The last few days have been spent recovering from the sniffles that always seem to accompany wet weather. It's hard to grip an axe handle when one is trying to wipe his nose at the same time, and harder still to skin with a handkerchief in one hand. Once I grew hale enough to venture back outside (much to the relief of the waitstaff of the Half-pint), I set out to seek creatures who reside in somewhat covered environs.
There are dark places about Crossings where sunlight has never passed and the shadows call home. If you are to travel where I have been on this day, you will need a source of light and a stout heart. Even then, do not depend entirely upon your torch or spell, for if they can fade and leave you in shadows. Those with great skill in perceiving the flow of mana from room to room can follow the weaves of magic to the exit. The rest will have test their memory or stretch out their hands and hope not to bump into anything that bumps back.
East of the Northeast Gate is a path that leads to the old Cemetery. Bodies of criminals are no longer left uninterred upon the Lich Gate, but the niches where they once were set remain to stare accusingly at any who pass into the graveyard. The tombstones and crypts have an uncared for look to them despite the evidence of a constant traffic of young warriors participating in the popular tourneys held on the grounds. Perhaps if they knew what tunneled beneath their feet, they'd have reason to move these contests to a less disrespectful location.
Vandals of the blackest sort have disturbed the rest of those placed within this cemetery. They do not come from above but below and are known as Ghouls. The tunnels that snake under the grounds can be accessed from one of the opened mausoleums that dot the landscape. I carried my Gaethzen firefly with me, but it revealed sights that I would almost not wish to see.
The ghoul is a stretched out parody of the human race. They walk stooped through the caverns and earthen halls they have dug with terrible claws. Stretched out, they would stand about six feet tall from mud-splotched feet to hate-filled eyes and hairless head. Tufts of mold give their skin the appearance of molted patches of green upon pale gray skin.
There is no doubt on what this creature survives: the bodies of those who have been buried here. Coffins and bones lay strewn everywhere in odd and disturbing designs. The ghouls are always expanding their darkened tunnels for they are in need of constant food. Any adventurer who ventures in sight of them will be swiftly targeted as a potential snack. If it's any consolation, I suspect those that fall would not be eaten on the spot...but left to rot for a little bit until just "ripe."
A ghoul dragged itself into where I was exploring, and I faced it and dispatched it with speed. Their hunger seems to overwhelm their sense of preservation, as it advanced even though I had my axe out at the time. They are slightly more difficult to kill than goblins...and have the added danger of spreading a rotting infection if you are unlucky enough to be wounded. Its body yielded up a skin which I turned in for bounty (I shiver to think if it has a resale value to some necromancer). It also had a few coins left from some disturbed grave.
These creatures are not fully undead but somehow cursed for their great evil. I could attack it with my unblessed fists, but when I struck with my blessed axe, it did flare brightly to add a holy edge to the blow. For the sake of being sure of your weapons, a blessing could not hurt. Clerics should be prepared in advance for there is no holy mana to be found within the caverns.
A blessing is definitely needed when pursuing the Dark Spirits which reside in yet another cemetery near Crossings. I traveled westward from the city to the old churchyard in the Tiger Clan stronghold. The weather was gray but fortunately dry as I picked my way through the tombstones just outside the weathered building. A gap in the shrubbery reveals a deep hole that leads to a black pit. If you have not faced a Gargoyle yet, then you are definitely not prepared to face the Dark Spirits who live within this tomb.
It is hard to tell the origin of the foul apparition just by looking at it. The Dark Spirit seems to be made of living night, only its blood red eyes, pale claws, and the tattered rags it wears defining it from the shadows it uses as weapons and shield. It seems very possible that there is some relation to the Death Spirits that haunt north of Crossings and Dark Souls that reside in Riverhaven.
There is nothing beyond a giant room dug for some unknowable reason beneath the graveyard. Perhaps it was an attempt to build a basement for the church, or an additional storage place for the village as a whole. Regardless, the diggers have awoken the damned, that have manifested with evil intent.
One on one, a Dark Spirit poses a threat and, when they swarm, they can take down almost a hunter of almost any circle. The one I stumbled upon had no fear of this poor soldier and the spark of light I held in my hand. We danced around each other for a minute or two, neither managing to land a telling blow. I called upon my faith to shatter its shadowy shield and struck at its now exposed flank. It took me two shots to get it reeling, but when I pulled my axe back for a final blow, I left myself open. I have a silly habit of dipping my left shoulder while my axe rises, and the creature jabbed forward to slice the base of my left thumb to the bone.
The pain had me stunned for several heartbeats, and another spirit made its appearance. When I shook off the effects of the cut, I backpedaled until I could tend the bleeding. I put up the firefly in exchange of my own shield and moved forward against both opponents. A prayer brought the orange glow of anti-stun around me in case I slipped again.
With no light, it was difficult to tell where the shadows ended and the Dark Spirit began. I swear their blows struck with greater accuracy as the darkness surrounded them. I focused on the Spirit I had damaged before while presenting the other the wall of my shield. I flailed out, managing a light hit in order to know where the creature was, and then put all my strength into the next blow. It struck true this time and the creature evaporated when I poked its body with my toes. All it left was a few coins and a gem it had brought from whatever deep pit it had crawled from.
The darkness ebbs and flows down in that pit, and when it brings a tide of Dark Spirits, you must be prepared and know your limitations. I was hunting alone and fared well until four came along. The slivers of shadow began to pierce faster than I could block them, so I bowed out under the cover of a banner of truce. I came out of there intact (though bloodied) and thankful for even the waning light of day.
I will spend the night here in the Pig's Pannage and set out for the next leg of the Quest upon the morning. Gerta has asked on Fumbo's whereabouts, but I could only sadly say no sign had been found. May your own Quests find completion, Good Reader...