After the brief battle with the undead in the forest, the party continued on; following the tracks of the 30 damned souls who had assaulted Fort Windross the prior day.
Soon, Ash found that horse tracks, heading the opposite direction, joined those they were following. But he discerned more than that. This same rider appeared to have ridden along with the undead for a time on the previous day. They assumed that this must be the same creature they had spotted on the hill a scant hour before.
As they continued west, they found the forest thinning, and soon were on the eastern edge of the Black Heath. Travelling between scattered trees, over low hills and frozen bogs, they could now see the ruins of an ancient castle on a low hill, a few kilometers off. They cautiously approached to within 500 meters, and Rodgar flew up and closer for a better look.
Barely the first story of the outer wall remained. Cracked and crumbled, with ancient debris scattered within and around the walls. On the near side there was an area surrounded by low stone walls, broken and battered by the ages. This structure obviously dated back long before the Blizard War.
Rodgar could see that the beyond the rise, the land dropped into a river valley, the ancient watercourse now dried up or frozen over.
Nearer to the structure, Ash found that the tracks they had been following split into two smaller groups, one heading to the left and one heading to the right around the hillock. The rider’s tracks, however, led straight up to the ruins. Ash and his northern cousin, Icy ,stealthily approached the ruins — the others, well back, but ready. At the low rock walls, they could see a slight mound in the earth, indicating a possible burial place. The ancient Saxa, believed that their dead should be buried close at hand, so that they could be be in the company of loved ones. They used no grave markers.
Ash could see the rider’s tracks passing to the left of the structure, so he snuck up to the right. As slight blur of motion beyond the inner wall signaled him to pending danger. He silently signaled Icy and the others, and waited with bow poised for anything to appear. Bastet used her connection to nature to increase her own druid magic. She could feel her power growing immensely.
Chillfist used his Hrimwisard power to burrow beneath the snow and appear just past Ash. On the far right of the stucture he saw two ancient mummified undead in full bronze armor, their leathery skin taut across their bony faces and hands. They had their ancient bronze longswords drawn. They stood there, staring at him, but made no motion to engage.
Ash came up beside and let loose an arrow that missed it’s mark, then Chillfist let off three bolts of ice magic and sent them scurrying for cover, near the back wall. As Chillfist moved closer, he could see four more of the creatures within the ruins. He shouted a warning to Icy, Rodgar, and the warriors of Scaetha, who were nearing the ruins.
The battle was now engaged. Upon sight of these creatures, Bento, the snow leopard, retreated in fear. A few of the soldiers held back a minute, shaken by the sight. The undead moved further into the ruins, drawing cover from the rubble, beckoning the intruders to dare enter their domain.
Rodgar took the first one down with bolts of electricity that were amplified by the metal armor the creatures wore. Chillfist’s ice bolts missed their mark, striking huge chucks of rubble and debris instead. Bastet moved closer and could feel her connection with nature draining away. This place was as unnatural as the beings the fought. As Bento regained his animal courage, Bastet boosted Ash’s fighting skill.
Now that Rodgar was closer, he spied four more of the creatures in the back corner of the ruins. As they moved to defensive cover, a trap door swung open and in a blurred motion another of these beings came forth. Clad in the same bronze armor, with a bronze crown upon his head and a tattered cape of crimson he was a fearsome, unnatural sight, moving with an unnatural quickness.
The soldiers, who were used to fighting all manner of undead were shocked. They recognized this as a Royal Hagbui, a barrow dweller, an ancient saxa king bound to this place that would have been his home in life and now was his prison in undeath. These others must have been noble warriors of that unknown king.
Although hardened by battle, the soldier, Kaylien, could not take the strain and he fell to the ground as his heart began to fail.
Bento ran again in fear, Ash and Chillfist were shaken. Icy had now engaged two of the petty hagbui, but metal end of his spear rusted away as this king spoke. Moving swiftly, the king approached the group speaking another auld saxa spell that failed to materialize.
Things did not look good. The warriors came forward to engage the petty hagbui in combat with Icy, and young Timoth brought down one with a single blow. As the heroes tried to recover their resolve, the king ushered a loud, tormented wail that shook them to the core, leaving several unable to attack. He then rusted Chillfist’s mace in his very hands. Two of the petty hagbui moved to protect their leader.
Within a few seconds, the rest of the hagbui rushed forward. Rodgar continued to fly in, using his electrical attack to take down more hagbui. Ranolf slew one of them, as Icy tried to recover from the terrible sense of dread that was affecting his ability to fight.
The king wailed again. Chillfist’s fear ran so deep that a streak of his snow-white hair curled and blackened, and Ash, trying hard to hold back his terror, felt his left eye begin to twitch uncontrollably. Rodgar found himself shaken by his own faith. And the king, sensing the opportunity, rushed forward to engage Ash.
But with no sense of his own vitality, the King did not notice his Vigor drop severely as Bastet used the power of life against the force of death. The king tried to rust one of Ash’s longswords and failed. Ash panicked and threw all caution to the wind, delivering a devastating blow that left the Royal Habui barely on his feet. Rodgar moved quickly, and with three bolts of lightning brought the king to the ground, his tortured spirit finally at rest.
The last few petty hagbui were brought down and only one remained. Icy, Ken, Timoth and Chilfist had him surrounded. But Rodgar, cocky after his take-down of the king, let bolt after bolt into the fray. A stray bolt struck Chillfist, and another brought down Ken.
Timoth brought down the last lone hagbui, as Bastet ran to Ken in a desperate attempt to keep him alive. She succeeded, then moved on to Kaylien, sure that his heart must have failed by now. Again, luck was with her as she dragged him quickly into the natural wood and sent life giving druidic power through him.
The battle was won, and a mysterious trap door led into the ground. Icy borrowed a torch and cautiously walked down the ancient staircase into the deep ground. The stairwell opened into a 20 foot by 20 foot store room filled with chests, jewels and other treasures of the ancient lords. As his foot touched the last step, a sharp blade swung from the ceiling, narrowly missing him.
Ash, Chillfist and Bastet joined him as he yelled out his excitement. A quick search of the horde revealed a short sword forged of Starmetal (found by Bastet), a suit of human sized chainmail and two nicely crafted short swords. They estimated the treasure trove having a value between 5,000 and 10,000 gold scields.