Chapter 2: Herald of the Lich / by Anthony Morales

Defeated lich Baroness Zorome announces her return at the wedding of Lord Kellen Omvor, the hero who brought her down more than 30 years ago.

Our heroes are staying at the Old Boar Inn in Hamarsa courtesy of Lord Kellen. Hamarsa is the ancestral home of House Omvor overseen my Isen Omgar. They've been catching up on news: the war in the north, the fire giant who has declared himself king, the dwarves declaring independence from the northern elven empire. But the most talked about news was the accidental death of Kallr Gormson, the Keeper of the Dead in Hamarsa and a former Light-bringer. He apparently impaled himself on one of his mortuary tools.

Not everyone accepts the story of Kallr's accidental death, especially on the eve of Lord Kellen’s wedding. Isen Omgur, after sharing stories of Kallr's exploits at the Limpin’ Stag Tavern, takes the heroes aside and shares his doubts. His security forces are fully occupied with securing Hamarsa for the wedding so he asks the heroes to look into the matter. Their first stop is a mortuary workshop where Kallr was found.

On their way they meet up with Olaf Gragh, the newly promoted Keeper of the Dead. They learn he is relatively new to Hamarsa, having arrived just a few weeks ago. He didn't know the woman Kallr had been working on when he died, nor did he know much about Kallr beyond what the heroes had learned since his death. He escorts them to the workshop answers some basic questions and says he must leave to finish some work.

The workshop has been tidied up, still the heroes find fresh-looking drops of blood beyond the table where it's thought Kallr slipped and impaled himself. The shed is also swept out and cleaned up, all the tools replaced in their racks. They finish their survey and move on to investigate the body of Kallr himself.

The body is wrapped Ina funeral robe and placed in a viewing sepulcher. Upon examination the heroes discover a large bruise around a wound that doesn't match the tool described as the culprit. They find dirt, skin and orange fibers under the Keeper’s finger nails but no other signs of struggle.

A town guard enters the shrine and tells them another death has occurred, this time it's the weaver. There is no question how Gaddi Rengeson died, his throat was slit. The guards leave to call Olaf, the new Keeper of the Dead to tend the body. A rustling and a growling in the woods nearby draws the attention of the party and someone bolts. They heroes pursue, the quarry is actually two, and they split. Adahn the fighter goes north while Pip and Eldritch go south. Adahn eventually catches and subdues a human dressed in leather armor and armed for combat. Pip reaches them and reports that he and Eldritch were attacked by a Half-Ogre. A guttural and triumphant scream echoes through the leaves. The pair rush through the woods and find the broken body of Eldritch, cleaved in two, amidst blood-splattered foliage. The half-ogre fled. The prisoner chuckles, spits on the body and proclaims “That was for Ghaz.”

Pip and Adahn return to town with their prisoner who is taken into custody and for interrogation. They show the blue handkerchief they found on him to Isen, he likens them to the green ones found on the bandits that waylaid him and Lord Omvor. He says Rinley Three-Eyes may know something about this. The guard says he'll send word to the Keeper Olaf to take care of Eldritch. They heroes turn back to help with Eldritch but Isen has requested their help with another body, this time the butcher. A third former Light-bringer has died. Macro the halfling and former compatriot of Eldritch approaches the heroes. He's just arrived in town looking for Eldritch and learns of his death. Dismayed and owing a debt to Eldritch, he joins the hunt for the murderer.

Isen urges the party to check out the shrine, see if there is any other pattern besides being former Light-bringers, and says that extra security is being placed around himself and the last two remaining Light-bringers.

As they approach the shrine a screaming woman runs past them. A moaning shambling hulk darkens the doorway, Eldritch dressed in new looking livery steps out of the shrine. A gasp escapes someone in the crowd “the symbol of House Myoor, the symbol of Baroness Zorome!” More zombies, the murdered Light-bringers and the recently deceased, stumble towards the heroes.

The heroes and a group of guards attack the zombies. A shrill voice screams out of the shrine as if the shrine itself were speaking, “Behold the herald of my return. A thousand years of darkness to you Omvor, for Baroness Zorome of House Myoor is returned.” Once the situation is under control the heroes rush into the shrine to find the source of the undead. Lights and chanting lead them to the office of the Keeper. Broken stone, masonry, a hammer and a pick axe litter the ground, a new hole has been smashed through an office wall but is now border up. A voice on the within is casting a spell. Adahn smashes the wall down to reveal Olaf, in dirty orange robes casting a spell besides a teleportation circle. The heroes attack and subdue Olaf, guards rush in to bind and gag him. They remove him from the room and call for a witch to secure the teleportation circle.

Isen thanks the party for their selfless deeds. He mourns the loss of their friend. Mournfully he says “Olaf was the servant of the lich Baroness Zorome, she is back. We knew this day would come but tried to keep it quiet... Her phylactery was never found, never destroyed. And now she has returned.”

The next day Lord Kellen and Thilda Audrellin were married. The celebration was beautiful, the flowers colorful and fragrant, but a pall of terror hung over the guests as news of the return of Baroness Zorome spread.