Jul 12, 2021
7 mins read
A shriek cuts through the misty night, and 3 cloaks draw tighter into the shadowy tree line. The faint twinkle of light in the distance betrays the murk-black mountains and the group’s target: The Gates of Dawn.
“Mills,” whispered the human “would you care to explain exactly why we’re risking our necks for this old dwarven machine? I mean, it can’t possibly be worth much...”
“Piotr of Newholme , it is valuable to our patron, most importantly, but it holds intrinsic and cultural value to both my Elven ancestors and the Dwarven smiths that wrought it, and please don’t call me ‘Mills’, I am called ‘Nuala of the White Shoulder Mills’ and I tire of reminding you.” she answered, rather testily.
“Listen, Milly, your people live hundreds of years, mine only live 60-70 tops, you may have time to give your life’s story when you talk to one of them, but you have to pick up the rhythm a bit with me, or I might not make it.”
“Guys, Quiet!” interjected Grettir Molinn. A speck of blue light grew brighter or maybe closer. Another keening wail rose through the trees, louder now. All retreated to the safety of the shadows. “This was once hallowed ground,” whispered Nuala, “...but something has corrupted this place.” The dot of blue light floated listlessly toward a slight mound in the clearing perhaps 30 paces ahead of them. It caught a cross breeze and lazily turned a figure 8 before settling on the mound, like a mote in a moonbeam.
The crew held their breath a moment longer, and relaxed. They were all tired and jumpy from the long day and the imagination makes terrifying monsters of nothing in the darkness. Grettir motioned for them to move on, giving wide berth to the clearing.
After they were a few paces past the clearing Piotr chuckled. “I can’t believe we ran for cover over that, what are we, childr-“ he was cut off by the scream ^Væeeeeeeette^ directly behind them. The crew spun and dodged behind a towering tree, and saw something rising from the hilly side of the barrow. “What in Bog’s nose is-“ Grettir started, but couldn’t finish. ^Vaaaætttttte^ came the reply from the creature struggling to find footing. Just then, because Bog has a messed up sense of timing, the clouds parted and a rogue Moon beam filled the clearing. The creature rose, shambling forwards a bit, raised it’s rotting head and screamed ^Vætteeeee^ , one eye casting the same blue glow as the mote.
Nuala shivered lightly, slowly nocking a bolt to her crossbow. She breathed slowly in through her nose, then out again. Piotr’s eyes widened in horror as she softly stepped around him, shouldered her weapon and closed her eyes, lips silently moving as she recited the ancient song as she’d done a thousand times before.
As the last of the mute lyrics left her mouth she placed a gentle kiss on the stock, opened her eyes and tightened her grip.
Grettir reached out to lightly touch her elbow. “Hsst!” he hissed. “Let me try and take him before you send him to Bog’s Light, a wight could make an excellent scout.”
“You’re a fine enchanter, but you’re no warlock, can you take the undead?” she asked, reasonably.
Grettir hemmed a moment, “Well I can take the dead, how different could it be? Just let me try.” he insisted. “If you insist,” Nuala whispered, “but if you fail, I will destroy the wretched thing.” “Ok just don’t kill it until you know for sure I’m not inside. When I take it I’ll hold up 2 fingers.” Grettir gestured with the back of his hand, 2 fingers held high. Then his lights went out.
Nuala and Piotr watched from the safety of their cover as the wight stopped mid-shamble and stiffened. It’s head cocked sharply to the right, the arms contorted wildly and then settled. It’s pose relaxed, sagging slightly until one arm raised and ambled back to rejoin the group. The clouds moved over the clearing, shrouding them once again.
“He really did it, the crazy bastard. I didn’t think he had it in him but he really did it.” Piotr nudged the torpid Dwarman’s boot and he stirred lightly, as if he were sleeping off a terrible hangover from too much Elven Beesmead.
Nuala lowered her bow, and tucked it under her cloak. She stood and stretched herself, back arching like a familiar cat. “That could’ve been real ugly.” Piotr said. “You overstate the obvious when you’re frightened, Piotr of Newholme. Are you still afraid?” Grettir tossed fitfully below her, muttering. “I wasn’t afraid Milo,” Piotr snapped, “I was concerned. For your safety. If we lost you to that disgusting dead thing, it would be a long walk back with nothing to show and no payment.” Grettir choked on a snore, muttering “no, stop” and grinned, eyes shut and face shining beatifically, like Nod, the patron god of slumber. “You are a bad liar, Piotr of Newholme,” Nuala chastised, “and I don’t think you’re very bright for a human.” Grettir’s wight approached and Grettir stopped snoring. Piotr leaned in close “Now listen here you leaf-licking, pointy eared, racist, glorified son of a Drow..” “Guys, what are you fighting about now?” Asked Grettir, groggily.
“Not now Grettir, I’m about to lay out some rules on Milly and then-“ the words stopped, clogged up inside his throat. They spun on their heels as the wight raised it’s desiccated head, one blue light shining from a cobwebbed socket and howled “Væeeeeeeette RISAAAAA!”
Piotr recoiled in shock and revulsion, stumbling over Grettir as the ground beneath them rumbled and softened. Nuala planted a hand on Piotr’s brow and sprung towards the wight, driving both knees into it’s unsuspecting chest and knocking it several paces back. The wight tripped clumsily backwards over a gnarled root and landed heavily onto the shifting substrate. 4 sets of bony hands clawed up from the dirt, pulling themselves free from the mud and stood flanking the wight.
Nuala sprinted to help Grettir to his sizable feet and Piotr scrabbled backwards, struggling to free his warhammer while on all 4s. The darkening clouds gave way to a mighty clap of thunder and in the distance a massive tree caught a lightning bolt, splitting it in 2, smoldering in the sudden downpour.
The wight righted itself and roared, its ghoul guards drawing great, rusty blades from the soggy dirt and placed a crown of rotten bones on it’s mouldering scalp. The crown slowly slid down past the wight’s temples, slicing through what were formerly ears and resting around his neck, clanking on the clavicles. The wight seemed to smile as it’s skeletal guards struck a combative stance in lock-step.
“This is really bad, guys”, Grettir shouted over the rain, his voice every bit as high and panicky as he expected. Piotr hollered “Miley, flank them to the left and distract them, I hav-“ but she was nowhere to be seen. The Draugs clattered their teeth and raised their greatswords, marching slowly forward. Piotr produced what looked like a burning stick of chalk from his cloak pocket, quickly drew a circle on the tree next to them and muttering some incantation, dragged Grettir by the collar through the portal, which closed behind them with an electrical snap.
SWAT 4: Nice Dreams, You Scream