The sun was just setting when the dead began to walk.
Thornclaw, a druid and recently named Warden of the Southwood, had met Tanis, an eladrin guardsman for the Town of Loudwater, at the western gate to give his report. He had crisscrossed the Southwood all day on business of his own and had seen nothing out of the ordinary. He reported the same to the guardsman.
Not one for chitchat, the druid was wrapping up his conversation and preparing to leave when the pair spotted a hooded figure loping towards them across the field from the wood’s edge. The figure was of average height, lithe and graceful, and wore a traveler’s cloak over leather armor. He hailed the pair and approached, pulling back his hood to reveal the visage of a half-orc.
“Greetings guardsman. My name is Keef, and I am a traveler from Waterdeep. On my way here I passed through a large cemetery on the far side of these woods when I chanced upon something curious. I heard voices in a mausoleum, and thinking it nothing but a mourner I respectfully kept my distance. But the voices got louder, and I realized it was but one voice, clearly in conversation with itself. The voice rose to a shriek, talking of ‘getting revenge on the town for failing her’ and other such things. Also, the word Necronomicon was uttered, before the voice became completely unintelligible and, I’m not proud to say, more than a bit frightening. I took my leave hastily and came directly here to warn you. I know it seems a fantastic tale, but I assure you that every word is completely true.”
The guardsman looked off into the distance. “Oh, I believe you traveler.” He nodded over the half-orc’s shoulder, and Keef and Thornclaw both turned to see three skeletons shamble out from the edge of the wood, heading directly for the town.
Thornclaw’s longbow appeared in his hands, and in a blink an arrow shot forth to strike the closest Skeleton and drop it to the ground. Keef pulled a hand crossbow from his belt and took more careful aim; the bolt struck a second skeleton in the forehead shattering his skull, knocking it flat on its back. The third skeleton came on, and from the woods several zombies emerged.
Tanis moved to intercept the closest zombie. He traded blows with it in a flash that left the zombie in pieces on the ground. The trio moved to intercept the rest of the invaders; while Tanis drew their attacks, Thornclaw slashed at their flanks while Keef picked them off with his crossbow or darted in with a sneak attack when circumstances allowed. In short order all the creatures lay dead at their feet.
Heavy footsteps announced the arrival of Captain Harrowleaf, Tanis’ superior, and a squad of guards. Tanis explained Keef’s story as well as what happened in the battle. Harrowleaf was familiar with the graveyard and knew that two members of the Windu family, whose mausoleum Keef encountered, were acolytes in the temple of Avandra. He requested Thornclaw to follow up with them, and Keef decided to tag along with the promise of a reward.
The pair called upon the temple and were introduced to Mada and Marwyn Windu. Mada was a paladin in training while his sister was learning the healing skills of a cleric. The two adventurers interviewed them and learned that their younger brother Nace had recently lost a fiancée and was overcome with grief. They also learned that the pair were pledged to the Marwyn as a pact the Windu family had made to atone for the sins of a distant relative; a necromancer of some disrepute who had caused no small amount of trouble in the Gray Vale centuries ago.
The group deduced that Nace must have somehow discovered some writing or artifact of this relative and used it to tap the power of the dark arts. The Windu siblings insisted on accompanying Thornclaw and Keef to the cemetery to investigate further.
It was full night by the time they arrived at the graveyard. Three large stone obelisks stood in front of a large, fenced-in mausoleum. Several men stood before the obelisks while more waited behind the decrepit wrought iron fence. They wore simple clothes and minimal armor, and carried simple weapons. Their eyes widened in fear at the appearance of the druid and his companions.
Thornclaw called ahead. “You there; stand down. We come with representatives of the Windu family, and we need to enter the mausoleum. Stand aside!”
The men before the obelisk looked somewhat cowed by the appearance of the shifter and his band. “We cannot yield. We are here to make sure you do not pass. The mausoleum must not be disturbed!”
The half-orc Keef spoke up. “We seek to end the threat of a necromancer who is meddling with powers beyond his control. We have no quarrel with you, and you will be allowed to leave peacefully if you stand aside. Either way, you will not stop us.”
Thornclaw shouted again. “Last chance! Stand aside!”
One of the rabble yelled back, “We can’t they have our families. I can’t say anymore. We won’t come after you but we can’t let you through.”
The men did not budge, and the battle was on. Thornclaw and Mada rushed the men while Keef skirted the battle, seeking to circle right around an obelisk to get a flanking position on the men. As he rounded the stone structure, he saw a heavily-armored fighter lurking in the shadows. The man saw him too and immediately pulled his sword. Keef fired his hand crossbow and hastily retreated.
Thornclaw and Mada were making quick work of the ruffians when the armored man attacked. A second armored fighter from behind another of the obelisks joined him in the fight. Besides being well protected, their weapons were of better quality and they clearly knew how to use them. Both Thornclaw and Mada shed blood to their weapons, and Marwyn rushed in to heal their wounds.
Keef re-entered the fight by backstabbing one of the two fighters. That man was quickly overwhelmed, and the party made quick work of his partner and the remaining ruffians. Turning their attention to those at the mausoleum, the party saw that the rabble were being used to keep the heroes from breaching the fence while two lightly armored men with slings stood behind waiting. Keef spotted another gap in the fence behind the slingers and stealthily began to make his way there. Thornclaw and Mada engaged the mob head on, fighting through the gap in the fence to access the mausoleum.
The slingers hurled missiles at the paladin and druid while the ruffians kept them from advancing. It looked to be a long battle of attrition until Keef backstabbed one of the slingers. He had made his way patiently around the fight without being noticed, and now was in the face of the slingers, effectively nullifying them. Without the rain of missiles, Thornclaw and Mada made quick work of the remaining blockers.
After a short rest, the party gathered itself and entered the mausoleum. It was a large structure in the shape of a cross. Grave niches yawned open along the sides of the mausoleum, and at the rear a cowled figure stood before a glowing red altar.
Marwyn called out. “Nace? Is that you? Mada and I are here. We beg you to stop this madness and return with us!”
In answer, five figures rose from the floor of the crypt, forming a wall between the heroes and the altar. As they moved closer, the party saw that they were more undead, skeletons and zombies raised by the necromancer.
“Fools!” The hooded speaker shouted. “You cannot hope to resist the- urk!” The speech was cut off as one of Thornclaw’s arrows slammed into his shoulder. “You will pay for your- arrrgh!” Keef’s crossbow bolt hit him in the gut, drawing blood and merciful silence.
The undead wall advanced, and Mada and Thornclaw moved to intercept. Behind him, his sister raised her holy symbol and called upon the power of Avandra. As she prayed, her symbol glowed with light, halting the undead advance and forcing them back. The light grew ever brighter until three of the five creatures burst into flames and collapsed into heaps on the floor. The rest of the party made short work of the remaining two.
Nace stepped out from behind the altar, flanked by two more of the undead. As he walked towards the party, he raised his hands to summon more of the creatures to his side. The party took advantage of the short lull to heal and fortify themselves as best they could before charging the necromancer. They exploited their speed versus the undead to flank and strike repeatedly. They whittled down the undead horde faster than the necromancer could create them, until finally they were left facing only him. Marwyn called for mercy as Thornclaw struck the final blow, leaving the necromancer broken and bleeding on the floor, but alive.
Keef was eyeing the open crypts, wondering how he might surreptitiously check them for valuables. Marwyn caught his eye with a grin. “The dead have already been disturbed, and you’ve done them a great service by ending this threat. I’m sure they’d be more than willing to part with their earthly treasures in return.” Keef literally skipped off to begin the looting.
Mada turned to Thornclaw. “My sister speaks true; you have done a great service to us, our family and to the town. We will be sure they hear of it. We also thank you for sparing Nace; I’m sure with our love and Avandra’s help he can be made to see the error of his ways. He lost his way, but there is good in him; I know it.
The party bound the necromancer, gathered their gear and began the journey back to Loudwater. On their way through the graveyard Keef stopped to look at one of the well armed men. He noticed that he was wearing a tabbard with the insgnia of a back with two daggers sticking out of it.
Upon their return Marwyn and Mada brought their brother to the temple for healing. Keef and Thornclaw reported back to Tanis. When he mentioned about the rabble being afraid of the their families being hurt Tanis thanked them and said that he would report back to Capitan Harrowind.