Having realized we were being followed, we debated whether we should take action to reveal our pursuers. Ultimately, we decided to let sleeping dogs lie. My suspicion was that our “guide” had been tasked with keeping a surreptitious eye on us even after we parted ways. Nonetheless, I could not shake the vague impression that if the wood elves had been infiltrated to the same extent as the government of Eladris, we were putting ourselves at risk of an ambush should we successfully locate the Orb.
We penetrated further into the heart of the forest. Given that our best efforts at stealth were frankly dismal, we managed to attract the attention of every type of undead for leagues around. We fought spectres, wights, zombies, zombie ogres, ghouls, skeletons, a skeletal horse and a banshee. This experience has convinced me of the necessity to forego my bulky armour in favour of something lighter which will facilitate scouting and occasional discretion. Luckily, we came across some studded leather (but I get ahead of myself), and I will request it from my comrades as my share of the spoils of our adventure.
In any event, we came upon a temple surrounded by zombies at the heart of the woods. Unwilling to engage in needless battle (at least one thing we learned from our foray), we distracted some of the zombies and attempted to slip past them into the temple. The plan was a partial success: while we separated some of the zombies from the herd, our attempt at discretion was not successful. In the ensuing battle, I wish to commend Del for clever use of the environment: he climbed a tree which permitted him to rain quarrels on the zombies without retaliation. It brings to mind the aphorism of Tacitus, that well-known tactician, that the most successful battle is the one that is not fought.
The temple contained an orb similar to the one on Eladris and bearing the same inscription. Seeing the orb triggered a flash for me as I recalled Argyll intoning some eldritch invocation prior to releasing magical energy from one of his stones. The effect of his words were to dim the orb, which seemed to de-power or de-activate the artifact, at least temporarily. The orb was protected by some sort of undead spellcaster, however, Svin’s invocation of his patron goddess (augmented by some spellcasting on my part) made short work of the guardian.
We thus took possession of the orb, which turned out to be a rather cumbersome treasure. The orb was the source of the green fog, which became centred on us, and the undead of the forest are drawn to the orb, so that very soon we had an army of undead congregating just out of our reach.
We performed some preliminary experiments on the orb, and this is what we have concluded to date:
- the orb radiates extremely strong magic, and seems an artifact of great evil;
- we do not seem to be able to control the undead with the orb (though a more skilful student of the arcane arts may be able to);
- the orb seems resistant to physical attacks, even augmented with divine power. i did not try my alchemical compounds on it, but I suspect it would be fruitless to do so;
- undead seem to be attracted to the orb: so long as we keep it covered, the undead will simply follow us, but they swarm if we uncover it;
- repeating the invocation used by Argyll does not seem to have any effect.
In short, the orb left us in a rather inconvenient position. For obvious reasons, guests who bring hordes of undead with them are considered persona non grata in any civilized (and uncivilized) gathering. We can’t take the orb with us, we can’t destroy it, and we can’t leave it unprotected.
Our experimentation had the unfortunate side effect of causing us to be attacked by a cadre of entreprising ghouls. It was at that point that our mysterious follower(s) revealed him-(them-)selves. Apparently, a rather large squad of wood elves, led by none other than the captain himself, had been following us. My candle is sputtering so I must interrupt this chronicle…I will continue at a later date.