Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hommelet is in some sense impressed-- and yet . . .

Angus and Lem wanted a place where they could keep their brightly-colored frogs without bothering anyone or anyone bothering them.  About a mile south of Hommelet, they found a spotted a dilapidated barn and bargained with its owner, “Mama,” and her lodger/servant, “Mr. Penny” to rent the place for a month.  There were chickens but no large animals, and it was plenty wet enough for the frogs.   They made a wooden box, filled it with dirt and started catching crickets to feed them.
down to the shed by Brayo
Lem asked the frogs if they liked their new home.  The Blue ones did, especially the food.  The White ones liked it, except that they didn’t like being so near the Blue ones.  The Red one had nothing to say.  He was inside a Blue frog’s belly.  Lem made a barricade to separate the Blue and White frogs.  And then, feeling a bit out-of-sorts after sleeping under a leaky roof for three or four nights in a row, Lem went to spend to find a nice warm bed in the forest.  He was replaced by Arpad and Roark.  They didn’t care so much about the frogs as the cheap rent.
One night, the barn-dwellers were awakened by a traveling priest, the overnight guest of one of the neighboring homesteads.  His hosts were under attack!  The Wandering Dead were breaking down the front door!  (Some in Hommelet have wondered why the priest and only the priest managed to slip out the back, but that’s Hommelet for you.)
The three adventurers formed an instant alliance with the traveling priest.  Hearing screams at a second house that was under attack, Roark charged to investigate.  Already two zombies had broken in and killed the man of the house.  Roark shot one of the zombies with arrows and lured the other back outside, giving the children and their mother a chance to escape.  Meanwhile Angus intercepted two more zombies as they were breaking into Mama’s house and destroyed them.  Arpad and his fellow priest killed zombies wandering the yards between the houses. 
But then as Angus emerged from Mama’s house, he was set upon by a pair of the wandering dead.  For the first time, he saw his foes clearly—they were the frog men that they had killed in the forest, now reanimated with unholy magic.  Using both the same spiked clubs and their own limbs as weapons, they struck Angus down in the dooryard.  The priests rushed to his rescued in time to save his life, and Roark killed the last of the zombies.
When at last their foes were slain, they went to check on the first house, knowing what they would find.  The priests said a prayer for the slain family, and then all the bodies were burned, the innocents wrapped in shrouds, the undead in haphazard pile. 

A Christmas Tree on Fire by Jamison Wieser
a photo by Jamison Wieser on Flickr.
The next morning, a farmer wandering by was stopped by the widow who told her terrible tale and asked to be escorted into the village.  Roark and Arpad ran ahead of them, rousing Steele the Paladin (He does have a name.  It’s Steele.  We’re not sure how it’s spelled but we need to know so we can carve it on a tree.) and beseeching him to plead their case with the village council.

Everyone agreed what was going on.  The newcomers were a serious threat to an evil power that resided in the area.  And when that evil power fought back, innocents were going to die.  So the newcomers needed to finish what they started, and quickly.  They asked for and received more holy water and longbows.  And then Steele, Roark, and Arpad decided they should visit the moathouse again.  They had seen zombies there.  And the zombies who attacked the farm were re-animated frogmen, probably the bodies of the forgmen they had killed on the road to the moathouse.  That was where the evil lived.
Angus was too wounded to accompany them.  Lem had not come back from his visit to the forest.  And Godith had become thoroughly engaged in an local game involving balls and sticks that she was learning from the village youth.  And writing jolly good poems about it, too.  There was one Caber, another wanderer and resident at the Inn who promised that he was good with a bow and asked to join them.  And so he did.
The four heroes (five if you count the mule) made their way to the Moathouse.  At the scene of their battle with the wild frog men, the bodies of the vanquished were predictably missing.  As they came close to being in sight of the moathouse, they departed from the path and hacked and tramped through underbrush and march, taking a widdershins route around the moathouse, aiming for the northeast corner where they’d made their earlier entry.
Before they reached that point they came upon a faint but definite trail, seeming to lead from the moathouse or its vicinity to points further east.  After some debate, they crossed that path and reached the northeast corner where they crossed the sludge-filled moat and entered the moathouse.

Swamp Ruins by Drik7
Swamp Ruins, a photo by Drik7 on Flickr.
Soon after entering they saw a flash of red light from the end of a corridor.
They explored the great hall and both wings, surprising several solitary zombies standing guard, watching the courtyard through an arrow slit.  These zombies were destroyed.  They also found the source of the red light—very large )two feet long) beetles with glowing red glands.  The beetles fled from light and sound, but the party surprised several of them, killing them and harvesting their glands as a light source.

And then one surprised them.  After climbing out of a pit and onto the walls and then ceiling, one dropped on Roark, and caught his neck between its mandibles.  Fleeing he shook off the terrible thing and his comrades destroyed it.  Arpad kicked the body into the pit and they a horrible once-human trying to climb up the sides.  Steele pour a vial of holy water onto and the creature—like a zombie, but more thoroughly imbued with undead energy, capable of movement as fast as a living man.  The company began to consider their options.  A loud piercing unmitigated shriek drowned out their voices and their thoughts.  Braving another glance into the pit, they saw that the glowing glands of the dead beetle were beginning to fade, consumed by the greenish sludge that covered the bottom of the pit.  They dumped a canister of oil, followed by a torch into the bit, the entire insect carcass caught on fire and in its light they better perceived the nature of the room beneath them.  At least forty feet by forty feet, it was covered with greenish slime except for where it had been burned away by the fire.  In the eastern end of the room, a half-dozen giant mushrooms seemed to emerge from the slime and these fungi seemed to be the source of the wailing.  The undead creature had returned, with a friend, and they were both smiling, especially when the company started shooting them with arrows.  The slime turned black under their feet.
Then Caber and Steele started shooting silver arrows.  The undead creatures fled again. 
Rather than chase them, the party decided to take a breath of fresh air outside in the courtyard.  But wait—Steele sensed the presence of evil there, coming from the sinkhole next to the crumbling curtain wall.   Surveying the pit from the safety of an arrow slit, they saw it was filled with refuse and foot-long centipedes—nothing obviously and categorically evil.  The company tore up some of the zombies they’d killed earlier and tossed hunks of carrion toward the edge of the pit, hoping to draw out some of the centipedes.  This proved effective and the company processed and distributed more and more chum to the centipedes.  When about a score had crawled out of the pit and no more seemed likely to follow, Steele ventured into the courtyard for a closer look.  The pit was at the base of the curtain wall and seemed the result of natural entrophy—rubble from beneath the curtain wall.  A scrap of cloak was visible, emerging from the raw earth about halfway down the 10-foot pit.  There were silver coins littered here and there along with bones, refuse, centipedes, and a dead man lying face down, his flesh nearly consumed by the centipedes.  After being prodded by Steele, he rose from the the pit, only to cleaved in two and sent to his final final rest.

A few centipedes, perhaps confused perhaps not hungry, perhaps enjoying their own private repasts in the pit presented a challenge to retrieving the pit’s more interesting contents.  So Roark and Caber shot those centipedes with arrows.  Next Roark secured himself with a rope and asking his companions to hold it, he climbed into the pit and begin pulling on the cloth.  More loosened rubble and clods of earth tumbled down, along with a skeleton that spilled out of its winding shroud.  And also a staff of long mace.  Roark grabbed the staff and got out of the pit.  The silver coins were buried but no matter.  The new staff—or maybe rod—was about 6 feet long, made of heavy wood with one end wider than the other and about two-thirds of its length embedded with metal studs.  A brass disk, engraved with a sunburst capped the wide end.
And so, burdened with their mysterious treasure rather than their wounded companions, the company returned to Hommelet.

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