The wind blows relentlessly outside the Lounging Turtle Inn. Delivering gales that can burst up to 110 km/hour. The cold rain chills flesh to the bone, and it feels like pins of needles are jabbing into the soft flesh, even if a cloak covers it. Lightning and Thunder light up the sky and make the very forest tremble, and along a mountainous highway, the isolated inn is full of passing travelers forced to stay indoors for fear of being blown away or sucumb to hypothermia.
It has been this way for some three days now. The patrons are enjoying the revenue that comes with travelers isolated by a storm and forced to pay for food and shelter; but at the same time, this storm threatens the very existence of that source of income. The fire wood is running low, and some of the patrons are starting to mumble that they will use the stools and chairs if it is needed.
Suddenly, the door bursts open as an old haggard man stumbles into the lobby. However, the majority of the people at the inn were more concerned about shutting the door then the condition of the gaunt figure. The billowing wind shatters mugs of ale as they plummet to the floor, and the fire threatens to go out. The door is shut after a lengthy struggle; and some turn to the man that had started the whole event.
Skinny and wrinkled in the face, the man's pale gray eyes speak volumes of his recent en devours. He is in shock, that can be confirmed even as he speaks; though it is more like crazy ramblings.
"The dead! The dead walk!" He starts. He looks for someone who will listen to him. This is where this man seems different from other senile delinquents; while most would simply continue to rant on, oblivious to whether or not people are listening; this one reads the reactions.
"I know it sounds crazy! But you must heed my warning! They will come from the valley if nothing is done!" He turns to the now silent lobby. "Heroes! The town of Maplecrest needs people seasoned in fighting to aid it! It is not lost yet! There are still some survivors! Barricaded in their homes! Who!? Who will save my family, my hometown!?"
Staring bewildered at my broken mug, which now lays a pile of ceramic and receding lager, I calmly trip the bloke that knocked it out of my hand and then step over his body as I heft my axe. "What sort of dead be ye speaking of?" I exclaim, approaching the old man.
Cyrus, grabbing his cup of mead, moved toward the man and the rather well equipped dwarf that had approached him. He hesitated and glanced around the tavern. Then with a spring in his step closed the gap between him and the old man quickly.
“Don’t expect the man to speak sensibly without a drink and a warm meal, good dwarf. Barkeep! I need a bowl of stew, and make it good and hot, this man needs the warmth.”
As he spoke he shoved his drink into the man’s hands and began to lead the man to a table. He looked back over his shoulder and signaled the dwarf to follow as well.
“Sir, you must eat. I will take this quest and it looks like I have at least one companion in this fine dwarf. I would also bet if you can calm yourself and tell us a bit more of what has happened, we will not make the door without a few more companions in tow. ”
The door is flung open and the wind batters my exposed head and face with slashing cold droplets of rain. At first the pain forces a flinching reaction from me but I quickly retreat into my mind forcing my body to relax in spite of the discomfort. The wind stops. I open my eyes to find my mug rolling overturned on the table in front of me. At first if feel the frustration of my slowness for not grabbing it, but then the calm that I have trained for settles once again my emotion. The cause of this disruption is revealed; the old man begins to speak. I can hear the fear of death in his voice and am not moved to pity. Fear is a weakness and death is inevitable. His eyes cast about for the sympathy of another to aid him. I lower my gaze but keep him in my field of vision. At last, his rant comes to an end. Thoughts race passively though my head as I reach for my cup and right it: 'The undead.' 'A sin against life and death.' 'The cause of this must be dealt with.' I feel no pressing desire to save the survivors in Maplecrest, but seeing the Dwarf and another strange being, I don't know anything about, go to the aid of the old man I know that they will go to its aid and it is with them that I will seek to end this plague.... with this I watch and wait for the right moment to offer to join them.
Posted on 2009-12-12 at 23:26:42.
Edited on 2009-12-12 at 23:28:41 by rivertothesea
As the wind subsides in the wake of the old relic's tirade, I casually tuck my auburn hair back behind my ear and straighten the manuscript I'd been reading, making an effort not to show my dismay. A ragged sigh escapes me as I recall the last time that the news of a plague of undead had reached me. Without looking in the man's eyes I knew that what he said was far from mad raving. With his first words I recognized the agonized, paralyzing fear which had gripped his heart and turned it to icy stone the instant he had laid eyes upon the unfortunate creature from the crypt which had driven him to our inn.
This is the fear that had driven me in a frantic race against death to reach my home just ten years ago when I was still a child. Thinking of it even now I can hear the thunder ringing in my ears as the unearthly moans of the tainted ones echoed at my back; my only thought of returning to our house on the outskirts of Roenbaum to warn my parents before...
I shudder as I push the memory from my mind, trying to force myself back to the present. As if in answer to my thoughts, a dwarf brusquely strides across the room behind me, clanging his axe against the mace leaning against my barstool as he passes. Clearly he is making ready to rid the fields of the menace.
With renewed purpose, I grip the mace at my side. As I look upon its murderous spines I reaffirm one solitary fact - perhaps the single most important piece of knowledge that I have, or ever will acquire. That fear - the fear of death, the fear of survival, the fear of loss - is no longer a part of my callused soul.
My eyes narrowed with determination, I stand, swinging the mace to its place at my belt and repositioning the spear at my back. Without yet acknowledging the party I stride to the window. I gaze through the rain beating savagely on the dingy pane and imagine silhouetted on the horizon the figures swaying madly; rooted in place until tempted by the prospect of living flesh for them to feast upon. I grin slyly at them through the glass.
Rodny Harfoot had been having a hard time lately. It’s hard to be a second story man when you can hardly see in the windows of the first floor. He’d been on his way to try out the homes in a new town, when the storm hit. His coinpurse had gotten slightly lighter over the last couple days, but his hosts were generous enough to give him some money back one night, though they didn’t know it.
When the old man came in and told his story, a plan began to form in Rodny’s mind. Undead almost always had valuables on their, well not their person anymore, but on their corpse. And no one got angry when you took those valuables, since you were providing a vital service to the local area.
This outbreak of undead had an additional bonus: it was in a town. That meant empty houses with belongings that people had been unable to take along with them. No town guards were likely to stop him either.
Slipping from his seat at the halflings’ bar, Rodny went over to the group that had begun to form around the distraught traveler. It looked as if those people would be his new traveling companions. He hoped that none of them would hold a grudge if he became the new owner of a few trinkets and baubles from Maplecrest.
Five figures of varying stature make their way to the old man who was raving about an undead menace. The first is a stout dwarf with a seemingly regal and noble aura about him. Though his trusted axe was with him, he had left his armor and other gear up in his room, for no adventuring was foreseen today with this mighty storm. He asked directly about the menace they would face: "What sort of dead be ye speaking of?"
But no sooner had he inquired of the exhausted man, when a Xeph: a psionicly inclined race, stepped up to aid the old traveler. He spoke with concepts that the dwarf would understand, “Don’t expect the man to speak sensibly without a drink and a warm meal, good dwarf".
This was true, for the man seemed to be in a bit of a rut. He was exhausted, both mentally and physically. He would soon enter shock no doubt, and with the rain the way it is hypothermia and pneumonia would soon follow. There was a good chance this poor old man would die unless he was taken care of.
The next to enter the party openly is a quick witted Halfling. A smug visage is about his face, and it is evident that at this point, more is going through his head instead of out his mouth. He offers his own services to the group.
With the party of three getting together, two more casually join the party. The first is a Dwarf, who aside from some gruff and sturdy bracers and a simple cloth tunic and rope belt; is essentially unarmed. No trade mark axe or hammer is about him, but any who look into his eyes can see years of experience and an uncanny insight are about him. Though he is without any steel or wooden weapons, it is evident he is more than capable of taking care of himself.
Finally, there is one who for the longest time is secluded in the depths of her own thoughts. Both human and elven blood run through her veins, and because of this; society has itself pushed her away. As she comes from her thoughts, and sees the group of males deciding what to do, she decides to join them. It would be expected that they would see her as an elf, for none belong to elven lineage. They would see her ears and decide right there what her heritage and proficiencies were: arrogant racist and only good with magic. Little did they know that they were going to get something a little different...
After the groups initial introductions, they have to make a decision: when will they leave? It is terribly cold out, and due to the regions geography, many dangers may be evaded if they wait until after the storm has passed. Furthermore, they may want to get more information out of this old man, and that would mean taking care of him until he was in a state that would allow him to explain more thoroughly what is happening and what lead up to the present state of Maplecrest.
However, it seemed that the situation is extremely dire in that town. And while they live and must deal with cold, sickness, fatigue, and hunger; the undead will not. If they delay, it might give their enemies more time to gather up and spread! It has been three days since the storm started, and it could go on for who knows how long!
A verdict must be reached, and action must be taken.
Sensing the stillness of indecision in the room, I stand and make known my intention.
"It would be foolish, to move before the storm clears. This man having come from Maplecrest just ended his journey here and look at him. He is not fit to fight anything. We would be in the same condition to fight the undead should we move in spite of the elements. I will fight against them, in this man's town but only when I have a fighting chance."
With this I end and make eye contact with the old man, trying to divine even a hit of reaction to this news. Does he sympathize with me or has his need overcome his reason?
Posted on 2009-12-20 at 23:35:50.
Edited on 2009-12-20 at 23:37:27 by rivertothesea
But how long could we wait before all the survivors were dead? It would not make as great of a story if the hero’s arrived too late to save the people. But it would make even worse of a story if the hero’s rushed in and died. I did not want to die. That would be bad. Almost worse than going home without having proven anything. Dying might be better than that.
I looked towards the door and imagined being stuck locked up in a house in the middle of a blizzard and surrounded by undead. I imagined how terrified I would be, how badly I would hope for help to come swiftly. I also let my mind wonder the kind of trinkets I might use to reward such help.
I then thought about the possibility looting bodies instead to find such trinkets. Then I thought about how those bodies would be walking. I thought how those corpses wouldn’t feel any emotion of happiness to see us; rather these moving pieces of flesh would try to tear us apart.
I decided that I much preferred the company of the living. These thoughts also began to shake my initial enthusiasm and confidence for this adventure.
“I feel that the greatest issue is knowledge. We need to know what we are delving into before we go charging in.” I looked out the window, imagining struggling through the wind, and my voice wavered. “But I am not keen on letting what survivors are left to die and add to the problem when they could be a safe place to rest instead. Who knows, they might even be decent company.” I tried to add jolly tone to my voice in the last sentence. It didn't work.
I sucked in a deep breath and tried to force more confidence into my voice. “I see your perspective Bogardine. But I vote to wait a few hours and glean what we can from the old man and then set out as long as there is light."
My voice was weak, there was no way they were going to buy it, I needed another selling point. "I do not think the cold will be a problem. I have my reasons to believe we will fair far better than the old man. I have ways of keeping the cold out of my bones.”
I was hesitating to look towards Bogardine, who had made his view about the storm clear enough. I hoped he did not feel I was trying to undermine him. His fists seemed well worn and dwarves are not well known for their patience. I was about to look back towards the group, but then I just decided to keep my eyes on the door and wait for a verbal response…
Posted on 2009-12-22 at 10:56:26.
Edited on 2009-12-22 at 10:58:36 by ColbrynMatthew13
As I sit and listen to what the Old Man has to say I decide that it would be a good idea to get moving as soon as possible, however, if we waited an hour or so to see if the storm may calm just a little it would not hurt. In this I agree with the Xeph. "I say that we should be moving as soon as we are able. Hopefully this weather will clear by the time we are ready to go. If it is not, we should still be ok, as I am sure everyone was smart enough to bring the correct supplies, right?" With this I head upstairs to prepare for the impending journey.
Seeing the group congregate together, a young fidgety man creeps up. A stutter is in his voice as he speaks up.
“ You are going to travel t-to that t-t-town? If y-you want, I can cast a spell on you all so that you can travel without hi-hinder of the cold. In return I want t-t-twenty gold coins from each of you. I will be postponing m-my travels by a day and I will need some money t-to make up for it.”
I sit and set my now tightly clenched fists into my lap focusing on calming myself. The response from my dwarven kinsman, was so senseless, reckless, and arrogant. If we had the supplies which the weather required then we might have already left here, but as it stands men seek to postpone even short exposures to elements because of their ferocity. He was still, however, a Dwarf and as such deserving of some consideration and patience from me. His assumptions still bothered me as I fought to maintain the rigid control of exterior expression of the furious turmoil of anger that burn against him.
If it were not for the rather convenient appearance of the traveling wizard, I would had found it hard to let this disapproval go. If what this Wizard offered would indeed shield us, then our task was laid plainly before us we must make all haste to travel to the town while the advantage might still be ours. At last we would have a means to go as the Knight had suggested. 'If he had not left the room he certainly would have been pleased to hear this,' I rationalize to myself. With that I was calm again.
"I will pay your fee, kind wizard, but please tell us what has delayed you?" I say. "Surely the weather does not stop one who can shield from the cold..."
I heard the Knight. I heard the Wizard. I heard the Monk.
The Knight was foolish. It was crazy to head out into the storm. Even with appropriate gear we would find ourselves in lots of trouble. He had no idea what I had up my sleeve. Or, at least I did not accredit him to be perceptive enough to catch my subtle hint.
The Wizard was a blessing. I would spend the money to save my energy. If it took more than a day I could always use my Endure the Elements power. But, for the first day I would have the energy to throw around some extra offensive power.
The monk was untrusting.
I turned to face the Wizard and the rest of the group. “The cold might not stop someone who can shield the cold out. But warmth still feels good; especially a warm meal, and that can keep a man out of the storm. Am I right friend?”
But not waiting for any actual response, I asked the question I did want the answer to, “would this price be for each of us or all of us? By all means I am not complaining sir, just understanding the deal before I agree to it.”
This could send us on our journey. We could be on our way in moments. This could be the beginning of tale worth taking home.
"I will pay your fee, kind wizard, but please tell us what has delayed you?" I say. "Surely the weather does not stop one who can shield from the cold..."
“The cold might not stop someone who can shield the cold out. But warmth still feels good; especially a warm meal, and that can keep a man out of the storm. Am I right friend?”
“I st-tay because though heat may be of no issue, I would find the wind too hard for my frail body. T-the chance of mud slides, rock slides, and so forth is also n-not something I wish to encounter. I was holding out until t-today; but since you all might be so keen to be on your way, I could wait another day.
“would this price be for each of us or all of us? By all means I am not complaining sir, just understanding the deal before I agree to it.”
"Well, I will gladly pay to keep the cold out," I say, looking at the wizard. "I suggest we leave an hour after sunrise, or an hour after the sun would rise, if it weren't for this damn storm." With that I slide off the bench at the old man's table.
"There are only two choices to make tonight, and we better decide which is more important. Shall we stay up and discuss the best plan of action, or get a night's rest and make up a plan as we journey along." I look around the table at my new companions, trying to gauge their feelings on this matter. "I for one vote we plan on the way. Conditions may change as we get closer, and I would rather have a flexible plan to use when we come across these undead."