By nightfall the slayers were camping with the army just a few miles outside of the city of Asternor, its high palisades visible on the eastern horizon. Lord Vorahd welcomed the slayers into his pavilion where he sat at one end of a heavy wooden table making battle plans by oil lamp.
Lord Vorahd: “At first light, you, scouts will go north to investigate the farmsteads there, between the Low West Road and the High West Road, if you find all in order gather able-bodied men for my forces. We will continue to lead the army into Asternor; we will be able to gather more intelligence there. We will be there for two days, if you cannot make it back before then, meet us on the road north, Hill Road.”
The slayers agreed and by late the next morning after rejoining with Kyrahma were again moving through wild glades and weed-tangled fields. They traveled for about an hour and wound up running into the High West Road. Realizing they had gone too far north they turned back south. It was another hour before a cluster of small wood buildings could be seen in the distance. They were brought to a standstill a few hundred feet away from the farm buildings when the stink of rotting troll hit their noses. The fields they were moving through were fallow, with the summer harvest rotting in the field and choked with weeds. They could see a large cloud of flies hovering over the buildings. They moved in cautiously and saw that the buildings were wrecked and apparently abandoned. Vorwulf looked out for an ambush and realized something large was in the closest building, a large barn which was laid open on one side. Vorwulf used the Prying Eye ability on his magic scimitar and sent the thing into the darkened barn. As he concentrated so he could see the inside with the eye the giant corpse of a troll stepped from around corner and attacked!
The giant troll corpse was joined by two others each of the bloated stinking bodies were covered in large open sores and hollowed wounds which were gushing maggots and black swarms of flies. The eyes and mouths were just gaping holes black with buzzing crawling flies; their nostrils dripping with bile-yellow maggots.
Jen (Bers’ Player): “Can this game get any more DISGUSTING! Enough, enough description! [gags]”
Bers took out and began to light a torch as the flies began to surround them flooding the area as a black buzzing torrent. Four giant flies, metallic green spattered with oily black hairs, flew out of the barn at the slayers and those were joined by 3 gestalts born of other masses of flies which flew in over the roof of the barn at the heroes. Vorwulf nailed a giant fly with an arrow, Grom tried to rebuke the gestalt spirits but failed and Bers dropped the unlit torch and pulled her axe. The first round found the adventurers covered in acid spit from the giant flies and the dense swarms which were beginning to choke them as the flies were crawling up their noses as well as getting in their eyes. They could barely see one another. When Bers and Kyr ran forward to engage the troll swarm-corpses Grom and Vorwulf could no longer see them through the swirling swarms. Grom was able to repel vermin causing a sphere to open up in the swarms around himself. Kyr lit a torch but it went out when she swung it at masses of flies swirling about her. Vorwulf managed to pinion a giant fly with an arrow and Bers splattered one with her axe getting covered in dark, red gelatinous fly-blood. She then hacked open a maggot-gushing wound in a troll-corpse with a powerful axe blow.
Jen (Bers’ Player): “This is the grossest battle ever!”
The second round opened with Bers chopping a troll-corpse into two halves revealing a massive gross mound of flies and maggots. Vorwulf retreated until he was out of the swarm but was assailed by an acid-spitting giant fly which he spent the rest of the round shooting at ultimately killing it on a simultaneous attack. Grom was able to rebuke and disperse all 3 of the gestalt-spirits. Bers and Kyr were forced to dodge slam attacks from the remaining corpses which they each facing off with. The shaman cast windrush in an attempt to blow away the flies which he did in a 100 foot long 5 foot wide column along the ground as well as knocking down one of the corpses, a giant fly and unfortunately Kyr, all of which were blown to the end of the 100 feet. She got to her feet and slicing the giant fly into two bleeding chunks with her sword. In the third round with only one of the troll corpses left they ganged up on it with Bers finally chopping it down. The group wasted no time in dousing themselves with their water-skins washing off the acid-spit which was covering their armor.
They made a final inspection of the premises and found that it appeared a fight had occurred here as evidenced by old blood stains but the bodies of the farmers were nowhere to be seen. As for anything valuable or even useful the place had been completely pillaged. With Vorwulf taking the lead the four slayers headed back to Asternor.
Once back inside the palisades of the city the group went their separate ways hoping to unwind. Grom went to the marketplace and found a mage that he paid to identify some of the gear he had pilfered from Ekit’s Watch. He found out that the strange tuning-fork shaped rod made of pale pitted metal was indeed of infernal slag and was used to summon a “pretty nasty” demon. Vorwulf went and rented a room for 3 days in the tavern by the docks. By the end of the day all of them wound up in the tavern by the docks bereft of Vorahd’s warriors as they filled the beerhall. The slayers sans Vorwulf, he had went upstairs to his room, were all sitting at a table near the saloon-doors which led to the streets in front of a banner bearing the city arms, a brown ram’s horn pierced by an arrow with white fletching against a yellow field. After a few rounds they decided for a change of venue to the beerhall as there they could drink for free, they had just realized as members of Vorahd’s army they could drink in the hall financed by Lord Vorahd free of charge. A dirty old-man wrapped in tattered purple robes limped up to the table and as he leaned on a polished black staff put his hand on Bers’ shoulder. She recognized him as Zancor, the old Hyvalian outcast she and Dead-Eye had rescured from an ice-troll so long ago (see the Dragonslayers Pt 16: Gone Troll-Hunting), she welcomed him to the table and bought another round. She found out that he had been in Achoran only a few days ago and was on the last ferry out before Asternor’s Elder Council decided to shut down harbor traffic from the southerly city. Vor showed up washed and perfumed and was introduced to Zancor. Vor remembered what his master had told him about the old Hyvalian.
Zancor: “So you guys a part o’ the army eh?”
Bers continued to talk with him mostly about what they were doing now and what happened to Dead-Eye for which he gave his condolences. Grom asked him a few questions but didn’t get any straight answers and was able to discern that he probably had ulterior motives. They got up and went to the beerhall, Bers invited Zancor and he followed. The night spent in the beerhall had been a bawdy, rowdy one but ultimately helped to relax the adventurers though Bers who had tried to seduce another healthy farm boy went back to her room a little frustrated. Vorwulf, ever mindful of security while he slept, set up a noise trap by the window and on the door to his room.
That night their dreams were again haunted by the Lich-fighter with the shadowy image of Dead-Eye at his shoulder.
To Be Continued…