The night passed uneventfully for the adventurers. They'd returned to the knight's tomb on the ground level to camp, and with the arrival of morning were gathered around a small camp-fire on which the last of their bacon was frying. The peace was interrupted by the sound of slow, heavy footsteps approaching from the direction of the exit.
Krizzen and Caitlin drew their weapons quietly, while Yoshin, his nerves still a little shaky from the previous day's encounters, retreated into hiding behind the sarchophagus. The steps came nearer, and then a short, solid figure emerged from the corridor and came to a halt. Before them stood a dwarf, short and heavily built, wearing a green tunic over scale armour and with a flanged mace hanging at his belt. All his clothes and equipment were soaked through, suggesting that outside it was still raining.
"Good morning," said Caitlin in the common tongue. "Greetings to you," replied the dwarf. "There seem to be a lot of dead bodies back there." Krizzen grinned. "Yes, that was us," he said. Caitlin made introductions, taking a moment to lift an eyebrow at Yoshin where he crouched; the elf shook his head sharply. Something caught the dwarf's ear; "Either you have big rats around here, or there's someone behind there," he commented.
Reluctantly Yoshin emerged, to be introduced to Thengorn the dwarf. "Don't be concerned," he said, "though our folk disagree in places, I have no argument with the Fair Folk." Yoshin said nothing, but did not look convinced as Thengorn told his tale.
A journeyman priest of Athagari, the dwarvish goddess of hearth and home, he had been assigned to a mine in the Engeror mountains that made the northern border of Known Alair, and had been making his way home when he became lost. "My horse died about a hundred miles ago," he said off-handedly, not noticing Caitlin's sudden expression of stricken sympathy, "and then I was caught in the storm and sought shelter here. I'm not the highest point in the area, but with this much metal wrapped around me I didn't want to be out in the open."
He observed Caitlin and Krizzen's wounds, and offered to help. His healing magic eased the pain and closed the injuries considerably. Yoshin said nothing about the spider poison still weakening him, not ready to trust this dwarf with his health. "Well, while you're in here," said Caitlin, "why don't you join us to explore?" She aluded to treasure or payment, which he firmly insisted should be donated to his temple if anything. "I'll take breakfast as payment, though," he said with a chuckle. Then Caitlin mentioned the dark elves and the dwarf froze, dark eyes glittering. "Are there Fae Mhor here?" he asked sharply. "Yes..." said Caitlin, a little taken aback. "Then I am with you. The wretches had infested the mine I have just left; if there are here, they must be opposed." The agreement was made, and breakfast finished, before the expanded party returned to the lower level.
As they descended the stairs, Caitlin asked the dwarf's opinion of the gong they'd found, ignoring the glares from her companions. Thengorn shook his head. "Doesn't sound safe," he said. "If the Fae Mhor are involved, you can't trust anything." Krizzen broke in. "I'm sorry she's brought this up," he commented, "we've made it clear we're not going to have it sounded."
6. As they reached the room with the bear skeletons, Thengorn looked around with raised eyebrows. "Bears of some sort, looks like. Was this always like this?" he asked. "No," said Krizzen, "we smashed them." "They tried to eat me," put in Yoshin, slightly plaintively. As everyone looked at him, he added "I was having a really bad day."
The room had a wealth of exits, and the party spent some time looking around for the best one to choose. As they did so, Yoshin came on a dusty section of floor. Odd tracks led across it, and he looked at them blankly for a few seconds, not recognizing them. Then he realized; they were spider tracks... but tracks of a spider with a leg spread of an easy ten feet!
As he turned to announce this, Caitlin was already staring up the north-western stairs, from which a sound of clicking movement was rapidly approaching. Yoshin gulped and cast Mage Armour as the others spread out ready to tackle whatever might emerge from the stairs. A large arachnoid form came into view, but as it closed on them they realized there was something strange about it. Spider shaped it definitely was, but where the flexible or fleshy parts should have been were simply gaps instead. Only the hard chitinous exoskeleton remained. The thing coming down the stairs was an animated, undead spider shell...
With the speed of utter terror, Yoshin peeled off a Magic Missile spell, blasting shards of chitin and puffs of dust from the spidershell. Swift and agile on its' eight legs, it rocked sideways and danced forwards, throwing off both Caitlin and Krizzen, who missed it with their attacks as Thengorn barked an invocation to his goddess, throwing the shield of a Protection from Evil around himself before stepping into the line with Krizzen and Caitlin.
The dwarf swung his mace, but it bounced off the hard shell of the undead spider. Caitlin's longsword connected, the blade making some impact but not as much as it would have driven into flesh. Yoshin blasted another Magic Missile into it, his magic having inflicted more damage on it than anything else so far. The undead changed tactics, scuttling to the wall and straight up it to cling to the ceiling. Can't miss that, thought Krizzen, and proceeded to do just that, as did Thengorn, who couldn't reach it before it delivered a fearsome bite to Caitlin's shoulder. It was left to Caitlin and Yoshin, sword and spell, to deliver the final blows, damaging the structure enough to disrupt the necromantic magic animating the spidershell and releasing its' components to rain down onto the floor.
Thengorn cast another healing spell, closing Caitlin's wound and stopping the bleeding, and she and Yoshin collected some bits of the spidershell. Might make a good scrollcase thought Yoshin. Then they hurried up the stairs the thing had come down, electing to follow it back to its' source.
As they walked, Caitlin asked Thengorn to speak to her in the languages he knew. He rattled off a few phrases in dwarvish, orcish and giantish, but they were unintelligible to her. Maybe the ring had its' limits?
7a. At the top of the stairs, Caitlin, in the lead, discovered a plain room with a passage leading out again straight ahead and an archway to the left. Checking for traps, she entered cautiously, looking around before beckoning the others in.
This room was divided into two sections, with an archway between. The far section was different in appearance from any of the others; the original decoration and arrangement of objects appeared untouched. A small golden blazon of Shushkrah decorated the back wall, and a stone sarcophagus stood in the centre of the floor. Around the edges were eight niches, which appeared to contain withered lizardman corpses; despite Yoshin's attempts to see, it wasn't clear if they were armed. Just inside the entrance, a recently-dead male Fae Mhor warrior lay dead in a crumpled heap. Cautiously, Yoshin reached across the threshold of the archway and used his staff to pull the corpse to them.
This was the first sight of a dark elf for any of the party. The body before them was slightly shorter and lighter than Yoshin, with skin of a grey so dark it was nearly black and bone-white hair. A short chain shirt of black mail protected the torso, and a light helmet lay nearby. A short sabre and long knife were sheathed at his waist, as was a peculiar little crossbow, small enough to use in one hand. A case of bolts for it hung on the other side of his belt. Around his neck on a thong was a black pendant with a depiction of Lolth carved into it.
Caitlin picked up the pendant out of idle curiousity, and was about to put it on when she caught the expression of Thengorn the dwarf. His expression was so thunderous that she stammered an apology and gave it to him. Accepting it, he dropped it to the floor and stamped a heavy dwarf-boot onto it, smashing it to powder.
Yoshin had discovered a bottled potion in the Fae Mhor's pouch, and waggled it in front of Caitlin's eyes. When the Tellaran confirmed that the label read "Cure Moderate", Yoshin handed it to her and she gratefully drained it.
As they moved around the room, the party experienced varied sensations. Krizzen, Caitlin and Thengorn felt somehow welcome, as if in a safe, hospitable place, their spirits braced and their fears eased. Yoshin felt ... disapproved of, unwelcome, at odds with the spirit of the place, and he lurked unwillingly near the archway as the others explored.
The coffin in the centre was open-topped, and inside was found the bones of a long-dead lizardman, small shreds of once-white robe showing here and there. Lying next to him was a tall ash staff topped with iron, scorched along its' entire length as if from long-ago arcane combat, and a massive battleaxe, heavy blade engraved and decorated with brutal, tribal designs. At the foot of the coffin was the crumbling remains of a leather bag from which dusty bottles protruded. Krizzen picked up the staff, examining it, and it began to pulse gently with a warm green light in time to his heartbeat. He picked up the axe and smiled grimly at the balance and feel of the heavy weapon. "I shall take this as a sign that Shushkrah wants his temple defended from intruders, and gifts us these things to aid us." he said.
Yoshin cast an Identify spell over the treasure.
|Staff||Cure Moderate, 2d8+5, 15 charges||Krizzen|
|Axe||"Soothslayer", +3, other powers||Krizzen|
Caitlin and Thengorn were discussing the sensations experienced in the room. The dwarf looked at her; she'd been aggravating him all day by addressing him like a mixture of hunting dog and farm laborer, but the effects of the room on her were obvious. "Your heart is pure," he said, "even if you have absolutely no tact or diplomacy." She apologized again and he grunted in acceptance, before muttering a few words over the coffin, adding Athagari's blessing to the benison of Shushkrah that still remained.
Caitlin glanced at the golden blazon on the back wall, a couple of thousand's worth. "I wonder if we could get that out to sell?" she mused. "No." grated Thengorn. "We can't."
8. Following the passage north out of the tomb, they climbed once more up steep stairs, finally reaching a large room. Caitlin, in the lead, glanced through the entryway and almost leaped backwards, flattening herself against the corridor wall and frantically gesturing the others to do the same.
This great hall looked as if it was once the main burial room, but the holy symbols had all now been desecrated and defiled. broken and empty sarcophagi dotted the floor. In the centre of the room stood an abomination; a fountain of once-white marble, now stained crimson and filled with blood and bones. A glowing red rune, radiating pure evil, had been rudely carved into the once-elegant plinth of the fountain. Gouts of blood bubbled and spurted grotesquely from the top of the fountain, spattering the floor around with red ichor. Four dark-skinned elves, two wearing robes with disquieting sigils on them and two warriors, stood around the fountain, and two of the spider exoskeletons lurked nearby. The pall of evil hung heavy here.
Desperately pressing themselves to the passage wall, the companions hoped they'd gone un-noticed. For a moment, it seemed they might have succeeded. Then one of the warriors squinted at their location, nudged his neighbor and pointed. It dawned on Caitlin that she was holding a lantern; the warm golden light from it was spilling around the corner, and from the darkness of the room it would be perfectly visible...
Session Date: 27th April 2013