Undead Horrors

Once upon a time in Crimmor
The Cart Master part 1

The streets bustled with people, the sun was high in the sky, the birds were singing in the trees and fishing boats lined the peer, gathering their riches from this morning’s fishing trip. It was a normal, yet beautiful summer day in town. And like any other day, its fair share of traders were visiting on their way to either Reme or Bard’s Gate.
This day was special in one way, though. Today one of the traders was part of a group, commissioned to establish a caravan trading route between the major cities after the war.
The cities had crafters, but the prices were too high and the turn around too slow. The leaders of the merchant guilds from both cities could not agree on who would have the caravan’s responsibility and competing artisans did not want to share caravan room, so they decided that crafters from outside the city would build the convoy’s carts and equipment and the route will be owned by the Grand Duchy as a sign of goodwill towards the larger powers.
Thus it was decided that specialists from each city will form a group and search the region for craftsmen and artisans.
Today they were on the shore of beautiful lake Crimmormere. One of the traders from the group, a man called Karo, was a big fan of the silver cod, a fish found in this lake only and he insisted that the group start its search in the small town near lake Crimmormere. They’ve wandered the town for a few days, looking at a few artisans. Nothing was impressive enough.
That is until they met him. A young half-elf working in a blacksmith’s shop was kind enough to show them around his master’s workplace. At one point during his walk around, noticing his passion for the trade, Karo asked him:
- Boy, what is your name?
- Stipish, sir, the young boy replied.
- And you do understand we are here for barding and carts for a convoy in the dozens?
- Sir?
- What I’m saying boy, is that we don’t really need weapons and shields, the shops are filled in Bard’s Gate with such steelworks. We need wheels, carts, horse barding, leather straps, the whole package destined to travel between the great two cities that line our frontier. We need carts that can haul as much as two horses can pull, and wheels that can pass through even the muddiest passage in the rainiest days of Stoneheart’s woods. Can your master do that?
After a few second of staring like a blind man, Stipish replied:
- No sir, my master is no cartmaker…
- Sorry to have wasted your time, son, replied Karo a bit disappointed, since this was the last shop on their list. As he turned around to face the gates to the blacksmith’s yard he heard Stipish say:
- But I am!
- What? Karo turned again, intrigued by the young man’s boldness.
- I am sir… I am a cartmaker. I don’t have a shop, but I can show you some of my work at home. I’ve mostly done repairs, but I can build, sir, if you give me tools and gold for a few men. I can make what you asked for, before the new moon.
Karo started laughing with his booming voice.
- My boy, I appreciate your courage, but you still don’t realize what we’re asking for…
- I most certainly realize. You need twelve carts, sturdy body, but light in weight. Treated wood preferably, wide as half the road and long as a boat. You need strong wheels, reinforced with steel, since the distance is long and you need then to be sturdy, yet easy to replace. You need light barding for the horses yet you need them protected, in case of battle. Am I on the right track?
- I see you understand our needs, yes, but again I do not understand how are you going to make all of these… What workers do you have? What skills do those workers have? You are but one blacksmith’s apprentice. You’re smart and bold, I’ll give you that, but what about the labor?
- Give me 4 workers of my choice, paid 1 gold piece per day and you will have what you need.
Again Karo laughs… He stops abruptly when he realizes that the boy is as serious as he can be. Stipish means business.
- Alright son. Lead us to your home, we’ll see what you have and then we’ll discuss your plans…

To be continued…

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South of Crimmor
A thorn in life's paw

The humming… The humming is unbearable. Different pitches mix with different frequencies in a cacophony of continual hums and buzzes. It drives me mad… But am I not already mad? What does mad mean, anyway?

Am I mad for leaving “civilized society” as the scholars call it? It cannot be, since I am one of many who do such things and they get to be called “wise men” and “savants”. Am I mad for spending my entire life dedicated to another species than my own? That cannot be, since there are others like me, and all species should be equal in the face of this argument.

They called me mad for trying to show them the superiority of a much lesser species. “They are too dangerous!”, they’ve said. “They are beyond taming!”, they’ve said…

They were right. These are useless creatures to whom I dedicated my life for nothing. Why would the gods create such insignificant beings and disguise them with intelligent looking ordered hives, only mimicking the metaphysical awareness of the ant or the bee? Oh, what a trick has fate played on me…

All these experiments, all this variety, for nothing. Their only desire is to feed and to reproduce… No awareness, no instinctual intelligence, no nothing. I have to release them, for there is nothing else left for me to do.

My life has no meaning, my experiments have no purpose… They will feed, while I rot until there is nothing and I will be forgotten.

At least there will be less humming. Maybe I can even rest, sleep… Maybe I’ll get to dream again, who knows. They were starving here anyway and the blood of game isn’t clean enough.

It’s time, my useless pets, to leave your cage! Ah… What do you know of freedom?

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The Yard
A mission well done

- Are they back?
- Yes, my old friend.
The white haired man that asked the question, raises from his chair carefully, challenged by his weight. His movements are slow and small taps are heard with every step he takes on the hardwood floor.
- The blacks have their value…
He says with a raspy voice. He pauses for breath. Needing two long breaths to continue his idea, he carries on.
- Their experience with such dealings is second to none. They are not good at discovering new sources, but have always been great retrievers when the need arrives.
- Like dogs? Asks a tall man, who answered before. He is resting his arm on the window’s sill and is watching what happens outside in the yard.
- Like dogs, yes, they cannot find unless you give them a scent, but they are loyal and dependable… Are they carrying anyone with them?
- No, they are alone.
- That is curious. The merchant told me that his gem was stolen. I would’ve expected at least one body, if not an organization of sorts. From my understanding, the gem is almost an artifact, worth at least 15-20 ingots. I have a few buyers lined up and I believe we’ll have an auction, so the price might end up even higher than that.
- Who knows? Maybe the body was beyond transportation…
The fat old man starts moving towards the window. He helps himself by resting his arm on the desk. Tap, step, tap, step. His wooden leg fills the room with a syncopated rhythm.
- Let me take a look at them…
The tall slender man turns around to help him. His face is smooth, his hair is long and brown, running down his back, almost merging with his carmine cloak. His eyes betray a certain compassion while he helps the old man, while trying to keep his calm and calculated attitude.
The old man pulls out a monocle from his and slowly fits it on his eye.
- They look unharmed! He exclaims, almost breaking his voice.
- Are they this good?
- They are one of the lesser teams. They’ve shown potential, yes, but not like this. Are you sure they brought it back?
- How often are we guilty of miscommunication, sir? On such simple matters, even for blacks, this question is an offense.
The old man smiles filled with pride, while enjoying the view in the yard…
A tall short haired blonde woman in her thirties, followed by a bald olive skinned dwarf and two massive half-orcs engage in conversation with the two guards that recently allowed them to pass.
- How is the boss feeling? Asks the woman, with a deeper voice than one would expect.
- Better, I think, he’s inside with the Red Cloak. I don’t think they will have time for you this week. Do you have anything worth private time?
- Nah… It was underwhelming. Peasants being unaware of their realities, that’s all. Only thing worth mentioning is that I’ve met an adventuring party, some type of local heroes, led by a sorcerer.
- Anyone we know?
- I don’t think so. We should check the records though. I was dismissive of them at first, thinking they are local trash. After some snooping around it seems they’re pretty able. They’ve cleaned out the Old Keep near Fairhill.
- Wasn’t it ruined by the army of the Duchy when they passed through?
- That’s what I knew as well. What I actually found out is that savages took hold of the keep. They were some band of orcs, not a known camp.
- After you drop your bounty at the vault, you should have a talk with the librarian about all this. Maybe he has more information, or at least some records about the area. Maybe some reds can go have a look.
- Will do. Before we left I heard they’ve had some casualties. I even sold them the druids’ oil.
- The desperate kind… For how much? The guard laughs a bit and with a smile on his face, anxiously awaits the answer.
- Eighty plats. They did help me with the bounty.
- Eighty plats is fair enough for a friend. Still it’s a lot of coin.
- Yeah, and look at these stones. This is clearly an adventurer bounty, found in some troll’s cave or some other beast’s den.
The woman pulls out a bag from her backpack and shows a few gems of different shapes and sizes. Then she continues with a lower voice, as if sharing a secret:
- I’ve heard from a passing merchant that they’ve had their hands on some elixirs too.
- Of longevity? You mean…
- Yes, there are still brewers somewhere. Or at least there are still some elixirs to be found.
- Do you think that they…
- Nah, they don’t seem to know anything about the elixirs. And none of them seemed necromancers. I don’t know if they have more, or if they have a steady supply. What it proves though is that they proved their mettle. I offered myself as a contact, and I’ll put a good word with the market, in case they need to move some treasure around.
- Suit yourself. You should probably go over this with the boss. Or at least with the Cloak. You know they don’t like being overextended in any way. It exposes the reds.
- I’ll see. They might not even make it to Bard’s Gate anyway…

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In the depths
Failure was not an option

- Welcome back, high priest!
Gathering his strength after the ordeal, the Half-Orc rises to his feet and barely with any breath left in his voice asks:
- Where… is my… mace?
- Right here, sir, but please, you must rest. Koraashag will want to speak to you and you have to be full strength…
- The disciple is still here?
- Yes sir… Sir?
- Yes, acolyte, what is it?
- Mazarbul is here as well…
- Great… I’ve been through the Abyss already, my soul has endured. I am prepared for my punishment in life as well. Acolyte, ready my garments and weapons. I do not want to appear weak before the human Mazarbul.
- Sure sir, they are busy with the plans for expansion. I’m sure they will make time for your story in the following days. You have time to rest, I’m sure it was a difficult task.
- What about the prisoners? Is there anyone captured from that damned town? I need to know who those people are.
- Yes sir, we have captured two humans from that area and they are prepped for torture.
The Half-Orc dons his armor and readies his weapons. Still weak, he reads texts in Abyssal and goes in a short trance. After several minutes he regains focus.
-… and the girl seems to be a mage of some kind. We have found arcane spell components in her pouch.
- Acolyte?
- Yes, sir?
- Do you embrace death and understand that our lord will guide us towards a higher state of existence?
- Yes, sir, of course!
- Then you will assist me in torturing these fools. I need to exact my revenge and I need to know what I am up against. The visions had me hunting them. I will need minions once again and there are no orcs here.
- Sir, what about the black orc camp from the south? Are you not half-black orc, sir?
- How many are there left? A hundred? Two hundreds?
- Sir, the gnolls… they have wiped out the tribe… Only a small camp remains…
- They are too weak, acolyte.
- In life sir, maybe, but you have to look at Mazarbul’s latest research…
Both ready themselves to leave the chambers and head to the torture chambers. Before leaving, the half-orc takes another look at the stone table from which he has risen.
- I need to bring sacrifice, for this has taken a toll on our Master.
- Anyone in mind?
- Two dwarves, A gnome, A tiefling, a Human and an Elf halfbreed.
- Strange arrangement sir…
- They all die the same.

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A light in the shadow
The birth of Shadowbane

- Let me tell you son, he said with a raspy voice, pointing his pipe at the boy, about the story of the Crucible…
- What Crucible, Pa?
- Why, the Crucible of the Goddess my boy, the golden Crucible of Freya. It was the reason the town where I grew up was so bountiful.
- How come?
- Son, it was a magic crucible, not just an old one you may find in any temple. Our priestess used it to bring blessings to our fields and to our lives. Cows were making the fattest milk, grains were lasting from a year to the next, corn was growing tall as trees, apples were sweet and one sheep could grow wool for an entire family.
- And what’s the story about it, Pa?
- Well, when I was a young boy, about your age, I was there in Fairhill, earning my copper as a farmer’s helper and it was a good life. And it was mostly thanks to the blessings of Freya. But one night, the town was attacked!
- Attacked? By whom? Dragons?
- No… Not Dragons! Don’t joke about Dragons attacking towns, people are still terrified after the attack in the port! It wasn’t Dragons, they were Orcs! Green, slimy, dirty, savage, bloodthirsty orcs! And we’ve had attacks before. After the Savage Invasion, orcs were still in the forests. Even now, there are places south of the mountains that still have problems with savages. But this attack was different. They lit the roofs of the buildings with flaming arrows, they’ve murdered the guards, they didn’t come just for food or trinkets, they were after the Crucible.
- Were you there, Pa?
- Oh yes! I was right there in the middle of the action. It was the first night we didn’t spend out at the farm, for fear of something bad happening. We’ve heard that some farmers just down the road were killed by brigands, and the farm was too far from the town. So my master decided we should stay at the Drunken Cockatrice for a couple of weeks, until the days are longer.
- What happened?
- In the middle of the night the guard bells started ringing. I got out of bed as quickly as possible, and rushed down the stairs and out the door. It was horrifying. People swarmed the streets trying to put out the fires from the rooftops, orcs were fighting with the town guards, townsfolk were being chased everywhere. And right there, my son, right then and there I saw them first. Later they started calling themselves Shadowbane, but right then and there, they were just a group of wanderers, trying to make sense of life. It was the craziest gathering of common-folk I’ve ever seen. One of them was a demon of some kind, had a tail and horns and everything.
- Where they with the orcs, Pa?
- No, no, no, no, no… They were not allies of the orcs. Not at all. They all had something about them, they had a certain savagery within them, but they were not allies of the orcs in any way. No my boy, he said lighting his pipe and pondering his words with squinted eyes, as if looking in the past…
- Pa?
- There were six of them, the coarse voice pronounced with severity. The only human among them was a strange earth mage. He had a savage power in his eyes, as if nothing can destroy him. The demon wielded power like his kind. We were glad he was wielding it at the orcs and not at us. The gnome was savage in his desire to control. He would play with the battlefield, the way you play with your toys. The half-breed was the leader of the team, silver tongued and imposing. Then there were the two dwarves…
- There were two dwarves? Were they brothers?
- Oh no… I don’t know for sure, but if those two were brothers then at least one of them was adopted… One of them was a priest of some dwarven deity obsessed with hammers. He was the most driven of the group. The other though, was the closest a dwarf can get to an orc. He was a savage killing beast. He was cutting through orcs the way I’m cutting grass with my trusty scythe. Not even the one-eyed orc shaman could stop his dwarven fury.
- What about the gnome, dad? Was his name Bumble?
- No son, I’m not sure what he was called, but he was one helluva mage… Anyway, this night was not over yet, since the orcs were just using this as a diversion. Another group of orcs moved inside the Temple of Freya and stole the Crucible! But they were not far! With lightning speed our newest protectors ran after the orcs, followed them into the dark forest and slayed them all. Then, at the dawn of light, while townsfolk were still praying to Freya, the two dwarves, the half-breed, the earth mage, the gnome and the demon returned! They were wounded, dirty, tired and pushed to their limit. But above all, they were victorious! The crucible was returned and our community was saved…
- Dad?
- Yes?
- What’s a diversion?
- You’ll learn in time son, you’ll learn in time…
- Dad?
- Yes?
- What happened next?
- There are many stories about the Shadowbane son, but that’s the first time and the last time I’ve seen them. They’ve been to town that year, but eventually after a couple of days I left to try and make it on my own. Fairhill turned out to be too dangerous for me. Who knows what they’ve been up to ever since? One day, maybe we’ll cross paths again…

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The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

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