Cornered in the Crescent Forest, the group has no choice but to stand and fight!
Arlianothas and Mouse flee the encounter — both heading back in the direction of Nibenay. Tikka takes up a position with some of the recently-freed halfling prey. If they survive, they will be comrades tested in battle. If not, the point is moot. (DM’s note: Several of the players switched to other characters from their character tree, and the halfling captives were the perfect way to introduce them. This, of course, meant that their other characters had to leave the scene, and so Melmoth, Arlianothas, and Mouse are all off having other adventures in the background!)
Hordes of zombies advance slowly but relentlessly at the team as they take up cover among the heavy, broad trees. Tikka calls out to the powers of water, and her ululations and exhortations result in the dry skin and brittle bones of many of the zombies flaking away and their corpses liquefying and returning to the soil. Qhorin remains some distance away and fires his bow to little effect, while Dargraven sorcerously compels some of the zombies to obey his commands and turns them against their fellows. Namliia conjures her own magics, carefully drawing the limited life energy of the forest without damaging it, in order to lash out at the foes.
As the fight continues, the adversary finally arrives. A gaunt and crazed-looking human, he carries the obsidian-tipped Stygian lance. At his command, the zombies surge forward and attempt to batter the group, and he lashes out with the lance as well.
Still, the zombie horde is no match for the combined might of the party, and eventually they are destroyed. The carrier of the lance is rendered unconscious, and the group argues over what to do with him. Eventually they awaken him to interrogate him, although nobody in the team is a mindbender with the power to telepathically pry into his memories, so they settle for hard questions with the occasional rough handling.
The lance-bearer spins an incredible tale: His name is Aygval, and he claims that he is a lictor in the service of the dead sorcerer-king Dregoth. According to his tale, the ghost of Dregoth came to him one night on the wastes near the ruin of Giustenal. There, the dread king ordered him to take up the Stygian lance, a powerful psionic weapon crafted from tools that were themselves made of bones from Dregoth’s body. With the lance, Dregoth claimed, Aygval would search out other allies to join a new army that would sweep out across the Tablelands, overthrow the other sorcerer-kings who had dared to slay Dregoth two thousand years ago, and unify the region under the dead hand of one dreadful, merciless, undead sorcerer-king. Aygval states further that Dregoth has sent out other minions to other city-states in order to recruit allies or fight against the sorcerer-kings, each armed with another item gifted to them by Dregoth himself.
The group isn’t sure what to believe, but Aygval certainly seems sincere in his exhortations. Kirlat points out that if what Aygval says is true — a remote possibility, but still a possibility — then killing him may lead to worse consequences, as Dregoth would certainly be aware of what happens to his minions.
Uneasily, the group decides to bind Aygval and take him with them until they can decide what to do with him. They bury the Stygian lance deep in the forest, far from any trail or animal run.