Shannon, to the surprise of everyone, had been spending the last several weeks preparing to become a lich. She learned of the opportunity, of course, in the process of studying her egg. She could use it, she realized, as a nearly indestructible phylactery, a vessel for her soul that would ensure she lived forever. What did it matter if her heart wasn’t beating? She would be alive forever, and she would be powerful. With Bryan having retreated more and more into himself the longer they remained in Sanguinous Imperium, with his odd disappearances and the wispy blur that seemed to wash him into the background of every scene, Shannon didn’t really think he would mind that much, and when she brought it up to him, he didn’t seem to react at all, other than to nod his agreement. He was really a shadow of his former self, so he didn’t really have any leg to stand on when it came to objecting to potentially life-altering changes anyway. The others, well, they would come around.
When the Brotherhood of Weejas had contacted the group about helping them with the spell to resurrect a whole city full of people, Shannon saw her chance to seek out advice and aid in the process of becoming a lich. The brotherhood happily offered their services, and the sacrifices, necessary to clear the way, and in exchange, Shannon would join the Brotherhood in their worship of Weejas and the balance of good and evil. Shannon agreed. She and Andrew would help with the ceremony, and Tessa the Tactless would ensure the people of the town had somewhere to go when they were resurrected.
A giant swath of several miles was cleared from the forest, and lines of dead were piled upon each other in the shape of a giant pentagram. At the center of the star, the townful of dead villagers were placed, carefully and in rows.
The party met for a final tactical meeting, wherein each point of the star would be defended by a member of the party and backed up by the airship. They would send up flares if they encountered any trouble. Lisa, who had received a Lyre of Building as a gift from the Illithid, would sure up the keep and protect Shannon during her ceremony at the southernmost point of the star. Andrew would take the South Eastern Point, and each member of the Brotherhood would take their own point with a selection of warriors to protect them. Mike and Stephanie would remain on the ship until battle was joined, protecting Andrew and the Red Lich, and Ethan would take the Southwestern point with the White Lich, shrouded by fog. Bryan would take the Northwestern point with Wyrmwood.
It wasn’t long before undead started to emerge from the edges of the woods, and Andrew was the first to crash into the thick of things as zombies poured themselves into his circle, clawing and trying to drag him from the ring. Ethan was assaulted by hulking beasts of flesh, intent on destroying him and anything else in their way. Mike and Stephanie chose to defend Ethan, and then the Red Lich, traveling back and forth, until Ethan took control of the ship to help him with his dilemma.
Shannon was brought two peasants, a young boy and an old man. The younger boy, she had been told, had attempted to raise a demon by murdering his family and molesting their corpses, then setting the house aflame. He failed at summoning a demon, but succeeded in summoning the authorities, though by then it was too late. The man was a serial killer, who liked to flay people’s skin and sell the leather to nobles as coin purses and hats. She had no trouble ending their lives, and pouring their heart’s blood into the cistern of her altar. And then, she completed the ceremony by spilling her own. Shannon had become a lich.
Bryan thought that he would be able to hide in the shadows, invisible to whatever danger would come to deal with Wyrmwood until it was too late for retaliation, but he didn’t bank on the fact that the creature that crept up behind him had blindsense, and could feel him there as easily as others could see him in the light. He was ambushed outside of Wyrmwood’s sight, and before he could utter any kind of alarm, the thing was on top of him. It buzzed and burred in a flurry of gears and metal, and Bryan was without recourse. The thing tore at his flesh like it had razorwire armor and spinning saws for hands. Anything Bryan did to the creature only managed to hurt himself. He couldn’t even scream as he felt his limbs being removed, one by one. He had one course of action left. Shadowy bonds surrounded the creature, wrapping him in blackness, and then, it was gone. Bryan had banished the hellish metal creature to the Shadow Realm. Using his last remaining shadowstep, Bryan plopped himself at Wyrmwood’s feet, where the surprised lich set to stabilizing his wounds.
Mike and Stephanie, in the airship, set down to help the Red Lich first, Mike’s blows felling zombies in a flowing chorus of swings, Stephanie’s rifle bursts tearing through paper flesh and reducing corpses to piles of offal. A Vampire knight emerged from the shadows, ready to strike, but was gunned down before he could utter a single phrase. The Red Lich decimated numbers with fireballs, and all was silent. Their job done, Mike and Stephanie moved back onto the ship and headed for Andrew.
Andrew was unmoved, literally, as the grasping dead simply could not best his grapple, and their feeble swings batted at his armor like a kitten attacking a relatively unperturbed Great Dane. Their numbers, unfortunately, did provide a greater threat, as if they did not cease coming, he would eventually be carried out of the ring on a sea of unwitting bodies. Andrew crushed the first few, grew to a massive size, and then multiplied before the zombie’s eyes. If they could not tell which Andrew was the real one, they could not swarm him and carry him off. Especially if he weighed as much as he did, now. It was only a matter of time before Mike and Stephanie came to help, but it was unnecessary, as with a single word, Andrew was able to burst the unholy horde before him to ashes.
Ethan, while concealed, had a slightly more difficult time with his assailants. The hulking monsters made the White Lich their primary target, so he had to dispatch them as quickly and efficiently as possible, lest they simply destroyed the Lich by sheer weight of numbers. Ethan called his ship to him, and the two began to fight in tandem. Cannons fired, ropes hung down and grappled forms, lifting them high into the air and slamming them down hard, lifeless once again. The White Lich seemed less concerned with keeping himself alive, and so Ethan had to deal with the monsters without much in the way of help. In the end, though, he was successful, and the last hulking form ceased to move on the field.
In order to deal with the shambling horde pushing at the portcullis of the keep, Lisa, whilst playing her new Lyre to reinforce the armaments, summoned three hippogryphs to do her bidding. Two of them were swift and efficient, clearing zombies as quickly as the ballistas on the castle walls. The third, well, he seemed a little preoccupied with grooming himself, and his lazy eye got in the way of him being able to differentiate distances, but damn was he intimidating! The zombies above never had a chance. Below, however, where Shannon waited within her circle, something was beginning to happen. Tunnels were being breached, and creatures surpassed traps by scittering and pulling themselves across the ceiling in numbers too high to count. Fireballs leapt from Shannon’s fingers, destroying creatures in the tunnels and collapsing them, over and over they came, and fireball after fireball laid them to waste. Finally, one creature made it through, but Shannon erected a barrier between herself and the creature. The unholy beast, frustrated with being unable to stop the ritual, decided to do away with the armaments instead. It took no effort for the creature to reach the yard, and climb up the battlements behind Lisa, but Lisa was prepared. She pulled out her sword and struck the creature true. One mighty blow, and the creature flew backwards off the parapet and was dashed to pieces on the ground below.
The battle was won. The ritual was complete. The choir of voices, amazed at their resurrection could be heard echoing from the center of the vast pentagram. Tessa began her work, directing people towards wagons waiting at the edge of the field. The party came together to celebrate, and Wyrmwood brought forward what was left of Bryan.
Fortunately, Andrew was available. He reached forward, and with a short prayer to his egg, emitted a holy light that bathed Bryan in it’s glow. Limbs regenerated, health restored. Everyone had made it through the fight.
Back in the castle, Pol came in to congratulate the team on a job well done. The dragon eye the team had stolen from the Red dragon was proffered, and Pol quickly took it, promising to show them a really neat trick. Pol reached up and with his nimble claws, pulled his own eye out, then popped the Red Dragon’s eye into the empty socket. Immediately, life returned to the eye, and Pol began to grow. He took on a reddish sheen, became more muscled, and rose now to 5 feet tall, a full two feet higher than he was before. He winked his new red eye at the group, and said if they thought that was impressive, they should bring him a green dragon’s wings next time.