In 4121 AR, the desert dwarves of the Barrier Wall Mountains sealed the famed Tar-Urkatha mine abruptly, saying only that one of the richest platinum mines in history had played out. Nearly six centuries later, the truth rises from the darkness.
You think these are likely the remains of the males granted the privilege of mating with the beastly females. You do note that the event occurred on a new moon.
The way now clear of gnolls, the next few days of travel pass without mishap. One morning a giant vulture soars overhead scaring the mules, but the great bird soon departs to look for less mobile prey.
There is a crossing over a deep chasm, but although ancient,the dwarven bridge has withstood the test of time and allows a safe crossing over the harrowing gap.
Finally on the third day, you pause for a midday break overlooking a valley and your destination. An immense landslide covers the lower slopes on the opposite side of the valley and dark pines cover the floor of the valley. Between the trees you see small stone structures of some type. A crumbling paved road skirts the valley and leads up the slope above the landslide to fortifications that must mark the entrance to the lost dwarven mine now known as Zolurket.
"The lesser I think on gnollish rituals involving dis-membering the better I think... especially when there is more interesting fare ahead" taking time to take in the vista before him... while also scanning for signs of life outside of the tunnels.
Perception: 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (4) + 11 = 15
If no life is noted, Chitleen will begin to move to the stone structure in the trees.
All is still and bright in the warm midday sun as you repack and make your way down into the valley and toward the shadows of the pine thicket.
Know (nature) DC 15:
The trees are somewhat overgrown and the oldest all about the same height. You would estimate that this is secondary growth and that the whole valley was kept clear of trees up until a few centuries ago.
Know (Engineering) DC 12:
It becomes evident as you get closer that the small square structures in the dark pines are crypts or mausoleums.
Arriving at the edge of the dense stands of pine, you can now make out the buildings more clearly and see that they are dwarven mausoleums and cenotaphs. One stands nearby, the blocks of pale stone in contrast with the sickly black pines that press against it.
Strange that dwarves would entomb their dead in an open valley and that the tombs bear no marks of accomplishment or even listing of the clan name and ancestors of those lain within. There is no sign of an entrance either although there are several areas along the base that are torn at as if some wild beast sought to dig under the walls.
Even though the warm sun still shines brightly overhead, the shadows of the pines are chill on your skin.
Chitleen follows behind the dwarven priest, not wanting to inadvertantly contravene any customs regarding the interment of the deceased. Silent for the moment, but concerned and scanning the cenotaphs for writing. "Karrak, are not those erected when remains are not able to be found?"
Karrak is disturbed by the strangeness of the tombs. The workmanship is fine, but it just feels inert. It lacks the quiet joy and pride that nearly all dwarves take in even the most mundane project. Aside from a few engraved hammers in the style of Kols, the God of Oaths, and his uncle Magrim, Karrak finds no runes to decipher what occurred. Even given the cultural differences of the desert dwarves, one would expect some text honoring the life of the fallen or even a name that descendants could seek, but there is nothing. It is as if these tombs and monuments were made to be forgotten.
Lockjaw speaks the truth about the untimely end of many an adventurer and that could be a possible explanation for the many 'empty tombs' though one would not expect so many commoners to find that fate.
Dwarf Cleric 5 (HP 35 | AC 18 | T 12 | FF 16 | CMD 17 | F +7 | R +5 | W +9 | Init +4* | Per +4* )
That is true, friend. It seems strange that there are so many, compared to the number of the tombs. And the craftsmanship is ...well, lifeless. It seems these desert dwarves' customs are alien to my own. Karrak takes out a small book and makes a few hurried sketches.
With a stony face Chitleen muses "Most monuments are built to remember, to honor the fallen... this feels as though it was placed to forget. I fear we might find our answer within the mines... and we will see if our honored employers are speaking truth or falsehood."
Jaw set, Lockjaw leads the way deeper into the thicket and toward the cacophony. The dark trees press close and the raucous calls draw nearer sounding more like barks and howls than intelligible words, but still in a humanoid timbre.
You spot movement between the trees and get a glimpse of whatever they are. It is about the right size and gait for a wolf, but something is definitely off as you spot bare diseased flesh. Perhaps a pack of mange afflicted mastiffs? The creatures encircle you, voices quiet to an anticipatory whine.
Mankato spots six of the beasts among the dark trees. Then one gambols forward and you see a form like a stout bulldog. Its skin hairless and covered in weeping pustules. Well, hairless except for its head and the ragged and stained beard around its long jaws and sharp teeth. Then it stands and the truth is revealed as you realize that whatever this being is now, it was once a dwarf.
Knowledge (Dungeoneering): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
Knowledge (Nature): 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 26Does Chitleen know what they might actually be? - and more specifically if they appear to be some kind of undead?
Hissing as he recognizes the tell tale signs of that which walks when it should already have perished Chitleen reaches into his satchel as he stalks forward at to one side. Drawing forth a vial of alkhahest, he cracks the seal with a thumb as he hurls the mixture towards the lead creature...
Alkhahest (within 30ft): 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (1) + 6 = 7 for 2d8 + 4 ⇒ (4, 1) + 4 = 9 6 splash if relevant... which it likely isn't
...though in his haste he accidentally ruptures the vial before it is thrown, causing most of the precious acid to dissipate before it reaches the target.
Male Elf Wizard 3 (Transmuter-Enhancement) / AC13->17(mage armor) / HP23->full
The signs were readily apparent and Daeron felt thankful he readied his bow in time. The sight of the now approaching undead jars a distant memory of short lived insanity. Gritting his teeth, Daeron chooses to lash out with his bow, aware that unannounced use of his trasmutation magics on his new comrades may not be what they desired.
Daeron has never seen these things in person, but has heard tales. They are festrog, bestial ghoul-like things that act more like wolves. Their origin is shadowy, but appears to have something to do with corpses exposed to negative energy and then scavenged by wild animals. They lack the ability to paralyze with fear as ghouls do, but they grow strong by devouring living flesh and carry virulent disease.
The battle hardened elves react swiftly though ineffectively. A memory of madness casts a shadow over Daeron and ruins his shot as Chitleen sets off his alkahest bomb too early. Then the undead beasts burst from the pines running on all fours like hounds. Lockjaw is ready though and with a swing of his axe the first one falls in a splash of clotted black blood. Lockjaw- fort save
Two more rush the paladin in the lead, but are kept at distance by warding swings of the powerful axe. karrak and Mankato manage to avoid the ravening jaws of the beasts that charge them, but Chitleen is not so fortunate. The thing grabs his leg and pulls him down feasting on his living flesh as it tears a chunk of meat from his leg. It quickly swallows the bloody meat and seems energized. Chitleen-9 bite, tripped
Dwarf Cleric 5 (HP 35 | AC 18 | T 12 | FF 16 | CMD 17 | F +7 | R +5 | W +9 | Init +4* | Per +4* )
Knowledge: Religion 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (7) + 5 = 12
Karrak, shocked by the sight of these monstrosities, is slow to react. Summoning his courage, he clutches his silver Hammer of Torag and raises it above his head, shouting "Torag, hammer your foes!" He feels holy energy wash over him and radiate outward.
Mankato steps back-to-back with Karrak while clobbering the closest grave hound with a stoney fist. An instant later, the burst of holy energy from Karrak destroys the thing as well as damaging the other ghoulish survivors.
Daeron sends an arrow into the dead thing pressing Karrak and the beast, already singed by holy energy falls. Lockjaw's axe sends another to its long overdue fate. Lockjaw is again exposed to blackened puss, but in moments, only one festrog is left.
Chitleen holds its ravenous jaws back, but the thing proves to be just as adept at causing harm with its heavy digging claws. One claw makes it past the fallen elf's defense leaving a critical wound. Chitleen-11 hp slash. Lockjaw fort save
Chitleen briefly fades to black before being brought back by Karrak.
Stabilization: 1d20 + 0 - 4 ⇒ (16) + 0 - 4 = 12So -4 HP to start, +19 = 15/19 HP left
Bathed in blood that is both his own and not, Chitleen rises gingerly to his feet with a look of disdain. Adjusting his turban he gives Karrak a short bow to acknowledge his assistance before wiping at least his face clean of blood with his sleeve.
Allowing himself a weak smile Chitleen retorts to Lockjaw "Indeed... perhaps it best I find means of dousing you in perfume while you sleep so as to spread their attention next time?"
Lockjaw confers with Daeron and is able to recall the following information on the strange undead: They are festrog, bestial ghoul-like things that act more like wolves. Their origin is shadowy, but appears to have something to do with corpses exposed to negative energy and then scavenged by wild animals. They lack the ability to paralyze with fear as ghouls do, but they grow strong by devouring living flesh and carry virulent disease.