PREVIOUSLY: Having discovered a further mystery involving the poisoning of honey samples, the heroes have now been chosen to retrieve the Everflame from Kassen’s Crypt, located deep in the forest. A chance encounter with a group of savage, yet illusory, Orcs confirmed the heroes’ beliefs that this trip was to be a test. It was not until an encounter in the middle of the night with a party of diseased wolves that the heroes soon learned that not everything they shall encounter will be as imaginary as the orcs…
Having rested for the night, the heroes set off in order to continue their journey towards Kassen’s Crypt. Storm clouds appeared on the horizon as they arrived in a large clearing while Zevan identified it as the Grey Lake. Several of the group noticed large ripples coming from the centre of the lake. The lake centre however was shrouded in a strange fog preventing them seeing what was on the other side. On the shore, Evarl, Nell and Zevan noticed a dark shape near the water’s edge. Thinking that perhaps it was a trap of some kind, they looked for a volunteer to snag whatever it was and drag it to them.
Sam was the most likely candidate given his skill in the use of the grappling hook. Sam approached and could see that it was in fact a humanoid body. He threw the grappling hook after attaching it to rope and connected with the shape on the first throw. Sam dragged the body closer, and as the others prepared for the worst, in that whatever was using the body as bait might come hurtling out of the water in order to kill them. Their concern however was in vein, as nothing appeared to attack them.
The body was identified by Kal as being human, but not a person from these parts. A search of the body’s belongings showed that it was in possession of a few coins containing in a well crafted pouch with a strange mask-like symbol. Evarl recognised the symbol, but could not place where she had see it previously. Kal however claimed that it was a stylised version of Razmir’s holy symbol. The coins were found to be Nirmathas minted gold, numbering 89 in total. Kal also identified that the body had large bite marks across its back. Zevan however was unable to identify the type of creature other than a serpent of some kind. Kal also identified that the body had been there for near 2 months, but the body for some reason was not as decayed as perhaps it should have been.
Kal determined that the individual should be laid to rest, and so rested the party to seek rocks in order to create a small burial mound. Evarl ventured closer to the edge and found a finely crafted short-sword near to where the body initially lay. Zevan however happened across what was left of a camp. Zevan deduced that the camp was for approximately 10 individuals and that they were all human due to the type of food and what remained of their tracks.
Kal conducted a small burial ceremony, after which, the group continued on with their journey.
A few hours later, it became clear that they had lost some time earlier after leaving Kassen, and by mid afternoon they had arrived at Serpent Gorge. Rain began to fall heavily as the light storm broke. The entrance to the Crypt was close-by, however the party was required to navigate the treacherous gorge to the river below. The party made their way down the gorge, after tying themselves together to prefer falling. Unfortunate, Kal lost his grip twice, and on each occasion caught he leg. On the initial fall, Kal became seriously injured, however was able to heal himself through the powers blessed to him by Erastil. The second time required only a minor spell to heal a torn ligament. After a few harrowing hours, the party made it to the bottom of the gorge, and soon after made their way carefully across the river. After a short rest, the party continued their journey up shore to the crypt, arriving in the early afternoon.
As the party approached the crypt, a number of large unmoving shapes could be seen near the front of the entrance. As they neared, Evarl and Zevan saw that the shapes were in actual fact 2 horses and 3 ponies. Upon inspection, each was found to be branded with the Mayor’s symbol indicating that the animals were indeed from Kassen. The bodies of the horses were still tied to their positions on posts which many years ago had been placed there to allow travellers to tie their horses up whilst they gave homage to the fallen hero Kassen. Kal found that each horse suffered horrendous injuries from either very old jagged swords, or perhaps claw marks of some sort. Under one of the horses, Zevan found a skeletal arm. Kal deduced that decomposition could not have caused this, and suspected that perhaps Undead were responsible. The party drew their weapons and discussed tactics.
The doors to the crypt were slightly ajar, although not enough for any of the party to slip through. It was therefore decided that Sam would pull open the doors with the help of Nell. The doors creaked open, and Evarl, who was the more stealthy of the party, slipped through the opening to peer inside.
Evarl could smell the reek of dust, mold and blood. The room was elongated with stairs leading up on either side to platforms which ran the length of the room. At the end, a large mural depicted a regal man who Evarl recognised as the pictures of Kassen he had seen hanging in the inn. Evarl stealthily made his way into the room noting the various piles of skeletal remains similar to those they found under the horse outside. Evarl also observed two bodies piled in the centre of the room. Further examination showed that the two men were wearing what appeared to be tool belts of some sort. Evarl also caught the distant sound of a haunted howl coming from what appeared to be the south-western door. This provided an eerie presence, placing the elf on guard.
Evarl was shortly followed by Kal who also noted the skeletal piles. Kal also identified the two men namely the carpenter and his apprentice that they he had only been looking for days earlier in Kassen. Kal approached and noted that their injuries were similar to those of the horses. Zevan was next in the room, and made his way to the eastern side of the room. Nell and Sam were last, and only had the chance to step into the room before seven of the skeletal piles animated revealing them to be undead. Each skeleton rose from its slumber, their emotionless features still portraying a sense of dread and fear, as they hurriedly made their way towards the party.
The battle was furious, and the skeletons soon overwhelmed the inexperienced youngsters. First, Evarl fell to the skeleton’s claws, then Kal, then Sam and finally Nell. The skeletons numbered only 2 by this stage, and all that stood in the way of the complete destruction of the youngsters was Zevan, who held his position in the north-eastern corner. Zevan knew that without a weapon that could damage the skeletons, such as a club or mace, that he was all but another victim to the skeleton’s wrath. Zevan braced himself for his life to fade away when a glow came from the far end of the room. A spiritual being which appeared similar to that of Kassen, the might hero that their home town had revered for so long, rose from the floor. Suddenly, the apparition spoke:
“With my last ounce of strength, I banish these evil creatures to the afterlife to be no more!”
With that, a burst of blue energy shot across the room, shattering the remaining skeletons, their bones instantly turning to ash. Zevan, bleeding from claw marks shielded his eyes from the dust which coated the room in a fine ash-like powder. When Zevan looked up, the spirit was gone, and the skeletons were no more.
Zevan, without concern for himself, made his way to Evarl who was the first to fall. He quickly stabilised her wounds. Zevan obtained the healing potion Evarl had been given prior to leaving for their journey here to the crypt, and made his way to Kal, who was also seriously injured. Zevan poured the potion into the half-orc’s mouth, and with a sputter, he regained consciousness. Zevan watched the cleric’s wounds heal, just before Kal gave a prayer to Erastil, and a similar energy burst forth from the young half-orc. The energy felt good, and Zevan realised that his friends had been healed. As the party regained consciousness, they decided to rest in the room overnight. Each party member helped move two of the bodies of the ponies and placed them against the two doors which lead from the chamber.
Zevan agreed to stay on watch for most of the evening, allowing the spell casters to rest. However as the party commenced their rest, they soon realised that it would be a difficult rest as the distant haunted howling still came from the door to the south-west…