The party returned to the Mad Manor with Mock atop his shield and began examining their options and funds to determine the best way to reinvigorate the slain half-orc. I had spent the previous day outlining four different scenarios that they could pursue since I only knew they would attempt to raise the barbarian, but not how they intended to go about this. As any referee could probably guess, they chose the method that utilized none of the prep work I had done.
Scraping together just enough case to pay Coinminder Orp, the priest of Chadem, the required 5,000 gold marks (plus a small fee for accepting trade stacks in lieu of actual cash), the party witnessed a display of wanton avarice in the yard behind the manor as the velvet and ermine-clad priest wrapped the slain half-orc in cloth-of-gold and intoned prayers for Chadem to intercede on the barbarian’s behalf. After all, a dead adventurer cannot enrich the coffers of the Lord of Cargoes. An hour later, Mock twitched, his resurrection roll was successful, and the barbarian returned to life, albeit with a single hit point and a two week period of recuperation ahead of him.
With Mock breathing again, the party reported to Say’skel the Mottled the following morning in order to report their findings in Modnar’s cellars and to see if the wizard could identify the slain robber’s head. Removing the grisly trophy from their bag of heads, the party saw recognition in the wizard’s eyes. After carefully interrogating them of all that occurred under the tower, Say’skel revealed that the head belonged to Norrim Gaz, an agent in a particularly loathsome organization called the Storm Crows. Despicable war profiteers, the Storm Crows make their living on the suffering of others, appearing anywhere that strife or armed conflict rages. They have an uncanny aptitude for arriving on the scene prior to open combat and they enjoy selling arms to either side and stirring the pot to ensure that war is inevitable. Once the war has begun, they sell half-rotted food to starving refugees, gouging them in the process, and make a tidy profit selling the displaced to slavers. The fact that one of these foul operatives was so near to Blackpool was an ill omen of things to come.
Knowing that the Storm Crows operate in secret prior to a conflict by using trios of agents, Say’skel speculated that Gaz had two allies at large in the area and tasked the party with returning to Modnar’s cellar to see if they could find more evidence of the identities or locations of these agents, even going so far as to offer a trio of healing potions and an elixir of fire resistance to sweeten the pot. Leave it to Society of Plane Walkers to hold out until a helmet was offered as additional payment.
Pausing only to collect a full cadre of members, the party of Hoover, Kaldar, Lyrax Tonn, Mars Markus, Borgo Hasslehoff, and Waren Loss, accompanied by their “mere retainer” Johan Whistlewind, headed directly to the ruined tower despite the dismal rain falling down upon them. Back at the tower, they returned to the wide-grinning statue they had previously discovered, which, despite their best attempts, continued to baffle them to its powers or function.
Turning to the unexplored northern portion of the cellars, the party successfully (but barely) avoided another patch of green slime and, after some humorous mapping errors, found an empty room that once imprisoned a creature of fearsome aspect (possibly with a breath weapon).
Their continued explorations lead them back to the room where Mock had met his doom and they retackled the puzzle of the room with the quicksilver ceiling. Brogo volunteered to climb up the wall and into the liquid ceiling, wherein he discovered a ladder rising up to the mouth of a well above him. Climbing out of the well, he discovered himself in the next room over, which contained the same well that the party had encountered but left unexamined. After some shenanigans that put the party on edge, Brogo climbed back down the well and passed again through the ceiling. As he did so, he found himself in the best health of his life for his Constitution has increased substantially upon exiting the mercury.
Informing the party of his discovery, the band adjourned to the well room. A thorough search uncovered no secret doors, and, with no one else daring to plumb the well’s depths, the party headed back to a four-way intersection they passed through with an eye on exploring more of the cellars. There they encountered and dispatched a small squad of skeletons with ease before continuing northward.
A long twisting corridor lead them to a 20’ square room with an ajar door. Inside they spied the broken remains of four chests, all of which had poured their contents of gold, silver, and electrum coins into a large heap in the center of the room. Hoover and Waren entered the room cautiously, suspecting a trap but hoping for the best. The pile seemed to have a strange cylindrical shape, which, when Hoover prodded it, erupted into a 10’ long, 3’ wide worm with scintillating scales of gleaming metallic color! Despite a few wounds and Hoover being knocked unconscious, the worm was defeated. With a heavy sigh, the party discovered that the worm’s scales were worthless natural (?) camouflage and that the chests were indeed empty.
After a short rest, the party continued on, now southbound according to their increasingly inaccurate map. Rounding a corner, they discovered that the passage split into two parallel channels: one continued on and turned south at the edge of their lanterns, while the other vanished straight into gloom. This second passage held one additional bit of detail: a black, dust-covered cord that trailed off into darkness. From my description of the mysterious cord, at least two of the players suspected it to be a fuse.
Which it was.
And one of them (Mars Markus!) lit it with his torch.
One would assume that they cover this sort of thing Day One in Dungeoneering School (”Never light anything if you don’t know what it’s attached to”), but I guess Mars missed the first day of class.
The fuse caught immediately and the flame raced off into the darkness only to be followed by a tremendous explosion a moment later. The blast rocked the corridor, causing loose stones to fall and the air to fill with dust. When the air cleared, Brogo Hasslehoff was dead, Johan and Kaldar were unconscious or in negative hit points, and the remainder of the party were missing their eyebrows. Only Waren escaped the brunt of the blast.
This encounter could have easily resulted in the death of the entire party. The fuse was connected to twenty rockets affixed to the bottom of a mage’s crazy space capsule, and lighting it detonated all the still-viable rockets at once with each inflicting a die of damage. However, there was only a 1 in 6 chance that each rocket was still combustible. Much to their (mostly) great fortune, my twenty dice rolls only turned up two detonating rockets.
After collecting themselves (and stuffing Brogo into a sack), the party ventured down the corridor that had contained the cord (the exact opposite order in which most people would have done things) and found a titanic barrel resting atop a metal framework. This frame held twenty cylinders of strange material, two of which showed the signs of detonation. The ceiling of the round room soared 30’ above and a chain and pulley system seemed to open a pair of half-circle doors set in the roof. A door-sized hatch pierced the side of the barrel, but the party, expecting more explosions, departed the area without attempting to open either hatch or ceiling doors.
With Brogo dead, Mars out of healing spells, and the majority of the party having received their daily restorative benefits of wine, a return to the surface was contemplated. But only after two more rooms were investigated. One proved empty, the other was filled with empty wine, ale, and water barrels—and a nest of centipedes that couldn’t inflict their noxious bites on the party before being dispatched. After losing one of their members and finding no treasure, the party returned to the surface and, despite their map showing unexplored sections, concluded that they had unearthed all the mysteries the cellars held. Whether this is indeed true or if their decision will come back to haunt them remains to be seen…
Next week: Will the Ghost Beggar issue be finally resolved? With less than a handful of gold coins remaining in the party treasury and rent due in a week, somebody’s going to die so the PCs get paid.
“Show me the money!”