Friday, April 25, 2014

PBM: Chapter 2: Handle With Care: Part 5

In which the parade gets rained on...

GM
On the other side, the muddy track of the road runs strait west, up away from the river-bank, and vanishes into a wall of tall grasses, marking the edge of the prairies which Rant informs you are known to the Eraka as “Segara Saka Suket”, the Sea of Grass. As the road vanishes, Rant’s spell goes too, leaving the animals once again struggling slowly through the mud and the axles of the wagon tangling in the grasses. To your right, just north of the bridge, you see a wide area where the grass appears blackened and blighted, somehow made even more dreary and unpleasant-looking by being drenched in rain, in the center of which stands a shoulder-height, ornate wrought-iron fence, surrounded by a knee-high stone wall. A few stray paving stones make it look as if the road from the bridge once ran right up to the gates. As if to encouraged by your proximity to the old graveyard, the rain picks up and a flash of lightning streaks across the sky.

Donovan
Donovan pulls up on the reins to slow the oxen before they get hung up in the tall grass. He flinches at the crack of thunder overhead and pulls his hood lower. He stops the wagon at the edge of the Grass Sea and stands up to try to see farther through the mist and rain. “Lyra, council reward or no, I’d rather not go poking into Valhingen Graveyard on a day like this. I’d prefer to swing wide around the graveyard as well, but that means heading out into the open prairie before cutting back north and east, but that looks like it will be extremely slow. Unless someone wants to walk ahead of the cows and hack a road for us.” He sits back down and pushes the crossbows under the bench to try to keep them dry. “If you want to take a look, Lyra, I suggest that we do a drive-by. If we stick to the verge where the dead grass is, it should be easier going for the wagon and get us close enough, but not too close, to take a peak at your graveyard, and hopefully get us north of the city faster…”

Frantiska
Despite sitting on horseback in the mud and the now driving rain, Frantiska somehow manages to still look calm and dignified—her soaked clothing does not cling, her raven dark hair stays out of her face, and the mud somehow does not stick. She turns Thistledown, who looks particularly unamused at having mud up to her girth, north towards the graveyard and leads the way, “Let’s get moving then.”

Donovan
Donovan struggles to back up and turn the cart to follow his decisive new friend. “So, Lyra, what are we looking for again?”

Lyra
Lyra kneeled behind the driver’s bench, bow across her lap. “If I recall correctly, the council wants any information on the nature of whatever has taken up residence there. The grass itself isn’t much of an indicator, unfortunately. I can think of a half dozen reasons just offhand—magic, defilement, curses, a strong connection to the negative plane, a strong connection to one of the lower planes. Maybe that’s just a particularly unusual looking native specimen.”

GM
The wagon rolls slowly past the old cemetery, the steady creek of the wheels and drip of rain occasionally accented by a clap of thunder. A breeze blowing off the sea from the south sends the rain pelting in through the back of the wagon, strait into Brother Rant’s face, but means that Lyra is kept relatively dry. Sitting on the bench beside Donovan, Teldicia lights of fog lantern and shines it ahead of you. The black grasses do not seem to bother anything, though Hrud, bringing up the rear near Brother Rant, points out that they are bent in a way that indicates they’ve been trampled fairly regularly, not with any clear path or direction to the damage, but rather looking like a fairly large number of creatures, probably bipedal, milled about the yard in a relatively aimless fashion. As the wagon drifts slightly closer to the cemetery wall, Teldicia sweeps the lantern in that direction, revealing that the ground inside the fence is heavily disturbed and oddly mounded, like giant mole-hills, as if something forced its way up out of the ground from below. Even with the lantern, you cannot see too far past the fence, as a thick fog seems to hang over the graveyard, in addition to the rain.

Frantiska
Frantiska rides closer to the fence surrounding the graveyard, roughly 30 feet away, and allows her eyes to adjust, shifting to the infra-red, hoping that the heat from anything living will stand out more against the rain and mist. At the same time, she reaches out with her mind, feeling for whatever emanations of malevolence may be detectable. Her bow is out, readied, and loaded with one of the new silver arrows.

GM
To Frantiska’s elven sight the graveyard looks just as it is—dead. Everything looks a uniform cold blue, a stark contrast to the grasses of the prairie behind her, which teem with life. If anything stands out, it is that the surfaces within the graveyard look even colder than the rain which is falling on them.

To her other sense, however, the graveyard seems blazing with light. The emanations are overwhelming, nearly knocking Frantiska from her steed. Sharp, stabbing pain returns to her head, accompanying the sense of pervasive evil—as if the graveyard itself were a single entity, living, thinking, and plotting something horrible.

Donovan
Donovan tries to focus on driving, but can’t help but look at the beaten grass and upturned dirt. “You know…sleep spells don’t work against zombies…” he mutters, “…and arrows go right through skeletons.”

Lyra
“Those magic blades and sling bullets will have to suffice.” And gravity, Lyra thought, would work on most things if it came to it. Or creating an aperture bisecting an entity would result in…. Lyra shuddered.

Hrud
As crowded and smelly and claustrophobic as the city was, Hrud found the the fouled waters and corrupted vegetation before him now to be much more upsetting. The disturbed graveyard was merely icing on the cake [or whatever the Eraka equivalent would be]. “«What is the source of this evil?»”

Frantiska
“Kalau saja aku tahu.” Thistledown is already straining to get away from the accursed site, Frantiska lets her have the reins, giving her only the slightest nudge back towards the wagon. “There isn’t the slightest sign of life in that place,” she says as she pulls up alongside Teldicia and Donovan, “not even an insect, and yet the whole place seems to be thinking, plotting foul deeds. Not the passive evil of a curse or a spell, but like the very ground is sentient. Some powerful undead creature must be at work here, a lich, perhaps, or a shade, or a vampire of great age. Something not only able to raise the dead from their graves, but grant them thought and then control them to a single purpose.”

She shudders. “The list of places in this town that need to be razed to the ground just keeps growing…”

Donovan
Donovan looks back at Lyra, “Anything else we want to know about this place? Other than ‘how fast can we get away from it?’”

Lyra
Lyra flinches at another crash of thunder. “When we return to the training hall in Phlan, there is a technique I may be able to master that may be of some use. Many undead exist between this world and another, and it is possible to force them to one or the other.”

Donovan
“Well that doesn’t sound too immediate. Let’s get out of here before whatever kicked up that dirt becomes as curious about us as you are of it.” Donovan flicks the reins, trying to push the oxen to go at least a little faster to get away from the cemetery, no matter that there is no road, and its raining, and its grassy, and that they’re cows. “Come on…” he pauses and looks at the oxen, realizing that the liverer never told them their names, “…Mr…Brisket! Come on, Sirloin! Giddyup!”

GM

One of the oxen stops in its tracks briefly, throwing its head and looking back at Donovan as if offended by his comments, nearly upsetting the cart. Jerked to a halt, the other gives an angry bellow and they both start forward again at a good clip. Only a few minutes later the grass fades back from black to green and the cemetery is fading into the mist behind you.