Zombies and paladins - The Lyorn's Den
Tue May. 4th, 2010
01:58 am - Zombies and paladins
N___ was in town for a long weekend, so I played a "flashback" with the Midgard group. It had to be finished in one evening, and I wanted something light-hearted and fun, with no big battles.
Some months ago the group could not be convinced to do a job for a friendly old wizard who offered too-generous pay to liberate some information from his colleagues. One of the colleagues, they later learned, was an agrarian necromancer, creating zombies to do farmwork.
By the time the story took place, I imagined the wizards would have moved on, but their feud and treasure hunt would leave them too busy to clean up all their messes. Plus, the characters had delivered a few letters for the friendly old wizard (who was giving gentle hints to the authorities about necromancy, to put pressure on his dear colleagues), and in the next adventure they had already encountered some zombies walking around aimlessly, so: Enough dangling threads.
The story began with a beggar woman walking up to the characters asking for help, because her woodland farm had been taken over by "black silent men". It had started when her youngest kid had been crying that there was a black man in the cupboard: She opened the cupboard to show that there was nothing to fear, and there was a black man in the cupboard. Since then, the black men had just been standing around and walking around silently, carefully removing the door when she had locked it, and scaring the kids. Poking the men with a kitchen knife, the woman said, made them step aside, but she couldn't stand in the doorway with a kitchen knife all day, she was a widow and had five kids to feed! So she left the kids with a cousin and walked into town to get the grand prince to help, but she had not been allowed to see the grand prince, and was now out of money and out of ideas.
Her story was so weird that the group agreed to investigate out of sheer curiosity. On the way to the farm they smelled smoke and found another woodland farm, with the hut burned down and bones in the ashes, and a lot of tracks from shod horses all around. There were too many bones, and a lot of the wood had been cleared recently -- far beyond the capability of the old couple and their nephew who used to live there. (The characters once spent a summer where they helped founding a monastary in the wilderness, so they knew more than they ever wanted to about the effort invovlved in creating arable land.)
Very disquieted the group moved on. On the path to the woman's farm, they encountered a wood spirit who had lived with the family unseen, and was complaining about no one being there now, and trees falling down. He also remarked that some clumsy oafs on horses had tried to ride to the farm, but he had distracted them and they had gone away. The spirit could not see the spirit-less zombies, who had taken up residence in the place and did what they had been created to do: Clear wood, create fields, plant winter barley and potatoes, weed the vegetable garden and pick fruit. Due to their creation process, the zombies had the colour of swamp mummies and were very tough and leathery and not especially smelly. They were also very disinterested in brains.
Just as the characters were advancing to simply cut the zombies' heads off and burn them, a band of zombie-hunting paladins rode onto the scene. Half the group failed their "run away" rolls, and it required some fast-talking and successful charisma rolls to convince the paladins that they were not minions of the unknown necromancer whose creations were plaguing the countryside. Once the paladins had understood that the group was mercenaries (or something similar) hired by the owner of the place, they became more approachable and even let themselves lectured by the mage (who had worked quite a while as a scribe and had his officialese down squat) that burning farms, even when burning zombies at the same time, damaged the grand prince's tax base and was Not A Good Idea.
In the end, the widow found that she had a whole field of winter barley and one of potatoes, enough wood to sell it and so pay for labourers to bring in the harvest, and then could sell the harvest get fruit trees to plant in the new clearing, which placated the wood spirit. The paladins went about their zombie hunting, causing a little less collateral damage, the characters put the pieces together with those from previous adventures, and a good time was had by all.
ETA: Fixed typos (thanks, mad_freddy)