Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack

Wherein the party fights in the shade, and makes a new pen pal.

Game Time: Monday morning

Thea and Lenora stood shoulder to shoulder in the narrow polished hallway as the skeletons scrambled into the circular room that they'd just fought so hard to secure.  Bree rubbed her fingers together and red sparks danced from her fingertips… Terciel pulled an arrow up until its feathers brushed his high sweeping cheekbones.  Rache and Darg were yin and yang, each muttering quietly: a swirling bolt of dark energy winding through Rache's long slender fingers mirrored the calm sphere of purity that balanced itself in Darg's blunt and calloused hand.

At some unseen or unheard signal, the skeletons closed ranks into an assault column.  An archer took up a position to the party's left, just around the pillar, and sighted in his shot.  The formation charged at Thea and Lenora… and heaven, hell, and the feywild all broke loose.

Confusion reigned: a cloud of fire saturated the formation, dark and light bolts of magic picked out their targets, searing and scorching the bones, and arrows found their targets.  The skeletons' front line hit hard – their lead soldier pushed Thea out of formation while his deputy shoved in close and swung his longsword at her.  Their files shifted and their ranks compressed and covered.  Two arrows streaked in, striking Lenora – a second archer had been in cover to the right. She noticed the tactical  positioning and grudgingly admired his economy of force.

In seconds, the counterattack came, and one skeleton fell.  Bree took a deep breath and saturated their ranks with more fire.  The skeleton infantry pressed the attack but were buying their position advantage at a steep price.  More arrows hit Lenora, and at the command of an officer hiding in the shadows, an infantryman doubled his efforts and pressed his attack on Thea.  Already bruised from the previous encounter, Thea went down, eyelids drooping… but the flash of light from one of Darg's holy spells was so bright that she felt compelled to open her eyes.  She shook off the dizziness and crouched at the ready with her axe… and then Lenora noticed Thea was down and took

Her armor began to glow dull red like iron in a forge as she rattled off commands: a lesson in longsword tactics compressed into a pithy description of the weak point of the stroke, and suddenly how could any of them have not seen it?  Everyone recognized the flaw in the skeletons' attack – the folly of charging in with long swords in such a cramped space.  Lenora hollered again, exhorting everyone to dig deep and make another push, accentuating the skeletons' frailty, mocking their rattling bones.  Grim looks softened, tentative scowls turned into determined grins… Thea took a deep breath and stood up, steadied herself, and then plowed in deep against the skeleton who had knocked her down.  Everyone took heart and pressed a counter-counter-counter-attack.

Terciel caught the warlord's eye and engaged him in conversation, hoping that this commander was also fighting against his will and could be convinced to lay down arms.  He could not convince the commander with words, so Terciel laid the commander's arm down for him.  An arrow shattered the officer's elbow joint and his left forearm fell to the ground; the steel glove with glowing blue runes skittered off into the darkness, at which point Terciel noticed an asymmetry in this shot—hadn't he shot off the right arm last time? He had!  Bree noticed this second glove crawling away, but had other things to worry about.

Once Terciel removed the cursed item from the commander's forearm, the gloves came off.  One of his archers closed in to take a shot at Lenora, and the commander swung his sword in a whistling arc that decapitated the archer in a single stroke.  He hollered to Terciel to finish off the infantry, and that he would take care of the other archer.  Led by Lenora and a fired-up Thea, the whole party surged forward and turned the tide quickly.  Darg and Rache each killed a skeleton and Bree continued to lay down suppressing fire.  Terciel killed the remaining archer, and the warlord turned to find himself surrounded by newly-minted flesh-and-blood allies… but without the glove he had been robbed of the ability to speak the language of the undead.  After a few fits and starts, Bree managed to affix a quill to his hand so he could write, and the following conversation played out slowly as Rache, Thea, and Terciel deciphered his archaic Elvish handwriting.  Once he realized the party spoke Common, he tried to intersperse words in their language as well.  Zoran was freaked out, but Bree (ahem) comforted him while everyone else worked to understand what the skeletal warlord was trying to communicate.

Warlord Q: Why did you come back from the dead?
Terciel A: I don't know.  I didn't.

WQ: But you… you are alive?  How did you all come to be led by a (old-form) Captain and a (old-form) General?
TA: We are fighting the orcs and chasing a fugitive from justice who may have come down here.  I'm just following the winds of fortune.

WQ: You should not be following the winds, you should be leading them – you are a Sulkano!  Was my death in vain then?  Do the orcs still fight?
TA: No, you didn't die in vain.  Baerstun prospers, peace has reigned for hundreds of years.  The orcs have returned and we are trying to stop them, along with a fugitive who may be in the lower city.

WQ: Returned here?  What city is this?  Who would live in a city over a grave?
The Party A: Barrow-stone city.

Not-so-much-a-Q-as-an-order: KILL ME.
Terciel and Darg A: Great thanks for your service.  Melora's blessings go with you. We'll stay and fight the good fight.  >vague humming sound as Darg warms up his prayer beads<

Definitely-not-a-Q: Even with a Sulkano and these great warriors, you are overmatched… put me to rest and then run as fast as you can.
Pray for a swift death for me and then for yourselves.

Darg and Terciel commended his bones back to Melora's care.  The party took his words under advisement and spent a few minutes patching themselves up and re-reading his notes to them.  Then it was back to exploring the Lower Ocean Catacombs (see map) – Zoran, worried about the party getting outflanked, went to the hallway to lay some traps before heading into the Map Room to watch for Ilian's rat-killing reinforcements to arrive.  Proceeding east, there was a second round chamber with hallways leading off in all four cardinal directions.  To the east, an intersection with ancient statues of warriors or veterans.  To the south, an unexplored hallway.  To the north, a long
hallway that hooked around to the east.  Continuing east to the statues, Terciel noticed the scent of flowers – in particular, flowers from the Feywild – wafting up the stairwell to the north.  He lobbied hard for exploring the scent on the grounds that it could lead to a means for him to return home.

The hallway continuing east curves around to the south.  Backtracking, the party followed up the north fork a bit, and Terciel narrowly avoided falling into a pit as the floor below his feet crumbled away. A little more investigation showed that the floor had collapsed down into a lower room that most definitely did not smell like flowers.



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