Crow’s Rest: We spent an additional day in Haven before departing for home. Nilrem, Idej, and I spent the day studying rituals and ancient history. I was curious about Naivara’s dream of creating as new empire. It seems as if others have had similar ambitions, but they have never been able to unit more than two city states at a time. It is almost as if the entire endeavor is cursed by the demons who destroyed the Empire of Bael Turath in the 1000th year of its reign. I am not certain, but there are passages in several books that suggest that the key to success may be gaining the support of the legion who defend the western gate and maintain the integrity of Mordain’s Wall. The had a distinctive device. Although it was unfamiliar to me, I had the nagging feeling I had seen it somewhere before.
On the way out of town, Sylvana and Zianna pointed out several groups of soliders that looked as if they were preparing to march North. The soldiers were of three companies, but they all seemed to be working together. One group were Eladrin warriors from Rivenfell. The second group were soldiers from Haven. The third group, however, were unknown to us. I felt a chill, however, when I recognized the device on their shields – the symbol for the legion that wards the Western Gate. It was then that I recalled where I had seen the symbol before. It was also emblazoned upon the circlet we recovered for Naivara. I doubt that this is a coincidence.
The first few weeks of our trip home was uneventful. As we were approaching Crow’s Rest, however, we encountered a group of Shadar-Kai. The four were clearly well armed and trained, yet they ran as if frightened of what might catch up to them. They warned us that something terrible was stirring in the North and encouraged us to return to the south. When one of them glimpsed my blade, however, their demeanour changed significantly. They warned me to stay out of their way, but it seemed to me as if they were frightened. Normally, I would have chosen a diplomatic solution but I felt it was important to stand my ground. I told the Shadar-Kai that they would be safe as long as they stayed out of the Feywyld. Before they departed, however, they said something about going where their master’s bidding would take them. I have heard that Shadar-Kai are kin to the darkness that has tried to invade the Feywyld since the dawn of time. I suspect that we will see these Shadar-Kai again and I doubt our next meeting will be so peaceful.
Anxious as we were to get home, we decided not to heed the warning of the Shadar-Kai. I was also determined to reach Crow’s Rest so I could deliver the message for Lord Dazath. So it was that we decided to continue North. Along the way, we encountered merchants and villagers fleeing South. They too spoke of something evil invading the settlements to the North. Their warnings, however, were no more persuasive than those of the Shadar Kai and we pressed on.
Although Nilrem scoffed at the merchant’s warnings, he did take additional precautions and cast several warding rituals before we camped for the night. It was good that he did. In the middle of the night, we were set upon by a hoard of living dead in pursuit of several farmers. It was a hard won fight, but we managed to dispatch the hungry corpses. Many of the villagers were killed, but we managed to save a handful of them.
The survivors spoke of a the dead rising from their graves to feast on living flesh. They said that they fled in the night when the corpses attacked, leaving their belongings behind. They had no money, weapons, or supplies and their clothing was ill fit for travel. Despite Nilrem’s objections, we agreed that we should escort them to Crow’s Rest so they would at least have a chance of finding a safe haven.
We travelled hard throughout most of the next day, hoping to make Crow’s Rest by Nightfall. Just before sunset, we reached the outerwalls of Crow’s Rest. There we found a dozen city guards trying to hold off a veritable sea of zombies while a crowd of refugees tried to crowd their way into the gates. We were able to help the soldiers hold the living dead at bay long enough for the refugees to get into the city. At times, I feared we would be overrun by the relentless dead. A few of the refugees and several of the soldiers were taken by the zombies. Those who were pulled into the sea of nails and teeth were torn to pieces and devoured before our eyes. In the end, we managed to make it into the gates with only seconds left to spare, an army of the hungry dead clawing at the doors behind us.
Once inside the gates, we wasted little time. Nilrem and Sylvanna joined the soldiers on the battlements. I am sure there were some skeptical veterans who wondered what a crotchety old man and a beaituful Elven woman could do to assist them. They were quickly silenced, however, by the actions of my comrades. I doubt many of them have seen the likes of Nilrem’s spellcraft or Sylvanna’s archery. Both were quickly welcomed into the ranks.
Idej took it upon himself to aid the wounded and raise the spirits of the people. He rented an entire tavern and transformed it into a hospital. He went door to door trying to find places for the homeless refugees to sleep once their wounds were tended to. He bought food and drinks for all. Though he did it out of the good of his heart, the people of Haven have come to love him for it. They have made songs in his honor. Though the have little, they shower him with gifts. It was truly touching to see Idej rise himself from a lost child seeking adventure to a selfless hero of the common folk.
Zianna disappered mysteriously and said nothing of where she was going. When she returned, however, she had some information and a place to stay. She was able to discover that the plague of the dead began somewhere in the North, but it has now spread to the outlying settlements surrounding Crow’s Rest. The city is entirely surrounded. Worse… there is no real agricultural land inside the walls of the city. Given the current population, we estimated that the existing food supplies were likely to run dry in several weeks time. If we can not find a way to stop the undead by then, we and everyone else in Crow’s Rest will begin starving to death.
While my companions were busy, I approached Lord Dazath to deliver Lady Naivara’s message. As fate would have, she proposed an alliance to several of the local city states including Crow’s Rest. Although the proposal had many ideas (a senate of rulers, shared rules of law, tolerance of others customs, etc), the part of the proposal that most interested Lord Dazath was the clause recommending a shared army and a mutual defense pact. Given their dire circumstances, Lord Dazath’s advisors were quick to agree to Lady Naivara’s proposal.
Some might believe that it is mere coincidence that the proposal arrived in Crow’s Rest just when they were in great need of aid. Those individuals, however, do not know Naivara as well as I do. She may not have had a hand in arranging this, but I am certain that she at least had knowledge of this undead army’s coming. There is no way to prove it, but I have no doubt that Naivara took advantage of Lord Dazath’s difficulties to influence his decision. I am curious what tactics she is using to bring the other city states into her fold… Regardless… the point may be moot if there is no way to inform the Lord and Lady of Haven of Crow’s Rest’s decision. Lord Dazath has asked us to return his answer to Lady Naivara, but he himself knows of no way out of the city. Fortunately, we have some ideas.
Nilrem pointed out that there are mages in Crow’s Rest who may be able to help us create a teleport circle that we could use to access the teleport circle in the Kobold’s lair to the far South. That would put us in easy marching distance of Haven. Nilrem is, however, reluctant to allow another Wizard to know the location of his ancestral home. Surprisingly, Idej agreed with his father and suggested we try other means first.
Although it would seem that we are trapped, Zianna thinks there may be a secret tunnel system that could allow us to escape. She is currently investigating to determine if these fabled “smuggler’s tunnels” exist and if they can be accessed. Even if they do exist, however, there is no guarantee that the exit will be in a safe location. We could open a portal only to find ourselves in the midst of the undead host. Worse, we may alert the zombies to the existence of the tunnel – an undefended entry into the city.
I was beginning to despair that we may be trapped inside the besieged city when I discovered a third possibility. Lord Dazath was escorting me through the palace gardens when I saw it – an ancient tree with an air of magic about it. Although I could sense the feywyld through the tree, I could also sense the hint of corruption carried by the denizens of darkness. I could feel Quallanisthu rattle in it’s scabbard, as if demanding that we cross into the feywyld to destroy the sickness in the roots of the tree. It was then that I realized that the tree might be a portal that could carry us to safety. Of course, it is also possible that the darkness that taints the tree is also the source of the magic that wakes the sleeping dead. Either way, I am now convinced that the solution to our current predicament lies through the tree and in the realms of the Feywyld…