What is it about the moathouse that attracts rootless ne’er-do-wells and wanna-be heroes to its dungeons like moths to a flame? Dithaniel, one of Burne’s Badgers, after talking up his exploits for several months, convinced a few of his drinking buddies and passing travelers that the evil cult was on the defensive, and that a brave and cunning party might deal a killing blow to Hommlet’s long-time scourge, or at least deprive them of their ill-gotten riches. The party numbered six: Gruber Coggins and Falden, vetrans of the Pan-Alyan Army, Gerilynn, foreign proselytizer for a mystery religion who had nevertheless endeared to Hommlet in defending the village from a surprise assault about a year ago, Cinderblock, the ironically-named thief, and Bandague, a man of undefined talents.
When the party reached the environs of the Moathouse, Gerilynn recalled the stories of other adventurers about the giant frogs that lived in the moat, and that congregated especially around the main entrance. The party circled the moathouse and found another entrance, crossing by way of stepping stones to a breach in the wall of the main house. Dithaniel led the way. The rest of the party hesitated, and before they could enter, the frogs were upon them. Dithaniel and Bandague were good shots and killed the first frogs that emerged from the water. The others took flight and the party hurried into the moathouse.
They found the pit that would take them the lower level where, according to Dithaniel, the cult made their headquarters. But before venturing below, the party explored the main level. They encountered and slew a giant lizard in the main hall. Peering out through an arrow slit, the party observed a small pack of feral dogs in the courtyard—and decided they could be left alone..
The lower levels seemed similarly empty. The party explored several empty galleries. Careful observation discovered a trail in the dust leading from a store room and across an empty hall to the middle of a blankwall. Cinderblock discovered that one of the blocks in the wall could be pushed in such a way to create a narrow passage. The party squeezed through into a small room in which they found another secret door. There they found a flight of stairs leading down. They noticed the glow of torches from the bottom of the stairs. And heard human voices.
Cinderblock crept ahead. Drawing closer, he could distinguish two male voices and the sound of their footfalls as they walked down the corridor. He followed behind them at a safe distance and beckoned the rest of the party to follow some distance behind them. He followed the patrol through an intersection of multiple corridors and into another long corridor that ended at a door. Here the party called out and the men, both wearing black cloaks with a yellow eye design stopped. The conversation was brief and—for the two men—fatal. Cinderblock and Dithaniel took their cloaks.
The party opened the door. A long tunnel extended beyond them, and there was a faint, fresh breeze from that direction. To their left was another door. Cinderblock held his ear to the door and heard voices. After a brief discussion, it was decided that Cinderblock and Dithaniel would open the door, wearing the cloaks, pretending to be cultists.
The ruse worked long enough to kill the first guard and wound a second. The rest of the party poured in and a general melee ensued. The party had the advantage of surprise and numbers, and Gerilynn used her prayers to heal those who sustained injuries. Several cultists were killed and the party pressed closer. They reached a barracks room as they heard a general alarm being sounded. Dithaniel was badly wounded in the barracks room and the party decided to retreat, gambling that the long corridor that they had just discovered would bring them to open air.
Hearing pursuit, the party decided that Cinderblock should go ahead with Dithaniel while the rest of the party stayed to fight their pursuers. Many of the cultists were lightly-armed, poorly-trained former peasants and they fell to the party’s arrows. Their commanders, however, were experienced killers. A single swordsman injured Gruber and severely wounded Falden, before he himself was killed by a surprise stab in the back from Cinderblock. Cinderblock told the others that the passage did lead to outside and that he’d helped Dithaniel find a hiding place in a briar patch.
But before the part’s remnant could make their escape, the apparent lead of the cultists—a man with a staff with long black robes appeared, accompanied by another swordsman. The cult leader commanded Gerilynn to die—and she fell to the ground. Gruber and Bandague charged the cult leader while Cinderblock fought the swordsman. The cult leader struck Bandague dead with his staff while also deflecting the flows of Gruber’s battleaxe. Meanwhile the swordsman drove Cinderblock into a corner. Gruber broke away from the cult leader to check Gerilynn’s body and while that she was still alive. He helped her to her feet, and together they killed the second swordsmen. The cult leader struck Cinderblock with his staff and then fled as a sudden dark fog dropped over the party. Gruber dragged the swordsmen’s bodies into the light and looted their bodies—both carried a small handful of gems in his purse. Falden and Cinderblock were severely injured and could only walk with assistance and encouragement from Gerilynn and Gruber. Bandague’s body was abandoned and the party hurried as fast as the wounded would allow toward the opening at the end of the tunnel.
Safely outside, they found Dithaniel and then climbed together to the top of a hill. From the top of this hill they could see to the north and west, the moathouse and the surrounding marsh, forest and thicket to the south, and to the east an open plain. Their discussion was cut short when they saw the cult leader-- with reinforcements—emerging from the tunnel.
They party limped as fast as they could over the plains to the east. Their pursuers moved with a jerky, unnatural gait, the cult leader urging them onward from some distance behind them. Slow but relentless, the six zombies followed the party for hours. As the afternoon wore into evening, things began to look very bleak. Off to the right, Gerilynn spotted a flash of purple in a copse of trees. Through the trees, Gruber saw the diagonal outlines of rooftops. They broke to the right, hoping they were nearing a human settlement. But drawing nearer, the buildings proved to be long-abandoned shells, the flash of purple a dress caught up in tree branches and shredded by the elements. Nevertheless, the party resolved to make their last stand.
As the zombies approached, the cult leader quickly closed the distance and began waving his arms and speaking in a strange guttural voice. Gruber fired two arrows at him—both went wild. Gerilynn was frozen in place. The other injured party members stumbled toward the ruined buildings. The cult leader turned and fled. Gruber fired two more arrows after him—both deflected by the armor under his robes—as the zombies approached. Gruber fired a last arrow at a zombie, before dropping his bow and readying his battle axe. He swung the axe ferociously, and killed two of the walking dead as they approach. The others surrounded him, bludgeoning him with their limbs. The zombies were slow-moving, but fearless fighters. Gruber was knocked to the ground, but got up, hacking off one zombie’s leg and another’s head. The remaining two came at him from both sides pushing him back and forth between them and striking him in face and on the head. He fell to the ground and rolled away, then jumped to his feet—they came after him and he destroyed one and then the other. Gruber fell to the ground exhausted.
Soon it was dark. Gerilynn recovered from the magical paralysis. The party decided they would press on through the night, leaving the woods from the path along the plains. The moon was not enough that they had little difficulty staying to the path. Near midnight, they reached a proper road. They followed the road into a village. At the first house they were rebuffed, bt at the second, a farmer told them they might stay in the barn until morning.
The next morning, the party introduced themselves to the people of Wildege. The people there had, like Hommelet, suffered the deprivations of the cultists. They were half-gladdened, half-alarmed to hear of the party’s success in depleting the cultist’s forces. There was not an inn in the Wildege, and they were not used to hosting travelers but—Gerilynn agreed to pay handsomely to stay a week or two in a solid and dry barn and eat warm meals by a fire— they were welcomed.