The cloudy sky that morning promised a rainy day. Others might have dreaded the prospect of travel under such conditions, but Andren found that nothing could dampen his spirits. Bounding out of bed he put on his gear and made his way to the chapel for daily prayer. He had much to be thankful for on this particular day, and his prayers reflected it. Afterwards he headed to the tavern for breakfast as had been agreed upon the previous night.
When he arrived Phaedra was already seated and waiting. He sat across the table from her. “I know you rise early, but I’m still surprised to find you here already, after everything… you should be exhausted.” Phaedra shrugged. “As tired as I was, I still had some trouble sleeping. Just thinking about what could have happened… what almost DID happen…” Phaedra trailed off. Andren leaned forward. “But it didn’t happen, Phaedra. Your faith and courage saw you through it. Exarch Melius would be so proud of you.” Andren paused for a moment. “And so am-”
Just then, Locke appeared and slouched in to the chair next to Andren, looking tired. Norkel, Kothol and Alimar also shambled in together and sat down, each looking even more haggard than the rogue. Locke groaned and rubbed his head. “Remind me not to do that again, especially on a night before we travel.” Andren chuckled and slapped Locke on the back. “Ah, hungover, eh? I’ve heard that happens sometimes.”
They ordered breakfast and ate mostly in silence. Once done, they decided to visit the cartographer Frederick Gains to seek out a map. They soon found his shop in the refugee town outside the keep. The musty place was filled to the rafters with maps of all sizes and shapes. Boxes, barrels, and shelves were overflowing with them and the group at first had trouble seeing Gains because, one, he was a gnome, and two, he sat behind a huge pile of maps spread out before him.
While Locke discussed with Gaines what he was looking for, Andren and Kothol started perusing maps. Kothol gently pulled maps out and reviewed them carefully, taking some time with each. Andren on the other hand shuffled through them quickly, never stopping on one for long, but full of wonder at their contents. He called over to Phaedra who was looking on in disapproval. “We should go here someday.” He pointed to another map. “And here. This one is beyond the sea.” Phaedra just rolled her eyes at her brother. “Always looking for the next adventure. That’s my Ande.” Andren ignored her and continued pulling maps out to look at.
Having gotten a map to their destination, and with horses provided by the crusade they set out late in the morning, with a gentle rain falling on them.
“So we need to find a manor house?” Andren asked Locke after almost an hour had passed.
“Yes.” Locke shifted in his saddle, still not in the best of moods with a hangover and soaking wet.
“Because there may be moss there that you need?”
“Yes. Sorrow moss. Didn’t you hear all this in the cartographers shop?”
“I was… distracted. And why do we need this moss again?”
Locke sighed. Behind him, Kothol chuckled. “The High Inquisitor says that she is able to make a potion that can remove the curse afflicting me.” Locke held up the necklace around his neck.
“Oh. I think I understand now. So… how much longer before we get there?” Locke just grumbled and spurred his horse ahead.
After a couple hours of travel, they saw in the distance what appeared to be people milling about on the road. As they approached they realized these were not people, but the undead. Leaving their horses back a distance so they wouldn’t be spooked, the party approached the zombies, preparing to attack. Alimar unslung his bow and took slow aim at one of them. “The rain is going to make it difficult at this range. We may need to get closer.” He loosed his arrow and it just barely struck the zombie. At the same moment, a bolt of crackling energy shot out from behind the group and straight in to the same zombie. It blew apart in to tiny charred pieces. Taken by surprise, they all turned as one to find Kothol with his hand outstretched, energy still crackling around him. He looked at them and shrugged. “I think I’m close enough.”
Not ones to shy away from getting their hands dirty, Phaedra and Andren charged in to the undead mass and started swinging away while the others attacked at range. The zombies, though terrible to look upon, were mindless and slow, and were quickly defeated.
The party fetched their horses, re-grouped and moved on. After a couple more hours, they came upon a manor house sitting high atop a cliff looking out on the ocean. Or rather, they found the remains of a manor house – it was hard to tell in the gloom of the foul weather, but it didn’t appear to be inhabited. They cautiously approached and soon realized that a huge swarm of large black birds were perched along the top of the ruins and in a pair of nearby trees. As they approached, the birds took flight and swarmed about them, attacking.
As the swarm attacked, the party realized these were not normal birds but were rather undead of various sizes and types – the rotting flesh and glowing red eyes gave it away. Darting in and out to peck and claw their prey, they were difficult to strike. Even when one was struck down, three more replaced it. Andren yelled to his companions. “Foul creatures! We will give these little peckers blows they will never forget!”
For the briefest moment, the party stopped and looked at Andren with expressions that ranged from aghast to amused. Andren, oblivious, continued fighting. The creatures swooped at the party, attacking them relentlessly as the group fought back as best they could. The burnt and broken bodies of the birds increasingly littered the ground. After a frantic fight, Locke finished the last of them with a well aimed crossbow bolt.