9. After laboriously sloshing their way back to the secret door, the party stood a healthy distance back while Caitlin examined it for traps and locks. When none were discovered, Caitlin laid hold of the panel and prised it open. There was considerable resistance before it opened, as a third of it was below the level of the murky water in which they were standing, but finally it came open.
With a surge the water began to rush through the narrow portal, tugging at the legs of those standing in it. As they could now see, the water was spilling down a narrow flight of stairs leading down into the darkness, and the sound of it falling somewhere was distantly audible from below.
At this point, Yoshin leaned over to Caitlin and revealed his surprise. A touch on the bone beads in her hair was enough to cast a Light spell on them, leaving her with a light source that automatically lit up whatever she was looking at without getting in her eyes. With a surprised and grateful grin, the Tellaran led the party down the stairs.
After fifty feet or so, the stairs opened into a huge, circular hall, forty feet across, and with a 5' rail-less walkway around it. A domed ceiling soared into dimness thirty feet above, and the pit in the centre dropped away into the darkness. The released water from Nuchar's Tomb above was pouring across the walkway and into the pit, and as the party reached the bottom of the stairs it dawned on them that the current and the slimy stairs were going to make it rather hard to stop...
Yoshin was still airborne, and Caitlin's quick reflexes were more than fast enough to grab a projection and halt her slide. Krizzen and Monsarana, however, far larger and gathering more pressure of the water flow, stumbled and went over. With a muffled curse from the lizardman, the two tumbled the rest of the way to the bottom, rolled and slithered across the narrow walkway, and disappeared into the depths.
As Yoshin and Caitlin stared after them in horror, a movement caught Caitlin's eye, and she looked up at the domed ceiling above, in time to see a dozen or so mis-shapen lumps drop free, spread batlike wings and angle swiftly towards her and the elf. Yoshin looked up to see what she'd noticed. "Stirges!" he yelled.
Fifty feet below, Krizzen rolled over and spat out a tooth. Unlike his knightly comrade, he'd failed to hit the pool in the centre of the floor below, but had crashed to the walkway. He felt like he'd been eaten and spat out again, but at least he was alive. Kneeling up, he watched as Monsarana stood up and started to wade out of the pool. His eyes widened as, without the least sound, a wavering silhouette of a human woman rose over the pool behind Monsarana, reaching towards the paladin. The ghostly features were distinctly female, of middle years, showing an expression of betrayal and anger. "Look out!" barked Krizzen, scrabbling for his axe.
Monsarana span, warhammer coming up to sing through the ghostly shape without apparent effect. Her eyes widened in horror - the face of the spirit, twisted in rage and torment, had such a resemblence to that of Nuchar that it had to be her close kin. As she gaped, the ghost's fingers drove into her chest, and she felt a terrible cold as it drained something vital from her. For a moment, her mind wandered, and she found it impossible to focus on what she was doing; then she siezed a grip of herself, stumbled free and raised Aderra's symbol, bidding the undead creature be gone. It snarled and prepared to attack again.
|DM Note: The stirges on the ceiling, and Nuchar's Mother, were both nicely-sized encounters for a party this size and strength. However, with half the party 50' away from the other, both at once proved terrifying!|
Yoshin slapped a Daylight spell on the edge of the walkway as the stirges spiralled towards them, and Caitlin swiftly spanned her crossbow. With little confidence of success, she launched the bolt, and blinked in surprise as the stirge disintegrated in a scatter of dark blood, legs and shreds of wing. "They're not so tough - " she began - and then they struck.
Furry bodies and bat wings whirled around both Caitlin and Yoshin, and each felt daggerlike proboscisis drive home. A hideous sucking sound and sensation followed as the loathsome creatures, clinging tight with their eight legs, drank the living blood from the two adventurers.
Yoshin frantically reviewed his remaining spells. Magic Missile would be really useful at this point, but he'd cast as many of those as he could that day. Shaking his head, and muttering "I told them we needed to rest!" he hefted his long bow and reached for an arrow.
Caitlin's reaction was more immediate. She siezed one of the creatures sucking her vital essence and tried to tear it off her. The pain was agonizing, and the creature's grip more than she could break. As she gave up, the second stirge attached to her released its' grip of its' own accord, and flapped slowly and heavily away, clearly sated.
Yoshin's arrow flashed past it, wounding another stirge as it turned to make a dive at him.
Below, Krizzen and Monsarana were urgently calling out to the trapped soul of Nuchar's mother, trying to get across to it that they had killed the un-natural daughter who had murdered her; or at least, ended her post-existence. This seemed not to register, but maybe a fragment of what had once been a woman remained in the wisps of hate that she had become, because she hesitated a moment before resuming her attack.
Above, the remaining stirges had finished their meals and dropped off Yoshin and Caitlin. This was no help, though, as two more had promptly attached themselves to Yoshin. As he lost more and more blood, the elf's vision was dimming and he was finding it hard to move. Had he tried to work magic, he would have had difficulty. Instead, he pulled a potion from his pouch and chugged it down, feeling his wounds heal; but not his lost blood.
Beside him a twang from Caitlin's crossbow announced the death of another circling stirge. Yoshin gripped his bow and blearily searched for another target, but staggered as yet another proboscis drove savagely into his flesh. Stumbling to his knees, he grumbled quietly to himself as the darkness enfolded him; "Typical."
Krizzen had finally found his feet, and swung Soothslayer in a wide arc. It ripped through the ghostly form and - rather to Krizzen's surprise - tore shreds away. Nuchar's mother screamed thinly, and Monsarana hefted her hammer. "We have her on the run!" she cried, and struck again. With a miserable shriek, the spectre disintegrated, frustrated of its' vengeance on the living.
|DM Note: Maddie had two edge-of-the-seat rolls here; Monsarana's save to miss the pool edge, and a roll to stabilize Yoshin. Both DC 15 with a player character death riding on it. She aced them both.|
Seeing Yoshin go down, Caitlin dropped to her knees next to the elf. Her medical knowledge was limited, but all Tellarans learn just a little battlefield healing, and she plugged the wounds the best she could. Yoshin's breathing remained shallow - but it remained. Grinning in savage triumph, Caitlin siezed her crossbow again and sent a bolt right into the face of another stirge as it dived at her. Another monster drove itself into her side, and she staggered, herself not far from collapse, then blinked in astonishment as a longbow arrow and a javelin soared up out of the pit to knock down a stirge each. Reloading, she shot again, missing this time, her vision dimming from the blood loss. Just as she began to despair, another arrow from Krizzen impaled the last stirge and ended the fight.
It took Krizzen only a few minutes to unpack a rope and grapnel, which he lobbed up to the waiting Caitlin. She secured the rope, allowing Krizzen and Monsarana to climb up out of the pit. Monsarana immediately used what healing magic she had left to ease what hurts she could, but there was no cure available to the party for the vitality that had been drained from them, and it was an easy decision to retreat to the Temple of Aderra in search of medical aid. The journey was uneventful, if gruelling, and all four were soon settled into plain novice bunks which felt like the softest down....
The next morning, the four awoke to find themselves fully healed and restored, their clothes and equipment cleaned, and good food set out for them. High Priest Bastable made no mention of payment, but Monsarana knew that this was not the end of it, and a sizable donation would be expected from someone...
On descending once more to the depths of Nuchar's Tomb, the party discovered that most of the water had drained from the laboratory level, leaving it slimy and mucky but no longer flooded. Similarly, the stairs down were a lot safer without a torrent of water pouring down them.
On reaching the lair of the stirges, they discovered that the four survivors were still there, roosting on the ceiling as they digested their feast of blood. Taking no chances, Yoshin eradicated them with Magic Missiles, not missing the chance to remark how easy that would have been if they'd had chance to rest before tackling them
They had already noticed that there were three doors leading off the circular pit room, and choosing one at random they opened it and went in. A long corridor opened into a square room, thirty by fifty. It appeared empty, except for a bewildering array of green bronze and rusty steel levers, arms cams and cogs attached to the stone ceiling, ranged around a regular pattern of eight 3’ metal disks attached at regular intervals. A single door at the far side appeared heavily bolted.
Nobody fancied the look of this, so they quietly backed out and closed the door, before investigating the door at the opposite side of the pit. The layout behind that was identical, but there were no mechanisms. Instead, the far wall of the room was composed entirely of what looked like bones – human bones – packed closely together. They weren't merely separate bones, nor whole skeletons, but limbs – legs, heads – ribs and skulls mixed together. As the companions watched them, the arms started to move, beckoning them forwards.
Each felt a strange, inexplicable desire to walk closer to the wall. The beckoning arms moved hypnotically, inviting them to approach, but each shook off the effect and stood firm - except Monsarana. Dropping her hammer, she started off at a stumbling run towards the wall, only to be brought up short by Caitlin and Krizzen siezing her shoulders.
Yoshin, not wanting to take any chances, launched a Fireball at the wall, and several skulls cracked and splintered from the intense heat where it struck. Noticing that the arms fell loose where the guiding skulls had fallen away, he followed up with a Flaming Sphere and destroyed the remainder. As the last one disintegrated, the whole wall collapsed into a heap of scorched bones. The glamour of the Wall vanished too, and Monsarana dropped to her knees, praying to Aderra to forgive her weakness.
Session Date: 24th January 2015