Session 1 Part 1
On one seemingly uneventful night the lives of four individual would be changed forever.
Cheng bowed to his master, it was sad gesture. He had spent all his life in the monastery. His parents were very poor and one cold winter they had nothing left to eat, fearing that they might not survive the winter they brought their only son who was still a toddler back then to the monks and left him there. Cheng trained, prayed and worked between the walls of temple and the monastery for twenty years, but now he had reached a point in his life as monk where had to leave and travel in search of enlightenment.
"Do not be afraid, young Cheng." The old master said.
"Master, what should I do?"
"Travel, experience, learn. Make choices and see where they lead you. Enlightenment is something that can take years to find and one lifetime may not be enough. But one thing is for sure- you will not find it in these walls. I taught you everything I can, now life will be your teacher."
"I will do my best. Master." He bowed one last time.
So he left the only home he knew. Bringing nothing but the clothes he wore. Jack leather pants and vest with a for cloak gloves and shoes. His head shaved except for the one braid of blond hair at the top of his head going down to his shoulder.
Nihala had everything one could possibly want- being born a high elf. Her parents were not the richest but they were wealthy merchants who could provide their daughter with everything she needed and wanted. Arts and culture, fine clothes and the magical arts, but she was never quite interested in that. On moon lit evenings she would slip away into the woods or the tavern in the human town and converse with woodland elves, listen to the stories of the wandering rangers of their adventures. Most elves were drawn to magic but not her. Nihala had the curiosity and wanderlust of a forest elf despite being a highborne. She was the fourth child so her parents were not too disappointed when she declared she wanted to travel and find her own big adventure. They hired a sword instructor to train her, and while she was not particularly skilled at fighting she was good enough with a rapier to defend herself. So they bought her some light leather armor gave her some gold and saw her of. Her light blue hair shining in the rising morning sun.
It was on the third day of her journey when a group of bandits attacked and it was then she learned at just how lacking her skills in swordsmanship were. She quickly found herself disarmed and at the mercy of these masked human robbers. When suddenly one of them was sent flying . A hooded figure emerged from the bushes. It resembled a heap of fur and the bandits looked terrified thinking that it was some monster. The man removed his fur hood and with a single punch sent another bandit flying.
"Are you alright, miss? He asked.
Finally overcoming her surprise she replied.
"Yes, thank you." Picking up her sword she took a battle stance.
The bandits soon realized they were overwhelmed and fled.
"Thank you, kind sir." She thanked him again once the bandits were out of sight.
"Please, call me Cheng. I am merely a wandering monk."
"I must say, that quite amazing, the way you handled those robbers. Could you perhaps teach me how to fight like that?"
He request caught him by surprise.
"Monks train for many years and we don't use swords, but I suppose I could teach you a few things."
He wondered if this was one of those experiences his master spoke of. Having been a student his whole life he now found himself in the role of teacher to strange woman he just met.
Prudence was happy living her parents manor near the woods. While it was small manor, inherited from a time their family was much wealthier , it was a nice place to live. She read books and went for walks in the field by the woods. That was how she met Regis- a wood land elf. She was just a young human child but was nice to her. The two would meet and walk in the forest for many years. As she grew Prudence decided on becoming a mage and left her home to go to the city where there was an academy for wizards. She went to say goodbye but she could not find Regis anywhere. She feared she might never see him again. But after a few years her training was over and she sought out and elderly wizard close to home to continue her magical training. One evening while gathering herbs she met him again only this time not as a young girls but as woman. He recognized her and the two talked for a long time, deciding to continue their friendship from where it left off.
One evening as they were walking she noticed Regis was looking very concerned, so she asked him what was wrong. He said he was worried because there was something wrong in the forest. Animals from the deep woods were fleeing to the edges of the forest, copses of animal were found horribly mutilated as if by some trap and he feared the might be poachers that moved into the woods. It was spring, a time when many animals gave birth and raise their young, hunting during this time was very limited. As a ranger it was his duty to make sure they got punished. Prudence realized that he was going to go away for a while, so she said:
"I'll come with you. I can help. I'm sure my master will not mind, he is about to leave on journey himself."
Having permission she left with Regis the very the next day. They had walked thought the woods for hours and she was amazed by how he didn't lose the way when to her it all looked the same. It was late evening when they stumbled upon some people that seemed very strange. One of them was a human dressed in strange animal fur; the other was a female elf. There were some rabbits roasting over a fire. They had no bows or arrows, one seemed to have no weapons at all, and woman had a rapier. They did not look like hunters. Regis approached them.
"Hello, fellow travelers I take it" the man greeted them.
"I am a forest ranger, we are looking for poachers. Have you seen any suspicious activity?"
"I am sorry to say but I've been here for a week and you are the first people I've laid eyes upon."
"You spent a week here? What are you doing?" Prudence asked.
"I am training my apprentice, I hope that's alright" he said.
"During spring time hunting isn't allowed. Only sick and elderly animal can be hunted." Regis warned them.
"I see, thank you, I will remember that." He said apologizing.
" But surely you must be tired, care to rest for a bit?" he invited them.
Regis looked at Prudence, she was struggling to keep up with his elf agility and night was about to fall so they would not be able to do much in the dark.
"We kindly accept your invitation."
They sat by the fire, ate and told stories of how they met each other.
"You've been here a week and you haven't noticed anything strange?" Prudence asked.
"We came in from west, mostly walking along the edge of the forest. I don't know what would qualify strange in this place, where I come from there are no forests. " Cheng explained
" Other than some wolves and a bear we didn't encounter anything." Nihala said.
" That's good. The forest had gotten dangerous lately. " Regis said.
"How bad can a few poachers be? Nihala who spent most of her time around rangers knew a deal about their affairs.
"We fear it might be something more. Two rangers that were in charge of the forest depth were looking into it but we haven't been able to reach them for a month now. No one has seen them, they haven't replied to the message birds and half the birds didn't even come back."
"A month? This was going on for so long?" Prudence was surprised.
"It was probably happening long before that- two months ago we began to notice things but since they were scattered all over the forest it took some time for all the outposts to start reporting the same thing and then sending someone to look into it."
"So what are talking about in terms of beasts?" Nihala asked
"The forest is home to all the usual creatures."
"What about monsters? Any chance one could be involved?"
"There is a forest spider colony far to the North West, but the outpost there reports no activity from them outside the usual. "
"So then, a wild one wandered in from somewhere. It's happened before, I've heard stories." The female elf said.
"That might be, but it seems the animals were driven into some man made contraptions, but we could not find any trace of them. The bodies ripped apart in cruel way only small bits of flesh taken. When an animal's kills it eats all, even monsters do. They were likely killed for sport."
"I understand killing for food, but what sport is there?" Cheng said.
"Some men feel pleasure in chasing down and killing a creature weak and defenseless. "
"I had no idea such cruelty can exist." He said saddened.
"For your own safety, I think the two of you should leave the forest. "Regis said.
"Do you perhaps know any mountains around here? " the monk asked.
"To the east, we can take you to the eastern edge you can find the way from there." He offered.
"Yes, that would be great. We should all get some rest now." Chen said.
"I'll stay on guard" Regis said.
"I'll help you" Prudence volunteered.
"Get some rest" he said.
"I'm not in the least tired, I can stay up" Nihala said eager to talk to Regis about all his adventures as a ranger.
The night passed uneventfully and morning came. The four set out east to the edge of the forest. The forest got less and less dance. More single trees than groups of them. They found a small lake and Regis went fishing, with Nihala tagging along . They managed to catch enough fish to last a while. As they are traveling along the main path. Regis looks into the woods a feeling of unease settles in his chest. As his eyes spot a narrow dark path leading back into the woods and possibly into the very depth of them, a chill runs down his spine and he stops. Prudence stops sensing something isn't right. He gaze follows where he was looking and she guesses his thoughts. Cheng and Nihala turn around they seem to have felt something too.
"The road to the mountains is straight ahead. Once you reach a crossroad turn left and the n walk straight for a couple of days." Regis said.
They both looked at the path leading towards the small black shadow of mountains in the distance then back at Regis and Prudence.
"You know, master, I've always wanted to go on a great adventure." Nihala said looking at Cheng.
"I suppose it would be a good opportunity to train. So why not?" He agreed.
Regis looked at them surprised.
"You want to come along?"
"You don't know what's in there and there is power in numbers. We can help eachtoher. "
So the four of them left the wide main path and went on the narrow dark, hardly visible path. It was colder, much darker almost straight away. The whole place had a bad aura surrounding it. There was dampness in the air that made it feel unpleasant. As they walked it silent, no birds or animals, nothing moved and the silence continued for hours.
"This is unnatural" Regis said looking around.
"It's like all life left this place." Prudence pulled her cape around herself.
"Night should be approaching soon. I hardly see anything now, I doubt we will get far in the dark."
"I see something up on the hill, looks like old ruins" Nihala said pointing to black structures up on the hill.
"That place gives me the creeps" Prudence stated.
"Let's camp there" Regis pointed to spot half way up the hill in the shadow of the ruins.
"The height will give us a vantage point and if need to we can escape in to the ruins." Nihala noted the advantage of the camping spot.
"I haven't noticed any traces of the ruins being inhabited by anything. No prints on the ground" Regis said.
They sat up a camp, the wood was damp and didn't want to burn but they managed to get a fire going. Regis found some eatable berries and they made tea and roasted fish. As night fell it got pitch black. The darkness didn't seem natural. Prudence had a hard time falling asleep so she stayed up with Regis. Leaning her head on his shoulder watching the fire flicker even though there was no wind the flame swayed in a hypnotizing dance. A branch cracked, she dully noted, feeling exhausted but unable to sleep. She felt Regis tense and rose her head, shifting her gaze up from the fire. There between the trees something white, moving. Fear gripped her. A white skeleton stumbled into the camp, it had half decayed remnants of cloths on its body and held a half rusted sword. Regis shot and arrow at the creature and it pierced it's skull but it didn't stop moving. Prudence channeled her magic and froze it in place. Nihala awoke and came rushing along with Cheng, from a hit of her rapier the skeleton shattered into small bits of frozen bones.
"A skeleton!" Nihala was exited.
"I think it might have come from the ruins." Prudence said.
They all walked up to the ruins holding torchers that flickered and didn't want to burn. They found a door in the old falling apart tower. Prudence tried to open it with magic it she felt an enchantment was placed on the lock that her spells were too weak to undo. Cheng walked up to the door holding a small bronze key.
"I found on the ground when the ice melted. I think our attacker dropped it."
"It is too small to fit this door. I look like it could be from a chest or something like that" Nihala stated.
"A chest? We are in the middle of the forest where would we find something like that?" Prudence argued taking the key and giving a closer look.
"Undead and powerful magic. This place is dangerous. Whatever is going on in there is too much for us. Let's go to an outpost and tell them about our findings, then come back with more of us." Regis said.
"A wise decision" Cheng agreed.
Nihala was slightly disappointed the adventured seemed to be over so fast but left along with everyone. They did not wait for morning, not wanting to spend any more time in that place. and as the ruins are left behind them the forest atmosphere begins to change. The air isn't as cold or dark anymore. Birds chirp in the branches as the sun begins to rise. The walk until noon. Stopping for a break to eat. The nearest outpost is a day away according to Regis but it the one they had lost contact with. As they are preparing to leave Cheng notices tracks on the ground. They look like they were left by a Skeleton but there are many of them going both ways and pressed on top of one another. They go into the forest opposite of their destination and don't seem to follow a path.
"It hasn't rained a while. They are not fresh" Regis notes
"So the undead have been moving through these woods for a while now?" Nihala says
"It might be connected to everything that has been happening for the past few months." Prudence realized.
"Likely so" Regis admits.
"We might find answers if we follow, but there might also be danger." Cheng said.
They decide to follow the footprints. Waling without a road is difficult and takes them a long time. Unsure if they are still on the right path since there are no more patches of mud only dry leaves. They spend a night in the depth of the woods. For safety they decide to not make a fire. It cold and uncomfortable. Owls make sounds, branches crack. Regis listens to the familiar sounds of the forest. But then there is something unnatural. A light, not fire, a blue light floats above the ground few feet away from them. Uncouncoisly they hold their breaths until it passes, then Nihala whispers.
" Let's follow it."
The loose the light soon, but keep walking at the same direction it was going. Soon the forest ends. There hills and meadows . the landscape leads down. They notice there is dirt all around. Smoothing is sticking out from it. A chunk of rock, but upon further inspection they realize it's a tombstone. The dirt seems to have come from up on higher. They soon notice a hill side that is barren of grass and seems to be missing a chunk of its mass. A broken metallic fence and some crosses and gravestones are on top and around the hill. Empty coffins stick out from under the ground.
"A graveyard. " Prudence is surprised, never having heard of people living in this part of the woods.
"I recall there being an ancient one . It seems that the last rains have disturbed the ground and caused it to slide down."
"You think that is why the dead are roaming the woods? Because their rest was disturbed" Chang wondered.
"Their rest was disturbed, but not by rain." Regis said.
"Maybe we can get some answers there" Prudence pointed to the chapel in the middle of the graveyard.
The building was made of stone brick. Mossy and obviously abandoned for a long time. As they approached it they noticed tracks similar to the ones they saw before.
"It seems like they are moving thought the woods, from the tower to the graveyard." Prudence said
"But why?" Nihala wondered.
"I have feeling we find out if we go down there" Regis stated
" Wait" Cheng stopped him .
" I know you elves don't tire as fast as humans do but we spent two nights with hardly any rest and since we are more than likely to get into a fight down there I think it would be better to get some rest and regain our strength first. Besides the undead only seem to come out night, its day still."
Regis looked at Prudence. She was pale and had dark circles under her eyes.
"Very well, we rest here and advance at night."
Finding a nice spot in the sun away from the graveyard they laid down on the grass. Sleep came fast and easy.
Prudence awoke feeling a thirst. Sleeping in the sun seemed like a good idea, but the heat made her clothes stick to her body, sweaty. The sun was setting, the heat was gone and coldness crept in. She remembered seeing a well near the chapel and decided to go and check if there was some water. The mage bent down to the see if there was water in the well. The small stone hit something wet. She noticed movement out of the corner of her eye and turned to look. There was a skeleton, different from the one before. It was taller and had heavy armor and a longsword. It swung at her and Prudence barely managed to dodge the blow. From behind it Nihala attacked, attempting to stab it with her rapier. The tip of the sword barely pierced the surface of the armor and got stuck in it. The Skeleton turned around and the elf lost her balance falling to the ground. Prudence cast a frost spell, freezing the skeleton in place then blasting it to pieces with another spell. Nihala took her sword back .
"I guess it can't do much against heavy armor." She sighed
While they were getting water the others came looking for them.
"Are you hurt?" Cheng asked looking at his apprentice.
"Nothing to worry about, just a scratch" she replied as energetic as ever.
"I'm fine" Prudence said looking at her friend, replying before he even asked the question.
"The dead are awake, so let's get going." Nihala said marching into the chapel ahead of everyone.
The room was small and nothing out of the ordinary. An altar, some candles scattered around to light to place, some seats for the mourning who wanted to take time in saying their goodbyes . This chapel was used only for burial ceremonies; no worship of any gods took place here. On the right side there was a an iron grated door and some stairs going down into what looked to be a crypt.
"I think that's where we need to go." Prudence said.
"It's dark. We should take some candles" he said.
The narrow stairs lead into a hallway. The walls had niches in them, some had bones, decaying unmoving. Others had remnants of coffins along with the bones, in a few intact coffins. It was cold, much colder than outside and damp; it smelled of mold and decay. Nihala marched ahead of the party, Changed right after her, Regis walked behind the two, Prudence was last. She seemed to be contemplating something. He turned to see her a way behind everyone.
"Pru, what's wrong?" he asked.
The coffin to right let out a small growl noise.
"Nothing." She said.
"Did you hear that?" she looked around .
"The wind? Let's go, we should stay close just in case."
He turned back and started walking after the others. Prudence followed. The coffin creaked and the lid rose slightly, opening revealing two rows of sharp teeth on the bottom of the lid and the edge of the coffin. Two flesh like tentacles slid out from the bottom part, they moved quickly. One wrapping around her waist locking her arms in place, and the other binding both of her legs together. Before she even realized it she was pulled back. Regis quickly turned around , bow in hand ready to shoot, trying to aim at the creature but the tentacles moved and wiggled making it hard to hit it without hitting Prudence. Giving up he took his whip and lashed at the creature. Cheng and Nihala came running back.
" What is that?" the monk asked
"A mimic" Regis said.
More tentacles came out blocking the hits and the creature began to pull Prudence towards it's mouth. Cheng jumped over one tentacle and punched the one holding prudence. The mimic growled. Nihala stabbed the one that was trying to block her from getting close to the body. Stabbing it multiple times until the creature retracted the injured appendage. Regis beat of the other one. Prudence could not cast her spells because her hands were bound and pointed down, anything she cast would just hit the people trying to save her. Cheng landed a particularly strong punch to the creature's body and it dropped its victim. The coffin exploded, with bits of wood, bone , flesh and undigested metal . Regis caught Prudence as the creature dropped her.
"I'm sorry. There wasn't anything I could do." She said.
"You're safe , that's all that matters." Regis said.
"Here, maybe this will come in useful next "Nihala handed her a small knife.
"It was among the things the fell out from the thing. Next time one grabs you, you can just cut yourself loose."
"Next time?" Prudence shuddered.
"None of this stuff looks useful" Regis said looking at armor pieces with holes in them and half corroded weapons. The knife Nihala found was the only useful ting, that and some gold coins.
"Safe to say no one has been thought here recently. No alive that is." Regis said.
The hallway slit into to two. One section went straight while the other went even deeper down.
"You boys can have that one all to yourselves" Prudence said.
The party split up with Cheng and Regis going down into lower levels of the crypt while Prudence and Nihala looked around upstairs in what seemed to be the living quarters of the undertakers that used to reside in this place.