I write once more with a heavy heart. The dwarf Girm, accompanied by friends Stria and u-Heury, brought me the ashes of Denara’s paladin Frederick. I knew Frederick but little; we rarely adventured together, fearing that two servants of Denara in close proximity would be too much risk of an irrepairable loss to our goal of founding a temple in this region. I’m inforemed those who knew him better referred to him as “The Apocalypse”, and he certainly lived up to his name, if the tale Girm told is even a little bit true. And the dwarf has the fire of some kind of passion in his eyes when he talks about Frederick.
I must admit my own impression of the paladin was mixed. He was neither strong nor swift; neither smart nor wise. If anything his greatest asset was his cheerful face and friendly nature. And yet those are no small assets, as my own history shows.
Girm described a trip from Eastdale into the woods along the road known as the Gauntlet, where Frederick somehow faced down two dragons at once by threatening them to a duel. I would have discarded the tale at once as the mad ravings of a lunatic (or perhaps the guilty lies of a coward seeking to excuse his flight) but Stria and u-Heury confirmed at least the broad outlines of the tale, and gave me two black dragon scales as confirmation that there had, in fact, been at least one dragon. And from the size of the scales, an adult specimen.
Girm described Frederick’s wish that these be made into a kind of punching weapon the dwarves name “brass knuckles”. I am not much of a brawler myself but I will see if I can have this done, and perhaps they will be useful. If nothing else, they would make for a blunt weapon that might damage magical creatures or undead otherwise immune to normal steel.
The dwarf also described his own cowardice during the confrontation, which – while it clearly shamed him – was also the chink in his soul’s armor that opened him to Frederick’s peculiar kind of inspiration, and perhaps eventually to Denara’s wise teachings. It certainly increased his credibility in my eyes. Denara terms this an admission against interest.
The trio described descending into the dungeons beneath the holey oak, finding a new area that my own journeys there had not unconvered. I may have to go there myself; the powers that Denara has granted me may help fend off the shadows that lurk there. Yet, the peril that Frederick and friends encountered will not be one that I need face.
They told of entering a room filled with female statues covered in slime at the north end of a bridge over the underwater stream. The room has a secret door on the north wall, and within it lies a sarcophagus; within the sarcophagus – which of course they opened – lay a wraith, armed with a glowing blue sword and wearing a jeweled necklace.
Frederick, already weakened from the shadow’s touch earlier, initially stood back with his bow. Girm, armed with a crossbow, did the same. u-Heury stabbed at the thing with his spear, Stria drew her daggers (both of them enchanted) and stabbed at it. The spear did nothing, neither did the missile weapons, but one of Stria’s daggers went right into the thing’s eye and it wailed in terrible pain and breathed on her. Apparently only magical weapons could harm the creature. Stria flinched from the cold foggy breath but did not seem harmed, just disoriented.
The blue sword was another matter. When it struck her, it seemed to tear her very soul. But it did not deter her at all.
Seeing the terrible wounds inflicted by that blade, and knowing his bow was useless, Frederick knew a change of tactics was necessary. He dropped his bow and pulled out Denara’s holy scale medallion. Perhaps the holy force invested in it would be enough to harm the creature. Tragically the sarcophagus blocked him from reaching the creature easily, and Sir Frederick has never been the most agile of individuals. The creature’s blade tore into Stria again and again, laying her low. u-Heury too felt its dire kiss, and the kid almost seemed to shrink.
With Stria down, Frederick grabbed for her blades, passing one to u-Heury. Together the two of them stood firm against the creature. Girm and the other hireling continued missile fire, but it was ineffectual. Neither u-Heury nor Frederick could consistently strike the creature, despite wielding Stria’s magical daggers. The wight’s deadly blue sword tore into u-Heury again and then again.
Sensing disaster, Frederick called out to Girm to try fire, even as the other hireling fell to the wight’s sword. A moment later, as Girm dragged Stria away from the battle, Frederick gave his life to protect their retreat. u-Heury too decided to flee, taking Stria’s body – still breathing, but unconscious – from the dwarf. Girm turned back to the fight and saw Frederick fall, and as he did, a great rage filled him. He took up the dagger Frederick had been wielding, called out the fallen paladin’s name – “For Frederick!” – and stabbed the silver dagger directly between the wight’s eyes.
That blow ended the fight, and the wight collapsed into dust.
Sadly, there was nothing left of Frederick and the hireling Girdue but small piles of ash that swirled strangely in the air. The survivors collected the wight’s treasure and returned to Eastdale.
My research suggested the victims of a wight could rise themselves as wights, given time. When I went to show the priests of St Ygg the ashes, the sacks were empty. We may have two more wights to content with in the holey oak. If we return to that area, we should come well prepared. And we will; I will not allow Frederick’s noble, if simple, soul to be confined in an undead prison.
As for the prizes, both necklace and sword glowed with magical power.
I invited Stria and u-Heury to accompany me to Threshold. I needed to return there to consult with my church, and they both seemed in dire need of rest and relatively safe travels to regain their poise.
We checked off the prophecy of the treasure on the beach. Now we check off the prophecy of the serpent lord guarded by his queens. I was really hoping the guarding part wasn’t literal. Turns out, the statues might have been easier. The idea was for the coffin lid to be slid down only a little bit, so if something was in there, it couldn’t get all the way out. Well, that didn’t work. There was indeed a walking corpse in there, and he was awfully limber. Slithered right out of the little gap and stood up wielding a glowing blue sword. Sort of impressed with that level of limber. Could have come in handy in my previous profession. Nobody’s weapons seemed to do any damage. I drew both daggers and attacked. A glancing blow first, but it proved the daggers would hurt it. While the others distracted it, I swung again, and hit it hard. It screamed, and focused its attacks on me. I dodged a few swings, but eventually it landed a couple blows. I could feel the life draining out of me. Then everything went black.
When I came to, only the dwarf and the kid remained. There were two swirling piles of dirt, and the now un-walking corpse. They told me that the creature hit the henchman and turned him to ash. His dog fled, showing way more sense than the rest of us. When I fell, Frederick stood over my body protectively, grabbed my daggers, tossed one to the kid, and they both attacked. But, they were unable to hit it. The creature hit Frederick and turned him into ash. The dwarf, filled with vengeance, grabbed the dagger and attacked, while the kid dragged my body towards the door. Unexpectedly, the dwarf landed a killing blow and felled the monster. Re-killing blow?
I’m … oddly moved by the heroics of all three of them. This is a new thing for me. Maybe it has something to do with losing a great deal of my life to the undead creature. Or the sword. Maybe my life is inside the sword. I wonder if it can be gotten back out, if it is. Anyway, to hide my untoward sentiment, I praised the dwarf and growled at him to give me back the dagger. He promptly handed over the magic dagger like a good lad, but asked if I had another dagger. He seemed to think the magic was in the silver. I happened to have a normal silver dagger, so I gave that to him, and he was content. Not magic, but silver can be handy against some beasts. After I rested for a bit, we searched the room, but found nothing but what was on the creature - the glowing blue sword and a gold and ruby necklace. The kid put the ashes in the coffin, but they swirled their way back to the places where the bodies fell. He put the ashes in sacks and we headed back to town.
We met Oscar, who said he came to town after a feeling that something bad had befallen Fred. We told him the story. He said a prayer, and the sword and necklace both glowed to show they were magical, complicating the plan to sell the necklace for enough money to set us up for a good long time. Oscar believed that the ashes could actually reconstitute into walking corpses, and devised a plan to soak the ashes in holy water, bless them, and bury them in consecrated ground. He went to consult with the Ygg priests about that, only to discover that the sacks contained no ashes. It seemed wise to go immediately and try to recover the ashes to put the plan into action, but maybe it was already too late, because Oscar instead wanted to go to Threshold. Not having anything better to do, and feeling as fragile as I did when I first became an assassin, I agreed to accompany him. Company would be good right now, as I feel like just stubbing my toe could be fatal. The next time we venture into the creepy tree, now we’ll have to deal with walking corpses of Frederick and the henchman trying to kill us. Yay. We’ll need more cannon fodder…