw a small courtyard. He could also see the tunnel entrance and the street beyond where his fellow adventurers were. A small pine tree stood in the courtyard’s center. He carefully scanned the courtyard and the surrounding rooftops.
He spotted four ghouls. Three were laying flat on rooftops, while one was crouched in the shadows above the tunnel entrance overlooking the street below. He then heard movement above. He realized a fifth ghoul was on the roof above him.
It was a perfect place for an ambush!
Deb held his right hand, palm up, behind him. Therand came around the corner and saw the halfling. He also saw Deb’s signal for him to stop.
Meanwhile, back in the street where the others were, Breeanan ran ahead of the rest of the group as they kept walking. Everyone’s weapons were drawn, ready for anything. All looked around—carefully scanning rooftops, hidden niches, and shadowy doorways where a ghoul could lay in wait. The early morning shadows afforded impossibly dark areas where ghouls can easily hide.
Caldreas, the eladrin mage, made his way forward. He stopped by a horse that lay dead on the street. Its belly was torn open; it’s innards were spilled out and was torn in pieces. It looked to Caldreas like it had been dead nearly two tendays. He continued to look around, paying careful attention to the shadowy areas where he suspected ghouls would be hiding.
It was then that he spotted nearly a dozen ghouls above them, on rooftops on either side of the street and on top of the brewery.
Their group was surrounded!
As one, all the ghouls came out of hiding. They bared their fangs and growled at the adventurers as they leaped upon the adventurers.
Everyone found themselves fighting a ghoul. No one was spared the horrific onslaught from the undead.
Lo-kag, the barbarian from the Sunset Mountains, reacted quickly. He sliced at an incoming ghoul. The other hurled itself at him from a nearby rooftop. Fortunately, it missed him, instead landing next to the goliath. The ghoul hissed in anger, its tongue lolling out as if trying to taste the goliath’s flesh.
Ang fared the worst. He quickly found himself surrounded by several ghouls. Two had knocked him to the ground and were clawing at him. He desperately tried to fend them off.
The soldiers from Darkhold, Taerin and Leoneiros, tried to hold out against the ghouls’ attacks. Two teamed up against one ghoul while Winslow, the paladin of Amaunator, was busy fending off a ghoul on his own. From where they fought, they saw Ang fall and was immediately surrounded by a throng of undead intent on feasting on him.
Caldreas immediately let loose a fireball at the ghouls attacking Ang. He aimed it at a spot that would ensure that the elf would not be harmed by the spell’s deadly burst.
Meanwhile, as the ghouls from the courtyard made their attacks against the others, Deb fired at the tower’s front door. His arrows struck the door’s hinges and broke down the door. The halfling ranger, with Therand following close behind, dashed for the doorway and quickly entered the tower. He found himself standing in a small living room. Nearby, he saw stairs leading up and quickly ran up the stairs. Therand entered the tower and followed after Deb.
On the tower’s second floor, Deb entered a bedroom and quickly made his way to the window overlooking the street where his comrades where fighting for their lives. “Therand, make your way to the next floor!”, Deb yelled.
Therand ran past, running up to the third floor. He pushed open a door and found himself in a study or a library. Various books and scrolls of all sizes filled shelves or were strewn about on the floor. Therand quickly made his way to a nearby window. He opened it and looked down at the carnage below. “I’m in position,” he yelled down to where Deb was. “Let’s rain death down upon these ghouls!”
Deb smiled. Both he and Therand let loose a volley of death upon the unsuspecting ghouls below.
Lo-kag held his own against the two ghouls in front of him. He struck one in the leg, nearly severing the creature’s leg off. Not stopping, the goliath struck the other ghoul as well.
From the other side of the street, Taerin, screams in pain as a ghoul clawed at him, while nearby, a ghoul was busy trying to get through Caldreas’s defensive spells without any success.
Lying on the ground, Ang swung his weapon in a deadly arc that struck at every ghoul surrounding him. Unfortunately, his strikes weren’t enough to drop any of them. Suddenly Ang screamed. He felt an intense surge of pain as a ghoul bit down hard on his ankle. He felt the thing’s sharp fangs tear through leather and skin, finally stopping at his bone. He screamed again as another ghoul bore down upon him, biting off a chunk of flesh from his leg. The world began to spin as intense pain wracked his body and threatened to overwhelm him.
Caldreas, unscathed, casted a spell at three nearby ghouls. Mirrors suddenly appeared in front of them. Runes of magic flowed through the mirrors’ reflective surfaces. Three ghouls found themselves staring at the mirrors as intense pain assaulted their will. To the mage, he knew his spell had forced the ghouls to see themselves in a maze of mirrors, desperately and painfully trying to find their way out.
From the nearby tower’s second-story window, Deb continued to shoot at the ghouls surrounding Ang who was still being pinned down by two ghouls. Unbelievably, Deb saw the elf desperately trying to attack the ghouls on him, even managing to kill a ghoul. Deb also spotted Winslow who was only a few strides from the fallen elf. The paladin was too busy fighting a ghoul, which had just struck him, to offer any assistance. If only someone—like Lo-kag—could get to Ang, he thought. Perhaps then, Ang may have a chance.
Then Deb saw something that he couldn’t believe was happening.
He saw Lo-kag suddenly stop fighting. Deb saw the goliath run past a ghoul that clawed at him. Lo-kag ignored the ghoul’s attack and sprinted down the street towards the center of Hluthvar. What he saw next was beyond belief. As soon as Lo-kag reached the pit’s edge, he leaped through the air and fell into the pit, disappearing out of sight.
“Did you see that?” Therand yelled from above. “What in the Nine Hells is going on?”
Deb couldn’t even begin to explain what he had just witnessed.
In the streets below, the battle raged on. Everyone was fighting for their lives.
A final scream from the critically wounded Ang echoed in the street. The smell of blood drove the remaining ghouls into a frenzy. Some, like the one on Winslow, desperately tried to get at the fallen elf. Winslow struck at the creature, nearly severing its arm off, but the creature—drooling in hunger—leaped upon the mortally wounded elf on the ground.
Ang’s dying scream was drowned out as the feral ghouls feasted upon his elven flesh.
Another terrified scream tore through the street as Arroway, who moments before was helping Lo-kag suddenly found himself face-to-face with two ghouls.
Below, in the pit, Lo-kag found himself lying on top of a dead horse. He was in pain. He cleared his head and tried to recall what had happened.
He remembered hearing a voice whispering in his ear. He realized it was the enchanted helm he wore. It had been quiet for so long that he almost forgot it was sentient. The helm had served him well in many battles since he acquired it. The silver helm had glowing red tracery amid silver filigree. As Lo-kag moved his head, the red glow flowed through the tracery as if it were liquid.
He also knew it had a darker side to it. He vividly remembered hearing of mysterious fires that destroyed homes and businesses wherever he had traveled in the past. It was only after he left those places that the dreams came to him. In his dreams, he saw himself standing in front of a house while it burned. A sense of satisfaction and pride filled those disturbing dreams each time. He always wondered if somehow, he had caused the mysterious fires, but the helm was strangely silent about such things when he asked it.
No one suspected Lo-kag of any wrongdoings, but his friends noticed how he seemed obsessed with the helm. Some wondered if it were a cursed thing. And despite urges and pleas from his fellow adventurers, Lo-kag would not part with the helm. It strengthened his attacks and even caused psychic pain on his enemies. To the goliath, the helm was a part of what made him deadly. And he wasn’t about to let anyone change that.
Why did you do that? Lo-kag whispered to his helm. Why did you take me out of battle? You just jeopardized my friends.
The helm’s whispered response was cold and without remorse. I just wanted to see how well your friends could fight without you, that’s all. Don’t worry. It they are truly your friends, they’ll forgive you. Now pay attention! We may not be alone down here.
Sure enough, the helm was right. A loud, low moan caught the goliath’s attention. Looking up from where he lay on top of the horse, Lo-kag saw a hulking shape coming at him. The creature resembled an overly bloated man with pieces of fatty flesh still clinging to it. It lumbered as it ran to him.
Instead of getting up, Lo-kag waited for the zombie to come to him.
He attacked it as soon as it came to within striking distance. Despite fighting from the ground, Lo-kag struck a serious blow to the creature.
The undead monstrosity struck back hard, slamming both of its fists into the goliath. Already hurt by the fall, Lo-kag was reeling in pain as the creature tried to slam him again. Fortunately, it missed.
Back up on the street, Caldreas, free of any ghouls upon him, ran to where the street had fallen into the pit. He saw Lo-kag below, some distance away. A zombie of some sort was attacking the barbarian. Immediately, the mage brought a spell to mind.
A shimmering gate formed of arcane magic appeared next to the prone goliath. A second gate appeared a few feet from Caldreas. “Lo-kag!” Caldreas yelled. “Enter the gate and it will bring you back up here.”
Meanwhile, the battle on the street behind Caldreas was coming to an end. Former Zhentarim soldiers and members of the Company of the Siren’s Song fought with tenacity, despite having lost two of their own.
Deb, from his window, yelled for everyone to retreat as the last ghoul was slain. People were hurt, and two had died. The others quickly helped drag the dead bodies of Ang and Arroway back to the jailhouse.
Both Deb and Therand went to rejoin the others.
Caldreas ran past Deb as Lo-kag emerged out of the arcane gate. The gate disappeared a second later.
With everyone safely making their way back to the jailhouse, Deb made his way to the pit’s edge. He spotted the zombie-thing below. He took shots at it. Within moments, it was on the ground—having been slain by the ranger’s deadly barrage.
Before Deb left to rejoin the others, he yelled a curse at Breeanan whom he figured entered Vrikus’s lair somewhere below. He cursed her out loud for leading them into a trap. He cursed Vrikus too.
He hoped the ruse would be enough to help Breeanan get her daughter back.
Inside the jailhouse, everyone tried to catch their breaths and heal themselves.
After, everyone immediately began arguing with Lo-kag about what happened. During the argument, they overheard Lo-kag talking to no one in particular, but they soon suspected he was talking to the helm.
Lo-kag, after hearing the helm whisper an apology and a promise not to do it again, defended his actions and told the others not to worry about him nor the helm. The others weren’t entirely convinced.
Meanwhile, as Winslow was trying to determine what happens to those slain by ghouls, the answer became obvious.
Ang—or rather what was Ang—let out a feral growl as it tried to grab at Winslow. The ghoul that was Arroway also attacked. The others quickly engaged the two ghouls.
The battle was fast and furious. Deb had slain Ang/ghoul with a well-placed arrow to its head, while Leoneiros destroyed Arroway/ghoul with his longsword.
As what remained of the group surrounded their fallen comrades, everyone became sadly aware of the reality of what had just happened—especially those from the Company of the Siren’s Song.
They had just lost their dear friend, Ang…forever.
NOTE: At the end of this gaming session, our campaign lost one of our original characters, Ang.
Arroway, the former Zhentarim soldier was also lost. Both were slain by ghouls during the deadly encounter, became ghouls after and attacked the group. The others had no choice but to slay them.
We mourn the loss of Ang, one of LotR’s finest character. Read about his great legacy that goes back to, What Transpired Before the Spellplague.
Ang’s presence in the campaign will be sadly missed.
Breeanan (citizen of Hluthvar), Taerin, Leoneiros, and Arroway (former Zhentarim soldiers)