It was hot. It had been hot for weeks with little rain. Guardians on the Wall cooked in their mail, while the citizens below sweltered in hovels meant for harsh winters.
In the Inn known as Hole, Miss Adventure, a young halfling and her elven friend Gildrid were not only hot, but bored.
"Word is a party went out to the Deepen Wood and never came back." the halfling said. "Then another group went out looking for them. They're missing, too"
The elf looked up from his warm mug of ale, "So?"
"So, their families are offering 50 crowns for information about them. One hundred if we bring them back."
"I've got that much in my pocket now, and bags of gold at Professor Nodd's", the elf replied.
Miss Adventure only glared at him.
Before they left, the Lord Marshal himself paid them a visit. He warned them not to take the previous routes out of Wall they had used. Instead, avoid the road and cross overland.
This they did. But only a few miles out they were already worn by the heat. Their mounts walked slowly and it was late afternoon before they entered the Deepen Wood.
No birds called from within. The trees were twisted into themselves and covered with old cobwebs. The whole place had a choked, stifling feel to it. The two adventurers found an old animal track into the Wood from the west end. They were forced to dismount.
Only a few strides in they came upon a body half hidden in the undergrowth. It seemed human once, only the skin was taunt against the bones and a weird yellow color. Gildrid used his spear to turn the body over. Miss Adventure gasped. Vines grew out of it's face. Green vines with purple and yellow flowers. Gildrid quickly spun the spear around and lopped the corpse's head off. A puff of yellow dust "poofed" from the body.
Quickly they left the body and headed further in. They came upon a second trail. This one looked as if it had been hacked from the undergrowth. "Uh-no," the halfling said.
They kept on their easterly path. Soon they entered a small clearing. It was dominated by a large tree oak. The oak was being strangled by a huge viney plant. The plant was covered in the same yellow and purple flowers the corpse had.
Before this sight was completely absorbed by the two adventurers, the forest around them moved. From the trees beside them three figures emerged. They had the shuffling gait of the undead, but had dull yellow, parchment thin skin and vines growing out of terrible places. The vines led back to the large plant in the center. The plant was using the bodies like some sick puppet show!
Those Who Quit the Game
48 minutes ago