Lucky number thirteen and boy were there changes in store for us on this day!
Having successfully unlocked the casket of treasure, the party decided to return to the surface and venture back to Rhuun so that certain members could take advantage of that fair city’s facilities. Domdull required training and supplies were needed. One uneventful trip later, the PCs were back in their rented abode.
After recouping for a day or so, a smaller party left the gates of the city. This excursion consisted only of Anwar, Baragkus, Fanta, Kyrinn, Lyrax, Mars, and Morg. They once again enjoyed an uneventful journey and quickly found themselves back at the Y-shaped corridor that split outside the room of the glass casket.
From the northern branch came a soft red glow that drew their attentions. Edging down the corridor, they saw a pair of archways that led into a gloomy chamber to the west and an askew and much dilapidated wooden door to the north from which the red illumination originated. As they approached the glow, they cast a glance into the chamber beyond the archways.
That room was dominated by four horn-like columns of stone that arched up from the floor. Suspended by chains attached to the top of each column was a 12’ diameter disk of stone held on its horizontal axis. A 10’ tall flight of steps ascended to the level of the stone and a mass of tattered furs and bone—the remains of a dead Low Man—lay sprawled upon the steps.
Judging this worthy of investigation, Morg climbed the stairs to get a better look at the corpse. As he stepped near it, his ear caught a sound from overhead. Looking up, he was startled to see part of the ceiling detach itself and drop down atop him. As it fell, the “ceiling” shifted in coloration chameleon-like to reveal itself as a large spider with a carapace of green. Morg, phobic of arachnids due to the horrible injuries they once inflicted upon him, screamed like a maid surprised on her tuffet before heading towards the door.
The crab spider missed it one chance at envenoming the fighter before Lyrax calming sighted down the shaft of an arrow and launched a missile into the arachnid’s tiny brain. Despite an attempt to halt Morg’s flight—one undoubtedly undermined by Anwar’s puppet show with the spider’s corpse—the fighter fled the room and turned north without thought, bound for the red glow. Lyrax and Baragkus reluctantly followed after him.
The battle over, the party was able to survey the room in more detail. After determining that the Low Man (and spider) corpse had nothing of value, Anwar climbed to the top of the stairs and looked down upon the stone disk. Formed in the shape of a ring, the air in the disk’s hollow center shimmered as if heat haze but was otherwise without note—until Anwar detected that the dust on the floor glimpsed through the hole looked much thicker than that of the chamber around him. Carefully poking his staff into the heat haze, he found that it could be breached and seemed to do no harm. As an additional precaution, he plucked one of the beetles he keeps to assuage his uncanny hunger and tossed it through the center of the disk. It landed unharmed in the dust below.
With initial experiments seeming to declare this disk safe, the sorcerer climbed out onto the disk and stuck his head through the center. After a brief nausea, he found himself peering back upside-down at the room behind him. Alarmed, he noticed that the rest of the party had suddenly vanished and that the room was much more dark and dusty than it appeared moments ago. He pulled back only to see his comrades standing around him in the unchanged chamber. What magic was this?!
Meanwhile, Morg burst through the half-destroyed door at the end of the hallway to find himself in a room holding three large wooden cylinders that resembled silos. One had split open and a thick layer of tan cereal or kibble covered the floor. Five large beetles, their abdomens glowing a soft red, munched contently at this bounty of food, ignoring the fighter. Moments later, Baragkus and Lyrax joined him. After convincing the fighter that the spider had been dispatched and deciding that the beetles were best left alone, the trio returned to the room with the disk.
Fanta, suspecting that the ring might be a magical door or gate (having some experience with those devices), leaped through the center of the disk to land amongst the dust below. There, he saw that the room was indeed an exact duplicate of the one he had departed, only more neglected and unlit. Looking up, he was slightly dismayed to see that the circle through which he had just passed was now a shimmering liquid mirror—one which defeated his attempts to pass back through! Anwar could still see the Old Blood sorcerer and the hole seemed unchanged, but no sound was audible. A rope was dropped through the portal but, although it passed and could be reeled in unhindered, the barrier would not let Fanta pass.
Rather than leave the sorcerer to his fate, the party sent some of their number back to the surface to gather supplies which might be needed for a long excursion. When they returned, supplies were distributed amongst their number and, one by one, they each passed through the shimmering portal into a destination unknown.
After a brief moment to inspect their surrounding, the party left the chamber and found themselves in a corridor that ran north-south. To the north were a locked door and an eastbound corridor that ended in an open door. Passing through this one, they found a room that smacked of sorcery and conjuration. A six-pointed star was embedded in the floor and tapestries with arcane formulae hung from the walls. They were encouraged when they saw that the room could be barred from within and made a note of it as a possible redoubt. A second door exited the room to the east, which they passed beyond in search of clues to their destination.
The corridor beyond turned south before ending in a corroded iron door, one decorated with three female faces—that of a young girl, a mother, and an elderly woman. From beyond came the faint sound of conversation. Cautiously cracking the door to get a better listen, they heard a voice say, “Hello?” from the room beyond. Caught red-eared, the party entered carefully.
The room beyond seemed to be a shrine. A tall statue stood in a curtain-lined alcove to the east. It depicted a three-faced woman who towered over a chair made of bone and inlaid with silver. A clear reflecting pool shimmered in the pale lavender light that filled the room and cast dancing shadows on the walls.
Standing near the bone chair was a woman dressed in tattered robes of black embroidered with silver crescent moons. Her platinum-blonde hair hung before her face, obscuring her features, but her voice was young and clear. She appeared to be alone. The party moved forward unthreateningly but half-expecting trouble.
Instead they found the woman to be open and gracious. She introduced herself as Klydessia, the last remaining Sister of the Argent Moon, who held vigil in this place awaiting a sign from Chthonia. The rest of her sisterhood was deceased, lost to old age, and only she remained to heed the call of her goddess. She informed the adventurers that they had indeed passed through a gateway between worlds: one she had thought was no longer functioning. They had stepped into a realm called R’Nis, specifically into a particularly notorious locale known as Stonehell. A former prison, one in which she had been incarcerated for her beliefs long ago, the place was now the habitat of all sorts of foul creatures. However, to the party’s fortune, they were on the level closest to the surface and if they just headed [redacted because the players missed this useful piece of information] they’d find the exit.
After learning a few more bits of information such as kobolds were small scaly lizard men who had a market to the east and that they could exit this shrine via a ladder to the west, the party thanked her for her help and promised to return with something she needed—dogs. They wisely didn’t inquire why she needed canines.
Following Klydessia’s instructions, they reached a chamber with both a smaller three-faced statue, a one-way door which couldn’t be opened from within, and an iron ladder ascending 20’ up to a trapdoor. Morg took point on the ladder, followed by Baragkus, Mars, Lyrax, Kyrinn, Anwar, and Fanta.
As the fighter reached the top of the ladder, he could hear the sound of gruff conversation and smelled cooking meat. Pushing the door open carefully, he found it exited underneath a three-walled compartment, one like the underside of a desk or podium. He glimpsed bare wall but could see nothing more. He opened the door some more only to have it knock against one of the desk’s side walls, creating a noise that the occupants of the room detected. Closing the door swiftly, he waited.
The sound of moving furniture, walking feet, and “Is it that bitch, again?” were heard before the trapdoor opened to reveal a lanky, pale figure with a cleaver-like sword in hand staring down at him. Although human, he had a barbaric cast and was dressed in scrounged armor adorned with hooks, barbs, and other bits of nasty metal. His face bore multiple scars and nails pieced his nose and eyebrow. When the figure called out to his unseen companions, Morg decided to seize the initiative and throat punched the guy. I love these players.
This led to a battle that I thought was going to end very poorly for the party. Trapped on a ladder and having to battle their way out from under what turned out to be an altar was bad enough, but then Morg took a wound that dropped him to 2 hit points right off the bat and couldn’t seem to push his opponent out of the way so that the others could exit the shaft and join the fight. There were four more foes in the room and they closed quickly on the fighter.
One of the things I love about the older editions is the round-by-round initiative rules and this was one of those times when the survival of the party came down to whether or not they had the opportunity to act first each round. Luckily, the dice were on their side, and even the fact that the berserkers they were fighting enjoyed a +2 bonus to hit couldn’t make up for their poor attack rolls during the rest of the fight. Mars Markus’ ability to use healing magic also pulled Morg’s bacon out of the fire and, once he was healed and broke the party out into the open to battle, the melee turned in their favor and they soon won the day.
The battle over, the party found themselves in a ruined non-denominational chapel. Policing the corpses of the copper coins that they carried, they were disgusted to find that the dead men’s pouches also contained dried meat of unseemly quality: one piece had a tattoo. A small fire in the corner of the chamber had a human(oid) arm roasting above it and a grisly larder of smoked meat sat nearby. That spurred the party to leave the area and find their way out of this Stonehell place as swiftly as possible.
Unfortunately, as they exited the chapel to find themselves in a north-south corridor, they couldn’t recall which way they were told to go. East sounded likely, so they determined to head that way as soon as they could find a corridor aimed in that direction. But the dungeon seemed to conspire against them, for although they found a few corridors that ran east-west, lowered portcullises impeded their travel everywhere.
Approaching one octagonal chamber guarded by a lowered portcullis, they detected laughing, grunting, and talking in a very inhuman tongue. A cadre of grey-green humanoids, ones that somewhat resembled the Low Men they knew so well, stood in the chamber beyond the lowered gate, their attention focused down another hall from which the sounds of battle emanated.
As the party crept forward, hoping to slip down a southbound passage undetected, one of the creatures looked back to see them slinking down the corridor. Tapping his compatriot on the shoulder, the group of humanoids slowly turned and silently watched the party. The adventurers nodded politely and continued to move towards the side passage. Then, one of the humanoids reached behind his back and began drawing an arrow from the quiver strapped there…
Soon arrows were fly on both sides and the orcs (for that was what they were) split up to flank the party. One arrow caught Kyrinn in the chest, plunging him into unconsciousness and very nearly removing him from the mortal coil entirely. However, Mars stepped up with his last healing scroll in hand and revived the fallen archer.
Morg and Baragkus charged down the southern passage, seeking to stop the orcs from outflanking them, and ambushed them as they came around the corner. They cut down two but a more formidable one, perhaps a patrol leader, fended them off briefly before succumbing to their blades.
Missiles continued to fly back and forth in the hallway to the north and two orcs threw open the portcullis that separated the parties, charging towards the front ranks of the adventurers. The battle turned to a full melee. Sadly, one of the orcs managed a particularly grievous wound on the just-revived Kyrinn and killed him outright (a natural 20 that resulted in 10 points of damage to the 5 hp fighter. Poor Rob wasn’t even at this game session and his character perished. I’m so sorry, man).
In the end, the party triumphed albeit with injuries all around. The decision was made to return back to the chapel to heal and plan their next step, but first the nearest orc bodies needed to be looted. As they stripped the electrum coins from the corpses, the adventurers heard a voice suddenly speak from the darkness behind them, saying, “Well, what do we have here?”
And that’s where we ended it. Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter coming your way in one week’s time.