With the sound from the gently glowing room suddenly and eerily stilled, Sidrin moves forward to investigate, but the phosphorescent glow of the fungus is everywhere, and the angry pulse of sigils carved into natural pillars around a underground spring offer no shadows – and he is confronted by 4 zombies, one a dwarf, all partially rotten and scavenger picked, and behind them a tall, muscular man with short tusks, and the red-rimmed eyes of a plague victim, a vicious axe in one hand, a shield with a single great eye emblazoned in the other, and a confident sneer on his face.
The zombies, seeing Sid roll in, fists flailing, but no sound erupts as he shouts, and the rest wait, his predicament unknown…Eryn as a panther pads forward into the unnatural silence to see the fight, and strikes at the zombies felling one, but not before the half orc turns his attention to her – a spell she cant hear him cast flows from his lips and he moves forward, striking with his axe, a furious red glow encompassing it as he strikes – leaving brutal wounds in its wake. Unsure, the rest of the group blunders into the silence and tries to act – but it confounds their coordination, and still Fhas’ prayers of turning while the half orc laughs silently. Cannuth fires arrows to try and slow the zombies, giving Sid a chance to backpedal, while a terribly wounded Eryn falls back. But the half-orc chants again, and this time the sound rushes back in, but a flowing jagged axe appears in the air and follows Eryn around the corner, harrying her and knocking her out of beast form.
Bruegger rushes forward to engage the enemy, but finds his defenses formidable. Fhas calls upon her Goddess, and the 3 human zombies flare and crumble to ash, while the dwarven zombie merely gurgles and lurches away from the tiefling. While the spiritual axe hounds Eryn, their enemy strikes at Bruegger, who dodges, but at the last second, divine intervention appears to shift the half-orc’s axe so that it strikes the halfling, the red glow howling back to life, and ripping into the halfling. Cannuth’s arrows fly while Fhas heals first Sid, and then moves to where she can see Eryn. Sid, so longer reeling from damage, strikes a solid blow against the villain, who grunts, and then dances away, jumping onto the rippling surface of one of a small waterfall fed pool by the caves wall. There he incants, and his wounds heal.
The spiritual axe continues to harras Eryn as Fhas heals her, Cannuth take up a position to fire on the Half orc, and Bruegger and Sid try to flank him – finding that the pool is thigh deep water, and does not in fact support them like it does the half orc. With the two adventurers floundering and slowed, the Cleric of Gruumsh strikes Sid viciously, and then…runs up the waterfall…to everyone’s consternation. Cannuth strikes him with two arrows, and his concentration falters, and the spiritual axe fades, letting Eryn finally get back in to the room to see what is going on.
Sid speed climbs the slick cavern wall and gets up to the cleric’s ledge, and suffers as the cleric casts again, and brutal, jagged wounds appear over Sid’s body – nearly dropping him. Bruegger begins the climb up the other side, while Fhas unstrings her bow, and Eryn summons a Flaming sphere onto the ledge. Unfortunately, the stream pouring out of the ledges back walls confounds the heat of the sphere, and the nimble orc dances away from it, though mist fills the alcove, giving Sid a moment to hide and poison one of his daggers. Fhas speaks a healing word to bolster Sid, as Breugger finally clambers up and engages the orc, who strikes the halfling hard, and then dances away. Waiting for Bruegger to cover the distance, Eryn maneuvers the Flaming sphere such that it covers the waterfall’s source, blocking the orc’s path for water walking while Sid and Bruegger flank him, and Cannuth scores another hit.
Maneuvering for position, Bruegger takes another hit from the Orc, and then gives it back. Sid strikes with one dagger, but misses with the poison, only to watch the cleric heal himself of some of his wounds again – those this time less – he IS weakening.
Bruegger surges toward the orc and lands several solid hits, giving Sid the opening to strike, driving the poisoned blade home – only to see the cleric not simply fall paralyzed, but fall dead, the dagger striking something vital.
There is a gurgling roar as the dwarf zombie suddenly stops cowering and rolls toward Cannuth, landing a couple hits before he can dodge away, and the party quickly puts it down. They loot the orc of it’s valuables, and pile it on the dwarf and the ashes of the other zombies. It becomes clear with a little study that the runes on the stalactite pillars are a focus for the plague, keeping its poison in the waters long after it should have naturally faded, with spiritual and magical calls to orcish gods for vengeance and retribution. Working together they are able to eventually shatter the pillars, breaking their magic, with only a few minor wounds and broken tools, though each feels the touch of plague upon them to different degrees by interacting with the pillars.
Nonetheless, the magic sigils shattered, and the diseased war priest vanquished, Fhas and Eryn can both discern that the source of the plague is undone. They decapitate the orc and bag it as proof of their victory, and begin the long journey up. In the furnace room, Sid, feeling underpaid for his trouble decides to loot the bodies of the miners who remain there…but lingers too long in the steaming rot of their bodies as the others wait outside the far end, and finally pitches forward as the plague takes him to unconsciousness.
The group rushes in and pulls him out, and not wanting the scene to repeat, forswear any more delays, heading for the surface dragging Sid’s unconscious body.
The next few days are spent in the old foreman’s house by the mine, given over to the Nightwatch while they recuperate. Eryn had flown in bird form to find the caravan where it had blockaded and defeated the encroaching hobgoblin force to the northwest to let them know of the success against the plague source, and then returned to the pass to rest up. While Sid slowly recovered from the plague with Fhas’ ministrations, each of the group took turns to wander town and find surviving merchants to purchase new gear from. Once Sid was up, the group went to check in with Alcori, presenting the loot they’d found for refusal as per their contract. Alcori took the necklace from the half-orc, noting that it would be returned to the town’s mayor, as it’s craftsmanship and the markings suggested a link to the town’s ruling family. Other than that, he took a vial of diseased blood Sid had taken from the giant weasel, and one of the spell scrolls they had found – leaving the rest to the group, and going on about his business with a smile on his face. When asked about why he’d decided to help the town, his response included his original pragmatic stance – a 250 miles of travel around the mountain spur into the heart of the Heldannic Territories was not an acceptable delay, but then also noted that there was a certain benefit to doing what was right, not just what was expected. Confused, the group retreated, except Sid…to whom Alcori spoke, “You have a question?” “No,” said Sid. “I’m in a good mood, now would be the time to ask,” said Alcori, still writing in a ledger without looking up. “No…no questions,” said Sid, and walked away.
The next days saw the group outfit themselves with better weapons and armor, refreshing herbalist’s kits and healer’s bags, and wandering about a partial ghost town, but one that was healing with the magically enforced plague fading – and despite their non-human natures, greeted warmly by the predominantly human and dwarven townsfolk – a new twist indeed for some of the group.
In an effort to continue skirting the main holds and taxed roads of the Heldannic Freeholds, the caravan made sure to take on extra supplies to support Alcori’s intent to take the older and untended Weyrwood Way, a old trade road that passed through an old growth forest and known haunt of fey creatures. Of worrisome note, the townsfolk said that travelers along it, peddlers, hill men, and free traders who used it had dwindled over the last couple of years with no clear account why – though some suggested that the reason was the push of the nearest Heldannic Feudal Lords who had long wished to annex the mining town.
Once all were healed, supplied, and rested, the caravan, saviors’ of Duvik’s Pass, headed out to cheers from the gathered surviving townsfolk. The day passed upon the road uneventfully, and the caravan set camp just past the fork in the road by the ruins of an old stone building, the dark line of the Weyrwood hunched closeby. Eryn couldn’t put her finger on it….but something about the wood seemed…off, even from short distance the caravan had stopped outside of it.
Things snuffled and growled out in the night during watch, but nothing approached close enough to be seen. After a hearty breakfast and the breaking of camp, the Nightwatch settled in to their wagon, as the caravan trundled into the eerily subdued and dim Weyrwood.