If you missed the first installment, catch up by clicking the link below.
Part One: The Desert Falcons, and The Littlest Pharaoh
Part Two: Undead Children, and Resurrected Puppies
Part Three: Enemies on All Sides
Part Four: Fight Night at The Necropolis
Part Five: Who is The Forgotten Pharaoh?
Part Six: No Harm Ever Came From Reading A Book...
Part Seven: Needle in a Haystack
Part Eight: Lamias and Genie Lords
Part Nine: The Mind of The Forgotten Pharaoh
Part Ten: The End of The Forgotten Pharaoh
All caught up? Good, because things get shambling in the next chapter...
A Night of Celebration
So, we managed to escape relatively unscathed (physically, at least) from the general's tomb. We emerged with the Littlest Pharaoh stowed away among Mustafa's material components, and we turn over the significant treasures we found (the war chariot, and most of the gilded tomes) to the church leaders, as per our agreement with them. The city was discovered, of course, but it was preserved as historical art, rather than as a city of tiny, living clay people. We go back to the inn, we rest, have some hummus, drink a little wine, and rub elbows with our fellow adventurers. The tiny majesty watches in secret, and spends the rest of his time in our rooms.
|So, what did you find in the necropolis?|
It's really a rather merry bunch. Caladral is offering toasts and buying drinks, performing the unique magic of turning gold into liquor at a rapid pace. Ra'ana and Umaya are nursing their own drinks, washing the dust from their throats and keeping eyes out for trouble. Mustafa is involved in deep discussion with a pair of witchy sisters regarding portents and spells, their conversation dense enough that no one not steeped in mysticism would be able to follow it. And Yana is sharing a tankard with a rambunctious halfling by the name of Mad Dog, who goes adventuring with naught but a pack of hounds to watch his flanks.
After a night of rest, during which Mustafa unpacks his wizard's spellbook and prepares some arcane might to complement his divine power (and everyone else takes a second level in their existing classes), we are given a new assignment. A huge, walled manor that's been marked with Pharasma's spiral, and which is merely unexplored instead of unexplored and forgotten. It is deeper in the necropolis, though, and as such we should be sure we are prepared.
Then Undead Children
No sooner do we walk through the gates than we are beset by visions from the ancient past. The sounds of shuffling mobs, and the smells of burning and blood. A horrific callback that has lingered throughout centuries, leaving us shaken, and on edge. Then we stepped into the manor's side yard, and found it was full of mewling, shambling creatures.
|I'm starting to get a "heart of darkness" theme here... if there were zombie babies.|
These tiny corpses, reduced to little more than bones, pose no threat to our bodies. But what they represent is awful, and it sets something off in both Umaya, and Ra'ana. The two of them methodically destroy each creature, bringing their weapons down without malice, or rage. Every swing is heavier than the last, though, and when they reach the small slave quarters they find a half dozen restless dead still chained to the wall, left there for untold centuries. With a wave of his hand, and a quick prayer, Mustafa blows out their dark candles, and let their bones rest.
Filled with a horror that is has become a slow-burning anger, we enter the house, and find something worthy of that wrath. A snarling, bestial ghoul the size and shape of a Large dog, and with several, rotting heads full of too many teeth. Beneath Ra'ana's whirling blades, and Umaya's falchion, the thing doesn't stand a chance. Mustafa and Yana don't even need to bring their magic to bear, simply allowing the two warriors to spend their impotent frustration on the abomination that lurked in the upper floors.
Aside from the bizarre hound, though, there was nothing noteworthy in the house. Around the other side, though, we found a huge, skeletal creature waiting to snap up unwary prey. Umaya was unwary when it ambushed her, but its bones were ill-prepared for the assault of her flail, or for the bolts of acid and disruption that lanced into it as Mustafa and Yana threw back their sleeves, casting in near unison. Bloodied, but with no serious hurts that a brief prayer beneath Sarenrae's bright sun could not fix, we found a crypt.
The crypt's guardian, something that looked like a mummy but which was anything but, did not die easily. In fact, it nearly escaped, and was halfway up the wall before a handful of hurled flame from Mustafa brought it down, where its skull was pulped by a panting Umaya. Further down, hordes of undead cats came snarling and hissing from the shadows. Mustafa held out his hands, and sent wave after wave of positive energy crashing over the beasts. They fell, and crumbled. There were hundreds of them, though, and we couldn't figure out why.
|Until we opened Schroedinger's coffer, that was...|
Far in the back of the tomb there was a bizarre device. A coffer that held a single kitten. A kitten who, Mustafa determined after examining its box, had been kept alive for thousands of years by the sacrifice of the horde we had destroyed. So, capturing the cat (who was far from pleased at being snatched and put in a bag), we carried the strange coffer out of the tomb, and tried to decide what should be done with it.
A Hangdog Face, and Crocodile Tears
When we return to the inn, we find Mad Dog sitting at a table, surrounded by empty glasses. There are only two dogs with him now; one lying on the floor, dejected, and the other with her head in his lap, whining up at him. He'd lost the others, all for some stupid magic sword he didn't even want. It was a heartbreaking scene, and after the tragedies of the day, we decided to do something about this one.
|Did you do what it sounds like you did?|
Upon careful study and consideration, Mustafa pronounced that he believed they could bring one of Mad Dog's hounds back to his side. The pint-sized pack master retrieved the body of his big male, broken and bloody from its engagement, and handed it gingerly to us. We placed it inside the coffer, and carefully closed the lid. Mustafa offered prayers to his own goddess for guidance, and beseeched Erastil to look with favor upon Mad Dog's plight. To let this hound, a creature of both the wilds and the home, return to its master. We placed the hissing cat in the other part of the coffer, and asked that it be granted the end it was meant to have so many thousands of years ago.
Then, hoping for the best, Mustafa filled the thing with as much positive energy as he could generate, and Yana activated the coffer. The result? Mad Dog's hound leaped out, tongue wagging, and looking around eagerly. He seemed bigger than he had, more muscular, and perhaps with a sharper gaze, but it was the same dog all right. Mad Dog wrapped his arms around it, and cried into his fur. Then he thanked us with all his swelling, drunken heart. We accepted his thanks, but kept a wary eye on what we had done.
It seems that someone heard our prayers, though. That hound's forehead was soon bedecked with a pair of antlers, and it began prowling the town's back streets, sniffing out undead and dastardly threats to those who lived there. Deciding not to test our luck, we handed the coffer over to Hakar, under the condition that he not sell it to someone who would use it for evil or nefarious ends.
As if he would ever do such a thing!
What feats did the Desert Falcons achieve next? Tune in next time when I share the ambush at the square, and the awakening of the dead!
That's all for this week's Table Talk. Hopefully you enjoyed. If you have a tale of your own you'd like to share, feel free to get in touch, and I can give you your own moment in the spotlight! If you'd like to support Improved Initiative, and keep content just like this coming your way, then why not head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to leave me a tip? As little as $1 a month can make a big difference, and there's some sweet swag in it for you as well. Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter, well, why not start today?