Afflixit Peste, Contagia Probrosus
The battle with the wraith had been exhausting. We rested and recovered our strength before moving on. A careful search unearthed a surprisingly un-rusted metal shield, which Kellar determined was mildly magical. Since Dragda was wielding a two-handed axe, I took the shield.
We determined that we had fully explored the underground parts of the ruined castle, so we took our search to the surface. Our path took us through a disused chapel that had been dedicated to a particularly nasty god of slavery and oppression. At my request we took a little time to topple the statuary and cleanse the altar. From there, we found our way into what must have been the administrative center of the castle.
There were rooms with desks and cabinets, shelves of rotting papers, long tables in a hall, and everywhere there were shackles and manacles hanging from the walls. Finally, our explorations ended in a set of locked doors, beyond which we could hear the sounds of… crunching?
We arranged ourselves for battle, Fungdark struck up a battle chant and Dragda took down the door, revealing a trio of creatures gnawing on the bones of some vermin they had caught. Dragda charged in to pin them down as I identified them as two ghouls and a ghast. Dragda’s initial swing slammed into the central figure, rocking it back, but from that point onward our luck was abysmal.
I blessed some stones to use as missiles, but then the creatures clawed at Dragda, managing to make contact with bare skin and paralyzing her. One of them stayed in the room to continue clawing and biting at her while the other two closed in on Fungdark, Keller and I. I tried a couple of strikes at them using the blessed stones as improvised knuckledusters, but failed to connect. Keller, wisely, backed off and began sniping at our assailants with both magical force bolts and conjured acid arrows. Fungdark tried to gain access to the room to assist Dragda, but found that the other entrance was jammed shut.
He rejoined the fight outside the room’s door just as the two creatures I was fighting inflicted a flurry of claws and bites on me. I staggered back as he charged in, quickly channeling some healing energy to stop some nasty bleeding. At around this point Keller’s spell damage brought down one of the creatures. Fungdark’s charge drew the attention of the remaining hallway antagonist, and he was subjected to a fierce onslaught. Fortunately, this was the one that Dragda had damaged in her initial attack, so Keller’s spells were able to take it down quickly.
The final creature, hearing the death of its fellows, left off chewing on Dragda and came out to engage us. Fungdark and I were both badly wounded and Keller’s spells were nearly depleted. Fortunately Dragda had just recovered from her paralysis and followed the creature into the hall, cleaving it down with a single slash from her axe.
We took stock of our situation. My healing prayers took care of Fungdark’s injuries, but the wounds that Dragda and I had taken were showing early signs of ghoul rot. My medical and alchemical skills could probably hold it at bay, but it would be best to return to the Iron Fort just in case we needed to engage the fort’s cleric’s services.
We collected Xaktooth, Krychug and little Pip – the Guardian Eye family – from the tower where they were waiting and began the journey back. We tested, every so often, to see if they could return to their home plane, but to no avail. On the other hand they were able to conjure food and drink enough for all of us, so we didn’t have to spend time foraging while we walked. And it was a good thing too – despite my efforts, I could tell that we weren’t shaking off the ghoulish infection as I had hoped. As we neared the Iron Fort, we were telling the Guardians about the wall of trees that had become the de-facto border of civilization.
Xaktooth spoke up, “Border as in… barrier?”
We allowed that it could, in fact, be considered such.
“Because I’m feeling very strongly that I can’t proceed any further. And that if you force me to, then I’ll be forced to resist.”
It looks, then, like we finally have an answer to the question of why they were trapped, as well as a clue to the conundrum of the forest. Some ancient spell, probably epic in scope, that has created a block – a vast zone of interference which was preventing their planar travel. A fascinating puzzle that may take us quite a while to solve. We gave the Guardians directions to the outpost where we last saw Sirette. The handspider caretakers shouldn’t prove a problem to creatures whose natural state is ‘hovering’.
And so we are resting up in Iron Fort, restocking, recuperating, studying, selling the salvage we found and spending our money on the bare necessities. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a very fine bottle of necessity calling to me from the cellar…