“Halt! Who goes there?” The guard called as the party crested a hill, the road sloping down into town.
Smoke instinctively dodged back into the shadows beside the road as the rest of the weary adventurers gathered at the wall to sort things out. Smoke snuck forward through the trees, listening intently.
“Undead down at the graveyard! The farmers seen them before they came in for the night, and we need to do something about it!”
“…but we can’t leave the town undefended, you see,” cut in the other guard quickly.
Smoke chuckled. He knew where this was going.
Hadrian and Rignor exchanged a glance, their shoulders sagging. Dalor smiled, clapping his hands gleefully.
Talos quickly chimed in, “Let us rest first and we shall then march on the graveyard.” Dalor’s face was a mask of sadness.
Later that same evening, Smoke was sneaking forward into the graveyard, sticking to the shadows hugging the larger mortuary buildings. The rest of the group spread out, Hadrian taking the most obvious path while Dalor and the eladrin flanked him from the cover of buildings. Smoke snuck around the corner, skidding to a halt as he saw the gruesome host before him.
“Oh..” He muttered. He stole a glance towards Hadrian, seeing the proud warrior fending off two undead hounds. As he watched, one of them leapt into the air, clamping its jaws onto Hadrian’s forearm. With a roar, Hadrian spun, throwing the dog into a zombie. His arm bleeding profusely, he turned to slash at the other dog. Turning to look in front of him, Smoke saw a handful of zombies, some still throwing off clods of freshly broken earth, surging towards him, skeletal claws outstretched.
Smoke felt the fire swelling within him again, just as the zombies charged into him, their ravenous jaws gaping wide. He took several steps back, leading the zombies on, but they quickly surrounded him, their clawed hands tearing at his burning body. Smoke collapsed to the ground, falling into a pooled shadow and reappearing a short distance away. He flickered into a shadow shape and slinked away towards his teammates, leaving the zombies lost and bewildered while his infernal flesh knitted itself together.
Meanwhile, Dalor and Erveliss blasted the zombies and skeletons clawing their way from the ground to pieces, slowly making their way around to cover the beleaguered pair of Hadrian and Rignor. The stalwart pair were back to back, rooted like a mountain as the undead smashed against them. Smoke snuck towards the melee, holding his sword high and to the side, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.
“Uh, guys!” Talos called from further behind Dalor and the Eladrin. Past him could be seen a handful of hulking, rotted zombies led by a burly man wielding a huge axe and wearing an Executioner’s mask. Smoke immediately wreathed him with a shadow, teleporting through the thrashing crowd of zombies before calling down yet another. Rignor smashed through a flailing zombie, stepping over its corpse to meet the axe man head on. Hadrian kicked back a snapping zombie dog before decapitating a zombie and smashing a skeleton to dust in the same blow.
But despite the valiant offensive, the party was still hopelessly outnumbered.
Dalor leaped through the air towards a glowing blue circle etched into the ground. The arcane light was emanating from an intricate sigil, traced on the ground with what appeared to be blood.
In his mind’s eye, he could see the glory of his golden, scaled form sweeping over the battlefield. He paid the squabbling undead and little man things no heed, descending instead upon the intriguing arcane seal before him. He alighted upon the ground and stepped inside its boundaries, carefully inspecting its intricate details.
A nearby zombie turned from where it had been staring dumbly at the ground. It shambled towards Dalor, its eager need for flesh hastening it onwards. As Dalor turned, following the carefully laid lines flowing throughout the interior of the circle, he calmly flicked a bolt of chaos at the zombie. It blasted through the thing’s face, leaving its lower jaw to fall away in several pieces before exploding out the back of its head, spraying blackish fluid and flesh across the ground. It fell in a silent heap.
Suddenly, an arrow came flying from the darkness, zipping past Dalor’s head. He whipped his gaze from the circle to see an elf in darkly colored leathers hopping down from a crypt and sprinting across the open ground between him and the distant melee. As he watched, she drew another arrow and notched it on her bowstring.
Dalor roared at her, his feeble human voice giving out a dry, throaty moan. He sent a shimmering wave of force energy rippling through the air. The elf nimbly dodged, landing an arrow squarely in Dalor’s shoulder. He stumbled, then immediately tossed another spell at her while turning his mind to unraveling the circle’s magic.
With another roar, he called to the elf, “Weak little fleshling! I will punish your insolence for harming the great and mighty DALOR!”
From across the battlefield, Rignar heard Dalor calling to someone. He quickly paid it no heed as he dodged the Executioner’s axe, the weapon cutting through the air around him in great cleaving blows. He could sense the necrotic energy pervading the graveyard, and he could sense, too, that Dalor was at work unraveling it.
He rattled the creature’s axe with a series of ringing blows, driving it back before smacking his hammer into the thing’s knee. As the Executioner roared, stepping in closer with its axe raised, Smoke dropped another burst of shadow onto it. Rignar rolled away, disappearing into the shambling crowd of zombies.
The thing turned and sought a new target. As the Executioner stepped through the throng of zombies, it turned towards Hadrian, who was distracted by the leaping and snapping undead hounds. Smoke took two quick steps before leaping into the air, disappearing again into an evaporating cloud of darkness.
The Executioner raised his weapon. Hadrian kicked one dog down before throwing the second one off of him. He saw the descending blade.
Then Smoke was there to meet the blade, his sword quickly swinging the axe to the side to thud heavily into the graveyard earth. With a quick step back, Smoke cut the Executioner from shoulder to hip, his shadows coiling around the blade and leaving a darkly glowing slash across the creature’s body. It groaned and stumbled back, clutching the freezing wound.
Then Rignor came in, tackling the giant at the knees and throwing him to the ground. A solid chop of his hammer put the shambling beast down for good.
With Smoke, Hadrian and Rignor on the far side of the fight, Erveliss and Talos quickly picked off the remaining undead.
As Dalor finished unraveling the tightly bound magic in the arcane seal, the symbol began to burn away and fade. The Elf screamed at this, firing another arrow off at him, which he casually dodged with a smirk.
“Dalor the great has won, elf. Now run before I eat you.”
Fuming, the Elf turned to see Dalor’s companions coming up the path towards them. She spat at Dalor, “You may have stopped us here, but Kalarel will show you. Kalarel will show you all!” With that, she took off not for the cemetery gate, but for the spiked, wrought iron fence that surrounded it, easily fifteen feet tall. With a running leap, she scaled the fence like a spider, dropping down to the other side before disappearing into the darkness.
As Hadrian and the others made their way up the hill to Dalor, he shuffled his way to meet them, clutching at the arrow in his shoulder. In the back of his mind he continued to wonder why his own age was making his human form so weak. As Rignor and Talos dressed and cleaned the parties wounds, Smoke scouted out the rest of the graveyard, making sure that they hadn’t mssed any zombies. It seemed that with the dispersal of the sigil the power animating the zombies had simply disappeared.
Suddenly, from out in the darkness came a piercing scream. The party turned to see what was going on, and Dalor took this opportunity to set all the buildings housing the graves of the zombies ablaze. Smoke could see torches in the distance, fast approaching.
Then he saw the town guards coming up the road, several of the local militia riding behind them. As they came into the light of the burning cemetery, the heroes could see the form of a dead elf woman slung across the back of the lead horse. As the guards drew up, addressing the party of bloody, exhausted adventures reeking of rot with a smile and wink, Dalor strode out of the largest burning crypt, not even minding the fact that the hems of his tattered robes were aflame and smoldering. At the sight of the dead elf he laughed out loud, shouting, “I WON!”