Gergnedo plants his axe on the ground and looks around, “Those were big wolves.”
The bodies of the beast lay around the camp. Drusilla shakes her head, “Well this mess isn’t going to clean itself, brother, start collecting our gear please.”
The group works quickly to gather their scattered belongings and shift their camp to a new site. Once settled, Veyeper takes watch once more. No one rests easy until the sounds of the forest returns. As the hours pass, Veyeper wakes Kenneth to take his turn. “All seems safe,” he reassures his friend. Kenneth adds some wood to the fire and settles in on watch.
Kellian lights a torch and looks around cursing. The mist obscures the moon and stars to cover him in total darkness. The torch seems a bit feeble, but it allows him to see the trail ahead. He had hoped to make better time, but he dared not risk his horse. Still, the tracks in the dirt were not that old. Unless they made better time than he thought, he should be close. Spurring his steed to walk once more, he heads up through the foothills in search of his friends.
Kenneth stoked the fire again. His turn for watch was nearly up. He ground the stick into the dirt to cool it. He had learned the hard way not to wake Gerg up with his hand. Kenneth rubbed his jaw involuntarily at the memory of that mistake. A faint sound reached his ears and he turned his head. Hard to make out, but there appeared to be a light of some sort coming up the trail. The damn mist makes it hard to tell though. He nudged Veyeper awake, “Going to check something out…” and he stalked off into the woods with his bow.
Yes, there ahead, that is most definitely a light thought Kellian. Moving the torch behind his head, he stared out to get a better look. The snap of a twig behind him was the only warning as a large shape crashed into him, bearing him to the ground. The inevitable pain from fangs digging into his flesh came shortly after. “Here we go again,” the veteran mutters as he rolls up and draws his hammer. His torch that lay on the ground now only dimly lit the area around him, but it was enough to make out the form of the large dire wolf bearing down on him. Again it lashed out with claw and fang, tearing across the warlord’s arm.
At the sound of battle, Kenneth rushed forward and immediately spied the pack leader assaulting some poor traveler on the road. Drawing quickly, he loosed two arrows at the beast, both scraping across its hide. He yelled back to Veyeper and continued his advance.
Kellian swung his hammer at the beast, but it deftly dodged out of the way, and once again sank his teeth over his arm. If not for the armor he wore, surely he would have lost it. “Well this isn’t going well,” he thought. And then two arrows flashed by him, striking the beast a glancing blow. “About time you showed up Kenneth,” he yelled back, not taking the risk of turning around. He surely hoped it was Kenneth.
At the familiar voice of his comrade, Kenneth moved forward again and fired, but this time, only one arrow found its target. Veyeper crashed his way through the woods to close with the beast as well. The others were woke and began heading toward the sound of battle.
The arrival of more meals caused the great wolf to hesitate for a moment. Kellian took that time to gather his strength and soldier on, “get up old man, you aren’t dinner yet.” With renewed vigor, he struck out at the creature again, but failed to feel the satisfying crunch of contact.
Timing its attack perfectly, the wolf lunges at Kellian as he completes his swing, and tastes the blood of his prey once more. However, it has no time to savor it as another two-legs comes rushing forward and strikes it with its steel claw. Another shaft enters its flesh from the one in the back as well. It tries to flee but finds its paw pinned to the earth. It lashes out with fang as another two-leg rushes it. Finally the great beast dies and rejoins his pack.
The companions rejoice at the reunion with Kellian, and they make their way back to camp and to tend their wounds. Kellian sits down near the fire, “That was a big wolf.”
The others tell the tale of their earlier battle with the pack. “But I thought the Baron had said that there had been no sign of dangers here? Surely a pack like that would have struck before this?” But none could offer any answer. They tried once again to rest, and too soon morning comes. The party breaks camp and heads back up the trail to find the mining camp.
The group notices that while the mist is ever present, the farther they get from the coast, the less damp it seems to get. As the sun rises, they see more and more of the area around them. Finally, a few hours after high sun, they come across the mining camp. At first the camp looks to be quite busy, but the sounds just aren’t there. As they walk in, they notice a few miners here and there, but no one working as they should be. When they are noticed, several cries go out for someone named Har’rad. Soon they are met by a tall man with a crowd of armed miners behind him. “Who are you and what business do you have here?”
Veyeper steps forward and starts to address the man they assume is Har’rad. He stumbles a bit over his greeting and informs the man that they are there on behalf of the town, trying to find out why the ore has stopped coming. There is tension in the air as the two groups try to figure the other out, finally Har’rad invites the party to his tent to talk. On the way there, one of them spies the mine entrance, and the fact that there are two guards outside of it.
Once inside, Veyeper reveals that they are there on behalf of the Baron, who is greatly concerned that the ore has stopped coming into town. Har’rad explains that they have had delays due to a few accidents in the mines and that he has needed all of his men here to fix things. He offers to have his mules hitched to the ore wagons that are full if the party will take them back to town themselves. When the group asks to see the mines, he refuses them, seeming to be hiding something. When they press and ask him if something else has been discovered, he denies it and the group can feel no hint of untruth to his words. The group decides to stay the night and leave in the morning with the ore. Har’rad allows them to sleep in the mess tent, and has them led there. Guards are posted outside. Kenneth attempts to pick the pocket of a miner as he pushes his way through the crowd and is caught by the man. A hasty explanation with some help from Veyeper and an altercation is avoided. He does see a well dressed man go inside Har’rad’s tent however.
Once inside, the group discusses what they are to do next. The guarded mine has them curious and they decide to send Kenneth out to find more. Hegel offers up a distraction to the guards and Kenneth sneaks out the back. Night has fallen and the camp is shrouded in a dim light from the various torches set up. He makes his way through the tents to Har’rads and overhears the man complaining that someone has gone missing. Someone is sent to go look for him and Kenneth decides to follow. His is led to the other side of the camp where a silk tent is set up. The miner he was following enters the tent for a few moments and then leaves, still searching. Kenneth attempts to sneak in, but knocks something over. He backs out quickly as a few miners go into the tent and then leave, but he notices that they stick around keeping an eye on it.
At this moment, there is a pulse that ripples through the camp. Drusilla and Kenneth fare it well, but the rest are dazed. Outside, the camp erupts in a bit of chaos as men fall over or sway where they stand. Cries for help go out along side those of confusion. Veyeper feels that the pulse emanated from the direction of the mine, and the party rushes out towards there. Once in the central clearing, they see Har’rad accompanied by several armed miners also heading toward the mine. Both groups stop as they see each other.
“What is going on here?” demands Kellian, “what is inside the mine?” Har’rad looks uneasy for a minute, and looks at the uncertain faces of his men. His face betrays an internal struggle of some sort, and then finally relaxes in decision.
“We found something. I don’t know what it is, but it looked valuable, certainly more valuable than the ore we have been digging out. I was in negotiation with Waylan, Lord Fairday’s steward, for the object. I’m sure it is worth more than what the Baron could possibly pay for it. I kept my men here so that no word of it would leak out. But now Waylan is missing. He was in a panic after you arrived. I have men looking for him now.”
One of the mine guards steps forward and shakily tells Har’rad that Waylan entered the mine a short time ago, demanding entrance upon his word. At that moment, a scream echoes forth from the cave, and then all is silent. The party rushes into the mine, Veyeper and Gergnedo in the lead, with Har’rad and a few men following behind. Har’rad directs them through the tunnels until finally coming to some sort of buried chamber. The half circle room is made of worked stone, its floor a few feet below the tunnel. The group drops down into it and moves forward, their torchlight revealing a dark fog seeming to come from some metallic object on an alter of sorts. Har’rad and his men come in as well, spreading out to one side.
Kenneth knocks an arrow, but doesn’t see anything threatening. And then, he hears the subtle sound of a deep drum, and the fog begins to move. A huge “arm” of it reaches out towards one of Har’rad’s men, enveloping him. The man screams, and the arm recedes, of the man there is no sign. One of the others immediately turns and runs screaming out of the chamber, the other two look to Har’rad for instructions, fear is etched across their faces. Har’rad soon follows his man, taking the lantern with him. Kenneth launches arrows into the fog, but is not sure if he struck anything. Veyeper rears back his arm, ready to launch his everburning torch into it, but then realizes that they have no other light in this chamber. He yells out to Hegel who lifts the torch with his mind and rushes it forward toward the fog. For a moment, the fog recoils from it, but then settles back.
“To hell with this,” yells Gergnedo and he charges the fog with his axe, swinging through it. He senses something is there, but feels no satisfying hit. The others step up a bit and blast into the fog. Then the fog swarms over Gergnedo and when it recedes, he is gone. Veyeper and Drusilla rush up and swing inside the fog, calling out for the goliath. Hegel can hear some sort of chittering coming from the fog and it sounds abyssal. They soon hear the familiar roar of Gergnedo and the goliath steps out of the fog, swinging his axe wildly around him. His skin seems paler. The battle begins to rage. The fog constantly conceals whatever is inside of it, which lashes out time and time again, attempting to pull someone within its depths. The rest of Har’rad’s men flee, overcome with terror.
Time and time again the heroes strike out into the fog, contacting something. Veyeper is consumed for a few moments before breaking free. As the fight goes on, the party gets the feeling that the creature within is weakening, that they are gaining the upper hand, but then something changes. They start to feel their strength flow from them and into the fog. The closer they are, the stronger the pull. The fog is feeding on them, regaining its strength. Gergnedo is sucked into its depths once more, and feels hundreds of claws, grasping and tearing at him in the darkness. Each cut sucking his life force away.