Chaotic Crew:Campaign/Chapter 04

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Chapter 4:

Just as the Party is preparing to leave the Bed and Breakfast, Wolfgang suddenly stumbles through the front door... he looks wild, ranting. "He... he disappeared! Into the air, just sparkly... then POOF!" He shakes his head, eyes wide. "POOF! Do you understand me when I say POOF?!"

"...not really." Eleihoff's eyes open wide.

"Calm down, laddie. What's happened? Where's Gideon?"

"He's POOF! POOF! P.. O... O... F! Poof!"

"Could ya be a little more... detailed?"

Wolfgang reaches over and takes Reginar's shoulders. "It could happen to any of us! Any ONE of us! This freaky switchboard thingy... we GOTTA get it fixed, or we might ALL go POOF!" He throws his hands into the air when he says "poof" this time. "All sparkly and snowy and POOF!"

Reginar gives Wolfgang a few slaps on the face. "Snap out of it, laddie!" *thwap*thwap*thwap*

Wolfgang takes the slaps, looking shocked, but settling down with a hiccup. "Okay... okay... okay, okay... I'm okay..." He shakily takes his waterskin from his side and downs several long gulps.

"Now, laddie. Can ya tell us exactly what happened? ...without using tha word 'POOF'?"

Eleihoff says, "I don't know. I've always rather liked that word."

Wolfgang sits down in a chair and grips the arms of it. "Okay... I went looking for Gideon, right? I just listened for the sounds of a fight, and I followed 'em. 'Course, that's where I found Gideon, right after I tripped over the fighting cats. Anyway, he was drunk... when isn't he drunk? But, he was drunk and fighting a zombie. So drunk, he couldn't hit the thing. So, I pull out Trusty..." He pats the misshapen lump at his side. "And, I charged the zombie. Smacked it in the head, right? Yeah, gave it a good whack with a greatclub. That's when Gideon started... well..." His hands start gesturing, mouth working, but no actual words come out for several long moments.

"Go on, laddie."

"...he got all sparkly... and... um... snowy... and then..." Wolfgang looks over at Eleihoff. "Um... foop?"

"Ah, now THAT changes things..." Eleihoff says with a nod.

Reginar sighs, just a little, then says, "So he up and vanished, eh?"

Wolfgang nods, a little bit exaggeratedly, but still a nod. He mutters, "...poof..." Then, with a wide swipe, he wipes the sweat from his brow.

"Can you make anything of it, Eleihoff?" Reginar asks.

"No... I can't think of anything that could do that..." Eleihoff scratches his head.

"Well... well."

Wolfgang takes a deep breath, then finally looks up... er... looks even at the pair. "So, what'd you find out?"

"Hold on. Ah, Eleihoff, can I have your hat?"

"But... I like this hat..." Eleihoff takes the yellow sombrero off and holds it over his heart.

"I know, lad, but I need to consult my Grandpa over this. Don't worry, I'll be sure you buy you a nice new one."

Eleihoff sighs. "Okay... here you go." He hands over the beloved hat.

Reginar takes the hat and places it into the Bag. "Tell me, Grandpa, what do you make of Gideon's... poof?" He then reaches into the Bag and pulls out a... hand mirror. A lovely one, too, with an ivory frame and golden handle. "That's it! Gideon was obviously drawn into a mirror universe parallel to our own! No doubt there's now a Mirror Gideon currently running around our universe being nice and cheerful to everyone and drinking Elven tea."

"So, should we try to get our Gideon back?"

Reginar hands the hand mirror to Eleihoff. "Well, lad, ah... Mirror Gideon might be an improvement, if we ever meet up with him."

"Fix the switchboard first," Wolfgang says.

"Maybe Mirror Gideon could help us with that." Eleihoff takes the mirror and inspects himself in it.

Reginar says, "Maybe the Sage can help us find Mirror Gideon."

"...then let's see this sage fellow."

Reginar nods at Wolfgang. "Agreed."

Wolfgang rises. "I'm okay... really. I'm okay. Let's go." He points at the door. "Where is he, anyway?"

"He's headed for the graveyard outside of town," Reginar says.

"Oh, that's... timely." Wolfgang shakes his head.

"Well... we should go find him, then." Eleihoff clutches the mirror in one hand while propping up his toad in the other. The toad stares at its reflection and occasionally ribbits at it.

"Shall we, then? Come on, lads."

The Party files out the door and back onto the streets. There seems to be slightly fewer zombies around at the moment... a scattered handful of Random Townspeople(TM) walk hurriedly up and down the street, avoiding the zombies as though they were homeless people.

Wolfgang suppresses the urge to toss a coin to a shambling zombie. They might have headcrabs or something. Ew! He instead tries to flag down a townsperson to ask for directions, and eventually gets the attention of a rather homely middle-aged woman, who screeches at him with the voice of a mockingbird. "Eh? Wot do you want, then?"

Wolfgang winces, tempted to plug his ears, but finally asks, "Where is the cemetery, madam?"

"Th' cemetery?" She says "cemetery" as though he'd just asked to see the Holy Grail. "Wot do you want t' go up there for? It's all fulla zombies, it is!"

"I've yet to see any of the zombies endanger anyone," Eleihoff notes.

Wolfgang thinks of an excuse. "Um... we're with the Citizen's Zombie Research Council, and we're trying to figure out if we can use the zombies to reduce your taxes."

The woman blinks. "....OOOOH. Well, in THAT case..." She points up the street. "Jes' keep goin' down this way, then turn lef' at the end, an' the gate's on yer right. Now bugger off!" She shuffles away.

Reginar clears his throat a bit, but says nothing. Wolfgang shakes his head, then turns to head toward the cemetery. "...I work with what I'm given. So sue me." Reginar shrugs a bit and follows, as does Eleihoff.

Before long, the aforementioned gate looms overhead. It's a tall, wrought-iron affair, with the words "Jim Johnson Memorial Cemetery" in large letters. They can see the grounds beyond the gate.

Walking behind Reginar, Wolfgang idly scratches at some material he had in his pocket, then finally looks at the back of Reginar's head. "AHA! Here it is!" He steps to Reginar's shoulder and shows him the card, which is made of a hard white substance, and has a black stripe on the back and "CITIZEN'S ZOMBIE RESEARCH COUNCIL" on the front. "Wolfgang Fredericks" is written underneath, with an italicized "Field Researcher" under that. Reginar gets a look on his face like he's not certain whether to be awed or scared. He finally settles for just shaking his head and chuckling a bit.

"Anyway, here's the... who is Jim Johnson?" Wolfgang looks around the cemetery area to see what he can see.

"Not sure, laddie." Reginar looks around as well.

"I don't think I've ever heard that name..." Eleihoff begins wandering around, looking behind a few graves.

Beyond the cemetery gate, they can see... a cemetery. It looks fairly normal, for the most part. The gate sits at the bottom of a hill, which extends quite a ways away and up a couple of hundred feet, before coming to a peak off in the distance. The entire hillside between here and there is dotted with tombstones; a gravel path meanders up through the graves towards the crest of the hill.

"Boot hill? I guess we could follow that path and up the hill," Wolfgang suggests.

"Works for me," Reginar agrees.

The gate squeaks loudly as Wolfgang pushes it open... a murder of crows take flight at the noise from their perch atop the fence, flapping and cawing madly. Wolfgang heads up the path, idly reading the tombstones as he walks up the path, and watching for anyone living. Reginar follows Wolfgang, looking around. Eleihoff soon wanders after the group as well, keeping his distance from the noisy birds.

As they wind their way up the path, they spy the dead remains of a large tree situated at the top of the hill. They also notice storm clouds gathering off in the distance.

Suddenly, a voice echoes through the dead stillness. "Hmm? Who's there?"

Wolfgang nudges Reginar and points to where he guessed the voice came from. A short deformed man shuffles out from behind a large tombstone nearby. His skin is tinged a light blue, his back appears to be permanently hunched, and a disturbing smile seems affixed to his face. A huge backpack full of tools hangs from his misshapen back, with shovel handles protruding from the undone flap.

Reginar addresses the man. "We'd like ta talk to ya a bit, if we can."

"Oh, what's this? We have visitors." The gravekeeper seems to be speaking to himself, in a voice that sounds suspiciously like Peter Lorre. "Yes, visitors. We don't get company often, we should... entertain them." He then turns to Reginar. "Welcome... to my kingdom." He bows awkwardly.

"Thank ya kindly, sir." Reginar bows in return.

The gravekeeper grins a crooked grin. "People don't come here very often. Living people, at least." He tilts his head quizzically. "What can be done for you?"

Wolfgang rubs his face and sighs behind his hand, while Reginar asks, "Have you seen a sage in these parts?"

"Ah. The other living person." The gravekeeper points towards the top of the hill. "He seems determined to deal with the zombie problem." He then looks around. "Shameful business, really... dead folks are supposed to stay dead. Now they're getting up and walking around, and tracking footprints all over my nice clean yard." He taps his foot on the (admittedly well-tended) grass.

Eleihoff counters, "Well, you expect them to just stay in the ground all day? That sounds boring."

Wolfgang looks up the hill, then reads the nearest tombstone to him. Finally, he returns his attention to the gravedigger. "How long have you been tending to this fine facility, good sir?"

The gravekeeper grins. "Why, all my life. And then some." He turns and begins to shuffle away. "You had better hurry, if you want to catch him... I imagine he won't last long up there." Without another word, he slinks behind a nearby tombstone, out of sight.

"...that sounds... ominous." Wolfgang draws his trusty lump and begins to walk back towards the top of the hill.

"I would think it would be difficult to tend to anything for longer than your life. I commend this man for his efforts!" Eleihoff follows Wolfgang.

"Indeed, to both of you." Reginar strokes his beard, then continues to the top of the hill.

The stormclouds are becoming quite heavy by now... looks like a storm is imminent. As the Party approaches the top of the hill, the dark figure of a robed man becomes visible. He is standing in front of a altar, which is situated out in the open on the hilltop. The man is waving his arms and yelling something incomprehensible into the growing wind.

"I wonder what he's casting?" Reginar braces himself against the wind.

Wolfgang hunkers down to the ground and resheaths his weapon. No point in giving the storm something to hit. "Maybe he has something to do with this blasted storm?"

Eleihoff shakes his head. "I don't think so. It looks more like a ritual to dispel negative energy."

Reginar says, "I hope it's working!"

"Does it handle negative attitudes, too?" Wolfgang wonders.

"No, that takes an entirely different ritual," Eleihoff says.

"Oh, does it involve ice cream and chocolates?"

"I thought that was chocolate and flowers," Reginar quips.

The man continues to chant the strange spell - the Party can tell from where they are that he appears to match the "old wizard" physical stereotype. His wild hair and long beard blow in the wind as energy begins to crackle at his fingertips.

"Personally, I'd think we'd all best get down." Wolfgang lays down.

"Oh?" Eleihoff questions, still standing at his amazing height... for a Gnome.

"...oh, right. Never mind."

Reginar crouches and braces himself behind a tombstone as the storm keeps doing its thing. Eleihoff continues to stand in one spot, defying the storm with great bravery. "Maybe I SHOULD take cover..."

The man's chanting reaches a fervor pitch, as he brings his hands together, clasping them in front of him. Suddenly, he stops speaking, and is utterly still and silent. The wind howls, but no other noise is heard. The man stands totally still for several moments... then, without warning: "BUUUUURP!" He belches mightily, the sound echoing across the hill. He blinks, and looks utterly horrified. "Oh, sh*t."

Eleihoff says, "Ah. Not quite the thunder that was expected."

Reginar raises an eyebrow. "Good one," he murmurs.

"Lots of bass tones, that's for sure," Wolfgang agrees.

The sage panics... he begins clumsily shuffling through a sheaf of papers, muttering to himself. "No, no, nonononoNO! No, I've ruined it!"

"Oh dear. What happened?" Eleihoff inquires, as he begins walking up to the sage.

The sage starts in shock... he whirls around, staring at the sudden appearance of the party sorcerer. "What?! What is it? Who are you, what are you doing here?!"

"All valid questions... and I'm not completely sure about the answer to the last one."

Meanwhile, Credance coughs politely, and Wolfgang turns around to look at her. "Oh, hi, Credance. I kinda lost sight of you, there. Have you been here behind us this entire time?"

Credance nods. "Being quiet is a -um- a good way to a -er- avoid extra chores..."

The sage blinks... he suddenly notices the whispered voices. "Who else is out there? Come on, show yourself!"

"Ah, okay." Wolfgang stands up and dusts off his armor, then steps closer to the sage.

Credance waves slightly. "I-I'm sorry we -um- interrupted you?"

Reginar emerges from behind the tombstone. "We need your help, sir."

"YOU need MY help?!" The sage seems on the verge of panic. "I need YOUR help! Didn't you hear?!"

Wolfgang asks, " have a bad case of acid indigestion?"

"I botched the spell!" The sage grabs Wolfgang by the shirt and shakes him urgently. "I BOTCHED THE SPELL!"

Wolfgang's head wobbles back and forth a few times. "...I... I-I-I g-g-got th-th-that!"

Reginar chides, "Now, there's no need to manhandle the laddie."

"What, exactly, went wrong?" Eleihoff asks.

The sage pulls away and starts pacing nervously. "The spell... the SPELL..." He shakes his head. "I needed quiet, absolute quiet! And I botched it! You heard it, didn't you?" He suddenly swallows air, then belches loudly. "BUUURP! Like that! Now we're in for it! The spell's shot, and now they're coming!" He glances around in a paranoid manner.

"Yes, I heard it. A fairly good belch indeed. But WHO is coming?" Wolfgang asks.

"Oh dear. I may need someone to hold this mirror for me, if my guess is correct..." Eleihoff holds the mirror out to Wolfgang, who takes it and holds it up.

"Guess? What sorta guess, lad?"

Eleihoff tells Reginar, "One involving zombies, I'm sure."

The sage points a finger down the hill. "THERE! They're coming!" The Party follows his gaze... below, they can see vague shapes climbing the hill, slowly but surely.

Wolfgang asks, "Zombies? Or is it the members of the Citizen's Zombie Research Council?"

Eleihoff says, "Hopefully not both."

"Well, if it's the latter, I'm a card-carrying member. The former might be a tad more difficult."

"Don't worry, I'm sure we can dispatch any zombies that come our way." Reginar pulls out his dagger and waves it with flair.

The sage calms down a bit and tries to explain. "You have to help me! If I don't finish this spell, they'll tear me apart! Oh, and the town, I suppose..." He trails off.

Wolfgang tells him, "So, start casting, and we'll hold the zombies back. Unless you have the soundtrack to Thriller handy."

Eleihoff says brightly, "Ooo. I'd like battling to a bit of music."

"All right, here I go..." The sage turns around and starts chanting again, arms outstretched.

"I might be able to h-help..."

"If you have something that'll stop those zombies, make it happen, Credance! As for the rest of us, let's start off with some ranged weapons... Cold steel and hot vengeance!"

Reginar says as the weapon finishes changing, "That doesn't look like a ranged weapon, laddie. Longswords usually aren't balanced fer throwin'."

Wolfgang glares at the weapon, then at the mirror, then back at the weapon. "Stupid unpredictable lump of ore! I should melt you down for slag!"

Reginar chuckles, but merely says, "What say ya, squad? Should we stand tha line here, or take tha battle to tha enemy?"

"Carry it to the enemy... it'll slow them down longer."

"May the gods hide thee in thy gracious hands and keep thee from thine enemies." Credance lays her hands on the sage. The sage continues chanting, ignoring Credance in favor of the complicated spell.

Credance thinks of what else she can cast. "Er... Oh! Yes, that would work. Um, bless this land, O gods! Touch it with thine glory and purify its energies for thy wills!" As she speaks the Sacred Words, and makes the accompanying Sacred Hand Gestures (no, not that gesture), the ground around the altar and the sage begin to glow. She can practically feel the good vibes coming from beneath her feet.

Meanwhile, Eleihoff places his toad on his shoulder and begins waving his arms around, chanting strange words. He soon reaches into a pouch at his side, takes out a bit of leather, and holds it to his forehead. POOF! A magical aura tingles around him... he suddenly feels more protected. Also, his underwear seems fresher. "Ah, I've always loved casting spells!"

Reginar alternates between watching the actions of his teammates and the advance of the zombies. Wolfgang asks him, "What do you think, Reginar? Rush in where angels fear to tread, or wait until you can see the whites of their undead eyes?"

Credance notes, "If you -um- st-stay in this area you'll have an -um- advantage..."

"Even so, I think Wolfgang and I should charge the enemy, while you and the lad stay back and provide cover and support with your spells."

Eleihoff warns, "My attack spell doesn't have that long of a range, actually. Don't go too far."

Slowly, the zombie horde shambles up the hill. There's dozens of them, but, true to zombie form, they're approaching in a slow, unorganized manner; only a few of them are actually close enough to pose a threat. As the Party braces itself for combat, the lead zombie suddenly puts on a surprising burst of speed, lunging at Wolfgang and trying to take a bite out of him.

Wolfgang gives it a look of disbelief... without even raising his weapon, he simply sidesteps at the last moment, leaving the zombie flailing at thin air, looking confused.

"Ha!" Wolfgang snorts at the whiffed attempt at an attack. "Brains are for the living, my friend, and clearly you missed your turn at the cafeteria line."

Reginar raises his dagger, yells, "For the Dunstonn clan, and my Grandpa!" and charges head-on at the zombie attacking Wolfgang, short legs flailing furiously as he rockets across the hill. As he approaches the zombie, he does a little hop and executes a clean swipe across the zombie's abdomen, gashing it open and causing rotten innards to spill out. The zombie looks nonplussed.

"...I forgot how boring zombies are in terms of reactions. Ah, well." Reginar flicks some of the zombie goo off his dagger.

A second zombie soon joins the first... it too lunges forward, trying to grab Wolfgang's head in its clammy, undead hands. Wolfgang doesn't even bother to move this time... the zombie not only misses completely, but trips and falls flat on its face. It wriggles on the ground, continuing to moan its zombie moan into the dirt that its face is now buried in. "Mrrrr..."

"I'm starting to think I'm popular with the zombies... they're falling down at my feet and the whole nine yards!" Wolfgang swings the sword in one hand as though it's a baton instead of a sword, and ends with a swift slice to the zombie. "Man, you smell worse than you look. Have you considered getting a bath? In some other zombie's entrails, perhaps? Someone a little less... ripe?"

Wolfgang's sword cleaves through the zombie's shoulder, severing the rotten flesh with a sickening *SHLORP!* The zombie blinks as its severed arm falls to the ground with a dull thud. Wolfgang glances at himself in his hand mirror and gives a heroic smile, complete with gleaming teeth.

"Nice one, laddie! Yer clan would be proud. We'll hack them apart, we will!"

Credance tosses back her robes, revealing a gleaming, silvery, tailor-fitted breastplate, her multitude of symbols and chains sparkling in its reflected light. From some unseen realm of her person she draws a sinister-looking chain, clawlike spikes threating from its ends. The spiked end of the chain whips around Credance's head as she slings it at the zombie; a particularly nasty spike slams directly into the side of the zombie's head. She pulls on the other end of the chain... the zombie's head rips away from the body like wet tissue paper, fetid blood spraying from the tattered remains of the neck as the corpse slumps to the ground beside its not-quite-as-dead ally.

"What the... where'd THAT come from?" Wolfgang wipes zombie goo from his face. "Yech!"

Reginar cheers, "Hurrah! First kill to the lass!"

"...interesting." Eleihoff begins waving his hands and chanting again, staring directly at the standing zombie. He ends this ritual with one finger pointed imperiously at the undead creature. An orange ray leaps from Eleihoff's finger, striking the zombie in the chest. For a moment, nothing happens... then, suddenly, the creature spontaneously bursts into a massive, raging inferno. Flames explode outward from the corpse as it wails pitifully, flailing helplessly. Rotten flesh bubbles and melts as the zombie dissolves into a puddle of molten glop. "Heh. I love casting spells."

"...zombie crispies?" Wolfgang quips.

"And second kill goes to the lad! Clearly we need to step up our game, Wolfgang, they're beating us."

"We're softening 'em up for them, that's why they're getting the kills. Let's get nasty." Wolfgang grins.