As the rain was coming down around us harder and harder we made our way to take shelter in what we took to be the officers quarters, even though the fightin had exploded a pretty big chunk of the building. I grabbed the whistle and clipboard from the bitch who caused us problems all that time ago in Dillard. It felt good to know he couldn’t trouble us any longer. As we entered and Shojin was conferring with the old man, I noticed that Gnoman was not with us, but I never really believed he’d be with us for the long haul. I knew he was just with us so long as our interests intersected. And harder and harder the rains fell. A search found nothing worthwhile except some stoves for warmth and as we were getting a fire started to ride out the storm in relative comfort a cry rang out.
“Help, help, I am being oppressed!”
It sounded like Gnoman was in trouble so I didn’t give it a second thought and head out the door in the direction the cry had come from. Across the small footbridge and around the quartermaster building. As we rounded the corner, Gnoman was on the ground and surrounded by four of the guards from the camp who likely came back in an attempt to get out worsening weather themselves.
We engaged with them and it was less than impressive because they were quite strong. The entire event hinged on Fayne firing the one magical arrow in her quiver that never seemed to have any effect at one of the guards with the end result being he was transformed into a falcon. Shojin promptly put it to sleep and threw it into the creek that was swiftly becoming a roaring rain fueled river. Eventually we were victorious and that was about when the small bridge we’d crossed got washed away. So we needed to find alternative shelter, but first The rest of us did a quick search of the quartermaster’s building and found Shojin’s boar hide cloak and some other bits and bobs.
While we were doing that, Shojin went back to the pen he’d been kept in and just threw himself down onto the floor. We were prepared to leave him there for the night but a survey of the sky gave me the thought that this was not going to just blow over and we needed to move, possibly to the tree stands that surrounded the camp. I forced Shojin to get up and move with us returning all of his gear that I was still carrying and before we could make our way to the tree stands we took a brief respite in the nearest building. And that was when we saw her.
A very pretty lady soaking wet and just slowly walking in the rain and it appeared that she was looking for something. As she got closer to where we were hidden it became clear that she wasn’t walking so much as floating just above the water, and something was just off with the whole look of her. Fayne tried to do something thought it wasn’t entirely clear what and the lady changed. Her entire look just changed to that of something withered and word and maybe a little dead and she looked like a right proper hag. And there was something, obscured by the gathering darkness and the intensifying rain, following behind her. Shojin threw another card out into the gathered water and it started to drift away but it was a brief distraction and we used that moment to run as fast and as far as we could.
Into the trees we ran putting more distance between us and them as we went. I chanced a look as we went and could not understand what the thing travelling with the lady was. It looked like one of the guards but also like Gnoman, but the both of them just sort of smashed together into one big, ugly, lumbering thing. And it looked like it could kill us with a minimum of effort. Yeah, definitely part Gnoman. So we ran, and we ran all through the night.
As the light of a new dawn broke so too did the storm and we found ourselves walking up what appeared to be an overgrown walkway or disused path. Somewhere along the way Shojin had acquired another falcon and he was, I don’t know, abusing it maybe. He had the poor thing by the neck just in front of his face and he was whispering some sort of gibberish at it and throwing it to go investigate much as I used my ravens. I couldn’t tell if nearly dying had driven him a little mad, it did when it happened to me, or if he was maybe changed more than I knew. I’d already seen him do some new magic and I’d given him my sword earlier in the evening when I returned his cloak to him.
Exhausted and soaking wet we rounded a bend and found ourselves before a small farmhouse. Shojin offered to scout with his new animal friend and again grabbed that poor bird by its neck shook it threw it into the door of the building after which he very proudly proclaimed that the door was closed. Had his near death experience was making him act stupid.
When we had finally made our way inside we discovered that the place was nice little country cottage and had only recently been lived in. The table was still set and the fireplace had only recently gone out and still had a hint of warmth to it. As we were searching in the vicinity of the table we noticed an overturned chair. Just beyond the chair was the body of what we could only imagine was the homes owner, complete with a hole in his chest where his heart should have been.
Z had a wicked grin as she crouched over the body and growled something out. The man opened milky eyes and began to stir and after a short while was upright again. Z gave him some instructions and told us he’d be watching the door. We were all so bone weary it sounded like a perfectly passable idea. We found some wood and stoked up the fire and made our way to loft above it. We all just crashed out at various places around the room and I took the middle of the big bed. Fayne and Ezrella curled up around me and we slept a much deserved sleep.
Until the undead homeowner woke Z up.
And we learned that there was perhaps another homeowner in the form of the lady that had been pursuing us and the thing that was travelling with her. As we all scrambled to get our gear, the monstrosity was pounding at the door frame trying to get at us. In the lady’s hand was a heart, which explained some things. We scrambled and struggled to deal with the lady and keep the big thing away from us, and eventually the lady got pushed over the edge of the balcony and she proceeded to just float there which added a complexity to the whole thing we’d not anticipated.
Gnoman focused his attention on the thing on the stairs which kept it off the rest of us, while well I don’t know what the others were doing. I was focused on the lady and eventually she fell to the floor below and didn’t move. Once she was dispatched the thing on the stairs just sort of fell apart into a pile of the parts that made it up.
Now my birds don’t eat but this was a big mess and I had an idea so I had them get to work on disposing of the remains while I made a breakfast for everyone. We found a magic bag on the lady and Shojin had the exuberance of a child as he was trying to figure out what was in it. I really wanted a quiet moment to talk with him and tell him how I felt and what he meant to me, but apparently that would have to wait. But it felt like for the first time since we started this journey, we were someplace safe and could finally just catch our breath for a bit.