Midafternoon dawned on Nieheim, and an exhausted party finally awoke in their room in Nieheim. There was much preparation to go about before their expedition into the necromancer’s cave, not to mention a halfling to find.
Asking at the Chapel of Mammon yielded little information. The priests there claimed to know nothing of Moritz, and with no leverage to reveal the truth, the party was forced to leave having made no progress.
With little else to go on, they suspended their search for the sneak, supposing that he had been noticed or caught and was being forced to lie low for the time being. Rather than waste effort on a futile search, the party made one more round of shopping to complete what preparations they could: Abdul picked up a set of steel lockpicks ordered from the blacksmith the day earlier, while Uni — in possession of considerably less wealth — instead bought a sewing kit: the thread, for patching clothing and gear, and the needles for improvised lockpicks.
As prepared as they were able, the party set out from Nieheim as the sun began to set. By the time they had returned to the cave, night had fallen. The wights standing guard had not been replenished — a small stroke of luck — and so the path was clear. From within the darkness of the cave came the overpowering, disgusting scent of rotting flesh. As the passage branched left and then right, the group pursued the scent of evil, deeper and deeper beneath the earth.
Perhaps an hour into the cave, the narrow passage widened into a vast chamber. On the ground lay what appeared to be a pile of rags, from which a pungent smell, to equal the stench which had led them, seemed to emanate. Supposing that nothing in this cave could bear any good will towards neither the party nor the city of Nieheim, Vir let loose a gout of flame, igniting the cloth — which sprang up with a shriek: the wraith attacked. Thankfully, the preemptive strike proved most useful, and between Vir’s flame and the relentless assault of the front line, the wraith fell before long.
Satisfied that the cavern was cleared up, the party continued through the only visible exit in the room, crawling along the dark passageway in pursuit of the smell of death. From ahead, the telltale flicker of a torch led the adventurers to a door. Beyond, surrounded by darkness, a lone, hooded figure sat at a table scribbling on parchment. Abdul, recognizing both opportunity and his forte, motioned the rest of the party to stay by the door, and crept stealthily around the perimeter of the room until he finally took up position behind the figure.
As the party looked on from hiding, Abdul pressed his blade to the figure’s throat. “Von Sterben, I presume?” he inquired. The figure nodded cautiously. “We’ve been tasked by Governer Smith to… retrieve you. Alive, preferably.”
“And supposing I did not wish to return to Nieheim?” asked Von Sterben.
“It doesn’t look like you have much choice in the matter, now does it?”
“I disagree. Heartily.”
At this, many things happened very quickly. Abdul pulled, hard, on his rapier, hoping to sever the priest’s head and end the fight before it could begin. He might have succeeded, had Von Sterben indeed been alive to kill. The hood fell off to reveal the lich beneath, now suitably angered. From his hand came pounds of crushing stone, hammering Abdul in the chest. Then the real battle began.
The party moved forward, to support their ally. As they did, from the walls came eight more wraiths, to support their dark master. Without the element of surprise, and now outnumbered, the party circled, protecting Vir and advancing. Vir’s flames blasted at the wraiths, damaging two, while Abdul — barely recovering from the first blow — took another large rock to the chest, shattering ribs and knocking him back, out of range of the lich.
As the Vir and Uni poured fire and light into wraith after wraith, the dwarf Raku and the clerics Greg and Sebastian hammered at their foes with hammer, staff, and mace. But the wraiths’ icy grip cut through their armor like air, savaging the brave fighters. Greg fell first, slain by the relentless assault. As his killer moved to attack Uni, Abdul took another stone to the chest, crushing him. The southerner slid down the wall he had been backed against, cursing the lich with his final rasping breath, before dying.
Even with the Creator’s blessing, and Vir’s fire devastating the creature from alongside, Sebastian was next to fall, his mace unable to deal his attacker a fatal blow. Having watched her allies die, Uni spun to face the wraith that had now reached her. Furious, she grabbed hold of the creature’s face. Even as the icy grip of death crawled up her arm, she hammered the undead foe with light. As it finally fell, bursting into ash, the elf’s right arm fell to her side, withered and limp. As Vir’s fire leaped from wraith to wraith, Sebastian’s slayer drove its claws through Uni’s back, killing her.
With only one of the seven wraiths slain, and Von Sterben coolly stepping out from behind the table to engage the remaining two adventurers, Vir met his end as four wraiths surrounded him. Raku, realizing his plight, gambled: he crashed down on Sebastian’s bag, shattering the wooden container they had taken from the giant so many days ago. With it broke a flask of clear water, drenching him.
For several moments, reality and fate were in flux, the universe contending with the powerful magic the bottle had contained. Then the moment passed, and as Raku came to understand the skilled use of weapons of all kinds, the eight wraiths fell upon him, killing him where he lay.