After Hours

Some catching up, and a massive revelation

Excerpted from Milan's journal

It has been some time since I took the time to enter events into my journal, but at last I have an opportunity. After clearing Borkhold castle, we received our reward from Lord Borkhold’s castellan (I know he calls himself “butler” but he is a bit more than that) for doing so, and then spent some time assisting in putting the castle to rights. Various members of our party helped the reconstruction process, while Opie and I took care of consigning the mortal remains of the goblins’ victims to the earth with due ceremony. After a week or so, we were informed of the return of Lord Borkhold himself (not that any of us saw him enter the castle gate) and we were called to see him.

We asked His Grace to speculate about the apparent attempt on his life by means of summoned elementals, and he attributed it to an old rival of his, an elementalist named Renwar Evenhammer. However, as he also explained to us, this assault was but a minor skirmish in a developing war, and not just any war.

There is an open place in the pantheon, and various factions each seek to advance their champion to fill the empty place. These factions are led by powerful beings, some by gods, some by lesser supernatural entities, such as the demon lord who broke out of the cage under Trisk, and some by powerful mortals. These various factions are massing forces to do battle, and the resulting war may lay waste to this world we inhabit and love. And yet, even we we minor mortals, my companions and I, may have a part to play.

First, we must convey word of this war to the king. Then, we must see to Renwar Evenhammer and eliminate him as a player in this conflict. Last, but not least, we must track the demon lord to the mountains north of Littlebrook and similarly deal with him. These are daunting tasks for inexperienced adventurers such as ourselves, but I am confident that we have righteousness on our side, and that Lord Pelor will guide my path.

And so we saddled our horses and packed our wagon and started to make our way south to the capital to warn the king. The journey was fairly uneventful until we started to cross the marshes. First, we encountered a group of undead, skeletons led by some perverted corpse of a warrior who was capable of leeching the very life out of a living being. Fortunately, we managed to finish them off without any lasting harm to our party. I managed to identify some of what was left of their uniforms, a mercenary company long disbanded. Some way down the road, we came upon an abandoned inn, the inhabitants of which appeared to have been slaughtered in their rooms, dragged to the common room, and then raised as undead. There appears to be necromancy afoot in this region. We did find one survivor, a small boy named Olaf, clinging for dear life to the inside of the outdoor jake. He told us he and his parents had been traveling north when the calamity struck. He has family in a village south along the road, so the best we can do is return him to them.


Delivering Olaf to his family is no longer possible. We proceeded south out of the marshes and into hill country. Darkness was falling and a storm was picking up to the north of us, and we hoped we might make it to Olaf’s village, but as we crested the last hill, we were horrified to see the valley in which the village lies lay was covered by the encampment of a huge army. Well, maybe “encampment” isn’t the right word, for there were only a few tents; the actual rank and file troops were just standing in the open in formation. In the falling gloom, we could discern that they were beings that no longer require sleep or shelter: an army of some 50,000 undead!

Clearly, we could not go forward, but with no shelter in sight and the storm bearing down on us from the north, there was nothing we could do but turn east in an attempt to skirt the army. It was around this time that Opie and Locke pointed out that the storm was starting to drop twisting funnels of air, far too many to be natural. The storm itself was the vanguard of an army of elementals! About the same time we noticed this, so did the army of undead, which turned in formation to face north and started advancing up the hill we were on. We egged the horses onward, desperate to get out the way of this clash of armies, but we were intercepted by an advance party of undead skirmishers.

Unable to turn left or right, we engaged them, and I held up my holy symbol and called upon the power of Pelor to drive the undead from us. This was only partially effective against the undead assailing us, but as I continued my prayer, I felt a tingling go my spine and my back, and my holy symbol grew warm as the advancing ranks of the undead army parted and started to flow around us. Sensing that this might be our only protection from being overwhelmed, I feared to do anything but keep on praying. Unfortunately, I had been driving the wagon and without me handling it, the draft horse had stopped. As the undead surged around us, they ran into the first air elementals coming from the north and battle was joined. With some difficulty, my companions dispatched the creatures that had attacked us, but not before a large air elemental broke through the undead lines and into the circle in which we were fighting. Nova tried to drive it away, but it unleashed a whirlwind that threw several of our party about like rag dolls. We had to get away, but since I did not dare to cease my prayer, we weren’t going anywhere.

It was all I could do to keep praying as a thunderous blast rang from the back of wagon, shredding the covers, as Locke finished off the leader of the group of undead, a walking perverted corpse of a warrior much like the one we had encountered in the swamp. It was at this point that Olaf gathered his courage, grabbed the reins, and got our horse moving. The tingling along my spine continued, and my hand now appeared to be on fire, though I felt no burning. We turned south, away from the battlefront, thinking that the fastest way to get clear of this abominable host was to plunge straight through. To our dismay, though, the elemental followed us, buffeting Lumi and Gorbash until they lost consciousness and fell off their horses.

Then, Locke saved us. There’s no other way to say it. Conjuring a disembodied magical hand, he used to it first distract and then confuse the elemental. I had just had a flash of insight, which I do not doubt was divinely inspired, that the warding effect of my prayer would continue even if I interrupted it to administer healing, so after directing a healing word at Nova, who had (as usual) taken the worst of the damage in the fighting, I jumped off the wagon to tend quickly to Lumi, and as she recovered her horse, I sprinted back to the wagon and clambered back aboard. While we were moving, the protective circle moved with us, leaving the elemental to be engulfed by the dead. And thus we managed to effect our escape.

I cannot say with certainty what came over me, or rather, through me. Even as I perceived my own hand to be on fire, my companions say that I looked to be entirely on fire, radiating holy light. I can only assume that Lord Pelor used me as a conduit for his power in order to keep us alive, presumably to preserve us to carry out his future plans. I won’t complain.


theprint jurjen

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