Barrick’ turn. He got up, walked past the dead body starting to stink, tapped Felsmon on the shoulder, or anyway as high as he could easily reach, and took his turn standing watch over the street. No activity. Nothing would disturb the body this night, they would see to that – and that would be the end of it. He thought back to the evening that spawned this cursed vigil …
As so often, Barrick had been out of his element, trusting his more magical and, frankly, intelligent companions to understand this latest cowpie of a mission. Why should they ride in a carriage with this witch-woman Lorelei to a party, all having swallowed an unrecognition potion? Why should they give up their weapons at the entrance to the soiree? Why should they stay, when they were not greeted with a tankard of ale, or even mead, at the door?
Taking a seat next to an elderly human woman bedecked with jewels, the tough old dwarf stared at the stage. Could have sworn he saw a Beholder up there for a second, but now it was just a calm-looking man announcing a collection for an orphanage, and a young lass whose face he couldn’t see, passing around a metal pot shaped like a hat. He quickly grabbed the last five of the open-faced sandwiches from the table’s platter, while his neighbors stared at him slack-jawed.
Barrick’s companions (Rift, Felsmon, Tira, and Z’alden) were spread around the room, except for Erik, who had remained at the carriage. The music from the corner of the hall wasn’t half bad, but the several jesters attempting to entertain the guests were the worst he had ever seen. No smiles on their faces, no juggling, no pratfalls, no dancing, just a creepy, leering mime act, like they were trapped in a box, or trying to pull on a rope. Awful.
His ears were starting to burn, though. The chatter around him sounded familiar, something about a Mr. Goodright who had died at the hands of some scruffy adventurers – sounded not unlike some trouble they had had once in these parts, though they hadn’t killed anyone by that name, so far as he knew. He had the sneaking suspicion that the potion was wearing off – people were starting to talk behind their hands while looking his way, and at the huge, unforgettable figure of his dragonborn pal, Felsmon, nearby.
Just as Barrick was looking for more sandwiches, the entertainment kicked up a notch. The jesters had apparently just been doing avant-garde comedy, and they now all straightened up and pulled daggers out of their waistbands. Their leader, a convincingly mean-looking brute, announced that his name was Finnegan, and this was a holdup! Wonderful, a real piece of comic performance art. The jesters even grabbed a hostage or two, who looked truly scared! Barrick slapped his thighs with both hands and rocked with laughter.
At that, the nearest jester strode up and stabbed Barrick in the side.
The dwarf had shed his armor at the door, and he felt the blade cut into his belly fat. Did this idiot not know how to use a breakaway knife? Where do they find these guys? But the cruel look on the jester’s face, and Finnegan’s barking of orders, soon cleared his mind. It was on!
Barrick became enraged quicker than he could drain a glass. Finding himself without his usual weapons, he abruptly stopped laughing and, in one practiced motion, stood and swung his chair (about two hammers’ weight, he guessed) atop the knife-wielding jester’s head. His beefy assailant took most of the blow on his shoulders, and did not crumple.
Rift was, as usual, a few steps ahead of the dwarf, having cast a sleep spell on three of the jesters. She now proceeded to tie the hands of one of them – apparently she had spent some time on a ranch in her youth. Tira, thinking to press her unrecognition advantage for a few seconds more, tried a chaos bolt under the table, but it glanced harmlessly off the table leg. She then transported next to the lass who had taken up the collection. This was in fact their old “friend” Elena, who looked relieved to find that there were reinforcements among the guests, and even stabbed one of the sleeping jesters.
Elsewhere the fight proceeded in deadly earnest. Finnegan killed a musician who was trying to escape, as did another jester. One stabbed a peaceful hostage in the neck, but Z’alden, recently returned to the group, healed the guest, and cast a spell so powerful, it reached everyone in the room, doing serious damage to the three sleeping jesters. Felsmon, the largest figure present, struck a nearby jester, then took to the air – yes, he can fly – heading for one of the many suits of armor lining the hall. He janked its axe down onto yet another jester, whose hostage fell in a faint to the floor.
Barrick pulled a dagger from his usual hiding place – his beard, always close at hand and as impervious to quick searching as a Roc’s nest – and stabbed at his foe. This gave him an opening to retreat to a nearby suit of armor, where he grabbed a flail. He missed his trusty axe, but he swung the flail in a continuous circle around his stout frame, as he had been taught decades before. Jester, guests, and companions alike shied away from this dangerous dervish.
The fight might have ended in a few more seconds, the jesters no match for the experienced adventurers, but for Elena and the calm Master of Ceremonies, who turned out to be her uncle. They gave up any remaining pretense of dismay at the holdup, which it was now clear they had planned, and took to fighting alongside the jesters. Meanwhile the guests finally came to their senses and began to flee, scattering randomly towards the exits, which were barred.
It was Felsmon who killed the first foe, coldly murdering the last sleeping jester. In his glee, though, he misfired with his dragon’s breath, and the other two, now awake and free of Rift’s restraints, lit into him in response. Suddenly nothing was going well. Elena’s uncle could deal horrific damage, but was himself hard to hit. Tira attempted to toss him with a hurricane spell, to no avail, though the spell did push Elena out of the way. Finnegan, the leader of the jesters, acted every bit the part of a desperate killer.
Rift, having retreated to a corner, tried not once but twice with an icy-grasp spell, gave up, and set to trying to open the doors so the guests could escape the increasingly murderous situation. Barrick was by now surrounded by jesters, keeping their distance, looking for an opening. Felsmon was hurt badly, and Tira was bloodied.
Luckily Z’alden was once again in the house, and began to work his healing magic. Felsmon found solace in the Z-man’s Consecrated Ground, though the jesters found only pain there. Barrick, who had done so well with battle motivation in recent battles, tried again now, but his rage got the better of him, and he made a hash of the attempt: “I, General Barrick, command you all to fight better!” His companions, grinning or laughing outright, felt better anyway.
The 5 began to rally. Tira and Rift pulled off a pair of beautifully meshing spells. Fire from Rift was placed over ice from Tira, so that Elena’s uncle and some jesters, including their leader Finnegan, repeatedly slipped on the ice and fell into the fire. They only escaped by crawling.
And now the big guns came out; a tempest bomb from Tira, a blast from Rift, a revived Felsmon doing his usual bloodthirsty thing, and Barrick still whirling, with Z’alden watching everyone’s back, his healing spells at the ready. The jesters all took damage from fire, from ice, from Z’alden’s spells, from Barrick’s flail, from Felsmon’s blade. And … they lost their nerve. One tried to flee, but only fled this world.
Just then the doors burst open, scattering the guests, and the witch-woman Lorelei surveyed the scene from the doorway: the frightened guests, the broken, blood-spattered furniture, the dead bodies, the cowering jesters, and the 5 proud warriors. Erik, at her side, said, “S’up, guys”.
Lorelei called out to Craith to call off the fight, but as she watched, Tira took the opportunity to kill the jester leader Finnegan, Elena attacked Rift, Barrick attacked a jester, and Z’alden cast a spell on Craith, banishing him for a few seconds to an astral plane. Felsmon and the others prepared to ambush Craith upon his return.
Elena finally had her fill of the battle, and raced out of the room, leaping atop a winged creature she had left at the ready. A young lass, but not a foolish one. Rift barely hesitated, giving chase on a Pegasus belonging to Lorelei. Swooping and gliding, the duo of dangerous damsels vanished in seconds. Rift was gone!
With Elena out of the scene, Lorelei, the most powerful being in the room, commanded all to cease their fighting. Something in her voice made the command stick – probably a spell or three. Craith now became penitent, and promised to pay reparations: Dwarven chainmail for Barrick, a mace for Z’alden, and several wonderful potions, including a Potion of Unholy Life.
This last gift exposed a problem,in that Craith had carried out experiments with the recipe, and now that all doors were open and the fight ended, a faint moaning could be heard from the basement. Investigating, the group found a figure, chained in a corner, who looked like Mr. Goodright, only grey, sunken, and tattered.
Z’alden knew one thing, if he knew anything: The only good zombie is a dead zombie. He tried immediately to end Goodright’s godforsaken existence, but the battle ultimately required the might of all present (except Tira, exploring, and Barrick, drinking) to put down the monster.
Back upstairs, Craith also offered to pay for the reincarnation of the numerous dead, including Mr Goodright. Felsmon and Barrick looked at each other, then at the dead Finnegan, may his bones crumble to dust. Burned, slashed, bloodied, and broken, Finnegan looked to their eyes like someone who should not be reincarnated. While the hall was being cleared, they stealthily carried his body to an empty lot, where they would keep vigil, that night and more if necessary. Nothing would disturb the body, they would see to that – and that would be the end of it.