One tiny container after another was checked and rejected as Dujek quickly searched the priest’s trove of pastes and powders. There was a symbol there that he recognized! Although the pasty material was itself unfamiliar, its tiny jar bore the glyph representing poison and a little-used necromantic sigil signifying “against” or “after”. This might be what they sought, the misshapen necromancer conjectured.
<ooc>Healing Roll: 19</ooc>
“Here! Smear this into Delsordo’s wounds! Don’t let it touch your skin; in the absence of the toxin, it might be almost as dangerous!” warned Dujek.
A piece of scrap leather (itself of dubious provenance) allowed Mouse to safely scoop the foul-smelling paste onto Delsordo’s scraped cheek. Long moments passed before any change was seen. Bright red discoloration spread across the poisoned grappler’s cheek and followed the lines of his veins down into his torso, but as it spread, his exhausted twitching ceased. The hideous rictus that had seized Delsordo’s features relaxed, leaving the battered mercenary looking strangely young; for a minute it appeared as if he had stopped breathing.
Holding his hand before Delsordo’s mouth, Dujek was able to feel a faint breath. The grappler was unconscious, but lived.
Meanwhile, Vee explored the bowels of the keep. What was once a grand staircase led downward, its rubble-choked steps cleared only enough to allow one man to descend at a time. The once-elegant feast hall at its base had become an abattoir, the workroom of a deranged necromancer. Trestle tables held bodies, cut open and ripe with decay. A desk to one side held stacked texts and parchments, some covered with sketches both illuminating and repugnant.
To one side stood an oaken door, its rotting wood repaired with more care than had been seen elsewhere in the keep. Through a tiny window carved in the oak, Vee could make out more bodies imprisoned beyond it. Clad in scholastic garb, these corpse-pale figures clawed at the door, their fingers shredded down to the bone. A hideous glow was apparent in their yellowed eyes: These were no mere zombies, but more potent undead, their life energies drained by hellish necromantic powers shunned by the sane. There were no survivors here.
From the courtyard, Lance Commander Salleer and Sergeant Greydahl entered the keep. “Gentlemen,” the commander agitatedly announced, “We’ve learned a bit from our “Blackshield” prisoners, and the news is ugly. Thorn, the hunchbacked leader of these depraved scum, lit out of here with his pet necromancer sometime yesterday, leaving a priest of Scarnach named Matreim in charge. This priest, the necromancer’s minion,” he nodded at the fly-covered corpse, “was to secure his master’s possessions, then lead the bandits overland, to rendezvous somewhere near Jantir.
“The leaders were mounted on skeletal steeds, allegedly headed for Jantir.” (Dujek considered what a miserable experience their foes faced, for the bone-jarring gait of undead mounts was infamous among necromantic circles) “I presume they planned to take ship with one of the smuggling vessels that haunt the coast in these parts: They could already be headed for Jantir. Gods curse it! We may never catch them now!” Salleer’s sabre shattered a half-destroyed bench as he paced back and forth in frustration.
Sergeant Greydahl ostentatiously cleared his throat, drawing his commander’s attention away from their lost glories. “Oh, yes. Even worse, Thorn and Theviss had three people with them. Two were hostages: A man from the University named Professor Seriff Femaister, and one of his students, a girl named Geltalia. Apparently, she’s the niece of Baltan, the Lord of Atkinshire.
“The third is the one that really worried me. He was a heavily-armored figure shrouded in robes, a tall man they ordered their men to salute as...
"‘War Leader Haavik.”