The day after my companions returned, we set about scouting this new area we’d found ourselves in. After having spent a good amount of time convalescing, trying to busy myself in watching the horses while the others escaped doom in the pit below, I was ready to do something that would help. I failed to be there to help recover this strange book now in our possession, and was quite put off at the strange wandering magical rat man who had put my new friends in such danger. I felt quite keenly the need for light exertion of the killing persuasion. If we also learned something new about this surrounding terrain, so much the better.
To this end I found myself in the company of the battle-scarred dwarf Whot, nimble Filbert, and the fearsome half-orc Renuk. As we settled upon our mounts (in Whot’s case, borrowed due to his stead’s unfortunate end), I thought we should probably not be so lucky as to find any action on a scouting expedition such as this. I should have learned that while traveling with this order to be complacent about the possibility of danger is very much akin to inviting it.
After scouting awhile we found ourselves looking at the odd sight of an old, bony peasant woman running towards us across a field, screaming for help and babbling about a nearby ghost town. Catching her breath, she told us a steep wall had encircled the town overnight, which had frightened the village since this town had been long abandoned. When pressed for details, she told us her husband knew more and led us back to her small home. Her husband, in a wheelchair and with many proffers of moonshine, told us much the same story, adding that they could not afford to pay us to check it out but the town supposedly contained many riches. After directions which were both specific and vague, we set off and came upon a huge wall. Using my newly acquired spy glass and climbing a tree, I found there were no signs of life, not even birds. Leaving the horses, we approached. Whot noticed that it was made out of marble, which is very rare. I tried to climb it but failed miserably (perhaps I should not have secretly taken some moonshine), which left us the option of the old, deteriorating mine entrance we discovered nearby.
With Renuk’s keen night vision leading us, we entered to find a chamber containing scraggly evergreen plants and oddly-alive looking weeds, with a few coins glittering near some mounds and an unnatural, heavy smell in the air. A narrow tunnel, dug by some animal, wound off at the far end. Following a movement we found what appeared to be a small dragon! We were surprised, skeptical (remembering the “dragon” at the circus), and curious- Renuk was downright excited, having never come across a dragon before. After we tried to throw Whot’s cloak over it, it turned to sniff at the cloak, revealing wings- it was indeed a dragon, if only about 2 ft tall. Grabbing the cloak it ran off down the tunnel, with Renuk running after it shouting in rusty draconic to see if it understood. The dragon then emitted a noxious gas which proved to be the odd smell’s source, as well as harmful- Filbert and I took it quite badly. Luckily Filbert used his wand of cure light wounds to renew us.
Taunting us, as Renuk told us later, the dragon Suetreth continued to flee down the narrow tunnel, with the smell growing stronger. With much fire breathing, fire dodging, arrow-shooting, and sword-swinging, neither we nor the dragon gained advantage during the flight down the burrow. I decided that personally, I’d be fine with studying this dragon whilst dead, though Renuk took another try at its capture. After losing a chunk of his arm as well as having some dragon teeth stuck into it, he finally caught his prey, grappled with it, then succeeded in tying it up with the help of Filbert’s rope. Practicing his draconic, Renuk told the dragon, being so uncooperative, that if he blows fire or gas again, he’ll chop his head off. Finally we carried the smoldering little dragon out the other end of the tunnel.
Despite the tunnel being made by the dragon, the stone entryway to the town was manmade. When we entered we saw that the town was quite abandoned- holes in tarps, faded colors, wood rotting. However, through the thick dust on the paved streets we saw footprints, easy to follow but very randomly set. I scrambled up onto a rooftop to scope out the place- nothing except for shadowy figures passing beyond a store’s window panes across the square and rotting vegetables in carts. I jumped down and we moved forward, but the silence was broken by the sound of Whot and Renuk trying to creep around. At the sound of Whot’s axe clanging, out of the quiet shuffled a host of what seemed to be the undead! Humans, dwarves, goblins- all kinds were moving towards Whot and Renuk, shuffling quickly and clearly decomposing. Renuk charged a group, struck a mighty downward blow and decapitated one, splitting him in half and raining down guts. The head rolled away, still gnawing on air and serving as a notice that we must strike their brains. We became surrounded and I saw Whot in a bear hug with one, taking a grievous wound to the neck. As Whot moved away I took out my bow and aimed, hitting one’s throat and taking off its head but thus failing to kill it absolutely. While Renuk fought with a zombie who had its spine showing, and Filbert was wounded by another with a gash to the forehead, Whot was struck again, this time in the ankle.
Missing a chunk near his Achilles’ tendon, Whot summoned the strength to vault over into the square’s livestock pen where he started to bleed profusely. As Filbert fended off his attacker, I attempted to jump into the pen with Whot; instead of landing nimbly, however, I ended up stumbling to my knees. This, unfortunately, drew the zombies’ attention towards me now. Suddenly a head was in there with us, which had flown off at a mighty blow from Renuk, followed by the half-orc himself. Looking out I saw that Filbert was still struggling out in the open and that the bound dragon had been set down in the square as Renuk came to our aid. With my rudimentary knowledge of healing, I tried to tend Whot; I was successful in at least slowing the bleeding. Things seemed dire as Renuk continued to battle with the hoard and Filbert was attacked again. I could see him down on the ground, another zombie gnawing on his leg.
Seeing this, Renuk flew into a rage, vaulted over the side of the pen and yelled ferociously to draw their attention. Leaving Whot, I chopped off the head with my short sword of one nearing the pen, seeing that the zombies had finally noticed the dragon and started to feed on it. I did not like that creature, but I certainly did not want it to suffer like that. Still, there was little I could do as my companions’ survival was what mattered then. I aimed at one attacking Renuk, but failed to do more than put another arrow in it. Renuk then struck it viciously, eviscerating it completely. Covered in gore, he tended to Filbert and stabilized him, barely noticing that the dragon had now been almost completely consumed. I saw that one felled zombie was closing in on them again, and took aim, only to drop my arrow! I checked quickly to see if anyone saw (luckily, Whot was unconscious) and tried again, this time managing to explode the arrow through its head with such force that Renuk and Filbert are covered in more guck. Another came to attack, but Filbert, rallying what strength was left to him, grabbed one of my shot arrows nearby and shot the zombie while it approached Renuk’s back. Angered at its still being alive, I took aim and finished it. Filbert staggered over to Whot with his wand, healing him to a more stable condition.
I looked around at my battered party, worried at their condition, in an almost fearful awe at seeing a half-orc’s rage, and ashamed I was not able to aim more true. We stared around at the buildings surrounding us, seeing the humanoid forms wandering across the window panes. We decided this mystery was not going to be solved today, not without the aid of more of the band, particularly those more adept at magical workings. We stumbled through the tunnel once more, and stopped in the original chamber where we found Suetreth. On closer examination we found the coins among the plants- as well as four chests! Filbert, trying to pick the lock, discovered they are magically strengthened. Whot perceived more treasure, being a dwarf attuned to earthly wealth, and found us a large hoard of gold, silver, platinum, copper, and, most oddly, one black pearl. We loaded the chests and treasure onto our horses to be divided up by the band later. Now I am in camp again, reunited with the noble Band I wish to join, with Filbert stabilized and Whot in a more dire state due to what I have learned is called zombie rot. My fears have become realized- in finding friends, you also find fear of loss.