With Ongewasgone scouting ahead, the group trekked northwest. The traveled cross-country, skirting the southern edge of the Moors heading back to the Splintered Princes and their employer; the Baron. The rain had reduced to a drizzle but the air was cool.
After several hours’ hiking, Ongewasgone espied a small village in a low stretch between the hills. It was far enough away that he couldn’t discern whether it was occupied. The party decided upon caution and circled wide to avoid contact.
Not long before dusk, they found a small copse of trees to shield themselves and made camp. Ongewasgone backtracked a bit to see if he could hide their trail, but the mud made for far too many tracks to cover, so he returned to camp. Judah cooked a modest meal and the party set watches.
Not long before dawn, while Judah was on sentry duty, he heard a distant wailing voice on the wind. It seemed to come from the North, but sounded quite far away. As there was no further noise, he waited until first light to wake the party. The sun actually appeared in the sky that morning and the sky was a brilliant blue. The air was cold and there were hints of frost on the ground; signs that autumn was well under way.
The group made good time that morning, heading steadily closer to their destination. It was nearing midday when Ongewasgone saw two things that brought the group up short. The first was a stone well ahead of them in a field. The second thing was the realization that the mounds and hummocks the dotted the field they had been walking through were overgrown cairns. They had strayed into a burial ground. Judah recognized the features as a typical arrangement after certain ancient battles. The survivors would erect cairns over the valorous dead where they had fallen.
Sendaros and Ongewasgone were all for retreating out of the field as quickly as possible, fearing evil spirits or worse. Stellatus wished to investigate the well, however. As he approached the ring of stones, a gigantic serpent rose up out of the hole, fangs bared. At the same time, one of the cairns near Judah’s feet shifted and a rock fell away as a bony hand reached out.
Ongewasgone fired his longbow at the serpent knocking it off balance before it could exit the well. Judah swung at the skeleton with his mace and the rest of the party moved to engage. More skeletons started to crawl from the cairns and the snake bit Stellatus. Sendaros fired bolts of energy from his wand at the foes, but his more powerful magics seemed fickle.
Eventually, the party vanquished the monsters, but not before one of the undead clawed Ralf’s (the soldier sent along by the Baron) throat out, killing him outright. Stellatus buried him in one of the now empty cairns, saying words of the Radiance over the body. Judah found two silver coins in each empty cairn (presumably laid over the dead men’s eyes).
Meanwhile, the others explored the well. It appeared to be a dry cistern, with the hole widening down below. There was a glint of metal from the bottom. Judah lowered Ongewasgone down to explore.
Once the elf was confident the ground was not booby-trapped, he looked around the snake’s lair. There were remains of previous victims, a few coins, a small brooch, and a bronze shield. Sendaros scryed the treasure, trying to sense if there were any magic. The shield was enchanted, but the exact nature of the magic wasn’t clear.
The party removed the snake’s head as a trophy and continued toward the Baron’s land.
It was late afternoon when Ongewasgone announced that they were now within the Baron’s territory. Since they had last seen the employer at a temporary encampment, the group decided to head for the Baron’s “Keep,” a semi-fortified structure that constituted his home and center of operations. As they walked, they noticed glints of sunlight in the distance, as if reflected off glass or metal. When they got closer, they could see that there appeared to be a skirmish or small battle at a hilltop about a mile distant. It was hard to make out detail, but Judah knew the Baron’s device was a red unicorn and there seemed to be something red at the top of the hill among some low ruined walls.
Ongewasgone found a culvert that let the party sneak closer. Once they were about 200 yards away, they could see a group of soldiers were attacking the hilltop. The Baron’s standard flew above the ruins. The men below bore orange armbands. It appeared the Baron was outnumbered about two to one, but the party decided they would try to even the odds.