The morning’s travel was uneventful but as we approached Quillshire Lake it became apparent that something was terribly wrong. The only settlement in the area was a small village called Peacock Orchid and it was utterly desolate – not a fire burned, not a soul stirred, nothing. The lake on the other hand was “alive” with activity. Dozens of shambling corpses and dire beasts roamed the shores, endlessly circling the waters. It seems that Serensa had divined our location and beat us here – exacting quite a toll to make sure our path was barred. I knew we should have taken care of her when we had the chance. I should have pressed the issue. For all the good it would have done. No one ever listens to me.
As we crested a hill a few miles away my three companions gazed down grimly at the scene below. After some jibber-jabber Oona and Jeyne suggested that they could draw off the horde to buy time for us to get the talisman to the lake and destroy it. Which is an insane plan but I was too polite to point that out.
“Are you insane? That’s a suicide run.”
Jayne fingered her mace “We have no choice Ela, the talisman must be destroyed!”
“Sure, sure it does but how about let’s not jump immediately to suicide alright? We just got here, let’s figure out what’s going on and come up with a plan of some kind – we can always commit suicide later if we want.”
We stealthily (sort of) circled the lake and saw the zombified citizens of Peacock Orchid had set up a pretty tight perimeter – which is a significant feat for mindless undead monsters. Amongst them we saw the ragged and emaciated cultists of Korrok the Slavemaster – and Serensa herself sitting astride great bull, its face has been eaten away leaving only the leering skull underneath. A fiery light burned inside its hollow eyes as it pawed at the ground. There didn’t seem to be any way to get past them.
“Well I suppose we leave for now and figure out something else? There’s surely another way to destroy the amulet. Or we can just hide it somewhere. You know now that I think about it . .”
Arastra had that look in her eye “No Ela, it must be destroyed now, before more lives are lost.”
“Look I don’t want to diminish things here but lives are lost all the time, there’s no reason we need to rush into . .”
Oona put on her helmet “We’re going now.”
I stepped in front of her “Whoa, whoa, whoa, alright if we’re doing this we’re doing it but again there’s no need to jump to suicide right off the bat! There’s any number of ways we can approach this. We could try a ruse of some sort right? Or think about this, Serensa is probably the one keeping all those deadmen animated, if we take her out they’ll probably all just drop to the ground huh? Instead of going into her trap how about we lure her into one of ours? She wants what we have and she’s the lunatic here – not us – surely we can outwit her.”
They didn’t like the idea at all. I will never understand why “heroic” types seem to think that running into danger is “courageous” and using subterfuge is bad. Who decided way back in olden times that tricking someone and straying alive in the process was wicked while dying for no reason was admirable? Probably some dummy that was tired of getting tricked all the time by smarter better looking people. But why did everyone else get on board? The best I could do was convince them to halt the suicide mission long enough for me to look around some more.
And I hit paydirt. Nearby I found a small cavern that had an underground reservoir – same water as the lake so we’re good as gold. Jeyne and Oona almost looked disappointed when I told them. Religious people make no sense to me. I led them to the rocky area where I found the cave but Arastra put a restraining hand on my shoulder.
“Ela, these are burial mounds – we can’t disturb this holy ground.”
For the first time that I can remember in my life my jaw literally dropped. I was speechless for a good thirty seconds.
“Are you kidding me?!?!? Some primitive assholes buried their primitive asshole kings here a million years ago so you’d rather die than walk through here? I got news ladies, I already walked through here – I took a piss too! So we’re good, everything has already been defiled.”
“Ela don’t . . .”
“No you don’t lady! What are we even talking about? Hallowed ground? Seriously who gives a flying fuck?! We’re talking about life and death, you want to destroy the talisman so badly but you won’t even . . .”
I stopped as I saw the zombies cresting the hill, stumbling on the slope and rolling down toward us. I should have kept my voice down. Jeyne and Oona rushed forward and started bashing them to bits before they could stagger to their feet, but there were dozens more coming. Arastra and I ran for the cavern, sure NOW she’s got no issues after we’re already screwed. I handed the gemstone to her and hovered at the mouth of the cavern nervously watching Jeyne and Oona as more and more of the dead surrounded them.
“Whatever you’re going to do Ara you better do it fast.”
She knelt reverently by the waters “You should go now Ela.”
“Just do it and let’s get out of here!”
“I won’t be leaving Ela.”
I watched in horror as Oona was momentarily overwhelmed but Jeyne was able to pull her free and they fought back to back.
“What are you talking about?”
“Destroying the gem will require a sacrifice Ela.”
I whipped my head around “What?! Well then forget it! Let’s find someone else to sacrifice – someone who deserves it! Let’s get out here, we’ll find some chump, come back and . . .”
“Ela you should go now while you have the chance.”
“What is wrong with you people?! Why are you so eager to throw your lives away?! This is what’s wrong with the world, all the good people are so Gods damn selfless they all get killed and we’re left with a bunch of selfish monsters running around everywhere! There has to be another way.”
I was about to say something else when I saw Serensa and her goons coming over the hill. I took up my crossbow from the mouth of the cavern.
“We’re almost out of time. If you’re going to die now’s the time.”
Funds: 7,530 gold
Inventory: Ring of Many Garments, Bag of Tricks (rust), Cap of Disguise, Secure Pocket, Resplendent Diplomat’s Palette, Secure Paypack, Skeleton Key, Brooch of Shielding, Pouch of Magic Stones, Masterful Grey Gloves, Black Marketers’ Bag, Biting Bracelet (Endless Ammunition), Boots of Escape, Bracers of the Glib Entertainer, Ring of Animal Friendship, +1 Falchion, +1 Greatclub, +2 Commanding Light Crossbow, Headband of Alluring Charisma +2, 4 potions of unknown wickedness
Signet ring, noble’s outfit, candlerod (9), masterwork dagger, succubi carving, Domiel family ring, walking stick, masterwork playing cards, spinel and peridot holy symbol of Kralten, diamonds (14), silver crown
Potion of Invisibility (3), Potion of Spider Climb, Potion of Eagle’s Splendor
Silver ring, gold bracelet, gold and pearl pendant, gold ring, platinum necklace, mithril hair clasps (3)
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler , Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire
Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni
Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander,
Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother
Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan
van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot
Rumors : Exiled noblewoman (Reoccurring), vigilante “Litheria”(Reoccurring), murderous Halfling (Reoccurring)
Graltontown Buildings – Mill