Having spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for their journey, and getting a much-deserved solid night’s rest, the group gathered at the Watch stables where their borrowed mounts and supplies awaited. The first day’s travel was uneventful, if dreary through the dark and misty swamp. The following morning, however, shortly after breaking camp and getting underway, the three companions were attacked by a pair of swamp shamblers, a unique type of undead whose victims are rumored to rise as zombies themselves! Howling with the mindless hunger of their kind, the shamblers closed, and the fight was on. The undead proved no match for our adventurers, though, and their corpses were swiftly returned to a state of inanimate flesh. Rounding up their mounts, the journey continued for several more soggy, nervous hours, picking their way over the drier paths, until they found a small cave on a slight hill about a mile from where the swamp bordered the drier steppe land to the north. A decidedly opportune spot to make a base camp and secure the horses and gear.
Dusk found the three edging the border of the swamp, where an cold, windswept plain stretched before them. In the distance could be seen the two towers of the ruins of Fort Rhyker, gatehouse and main fort separated by a deep gorge. Unfortunately, in between themselves and their goal were skeletons. Dozens of skeletons, digging for old bones, loading the bones into carts which were then drawn up the overgrown trail to the gatehouse by none other than the ancient animated skeletons of horses.
Skirting the rare patrol by armed and armored squads of undead warriors, the three discovered that the workers would ignore their presence completely. A plan to hide in a loaded wagon was devised and executed perfectly, gaining them access to the interior of the gatehouse, where more slave thralls sorted piles of bones, and carted these piles across the drawbridge that disappeared into the mists, spanning the chasm to the fort proper. Cautious scouting of the gatehouse’s levels revealed another bridge on the top level, but it’s condition appeared precarious at best. Stringer set about rigging the two kegs of explosives under this bridge, in such a way as to destroy both the sky bridge and the chain supports to the wider wooden drawbridge below. While he was engaged in this, a patrol of skeletons clattered onto the battlements, but were easily dispatched by Fynn and Kah. The charges set, the team descended the stairs of the gatehouse, down to the lowest level where the drawbridge crossed the foggy gorge. As the prepared to cross, Durin climbed out of a dumbwaiter, where he had been hiding from the patrols while awaiting his companions.
Reunited, the team began a cautious crossing of the wooden drawbridge, but made it only a few feet before coming under attack again, this time from mysterious crossbow-wielding men on the stone sky bridge above. Kah and Fynn rushed back upstairs to confront the brigands, while Stringer and Durin attempted to keep the hooded assailants pinned with ranged attacks, landing a lucky critical shot and killing one who fell to the drawbridge. Fynn and Kah, having reached the sky bridge and realizing its instability was the perfect weapon, brought the stone bridge crashing down, taking parts of the drawbridge below and the last three assassins with it. Little was revealed by the corpse of the remaining body, a young man with barely a whisker on his chin, and a tattoo on his hand… of a stylized eye over a lightning bolt. The sign of The Inquistion, the secret police of the exiled and deposed Vinter Raelthorne IV the Elder, former king of Cygnar.
Crossing the drawbridge led into the dungeon of the keep proper, where they discovered the apparent lair of some large creature that had dug its way out through the very walls, a tunnel leading to the outside of the fort. Unfortunately this tunnel led out on the wrong side of the chasm for the team to make a quick escape from the fort and back to Corvis. Also in the nest of whatever might live here, they found the gnawed remains and personal effects of two Watchmen, apparently Helstrom’s missing men.
A long switchback stairway at the end of the dungeon corridors led all the way to the battlements of the keep, overlooking the large courtyard below, a courtyard filled with rank upon rank of armed and armored skeletal warriors, some even wrangling chained swamp shamblers like rabid dogs. Sneaking around to an old stained glass window missing a few small pieces, the team looked down into the great hall of the keep, where they observed none other than Alexia Ciannor and the four dead coven members she had raised conducting a ritual of dark necromancy. Before their eyes, as Alexia painted a red rune on the forehead of an inanimate skeleton and the chanting and casting of the four grey dead women rose to a crescendo, the armored skeleton’s eyes lit up with a deep unholy flame, the bones rose to their feet, grabbed a weapon from a nearby pile of arms, and marched out the doors into the courtyard to join ranks with the rest of Alexia’s army!
Their fears not only confirmed, but exceeded, a plan was quickly concocted for their escape. With the charges set, Stringer and Durin would return to the far side of the drawbridge, while Fynn and Kah would create a disturbance, drawing as many of the undead into the trap of the rigged drawbridge as possible. Once executed, only a couple dozen of the undead pursued the cleric and monk, but some were better than none. The escape plan went flawlessly, the thrall slaves in the bonefield once again ignoring the team as they fled the chaos and mustering of the undead legions their blowing of the drawbridge had caused. Returning to their hidden cave, the four friends decided to continue their flight, even though the dark swamp at night posed a danger all its own. Riding as quickly as they could without risking a mount, they traveled until about midnight, then made a cold camp, shivering in the dark fog and sleeping only in fits.
The weak grey dawn found them headed south, looking for the “road” through the Wood that had brought them from Fellig to Corvis mere days ago. A chance break in the constant mists as they crested a barren tor gave them a glimpse of the massive horde of bones and corpses in the distance, steadily and tirelessly marching to the southeast, toward the city. They missed the road, but found themselves in a tiny village of swamp folk on a small, shallow lake, some hours west of Corvis. It took some doing to persuading the stubborn patriarch Gurn of the reality and insurmountable odds of the approaching undead hordes, but after listening to this toothless, ignorant redneck resist his attempts to reason, Fynn lost his temper. His fervor convinced the man to send his boy Jethro up the tallest tree, and the lad confirmed what Fynn had been saying. Gurn wasn’t happy about leaving, but the wily swampy knew that adobe and wattle houses can be rebuilt, and set about gathering his clan to vacate their homes.
Hours later the party entered the city, Gurn and his kin waving a thank you to Fynn, and heading straight into the heart of the city and south-bound. It is the evening of Ashtoven 28th, the last day of the year, Winterfest… and the festivities for the three-day Longest Night celebration are in full swing.