Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part I - The Search for the Ancient Scroll - Part 2
“There’s five of them,” Brundon panted, “coming this way.”
“Five what?” Seth asked.
“Skeletons. With scimitars,” the ranger replied.
“How long?” Aksel asked.
“About 5 minutes behind me,” Brundon responded, catching his breath.
“Do you think they know we’re here?” the cleric continued.
“I don’t think so,” Brundon replied. “They seem to be moving in some kind of formation. They don’t look like they are expecting trouble.”
“Then let’s give them some,” Lloyd said drawing his blades.
Night had fallen and the party had already made it half way up the side of Bone Hill with no incidents. Brundon had been scouting ahead when he spotted the roving skeletons.
Aksel said “Ok, then, let’s flank them. Brundon sneak around to the left and Seth go to the right. Lloyd and Glendor stay here. As soon as they see the warriors, Brundon and Seth charge in from behind. Glorfindle and I will hang back here.”
Seth and Brundon disappeared into the night. Lloyd and Glendor moved ahead about 10 paces, and stood in battle ready positions.
They didn’t have to wait long. Out of the darkness, 5 figures appeared. They were walking slowly brandishing long curved swords as they went. The lead figures suddenly spied the two warriors and halted for a second. The other undead creatures stopped short and looked to see what was going on. Then, all at once, they rushed the two men, blades in the air.
The creatures came with a few feet of the fighters when the three rearmost suddenly tumbled to the ground. Seth leapt out of the darkness, one end of a rope in his hand. The rest of the rope was tangled around the skeletons legs. The little ninja had somehow managed to improvise a rope trap in the few minutes they had before the creatures had seen them and charged.
A second later Brundon appeared and began hacking at the fallen skeletons.
The leading creatures had been running full tilt and had no idea what had happened behind them. But suddenly, both Lloyd and Glendor launched themselves forward and met the monsters head on.
Lloyds twin blades danced in the moonlight slicing and hacking as he whirled around his opponent. The creature was in pieces in a matter of seconds.
Glendor, on the other hand, attacked his opponent with sheer force. His longsword hit the opponent with crushing force. Had the skeleton been unarmed, the blow would have cleaved it in half.
Meanwhile, Seth had deftly kicked his opponent’s weapons away as they scrambled to get up off the ground. He then began running in circles around the two nearest skeletons, tying them up as he dodged their attempts to grab him.
Brundon was not fairing quite as well though. He was more of a bowman than a swordsman. But arrows would not do him much good here, so he had drawn his sword. He was still hacking away at the one skeleton in front of him on the ground, but it had gotten a hold of his ankles and was dragging him down.
Then Lloyd was there, swords dancing and flashing in a blur of moonlight and steel. The skeleton fell to pieces before Brundon’s eyes. All that was left was two bony hands still clutching onto his ankles. The ranger clambered backwards along the ground and then peeled the hands off his body.
At the same time, Seth was done tying up his opponents. “Lloyd,” he called over to the big man, “got a present over here for you.”
Lloyd turned and saw the bound up skeletons and a broad grin crossed his face. He walked over to them and proceeded to lop off their bony skulls. When he was done, he looked up at the halfling and said, “Looks like festival came early this year.”
“Don’t say I never gave you anything,” Seth replied grinning back.
Then they heard a huge crack from behind. Seth and Lloyd turned in time to see the last skeleton fall to the ground in two pieces; Glendor’s sword having finally met is mark and cleaving the creature in half.
“Well that was a nice warm-up,” Lloyd said sheathing his blades and helping Brundon to his feet.
“Guess skeletons are not your thing,” Seth commented to the ranger.
Brundon looked at him and smiled weakly. “I don’t really like anything I can’t fight with a bow,” the ranger replied as he retrieved his sword from the ground.
Aksel and Glorfindle came up and joined them. “Nice work everyone,” the cleric congratulated them. “Now let’s continue on. We are making good time, but I want to be in that keep before daylight.”
“In a minute,” Seth said. He was walking around the fallen skeletons and gathering up their scimitars. “Let me just stash these somewhere where we can retrieve them later. They’ll fetch a small sum back in town I am sure.” The halfling stored the swords under some nearby bushes and then rejoined the group.
“Are we all ready now?” Aksel asked somewhat peevishly.
“Yep,” Seth replied smiling back at the little cleric.
Brundon had moved out ahead again. They were approaching the top of the hill and the keep was almost in sight. Glorfindle had also sent Raven winging skyward to scan the hill top from above.
Brundon came back down the hill and motioned them to follow. The ranger led them across the slope a bit to the west so when they reached the hilltop they were behind some rocks and out of direct sight of the keep. They gathered in a circle and Brundon gave them his report.
“I’ve seen another one of those roving bands of skeletons go by. All were armed with scimitars just like before. But this group seemed to be headed west. I think they might be patrolling the ruins in a circle. Also, there is a tower on one side of the keep. I think some of the wall has crumbled at the base which means there might be a way in there. But, there is some kind of weird greenish light coming from the top of the tower.”
“Hmmm,” Aksel mused. “So we have patrolling skeletons and someone, or something, awake in the keep. Glo, anything from your familiar?”
“Raven sees the skeletons. There are actually two groups, and they are both seem to be making a circle around the keep. There are five more skeletons at the top of the tower, and one has a faint green glow around it,” Glo replied.
“An Arcane,” Seth said.
“That’d be my guess,” Glo responded.
“Did Raven see anything else? Anyone in the courtyard, or lights or movement in the main keep?” Aksel inquired.
“No, the courtyard is currently empty. There is a light coming from a single window on the top floor of the main keep, but no one has come in or out of the main building,” the wizard relayed.
“Ok, so here’s what we do,” Aksel told them. “We time it and see how long it takes those patrols to go around. Once we know, then we pick a time when they are both the farthest away, and then we sneak over to the base of that tower. Raven can keep a watch and tell us if the next group of skeletons are getting too close. Once at the base, we make our way in through the hole Brundon found and from there we see if we can find a way into the tower building and then into the main keep from there.”
They stayed where they were until Brundon saw the next group go by. They estimated ten minutes between groups. That meant that they needed to sneak up to the tower and find a way inside in 7-8 minutes or risk being seen by one of the patrols.
Once the next patrol went by, the group moved out towards the ruins. Brundon and Seth ran ahead to check the wall for openings. The entire party gathered under the wall less than a minute later.
“We found an entrance,” Seth told them. “Over here.” And he led them about 30 feet along the base of the tower wall to where a large crack could be seen. At the bottom of the crack was a space about 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall, just enough for the bigger folk to crawl through one by one.
“Seth, you and Brundon go ahead through. Glo, how much time do we have?” Aksel asked.
“Not much,” I would say less than 2 minutes at this rate.
“Then let’s move!” he urged them on.
Seth was already in the crack and Brundon was just entering. Next went Lloyd. Glendor was a bit slow. He was a big man and not that dexterous.
“How long now?” Aksel asked.
“About thirty seconds!” Glo responded.
“Then go!” Aksel said. “Tell Lloyd to pull Glendor if he has to, but make room for us!”
Glorfindle entered the crack. Glendor was still struggling at the other end. Then the wizard saw multiple hands reach down and yank the armored man through the hole. Glorfindle scurried through as fast as he could. He was not through more than 5 seconds before Aksel came popping out behind him.
They all plastered themselves against the wall as they heard the rattling of bones coming through the crack in the wall. The sound eventually receded and they all let out a sigh of relief.
Glorfindle looked around and saw that they were in a circular room with a large door hanging partial opened. The courtyard of the keep could be seen beyond it. There was a second door on the other side of the room. It was also opened and stairs could be seen circling away both upward and downward.
“So where to now?” Seth asked.
“Go check the courtyard. Make sure there is no sign of movement out there,” Aksel said.
“No problem,” Seth replied. He snuck over to the large door and peered out. After a minute or two he made his way back. “It looks like all is quiet. There’s nothing moving in the courtyard or the keep.”
“Ok,” the little cleric began, “Now, if we are going to get anywhere with mapping out this place, or finding that scroll, then we are going to have to do something about the rest of these undead, and eventually the bugbears. If we can continue to take them on in small groups then maybe we can get rid of most of them before the wizard finds out we are here.”
“And when he does?” Glorfindle asked.
“You want me to think of everything?” Aksel replied. “We’ll handle it when the time comes.”
Glorfindle looked skeptical.“Anyway,” Aksel continued, “our next order of business is those skeletons at the top of the tower. If they see us moving around down here, they’re sure to raise the alarm. Glo, I think we will need you on this one. That is an arcane up there after all.”
“I can handle him,” Glorfindle replied confidently.
“Good, now here’s what we’ll do. Brundon, go and keep an eye on the courtyard. Seth, you go ahead upstairs and scout out the top floor. When you are done, meet us back down here.”
About fifteen minutes later Seth returned.
“What took you so long?” Aksel asked him.
“Oh,” the ninja replied, “I took a little detour on the way up. It turns out there is a second floor to this tower and someone was nice enough to leave this lying around up there for us.” He opened his backpack and dumped out a pile of gold.
“It’s about 250 gold I figure,” Seth said.
“Just lying around, huh?” Aksel looked at the little ninja/rogue quizzically.
“Well,” Seth replied, “I might have had to move around a stone floor tile or two. Oh, and this is for you.” He took out a pouch and handed it to Aksel.
The little cleric opened up the pouch and found a blue stone ring. He turned and showed it to Glorfindle.
The wizard cast a spell and told him, “It is a ring of feather falling.”
“Nice,” Aksel said as he put it on. “Now, let’s get back to business. Did you scout out the top floor like I asked?”
“Yep,” the little ninja replied as he finished scooping all the gold pieces back into his backpack. “The Arcane is standing over some kind of large cauldron in the middle of the tower top. The four other skeletons are basically archers standing around the parapets and looking down the hillside. It’s a wonder they didn’t see us when we rushed the tower earlier.”
“Well then, we’ll go upstairs as quietly as possible,” Aksel started to say. Then he caught Seth looking at Glendor.
“Umm, Glendor, no offense, but maybe you should stay down here with Brundon,” Aksel told the fighter.
“You kind of clink when you walk,” Seth added.
“Well, ok,” Glendor replied and he clinked over to stand watch at the door with his ranger friend.
“Ok, so we sneak upstairs. When we reach the top, Seth sneaks up behind a skeleton. Then Lloyd charges out and Glo takes out the Arcane,” Aksel detailed.
They entered the stairwell with Seth in the lead followed by Lloyd, Glorfindle and then Aksel. When they reached the top, they peered out. All the skeletons still had their backs to the door.
Seth snuck up behind one to the left and Lloyd slowly moved out to the right. On Aksel signal, Lloyd charged and Glorfindle lifted his arm and sent a flurry of purple missiles from his fingertips. The projectiles careened their way across the intervening space and caught the Arcane square in the back.
The skeleton caster reeled from the shock for a minute then whirled around to face the door. It quickly sent a stream of green acid spewing back at the wizard.
Simultaneously, Seth pushed the archer in front of him over the edge. It went clattering to the ground below and shattered to pieces.
And Lloyd waded into his opponent, but as it was swordless, he sliced it up in seconds.
Meanwhile the other two skeletons had whirled around to see what was going on. One let an arrow fly at Seth, but the ninja easily dodged it. The other skeleton shot an arrow at Lloyd and got him in the shoulder.
Glorfindle barely sidestepped the acid attack from his opponent, then pulled both hands together, and with a short incantation sent a stream of fire from his outstretched palms into the Arcane skeleton. The flames, however, also caught the large cauldron behind the creature.
Boom! A huge explosion rocked the tower as the cauldron exploded. The Arcane was turned to dust instantly and the two other skeletons were blown off the top of the tower. Seth and Lloyd’s reflexes saved them from a similar fate. The both had dove for the ground just in time. But Glorfindle was not quite as dexterous. The wizard was thrown back at the door. Luckily for him, Aksel was there to break his fall.
Glorfindle sat up and checked himself. He was a bit bruised, but nothing was broken.
“Do you mind?” a voice said from underneath him. He looked down and saw that he was sitting on the little cleric.
“Sorry Aksel,” the wizard said quickly getting to his feet. He helped the little gnome up, then they both looked at the center of the tower. There was a small crater in the stone floor where the cauldron had been. It was surrounded by a huge burn circle. Smoke was still rising from the burnt area.
Lloyd and Seth came running back over to them.
“Way to go their Glo,” Seth said sarcastically. “It’s a wonder you didn’t wake the whole castle.”
“Must have been oil in that cauldron,” Glorfindle said sheepishly. “It must have been there for some kind of signal fire.”
“You think?” Seth needled.
“Well, there’s no hope for it now,” Aksel told them. “Lloyd, how’s that shoulder?”
“Oh, just a scratch,” the big man said. “The arrow barely made it through my leather armor.”“Ok then,” then cleric continued, “everyone in the keep will have heard that explosion and we’re sure to have company real soon. Let’s get back downstairs while there’s still time.”
When they got back to the first floor, Brundon and Glendor were doing their best to hold the large doors to the tower closed.
“What’s out there and how many?” Aksel shouted to them.
“Zombies. A lot of zombies. Seven or maybe eight,” Brundon replied.
“Lloyd, go help them hold the doors. Seth, can you and Brundon pull off that rope trick again, across the door this time?” Aksel asked.
“Sure,” Seth said. He ran over to the door while pulling some rope out from his back. He handed one end to Brundon and the two of them stretching it out across the doorway a couple of feet behind Lloyd and Glendor.
Meanwhile, the warblade and the fighter struggling to keep the doors closed.
“Lloyd, Glendor, when I say three pull the doors wide open and let the zombies in!” Aksel shouted.
They both turned their heads and nodded.
“Ok then, one…two…three!” Aksel yelled.
The two fighters pulled both doors open and three zombies came clamoring through the door. Then they hit the rope, tripped and went down. Almost immediately, three more zombies rushed in behind them and fell on top of them.
Lloyd dashed in and started slashing again with deft precision. But he had noticeable slowed down a bit, especially on the left side where he had taken an arrow earlier. Still, he managed to dispatch two of the creatures quickly and cleanly.
Glendor was handling the zombies much better than the skeletons. With a great swing of his longsword, he cleaved one of the monsters right down the middle.
Three zombies were still on the ground trying to get up, but two more zombies climbed over them pushing them back down.
Lloyd’s blades were dancing again across one of the climbers, while Glendor attacked the other one. Unfortunately, the one climber launched itself directly at Lloyd, ignoring the swords that were ripping into it mercilessly.
Lloyd staggered back as the creature landed a blow.
Then Seth was behind it, stabbing the creature multiple times in the back with his daggers before it could react.
It finally swung around to swipe at the ninja, but Seth had already tumbled away.
That opening was all Lloyd needed. He regained his balance and with one incredible slice, lopped off the creatures head. Its body collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Glendor had also dispatched his opponent with another great swing of his sword.
Brundon, meanwhile, had stood back and taken out his bow. He had sent a flurry of arrows into the three zombies still on the ground. But it didn’t seem to slow the creatures at all. They threw the bodies of the other zombies off their shoulders and began to shamble forward again.
Lloyd was getting visibly tired. His wounds were starting to take their toll.
Glendor launched himself forward one more, swinging his longsword in great arcs. This time, he also got caught with a blow however. But he was wearing full plate armor and the zombies arm just bounced off the big fighter.
Seth had grabbed the rope from the ground, and was now tumbling in front of the two last zombies with it. He caught their legs once again, and caused them to lose their balance. This time, however, they didn’t go down. But it was enough to seal their fate.
Lloyd moved in again, ignoring his wounds, and his twin blades wreaked havoc upon the undead creatures. Soon they were lying in a heap.
It was over. Eight zombie bodies lay on the ground in the doorway.
They had all just stepped back to catch their breath when Glorfindle announced, “We’ve got trouble. Raven just spotted a man in robes sticking his head out of that 3rd floor window in the keep.”
Then they heard shouting and growling out on the other side of the courtyard. “Sounds like the bugbears are awake too,” the elven wizard added.
“I think it’s time to retreat,” Aksel said, “We need to heal up and recover. Another battle and someone might get hurt beyond the point where I can fix it.”
“Well there are still skeletons patrolling outside the keep, and if we go back up the tower, they’ll corner us for certain,” Glorfindle told them.
“Then our only option is to go down,” Aksel replied.
“Better hope that’s not a dead end too,” Seth retorted.
There were more noises out in the courtyard and the growling was getting closer.
“I suggest we move quickly gentlemen,” the little cleric said.
They all filed into the stairwell and headed down the stairs. At the bottom they found a door which opened into a circular basement.
“Looks like there is no other way out,” Brundon cried.
“Seth, search for any secret doors. Quickly,” Aksel told him.
The little ninja/rogue began scouring the walls of the circular room, knocking on walls and checking for drafts.
They could hear the growling and shouting clearly above them now.
“I found one!” Seth suddenly called from across the room.
They all rushed across the floor and stood next to the little halfling.
They could now hear footsteps on the stairs.
“Seth! Open it now please,” Aksel stressed.
“Give me a minute,” Seth said.
“We don’t have a minute!” Aksel exclaimed.
“Got it!” the ninja/rogue said triumphantly. The heard a click, and a section of the wall slid open.
They all quickly piled into the open space and then pushed the door closed behind them.
Not a moment too soon. They heard heavy footsteps enter the room behind them and heard the grunts and growls of the bugbears.
“What are they saying?” Aksel whispered to Glorfindle.
“They don’t know what to think. It sounds like they’re scared. They found the pile of zombies, and the crater at the top of the tower. They’ve also found the remains of those skeletons that were tossed off the tower. They seem to think they’ve been attacked by a large powerful warrior with some kind of huge flaming sword.”
“That sounds like Lloyd, except for the flame part. That’s definitely you Glo,” Seth chuckled.
“Yeah, yeah, enough with the fire jokes already,” Glorfindle told the little halfling.
They waited until the voices of the bugbears disappeared. They had obviously given up looking for them in the tower basement.
“So where are we?” Brundon asked.
Glorfindle spoke an incantation and a light suddenly appeared at the end of his staff.
They looked around and saw that they were in a long corridor, about 10 feet wide. Even with the wizard’s light, it was hard to see more than about 30 feet ahead though.
“Seth, can you scout out ahead?” Aksel asked.
“Sure,” the little ninja replied, and he started to stealthily move down the corridor.
The other’s stood and waited for the halfling to return. No more than five minutes went by, and Seth was back.
“The corridor only goes about 100 feet and then dead ends in a wall. I think there is another door hidden in the wall, but it will be hard to find without more light,” he told them.
“Ok, everyone. Let’s move out,” Aksel said.
They slowly moved down the corridor, Seth leading the way.
Suddenly, a cold draft hit the party. Then they heard a strange ethereal hissing sound. Everyone stopped in their tracks.
A floating figure in a black robe and hood suddenly materialized into view in front of the party. It appeared translucent with eyes that glowed red. The apparition let out a low moan.
“Wraith!” Brundon yelled.
Lloyd immediately had out his swords and swung twice at the spectre. Both blades, however, passed right threw the creature, doing no damage.
“It’s incorporeal!” Aksel shouted.
“What does that mean?” Lloyd shouted back.
“It’s hard to hit, dummy!” Seth yelled at the big man.
The wraith advanced on the big warblade, when two purple missiles came spiraling out of the darkness and hit it squarely in the chest, making small concussion sounds. The wraith stopped in its tracks, momentarily stunned.
“It felt that!” Lloyd roared. Then he charged it again and took two more swings. One of them connected this time and the creature flinched.
“Alright!” Seth cheered. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
Glendor had been circling around the creature, not wanting to crowd Lloyd. He finally got in position around back and took a swing at it. His blade, however, passed right threw the creature.
The wraith suddenly turned and floated towards the wall, passing right through it.
“Is it gone?” Brundon asked anxiously.
“It’ll be back,” Aksel told them. “Keep your eyes open.”
The seconds ticked by, seeming like minutes as the adventurers kept their eyes peeled for the ghost like creature. Then, suddenly, it reappeared, floating out of the wall down the hall behind them.
“Look out,” Seth called, “behind you!” he shouted at Aksel.
Aksel turned and saw the wraith floating up the hall towards Brundon. The ranger stood their petrified, his sword frozen in his hand.
Then two more purple missiles went careening past him and struck the creature stunning it once again and halting its progress.
Lloyd rushed past the little cleric and began sweeping his blades over the wraith. He hit with one of them wounding the creature.
Glendor came clanking past just behind Lloyd. He took a stance right next to the warblade and with a mighty swing connected with the floating creature.
The wraith was definitely hurt. It turned sideways and began floating towards the wall right next to Brundon. The ranger shrunk back flailing his sword at the apparition. Miraculously, he connected with it as it went by.
The wraith looked up, its mouth opening wide and its eyes glowing brighter. It began to shudder, and then it faded out of existence, a low wailing trailing off in the distance.
“I killed it?” Brundon said incredulous. “I…killed it. Oh yeah! I killed it!” he exulted. He began to dance around.
“Yeah, that was a real smooth attack there,” Seth said sardonically. “We’ll just have to call you Brundon the Wraith Killer from now on.” The little ninja chuckled.
Everyone else tried hard to stifle there laughter.
“What?” Brundon said looking hurt. “I did kill it!”
“Yes you did, Brundon. Yes you did,” Glendor said putting a hand on his friends shoulder.
Aksel, still somewhat bemused, led them down to the other end of the corridor. Seth checked it out and sure enough found another secret door. They heard nothing on the other side, so the little halfling opened it and the saw that they were in what looked to be the basement of the main keep.
They decided to close the door and remain in the secret corridor for the rest of the night. It seemed like a good place to hide in case any search parties were still looking for them.
Aksel healed Lloyd first. The big warblade had taken the most punishment in the last few skirmishes. Then the little cleric healed the others and then they decided to rest until morning.
Brundon and Seth took the first watch.
“Wraith Killer,” Seth murmured under his breath with a little laugh.
“What was that?” Brundon whispered.
“Nothing,” Seth whispered back, still chuckling to himself.