Take 2

Into the Blackwoods

Darkness and Evil surrounds them as they search for Duke Taveon

World Dates: 2010-07-21 to 2010-07-21

   By “ride”, Ser Issac really meant they would walk, bonded in their mission as the wood was only a mile or so away and they all knew they would have to forgo their mounts shortly after entering the woods. For the initial part of the foray they had decided to try to stick to the paths and trails as much as possible until Nessa bade them to push through the darkened wood.

   They had all armored up and prepared themselves and then left the Inn. The road that ran before the Inn headed northward toward the Blackwood as well as south toward the sea. At fist, the road was well maintained as they walked out of the city, but the road grew into disrepair as they marched closer and closer to the wood. By the time they reached the edge of the wood, the road was little more than two wagon tracks with low-laying grass upon both sides and down the middle.
   There was a distinct division between the wood and the grassland, far more of one than should be natural and all saw it for what it was. The thick, old-growth looking wood was only a few years old at this place, or so Ser Issac had told them, and yet it was as thick and overgrown as any wood they had seen. Just beyond the border, the temperature dropped from a comfortable, warm sunny day to a slightly chilly and darkened path. They all knew this border kept the natural and the supernatural apart and their thoughts wandered as to how much longer it would keep the wood from the city.
   With caution, the moved forward into the chilly wood. The path was just wide enough that they could walk staggered in a cover formation, but the eerie silence still put them on guard. There wasn’t a perfect silence, but it was enough to say something was wrong. They paused for a moment for Shane to analyze the wood and he found the trees themselves radiated some type if magic, but were not magical in their self. He checked each person and found they were free from any curse or effects as of yet, but they were not sure how long that would last.
   Sin turned over a bit of undergrowth just off the path and found the layer underneath to be rife with small crawling insects. Once he opened the area to the light, they skittered away underneath the nearby undergrowth as fast as they could. This gave some reason as to why the ground seemed to shift around them in subtle waves. Nessa closed her eyes and took a deep breath, not wanting to think about how many trillions of insects might be around them.
   They moved slowly down the path, keeping eyes and ears out for anything unusual. It was slow going, but there seemed to be nothing to fear or worry about. They pushed forward through the thick and darkened wood, with just a hint of daylight making it’s way down to them, for nearly an hour before they came to a fork in the path. They studied the path, which wound lazily around a large rock, and found the hint of tracks leading from their right to the left. Nessa felt they should head to the right though and so they moved that way.
   The path quickly grew more narrow until it was barely wide enough for one to pass behind the another. Moving started to slow as they pushed through the low hanging branches that scratched at their armor, hands and faces and tore gently at their clothes. They seemed almost as if they were moving through a moment frozen in time when Shane called a quick halt.
   Everyone stopped and Shane pointed the their left side. Heads turned, ears pricked and eyes scanning but they could detect nothing. Still, Shane held his hand aloft to signal they should hold fast and he heard another sound and knew there was something stirring in the wood. The sound was as of metal links moving across one another and he thought immediately that it might be someone in chain armor. Moments later, Nessa spotted something moving toward them, just as Shane did.
   Nessa whispered quickly and a ball of flame appeared in her hand and she pushed power into it to grow it slightly. Shane slipped his hand down to his side and drew forth his blades even as he started activating his defenses. He saw three shapes shambling toward him and as he scanned around, he found two more groups of shapes shambling on either side of those. That made for a total of seven and he said as much to everyone.
   Sin and Ser Issac both freed their weapons in preparations for what was to come. Ser Issac slipped down the trail a bit further to allow the shambling shapes to enter onto the trail between he and Shane. Everyone was prepared for what was to come next as Nessa threw her fireball into the midst of the three shambling shapes in the center.
   There was an explosion of fire that spew across the three of them and suddenly their shapes were less hidden. The fireball blew the mud and debris off them to reveal three men clad in steel armor about their torsos and chain on the rest of their bodies. They held shields that bore the arms of Megalos and they wielded broadswords in their opposite hands. They were once Legion. Now they were little more than armored zombies hunting the scent of blood in the air.
   The combat started almost immediately with three upon Shane, two upon Ser Issac and two upon Sin. The fighting was difficult, with only a lucky shot or two managing to pass by shields, parries or armor. Oddly though, none of the zombies moved against Nessa even when she slammed a fireball into the side of one facing Shane. A cry erupted from Ser Issac and they saw he was down on the ground before the two zombies and so Nessa started to make her way to help.
   Nessa was just behind the two zombies facing off against Ser Issac when she noticed he was not necessarily down, but had recovered his sword and shield and had just stood and disarmed one of the zombies. While this was going on, Sin managed to dispatch the two he faced off against, while Shane was still holding his own against his three, neither giving nor receiving any blows.
   Shane had realized their skin was nearly as tough, if not tougher than their armor by this point and discovered he was having a very difficult time punching through their layers. Still, he wasn’t sustaining any damage from them as his Blur Ring and magical shields gave him an amazing degree of protection.
   Sin shifted over to attack one of the zombies on Shane and slid his sword through the pack on it’s back and realized there was no armor there, only the thickened skin. The blade slipped deeply in and then he yanked it downward and the zombie fell to the ground. He moved toward the next one in line and found he and Shane both faced off against it as the third had moved against Nessa.
   Nessa was trying, but her magics were having little effect at the moment and she realized she would need to adapt to these creatures. They were more than zombies she finally realized and she wasn’t sure how much power to put behind her attacks anymore as the level she normally would have used for zombies was insufficient. She held her staff loosely in her left hand as she tried to parry off blows with her gauntlet, but a blade slipped through and struck her across the chest.
   Shane and Sin whipped through the last couple of zombies on them and then looked to Nessa’s wounds. Shane cast a quick healing on her while Sin slipped past and started upon the zombies from behind. He took out the first while Ser Issac plunged his blade through the second and then tore off it’s head and they were alone in the wood once again.
   They started rummaging through the remnants of the zombies, or whatever they were. Each carried a broadsword, though one had been broken on Ser Issac’s armor. Each wore a steel breastplate with chain mail arms and legs and thick soled leather boots. Their shields were battered and damaged and it was impossible to say how long they had lain amongst the mud and detritus. Their packs were empty save for mud and other wastes and it was then that Sin noticed something strange.
   One of the swords he was looking at was coated in some black, viscous liquid. He looked toward Nessa and saw a similar mark across her tunic where the sword had struck and he realized that whatever poisons had been on the blade had struck her and been healed inside when Shane cast his magics. They were very worried at that point, especially Nessa, but the poison was having no effect as of yet and so they thought they would press on; still they would leave everything behind as they didn’t want the infected objects amongst them.
   Before they left though, Shane thought he’d see if the poisons left any magical trace as the woods themselves seemed to be magically active. Each of the blades gave off a faint glow showing the viscous fluid was indeed magical and they wondered then what sort of magical malady would befall Nessa now that she was infected.
   Still, they moved on; the narrow trail constricting and slowing their movements, until they came to another fork. One tine pointed slight to their left and the other slightly toward the right and Nessa felt a tug to the right, feeling as if Duke Taveon was directly down the trail. They started moving that direction and followed along for nearly another hour before coming to a large open field.
   The field was a couple hundred yards across and was open to the sun such that only the edges of it were shaded by the thick trees. The flowers were all uniformly beet red with violet splotches upon them and sat low to the ground, only a foot or so tall. Sin was not happy with the notion of these flowers as they seemed totally out of place here in the wood and so they examined ways they might move around or through them without touching them.
   Suddenly Shane’s eyes went wide and he held forth his hand and mumbled slightly and then there was a burst of fire a few yards across and the flowers were engulfed and then ashed. He mumbled again, as did Nessa, and then they were pushing the fire around the field, ashing the flowers as they went. Shane started upon a left-sided path toward one opening to a trail while Nessa started more toward a right-sided path toward another trail.
   Sin and Ser Issac held back at the edge of the field of flowers as Shane and Nessa pushed forward. Shane had covered a couple dozen yards when he saw sixteen points of glowing yellow from across the field. He looked harder upon them and then cast a magical viewing spell and saw their silvery-gray outlines and saw them for the large wolf-like shapes they were. He yelled back that there were wolves in the trees and started a quick retreat.
   Ser Issac broke into a run towards Shane and the Sin followed suit. They saw the shapes suddenly burst from the other side of the clearing and started running straight toward them. Shane paused and brought more magic to mind and then took to flight to gain the tactical advantage against the wolves.
   Nessa looked hard upon the wolves once they broke free and shook as she saw them. They stood nearly four feet tall and were carried upon spindly legs that seemed to small for them. They foamed at their mouths, the white creamy liquid spilling out as they raced forward. The closest one she saw had a number of wriggling appendages coming from the side and then she realized it was worms and other vermin that had grown in or was eating the wolves from the inside. It was too much to bear and she swooned and then lost consciousness.
   Ser Issac yelled at the slightly elevated form of Shane to point out what had happened with Nessa. Shane turned his head and the started flying over to grab her. Sin and Ser Issac continued forward toward the edge of the burn where the wolves where racing toward them. They came up side by side, arranging themselves to try to mutually defend each other, and then they waited.
   Shane swooped down and grabbed up Nessa and then shot back up into the air. She was heavy and his flying was slowed. Two of the wolves had broken of and headed toward them while the other six still ran full boar toward Sin and Ser Issac. Once they saw their pray was out of reach, they turned and ran back toward the two armored fighters. Shane watched as the fighting was engaged.
   Wolves leapt at both men on the ground and were parried off with yelps and gashes of blood except for one which slid between them in the air. They both started in upon the ones before them as they kept pressed closely together and the wolves attempted to dance around them and their strikes. The battle seemed to be going their way until Ser Issac bellowed and Sin saw him dropped to the ground with a wolf on his back.
   Sin wasn’t sure what to do, but he had a few wolves of his own to deal with. Two of the ones he’d been battling had backed off with large gashes across them, but they seemed to be recovering quickly, their wounds diminishing even as he watched. A third danced around his blades, trying to nip in at him and then as he worked on those three who spread around him, he didn’t see the one upon Ser Issac leap at him. Shane shouted a word of warning, but it was too late and he was suddenly down with one on his back, one of his right arm and one on his left leg, but they couldn’t pierce his armor.
   There was a yelp from one of the wolves facing Ser Issac and then Sin slipped his blade between the ribs of the one on his right hand and it went down. Above, Shane was close enough he was ready to rain down fire upon their backs and things looked like they might turn around, but it was too soon to tell with both men on the ground, the wolves changing their tactics as the fight progressed and the wolves wounds healing quickly…



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