A Long Walk

Asking for Misdirections

Out of the tomb surge three zombielike undead creatures, who swing at the party with their clawed hands, trying to be the first to drink of the adventurers' life energy. The party quickly dispatched them by the blade with barely any wounds. After debating over the trapped and locked mausoleum, Ivellios slinks in past the security to sack the gold treasure littered among the petrified corpses.

Fumbling through the mists near the tomb, the party comes upon a disheveled hut suspended on stilts above the mire. The roof of the hut appears to be made of the skin of flayed creatures, including recognizably humanoid faces, and numerous fetishes, charms, and shrunken heads adorn the exterior. The adventurers climb the rope ladder to sate their curiosity, and find the hut filled with the morbid and repulsive ephemera of rituals of blood sacrifice and dark magics. Lin's knowledge of the arcane leads him to believe that the witch who resides here participates in some sort of dream related magics. Erthim takes great offense at the depraved and profane nature of the place and demands the party aid him in destroying the cottage. However, the would-be avengers find themselves at a loss when the hut appears to be resistant to the flame of torches, and a fireball from Lin does little more than flutter the curtains. Giving up, the party continues on to make camp a safe distance away.

Erthim offers to take up additional watch duties for Bren and Lin, who balk at continuing, arguing the pointlessness of taking watch for creatures that will likely ambush them anyway. The problem is amplified the following morning, with Bren and Ivellios both seeming ever more out-of-sorts, complaining and only begrudgingly continuing the journey. The party eventually happens upon some wolves with goblin-like faces and ears, who initially use magic to try and charm Ivellios and Bren. Failing that, they resort to hit-and-run tactics, darting in and out of the swampy mists. Despite swearing that some of the dogs have been defeated, more appear from the haze to harass the weaker members of the group. The rouse becomes clear: not all of the lupine creatures are real – some are illusions intended to confuse and divide their prey. Some lucky shots and a dose of skepticism Erthim leads them to defeat the creatures, but not before the adventurers find themselves with some chew marks. The party gather what valuables the dogs had as the corpses revert to a more goblinoid form, and they continue the drudgery through the swamp.

Not long after, the party comes upon another dead dog-goblin… this one has been picked apart for food. A harpylike creature swoops from the sky to rake its three clawed arms at Bren! The winged hag swoops and wheels, as Erthim, Bren, and Lin take potshots to no avail. Finally, the creature descends to engage Erthim, hoping to knock him out of the fight. Lin thinks fast and nails the bitch with a Tanglefoot Bag, preventing her from lifting off to safety. The party swordsmen fill her body with steel, recovering a magic sword and some magic slippers of Spider Climb for their troubles.

As the marching-day ends, the party pitches camp, with a little ale and gambling to celebrate their achievements. However, Bren and Ivellios obstinately refuse to take watch duties once more. Erthim cooks up the plan to restore order by withholding water – as the party's only source of the diminishing resource. Lin is roused from his studies by a shimmer near the edge of the camp. He uses magic to finally see their invisble stalker – a creature like a large lion. After a silent standoff, Lin uses a thunderstone to awake the party, scaring off the feline in the process. The next morning, Erthim asserts himself to Ivellios and Bren, convincing them that the division of labors is for the best of all involved.

Finally clearing the godforsaken morass, Bren catches sight of a paved road to the north, running along the river which had turned up and away from the party's tack. There's a problem – it's occupied. Hiding behind rocks and shrubs, they observe the march of a company of troops – humanoid, seven feet tall, tongues dripping with poison, and bearing a shiny carapace like a beetle's. The staunch-looking soliders march behind their leader. who wields an impressive-looking obsidian poleaxe…

 

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Chapter Two: Over Waves of Dirt

Theme Song: Six Days by Cellar Darling
The party are ambushed by a shriveled, distended, Gollum-like creature with long clawed fingers as they try to rest. Bren awakes his fellow adventurers, and the snarling black creature charges in. The creature resists the initial attacks with its thick dessicated hide, but eventually Bren and Erthim land some blows… only to be wracked by waves of searing pain with each successful hit. The scrawny creature's claws and gnashing teeth do little to avail the warriors' armor, but the blood-curdling aura tears the adventurers apart from within, shortly knocking poor Lin unconscious.

After a little help from a friend, Lin escapes within an inch of his life, only to have to turn and rescue Ivellios who has collapsed as he tried to escape the creature's unholy aura. Erthim and Bren eventually finish the creature, but the party is battered and takes time to recuperate.

After another half day of travel, the party encounter a bombed-out stone hovel and investigate. Lin and Erthim reach out with magic to sense the evil auras emanating from the hut, while Ivellios sneaks up close and suddenly doubles over in pain… again. Skirting the premises and giving the hut a wide berth, the others draw out two more of the loathsome creatures while Ivellios retreats. Shrugging off attacks (including a fireball), the creatures intentionally rake each other to harm the party with their searing auras, all the while healing the wounds inflicted. After toying with the creatures at range, Erthim and Bren take turns swooping in for a one-two punch that finally kills both of the fiends.

The team investigate the house to find the remains of the fiends' last meals… including one of the corpulent flesh-blob creatures from before, lying half- eaten on the remaining floor boards. Gathering the gremlins' gold and a potion, the party puts a little distance between them and the hut, suspecting other enemies may know if its location. Another camp passes without much incident, but for Bren hearing the stalking footsteps once again.

The rest of the party, already aggravated and in a poor mood, accuses Bren of being crazy despite their similar experiences. Setting out again, the journey along the riverbank drives the team into an increasingly thick morass. Fumbling their way through the fog, they come upon a small stone tomb. Bren hears something sloshing about in the swampwater, and Erthim is sure it's evil…

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Stalked...

The party sets their first camp, with each watch experiencing the sounds of footsteps at the edge of camp, but seeing nothing in the gray wasteland. Waking the next morning tired and irritable, the party continues the march westward along the banks of the black and poisoned river. Among the ruined wasteland, the party encounters four quadrupedal beasts constructed from bones of various men and beasts. Luckily, Bren quickly discovered the beasts as magical constructs, an enemy he abhorred and so trained to fight with great effect. Despite the creatures' bony carapaces shedding off all but the most direct blows from swords, the adventurers defeated them, with Erthim bashing the last one to pieces with his shield. Bren and Ivellios had suffered light wounds from the gnashing bone creatures, but Erthim laid on hands to heal his new cohorts.

After a long day's walk (seemingly in circles at times), the blasted and rocky terrain gave way to a gray desert-like sand, rolling gently away from the riverbank. Setting camp amid a few scraggly trees, Erthim's watch was again interrupted by what sounded like a creature's soft footsteps stalking their camp from the direction they'd come. During Bren's third watch, however, a visible assailant appeared in the fog that had rolled in from the putrefied shoreline luckily, the ever-lit, dim gray sky provided enough light to make out the silhouette…

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Chapter One: A Forgotten Shoreline

Theme Song: Bleed Well by H.I.M.
Four adventurers awake amid shipwrecks and corpses on the shore of a vile, murky river. Cleaning the oily black muck from themselves, they find each other among the dead. There's one problem – no one can remember who they are or why they're here. Scavenging among the devastated wasteland ashore, they encounter three small, filthy, bulbous apelike creatures and readily dispatch these aggressors. The battle barely complete, eight more blobs of vaguely humanoid flesh descend and try to claw the makeshift allies apart, but the adventurers readily dispatch the feckless monsters by the sword.

Searching through their belongings, each adventurer finds an item reminding of their name:

"To Erthim Sadu, to commemorate 25 years of service to the Watchful Order of Heimdall" is etched on the ornate Horn of Heimdall holy symbol carried by a veteran paladin.

An elven mage opens his spellbook to the first page to find the preface signed by Lin Brightleaf. He happily introduces himself to his new friends.

Some are less trusting. An elven rogue discovers a muck-soaked letter in one pocket, barely legible, and slips it discreetly back into his pocket, introducing himself simply as Ivellios.

The ranger Bren Grassglow finds his name artfully embossed into a fine leather quiver, containing the bow gifted to him by some forgotten community of elves.

The party spends hours trekking by foot to the edge of the horrific battlefield, piled full of burning and destroyed war machines, and dead and mangled creatures of every description. Desensitized to the product of such profound violence, the party manage to scavenge some valuable magic items, and a few potions from a Pelor clergyman who died in a state of desperation. Finally reaching the edge of the massacre, the adventurers turn west to follow the desecrated river upstream. Bren swears he heard something following them, but in the wide open wasteland, nothing can be seen, nor is there any potential cover for a stalker to hide behind. The group pitches camp for the first night on the open wasteland.

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