The West Marches

Smoking out the Hollow

Or: Wildeadmen, Ujinn’s Little Girls, Cerb-purrr-us, and the FrankenMage

Our Adventurers:
Caden O’Conner: A talented wizard, and an unexpectedly good carver.
Jacque The Daring: Un aventurier audacieux, et qualifié avec la hallebarde.
Maria Nightshade: A stunningly beautiful nymph, freshly back in the field.
Ujinn: Holy Grudge Scribe of Heralhir
Velouria Blue: War Kitty owner and Swordswoman exraordinaire
Ft. Halberdier Harvey: An eager young lad who has beginner training with a halberd.

A wood painted sign read “CLOSED” in the window of the Spirit Haven bar when our adventurers gathered at first light- this was finally the day that they set out to clear out Smokey Hollow for good.

Maria Nightshade was back in Timeral; rumours had been spreading amongst those who were not present for the adventure to retrieve Maria. Whispers about what had and had not happened to the stunningly beautiful nymph in her absence. While some were curious, there really isn’t a polite way to ask what happened in the year long time that it took for any of the adventurers to get their shit together and save her from her fate- so the questions remained unasked.

The nymph joined Ujinn, holy cleric of the “one and only” God Heralhir, Caden O’Conner, a leprechaun trickster schooled with mysterious magics, Jacque the Daring, a French Halberdier who brought along a smaller, less accented halberdier named Harvey, and Velouria Blue, a swordswoman and new cat breeder. The party departed early to catch as much daylight as they could for their travels.

They traveled far into the Border Woods, careful to observe all the druids’ nature loving rules of the forest. At one point Ujinn spotted some suspicious looking logs that seemed… suspicious.

He alerted the party; after a brief debate over value vs. trouble, the group decided to skirt around the monsters instead of starting a scrimmage. They continued on, and soon they came across Wrestles With Wolves and his group of miscreants. Ujinn bounded forward, excited to practice his Second era Frankish with the Wildemen, but Wrestles With Wolves stared at him blankly, not understanding the foreign tongue, before turning to Velouria. She translated briefly for the group and confirmed that they were clearing out the hollow the following day. He seemed eager, and encouraged them to hurry along after briefly staring down the arrogant Frenchman. Despite the party’s endless questions for the Wildemen, Velouria managed to corral them onwards.

The River Refuge proved as satisfactory of a home base as always as the party curled up within and regained their energy for the next day- they were going to need it. At dawn they rose and crossed the river, only to see an irritatingly familiar owl circling above them. Velouria cursed at it colourfully, and, after Ujinn prompted her, she rolled her eyes, revealing the sentimental meteoric handcuffs that her and Gwendolyn had stolen from Salamar after his (assumingly) most recent death.

The owl hooted and twisted its head around pointlessly- if it was trying to communicate with them, it was doing so poorly. Velouria spoke rudely to it, and when Maria offered it food, the swordswoman was offended. Velouria sneered at Maria and the owl before turning from them- Maria was choosing to ally with their enemies over her sisters and brothers in arms.

They continued down the hole that Mushroom Picker had first come out of, and the group managed to all get into the main living space of the first level of the Hollow. They were surprised to find that a fire had been recently lit, and just as the party had split up to investigate around the area—they were attacked!

Six Wildeadmen, armed with spears and attacking in an undead stupor, came running at them. The dead swarmed the living, and combat ensued quickly.

An arrow soared past Jacque and he gasped, swiveling to face behind him- there! A fiery red demon had their flank- Jacque knew what he had to do. Slashing out, he made a terrifying attack, cutting the beasts’ head clean off. He watched as the beast faded into ash; satisfied, Jacque turned back to the rest of the combat again.

Limbs were ripped from the corpses, heads were severed, and guts were impaled. Together the party managed to make a clean job of the Wildeadmen, much like they did Wildemen in the past. After the enemies had fallen, the group tried to stop for a breather.

It didn’t take long, however, for the second wave of assailants to arrive- they caught the party divided by their curiosities once again, and the first wave attacked Halberd Harvey and Ujinn. Jacque the Daring’s hireling was the first to fall as two undead saber-toothed cats leapt on him and knocked him to the ground- he was out of the second combat about as soon as it started. Meanwhile, Ujinn faced a new beast of his own.

It looked as if Frankenstein lived in the Hollow himself- a monster sewn together and reanimated into a creature of nightmares. It resembled one of the saber-toothed cats that the Wildemen owned, but this one had three savage, undead, heads sewn onto the corpse of one large cat body. It leapt at Heralhir’s soldier, but he deftly avoided the pounce- and the first bite- and the second bite- but the third undead head pierced through Ujinn’s armour with its mighty fangs. He struggled against the beast, but it clamped its teeth down harder, sinking into his internal organs as his eyes rolled back into his head. Ujinn was down and out.

On the other side of the room, Jacque had been on watch for another demon. Instead, what he noticed was a strange orb of water floating towards him from a corridor, but zere waz no time- hiz friendz were endanger! He ignored the oncoming enemy and joined Velouria in battle.

The duo immediately sprang into action, the swordswoman cleaved off all of the heads that she could reach, and the halberdier stabbed at the feline attacking Ujinn until it collapsed. As eight more Wildeadmen immerged from the darkness and began attacking with the undead cats, Velouria and Jacque took turns parrying for themselves and one another. With the help of Maria and O’Conner, who were an effective ranged arrow support and used variety of spells such as blindness and fireball, the group fought tirelessly.

During the fight, when about half of the enemies were downed, the orb of water floated quickly towards Jacque, and he dodged deftly. It flew passed him, and as his back was turned it soared towards him again, Velouria, unsure of exactly how to parry an uncomfortably large orb of magical water, did the first thing that she could think of. Throwing herself at Jacque’s back, she tackled him to the ground. They both struck the ground hard, but managed to avoid the ominous magical orb that then hung above Jacque in the air. Whenever he moved, so did the orb.

Velouria shuffled out from around his body, and managed to dodge, parry, and block the attacks from the Wildeadmen and Saber-toothed cats as they assaulted them. A hit managed to get passed her guard, but Velouria stayed up and fighting. O’Conner and Maria attacked the water orb, causing it to leak and splash toward Jacque, who dodged aside as the water hissed and sizzled unnaturally on the ground. After the second or third time that he had to dodge the corrosive water he yelled, “Ey! Stop zat!”

Between the party they managed to slay the rest of the enemies until it was temporarily safe once again- even, eventually, the ball of water.

O’Conner and Jacque immediately helped Ujinn back to consciousness, ensuring that the cleric was okay before they turned to Halberdier Harvey- Ujinn seemed skeptical, but after Jacque’s insistence, the Cleric healed the young boy and they woke him up. Meanwhile, Velouria took a long look at the three headed saber-tooth- it’s hide was thicker than it should be. The entirety of the beast screamed unnatural.

It looked like what Cerberus may have been if Hades had been more of a cat person.

Healing and energy recovery were an important next step for the adventuring party, and they managed to get a bit of both done before they were disrupted again. O’Conner was preparing the energy to cast resist pain on the entire party to help them brave the horrid poison gas that had stopped the party last time they came to the Smokey Hollow. Velouria was watching a corridor that they had thought they had seen arrows coming from during the last battle- they had never found the archer. Ujinn was probably reciting the current grudges in his book or something, and Maria was undoubtedly being beautiful in the room somewhere while Halberdier Harvey probably admired her.

Jacque, however, was standing closest when a man in a ragged white lab coat appeared and cast a spell towards the Frenchman- a thick brown gas blossomed from around Jacque. The Daring halberdier had no time for weakness- instead he charged after the mage, “For King and Country!”

The party jumped into action- everyone running towards Jacque, but they hesitated, waiting for O’Conner to have a chance to clear the air. Velouria, however, refused to let her ally face an enemy alone- she ran in through the gas after them. It smelled so bad that she could taste it, and her eyes watered, but she kept onwards, unrelenting in her pursuit. Ujinn ran after as backup, only steps behind Velouria.

Jacque and Velouria ran all the way down the spiral stairs, not pausing to glance at the second level of the dungeon at all as they chased their prey. When they reached the bottom of the Hollow, they came around the corner to see a cluster of Wildeadmen, several big cats, and a large suit of clunky armour. To their right there was a river of purple liquid, and the whole room seemed a bit mad scientist-y. Regardless, Velouria and Jacque stood together and braced themselves for the oncoming combat- fighting together again just as they had before.

Ujinn followed them down the first flight of stairs before stopping on the second level to meet the enemies from there. A swarm of pale, white, zombies with leaden bucket helmets stumbled out after him, attacking him, and Halberdier Harvey who had followed the cleric. The duo fought them off together as Maria and O’Conner brought up the rear on the first floor. They came down and helped fight off the zombies to free up Ujinn and Harvey for the fight below.

While the others struggled to come to their aid, Velouria and Jacque fought off the Wildeadmen, weaving through the assaults with ease until one of the Cerberus-esk cats managed to clamp Velouria in its teeth- puncturing several organs that Velouria didn’t have time to identify.

At home, Gwendolyn gasped and grabbed desperately at her abdomen. She needed Themis.

Velouria gritted her teeth; her allies needed her. I will not fall. She managed to stay upright, and she slashed out, cutting that particular head of the beast clean off. She had to hurry- the suit of armour named Adam was approaching slowly, and it seemed damn foreboding.

Jacque retreated into the hallway, as the Wildeadmen surrounded him, it made it difficult for Velouria to get to safety, so she continued attacking the enemies, dodging, and parrying for herself, and for Jacque whenever she could. Just as Adam was getting close enough for Velouria to get worried, Jacque stepped forward to attack, allowing her to slip in behind him and retreat into the corridor. That felt a bit safer, especially because soon afterwards Halberdier Harvey and Ujinn arrived behind them.

On his way to help, Ujinn accidentally tripped a wire on the floor- leaving him spell stunned and unable to act. The magic user fired a bolt from his crossbow- it barely missed its intended target-Jacque and instead sailed passed and struck Ujinn square in the medial thigh. The spell cast on the bolt ripped an essential muscle in his thigh- Adductor Magnus, pinning the meaty thigh muscle to the wall behind Ujinn. The cleric collapsed to the ground, unable to stand.

Enemies closed in, and Jacque took a couple of steps away and leapt onto a table, getting a nice height advantage on his enemy. Adam approached him, taking a couple of fearsome swings toward the Halberdier with a large flail. Velouria managed to kill the remaining Wildeadmen, and just as Ujinn reached out to heal Velouria, they heard the bone chillingly familiar cry, “Daddy!”

The healer and the skirmisher exchanged a panicked glance before they looked back up and from a room off to the left, a half dozen of the child-like menaces from their previous trip here ran out with arms open wide. Half ran to Jacque, and half towards Velouria and Ujinn. The group tried to dart passed Velouria, but she held firm, refusing to give ground or let them pass her. Instead she cut the terrifying children down where they stood, protecting Ujinn behind her.

Jacque, meanwhile, leapt over the children who came at him, landing strong on the ground. He prepared for their assault- but before he had a chance to defend himself, Velouria stabbed out her blade in a desperate attempt to protect him- she succeeded. All six children died to Velouria’s sword within seconds. The crazed scientist cried out for his “daughters” in despair.

Velouria reached a hand back to Ujinn, requesting healing, and he obliged, unable to help much on his own in the combat.

Jacque faced off one on one with Adam- a brutish zombie in a large suit of armour. The zombie attacked mightily, hitting Jacque back towards the purple river, but he nimbly threw himself to the side instead- hitting the stone wall of the Hollow instead of the deadly corrosive liquid.

Halberdier Harvey and O’Conner were just rounding the corner behind Ujinn when Jacque got hit with a final blow that brought him to his knees- then to the floor.

Adam turned and moved towards the rest of the party. Harvey ran up and held the front, then Velouria, then Ujinn and O’Conner. Velouria demanded healing as she fearlessly parried for Harvey and the rest, and O’Conner threw a bag of healing gems to the ground beside her. Unwilling to relinquish her blade, Velouria dropped her shield and held out her hand for a gem. Ujinn was undoubtedly scowling at her, but he obediently set a gem of healing into her hand. She crushed it, parrying twice more for Harvey, then her fingers twitched twice. Another.

Velouria gritted her teeth as she parried over and over. I will not fall. Another stone was placed in her hand. She crushed it. This pattern continued. The leprechaun crushed a stone that created a wall, narrowing the entrance and allowing for one to stand between Adam and the rest of the party. Maria arrived, and quickly moved through the group and right into close combat with Adam. She blocked his attacks with an unnatural leathery red arm that seemed… unusual, but there was hardly time for questions. Maria dodged away from him. O’Conner followed, darting around the zombie’s feet before side stepping past the narrow corridor.

Ujinn held up another gem for Velouria just as Maria turned and fired two arrows of healing, striking Velouria square in the torso. Velouria ignored Ujinn’s proffered gem and lunged forward to attack, “Get my shield!”

The cleric gritted his teeth, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

Ignoring him, Velouria stepped up to tank Adam once again, they exchanged blows, and Velouria received her shield from Ujinn. Just as she did, Ujinn reached out and cast Might on her. She felt power ripple through her and Velouria put all of her strength into three hits in rapid succession, striking deeply into Adam’s neck. Her blade sunk deep, but it wasn’t enough. Adam turned towards her. He counterattacked, but Halberd Harvey lifted his blade to get in the way, parrying it aside for her. The second attack, however, struck true. Velouria’s teeth rattled in her skull as she was struck. She coughed, the tang of copper on her tongue.

Gwendolyn spurred Themis on as they raced through the gates of Timeral and into the Western Wilds. They had to hurry. Malitia was wrapped tightly around her torso, unnervingly still as they both held their breath.

I will not fall.

Velouria swayed on her feet, but dug her heels into the ground. She wasn’t done. There was more blood to be paid.

The mad magician ran at Maria after she tried to shoot him. He stabbed deeply into her arm, drawing blood, but Halberdier Harvey saw his chance- he slashed out with his blade, catching the mage in the back and running him through. There was a moment of silence as the party hoped that Adam would fall also-he did not.

Velouria took one final attack- swinging savagely at the zombie, to his neck once again. This time, finally, she cleaved straight through, dropping the body like a stone and catching the helmet- head still inside, on the dorsal side of her foot. She balanced it there for a moment, not unlike times in the past, and then lobbed it into the river of corrosion. It splashed and sunk immediately. Finally, the group could breathe.

Gwendolyn and Themis drew to a halt just along the border of the forest. They paced uneasily along the tree line despite the triumph that Gwendolyn sensed through her bond with Velouria.

The party immediately set about getting everyone back on their feet and healthy. Velouria grabbed another gem from the bag that O’Conner had thrown to the ground, and although he didn’t seem happy about it, he gave her permission to use it. Several moments of healing and caretaking passed before O’Conner asked if anyone was still feeling poorly. Sheepishly, Velouria raised her bloody hand and Ujinn and O’Conner both cried out in annoyance. Ujinn went so far as to opening his book of grudges as he gave her a stink eye, but after a moment of deliberation, he opted to heal her instead of condemn her.

Jacque awoke. He looked around the room and immediately announced, “Ah, I’m alive. I must have made ze right choice zen.”

Harvey was excited about his kill, and he eagerly ensured that everyone had seen it. Maria gave him a peck on the cheek in thanks, and after quickly changing colour, the youth regained his composure a bit.

The party gathered all of the loot from the Hollow and quickly destroyed all of the unholy devices used to make zombies. Several voiced their uneasiness about the surgical cuts made into the corpses that remained- all in the lower abdomen, all women.

They stayed the night, before carrying everything they saw value in out of the Hollow in the morning. Ujinn still struggled to walk, but Velouria helped hold him up as they traveled.

The offensive owl was back again. It was perched upon Ujinn’s Helmet of Grudges, which he happily wore. Maria fed it as Velouria glared at her; it wanted the handcuffs. Velouria told it several times that they would be in exchange for the rest of their gear. That night, however, when they were in camp, Tree Climber approached, and after O’Conner failed to communicate with him effectively, Velouria was awoken.

Tree Climber told her that the druids had something to exchange for the handcuffs. One sword. Only one. She was angry. They had cleared the hollow and brought his blasted handcuffs- maybe Gwendolyn was right, maybe they should have just gone back in and killed the druids (again) right away.

Velouria’s first instinct was to deny the druid his handcuffs, after all, one sword was surely not worth the only leverage they had on the druids. Ujinn had a well-known attachment to his swords though, and he had shown her an abundance of loyalty with his blade and his energy in battle. She finally snarled, but pushed the handcuffs into Tree Climber’s hands.

As she had been deliberating, Tree Climber and Caden had been renewing their friendship. O’Conner had carved an exceptional wood ornament with the portrait of Tree Climber, and the Wildeman had gone and caught a rabbit in thanks. O’Conner magically cooked it and shared it with the Wildeman. Velouria watched the exchange and vaguely wondered when O’Conner was going to teach himself to communicate properly with his new friend. She expected it would be soon.

Tree Climber eventually took the handcuffs and scrambled away into the darkness; just under an hour later, he returned with a leather-bound item. Velouria took it and thrust it into Ujinn’s arms immediately before she wandered off to pout against a tree. Ujinn seemed concerned with her attitude at first, but that quickly fled when he was reunited with Honour- one of his two favoured swords.

At dawn the party continued home, lugging their loot to the edge of the Border Woods. In the distance, and closing quickly, a mounted figure approached. Gwendolyn rode up, immediately reaching out a hand, and without thinking, Velouria reached up. They grasped one another’s forearms, and Velouria nimbly twisted onto Themis’ back behind Gwendolyn as the half elf pulled her up. They shared a few whispers as Velouria clutched tightly to Gwendolyn’s form and they swiftly rode out of sight.

Ujinn, suddenly without a leg to stand on, collapsed to the ground. Someone else would have to support him for the last four hours into town, because Velouria, Gwendolyn, and Themis had already come and gone.

Velouria met the rest of the party at the gates of Timeral when they got back to town. It was late, but Maria still found a buyer for most of the items that they had found. A notebook in code was kept for O’Conner, and the mage’s strange exoskeletal potion device was kept by Maria.

Halberdier Harvey successfully negotiated Jacque into giving him a bonus for doing well during the adventure, and he eagerly suggested a kiss to Maria once again. The nymph humoured the young boy, leaning in and pecking his cheek despite his attempt to turn for her mouth in the last second. She chided, “Easy, Harvey.”

Bashfully, the young man nodded. He was sent on his way after Jacque ruffled his hair and said, “Alright there you go, get out of here you rascal.”

The party walked away with more money than they poured into keeping themselves and their allies alive, so all in all, it was considered a successful clearing of the Smokey Hollow.

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keataren AelithRae

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