The River's Claim
Reign of Winter
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Book 1: The Snows of Summer
Chapter 1: Silence of the Hollow
The River's Claim

Featuring

Featuring

arzarrcal.jpg fenyx.jpg marcellano.jpg rasso.jpg styvanus.jpg talavuc.jpg teladon.jpg

Synopsis

« Aboard the Red Wraith, Andoshan River, Andoran | Evening | Snowing, Cold | Oathday, Erastus 5th, 4715 AR » 

  
  
  
  
    
  
Finding the Red Wraith in the Almas harbor wasn't hard. The Ulfen-designed icebreaking ship is of unique design and relatively old looking, battle scars and replacement planks on the hull showing its age. Its rich honey-hued wood harvested from northern forests is supple and resistant to damage and the armored plating on its bow ensures that it can plough through the thick, frozen river ice. The fanned crimson sails give the vessel a distinctive silhouette and made for finding it among the other docked vessels a simple task.

On boarding the ship, the expedition team was greeted by Captain Brevin, a calloused and sea-worn Ulfen man with a scraggly beard, sunken eyes and a muscled frame. Bundled up against the cold the captain's frame seems even larger than it should, giving him a bear-like quality.

The captain is a harsh, gruff man with an iron-handed charisma that drives his crew by means of intimidation and fearsome prowess rather than by engendering true loyalty, an odd mix for an Andoran assignment. Desperate times make for desperate allies, as if the assembled team itself were not proof positive of that.

On boarding the ship, the expedition team members were shown to the common room below decks filled with long galley tables and bench seats and a handful of the ship's crew. It is there that they were informed that the journey to Falcon's Hollow will take just over three days as the distance to Falcon's Hollow is more than 200 miles. Typically a ship of this size moving through river ice would take more than a week to travel that distance, but the icebreaker's unique design means that the vessel will be dramatically impeded in its travel time.

With the knowledge that the team is going to be in transit for a few days, they have largely been left to their own devices. Cramped personal cabins below decks are offered to each, though they are little more than a closet with a small cot and not a window to spare.

With nothing but time on their hands, the expedition crew is left to acquaint themselves with one another and await their arrival at Falcon's Hollow.

Though not as prone to seasickness as some of his race, it was clear that Ar'Zarrcal had no great fondness for the sea or even rivers for that matter. He seemed overly cautious upon the boat, each step being taken with care, every creek in the boards given a glare.

The strange dwarf found his cabin quickly after boarding and stayed within it for some great time. He changed out of the expensive garments of an ambassador and instead more a tailored outfit designed for travel, which mixed between white, grey and black with a midnight hued fur cloak. His armor and shield were left in the cabin as well, though he did carry his crossbow and warhammer with him on deck.

For the most part he stayed near the middle of the ship, with a hand always gripping something firm, his jaw line set and his chin outthrust in defiance of the discomfort that sought to grip his stomach.

Nearby, Talavuc stood on the ship, attempting to stay out of the way of the sailors. She had been on the waters before as a passenger, but never as a sailor. It's interesting how different life on vessels such as this is. She grinned slightly and looked out over the water as the plied the waters. The spray of the water was different, but strangely similar to the feeling of the precipitation of her homeland. Convenient then that snow also fell, leaving her to feel both out of place and quite comfortable.

She stared out over the waters for a time before she decided to see how Naasvit was doing. Poor Naasvit. He doesn't seem to be taking well to sea travel. She glanced for a second at the nearby shore. Well… river travel, anyway. Grinning slightly to herself, Talavuc headed to the below decks.

On her way down the stairs Talavuc gave a wide berth to the crew as they came and went, navigating the narrow halls of the ship with relative ease and famliarity. She opened the door to her cramped cabin, only to find her mink, Naasvit. curled up in a ball the size of an overstuffed backpack on the floor. The normally excitable mink stirred just slightly to look up at her and utter a small grunt before he laid his head back down.

She approached Naasvit and reached down to stroke the top of his head. He made a short yipping noise as she approached. "Yes, yes, I know you don't like it. Only a few more days, alright?" The mink stayed silent, then snorted once in deference. She smiled at him and laid down on the bed. She stared at the ceiling and slowly stroked the top of his head and back of his neck. What will we find there? Will it be nothing? The answer, more so than the question, worried Talavuc the most. Rather than dwell on it, she curled up beside the mink, resting one arm over him to comfort his troubles. Sleep, even if brief, seemed like the best solution.

Back above decks, when the opportunity presented itself, Ar'Zarrcal approached Captain Brevin and spoke in the language common to the Ulfen peoples. «Greetings Captain Brevin. I am Ar'Zarrcal and this is a grand vessel you have here.» The dwarf kept his voice low, to hinder those who would overhear his conversation. «I regret that I am no sailor, but if anything on your ship needs mending I can be of assistence…» The rune-scarred dwarf let that offer hang in the air for some time before speaking again. «How long have you been in the employ of the Andorrans Captain?» Ar'Zarrcal was careful to avoid touchy topics as best he could.

Presently watching the horizon from the forecastle, Captain Brevin turns towards Ar'Zarrcal when he is addressed in Skald. Arching one thick brow, the ship's captain manages a smile and steps down to the midship with an uneven gait. «She's a tough b*tch, reminds me of most of the women that I'd had in my life. Thick-skinned and fat in the back.» Cracking a somewhat larger smile, the captain seems to not be put ill at ease by conversing with an outwardly marked member of the Thassilonian empire resurgent.

«I'll take any steady hand if this ship needs damages repaired, what with the terrain we're heading to. The Andorans may be loose with the coin, but this vessel takes finely tuned hands to repair.» Offering an askance look across the deck to one of his crew, Brevin grows momentarily silent and runs a hand through his curly, blonde beard. «his is a one-time service for this ship. We're not in the business of selling ourselves out to the Andoran people. This is a free ship and we're free men. The Andorans heard of us because of our raids on Chelish ships near the Arch of Aroden and they knew we had a vessel capable of cutting through the winter ice.»

Furrowing his brows, the Captain's expression shifts to something subtly darker. «This is the second trip north we've taken. The first team never returned, and I warned them as much. You can't control winter, you can't tame it, and you sure as the Hell are hot can't stop it. Trying to do so is inviting an icy death.» Grimly, Brevin looks out to the snowy horizon. «Just best to adapt and survive. Struggling only makes death hurt.»

Then, grimacing a little he adds, «Or so I've been told.»

Ar'Zarrcal felt his left eye begin to twitch and flutter and a flash of old memories briefly flooded his mind. He saw himself sitting within an Ulfen meadhall, drinking heavily with dwarves and ulfen warriors, telling tales as the large fire in the hearth cast shadows along the notched table. Yet the image quickly faded, replaced by a spinning Sihedron and the Spires of Xin-Shalast.

Fingering the iron Sihedron that hung about his neck, he nodded to the captain. «You may be right. Winter may be inevitable in these lands, but there are others who are capable of great feats of sorcery. My lord has bridged the gulf of centuries in a single step, so too will he tame the harsh winter.»

It when then that Captain Styvanus Rozier sought out the Ulfen captain. Briefly interjecting himself in Ar'Zarrcal and the Brevin's conversation, Styvanus made his point short and sweet. "The Nation of Andoran thanks you for your services, Sir; as do I." He begins in a humble tone, offering the man a firm handshake and going on to introduce himself. "Captain Styvanus Rozier. It looks like you run a tight ship, and I respect that. I'm sure you have things under control but should something arise that requires our collective attention, there are a few capable sailors in our unit, and I'm sure the rest of us wouldn't mind pulling our weight. It goes without saying I'm sure, but don't hesitate to ask. Your ship, your command Captain." He finishes with a slight bow of his head, and waits formally for any response.

Styvanus receives an up-and-down look, then a subtle nod from the ship's captain before he returns to his conversing with Ar'Zarrcal in the Skald tongue, seemingly having had enough of the Andoran formalities. Seeing that he's been dismissed, Styvanus heads below decks.

On the stairs, Styvanus crossed paths ever so briefly with the team's Chelish Marine, coming up after having putg his supplies and gear in the 'luxurious' personal space he was offered. Marcellano had decided to walk around the ship and do a quick inspection about it, making a mental note of anything combat-worthy or that could be used in case of an attack. Ulfen or not, a ship is a ship. Its good to be back onboard, even for so short of a time. The captain… I'll have to keep an eye on him, even if he is in the employ of Andoran. He also makes a note of where enemies could possibly board it, in case an attack happens in the night. He's had it happen far too often back in the Shackles, and experience tells him to always know the strengths and weaknesses of a ship he is on.

On his survey of the ship, Marcellano discovers the signs of previous battles board the ship. Most of them are scuff and scrape marks from errant weapon strikes, indicating that the ship was boarded at least once.

Overall, the vessel is in excellent condition. The only means of ingress is the above-deck area, as there are no portholes on this vessel below decks, though there are six that look to lead into the captain's quarters (two on both the port and aft sides and two larger windows on the stern).

The crew gives Marcellano space on his inspection of the vessel, largely so as to not cause undue friction with their temporary clients. It's clear that their attitude is somewhat less than friendly to the outwardly Chelish marine, but they try not to make a point out of it for the time being.

After doing such, he decides to get some exercise, and thus goes onto the foredeck, still in his sailor's uniform, and proceeds to do some pushups for as long as the crew will have him in the way. Need to keep preparing myself for this cold weather, as well as show the crew that as a Cheliax Marine, I'm not to be trifled with. Damned Ulfen Pirates.

Once aboard the ship Rasso gives it the same wandering inspection as Marcellano, though for now he keeps his distance from the Chelish marine. After satisfied that he knows as much as he can about the Red Wraith he seeks out the captain. "Pleasure to be aboard sir." He says, offering a bow of his head to the Ulfen man. "Name's Rasso. I'm plannin' on staying out of you and yer crew's hair, but iffin you need me for somethin' I'll be an able enough hand." Glancing around the impressive ice breaker, he nods. "Damn fine ship. I'll excuse myself now to acquaint meself with her nethers."

Three days aboard ship huh? Luckily I bought three bottles of rum and three hams before we left Almas. Rasso heads for his cabin, stopping to tell Styvanus "I'll be drinkin' below decks if you need me." Completing his short journey he deposits his gear in the room, and begins to drink his rum and eat his ham.

Next door, Styvanus had already sought out his cabin and claimed the one adjacent to Rasso, relieving himself of his considerably heavy pack. As a soldier, he was rather used to carrying large loads over distance, but this worsening winter made seemed to make his pack heavier. He took the time to remove his armor and changed into something more suiting of three days of travel up the icy river; a shirt of thick linen, pants of thicker wool, one glove (he kept the spiked gauntlet on his left hand), and a hooded cloak of the same material slung over his long blue coat, all over a layer of animal furs.

Finally settled in, Styvanus headed over to Rasso's cabin to acquaint himself with the fellow Andoran. "I have a bottle of Oldlaw in the cabin," is his aptly timed greeting, as Rasso is only just cracking into his bottle of rum. "Unless you'd rather drink alone." Rasso's response is the most incredulous face a shark-toothed fishman can muster before he flippantly waves Styvanus off to go get his booze.

Styvanus, promptly, retrieved his bottle and joined the Merfolk in his cabin. He sipped on the single-malt smooth rye, offered a drink of the whiskey for a drink of the rum to Rasso, and proceeded to make conversation with his Andoran Ally, small talk, barroom tales, and what-have-you.

Gladly exchanging some of his rum for the whiskey Styvanus brought, Rasso enjoys their friendly banter. It wasn't often that they got to spend more than an evening together and he was looking forward to getting to know his new commanding officer better.

"How d'you reckon those Shalast types ended up that way? You think they're slaves of the mind as it were?" he asks the Andoran captain.

Styvanus contemplates Rasso's question grimly, staring into the bottle of Oldlaw for a long while as if it had the answer. His ears perked at the Skaldi sea chants, but his attention turned back to Rasso. "Perhaps some sort of mind control? But, it might just be a matter of survival. I'm afraid I can't speak for what they've been through. Some folks are drawn to power. It could be any number of things."

Finding himself alone in the small windowless cabin, Teladon put down his pack, and sat on the edge of the cot crossing his knees and tucking his feet underneath him. Closing his eyes, the tall, lean elf forced himself to burn away all of the anxiety and frustration he was feeling as he took off his ceremonial mask. Clearly something had been lost in translation following the Winter Counsel, the elf thought to himself as he pictures a flickering torch and allowed his emotions to be consumed by the ever growing flame.

Casting his mind back back to the meeting at the Golden Aerie, Teladon remembered feeling surrounded. So many humans. Like rats they breed, seeming quicker each year. He recalled the Knight-Commanders proclamation that a human would be left in charge. Shaking his head Teladon, though of the few humans he had met throughout his one hundred odd years. They are rash, impulsive and short sighted, the magus thought. The Elders warned me that I would have to deal with outsiders… that they suspected witchcraft was somehow involved and that my training and focus would be a great asset. But humans? I can work with anyone, but I will not work for someone. No nation has ever told the Spire what to do. I will not allow myself to be the first. 

Snorting, Teladon withdrew his black rune engraved scimitar. Letting the blade and pommel rest on his knees. He lightly ran his hands along the blade and felt the inset markings of Acavna, goddess of moons and battle beneath his fingers. The dwarf would not have been so bad. They are a long lived race. But that one has been… turned. Whatever the Runelord did, it left an indelible mark.

Sighing, Teladon continued to feed his inner flame, seeking the peace that lay within logic. Finally after several more minutes of contemplation the elf felt at peace. Then, reaching down into his bag he withdrew an brown leather book embossed with elven runes. Resting the book on his lap, so that the spine rested against his blade he opened up his spellbook and began to review his incantations. For the next several hours Teladon engrossed himself in his magics, until feeling his stomach rumble, Teladon realized that he was hungry and needed to eat soon.

Sighing, the elf put away his book and with a whisper of a blessing, sheathed his blade he rose before finally affixing his ceremonial mask. Reaching for the door, Teladon frowned from behind his mask. Likely whatever is for dinner tonight will be either burned or bloody and soaked in alcohol. frowning once more Teladon opened the door to his cabin and began to search out the ships galley.

Once he arrived in the galley, Teladon's fears and suspicions were largely turned on their ear by the unlikely cuisine served by the lone cook aboard the Red Wraith. It would turn out that Teladon was arriving as the Ulfen were preparing for náttmál, or "night meal" in the common tongue. Most of the crew of the vessel had gathered down here, a rowdy but good-spirited bunch of scraggly looking men with thick beards and fair complexions weathered by years at sea.

The aroma of their food, though, is particularly alien to most cultures outside of the lands of the Linnorm Kings. What is being served out on the wooden dishes looks like a discolored gray-brown slab of fat and thin layers of pungent meat atop which the rubbery skin is still attached beside which is served layers of seaweed and steamed mollusks. As best as he can ascertain from the conversations, they are being served a dish called hakikarl, a meal that consists of fermented shark meat, explaining the pungent aroma. The seaweed and mollusks look to be fresh and not preserved via fermentation.

At least part of Teladon's supposition of food was correct, however, in that there is a copious amount of mead being slung around in pewter tankards.

From where they share drinks in the cramped confines of a cabin, Rasso and Styvanius can hear the Skaldi sea chants beginning to bellow from the galley. Even above decks, Ar'Zarrcal and the others can hear the songs, deep and resonant, echoing through the cold evening as the horizon darkens and night approaches.

Talavuc awoke sometime later in the evening to the sounds of chanting and the pungent smells of the meal being served. As her senses returned to their fullest range, she smirked to herself. "It's dinner. Time to wake and quit being so lazy." She smirked to herself and carefully picked her way out of the meager bed, careful to not disturb the slightly cantankerous mink. Fortunate enough that he doesn't have the energy. She shook her head. Poor Naasvit. Sighing, she reached down and gave his head a reassuring stroke before heading out to the hall.

Walking down the narrow hall, Talavuc finds herself directly below midship in the galley. Here, the chanting songs and boisterous conversations of the Ulfen crew ring off the walls and mix dirge-like ballads with the sound of crunching ice up against the ship's hull. In the galley, Talavuc notices the elven component of their team assessing the food on offer, and Teladon's masked countenance belies no visible emotion aside from its steely facade.

But Teladon isn't listening to the sea chants, he isn't even paying attention to the smell of the food now, or even Talavuc's approach. His keen, elven hearing has detected something else amidst all of the noise that would serve to distract him. Something that shouldnt' be. Carrying back the disgusting bowl of pickled shark to his room, Teladon felt something. In hindsight he wouldn’t have been able to say exactly what it was, but nonetheless there was a sense of wrongness. A sense of something impending.

Down the hall out of the galley and in Styvanius' cabin, Captain Rozier and Rasso share stories over drinks, the sound of the river ice crunching up against the hull a constant pop and clunk that serves as a backdrop for their relaxation. They find themselves unaware of what it is Talavuc has sensed.

Above decks, the captain offers Ar'Zarrcal a wry smile. "We should eat," he finally says in an accent-stilted Taldan tongue. "Have you ever had hak— ' Cutting himself off, the captain looks past Ar'Zarrcal and for the barest of moments looks like he sees something. On the deck, one of the crew who is keeping an eye out on the darkening horizon looks to match the captain's expression.

Then, all at once, the three crewmen above deck cry out, "Boarders! Boarders!" From over the sides of the ship creatures emerge from the dark, soaked in freezing river water and draped in the tattered remnants of farmer's clothing. Their bloated, water-logged corpses are composed of pulpy white flesh, eyes eaten by fish, exposed bone and muscle, some crusted in ice.

"Zombies!" The Captain shouts in a piercing voice, "All hands on deck, all hands on deck!"

"Zombies!"

Seconds before the elf had heard the cries of “Zombies” and “All hands on deck” Teladon had already dropped his bowl and was rushing up to the ice encrusted deck of the Red Wraith. As he did so, he whispered thanks to his Elders. It was his training that left him ever prepared. Where some might feel safe below decks in an armored ship, Teladon had chosen to wear his armor and carry his blade. Some might call it paranoia. As he ran along the wooden decks, nimbly jumping out of the way of a stateroom door being thrown open, Teladon smiled behind his mask. They could call it what they wanted; it was only paranoia if you were wrong.
"Zombies!"

The shout froze Talavuc for a few moments. Zombies? The walking dead are strike already? Are these the same corpses I have fought before on the Crown? Her thoughts race before she focuses her mind. No, questions will be answered later, for now, I must help.

Knowing that her spells were risky to the boat or of little help against such mindless opponents, she rushed back to her room. Talavuc grabbed her spear and looked down at her companion for a moment, thinking of rousing him. 

No, I'll not subject him to these creatures while he's like this. She gave him a reassuring stroke on the top of his head and turned to head for the deck above.

As the captain lets out his cry of alarm, he reaches down to his side and draws out a notched battle-axe etched with Skald runes. Hefting the blade in both hands, he grits his teeth and exhales a gout of steamy breath before shooting a look to Ar'Zarrcal, then back to the zombies. "Blod og ære!"

Captain Brevin's men look ill-prepared for a full-scale boarding in the middle of the Andoshan river. Only two of them are armed properly and they draw their short swords with the shearing sound of sharpened metal, though their resolve looks to be less firm than the steel of their blades.

The other crewman on deck, already carrying a shovel to haul snow off of the deck simply hefts it up over his head and brings it down in a furious arc at one of the creatures, screaming loudly all the while. The shovel swings unwieldly and wide, but the creature's attention turns to the sailor.

One milky eye and one ragged socket stare back, and as the sailor feels his stomach turn, the corpse gurgles up a mouthful of murky water and lunges forward towards him with outstretched hands. The zombie smashes its hand against the crewman's face, pushing him back and curling decaying fingers into his mouth. The zombie pulls itself in, leaning down in and sinks its teeth into the side of the crewman's neck, pulling back a mouthful of bloody flesh. The sailor's scream becomes wet and gurgling as his legs give out and he drops the shovel with a clang.

Another pair of zombies turn on one of the sailors who just drew his sword. The first zombie finds itself pushed back by a flailing arm, but the sailor backs up right into the other, finding the creature grasping at his head and neck before biting down on his spine, raking teeth over flesh and bone. Its white, pulpy mouth now caked in blood. That sailor collapses, but still embraced by the zombie's grasping hands.

Lurching across the deck, the other zombies leave icy trails of water in their wake, the groaning wails of their ragged mouths echoing across the ship. One begins slumping up the stairs towards Ar'Zarrcal and the captain, the corpse of a teenage girl in a tattered dress.

The sudden emergence of the Zombies caused Ar'Zarrcal to recoil. Taking a few steps back the dwarf felt sudden exposed without the protection of his heavy armor. A crossbow and the beautifully crafted warhammer were at his side, but his thoughts instead went to magic. The captain had previously shown scorn for magic, thinking it unreliable and fickle - here was a chance for the Thassilonian Herald to prove the grizzled seadog wrong.

Gesturing outward to one of the thick rope cables at the side of the boat. He uttered an incantation in the once ancient language of Thassilon magic. "се водат и вратоврска" For a moment strange glyphs appeared upon the length of the rope and it quickly tied itself across the length of the boat forming a trip wire length barrier.

Rushing along the wooden passageway the magus headed towards the sounds of battle. As Teladon got closer and closer to the stairs leading to the deck of the ship, his keen elfin ears picked out the screams of the dying and the harsh wet ripping sound of flesh being torn from bone. Steeling himself, the magus pulled his black rune-engraved scimitar from his scabbard and concentrating for a split-second he uttered the 23rd incantation of empowerment. As he did so, a faint blue light seemed to radiate from his ancient blade. Leaping up the stairs two at a time, the iridescent blue light from his blade streamed out from behind him leaving a blue contrail. Storming up to the top of the stairs he was greeted by a foul sight. All around him on the deck were the waterlogged corpses of the unquiet dead. Maggot white skin and dripping with river water, a zombie near the stairs turned to regard him with unabated hunger as he rose onto the deck. 

Roaring out a primal Azlanti war cry, Teladon, whipped his scimitar down towards the zombie in a overhand slash, the blade gripped with both hands and the edge streaming blue witch-fire.
Teladon's scimitar cuts deep into the flesh of the creature lurching nearby, slashing deeply into its neck and back, revealing grayed muscle and twitching tendons. The creature's head jerks to the side, fish-eaten eyes staring at he elven swordsman. As it stares at Talavuc, he can see the tapered ears more clearly, the thin frame and the once graceful features consumed by the decay of death and the river.

As it gurgles some unintelligible sound, Talavuc is thrust face-to-face with an undying member of his own species. How old was this woman? 100 years? 200? How many centuries of knowledge and training went completely to waste, only to take another century and a half to reproduce?

This wasn't just some walking abomination, it was an insult and a tragedy with legs, teeth and maggot-colored flesh.

The elven zombie turns fully from the crew-mate it had been ruthlessly attacking and lunges with arms outstretched towards Teladon, vomiting up murky seawater from its crooked jaws as it does. Rubbery fingers find purchase in its sudden lunge, grasping a hold of Teladon's outstretched sword arm before sending broken jaws down. Teeth don't quite penetrate through the fine chain links of his armor, but the inhuman jaw pressure breaks blood vessels and strains the flesh as it tries to eat Talavuc's arm as best as it can.

Behind the zombie, the crewmate who had withdrawn his short sword draws his sword back and lets out a horrified scream as he brings the blade down wildly on the zombie attacking Teladon. The short sword pierces into the zombie's back, but only a few inches and even then the puncture wound does little to actually impede the zombie's motion as no blood flows from the small point of entry.

As Ar'Zarrcal throws out that length of rope, the once-spooled length of hemp ties itself taut around the rope anchors on the floor. As the girl's shambling corpse approaches, her arms begin to lift, fingers grasping and mouth opening and closing slowly. She advances, mindlessly, straight towards the captain and Ar'Zarrcal, only to find herself stumbling over the taut tripwire of enchanted rope.

Staggering forward, the zombie twists and struggles as it finds the rope snaking up over its body and then wrapping around its legs and one arm, tightening and loosening erratically like a flexing muscle. Struggling to move any further, the zombie barely manages to make it a few more steps before halting entirely.

Relentless in their hunger, the two zombies that felled members of the crew stop to hunch over and devour the flesh of their victims. While there may have been hope for them surviving their injuries, the gruesome lengths of flesh and tendon torn away from wounds gushing blood confirm that both are now dead. The feasting zombies make grotesque, gurgling noises as they stuff themselves with the steaming-hot meat from their still twitching victims.

Those that do not have meals of their own move in ravenous hunger to find them. Brevin, refusing to become their next meal, steps in towards the ensnared young corpse and hefts up his axe. A primal scream erupts from his throat before he brings the axe down square in the girl's forehead. Thick, black blood does not spray or flow from the wound, it only oozes like jelly out from the wedge he's cleaved into her skull.

With a sucking sound, the axe is wrenched out, but the girl continues to struggle against the rope, hands flailing wildly, fingers curling and grasping and a rattling whisper escaping her fish-eaten lips.

"Gods below," Brevin whispers in Taldan, droplets of gelatinous blood spattered across one side of his face. Eventually, the zombie that the captain had wedged his axe into finally wobbles, twitches and collapsed to the deck in a sputtering heap of gelatinous blood and pale flesh.

Another zombie moves from those that are eating to climb up over the corpse of the one that was tangled by the rope. This shambling, fat corpse jiggles its way up the stairs, an over-swollen belly wobbling from left to right, fat sausage-like fingers twitching, jowls wobbling and lips pursing as its milky white eyes stare down the captain.

Silently Ar'Zarrcal returned to his original position, confidence in his magic allowing him to recover from his initial recoil. He pulled the warhammer from his side with two rune-scarred hands and with an upward strike, sought to shatter the jaw and neck of the Zombie with its heavy face. The impact of the blow strikes true and the zombie jerks back momentarily from the blow, but then quickly reels back around, unphased, letting out a wild hiss of watery breath.

Below decks, Rasso leaps to his feet at the cries of "Zombie". Gods damn it. I hate the taste of zombie. A grim look on his face, he scuttles up to the deck posthaste. Behind him, a crowd of Ulfen pirates are gathering their weapons and preparing to head topside once they are armed.

From his slumber below decks, the servant of Karzoug the Claimer stirs. 

Fenyx's eyes snap open, the flurry of motion above and below deck does not seem altogether out of place to the necromancer, especially given the constant annoyance of the ship's prow crushing through the frozen river. His eyes close once more, and he rolls over on his side and hopes the revelry will quieten enough for him to actually get some semblance of a rest. His eyes snap open again. Zombies? Fenyx swivels his head to fix the door with a sidelong glance. The yells resume, followed by a much more pronounced clamor. Unexpected.

More awake than the crew had realized, Fenyx walks casually through the bowels of the ship, his cold gaze not betraying the anxiety simmering beneath the surface. A flourish of his wrists, not unlike flinging dust from a rug, and his garments have changed from something practical for sleeping into that of his more common garb: immaculate black and grey robes in the style of Shalast. He adjusts a bulbous satchel on his hip, rummaging through its contents with his left hand as he continues towards the deck of the ship. A hint of a smirk crawls onto his face as he says calmly, "Едвај надвор од пристаништето и лудилото почнува. Без разлика на тоа. Мртвите ги бираат своите жртви лошо оваа ноќ."

Styvanus feels the hair on the back of his neck stand up and hears the shouts of boarders and zombies. He stands, taking a moment to secure his shield across his right arm. "It seems leisure isn't in the cards these days Rasso." He takes a deep breath and bolts out toward the ship deck.

Seeing the zombies clamber up onto the deck and strike down two sailors, Marcellano begins to feel the rush of combat he so loves - he's already pumped up due to his exercise, and leaps up from being prone, draws his trusty cutlass, which has the words "Loyalty" masterfully engraved along the side of its blade, while taking a step towards the nearest zombie. He then takes a stroke with his cutlass, using both hands and putting every muscle he has into swinging it, trying to take out the nearest zombie. As he does this, he roars at the zombies, challenging them to try and face him, despite knowing that they're probably mindless.

The Chelish soldier's swing cleaves a lethal arc straight through one of the offending corpses' throats, cleaving its head clear off and sending its waterlogged corpse crashing to the deck in a slippery heap. The head hits the deck, bounces a few times and rolls to a stop, jaws still working open and closed.

As 'reward' for his actions, Marcellano catches sight of another zombie move in a sudden lunge across the deck from beside the ones that are feeding. It throws its arms up, belches up a mouthful of river water with a gurgling cry and grabs the soldier from the side, putrid fingers curling in the fabric of his uniform.

The zombie's jaws snap open and its mouth comes down onto Marcellano's shoulder. The cloth of his uniform tears as the zombie's broken teeth rip into his skin, rending pieces of skin away as it scrapes deep cuts through the exposed flesh but can't quite find enough purchase to pull away a whole chunk.

Giving a muffled grunt of pain from behind his steel engraved mask, Teleadon reflexively pulled his sword arm back, ripping several teeth out from the mouth of the waterlogged elven zombie. Grimicing behind his mask, he watched as the pale skinned human who Teladon had previously seen at the Golden Aerie grabbed up a battleaxe near to him and swung it with a bone crunching force down onto a nearby zombie. In the detached, logical part of his mind Teladon gave a nod of appreciation. The man was a brute, that much was clear, but he wasn’t lacking in skill. Across the deck, Teladon could also make out the form of the rune-scarred dwarf and the ship’s captain putting up a fight, but the rest of the crew didn’t seem to be faring so well.

Taking a half step back Teladon focused his anima and murmured the 3th invocation of combustion. Completing the spell, his black blade of elven heritage began to sizzle in the snow and give off waves of heat. Raising the blade in a salute, Teladon lunged forward, bringing the heated blade down in a two handed grip. Striking down, his blade struck the elven abomination causing her flesh to sizzle and blister and an black elven rune for Rejection to appear on the woman brow. Bringing the blade down in follow through, Teladon half-heartily lashed out a second time. Completing his sword form, Teladon stepped back, looking at the woman. Such a waste Teladon thought, fighting back the sadness that all elves had felt since the destruction of so many of their people. Truly, such a waste.

Teladon's blade cleaves deeply into the elven zombie and splits her from clavicle to sternum, leaving a fissure of dead gray flesh and dark blood drooling with murky seawater. Despite the grievous injury, the creature continues to move, barely held together by insatiable hunger, inescapable cold and inhuman rage.

Fortunately for Teladon, his second sword-strike, while not solid enough to cut into her flesh, nimbly wards her branded face from getting close enough to secure another flesh-rending bite. The blow keeps the staggering creature at bay for now.

Across the ship, captain Brevin watches Ar'Zarrcal's warhammer do nothing but cause the zombie they battle to stumble about. Using Ar'Zarrcal's attack as an opening, the Captain swings his axe horizontally across the zombie's mid-section. This time, though, the captain loses his footing on the ice-slicked ship deck, his swing lashing out and striking the ship's railing leaving a notch of missing wood after its passing.

Over-extending himself as he did, the captain finds the zombie he attacked lunging in with sudden alacrity and urgency, a drowned groan bubbling up from rotten lips as jagged, yellow teeth are revealed. Swinging his axe back up, the captain smacks the zombie square in the jaw with the flat back-end of the axe, knocking its gnashing maw away. "I'll not be your dinner!" The captain bellows as he keeps the creature back.

Across the ship, Marcellano finds himself surrounded by the flesh-eating creatures, no matter how fast he seems to dispatch them. One of the zombies closest to Marcellano simply lunges forward with a hungered groan of pain,rising up from the leg of one of the crewmen, his calf muscle still in his mouth. It closes the distance too quickly for the Chelish soldier to withdraw, and without his armor he finds the foul creature finding both easy purchase with its waterlogged limbs on his shoulders, and then no resistance when it sinks its teeth into the side of his neck by his shoulder.
This time the creature pulls skin away, leaving a large toothy mark and a spray of blood between its jaws. The creature, so close, reeks of decay and brine and Marcellano can feel the unearthly cold of its near frozen body and see the desperation and pain in its murky eyes.

Two of the other zombies, smelling fresh kills, rise up from the crewmen they were devouring and jerk their heads towards Marcellano. Moving into loping gaits, these two near frozen corpses begin shambling towards he and Rasso, gurgling up blood, flesh and water in a brown vomit.
Below decks, the rest of the ship's crew still struggles to get their weapons and armor in the crowded halls, leaving the fight above decks to those who have already been battling. There simply isn't enough space for everyone to rally at once.

Oooh, I'm gonna walk around deck in no armor! Hmmpf. Rasso sees Marcellano getting eaten, and decides to aid the sailor. In a moment of inebriated indecision he first lashes out with a claw at the zombie fighting Teladon, seeing it's close to being put down. His feeble effort connects with nothing but air, as he turns to jam his left claw into the belly of one of the zombies on Marcellano.

Lunging past the undead writhing on his pincer, Rasso's long neck propels flashing jaws towards the zombie directly in front of the chelish marine. His shark like teeth are aiming straight for its neck.

Rasso's wild attacks create a flurry of action on the deck. While his first swing misses the target engaged with Teladon, it does serve to drive the zombie backwards into one of the ship's surviving crew. That sword-wielding pirate steps into a flanking position pinning the elven zombie between he and Teladon. When Rasso pushes it back, he thrusts forward and drives his short sword through the back of the zombie's head, the point of the blade forced out of its mouth.
Ripping the blade out, the Ulfen pirate pushes the still staggering corpse forward to collapse down at Teladon's feet, the brand of light crackling on its brow still visible.

As Rasso moves to his next target, huge claws rend through pulpy flesh with ease, pulling muscle and flesh from bone as if the zombie were boiled pork just out of the stew-pot. The rake of clws doesn't drop the creature, but it does spin it around and drive it back from Marcellano. The latter bite sinks deep into zombie flesh, but the piercing shark-like teeth simply don't have the same effect on pulpy, rotten flesh as they do the living.

Furthermore, the taste is revolting and will stick with Marcellano for the rest of the day at the back of his throat.

Footsteps even and stride long, Fenyx continues making his way up from below deck. Just steps away from his destination, the necromancer pulls up the hood of his robes, cloaking most of his face in deep shadow as he makes his grand entrance. He emerges onto the deck of the ship, the freezing winds whipping his trailing garments about wildly as he rises from a half stooped position to his full height in defiance of the oppressing frigid gusts. Such a pity to spoil such a fine night on this paltry lot. The necromancers eyes seize the myriad threats seeking to sup on the bodies of those who would bear he and his companions to their destination.

Through a brief, bored grimace, he calls out firmly and evenly, "Мртвите може да се зголеми и мртвите може да падне. Уште поважно, на мртвите може да служи." He fixes the frozen, waterlogged dead with a stern gaze before shouting angrily, "Obey!"

At that moment, a chill pulse of dimming light radiates outward across the ship from the representative of Shalast, Fenyx as he finally makes his presence known aboard the ship. With that psychic urge and channeling of fel energy, one of the zombies jerks and twitches as if lashes by puppeteer's strings, then turns towards Fenyx and bows its head subserviently.

The heavy warhammer fell from Az'Zarrcal's grip to clatter on the icy deck at his feet. He had struck a blow that should have broken a living man's neck, but against the undead standing before him it was a useless gesture. Though his magic still lingered on the rope, his mastery of that magic informed him that it would be futile to attempt the same trick once more. With desperation in his eyes the dwarf searched wildly about until his gaze fell upon the unused battle-axe hanging from a loop at the captain's belt.

"Kaptein, to akser er bedre enn ett."Ar'Zarrcal said simply in Skald and then yanked the weapon from the larger man's belt. He had expected the weapon to feel awkward in his hands, for he had no recollection of ever practicing with one, but as soon as his hands curled around it the axe felt as natural to him as a warhammer.

Styvanus moves up the stairs and past Rasso, taking in the chaos of the deck, however his trained eye noticed that it seemed to be a dwindling chaos. The world's gone to hell and here I am without my armor. He criticized himself as an afterthought, bringing his readied shield in front of his face as a reflexive barrier between himself and a waterlogged, barely standing corpse. Like routine however, he did his best to steel himself against the gruesome reality and delivered a prodding blow to the zombie. The blow slid off the icy carcass of the zombie but he managed to keep his shield at the ready, seeking to make up for his lack of armor. "Come at me!" He shouted encouragingly to the mindless undead.

Talavuc rushes up the staircase leading to the deck, the evening sun providing illumination similar to that below deck amongst the lanterns and rowdy ulfen. A sudden gust of wind whips her, the wind blowing snow into her face and stinging her eyes while the cold drops of melting snow provide a familiar sensation, reminding her of her homeland. A quick scan of the deck reveals the extent of the boarding, but as she looks at the undead, a bit of relief rises in her. Not the same. These poor people are not the same as the ones in my homeland. The sight of the dead crewmen reminds her of the seriousness of the situation and she chides herself for feeling relief. It is not the time for such things.

She raises an eyebrow at the bowing zombie and stabs with her spear at the other in front of the chelish marine. Her arms pull back for a moment, snapping forward with the power of a two-handed thrust, aiming at the zombie's throat. The largely ineffectual attack causes her to reassess for a moment, and she steps back onto the aftcastle to consider another route of attack.

"Aaaaaggh, you sodding son of a-", Marcellano yells as he is bitten again. "You think your pathetic bite'll stop me? This is nothing! Its but a flesh wound! I've had worse!" With fury born of pain and anger, Marcellano takes his cutlass and brings it down on the zombie that bit him with everything he has, intending on endings its miserable unlife.

Reeling from the pain, Marcellano's cutlass only glances off the zombie's brow leaving a hairline slice in its pulpy flesh.

Having closed the distance, Teladon's eldritch-fueled blade cleaves down deep into the carcass of the rotting human, cleaving through most of the side of its head and jaw. The momentum of the blade sends the zombie's body sprawling to the floor, the noise of wet suction accompanying some of the blackish-gray morass of rotten flesh in what remains of its skull sliding out onto the deck.
Across the ship in the forecastle, Captain Brevin lets out a mad laugh as he hefts his axe back up over his head and brings it down towards the obese corpse staggering towards he and Ar'Zarrcal. The zombie lunges forward at the same time, slamming into the captain, his axe slicing a wide cut across the zombie's cheek and through the side of its jaw, shattering rotten molars.

"You thrice-damned fat sack of— " the captain screams before the fat zombie's mouth presses against his face. The cursing turns to screaming as blood runs down the side of the captain's face, and as he pulls away from the zombie he leaves a piece of his cheek dangling from its jaws, a large bloody patch of raw flesh exposed where its teeth had sunk in and found purchase.

Back on the midship, the remaining zombie by Marcellano seems unattracted to the goading of Captain Rozier, instead it continues to launch itself at the injured meal that fights back. Lunging in at Marcellano again, the zombie finds its path blocked by the Chelish soldier's forearm. As its forced back, the creature's jaws open and its teeth dig into Marcellano's forearm, blood oozing through the fabric of his sleeve and pain shooting up into his shoulder and down to his fingertips.

Just as soon as it looks like the zombie is going to try and tear Marcellano's arm out of the socket, its ripped away, up into the air and then down onto the deck as Rasso's hulking form rends it limb from limb in a flurry of slashing claws. As the eidolon-bound, monstrous-looking merfolk turns his sharklike visage towards the zombie controlled by Fenyx's necromantic arts the creature seems ready to turn and join the fight by the captain. Instead, Rasso's claws dig inches into its back and yank it over, followed by a saw-toothed bite on its neck, the rending sound of tearing flesh and the zombie's tooth-marked head rolling to a halt at Fenyx's feet.

When Rasso's eyes flick over to the zombie still engaging Ar'Zarrcal and the captain and his muscles tense in preparation to attack it, a pale beam of gray-white energy rockets forth from Fenyx's extended hand accompanied by an eldritch invocation. As the beam strikes the bloated corpse, it burn away flesh and bone into a fine white powder with searing force, turning the edges of the affected area a fiery orange color. The creature lurches forward, then is pushed backwards down the stairs by the captain.

Head over heels, the fat zombie rolls and tumbles, huge chunks of its body coming off in charred portion that turn into windborn particles of white ash. By the time it hits the midship, most of its body has been reduced to fine powder and the rest an unmoving heap of scorched flesh and bone cleansed by the ray of positive energy.

With the last zombie destroyed, Captain Brevin clutches one hand at his face and lets out a bellowing litany of curses in Skald that ring out over the water.

…soon joined by the bark of a golden-furred hound at Talavuc's heels, tail wagging, and an excitedly looking up at the Erutaki woman with hopeful expectancy.

A little late, though.

Previously Agents of the Winter Accord
Continued In Alltid
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