There was a light snowfall as the slayers, now consisting of Grom the Shaman (played by Gil) and the Feren Dragon Blood Warrior Magiia (played by Jenn) both being led by Vorwulf the ranger/dragonslayer (played by Cris), trundled through the snow to the hall of the Elder Council seat of the authority of the civil authority of Merdna. There they were briefed on the currently unfolding situation. Achoran south of the Nirix river has fallen, Asternor north of the river overwhelmed with refugees and plague is under siege and will fall soon cut-off by a large contingent of undead troops and there was a black army of the undead on the move to Merdna accompanied by a black dragon marching under the war banner of Blackbrow (a black mailed fist gripping a white multi-pointed star against a purple field) their intentions obvious. Another banner among those forces also reveals that Blackbrow is reinforced with mercenaries from Poisonwood bearing the standard of a black scorpion entwined in the coils of a green serpent against a red field. It would be mere hours before those forces would be at the gates. Due to the battle with the trolls of Trollguard at the beginning of fall Merdna’s forces are much weakened some of which have been sent to reinforce Fertum Vorahd the seat of Furst Vorahd (sole lord of Hirok-Nor’s warrior-caste). The remaining forces within the city walls are 3 units of the Merdna Town Guard each unit consisting of 10 freeman archers (hey arrows for undead and foreigners) and 10 guardsmen (armed with shortspears, shortswords with medium wood shields, steel caps on their heads and chain mail shirts) which will be on each of the three gates to the city (the east is bordered by the city’s harbors and Mer-Lake). The Clothworker’s guild (with a force of 15 crossbow men and 20 maul-men) will be manning the south gate around which their circular two-story guild house is built around and the Wood Cutters’ guild (with a force of 15 crossbow men and 22 axe-men) will be on the south gate where their guild house sits. The sheriff of Merdna with his 9 deputies will take post at the ridge above the lakeshore by the Council House and Lord Vorahd’s Manor reinforced by 10 warriors loyal to Vorahd meant to steward his properties within the city walls. A fleet of runners will be the communication lines between the city’s defenders. The Blackwings Dragonslayers’ Guild will be defending the west gate (the Sirti road entrance), the weakest point in Merdna’s defenses where the gate is between two wood guard towers with a narrow walkway over the gate behind the palisades along with the city guard unit assigned to the same gate. It is the gate which they helped to defend against a horde of trolls and helped to repair afterwards (see The Dragonslayers II Pts. 2 & 3). There are also 12 Hill-Lander warriors of the Achaánal Clan, a Hill-Lander clan expelled from their ancestral lands somewhere to the immediate north/north-west by a Lowlander rebellion a few years ago but they have pledged their swords only if the enemy gets inside of the walls.
The slayers along with the rest of those within the town hall rushed from the meeting; the slayers to the Hopping Rat to prepare. Grom prepared some warpaint for them while Vorwulf put the manual he had been gradually working through during the long winter days with the rest of his things in his attic quarters. The first to be painted was Magiia the Feren. She was sent by the Blackwings of Chago, a member in good standing she is a native of the Feren Archipelago and racially an amazon. Her expertise in mixing up alchemical concoctions from the blood of dragons in order to give herself supernatural abilities (al ’a chemical super-soldier) is invaluable and sending her to a place where dragons are endemic in order to harvest as much raw material as she can seemed like a good idea to guildmaster Douamo at the time. The shaman painted himself last after finishing with Vorwulf, all were eager to get to the battlements. They extinguished the candles in the tavern/guild house and lit their lanterns as they marched out into the dark and cold. They were making their way along Sirti street to the west gate when Vorwulf caught a faint voice on the chill winter winds. He turned to see an old man in a beggar’s cloak waving his hand at them accompanied by another larger warrior-type completely wrapped in an old dirty hooded cloak.
“Hail friends! Where are you headed?”
Cris: *sound of disgust* “I hate this guy.”
Vorwulf recognized the old man as Zancor the one-armed. Suspicious he looked over the old necromancer’s companion. He immediately (N20) recognized the fighter for Bers’ reanimated corpse.
“Wait! I found her wandering abroad and well… I haven’t had time to return her to you guys since I had to flee Asternor before the noose tightened!” The sly old bastard got a natural 20 to bluff. Vorwulf spotted the Gauntlet of Transmutation on the old man’s hand. The two sides were eyeballing one another each unsure of what to do next.
Jenn: “Uhm. Should we be getting to the gate?”
Gil: “I guess we go to the gate then?”
Vorwulf: “We aren’t going anywhere, we’re burying Bers HERE!” He whipped out his sword. The expression on Zancor’s face hardened into a sneer as he began to step back.
Suddenly, an arrow whizzed out from an alley about a 100 ft. away behind the necromancer and the zombie-creeper Bers imbedding itself in the snow at Vorwulf’s feet. He recognized the arrow and the decayed fletching of his former master, Dead-Eye.
Grom unleashed his Primal Scream catching zombie Bers and Zancor the necromancer in the cone of frightening sound. Blood erupted from the old man’s ears and nose and fear replaced the evil sneer. The half-frozen slab of rotten meat that had been Bers was unaffected. The zombie-creeper swung a powerful but clumsy blow with its great axe at the shaman fortunately missing him. Magiia moved in slashing at Bers but her blow was deflected off of the zombie’s star metal shield. Zancor fled into the increasing snowfall disappearing from sight. Vorwulf slashed at Bers his blow glancing of her shield. A bone white arrow came shrieking from the alley a hundred feet away nailing Vor. The shaman backed off shaken by the scream that blasted him from the dreadful magic arrow and with bleeding ears cast Dispel Fear on himself. Bers nailed the amazon with her axe opening a nasty wound the blood steamed as it colored the snow. The zombie parried the amazon’s retort.
Gil: “Man! That guy [referring to Dead-Eye] is gonna keep nailing us!”
Cris: “Damn,damn. I know I know. Well, it has to be like this.”
Vorwulf took off streaking towards the position of his former master. He spotted the cloaked shape duck back into the alley. The battle in the snow between the two Blackwings and what was once Bers, now zombie-creeper minion of Blackbrow, raged on. Magiia suffered several deep wounds but finally managed to disarm Bers whom simply pulled her back up weapon the superior quality silver-bladed great sword Bers had originally looted from the ruins of the tower of Blackbrow (see The Dragonslayers I: Pt. 6). Grom shot a stream of fire at the creature forcing it to keep its shield raised against his flames as it battled against the amazon the silver chainmail of the zombie absorbing some her strongest blows with ease. Meanwhile in the alley Vorwulf was dueling his master. Vorwulf wielded a cutlass and longsword and his former master wielded the bowie knife and longsword combination that had been his trademark in life. They traded several blows nearly matched in sword skill. Vorwulf’s blows sliced into a pitch black substance which seemed to flesh the bones which he could feel the blades ring off of from every blow.
Grom unleashed blast after blast of Wind Rush at zombie Bers whom was forced to dodge which she did easily. This allowed Magiia to move out of her reach and snatch up the battle axe and drink a healing potion, she was badly wounded.
Vorwulf had finally hacked away all of the black, shadowy stuff form the bones of his former master and will a couple of quick but powerful blows (double Natural 20’s; go figure) shattered the bones of the grinning skeleton that was left. It dropped into a pile of rags and yellow-grey flinders. He stepped over to catch a glance at the battle in the street in time to see the shaman call down lightning onto the head of the zombie damaging it horribly. Vorwulf sucked down a healing potion, he too was badly wounded.
Grom healed the amazon with his shamanic touch who had by now moved close to him. She redoubled her efforts at chopping down Bers with her own axe. Jenn (Magiia’s player) sighed in relief when Bers finally fell.
Jenn: “Finally! Yaay!”
Gil: “Alright! Yeah!”
Cris just sighed.
Dead-Eyes bones leapt back to life, reassembled themselves and prepared to continue the duel to the death with Vorwulf. The brawny (and well-equipped) corpse of Bers rose still wielding its silver sword and star metal shield.
Cris: “It’s what they do [in response to the expressions on Jenn’s & Gil’s faces]. This is why I hate undead. Damn ghoulies.”
The Blackwings heard the sounds of battle from the direction of the west gate, shouting, ringing steel, twanging bowstrings, and splintering wood.
To Be Continued…