After months or years of wandering from one village to another and through trackless forests,
Kirioto and Ed were ready to try their luck again in the dungeons below the ruined moathouse.
They returned to Hommelet and offered their services to Burne who was, indeed still seeking the legendary pools that were the key to understanding elven magic.
Burne had a new assistant, Vegan, who eager to prove himself worthy, gladly joined the quest.
They recruited Phoenix, a brash warrior lass, ready to test herself.
The party was completed by Dane, a priest of Raud who was looking for Gerrilyn, a fellow disciple who disappeared from the mother church some time ago and last seen by the people of Hommelet about to venture out on her own expedition to the moathouse.
The guards at the moathouse (a.k.a. Burne's Badgers) helpfully moved the pile of rocks and debris that held down the dungeon trapdoor, whistling a syncopated version of a well-known funeral dirge. The party lit their torches and ventured down a flight of well-constructed wooden stairs, narrowly missing a glob of green slime that fell from the ceiling and began dissolving the wooden steps. Stepping over the slime, the party reached the bottom of the stairs and began to look around. Ed pointed out the hallway where their companion Vlad had met his death by zombies. Kirioto noted some newly-constructed doors. Locked.
Rebuffed by the threat of zombies and the locked doors, the party found a third option, a series of square rooms connected by old, unlocked doors. Listening outside one of them, Ed heard noises-- footsteps, the grinding of stone on stone. By the time they opened the door, there was no sound, not sound of what had made it. There was, however, a small cell, and within it a prisoner. Ed picked the lock and Dane addressed the prisoner. He was dressed in Burne's livery and seemed in decent health, though a bit smelly, and very confused. He offered them some food-- there was indeed a slection of bread, fruit, and wine in the cell. Dane declined and pressed him for his story. The man, who remembered his name was Sief, explained that he was one of Burne's Badgers and that, he had ventured into the dungeon alone. Because he was hungry. And met some talking bears. Convinced that he was harmless, the party escorted him up the stairs. "Watch your step!"
The other Badgers were happy and surprised to see him. "We thought you deserted!"
"Dessert? The Bears will bring us some pudding!"
The party went back into the dungeon. Emboldend by the successful rescue, the party broke down the first of the pair of new doors and found a cache of weapons and food, including dried fruit like that which Sief had been eating. Ed, feeling paranoid, convinced the rest of the party that they needed to deal with the zombies or risk being surprised later.
Phoenix led the way down the zombie hallway. As she passed the first of several large pillars, two zombies lumbered after her. Ed shouted an alarm and Phoenix whirled to defend herself. The battle was on.
A row of five cell doors opened and more zombies started to emerge. Phoenix leapt into action, holding one of the doors closed and one pair of zombies trapped inside. Dane tried to turn the zombies, but faltered, and, still gripping his holy symbol in one hand, also readied is war hammer. Kirioto drew his sword and slashed one of the zombies to pieces. Ed stepped back and notched an arrow. Vegan mumbled what sounded like magic words that didn't seem to have any noticeable effect.
As the crowd of zombies approached, Dane charged to meet them. The rest of his party hung back. Phoenix held the door, and Kirioto assisted her, fending off the remaining zombie that had attacked from behind the pillar. Ed shot an arrow that went wild. Vegan cast another spell. Dane bashed one of the zombies in the face before being surrounded and killed by the others. Ed gave the order to retreat. All responded. Phoenix hesitated, but at least released the door and ran her fastest.
The party ran back to the storage room and up the stairs. They heard the zombies tearing up Dane. On the other side of the trapdoor, the Badgers were a little slow in answering the call to open the trapdoor. "Back again? Again? Already?"
Not wanting to say anything that might discourage the guards from opening the trapdoor, the party didn't say anything about the zombies, who by, the sound of it, were slowly drawing closer. "Yeah," Kirioto explained, "we accidentally started a fire." This was also true. When two zombies appeared at the bottom of the stairs, Ed through his lantern at them, followed by a flask of oil. Both zombies burst into flames. "Yeah," Vegan added, "And I had to pee. It smells really bad." This was also true.
While the lackadaisical Badgers, rolled away the stones, the party watched in horror as two burning zombies began climbing the stairs. The first was completely consumed by flames, but the second kept climbing higher-- until it fell into the hole created by the green slime! Clouds of black smoke filled the air as the fire burned up the zombie, the slime, and-- by the time the trapdoor was opened, the flight of wooden stairs. The Badgers pulled the party to safety and then slammed the door shut.