“Why are we here again?” whined Morna the tiefling, scratching her tail and giving her dire wolf mount, “Woofy,” a scratch between the ears.” It’s dusty and boring. I wanna go see the capitol.”
Chia, the curious half-elf archaeologist, turned atop her steed Bluebird, and replied “We were going to go see the Temple of the Incarnate. It’s supposed to be the largest temple on this side of the continent. Plus, it’s getting dark and we need to find a room for the night.”
Morna sighed, and looked ahead, fiddling with one of the dozens of knives in her belt. The assassin had voluntarily exiled herself to the Civer Empire in order to flee the wrath of the father of her last contract, Lord Patan, the fallen paladin of the nation across the sea. She had met the paladin Chia on the months-long boat ride over, and had formed a strong friendship discussing their various exploits across the world.
Upon entering the city containing the temple, a sleepy little farming town named Tidas, they immediately noticed something seemed off. Buildings and shops were boarded up, and many of them were broken into. Several fires were burning in the streets of the city, and they appeared to be fueled by both shattered wood from the nearby houses as well as burnt corpses.
Morna wrinkled her nose at the charred smell, and frowned, unsheathing her scimitar and glancing around. The only lit building in the entire town was the temple that loomed above the surrounding town, with warm lights flickering through the stained-glass windows. The pair approached the temple, and upon knocking on the large oak doors, they were quickly opened, and a spear was leveled into Morna’s surprised face. The guard behind it looked at her with a wide-eyed expression, and then raised the spear and bade them enter the temple.
Inside, the temple was mostly empty, with several cots set up around the altar, filled with bruised and bleeding guards and townsfolk, wrapped in bandages and being tended by a shaved-headed priest. The few guards and citizens that were not bedridden held their weapons with a familiarity that Chia and Morna had not seen in other hamlets, suggesting they had been seeing combat a great deal recently.
In front of the altar, a small bar was set up with a few tables and stools, occupied by a couple townsfolk and the ragged captain of the guard. The two adventurers ordered a pair of drinks as the wolf wandered over to sleep near where the last few horses were stabled, and Chia began trying to ask the tired captain about the state of the town. However, the paladin’s questions were answered by the cleric they saw earlier, who had just finished recounting a short prayer for some surviving children.
“The town has been assaulted by waves of the living dead for the last three days,” said the cleric. “My name is Father Pipen, and the other two clerics for this temple are now entombed in our catacombs as a result of this attack. The mayor was killed last night, and we are all that are left of the citizenry of the town.”
Chia shot Morna a glance, and asked “Catacombs?”
Father Pipen replied with “Yes, and they broke through a wall of the tombs, before the militia managed to drive them back. We hired the help of a dwarf to collapse the passage they breached, and although he managed to seal the tomb, he was killed shortly before dawn this morning. They have been digging ever since, and they sounded like they were only a few yards away last I checked.”
Suddenly, the trio was alerted by the cry of the watchmen at the gate. “I can see them in the dying sun! I can see them coming again!”
This caused a surge of groans and screams from the townspeople, and Chia advanced to the center of the pews to prepare to repel the undead, while Morna climbed a chain to a chandelier, and perched on it while loading her crossbow, her tail flicking with excitement.
The church fell eerily silent, with only the occasional quiet sobbing from the children being heard, and the distant moaning and thump-dragging noises of the horde of approaching corpses. Morna and a few of the guards began firing at the occasional shapes through the few shattered stained-glass windows, as slow thumping and battering began on the oaken doors of the church, hastily reinforced with wooden crossbeams.
Soon, the mass of corpses began pressing through the door, forcing the guards and Chia to engage them in melee, while Morna began throwing balls of eldritch fire between crossbow volleys.
One by one, the guards were slain as the night progressed, dismembered or beaten to death by the undead scourge, as the zombies bashed their way through the windows of the cathedral. A particularly unlucky zombie encountered an enraged dire wolf after breaking through a back window, and was quickly shredded, but the captain of the guard and the townsfolk still standing were decimated by the surge of the undead after the cathedral doors fell.
As the sky slowly brightened, Morna could spy a figure on horseback, surrounded by wisps of green necromantic energy, and she took careful aim and loosed a single bolt towards the stranger.
The bolt flew true, and the man cried out in pain as the bolt buried itself in his shoulder, and he turned and fled. As he fled, the zombie horde began to collapse, leaving only the pair of adventurers, Father Pipen, and the indomitable barkeep standing.
Father Pipen turned to Morna and Chia, and said “I must pursue this man, to ensure he will not harm my charges again. Will you aid me?”
Morna and Chia eyed each other uncertainly. Desperate, the cleric added “I can pay you a few thousand gold pieces, from the gold and valuables we have in the temple’s vault from the tithes over the past few years, if you will only aid me in ensuring he will not escape justice.”
The adventurers perked up at the mention of payment, and quickly agreed to the idea. The three quickly gathered mounts, and set out as the sun rose to pursue the trail of the necromancer out of the town. Although winding, the trail led due east, and by the time the light of day began fading, they arrived at the outskirts of the ruins of the former city of Creath.
As the wind from the moors blew dust and sand across the destroyed buildings and cracked streets, the adventurers and the cleric began scouring the city for signs of their quarry. However, aside from a few small rats and similar vermin, the city was completely abandoned, and the only signs of any activity were slightly less deep drifts of sand and debris near the former crypts, as well as the fallen civic center of the city.
Upon further searching, however, Chia noticed some very faint footprints near the crypt entrance, and after a short debate, the trio agreed to venture into the undercity through a nearby sewer entrance.
Soon after entering the winding maze of the sewers, Morna and Chia were alerted to the noise of a scrabbling and low growling. Readying their weapons, they turned the corner to encounter a trio of dog-sized, feral rats.
Morna quickly dispatched one of the three, and Chia stepped over the fresh corpse and snarled, causing the remaining rats back up to the corners of the room. Quickly exiting the room, the group avoided a few door with low moans and scraping noises behind them, skirting quietly around a motionless decrepit zombie.
Eventually, the three encountered a large rune-marked door, behind which an audible incantation was heard, and Chia smashed it open with her shoulder. The three came face to face with the necromancer that had been responsible for the slaughter in Tidas, standing upon the edge of a huge well filled with what appeared to be human blood. He eyed them and screeched, clutching his bandaged bloody shoulder, and yelled “Damnation! You fools shall not stop the Grimoire Doomseeker! I shall use your corpses to power my spells!”
Chia and Morna eyed each other, snickered, and yelled back “Grimoire Doomseeker? That’s ridiculous!” to which the necromancer replied “It was better then Charlie Doomseeker!”
The necromancer proceeded to fling an orb of green and black energy at the party, as the skeletons and zombies in the room began lurching towards them.
Morna began throwing white-blue bursts of star-like energy at the necromancer, as Chia and Father Pipen began smashing the zombies, aided by “Woofy.”
Morna quickly became stymied, as the necromancer drew lengths of red life energy from the well into himself, healing his wounds, but the well quickly began to darken and dry up as the necromancer drew from it.
As a particularly potent burst of magic caused the evil mage to reel back, the outreached arm abruptly ceased to draw further energy from the pool as the blood finally dried into blackish dust, seeping through the loose stones of the well as the magic containing it failed. “No. NO!” cried Doomseeker, as a bolt from the assassin caught him square in the chest, knocking him to the floor.
The three heroes approached the fallen necromancer, as he spat blood at them and moaned in pain. Morna stepped forward, and the mage groaned “You fools. You haven’t done a thing to stop the plans of my master-“
Suddenly, his voice changed into a high-pitched scream, as his right eye socket burst into flames, which then quickly burst to consume his entire head, leaving a charred skull that rolled off the singed shoulders of the corpse.
Father Pipen turned to the two adventurers and said “This aberration must be noted by the High Chancellor. This man said he was not alone, and if the attack on our small town was this severe, I fear for the other cities of the Empire. You should seek him out, to inform him, as I myself must attend to the wounded within the temple.”
Morna eyed Chia questioningly, and grabbed the head and stuffed it into a sack, saying “Well, we should at least bring proof.”
After returning to Tidas, the pair received their reward from the grateful townsfolk;
“Oxen? Why the hell did they give us oxen?” complained Morna, as they sat on the cart donated by the citizens, full of various knickknacks and bags of copper pieces.
Chia patiently turned and said “Its part of the payment. We can sell the dozen head of cattle they gave us for over half a thousand gold pieces” Morna sat back in her seat, slightly placated but still twitching her tail, as they boarded the merchant ship to the capitol of Ramol.