101. The City of the Dead

Gildor dreams of the Keep and lady summer blessing him with her warmth and love with Saphiria nearby. The Keep looks like it has been well kept. The labourers are busy building new areas and reinforcing old ones. Gildor makes his way to the study and alchemy labs to rest from a long journey. It’s seemed like such a long time ago and there were some odd Fish people where he was at. He seems a bit banged up and sore from his travels. There was a new friend with them too he recalls wanting to learn magic. He feels tired though so he tells the friend… Jenson… after he rests they can begin studying the skills of magic.

Jenson dreams of lights flashing, sirens blaring, people moaning and lots of heavy breathing behind him as he walks into a room shaded by the sun just peaking in through the slots in the wall near the ceiling. He moves to the centre of the room where a solitary chair sits next to a U shaped desk that surrounds it. A few rough worn papers lay upon the desk in a foreign language he does not know but thinks he should. He sits in the chair and hears softly spoken words all around him as the sirens and flashing lights go silent. Is this the end he thinks or another stasis pod freezing. He wonders if the last few days have been a dream and if he really will ever know what magic is or will he only just ever read about it and dream of using it. As he sits and contemplates life he tries to make up the story to explain why he left the ship for his own interests, something he never did. What will his parents think… with a smile, they would urge him to go and be that man society kept locked up.
Though he could hear his mother say that he should have convinced Anita to go with him, she was a cutie.

Gildor transcends into Jenson’s dream or is it his dream still. Jenson, we have so much to do my friend. A new life awaits you and possibly all of us. Aahhhh lady summer shines on us. Feel the warmth. Ooohhhh shit, my pants are on fire ?… wake up, wake up… now I’m falling… what is going on?

The party come to inside the escape pod thanks to Talo and Gordon. The Kuo-toa laying with Gildor amid the loose equipment in the middle of the pod is dead, battered by one of the boxes of incendiary grenades, which has broken open with the grenades scattered all over the floor. The power collection unit is also laid amid the tangle on the floor, its box cracked across one corner.
Cynan lays hands on Gildor to help with the bumps and bruises, while a prayer from Talo finally heals him completely.

As the half-elf staggers to his feet and the rest of the party unbuckle themselves from their seats there is a thump on the roof and the sound of something scuttling about up there.

Gildor checks on Saphiria then says, ”Let’s us clear the area girl, then you can go hunt wild game close by.”
“When you’re ready Jenson open the door. Let’s see what’s out there to greet us. Weapons Ready.” Gildor readies his needler with sleep needles.

Jenson having opened the door and standing back pistol drawn, peeks at the outside view before it is obstructed by the group moving out.

The door opens half-way then sticks and gives three short beeps. It’s quite dark outside and Jenson can’t see much in the gloom.

Jenson then turns to the fish-men to verify they are still safely secured and if any are awake “Stay put, better to keep your known enemy between you and the unknown enemy, for if you leave those chairs and go outside now, you will also become targeted by the unknown enemy outside.”

The Kuo-toa don’t seem to understand what Jenson is saying.

Cynan leads the way, followed by Kradorn, then Gildor, Gordon, Talo, Kalam and finally Jenson. The paladin ducks under the jammed door and out into the gloom of dawn sword drawn and shield ready.

Immediately something drops on him from above. The paladin raises his shield to deflect grasping claws and is knocked onto his back and his smouldering sword clatters away from him. The skinny humanoid creature is fast and is on top of the paladin before he can recover his sword. Cynan’s shield parries one claw but the other grasps his shoulder, its claw-like nails sink into the paladin’s armour but don’t penetrate. As Cynan tries to heave the thing off him (it’s not heavy) and reach for his sword Kradorn appears and decapitates the thing with his blaster pistol. It continues to claw the air for a few seconds before Kradorn drags it off Cynan by the scraps of clothing it retains and puts another brilliant bolt of light into its chest. The thing twitches then lies still, the blaster’s scorch marks burning around the edges.

Cynan grabs his sword as the rest of the party emerge from the escape pod and look about. The pod seems to have come to rest against a 6 metre high city wall which extends away south-west as far as you can see and northeast until it reaches the shores of a bay or river bank. To the northeast is a steep-sided, rocky hill, topped with walls and what might be a palace. North is a low wall with a tower with buildings to the right. Everything looks deserted, dry and dead.
Kradorn turns to face the wall and looks up, the rest of the party follow his gaze. Two ghoulish faces appear over the battlements and stare down at the party. One clambers up over the wall and leaps down onto the escape pod while the other howls a dry, rasping call to the undead.

Upon first seeing, then hearing the call to the undead, Jenson pauses and the fear on his face says it all. “Oh asteroid turds, what the unloving hell is that and what are those things?”

Pulling his blaster rifle out “Crap O’ la bars what the heck – time to shut you up!” and steps back and with the rifles extended range shoots at the one still on the wall making all that noise. In a quaky stuttering voice “I’ll, I’ll shhhoottt at ttthe one onnn the wwwall”.

Gildor drops his needler pistol and casts mirror image, “I don’t like the sounds of that. Saphiria, come out my dear. I think you’ll be safer outside. Jenson tries not to let them touch you. Sounds like there might be more coming if that call was what I think it was.”

Gildor readies his laser carbine and an explosive grenade on his belt ready for a quick toss if he sees a group of them.
“Guys form a circle.”

As Jenson moves to help form the circle shifting to his blaster pistol “What, Do not touch them?? Gildor, what are they?”

Gildor says, “Don’t let them touch YOU. They are undead. Not living. I’m low on magic too. Grenades might be used. Saphiria, protect, be safe. Fly if you can see.”

Talo is rubbing his shoulder from the landing when he sees these nasty fellows rear their heads. “Clanggedin has a gift for you – die, undead filth!!” As Talo shouts the last of his call, his eyes glow red in the dimness of the escape pod and he raises his holy symbol, his axe toward the oncoming undead. He summons his holy might in a rare show of turning this undead.

The dwarven priest’s axe flashes in the morning light as the first rays of the new sunrise above the distant houses to the east. The ghouls howl in pain, either at the power of the holy symbol or the blinding light of the dawn. Whichever one it is, both ghouls turn and flee before anyone can get a shot at them. The one on top of the escape pod jumping down on the far side and loping away to the south-west following the city walls.

With the rising sun, the party can see a little more of the scene around them and Saphiria soon returns to tell Gildor that there are lots and lots of buildings to the north, running around the hill and lots of buildings behind the wall they’re standing next to. There are boats at the far end of these buildings and a big river. There are more buildings and groups of buildings further away and the whole place is surrounded by a high wall. She can see no signs of life but the ghouls, who are all hiding from the sun now. She says the whole place smells of death.

Talo’s eyes flash back and forth over the terrain as he walks around the pod, “The undead… so close to town does not bode well. They are either besieged or this humble town is over-run. Caution, folks!” Looking to Gildor, “Yer wee dragon not see any townsfolk? Maybe they are hiding from the undead. And if this town is in either state I intend to repair that state!”
“I like yer gumption, Jenson Starfolk! I am guessing you can likely do well with your burning wands,” he nods to the pulse rifle, “but they will run out and I doubt our world can refresh them. You prefer to swing some forged hell,” he holds up his axe, “or spells once you have run out?” Talo looks meaningfully to Gildor and Gordon.
Peeking over his shoulder at the fish-men Talo continues, “We cut them loose or do we send them to the shame of an afterlife post-execution?” He turns on the fish-men, “What say you? You willin’ ta walk home or do we have to make the logical choice?” The dwarf admires the edge of his axe.

The Kuo-toa look at the dwarf blankly.

Jenson heaves a heavy sigh, “Whew, that was close. ” He looks at his blaster, then at Talo “I do hope the power collecting unit is not damaged but no matter the case I do hope to learn spell casting? You know, magic.” and grins a moment in thought.
Looking to the group he says “OK, Talo is right these fish-men need to go, I rather just have them turned over to the local authorities to deal with but if what is said, there may not be anyone alive here to do that” shivers “just the dead”. “In that case, I see the only choices are turning them loose or marching them around as our prisoners until we can find appropriate authorities to take care of them.”
Jenson then goes back into the escape pod, calling back, “I have to make sure the power collection unit works, clean up and pack our gear and my god, if these grenades had detonated while bouncing around in here we would all be … oh bother, forget that thought. Hey, before you all go marching off, a little help in here we want to take this gear with us and not leave it here alone.”
Jenson will carefully unpack the power collection unit and check if it is working or not.

Jenson packs up the grenades again and stows the gear piled on the escape pod floor before checking the power collection unit. It seems fine, the box it was in is cracked on one corner but the unit seems to power up okay.

“Good Job everyone”, comments Gildor. “OK. I agree we need to let the Kuo-toa free. They can get to water and try and figure out how to get home on their own.”

Carefully cutting the Kuo-toa free one at a time and letting them gather a spear, shield and dagger from the huge stinky pile on the floor of the escape pod, Gildor has them wait outside. Despite their hate-filled glares none of them looks in any state to attack the party.

With a fearful look at the sky and the rising sun, they set off as quickly as they can towards the river or lake to the northeast.

Once that’s done Gildor turns back to the party. ”We need to find a building we can easily secure, Quickly search and make defensible in a few bells. We need to get our gear to that building and check it over to see what works. We need to try and get our bearings on where we are as well. Food isn’t a priority yet, but fresh water will be needed soon. The Building needs to be secure enough that we can rest. We all need it. Once this is done we can start a search pattern of the city to clear out the undead if we intend to stay in this area or try an figure out where to go from here to get back to Lands End/The Keep, unless this is it. Let’s free the Fish and then find a securable Building nearby so we don’t have to travel far to get our gear back and forth today. We ALL go into a building together as there may be undead lurking inside or other beasties. Stay sharp since we don’t’ know where we’re at just yet or what else might be out there.”

Gildor adds, “Saphiria scout and hunt my dear.”

“Alright, form up! Let’s say hello to the town’s… folk.” Talo steps to the front and begins leading the group around the wall to the south-west following the path of the escaping ghoul.

The party watch the last of the Kuo-toa slip into the water to the north before setting off south-west, following the city wall. As they walk more of the surrounding landscape comes into view and the size of the city they are in becomes apparent. 4 kilometres to the west stands a defensive wall at least 20 metres high running from the river in a huge arc as far as they can see.
A smaller wall, more like the one they are following divides another town to the north, this town stretches from the base of the palace topped mount, west for at least 2 kilometres.
After walking perhaps 400m the party pass a tower on the wall to their left. The upper story of the tower is pierced by arrowslits and shows signs of fire damage.
Just 100m further on, a 20m long section of the wall has collapsed outward leaving a gap filled with rubble. Drawing whichever weapons they think suitable, the party clamber up the rubble pile to see beyond it.
Stretched out before them is another town crammed onto a spit of land two and a half kilometres west to east by a kilometre north to south. There is a bridge to the east connecting it to the mainland and another town on the eastern side of the mount.
The masts of half-a-dozen tall ships can be seen on the far eastern edge of the town.
Beyond the town runs a large river running west to east.
The town looks in reasonable condition, in one or two places fires have destroyed a block of houses but the rest of the buildings look sound and the party can even make out a fountain sparkling in the morning light. There is no sign of life however and Saphiria comes back to Gildor complaining that there is no prey to be seen in any of the towns or the lands that surround them.

Gildor says, “Saphiria has seen no signs of life in any of the towns or surrounding lands. That’s a big problem. I’ll send her further out a bit so she can hunt game if she can find it. “

Jenson then follows the group throughout the area looking at the sites he sighs and turns to the group, “Is this bad? No one around? Was there a plague that killed everyone here?” Gulps at the site and condition of everything, “Maybe those tall ships in the distance mean there is someone still alive here?”

“Let’s pick a building that looks like it can keep out the undead. No windows and one entry we can brace up so nothing can get in. We will need plenty of fire pots/candles for the light too. The undead hate fire and light. We’ll be sleeping with candles burning, unfortunately. It may get noisy as well, so we might want some cotton for our ears.” says Gildor.
“We need rest and Jenson as soon as we can get to a safe place where we will not be disturbed I can train you to use magic. Just be patient my friend.”
“Once all the gear is brought here, let’s check things out near the gate. There should be a town banner with the town name near there and perhaps that can tell us a bit more of where we are.
We should look for a cartographers shop as they might have a map we can use to tell us where we are. We should watch our time and make sure we can get back to our building well before dusk. We can scrounge for material to secure it as well if needed while we are out searching.
A carpentry shop would help too. If there is a directory of the town near the gate that may speed our search up a bit. Talo you may have your work cut out for you tonight should we see more undead. Alright, let’s get to it then. Daylight is burning. Talo if you can bless the building that might help too.” Says Gildor.

A five minute walk along the outside of the wall reveals that the gate is shut and locked.
The gate is heavy and reinforced with bronze studs, all turned green with age.

Around the edge of the arched doors is an inscription in an unknown language and a coat of arms is carved above the door. The coat of arms comprises an interlocking geometric symbol in the background with a winged serpent coiled around a longsword in the foreground. The gate looks like it hasn’t been opened in a long time but strangely there are no signs of weeds, or looking more closely, no sign of any plant-life beyond the weather, scoured stumps of bushes and distant trees.
The light changes as the party examine the gate, the early morning sun being veiled behind a haze of silver clouds.
“It’s cold without that sun,” comments Kradorn.

“Freezing. And only three more days till the end of the year,” confirms Cynan with a smile.
The wall continues south-west until it meets the river, interrupted by two more towers and a section that has partially collapsed but is still a good 2m high at its lowest point. Again, a fire seems to have caused the collapse as the nearest tower and the surrounding battlements all show signs of fire damage.

Standing a moment looking at the shut/locked gate, Jenson says. ” Now this is interesting. Could be an issue hauling our gear inside and It looks like these locked gates did not help them keep whatever attacked them from getting in but I am guessing it also kept those within from escaping.”
Looking West, “hmm, So do we go back to the breach in the wall to continue further in”.
Shaking his head in thought then looking to the group “I would like to not stray too far away from the pod as if there are others around here they may have become interested in it and they may know how to open the door or get lucky and open it before we can secure our gear”.
Questioning look “Can we find a suitable place on this side and go back and get our stuff then press on?”

Kradorn turns to Gildor. “Shall we find a place to defend behind the wall?”