|DM Note: Sally was over for Christmas, so Monsarana was under player control rather than that of the DM.|
5. Caitlin carefully examined the cabinet, running her gloved fingers over it to check for any sort of trap. Then she slid her picklocks into the keyhole and twisted expertly. The mechanism gave a soft click and the door popped open.
Peering inside, the party examined the contents. Inside was a pouch with 200gp, a flask of Alchemists’ Fire, two of acid, a vial each of holy and unholy water, and an hourglass.
"Don't turn the hourglass!" hissed Yoshin urgently from behind her. Everyone began looking worriedly at the thing in case it was some kind of hazardous magical item, and while they were distracted, Caitlin tried quietly slipping the pouch of gold into a pocket. Abruptly she realized a stern expression was glowering down at her from above. She grinned at Monsarana, depositing the purse on the workbench next to the cabinet as if that had been her whole objective all along.
It struck Yoshin that the hourglass's wooden parts were more than a bit rotten from the water, and he relaxed. Enchanted items didn't decay naturally. Krizzen took the flasks of acid, Yoshin the Alchemists' Fire and Monsarana the water. Scowling at the cursed water, she resolved to have it destroyed as soon as was possible. Caitlin pointed at the vial of holy water. "Is that any good against vampires?" she asked curiously. Monsarana grunted. "Yes - it melts their faces off," she responded, then glanced at Caitlin and wished she hadn't. "Bastable will be able to sort you out when we get back," she said reassuringly.
Yoshin spoke up then, reminding the party that their Fly spells were about to come to their end, and that his magic was pretty much expended for the day - not to mention the heavy wounds most of the party had suffered. He cast a Rope Trick spell and ushered the party inside to rest, do some magical healing, and recuperate.
When Caitlin woke the next morning, she patted her head for a moment, then said querulously, "Why do I have a carved bone in my hair?" Nobody except Yoshin - who'd carved it from spidershell chitin and placed it - had any idea, and the elf wasn't telling. Unsure if this was some test of Aderra's or just something damned odd, Caitlin left it there, though she reached up to touch it occasionally.
Yoshin cast a Fly spell on himself and drifted out of the rope trick. As no further aerial magic appeared to be forthcoming, the others reluctantly dropped down into the three feet of dark, ominous, stagnant water, to discover that the stinking water covered rough flooring – broken crocks, vessels and strangely preserved humanoid bones - over which they stumbled as they moved towards the southern double doors, which all but Yoshin believed the last unexplored part of this dark place.
As they reached the doors and began to examine them, a movement caught Caitlin's eye, and she let out a horrified yelp. Two full-sized skin kites had come around the south-eastern corner of the square and were hurtling towards the party!
With an oath, Caitlin grabbed her crossbow, rapidly spanning it and dropping a bolt onto the top. As she did, Yoshin launched a flight of Magic Missiles which punched holes through one of the horrors, blasting small chunks of the leathery body out backwards, where they crumbled to dust as they dropped towards the water. Caitlin's bolt tore through the other, leaving a hole but not slowing it as it flung itself at her and wrapped itself around her breeches at knee height. She cried out in horror as she felt its' sinewey strength flex around her leg, seeking for a rip in the fabric through which it could get at her flesh.
The second kite lunged at Monsarana and slapped itself across her face, plunging her into darkness. Anyone else would have given way to fear at this point, but paladins are made of sterner stuff. Grabbing it, she exerted her enormous strength - a product of both her orcish and celestial heritage - and tore it from her face, leaving bloody slashes where its' hideous grip had already penetrated her skin. Frantically it flapped and pulled, trying to escape her grip, but doggedly she held on. With a twist, she pulled in both directions and a rip appeared at the top of the creature's stretched form.
Krizzen hefted Soothslayer. "Turn to me!" he yelled at Monsarana, and the paladin did so, but her boots slipped in the slimy debris under the water and Krizzen realized he had just as much chance of hitting the paladin as the kite if he tried to cut it between her hands. Dropping the axe, he lunged at Caitlin and ripped the kite off her leg, producing a scream of pain and a shower of blood. Grinning mirthlessly, he extended his claws and rent ten ragged holes in the undead flesh. Caitlin, meanwhile, had drawn one of her swords and slashed at the monster Krizzen was holding, while Yoshin sent repeated Magic Missile spells tearing through both, and before long the skin kites were reduced to dust.
Caitlin staggered away slightly, face wet with sweat and racked with horror. As she'd been slashing at it, she'd realized that the kite that had been attached to her was different in appearance from the brown, leathery originals. It had been .. Caitlin-coloured. She remembered that only one had escaped their previous encounter, and it dawned on her that it had spawned a new creature like itself ... from her own stolen skin. She stood and panted for a moment, and then her hand reached up to her head.
"Why is there a bone in my hair?"
Attention returned to the heavy doors, Yoshin belatedly leaned close and listened for any sounds beyond, though if there had been anything active within, all the screaming, shouting and magic outside would have had it alerted and lying doggo! Caitlin assured them there were no traps on the door and carefully cracked it open.
Within was a vaulted, arched room with a curved end, the shape of the place somehow focussing the eye and attention on a heavy, blocky coffin made of some sort of dark metal and secured shut with heavy bolts. The whole thing conveyed an oppressive sensation, and no-one was surprised when Monsarana confirmed that signifcant evil was radiating from the coffin.
There were no immediate volunteers to walk in and explore the room, and Yoshin's eye was caught by Caitlin's right hand, which was speculatively weighing a small stone she'd picked up. Before he could protest, she hurled it into the room to strike the metal casket with a dull clong before falling to the floor.
For a moment nothing happened. Then, with a faint chorus of grinding sounds, the bolts on the coffin began to revolve, unscrewing themselves. Cursing under his breath, Yoshin prepared a flask of Alchemists' Fire as the bolts toppled to the stone flags one after another. "Hail, Nuchar, Great Sorceress of the Night!" he cried, whether for a distraction or as a genuine attempt to change sides wasn't instantly clear, though Monsarana shot a suspicious glare at him, relaxing only when he followed up by hurling the smouldering firebomb at the coffin. Then their attention was siezed by the emergence of the creature that had once been Nuchar of House Denarran.
Wizened to a skeletal thinness, her shrivelled head had deep-sunken eye sockets filled with crackling purple energy which trailed behind her as she stepped out of the coffin. A sweep of her hand in the air traced a glyph of twisting complexity limned in a flare of arcane power, and Yoshin and Monsarana found themselves locked in place by the horror of it, strength draining from their limbs.
Yoshin's firebomb exploded the wrong side of the coffin, only a single drop of burning substance reaching the undead monster. As the flare of flames harmlessly silhouetted Nuchar, Krizzen hurled the Blitzspear straight at her. The lightning-shrouded missile struck true and Nuchar howled as it tore two of her ribs out. Caitlin, crossbow in hand, sent a bolt at the undead creature, then began to fractically reload as Krizzen lifted his holy emblem - the Scale - and held it forth. "Begone foul shade!" he roared, but the undead woman laughed scornfully at him. With a shrug, he unhooked Soothslayer from his shoulder; if faith wouldn't do it, blades would have to suffice.
With a quick gesture, she unleashed another spell - one familiar to the paralysed Yoshin - and a barrage of Magic Missiles tore across the room to strike each of the party, bolts of dark purple energy that burned where they struck. As they flew, Nuchar closed in for the kill. All four of the party recoiled in pain and shock - it was almost as if the missiles had broken the paralysys! The change in balance spoiled Krizzen's strike and Soothslayer whistled over Nuchar's scrawny head. Yoshin responded in kind, sending a swarm of Magic Missiles to tear at Nuchar's tattered undead form. Caitlin, crossbow in hand but suddenly in melee, took the risk and used the weapon and point-blank range, the bolt whistling wide as she dodged Nuchar's riposte.
Monsarana whipped up her warhammer and bellowed an Aderran warcry, Smiting at the foe with a crunching blow that stove in more of the undead ribcage, she sent Nuchar staggering back a stride towards her coffin. Nuchar's guard went down as she stumbled, and all three of her foes got in a blow, Caitlin electing to abandon the crossbow and punch her "in her wound" as she thought of it. The undead necromancer reared up and started to cast another spell, mirrored by Yoshin as he floated outside the tomb. Simultaneously they released their spells - Magic Missile - and a blizzard of energy bolts tore across the room in both directions. Both Nuchar and Yoshin toppled backwards, Yoshin to sprawl mid-air, mortally wounded, and Nuchar to sprawl into her own coffin, the profane energy that drove her undead form dispersed to leave a twisted ruin of a corpse.
While Caitlin and Krizzen checked that the shame of House Denarran was indeed laid to rest, Monsarana turned to Yoshin and pulled his bleeding body towards her, before laying her hands on his injury and calling on Aderra to grant healing. With a gasp, Yoshin revived, pulled back from the edge of death yet again. "Ooh! Cold Hands!"
Shelves around the tomb held a few items of interest, and the corpse itself had a matching bracelet and earrings. Yoshin took the jewelry, while Krizzen took Nuchar's horrifying diaries, saying they should go to her nearest living relative, Krensa Denarran.
And then their thoughts turned to the secret door Yoshin had found.
Session Date: 28th Dec 2014