Hearing Carrion's pained yell (and impassioned cursing), Treize had rushed to the mouth of the cave to see if the others needed help. He arrived just in time to see the doleful, cub-like bear spirit emerge from the cavern floor next to Zakariya. The spirit's gaze swept over the party and the slain bears, then the apparition let out an eerie, reverberating howl as it swelled into a enormous, wrathful phantom.
As the sinister specter surged from the stone surface, Dixn sprang into action, reaching under her facemask as she dashed to the front of the group. Zakariya backed up, for once at a loss for facts about their foe as he hurled a flask of acid which smashed harmlessly against the far wall. Trieze, however, recalled that such beings are often weakened by sunlight and called for the others to lead it out of the cave as he unleashed a salvo of magic missiles.
A strange, wispy grey smoke began billowing out of Dixn's face mask, filling the chamber and seeming to hinder the ursine phantom as she and Cade held it off while the others fell back to the entrance. The halfling monk's peaceful aura protected him from the spirit bear's attacks, while Dixn's accurately aimed arrows seemed to disrupt the apparition's hold on this plane, until at last knight Treize burned it away with a withering barrage of arcane bolts.
Wary of any further traps or dangers, the group carefully searched the rest of the cave, but found only relics of previous adventurers and ancient, seemingly primitive inhabitants—including the limed-over skeleton of a strange humanoid near a pool of water. The party gathered what they could of the relics and artifacts, (as well as leftover adventuring gear and assorted parts harvested from the bears) but were unable to take the skeleton since it was fused into the ground and only partially visible.
- Various coins, 71 gp value
- 1 spear
- 1 crossbow
- 1 quiver
- 12 arrows
- 12 crossbow bolts
- A worn marble figure, about the size of a fist. Chipped and cracked in places.
- Arrowheads (and fragments of arrowheads) made of polished obsidian.
- Charcoal rubbings of a strange, pictographic mural carved into one of the cave walls.
With treasures and trophies in hand, the party continued south—noting a gradual, ominous shift in the environment. Though spring was at it's peak, the woods here seemed to linger in autumn's grip. Many branches remained bare and drifts of multicolored leaves littered the forest floor long after they should have decayed into new earth.
The group was wary of what might be lurking in the woods, especially after finding a series of strange, shuffling humanoid footprints. Drawing upon mystically-honed senses, ranger Dixn confirmed the presence of dozens of undead—the majority of which seemed to be gathered roughly six miles to the south. Mindful of the threat, the group took extra care to find a defensible location to make camp, and artificer Razi rigged up a makeshift trap consisting of a crossbow attached to a tripwire.
The next day brought more of the same. More bare trees, more dry, dead leaves, and more ominous tracks crossing and re-crossing one another. Darkness fell early, and the party's concerns intensified. Forgoing a fire for fear it would attract foes, the adventurers supped on cold rations. Artificer Razi deployed both his alarm-stake and jury-rigged crossbow trap this time, and the group kept watch in double shifts, with an unlit torch staked out at the edge of camp where it could be quickly lit in an emergency.
These preparations proved prescient, as the party was woken in the dead of night by eerie groans and the sound of soft, shuffling footsteps—shortly followed by the twang-thunk of the crossbow trap and the warning ring of Razi's alarm stake. Emerging from their tents, those who could see in the night's darkness (which was nearly all of them) found their camp surrounded by a shambling horde of undead goblins!
As the others readied themselves and debated the proper term for the creatures (they settled on "Zomblins"), Knight Treize lit the prepared torch with a bolt of arcane fire, and the battle was joined! The fight was at turns desperate and comical, with Dixn's holy smoke rendering the party all but untouchable to the foul little undead. But the zomblins pressed forward in seemingly endless waves, and for every one that flopped face-first on the forest floor from a frenzied, over-eager claw swipe, another remained standing even after being run through the neck with a rapier or shot through the eye with a well-placed arrow.
The brave adventurers continued to fight, bashing, stabbing, shooting, burning, and melting their way through the rotting horde. Knight Treize somehow decapitated a zomblin with a rapier-thrust, ranger Dixn downed another by shooting an arrow through one ear and out the other, and the pirate-bard Carrion blasted another to bits with a potent thunderwave—showering the unfortunate Razi with it's remains and flinging two more at monk Cade, who proceeded to pummel the pipsqueaks to a pulp three at a time with furious fists and a swiftly swinging stave. At last, artificer Razi finished the final foul festering fiend with a flask of fizzing face-frying acid.
Exhausted and spent, but feeling curiously wizened by their experiences, the party settled down once again to rest and keep watch through the remainder of the long, dark night—knowing tomorrow would likely bring them to the source of these deathless abominations.
Session XP: 700
(DM Note: You've been really good about portraying your character's drive to seek out/preserve knowledge for it's own sake, such as trying to puzzle out the language in the bear cave mural and making a rubbing of it for future study.)
Note: Level up! After completing a long rest, each party member will advance to fourth level. Congrats! Huzzah! etc.