Monday, November 24, 2014

Westmist Session #84 - The Dead Who Walk

Upon closer examination, the humanoids were actually human, covered in thick woolly cloaks. While most of the group stood warily pointing spears at the party (consisting of Kern, Erijay and Lomar, plus Bjorn and Guy), the tallest and brawniest (and smelliest) stepped forward and asked: "The Mighty Khoog demands the know your business in the territory of the Ram".  Kern replied they were simply seeking some ruins, guarded by a trio of stone ape heads. Khoog seemed to recognize the description, and grunted something about the 'pit that smokes' before informing the party they must speak to the tribes chief to see if they were worthy of the information. The party was led a short distance into an adjacent valley and the winter encampment of the Tribe of the Ram. There they were brought to the ceremonial circle in front of the largest tent, and presented to the chief, Tzarn the High Ram and the shaman, Koza the Entrail Reader. After Kern repeated his plea, Tzarn ordered the shaman to perform an augury, to determine if the tribe should help the party. The old shaman called for a ram to be brought, and proceeded to eviscerate the creature and then read the entrails. Koza reported that the reading said the party must prove themselves worthy of the help of the High Ram first, and directed they be sent to recover one of the "Dead Who Walk" to be ritually purified by the tribe.
A bit of questioning made it clear the "Dead Who Walked" were some sort of undead, found mostly higher up in the mountains. They also learned Khoog would be their guide/taskmaster, and after a night's rest, he led the party out of the valley and into the mountains.  A half-days journey brought them to the foot of a glacier. At the ice's furthest extent, a stone archway could be seen, leading below the sheet of ice. Khoog pointed them towards it, saying there they could find some of the "Dead Who Walk". He, the Mighty Khoog, would stand watch while they fulfilled their quest.
The party cautiously approached the opening formed of massive granite slabs. Inside the black gate, a wide set of stairs descended into icy darkness. They  headed down, entering a 20' corridor of the same rough slab construction, which after a short distance led into a large chamber. To the left and right, large alcoves in the walls held what appeared to be bodies wrapped in grave shrouds, stacked like cord-wood. At the far end, a narrow passage led deeper below the glacier. Obviously a tomb of some sort. Lomar thought back to his religious training, and recognized the structure and burial practices as that of the primitive D'war people who once dwelt in these lands in ages long past. The D'war were best known for their worship of loathsome tentacled and slimed gods. On that cheerful thought, discussion moved on; what to do next? Unwilling to continue on without first determining the status of the bodies (dead or undead), most of the party retreated to the tunnel entrance, where Khoog continued to glare at them. Kern then slipped back into the chamber, and deftly pulled down one body. It fell to the floor with a clatter, spilling the desiccated remains of a tattooed warrior in primitive leather. But nothing else happened. Still not sure, and figuring something further ahead might trigger the rise of a 500 person zombie army at their backs, the party proceeded to haul all the bodies out of the alcoves and stacked them on the floor, keeping a half dozen which they pulled outside into the snow. Liberally covering them with oil, they again retreated back under the eyes of the brooding Khoog, and Erijay immolated the pile with a fireball. Waiting some time for the smoke to clear and the rock to cool, they re-entered the chamber. The bodies were pretty much ash, but the intense heat had also caused the stones of the chamber the split and heave dangerously.
Waving fears of structural integrity aside, they moved towards the exit from the room. This they found narrowed very quickly to a small tunnel though which they would have to crawl single file. With little choice if they wanted to if they wanted to find some "Dead Who Walk", they crawled through, Erijay in the lead. After about 50', the tunnel opened about 7-8' above the floor of a strange chamber. On the opposite wall there was a huge skull assembled out of hundreds of  human skulls, painted black. In the jaw of the skull was a throne, and the eyes glowed with a blue light. Lining the walls were seven more mummified corpses, each standing at attention with a pole held upright in their hands. Another tunnel led off to the left. Everyone carefully dropped into the chamber, but Lomar instructed Guy to stay in the tunnel and prepare a rope and tackle for a quick escape if needed. The moody retainer required little encouragement. While Kern sized up the skull throne, Erijay and Lomar went sown the side corridor. The tunnel ended at a hole in the floor, obviously predating the tomb itself based on the manner in which the stone was laid. Each dropped a coin to judge the depth, but to their surprise there came no sound of the coins hitting bottom. Erijay followed with a torch, which fell out of sight without hitting bottom. Seeing no need to tempt fate further, they returned to the chamber with Kern and Bjorn.
Still with no walking dead in sight, the party instead focused on the glowing blue eyes of the skull. Kern climbed up and found the glow was due to a large sapphire, seemingly suspended in the eye socket. He poked and prodded a bit with a 10' pole, before using the pole the lever the gem out and across the room (where it was deftly caught by Erijay). At that point, the corpses around the walls started to shuffle forward, so the party formed ranks to meet them. Erijay cast a web spell to bind three of them, while Kern caught another in a net he'd procured from the barbarians. The rest were kept at bay by Lomar's shining faith in Saule, as least until the rest of the party started attacking them. A battle raged back and forth as the undead alternately ran away, and then returned when provoked. Meanwhile, Kern and Guy worked to push the entangled undead creature up into the tunnel to be brought back to the tribe. That done, the party started to climb out one by one, helped by a haste  spell from Erijay. Kern was struck once and frozen by the creatures claws, but was saved by a cure light wounds from Lomar. Bjorn was likewise hit and frozen, followed by Lomar. Now cleric-less, the party hastily pushed Bjorn's frozen body up into the tunnel to be dragged away, while Kern jumped back into the fray to force a potion of healing  down Lomar's throat, and thereby reviving him.

Back in the main chamber, they found now that the corpses they had put aside had animated and awaited them. As they fought these new horrors, the previously turned undead started to emerge from the tunnel. The first few were slain and then stuffed back into the tunnel mouth to block it, then the new threat was quickly dispatched except for one more kept as another prize. Hauling their struggling captives with them, the party rejoined Khooig and returned to the barbarian village. There a great conclave was held, a bonfire lit, and the "Dead Who Walk" were ceremoniously tossed onto the cleansing fire to be destroyed. Their quest fulfilled, Tzarn the High Ram instructed Khoog to lead the party north to the 'pit that smokes".

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