The Abyss Stares Back

You remind me of someone...

Inside of the woodcutters’ camp, the sounds of the forest completely fell away, as if every creature other than us had the good sense to hide from what had happened there. From the interior of the camp, though, we could just make out the sounds of creaking from… somewhere. We thought it was just the wind blowing through the shattered windows of the village. But, we noted later, there was no wind at the time, as if it too feared to bear witness to the death there.

Up ahead of us, we could see the body of a woman lying in the street, seemingly having fallen (or been thrown) from an upper story window, her head surrounded by a halo of blood partly soaked into the earth. Considering that the attack had occurred several days ago, as described by Milosh, this was… odd. Maybe the Ravagers had returned? Perhaps this was a survivor who had crept out of their hiding spot in terror and fallen accidentally, or one driven by madness to suicide. Whoever they were we could do nothing but investigate, although strict practicality stated that putting a crossbow bolt into them from the end of the street would be wiser.

So compassion won out over practicality, though practicality was proven to be the better alternative in the end. As Milosh approached, the woman proved herself to be animate, but was missing her lower half, as well as her life itself. “Where were you?” she/it questioned Milosh accusingly before attempting to bite off his feet, and its attack brought forth a horde of shambling, clawing undead from the houses around us.

The creatures lacked any sound tactics, fortunately, and we managed to return the creatures to their graves without anything worse than a few gashes to ourselves. A quick inspection of the corpses revealed no specific animating force, implying that the horror of what had been committed in the camp drove the dead to rise in search of revenge. Milosh confirmed that the Ravagers were not known to intentionally raise the undead behind them in the wake of their attacks.

Mads made a detailed inspection of one of the curiosities left behind in the town by the Ravagers – a gruesome set of sculptures, constructed of long stakes and human corpses, or at least scattered pieces of the latter. The construction appeared very deliberate, although even his fractured mind could find no recognizable pattern to either the bodies themselves or int the markings on the pikes. After a quick search of the houses in the town, which revealed many more bodies but no more that were animate, we returned to Fort Hope to regroup and discuss the Ravager threat.

The men of the fort were glad to see us return, and Milosh sought out Abalescu to make his report while Mads looked for Lucinda to ask her whether any logic had ever been noted in the human sculptures left behind by the Ravagers. Both Milosh’s report and Mads’ questioning left their respective other parties somewhat unsettled. However, we got mutton stew and delicious bread in the mess hall for ourselves, so it was all worth while.

Later that evening, I went to see Lucinda in her offices to continue our discussion from earlier in the day. In among our talks about the geography of the region, its major powers and the events of the day, we also discussed one of Lucinda’s primary interests – Rudolf van Richten, celebrity vampire hunter. The signed portrait on the wall behind her desk and the distracted way that she spoke his name betrayed her infatuation with him. However, she did say that I reminded her of him and bestowed upon me an amulet handed out by his fan club that she said had some power over undead. Also, we searched through her library and found some descriptions of the Ravagers’ behavior, including the impaled bodies left behind at the woodcutters’ camp. And then I retired for the evening, promising to continue our talks another night, over another bottle of wine (thank you Sebastian, by the way).

Finally, we all turned in for the night to get some good sleep. A sleep that was almost immediately interrupted by the sound of alarm bells ringing inside of the fort…

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