From the Journal of Jerath Adler Jr.
It happened so fast that my mind could barely keep up with what was happening. In one moment, I was passing through the Garden of Morr. I had seen the hole under the wall, probably created by our simple traveling companion, Waltrout. I saw the black roses, wilting. I saw the damage to the center tomb, belonging to that of Olaus Stickhelm, the man who long ago vanquished the Vampire Count. And I saw at the far end of the yard, the mausoleum and the shed, possibly disturbed, meaning our missing Brother Grabé may be inside. But then the hands started ripping through the earth. And corpses of uncounted loved ones began to rise from their graves. I made a mad dash for the shed, screaming to my friends that they should not enter the Garden…
And then I awoke, as if from a dream. Standing at the top of the stairs seemingly before I had taken my first step into the Garden. I thought myself mad momentarily – maybe a sign that madness was hereditary, but then, as I regained my senses, I found that my hand was positioned upon a Statue of Morr. Another sign. A vision of forewarning, perhaps? To cross the Garden meant to invite the dead to walk.
I returned down the stairs to my friends, and attempted to fill them in on everything that had transpired. I must’ve been pretty convincing too, because they understood the plight at hand, and we decided it best to exit the Garden altogether and head back to Stromdorf for reinforcements. We returned to the inner sanctum, and found ourselves locked out by a vicious gate that seemed barred with a power even greater than the door itself. With some help from Oppenheimer (and I can only assume Morr), we were able to get the door open and escape down the dark tunnel to the daylight that still awaited us on the other side.
We had hoped to find Waltrout waiting for us on the other side, but there was still no sign of him. We began to make our way back to the river, when we suddenly heard his voice coming from the other side of the Wall. So he HAD gone through the hole and traveled into the Garden alone. Quickly, we called out for him, but we only heard whimpers, a sure sign that whatever had come for me in my dream was coming for him now.
We needed a plan quickly, and decided that the best way to assess the situation was to send Oppenheimer to the top of the wall where he could check out what was happening in the Garden. With a quick flash, he disappeared and then reappeared at the top of the dangerous wall, slicing himself on one of its many spikes. He peered down and saw that the crypt was indeed being attacked by three more of the undead, where Waltrout had most likely walled up. He shot at one of them, but could not gain their attention. In time, they would get into the crypt. It was up to us to try and stop them before they got through to Waltrout.
Moving with great speed, Elenore climbed through the hole created by Waltrout, followed by Loreli and then myself. We certainly had their attention now as we were now easier targets for them. As we headed towards the crypt to free Waltrout, we continued to fire on the zombies, hoping to take them out before they could reach us. Oppenheimer stayed high up on the wall, making sure that no more undead rose to our presence.
And it was a good thing that he did, because before long, he yelled to us that the dead were indeed beginning to emerge, just as my vision had shown me. Oppenheimer quickly leapt from his perch to the tomb in the center of the Garden, where he was met by a group of newly re-animated corpses. However, before they could fully pull him down, he again shifted through the air nearly to our group, which had, by that time, made it to the mausoleum. We counted hundreds of dead beginning to rise, and it was clear to us that we had no other option but to do what Waltrout had done – barricade ourselves within the mausoleum.
But nothing is ever easy, and as I said above, Oppenheimer had shifted through space NEARLY to our group. If he had reached us, we could have gotten inside without any worries, but for some reason, he ended up in the center of a group of the creatures. You could see from the look on his face that his spell has somehow misfired, and he had not ended up where he wanted to be. With quick thinking, Loreli rushed into the group headlong, grabbing the wizard by his cloak, and pulled him out with incredible strength. I still wonder what secrets that peasant woman holds.
During this time, Elenore and I worked towards making a torch that we could use inside the mausoleum. With some of the alcohol from my medical kit, we were able to fashion something quickly, and with Oppenheimer safely in our grasp, we pushed into the Crypt, closing out the outside world without even a second thought.
As our eyes adjusted, we found ourselves enclosed within a room of bones – a chamber more than likely very significant to the religion of Morr. In the corner of the room, we also saw Waltrout, but he panicked and rush down a set of stairs towards the back of the room. I could not blame him for his fear. I, myself, though a barber surgeon for many years, found myself facing such terrible things that even I had a hard time holding myself together.
Things got even worse at that very moment when four skeletons began to re-animate before our very eyes. Using bits of armor and weapons around the room, they were even more formidable foes than the zombies outside. Finding little room to run, we decided to stand our ground and face these dark creatures. We concentrated our attacks on one skeleton at a time, hoping to reduce their numbers. I worked as hard as I could to coordinate the attack, guarding the group’s back and distracting the skeletons as we made blow after blow against these undead warriors. In such close quarters, Oppenheimer gave up on magic, and instead, concentrated his efforts in a more physical fashion – with the brunt force of his staff. Loreli used a bone she had picked up off the ground, while Elenore attempted to take a shot with her pistol.
The fight was long, but we were beginning to fight back the tide. Two had fallen, leaving us with only two left. However, the fates were against us when those original two rose again! It was a nightmare that I wished to wake from. We doubled our efforts, fighting off the fear and the exhaustion, and again, bashed the two skeletons into dust, leaving us with only two left.
Another fell in time, leaving us with just one final monstrosity. I remember the following moment clearly because of what I saw next. Elenore locked the creature’s gaze, and for a second, nothing moved. It was as if the room had become frozen as she attempted to subvert this monster’s very actions. It backed away from her, and while she had it distracted, Oppenheimer shot a magic dart at it, and it crumbled to dust.
I shook my head. All of this was almost too much to take in. My nerves were frayed, but I needed to pull it together. Elenore attempted to comfort me, but I was beyond any comfort by this time.
We then thought it best to send Loreli down the stairs to scout ahead while the rest of us barricaded the door to the crypt. During this time, I also discovered a necklace with a Raven on it – more than likely a symbol belonging to the Priest of Morr. Seeing as how Morr had basically saved my life with a vision, I thought it best to put the necklace on. Loreli then re-emerged from the stairway with news that there was another chamber below, and that Waltrout was indeed down there, cowering in the corner. We decided it best that we should head down together, but with Oppenheimer in front, as Waltrout seemed to have an affection for the “magician.”
We were rewarded for our patience and planning as Waltrout responded well to Oppenheimer’s presence. We put Waltrout in Elenore’s care as we explored the chamber. We discovered a holy book, next to a loaf of black bread and green cheese. There were also a number of side rooms, one containing a statue of Death wielding a scythe, one a dresser of robes, another some wine and beer, and finally, a watering well. Elenore thought it best to grab some rope from the well as we descended upon the final set of doors.
As we opened one of the last two remaining doors, we discovered a terrible sight – the body of Brother Grabé inside of a coffin. But worse yet, standing over his body was the re-animated corpse of the woman from my dreams the night before (not to mention Philip Adler’s dreams as well.) She was still wearing the purple dress and the pendant, just as I had seen her. But this was not Madriga. No… it couldn’t be. Rather, it was the necromancer Lazarus Mourn, reborn into her body. He was using her vessel to remove the life from Grabé’s body. I could see that he was very near death, and needed immediate medical care.
But numbers were in our favor. We had this madman cornered, when suddenly, barreling through the door came the skeleton corpse of none other than Olaus Stickelm, wielding a large blade and a shield that bristled with electrical energy. Mourn’s control could be keenly felt as the enormous undead form slashed quickly at Oppenheimer. I watched as the blade went deep into his flesh, and suddenly, the air in the room grew even colder as something seemed to change in the Wizard. He backed away from Olaus, and with a quick flash, he was suddenly beside Mourn, struggling with him. I wanted to help him in stopping the necromancer, but I knew I could not leave Elenore and Loreli and Waltrout to confront the skeleton alone. Again, I aided in keeping them as safe as I could, trying to confuse and bewilder the beast with my movements.
Suddenly, Waltrout stepped away from the group, ripping open his shirt, revealing strange symbols all over his skin. He screamed something about being “ready” for Lazarus. Was he working with him this entire time, or somehow duped to do this madman’s business? Just as I thought it might be prudent to knock out Waltrout before he could do any real damage, Elenore stepped forward, locking eyes with him just as she had done with the skeleton, and just like before, the man beckoned to her will, joining us in fighting this great threat!
Which is when it struck me. The pendant. Around Madriga’s neck was a pendant that MUST contain the essence of Mourn. It was the only explanation that made sense. I told the rest of the group what had occurred to me as we dodged blow after blow from the skeleton attacking us, but it seemed to me as if this had already occurred to Oppenheimer, which is why he had moved in on the necromancer so quickly.
Upon telling Elenore, she thought she might try to sneak up on Mourn to steal the pendant, but alas, he saw her coming and snapped at her. Loreli and I continued to keep Stickelm busy as Oppenheimer and Elenore flanked Mourn, who’s spell was very nearly complete. When suddenly, Oppenheimer landed an incredible blow on Lazarus, which caused Mourn’s body to expel a foul smoke into Oppenheimer’s face, forcing him to breathe it in. Whatever it was twisted Oppenheimer’s very arm, turning it into a gnarled mess, but that did not stop him from continuing to fight! He kept a tight hold of the body, refusing to let go.
And that’s when something went off.
Something about the ooze had cost Lazarus whatever last bit of energy he had, and Madriga’s body split in two! Just like that, her body fell to the ground, quickly followed by Stickelm’s form. The necromancer had been disbanded from the body, and any control he had was gone.
But still, the amulet remained. Oppenheimer seemed to have a plan, and commanded me to grab Stickelm’s mighty shield. I asked him for what, and he responded by telling me that the shield was a LIGHTNING STONE. It hadn’t occurred to me during the battle, but now made total sense.
We rushed from the lower chamber back to the crypt’s door, and opened it revealing hundreds of undead bodies laying on the ground, no longer under the command of Mourn. Oppenheimer told me to throw the stone as far from the door as I could, and I did, watching as he then placed the amulet carefully on the stone. Not more than minute went by before a great lighting bolt struck the stone, destroying the amulet in the process! A great weight suddenly seemed to lift from the Garden, and the fear that had been coursing through my veins since we had entered this place was gone.
At which point I remembered Grabé and rushed to his side to make sure he would survive. When he saw the Garden, he began to weep.
I also made sure to take the time to look after Oppenheimer, who was in rough shape after taking Stickelm’s blade and breathing in Mourn’s smoke. It would be a long walk back to Stromdorf in this condition, so we decided to rest, trying to take in everything we’d done today. I overheard Waltrout explaining that he thought Mourn was his friend, only to discover his treachery during this, the final hour. He made the right decision in joining us, and proved that even the smallest of creatures has a part to play in the greater scheme of things.
At which point, I decided it best to quickly get my thoughts down on paper while I could. So much is going through my head, and I have never felt at peace as much as I do now, with this Raven necklace around my neck. Could the God of Death and Dreams give me the very answers I’ve been seeking all my life?
There would be much to learn.
~ Adler, Jr.