Let's Get It Strahded
Cleric survivor of the undead horde
Erloren was born and raised in the small mountain village of Klinurem, where he had been studying at the church of Eldath.
Klinurem rested in one of several passes in a range of mountains to the north, and it was built around the church established there several generations ago. As the pillars of Eldath revolve around peace and tranquility, the village came to be known as a brief and hospitable rest stop for travelers crossing the mountains. Donations to the church by travelers seeking brief refuge kept the town in a healthy state of flourish just above the level of poverty, but their culture had become rich and bloated with decades’ worth of travelers’ stories and legends. The people of Klinurem typically enjoyed their simple lives of remaining in their quaint town, tending to pilgrims and hikers, and trading old stories for new ones. They were quite happy where they were; the tales they collect were all well and good, but most citizens of Klinurem were happier (and safer, most of them noted) at home by the fire rather than adventuring into the wilderness.
Most, but not all. Certainly not Erloren.
Though he studied diligently the lore and customs appropriate to an acolyte of Eldath, Erloren frequently fantasized about life outside the village. Life outside the idyllic mountain pass blessed as a sanctuary by Eldath herself, according to the church elders. He yearned for the opportunity to banish a marauding gang of goblins from the countryside, to expel a fearsome troll from a storied bridge, to slay a mighty dragon, and return to spoil his family with the treasures he collected.
Just one chance, he thought, and I could be one of the mighty heroes we’ve only heard legends of.
He had tried, on more than one occasion, to convince passing adventuring parties that they would be well served to take him along. Often he could be found late in the evenings having snuck away from his family homestead to The Able Oxen, the only tavern worth noting in the village, and nearly the only guaranteed stop of any traveler coming through Klinurem. He enjoyed sharing drinks and imbibing their stories, and had offered his meager services to any band whose destination wasn’t particularly far, or that would be passing back into the village soon.
Unsurprisingly to everyone except perhaps Erloren, no one was ever interested. He had only ever managed to conjure even the most menial blessings from Eldath. Certainly nothing that caught the attention any travelers. Besides that, he didn’t even own a sword, and the church provided, but it didn’t provide enough to afford him the luxuries of sturdy armor or a sharp blade. No, he was a peasant, and a peasant he would always be. At least, that’s what they always told him, when he spent the evenings at the The Able Oxen seeking a quest to which to pledge himself.
It should be equally unsurprising that he was at the tavern doing just that on the night the village was attacked and subsequently destroyed.
It was late into the night, and Erloren was busy questioning a group of travelers about their plans and destination. Cries of alarm pierced the quiet of the street outside, and some of the more heroic tavern patrons rushed outside to discover the cause of the ruckus, and this was not usually a town in which ruckuses occurred.
They were greeted by a grisly sight: dozens of mangled and rotting corpses of men and women long dead were shambling across the village attacking anyone and anything in sight. Erloren watched in horror as Minelda, the old woman who tended the small apothecary across the street, was drug down from her doorstep into the chomping, growling mass of limbs and teeth and blood.
Similar scenes were taking place up and down the street, as groggy villagers were quickly snapped to wakefulness upon glimpsing the nightmarish beasts outside. Doors were broken down, women and children were ripped to to pieces barely resembling people. Some of the villagers tried to fend them off with shovels and garden shears, but the creatures were too strong and too many.
Erloren feared for the safety of his family and fled in the direction of his homestead, hoping that his parents, brother and sister were still safe.
A few of the villagers tried to protect themselves with torches and flames. This was somewhat more effective than dull gardening tools, but they too were slain eventually. Worse, the flames, then unchecked by their massacred tenders, began to spread. And with the villagers more concerned with the pressing matter of a zombie attack, the flames soon engulfed most of the village.
Upon reaching his home, Erloren’s fears were confirmed: his family had been attacked. The doors to the cottage had been bashed in, and the few trinkets and pieces of furniture his family owned had been strewn about in what he hoped was a victorious struggle against the intruders. He found the remains of a few of the corpses, and several areas of the house were streaked with blood. Otherwise, there was no sign of his family.
He quickly gathered some of his things: some clothing and provisions, his father’s old armor from when he had been chosen as one of the ceremonial sentries of the church. But when he was ready to try to escape his home to the woods beyond, he was confronted with still more of the undead abominations surrounding his home and closing in.
Erloren rushed back inside and equipped himself with the only thing he could find that even remotely resembled a weapon: his mother’s wrought-iron skillet. As he took it into his hands, he had a fleeting reminiscence of her lovingly repairing one of her signature meals for the family. Armed with only that beloved pan and his desperate prayers, the young man fought savagely against the encroaching monstrosities. Slowly he was pushed back into the house as he gave up ground against the mass. Backwards, across the pools of blood dotting his home, past the ransacked belongings. Backwards, finally, to the pantry: a dead end.
Holding the door fast, he prayed mightily for something, anything — some kind of interference from Eldath. The door buckled and shook at the growing weight of the monsters pushing in. Tears brimmed in his eyes as he simultaneously bemoaned the fate of his father, his brother, his sister, his mother, and realized he would soon join them in the afterlife, if the gods were kind.
No, he thought her heard, perhaps only in his head. You were meant for more. This is not your end.
He felt his holy charm — a small broach bearing the waterfall of peace — begin to burn upon his breast. Touching it, he knew somewhere deep inside the words, though he didn’t comprehend them.
“Pryč faul ohavnosti!” he bellowed, as the pantry door flew open. A dazzling white light filled the pantry, the house, all of existence for a few short seconds. He had momentary notion that the creatures were fleeing from him. Then, everything went black, and he was overcome with exhaustion.
Erloren awoke several hours later to the sharp tang of smoke in his nose. Bleary-eyed and tired, he pushed himself up, slowly remembering the events of the night. He rushed outside, but there were no creatures. There were no people. There was no one.A pale, weak sun was rising just above the horizon, and it’s feeble rays shone down upon the smoldering wreckage of Klinurem proper in the distance.
He cautiously searched what was left of the village, but no one was to be found. The creatures must have moved on. Returning home, he discovered the remnants of footprints in the snow leading away from the cottage. Two people, maybe three. Behind them the rough, dragging prints of the zombies. Someone had escaped his home the night before and fled.
Gathering his reserve, he took off in hopes of finding his family. But he was no tracker. New snow fell through the day, and by nightfall he had lost the trail completely.
He continues to wander in the general direction, hoping that he can find his loved ones, and absolve himself of the dark feeling that has been growing inside of him.
If I had been where I was supposed to be, I would be with my family now. And I could have saved them like I saved myself.