Of Kings and Dragons
A Walking Plague - Part Two
The Circle of Niira feared the undead were spreading through the city, but they realized the plague was causing little chaos. Instead the attacks by the undead appeared calculated. They had attacked Thryan, a witness to their late night entry into the city. They had attacked and turned the only guard who had any knowledge of their entry. The dogs had prowled the alleys, avoiding the patrols looking for them.
Suspicious of their elusive enemy, the party rushed to the Hungry Wheel Resthouse to speak with the group who had entered the same night as the wraith. Thryan had already visited the inn, but had been denied entry by the innkeeper.
All of the inn’s patrons were gone, along with the staff. There were signs of struggle, but no bodies. Their enemy had eliminated the witnesses and again concealed their actions while building their numbers.
Perhaps the wraiths planned to attack the heroes participating in Blood-Eagle’s challenge. Or perhaps just certain players, leaving the living a clear path to obtain the prize. Or perhaps their goal was Blood-Eagle himself. The king was not confirmed as part of the prophecy, but if he was and was killed, his death could be catastrophic.
Making their way to Blood-Eagle’s longhouse, they found the way blocked by armed guards. When confronted about their business, Alrik found himself facing the inquiry alone. He stepped up to the challenge.
“We have been recently working with the city guard against the wraiths, and we believe there is a direct threat to King Blood-Eagle. We would like an audience to relay our concern to him.”
The guards listened to Alrik with interest as he spun his words into a spell of convincing plots and strategies. When they seemed resistant he relied on his bardic training to persuade them. As he spoke he picked up on hidden cues that the guards held a secret. They seemed to know more about the plot he outlined than they wanted him to know. Eventually, one of the two men disappeared through the door to relay the message.
While the party waited, the keen eyes of Tholan noticed a young boy perched on a roof, watching them with interest.
Upon the guards return, they were granted an audience with the King and members of his council.
Nervous before the king, the party held silent and again allowed Alrik to speak. His gift of gab had earned him a position with the team, whether he wanted it or not.
Alrik glanced around the room. The people he didn’t know, but the faces he did. Their reputations made Kalsgard the legend it was.
Before him was Sveinn Blood-Eagle, Linnorm King and legend. His days as a warrior were well known by all skalds. He was an impressively massive warrior, who to Alrik’s eyes had shriveled to an old worn out man. Alrik knew the King sought retirement, and he looked years beyond it. Alrik was disappointed by his first audience with the once mighty king.
Varin was present, silent and as observant as ever.
Where Varin’s presence was comforting, Thorhall’s caused Alrik to shutter. The lower portion of his face was still covered with his mask, and he constantly fingered the worn club he carried. It was stained with blood and age.
For a dwarf, Grundi Erigson was nearly as tall as a human. He was well know as a strategist. Many believed there wasn’t a battle he hadn’t studied, or a war he couldn’t have won.
Gudrun Fire-Hair, Priestess of Gorum and advisor to King Blood-Eagle seemed to take point. She quickly approached Alrik. Gudrun had once been a part of the Temple of Gorum, but her duties to Blood-Eagle and her public disagreements with Prefect Stormwolf had run her from the temple.
With Gudrun’s eyes focused on him, Alrik laid out their suspicions. The wraiths were building their forces for something big that was likely planned in conjunction with Blood-Eagle’s hunt. They even feared the attack may have been directed at Blood-Eagle himself.
At first Alrik felt he had little chance of convincing Priestess Gudrun of the danger, but then he saw the understanding spark in her eyes as the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. He seized on the moment, and pushed forward with his conclusions. In response to his efforts, he learned that other attacks had been carried out against small hidden inns. Places that weren’t frequented often by the guard. Places where it could have easily been days before anyone knew about it.
The Circle of Niira were thanked for their involvement and asked to wait for Varin at the Hunting Serpent Inn. Alrik noticed Priestess Gudrun’s eyes lingered on him as he departed the audience hall.
After leaving the King’s longhouse, the party quickly spotted a young boy following them. Orn Blood-Eagle was excited about their visit to his father. He had listened to their story and wanted to hear more.
Orn was known by nearly everyone in the city. He spent his days wondering the streets, poking his nose into anyone’s business unlucky enough to encounter him.
Realization struck the team. They turned to Orn and asked him where the swarm of wraiths could hide in the city, specifically in the Fire Quarter. Orn beamed at the team’s need of him. Undercroft was ideal. Under the Fire Quarter there were several old abandoned tunnels.
The Circle made haste to quarter and the house where Tholan had found the frozen sled dogs. A quick search of the house revealed a concealed trap door in the floor of the room. A secret door they had failed to notice the first time they were in the home.
Turning to Orn, they asked the young prince to run to Varin and report their discovery, along with the location of the house. Orn agreed and disappeared out the door.
Descending into the dark tunnels, the party kept quiet and a keen eye out for the wraiths. Thryan pulled on arcane magics and three points of light appeared in the air. At his direction, the lights expanded out from him down the tunnel. There was no sight of the enemy. However, as the lights lit up the tunnel, the sound of a soft wind echoed out of the darkness.
As they moved further down the hall, the sound of the wind grew louder. As they neared a junction, a wraith suddenly leaped out at them. The strange wind-like sound was coming from it, alerting anyone down the hall of the team’s presence.
Even as the wraith was dispatched, the wind-like sound issued from down the hall. It grew into a storm as a swarm of wraiths charged the team. Fearful of being attacked from multiple angles the party held back at a tunnel junction. Their tactics proved true as several wraiths charged out of the side tunnel that would have left the party trapped between the two advancing armies. The battle was fierce with Egil and Tholan taking point. Enlarged, Gorreg swung his massive weapon from behind them. Fire and arcane bolts of energy flared from Thryan. Arrows of death flew from Alrik’s bow.
Protected behind a wall of his wraiths, the master wraith from the house channeled dark energy at the heroes. As the cold necromantic energy struck them, it bit deeply. Hob tried to counter the creature’s dark magic with celestial energy that healed the creature’s touch.
Slowly the party pushed through the weaker wraiths toward their creator. Realizing his small army was being whittled away, the master wraith turned and fled back into the darkness. Gorreg’s eyes adjusted to the darkness and he watched the undead creature as it sought to hide from the group. Determined not to let it escape the party charged forward.
Ahead of them in the darkness, the creature descended a set of stairs. Prepared to follow him, the party found the stairs descended into a round chamber. Numerous other tunnels entered the room, all with a set of stairs that also descended to the chamber’s floor. A large arcane symbol painted in blood marred the floor of the chamber. The wraith was across the room, starting up a set of stairs out of the room. Below the party, blocking their path was a large Ulfen warrior, his skin pale blue. Two undead skeletal warriors proceeded him up the stairs toward the party.
Egil didn’t hesitate as he descended the stairs to meet the enemy. As usual, he let his sword do his talking. The Circle engaged the undead. The skeletal warriors stood their ground against the heroes. The wraith behind them pulled on necromantic energies and used it to repair any damage the heroes’ weapons did to the skeletons.
Alrik saw his enemy escaping before the party could defeat the undead blocking their path. Doubting success, Alrik pulled an arrow from his quiver and notched it. A thin silk rope was attached to the arrow. He fired and the arrow struck true. Reaching down, Alrik grabbed the rope but the strength of the master wraith nearly yanked him from the stairs.
Summoning arcane energy, Thryan unleashed a spell. Swirls of magic filled the stairs beneath the escaping master wraith’s feet. The energy coalesced into sticky webs, slowing the monster’s escape.
Working as a team, the Circle slowly wore through the skeletons and the wraith behind them. At the direction of the wraith, a skeleton sliced through Alrik’s rope. He dropped the piece he held and snatched up the rope again before the master wraith could pull it out of his reach. Tholan grabbed the rope and called on his bear totem. His muscles swelled with the power of the bear and the two succeeded in holding the rope. As the first skeleton fell, Egil jumped from the stairs to confront the wraith guiding the skeletons.
The second skeleton fell moments later, quickly followed by their master. Egil started across the room after the master wraith but at the guidance of Thryan and Hob avoided the arcane symbol painted on the room’s floor.
The master wraith’s escape was further foiled by a second arcane spell that left the stairs beneath him slick with a dark oily liquid. Each time the wraith attempted to pull against the rope, he found himself stuck in the web or slipping in the oil.
The party surrounded the master wraith. Seeing its defeat, the creature spoke, “Allow me to pass and I shall reward you!” From a frozen mouth, its words were a hiss. Gorreg responded to the creature with a smite from his weapon. The creature sought again to speak but the party descended on it with fury. It died quickly, its death answered from the tunnels with several shrieks of madness. The creature’s hold on its minions was broken. The madness of undeath drove them now.
Broke and seeking a reward for the day’s efforts, Egil searched the wraith’s clothing. He pocketed several gold coins.
Realizing the danger, the party began to retreat out of the tunnels. Thryan discovered Orn watching them from the darkness. The prince had followed them.
Before the Circle could exit the room, three of the maddened wraiths attacked the party. They were driven only by the desire to consume the heroes. Battle hardened, the party stood their ground and defeated the wraiths. They could hear the screeches of the creatures echoing through the tunnels but no more of the monsters attacked them as they led the young prince out of the tunnels.
The prince was excited by the encounter and brushed aside any chastisement from the party for putting himself in danger. He vowed to tell his father everything as he ran off, shouting cheers for the Circle of Niira.