Sunday, April 5, 2015
“A secret door?” Temperalus asked, as he and Willow lowered Freja to the floor. “Are you sure?” Finfer stared at him. “Yup.” Temperalus looked down at Freja, who was just starting to regaining consciousness. “We can’t explore it now, so I suggest we trap the wall by the door. That way, when we return, we will know if it’s been opened.” Finfer looked at Freja and looked at the door, and sighed. “I suppose.” I took some pitons from my pack and helped him set them up. Freja had woken, but was very dizzy and confused. “Who...where...what happened?” she asked softly, gripping Willow for stability. “The mummy attacked you.” Willow said. Temperalus leaned down to be eye-to-eye with her. “The mummy laid a curse on you. We must get it removed soon, or things will end very poorly for you.” Freja looked around and saw the remains of the mummy and skeletons. “Is anyone else hurt?” she asked. We all shook our heads. “Then we move forward.” Freja said. “There is no time to lose. Fill me in on what we’ve learned. Temperalus and Willow shared a look. “Freja,” Willow began. “We need to get you back to Mountain Hide.” Freja objected. “I’m fine. I feel fine. It’s all fine.” Temperalus said “Freja, you can’t even stand on your own. We can return when the curse is lifted. Mummy curses accelerate quickly. We need to go, now.” Freja looked at each of us. She saw the concern in Willow’s eyes and heard the determination in Temperalus’ voice. She heaved a sigh. “Alright. Let’s go.”
We went back up the stairs to the temple’s entrance and out the door, Freja leaning on Temperalus and Willow for support, me out front leading the way, and Finfer bringing up the rear. We had not gone more than 200 yards when I was suddenly overcome with the wary sensation of being followed. I stopped and held up a hand to halt the rest of the party. Finfer began to ask why we had stopped when Willow quickly and quietly shushed him. I stood motionless, hand still raised, listening. I heard the distinct sound of limbs being broken by footsteps. I turned and looked at Willow. She nodded, having heard it, as well. Without a word, she motioned for Finfer to trade places with her. Quiet as a mouse, she knelt behind us, placing both palms on the ground, murmuring a soft incantation. She stood, took Freja back from Finfer, and softly said “I have cast a spell that allows us to pass without being tracked. However, we must move quickly. If they are using magic to track us, the spell will not work.” I nodded and took the lead once more.
Every 400 feet or so, I stopped to listen. After the third time I was confident that Willow’s spell had worked and that whomever had been following us had lost our trail. We continued on in the direction of Mountain Hide until it was beginning to turn dark, so we decided to find a place to camp for the night. Freja had regained some strength and was insistent on keeping watch, so her & I took the first watch. Our watch ended with no problems, so I woke Willow and Freja woke Finfer, to take the next watch. I laid where Willow had been sleeping and closed my eyes, dreaming of finding Woodsy and returning him safely to Mother, when I was urgently shaken awake by Willow. I sat up and she pointed to a distant section of the forest. My eyes were still adjusting to having been woken, when suddenly a dark ghostly form floated up behind Willow and enveloped her. She screamed, and crumpled to the ground. Before I could react rushed at me and tried to do the same to me, but I rolled away just enough so that it grazed my left shoulder instead. Searing pain coursed through my shoulder and I screamed, weakened by its touch. Finfer had woken Freja and Temperalus, and threw his drift globe out where our campfire had been. Light washed over the entire area, revealing two more ghostly figures among our group.
I grabbed my sword and swung, but the ghost-like body of the figure was unaffected, as if I had tried to attack air. Finfer shot an arrow at the figure, but like my sword, it passed right through and stuck in a tree. Nearby, Temperalus cast out a dark thread of magic that hit one square in the center. It let out an ear-piercing squeal, and evaporated. “They’re Shadows!” he yelled. “They feed on people. Non-magical items cannot hurt them.” The Shadow in front of me drifted up my leg. The same searing pain caused me to scream out again, weakening me even more. I caught a glimpse nearby of Freja huddled over Willow, and Willow sitting up. Temperalus shot magic from his fingertips and it disappeared. Freja called forth a column of bright, divine light, and the third Shadow disappeared, and all was again quiet. Willow rushed over to me. “Are you ok?” we both asked each other simultaneously. “I am fine.” Willow said. “Freja helped me.” Freja was right behind her. “I can help you, too.” I nodded, so Freja placed a hand on a leg and a hand on a shoulder, and I drifted off to sleep with the comforting feeling of the soft warmth of divine healing.
When I woke, I learned that Temperalus and Willow took the last watch, and no more issues arose. We made it back to the farms on the outskirts of Mountain Hide and found the townspeople clearing away the bodies and debris from the undead attacks. We went straight to the temple, and upon our arrival Minister Urum took one look at Freja and immediately backed away. Used to the reaction, Freja dropped her head and held out her hands in a peace offering. “She is unwell. What happened? Please, every detail.” Willow and I shared a look as Temperalus described the encounter and the curse. “Can you help her?” I asked. Minister Urum shook his head. “Unfortunately, no, I cannot. Not today, that is. I can pray to my deities tonight to see if they find me in favor and grant me the ability to remove curses, but that cannot happen until tomorrow at the earliest.” Freja looked downfallen. “I don’t know if I have that much time. I need to see Ali.” I stepped up. “Freja, you & Temperalus can remain here, and Willow & I will go get Ali for you.” Freja started to object, but Willow cut her off. “You are too weak, Freja. Rest here. We will be back soon, with Ali.” She conceded, so we left in the direction of Vance’s, Finfer with us.
We arrived at Vance’s, and explained to him what had happened and Freja’s condition. He immediately retrieved Ali, who accompanied us to the temple. As soon as we entered the temple, Freja jumped up and ran to Ali, tears streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry, Ali. I tried to get away, but I couldn’t.” Ali took her hand. “My child, do not fear. I came to help you.” He instructed Freja to lay down on a cot, and knelt beside her. He placed a hand on her forehead and the other hand on her stomach. He began chanting in the divine language of Ehlonna, and before long, a soft yellow light surrounded Freja. Suddenly, the light was abruptly pulled into her, and she screamed and arched her back against the pain of the light versus dark battle happening inside her core. Ali’s hands remained constant where they were, and his chanting increased in speed and volume. Just as quickly as it all began, it ended, and Freja lay on the cot panting, beads of sweat appearing on her brow. Ali stood and turned to Minister Urum. He looked completely drained of energy. “The curse is gone,” he said “but she will need its effects healed. Minister, would you be so kind? I need to rest.” Minister Urum nodded, stepped forward, placed his hands on her temples, and uttered the familiar healing words. Freja closed her eyes and let the healing warmth wash over her. After a few moments, Minister Urum finished and Freja opened her eyes and sat up slowly. “Thank you, Minister.” Minister Urum nodded, and sat down on a bench near her. “Curses are a difficult thing. I have only removed one in my life. They are draining, both physically and mentally. Ali will be fine, after rest.” Freja nodded. Temperalus approached, a gold piece in hand. “Minister, for your troubles.” Minister Urum graciously accepted, and left to check on Ali.
After a few moments, Minister Urum and Ali returned. “Tell me more of this temple you found.” Ali said. Temperalus and Freja filled them in with as much detail as they could recall. “We would like to return as soon as possible to see what the secret door hides” Temperalus said, “but we need supplies first.” Ali nodded. “Of course, whatever you need.” Finfer spoke up. “Do you know of anything around here that can help us fight undead?” Minister Urum thought for a moment. “I can give you holy water, but that’s about it.” he said, and provided us with two vials. We thanked him, visited the apothecary to purchase healing potions, then went to the tavern for a quick meal.
When our meal was done, we went back toward the abandoned temple in the woods, by way of the farms. Upon reaching the farms it had gotten late and all of the townsfolk had gone home for the evening, so we decided to set up camp near a barn. Temperalus and Freja offered to take the first watch, so Willow, Finfer, and I made our beds and drifted off to sleep. It felt as if I had just fallen asleep when I was woken by Freja, stating it was our watch. I sat up, yawned, and stretched, and noticed Willow being woken by Finfer for her watch. We put away our bed rolls and took our places for watch. The first couple of hours or so passed with no issues, but then I heard the faint sound of wood breaking coming from the barn. “Did you hear that?” I asked Willow. She cocked her head to one side and listened. More breaking and splintering, this time louder. “We should wake the others.” she said. We quietly woke the others and told them what we’d heard. I tried to sneak up to take a look between the wooden planks of the barns walls, but tripped in a divot in the ground and fell, crying out a bit as I hit the ground. The noise of my fall captured the attention of whatever was in the barn, and two undead creatures wandered out toward me. Fortunately, the rest of the group had formed a defensive line around the barn doors, so the two undead creatures were no problem. Everyone else advanced to meet up with me as I entered the barn to see what else might be hiding.
As soon as I stepped through the door I came face-to-face with a large, pale creature in tattered clothing, with yellow eyes, sharp teeth, and claws for hands. It was one of the most frightening things I had ever seen. Temperalus ran past me, yelling for me to move away. Happy to get as far away from this creature as I could, I ran along the inside wall of the barn and to the back corner. An undead creature came out from behind a haystack and started shuffling toward me. I glanced back at Temperalus and saw he had captured the creature’s attention and was trying to pull it away from the rest of the group. As soon as the creature’s back was turned, Finfer shot it with a crossbow bolt, but it seemed to have little effect, so he ran back toward a wall. Another undead appeared from the shadows by Freja, on the other side of the barn. I drew my sword and hacked to pieces the undead creature by me. Willow fired an arrow at the creature, but just like Finfer’s, it did little damage. She morphed into a lion and pounced on it, claws and teeth everywhere. Willow and the creature clawed and fought at each other, but the creature’s attacks couldn’t seem to penetrate Willow’s lion fur as easily as her teeth and claws tore into it. As she finished off that thing, Freja severed the head of the undead by her.
“What was that thing?” I asked. “It was terrifying.” Temperalus walked up and inspected it closely. “It is a wight. They are spawned of evil. They drain energy from you by touch, and if killed by a white in this manner, you then become one upon death.” I shuddered at the thought. “How do you know so much about things?” Willow asked. Temperalus gave her a distant, somewhat sad look. “I have read quite a bit over the course of my lifetime. When I hid myself away, my books were all I had.” Although his comment left more questions than answers, it was evident Temperalus was not going to continue, so nobody pressed him. We checked out the rest of the barn, and found nothing else remaining, so we went back to our camp outside and finished the night, with no further issues. At first light, we rose, packed up our camp, and went back to the temple. The temple was exactly as we had left it, except that all locks were reset, and all dust and dirt had been cleaned away, as if it had been revived somehow. It seemed that whatever had left it, had returned.