Suddenly surrounded by zombies the situation was serious! A quick look back towards the entrance to the Temple of Morr revealed that the zombie horde was thickest in that direction. As the undead were closing in the party quickly took stock of their options, some wanted to try and fight the horde milling about the exit, while others thought it might be a better idea to actully get to the bottom of the undead invasion. Why have the dead risen, and how could they be stopped?
Burgmeister Adler, who was staying close to the grizzled sergeant Balthus, suddenly joined the conversation, "It's imperative that I find Father Grabbe. 50 silver for each and everyone who joins me in this search!" Again the adventurer's thirst for riches settled the matter and they decided to make their way to the Ossuary at the other end of the garden. It seemed to be the only actual building where they could hold up, and it also seemed like the logical place to search for Father Grabbe.
However, although the undead was most numerous in the other direction there were still many on the way towards the Ossuary as well. By this time the party had slain more than a dozen shambling horrors, but the horde was never-ending and they had only managed to actually advance a few yards. One zombie is not a match, but get enough of them in one place and even one of the legendary Troll-Slayers will be hard pressed!
Dead bodies were moving in from all sides and hands were clawing at our heroes. Dieter suddenly found himself prone on the ground with several undead crawling over him. Franz had his longbow ripped from his hands and had to try and fend off the horde with only his dagger. Snorri had left a path of bodies behind him, but he was breathing heavily and his swings didn't come as quickly nor did they hit as precisely as they used to. Mannfred bowled over two zombies with a shove from his shield and clove the skull of a third when he suddenly felt hands gripping him from behind.
Fortunately it seemed like Sigmar had more in mind for our heroes. Hans Fleischman's prayers to his patron God was answered and he felt strength flowing through him! His hammer glowed in the rain and it fell again and again. Each time a body crashed to the ground and after a few moments he had managed to clear a small area of the undead. It even seemed like the horde was hesitating for a moment which gave the party a little time to regroup. Franz retrieved his bow and Dieter made a hasty tourniquet for his bleeding arm. Snorri kneeled down and tried to catch his breath.
Suddenly it occured to them: where was Waltrout? Adler and Balthus was still with them, both dirty and bloody but alive. However the simpleton was nowhere to be seen. Had he fallen victim to the flesh eating undead? The short breather didn't last long and the party realized that they had to push harder if they were to be able to ever get to the Ossuary. Franz led the attack by felling several zombies with his bow, leaving the rest to the axes, swords, hammers and clubs of the rest of the party.
Slowly they gained ground and the Ossuary loomed ever closer. Dieter realized that Burgmeister Adler was shouting something as he fought the horde and it took him a few moments to hear what it was; "One gold! One gold! One gold if you find Father Grabbe!!". He was obviously panicking and maybe even delusional from fear, but Dieter would be damned if he missed out on a gold coin! He'd never even seen one!
After a few more minutes they had reached the stairs to the Ossuary and managed to get themselves inside. A huge shadow suddenly appeared near the door behind them! Preparing for this new devilry the party was relieved when they realized it was only Waltrout. He slammed the doors shut and barricaded the doors with a heavy wooden beam. It seemed like he'd simply been lucky as he ran away from the party towards the Ossuary. He was shaking and mumbling about how his friends were bad and that they should stay underground as Father Grabbe had told them.
Getting inside the Ossuary didn't seem to be much of an improvement at first glance; every conceivable space had been decorated with human bones. In the centre of the room was a eight feet tall pyramid of skulls and in the corners stood candelabras, each elegantly crafted from hundres of small bones. On the south wall was the coat of arms of the Emperor, composed entirely of bones, and behind it a spiral staircase descended into darkness. The whole room was at the same time both awe-inspiring and unsettling. Perfect place for a rest!
Franz took inventory of his arrows while the rest of the party tried to patch themselves up as well as they could. Hans even called upon the help of Sigmar to cure a grievous wound that Mannfred had sustained during the fighting. Adler reiterated his promise to give anyone who helped him find Father Grabbe a gold coin which boosted morale a bit. The groans from the horde outside could be heard through the door and the constant hammering was starting to get unsettling. Whatever they did, they should do it fast!
It seemed that the only path ahead was the stairs leading into the dark. Only Dietar had his lamp left as the others had dropped their torches during the fight. Fortunately more were available in a basket in the corner. Snorri turned around to head down the stairs when he found himself stairing into the pelvic bone of a fully formed skeleton standing in front of him. With a shout he smashed it to pieces with his two axes, but more were forming around them, dropping from the ceiling and stepping out of the walls. The fight was short but vicious and left Franz Bieber badly shaken. The skeletons had kept reforming even after being destroyed!
With the room in shambles and pieces of bone everywhere the party continued downstairs. The stairs opened up into a chamber with a small desk along one wall. There was two doors, a few drapes along the walls and a book and a skull rested on the desk. Hans decided to have a look at the book which he soon realized was about Morr and his rituals. The skull had some kind of pattern inscribed on it that he couldn't quite make out but when he reached to pick it up it opened its jaws and clamped down on his fingers! Hans called out in surprise and it took the help of both Snorri and Mannfred before he had his fingers free. Several of his fingers were badly chewed and bloody!
They found Father Grabbe's bedroom and study but so far no sign of the old man when Franz heard some low moaning coming from nearby. It seemed to be coming from behind one of the doors. He drew his bow as the others took position around the door. Dieter pulled it open and they all peered into the short corridor ahead. It ended in a room and on top of a dais Father Grabbe was half lying, half sitting in a coffin. Above him loomed the corpse of a woman who held Grabbes head in her hands. She had once been beautiful but now her face was a sunken ruin that split in a macabre grin as she saw the adventurers.
"Well, it took you long enough" she croaked, "Don't look so shocked, you pathetic simpletons! Yes, I'm wearing the festering body of a feeble and weak-willed woman, but that is only temporary, I assure you. One of your bodies will serve my purposes well, I'm sure". The dead woman fingered a black gem around her neck and let out a gurgling laugh. "I am Lazarus Mourn and I can never die. Would it that I could say the same about you..."
Then several things happened at once. Adler who had stayed back pushed himself forward and when he saw the corpse that called itself Lazarus Mourn he cried out "Madriga!" and collapsed to the floor. Waltrout also amde it past into the corridor and started talking gibberish about his "master" and how he'd always been loyal. He ripped open his shirt to reveal intricate symbols tatooed into his chest and back! Clearly something was wrong here, but no one really had time to react to it as a giant in full plate armour and shield, weilding a huge sword stepped into the opening.
Balthus drew in a sharp gasp of air, "That is Olaus Stichelm! I would recognize that dragon crest anywhere." For a while the skeleton of Stichelm just stood there while Lazarus Mourn bent down over Grabbe again. Franz loosed his arrow which found its' mark in a chink in the giant's armour. Stichelm responded by taking a couple of shuffling steps forward and swinging his huge sword. Franz narrowly avoided it and Mannfred stepped up to face undead hero of Stromdorf. He noticed that the thing Stichelm was using as a shield was in fact his own gravestone, and that it was glowing with a strange blue light...
They traded a couple of blows and Franz sent another two arrows into Stichelm, when suddenly Mannfred was wracked with pain! A green miasma flowed around him and they could hear Mourn laughing from the room beoynd. Appearantly he was not staying out of this fight. Mannfred hunkered down and with a great burst of strength he bowled into the hulking skeleton in front of him, shield first. The two fighters stumbled for a moment then Stichelm fell backwards, crashing to the ground! Suddenly the path to Lazarus Mourn was open and Dieter and Snorri hurried past to get at him. "The necromancer is the key! Kill him and the others will fall!" shouted the Warrior Priest behind them.
Snorri hacked at the necromancer while Dieter tried to free Grabbe. Mannfred stepped over Stichelm to lend his weight to the fight with Lazarus, but even outnumbering him three to one they couldn't seem to land that final killing blow! Mannfred heard something move behind him but was too late to bring up his shield as the enormous sword of Stichelm came down upon him. He almost collapsed to the ground as the sword hit him and it left a huge gash in his mail shirt! Stichelm raised it for the killing blow when Snorri finally managed to hit Mourn with a clean cut, ending the unlife of the necromancer. As the body of Madriga fell to the ground so did Stichelm's skeleton. Everyone just stood there for a while, breathing heavily and listening to Waltrout's gibbering.
Adler who had come to was crying profusely and rushed to Madriga's corpse. He cradled it and kept mumbling about how sorry he was. "It doesn't seem much use in keeping it from you any longer", sergeant Balthus said, "Burgmeister Adler had an affair with Madriga Brenner a few months back. But it ended when she took her own life by throwing herself down the town well." He sighed, "he hasn't been himself since. Yesterday he dreamt about Madriga coming back to him, whispering to him, and he wanted to ask Father Grabbe about adive. I just hope we're not too late."
Grabbe suddenly stired and opened his eyes. "Dark... so dark" he mumbled while Hans tried to help him up. Franz was seeing to the heavily wounded Mannfred while Snorri was investigating the silver amulet that Mourn had worn around his neck. The moment he had killed Mourn the black stone in the amulet had flashed, "A damn magic trinket I bet" he mumbled and nudged it with his boot. "Maybe, or maybe not. All I know is that it's a month's food and lodging!" Dieter quipped and scooped it up with a grin. The dwarf shook his head, but left he ratcatcher to it. A deadly mistake.
Talking to Father Grabbe didn't make the group much wiser. The last thing he remembered was trimming some bushes in the garden when he heard a voice behind him. After that it was only darkness and pain. The old man was still very weak, but could at least walk by himself. Having made sure that Grabbe was alright, relatively speaking, the group wanted to see what had happened to the zombie horde outside. But first they had Burgmeister Adler and the simpleton Waltrout to take care of. After some discussion it was decided that Waltrout would be brought with them back to down to face judgement. To everyones surprise Adler seemed to have calmed down quite a bit, "I understand what she tried to tell me now. It was a warning. A warning to me that Lazarus Mourn had risen again to terrorize Stromdorf". He looked over the adventurers, "and he would have succeded were it not for you my friends. Me and Balthus would have been cut down by the undead hordes and who knows what would have befallen my city. You are all true heroes of the Empire!"
As they were preparing to leave Hans called out for them to wait, the headstone Stichelm's skeleton had used as a shield was still glowing blue. Turning it over they saw that part of the headstone looked familiar and they suddenly realized it looked the same as the Lightning Stone they had taken from the beastman chieftan! The same strange writing and about the same size. The cracks even seemed to match up. "This calls for further investigating" Snorri remarked as he hefted it up on his shoulders.
Outside the garden was full of the dead. Fortunately the plain unmoving kind this time. It seemed like the death of Mourn had broken the spell that had animated them in the first place. Grabbe sighed as he realized the days of work he had in front of him, but Adler promised to send men to help him out. Soon the party was back in the Temple of Morr where they had left the body of Heinrich. It still lay on the stone altar in the center of the room.
Father Grabbe was approaching it when a sharp flash burst from the black amulet in Dieter's pocket! They all stared in shock and horror as Heinrich's corpse started to levitate off the altar and grin down at them. "I told you I could never die!" Lazarus Mourn said as he reached out towards Mannfred. The soldier felt his strength leave him as it flowed into the newly animated body of Mourn and he fell to his knees. "No!" the others shouted in unison as they threw themselves at Mourn but it was too late, as they cut him down for a second time he just laughed. Mannfred lay dead on the floor, his face ash grey and sunken.
Grabbe hurried forward and uttered a blessing of Morr over his body, "So that Mourn will not be able to enter him." he said. "That is an evil artifact you have there. I would hazard a guess that it contains the soul of Lazarus Mourn and he can use it to possess nearby bodies." Dieter looked paler than the rest as he sat down beside the body of Mannfred "my fault..." he mumbled.
Phew! That was a lot longer than I thought it'd be! Oh well, I hope you enjoy reading it. :)
The second character death in just a couple of sessions! Anyone who've said that the third edition is less deadly I hope is reconsidering it now. The thing is, and I've touched on this before, 3rd ed. kind of slowly grinds you down instead of killing you outright. Coming into this session Mannfred was already suffering from a critical wound and he picked up a couple more when fighting Stichelm, so when Mourn rose again and targeted him* with his Drain Life spell the few wounds he inflicted was enough to finally push him over the edge.
However, I think it was a GREAT way to go! Very Warhammerish! Having your dead friend get reanimated by a necromancer you just put down who then proceeds to kill you?! Awesomely ironic!
Also, there might be some context missing in this session report. Lazarus Mourn was a warlock that lived in Stromdorf. A year ago he was caught and sentenced to burn at the stake for his deeds. People in Stromdorf still talk about it as that day the rains stopped so his pyre could be lit properly. A sign from Sigmar they say.
We'll probably have the next session on Saturday next week, so expect an update around that time.
*Mourn did target Mannfred because he was the most heavily wounded character, but not with the direct intent of killing him, but simply because the Drain Life spell is more effective the more critical wounds a character is suffering from. So no, I'm not trying to actively kill my characters. :)