We head south, with Durance, his minions, and fifty men in tow. It is fairly easy travel for several days, until we enter the forest. It is dark in there, darker than it should be. Everyone is on high alert, but that doesn’t stop the ambush.
Shots ring out one afternoon that is nearly as dim as night. A fireball from Dalish and some lightning from myself light up the forest, and more fires spring up as the others join the fray. The Lt. is hit right off, and he goes down hard. I have to drag him into the brush and pump all my healing magic into him. He’s alive but he doesn’t wake up. Nat starts shouting that they’re intelligent undead, and points Klyce, who’s turned into an elephant at them. The fight didn’t last long, but the repercussions were huge.
Remy and Gerhardt spend the eight hours doing surgeries on the road side to save the Lt’s life, Remy’s eye, and Klyce’s guts. I pump what little healing I have left into our injured men, and it does them more good than it did the Lt. at least. Remy asks me to keep an eye on Klyce, as he will need my magics, and may not ask. The Lt is in a coma, so we’ll have to wait here for a day at least before we move him.
The next day is a big discussion about what to do. Marybeth wants to send the Lt back to the army. Strang and Providance argue that he will be very upset when he wakes if we try that. Klyce asks for the trees he downed and a few more, so he can make a wagon and a defensible wall here to protect us for one more day of rest. He’s got a new spell that doesn’t require him to move to create things. We dig in for the night, as I pray to the Dawnmother for my injured friends and the Lt.
The next day, the Lt is looking better, so with the help of a waggoneer’s son, we get the wagon rolling. With a spell for a floating platform, and another for ghostly horses, we move on. The forest continues to darken. HeyHey returns that day, though most of us had hardly noticed him gone. He saw loads of dead things around the house ahead of us.
We rest that night and then next morning, the Lt is in and out of consciousness. We move on and late afternoon, Durance wakes up and asks for a report. We fill him in, and he gives us orders to find a secure position in view of the house and then wake him up again.
We get to the mansion, with its wrought iron gates, and look ahead to se the lawn choked with hundreds of zombies. We step back to a good vantage point and let Nat send HeyHey and her invisible eye forward. Through the eye she notes royalist uniforms and notices some of the creatures have red eyes and aren’t behaving like the rest. It also sees the front door open and a zombie come out. When she tries to send her eye through the door it winks out.
The zombie that came out of the house is heading right for our position, so Nat heads out to meet it with Remy insistant on keep guard on her. When they return, Nat tells us a rather disgusting tale of it’s head splitting open and her brother’s voice coming out. We, Nat and her friends, are invited to dinner and parlay. Anyone else or any tricks will result in annihilation.
We wake Durance to fill him in, and he projects outside his body to talk to us. We all defend Stephen, and say we’ll be safe, and he’s killed 200 Royalists, afterall. Durance isn’t keen on giving us into his hands, thinks we’d make good hostages. He asks Nat to see what the fates have to say. It says bad things if she goes with only one escort, but good things if we all go in together.
Durance then gives Major Dalish a list of questions he wants answered: Why is he here? What are his ties to the Royalists? What was here before? What are his intentions toward the magocracy? Will he take citizenship in exchange for leniency? When Klyce quiestions this last, Durance reminds us all that other mages have come here and none have returned, punishment must be had.
We all clean up for dinner. I don’t have any of my fancy dressed, but I do have one that’s not my official uniform at least. We walk slowly through the zombie throng, with none of them moving towards us. A massive ghoul opens the door for us, and a line of undead servants await. Stephen comes down the stairs to grett us, calling the servants prototypes when someone notes the runes on their necks.
He leads us to the dining room where we all sit down for a sumptuous dinner. Klyce asks if his food can be blended, his guts are still a bit tetchy, and it is done. It is a fabulous dinner and Nat talks with him about their family. After dessert drinks, he allows it’s time for business.
Nat tears into him about the last time we met and how could he not tell her. He fires back that he woke up desperately hungry, and nearly killed their mother, so he had to get away from them all. They go back and forth a bit until Nat runs out of steam.
Dalish picks up the conversation and starts asking Durance’s questions. He’s here to get away from his family and the magocracy. This place was interesting and because we were starting to go after the Royalists, most of the folk had already abandoned it. The mages had left the rest of the troops poorly defended, so he was able to easily overtake the place. They had escaped with their research, which he won’t tell us about just yet. Stephen claims no Royalist ties and wishes to just stay free of the magocracy, too. He did kill the other mages who came here, and used them to make his prototype servants.
Then our talk turns to citizenship, punishment, and service. He has no interest in serving as we do, but thinks he might have valuable information instead. We explain a bit about running off to Italy and our service as punishment. Klyce points out that any information Stephen might have about the Royalists in the area could help his case. Marybeth suggests any new arcane research he has done. Remy asks for information on forces in New Calay.
Stephen asks us to send a message out to Durance, because a mind palace just won’t do. He offers information on the magic of this place and Royalist movements in the area. Klyce asks about his necromatic research, and he says it’s negotiable. So, I send out to Strang, since Durance was asleep last time I saw him.
He accepts citizenship, not service. He offers info on Longwood mages studies. Info on Royalist positions. Info on Royalist troop movements. Cessation of magocracy hostilities.
Strang sends back to me: That may be enough. Depending on the nature of the information.
Stephen accepts this and leads us from the hall to see what he offers.