In a crowded wood bleached by white snow stands a grove of headstones with names erased and corners rounded. A persistent breeze blows, and the surrounding trees resembling stony lightning bolts with withered limbs whistle a dissonant lullaby for no one to hear.
This crowded cemetery battle map offers an atmospheric encounter perfect for a Halloween game or a campaign set in the winter. Failing that, perhaps there is a supernatural reason for the snow cover here, such as a forlorn ghost who knows of no way to communicate except by conjuring it and drawing in the snow?
Perhaps there’s an anti-magic enchantment placed here to keep the residents resting? This would make it a suitable place for secretive meetings, aided by the isolation and quiet. One can imagine thieves and ruffians wary of magical spying meeting here.
As always, I’d love to hear what your imagination conjures up, so please leave a comment and tell us about your ideas!
I’ll be back in about a week with something else eerie, spooky, or otherwise Halloween-friendly. Till then, please enjoy this silent, snowy cemetery.
“Five gold says it’s undead.’”
“It’s just graves. Graves don’t always have to mean undead.”
“It’s us, in a graveyard, in a secluded grove. There’s no chance that it’s not zombies or skeletons or some other walking corpse.” The long pause was punctuated by raised eyebrows and a long sigh.
“Deal. Five gold.”
The siblings stepped from the treeline, their boots crunching into fresh snow. Shovels in hand, they began scanning the gravestones. Each one read ‘Alverson’, or some variation or relation of, save for those too weathered by time. Fokar began right, with Kenna circling left. They each moved along the clearing’s edge, carefully navigating over the tangled roots of surrounding trees.
Within the grove, the air was cold. Not the regular, uncomfortable winter cold. This was cold. It was the kind of cold that creeps through leather and armor without a care, freezing the flesh underneath. The temperature seemed to suffocate any smell or sound, leaving the area in a disturbing stasis. Moving through the web of shadows cast by greyed, leafless branches and stepping over collections of broken headstones, Fokar could think only one thing: ice zombies. It had to be.
“Got one! Friedrich Alverson the… third? Fourth?”
“I’ve got the fourth here.”
He looked to his sister, some dozen feet away. Her lithe, elven features mirrored his, both their faces turned in competitive smirks. As they faced back away, two shovelheads pierced the snow.
Excavating the graves would take time, especially with the icy stiffness in their bones. Neither were even sure if they had the right Friedrich. Nobles tended to repeat names and this one seemed particularly, needlessly, popular. They could be here all day.
A few minutes of digging passed, convincingly disguised as hours. Fokar rested against his shovel’s end, staring through the cloud of exhaled steam. The grove had a certain beauty, though bootprints now muddled it’s peaceful surface. But there was something else. Not ice zombies, unfortunately. Rather, several gravestones had scuffed tracks in the snow under them. A few inches had fallen in on one side, with a similar amount piled up on the opposite face. Those were not there before. Fokar looked down. The same oddities marked the grave he was digging.
With his eyes focused on the stone, he moved one foot to his shovel. A shift of his weight drove the metal scoop into the grave’s earth. The stone moved. He pushed slightly deeper, watching the gravestone slide several inches away in response. Glancing up, the rest appeared to have done the same, all facing into a central point.
“Ken, stop digging. Kenna. Kenna!”
“By the gods, if you were right about the zombies-” her sentenced dropped as she caught her brother’s widened eyes. Her expression shifted to genuine concern. She looked around the vicinity, silently attempting to understand his panic. Stepping in his direction, she drove her shovel down sharply, leaving it to rest upright. The graves moved.
At that point, they seemed to have had enough. The engraved stones shifted slowly, then more quickly, towards the center. One caught Fokar’s ankle, sending him stumbling as he moved to Kenna’s side. An earthy grinding was now filling the clearing as the rocks swam through the snow. They crashed together in a mound at first, before others began to climb and connect into a shape. Smaller stones and clumps of loose dirt bound the headstones like mortar in a wall, reinforced by sudden formations of jagged ice. Four appendages extended from a central mass. With a mighty, rumbling groan, the humanoid form of earth and ice rose to its feet, standing a generous ten feet over the elves.
Fokar and Kenna stood, agast and gormless in the face of the guardian. They reached, shaking with frosted adrenaline, for their blades. There was an awkward clinking of metal as Fokar pushed five gold coins into his sister’s hands.
– by Troy McConnell
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