Franklin was dead, and that state wasn’t improving any faster as the days went on. Three days after the incident in the mines of Duvik’s Pass, Ru approached me.
“Alright,” he said, “Let’s do what has to be done, then.”
I had a few drinks that day, I’ll admit it. I had a horrible night before, and only by Fharlanghn’s blessing did I recover from the Burning Plague myself. I wandered out to meet with my friends, to see what they had been discussing. Ru led me over to the graveyard, where the rest of the party was gathered. When I arrived, ‘Renzo was digging furiously at Franklin’s grave.
“We’re gettin’ Franky back!,” he shouted to me as I approached.
I needed another drink.
There was much discussion as to what, exactly, what we were intending on doing. After much milling about and shrugging of shoulders, the party finally parted ways to ask around to see if there was anyone that had knowledge of bringing the dead back to life. While I’ve heard of powerful clergy being able to do such miraculous tasks, we were far from any city. However, after an hour or so, Tindel returned with news of some hermit that lived atop the mountain to the West of Duvik’s Pass. While it was unlikely that this hermit held much sway over life and death, it was certainly a better lead than we had before.
There was a brief altercation between Ru and the rest of the party as to if they should bring Franklin’s body to the top of the mountain. There were shouts of we’re going all the way up the mountain, we’d better be sure that we don’t leave anything behind by Ru, and shouts of how would you feel if someone brought a corpse to your doorway by the others. I got myself that drink.
Finally it was decided that we’d climb the mountain without Franklin’s body, and I was dragged away from my drink. After buying some mountaineering equipment (Ru haggling with the shopkeepers as usual), we started the trek up the mountain. It was a long, hard climb, a good eight hours of climbing, although the mountainside was as barren as the desert below. Save for a lizard or two stalking about, we were the only souls on the mountainside.
Hm. Funny I should use that word. Souls.
Finally, we reached the hermit’s shack. After a moment of confusion among us (should we just go up and knock what if he doesn’t want visitors are you sure he’s not dead that’s an old shack), we approached the shack. Ru knocked lightly on the shack, pieces of it falling off as he did so. From inside bellowed an croaky old voice. “WHAT?!”
“Ah,” Ru stuttered, “Sir?”
“WHAT?!!” screamed the man on the other side of the door.
“Well, sir, we have a problem,” Ru continued. He was interrupted by the old man openning the door. The man was black as night, and naked as sin, standing there waving in the wind. Everyone’s eyes widened (except perhaps Renzo, who didn’t see what the big issue was), then turned away.
The old man paced his words. “What… do… you… WANT?” He demanded.
“Well, ah, you see,” Ru said head still turned, “we have a friend, from the village down below – he died helping the town from a disease.”
“Ah, we were told you could help him? Us?”
“Where is he?” Ru boggled at this statement.
“Ahm… down in the town below?”
“Well, go get him! What do you expect me to do without his body?” His attention turned to Tindel. “Gods, you are a tiny man.”
“So are you, apparently,” Tindel replied.
The old man got the joke, but, was not amused. In a much more calm tone than he had spoken before, he said to Tindel, “From now on, you will not speak until spoken to… until you learn some manners.”
Tindel was quiet on the trip back down the mountain. Ru wasn’t so quiet, muttering all the way down, we should leave the body, you said, we shouldn’t just drag a body up to the hermit’s house, you said…
A trip down the mountain, a body picked up, a trip back up the mountain. Eventually Ru gave it a rest. The second trip was even more tiring than the first, but, we eventually made it up to the top of the mountain. Once again, we knocked on the old hermit’s door – once again, bits of it fell off. He came out of the hut, once again, and, after a few moments of explaining who we were… again… he asked us where he was.
The body was with us, he explained, but, the spirit wasn’t.
“Well, how do we go about getting the spirit,” Ru asked. The old man sighed at this, almost as if he thought it was common knowledge.
“You simply go to the Spirit Realm and GET him,” the hermit said, impatiently, “So, go on – head there and get him, I’ll be waiting here.” Of course, we all stood around, dumbfounded once again. Eventually he spoke up again – “You don’t know how to get there, do you?”
He went into his shack and came out with a lizard, freshly killed. With its blood, he drew a circle in the dust (and then gave the lizard to Renzo to eat) and had us sit in it. He asked us to simply close our eyes, which we did – in what seemed like just seconds, he muttered a few words to himself, and told us we could open our eyes again. What we saw was incredible. Where we had just been stading atop a mountain of rock and dust, we were now standing atop a mountain THICK with vegetation – trees of the sort that I had never seen before, and the sounds of animal life all around us. This was, the old man explained, the Spirit Realm – where spirits either await an agent to take them to their final reward or where they spend the rest of their lives. It didn’t look too terribly different from the world we had come from – we were on the same mountain – it’s just that “life” seemed to be flourishing more here.
Of course, it is also home to other things, other beings that are anything BUT spirits of the dead. The old man hurried us down the mountain, told us, unceremoniously, that we had a full day to find Franklin and return to him. He had no intentions of staying in this realm longer than he had to. We soon saw why.
An hour, perhaps two down the mountain, we saw a great bird-like creature in our path – it stood about 15 feet tall, and was apparently without wings. Four bird-like legs held it up and took great strides as it moved about. And, unfortunately, it saw us. It kawwed and chirped at us in the most horrible way imaginable. …it was then that we decided to take a detour down the side of the mountain. As we dove off the path and down the steep slope, it kawwed at us, “NO! WHERE ARE YOU GOING?! RAWK!” That this thing could speak didn’t encourage to stay any longer. That was but the first peril we came across on our trip down the mountain. We were perhaps halfway down the mountain, when ’Renzo and Tindel, who were leading the way down, ran into something – one second they were moving down the path, and another second they found themselves trapped in a web.
From the trees jumped some bloated spider-thing, which immediately began biting at Tindel as he struggled in the web. Even ‘Renzo had trouble moving in the webbing, trying to draw his huge blade out and keep the thing at bay. Panicked, the party moved around the webbing to where the thing was standing. I, admittedly, nearly feel down the side of the mountain in doing so. While on my back, I saw Ru do some sort of leap-flip from a tree that the webbing was stuck to. What he was trying to accomplish is beyond me. We quickly surrounded the spider-thing and proceeded to fight it down, and off of Tindel. It’s skin was incredibly thick, and it took great effort to finally put it down – it seems that some of the spirit folk are a lot more resiliant than living folk. After pulling Tindel down from the webbing, we moved on, helping Tindel along – he was shaking quite a bit, feeling effects of the spider-thing’s poison.
It was getting late as we approached the mines where we believed Franklin to be. There was a soft red glow coming from the cave. As we approached it, out slithered a smallish flaming snakeman, wielding a sword. He smiled at us as we approached, and stood, blocking us.
“You wantss to get in?” he hissed, “Then you wantss to pay the toll. Thiss iss my cave.” Renzo was visibly upset by this, but, after realizing that he wasn’t making any progress, put out his coins to the snakeman. Panbatter put out some of her coins as well. Ru, of course, as usual, wasn’t having any of it. He approached the snakeman with his gun, and pointed it at him. The snakeman stared at the thing pointed at him for a moment, and then snorted, “Fine. You wanna go in? Ss. Fine with me. Go ahead.” He slithered aside and let us pass. We all kept an eye on him as we went by him, but, he made no move towards us.
The mine looked much the same as it did in the living realm, except perhaps a bit less worked. Almost immediately upon entering, we heard the sound of metal upon stone, coming from the great silver cavern that we had fought the kobold sorcerer… Ru went on ahead, to see what was occuring.
Moments later, he came barrelling back up the path towards us – “Here he comes!” he shouted – I wasn’t sure what he meant at first, but, in a moment, I saw what must of been the spectre of the orcish cleric that had killed Franklin. He cursed and spat at us in orcish as he ran up the ramp, but, he was unarmored and without a weapon, save for a crude stone club that he carried. He was quickly cut down – and as soon as he was, he faded into nothingness. A brief encounter with a villian from our past. Knowing how the spirit world works, I wouldn’t be surprised if we meet others in this manner.
When we moved down into the mines, we saw Franklin chained to a number of kobolds, all working silver from the walls with crude picks. Franklin, for obvious reasons, was a bit surprised to see us. We explained to him about where he was, and how we got to him, and that we were running out of time. After taking a moment to think on this, Franklin agreed that they should simply make haste back up the mountain, and get him back in his body. We asked the kobolds what they wanted, and they told us that someone should be waiting for them nearby. Not wanting to press any further on that subject, we left the mines.
The snakeman, unsurpisingly, was gone when we emerged.
Up the mountain once more.
It was late at night, and most of the noises in the thick of the forest were that of nightbirds, the few of them there were. Off in the distance, we heard singing, however. As we closed on it, moving up the path, the song became more powerful. Panbatter and Franklin seemed to move ahead of us to get closer the music, with an almost dreamy look in their eyes. Soon we set our eyes on the thing making the music – it was some sort of perverse songbird, with the body of a woman and the legs of some sickly bird. It sang beautifully, but was a horror to look upon. This didn’t deter Panbatter and Franklin from moving in on it, however. As soon as Panbatter was up close to the bird, it immediately began to bite into her, Panbatter unflinching. This set the rest of us into action.
Ru and Mae immediately started putting arrows into the bird thing, and Renzo, seeing it was hurting Panbatter, moved up with his blade. It took flight with it’s winged arms, and swooped down at us – it seemed surprised at the number at us, and, after a couple of swoops down at at us, it flew deeper into the forest, scared off by the damage we had inflicted upon us. In the confusion, Renzo had knocked Franklin out, in an effort to be sure he didn’t approach the bird. I revived him, just as the bird flew off, however, and, after being sure the thing wasn’t returning, we pressed onward, and upward again.
We quickly dealt with what appeared to be devilish skeletons, and heard yet more rattling in the distance – it was becoming more obvious, as each step we took, why the old man on the mountain didn’t want to stay here terribly long. The horrors that come out at night come out in terrible numbers.
Finally, in the wee hours of the night we reached the top of the mountain once more. The man was still, as we approached, fast asleep against his shack. We roused him and, after nearly putting Mae’s throat out with a spear, realized who we were… he grunted at Franklin, telling him to sit in the circle and wait… the rest of us closed our eyes again, and, fast as we had come to this strange world, we were back in our own.
The man took an onyx from us and placed it violently into Franklin’s eye (his corpse was still just that – a corpse). As we rested, the man performed some strange ritual, mostly muttering to himself and whispering things into Franklin’s dead ear. After about an hour of this, the body of Franklin finally stirred. Coughing, it sat up – his eye was still put out, and Franklin, mistakingly, put his finger there, and shouted – that woke the few of us that had fallen asleep in the process.
Franklin was back, in a manner – his still-rotting corpse was moving, none of his injuries had been healed – but he was moving, nonetheless. Franklin seemed to take this badly.
We rested atop the mountain that evening, thanking the old man for helping us – he explained that there are means to bring people back in a more proper manner, but, that he needed a diamond do so. Franklin didn’t sleep at all during the night, and kept mostly to himself – he seemed incapable of sleep, in fact, which is why, perhaps he kept to himself. But, despite all that bad things that had occured, Franklin seemed to be in decent spirits.
We moved down the mountain, without issue, and into the town. Franklin hid himself from the townsfolk, not knowing what they’d think of him coming back, and especially in this form. He looked utterly ghoulish. We quickly grabbed the supplies we needed, loaded up the cart, and headed out to catch up with the Exodus. However, the fates seemed to want to keep us in this town…
Not an hour from the town, something emerged from the sands to the west of us – a large blue winged lizard of some manner. He was big, but still smaller than our horses. There was something incredibly menacing about him. We muttered to each other, as it flew over to us, and landed in front of us. It then spoke.
“Why, hello there, travellers,” it spoke in a cordial manner, “might I ask where you’re travelling to?”
We all muttered to each other, and answered him at the same time. We’re going to the Exodus, perhaps you saw it pass by here…
“Ah, yes, wonderful. And what’re you taking with you?” He grinned, and lightning danced between his teeth. It was fairly obvious what he was getting to. We told him we just carried our foodstuffs, and whatnot, but, he knew we lied. Tindel began to quaff potions quickly, Panbatter began to unload what she needed from the cart (she had already put her money down). Ru snorted at the great lizard, and began to ride by him.
Renzo approached the great lizard and said, innocently, while holding out a red potion… “Do you want this too?”
It smirked at him, and turn it’s attention back to Ru while saying, “Sure, sure… just add it to the pile.” Renzo then quaffed the potion – the already immense troll grew to his size and one half, and towered over the lizard-thing.
“I don’t like mean blue doggies…” Renzo growled, and drew his sword.
“I’ll deal with you in just a second,” the lizard growled right back. He turned to Ru, and a line of lightening jumped from his mouth. Ru dove from his horse, avoiding the the electric death, but his horse wasn’t so lucky, and crumpled to the ground. Renzo brought his sword down on the dragon then.
Everyone scurried for cover then, seeing the great lizard’s breath, and what it could do. Out of nowhere, then, came a great gust of wind – it nearly picked me up, as well as the others in the party. It tore up the landscape, throwing sand in every direction. The dragon, of all of us, seemed to be expecting this the least. He howled and coughed, at it seemed that sand filled his throat, his eyes, and everything else. He stumbled about and struck blindly at ‘Renzo – a great gash went across ’Renzo’s chest, and put him down. I ran over to him and put Fharlanghn’s magicks into him to bring him back to his feet, while the others circled the great thing, and took shots at it while it was bewildered by the sandstorm. Tindel and Panbatter closed on it, Ru and Mae fired at it from behind boulders that lay on the side of the road, and Franklin, while still rotting, served his purpose – his magicks, incredibly, dazed the beast for a few moments.
Everything happened so quickly. Renzo put his sword into the thing, but it would not fall. After a while, the dragon stumbled away from Renzo, bellowing in pain. Renzo chased it down, tried to put it down before it got it’s bearings again. But, before he could finish it, it turned and filled the air with more electricity, this time catching Mae and Panbatter in the arc. Mae threw herself back with the arc, and fell unconcious. Panbatter wasn’t so lucky. Renzo finally buried his blade deep in the thing’s neck… and immediately stumbled to the ground. I immediately went to work.
We found the thing’s lair… hidden within was a diamond, as the fates would have it. Fharlanghn had set me on a strange path. Back up the mountain. Panbatter fought this battle, and it was only suitable that she benefit from the diamond. On the trip back, we met another lizard thing – he introduced himself as Jonas. His scales were coppery and reflected the sun. Upon seeing the body of the blue lizard thing – he identified as Ikuta – he offered to help us in whatever way he could. We travelled back up the mountain, and Jonas escorted us all the while. There was a brief band of goblin bandits that tried to stop us, but, our impatient crew made short work of them, cleared them off of our path.
Panbatter was brought back, looking a bit less energetic than she usually was, but certainly far more alive than Franklin…