I’ll be honest: I hit the wall about an hour before Sunday’s session wrapped-up and I’m still feeling a little crapped out when it comes to the creative fantasy bit. Let’s get this done, then.
Play resumed with the party standing at the T-intersection and Grumble investigating the sounds of SOMETHING coming down his branch of hallway. His infravision detected nothing; his ears barely heard the sound of trickling liquid coming from the gloom. He wisely rejoined the party and formed ranks just as three ghouls came clamoring into the light of the party’s torches.
Aieglos and Waren both called upon the power of their deities to repulse the unclean things, but failed to turn them away. This left them in the position to take the first of the ghouls’ blows and Waren fell to their paralytic claws. Aieglos suffered minor damage, but his elven blood was immune to the ghoulish pathogen. Despite these early injuries, my ghouls continue to fail miserably as threats and the party’s fighting men quickly dispatched the trio of hungry dead. Grumble threw Waren’s body into a mercenary’s carry and the band headed towards the surface to heal and strategize.
After they crossed the Pit of Inconvenience and before they reached the H Room, Anwar pleaded for the party to examine a closed door that they have passed several times. The desire to find a route that leads deeper into the dungeon and avoids the 10’ deep pit the party always needs to negotiate has been an ongoing concern for the sorcerer—he’s even made inquiries as to how much time and man-power would be required to excavate a passage around the pit.
Opening the door revealed an ancient living quarters. The decrepit bunks were caked with dust and the few footlockers that lay strewn around the floor showed signs of being looted in the dim past—except for one, that is. This suspiciously unopened container drew the party’s interest and Kubik the Thief was shuffled to the party’s front ranks to deal with the situation. A nearly half-hour process then began as the two hit point thief carefully made sure that the route to the box and the chest itself were trap-free. Only after he was sure no mantraps awaited the greedy did he pry open the rotted box. Inside were twenty chapbooks and a vial of dried ink. Although worth some gold to booksellers, one could only be disappointed after all the preliminary antics that led to the books’ discovery. About this time, Waren began to stir. The ghoul tetanus had worn off.
The party left the dungeon and return to Blackpool to find a small celebration was underway in the town square. Tuns of ale had been broached , a boar was turning on a spit, and a small group of minstrels played on a simple platform. The townsfolk were imbibing with relish—a much different atmosphere than had been hanging over the town since the rumors of a Storm Crow agent being discovered. When inquiries were made as to why the town was celebrating, the answer came that Azix Tsam, the local gray-man merchant and one-time patron of the party, had recently fallen into some unexpected money and was spending a portion of his windfall to revive the Blackpoolians’ falling morale. Groans erupted around the table as the players realized that Tsam’s windfall was from the Ghost Beggars’ treasury , the one which they never discovered during their exploration of the bandit lair. Despite this ill-met news, the fighting men of the party availed themselves to the free viands and even heard a drunken tale of a giant turtle devouring boats in the Murkmire Marsh north of town. Super Mario jokes were made and you can bet that this will be the last time I try and slip an adventure seed to you bastards! You’re on your own from here on out…I hope you like Stonehell.
After a round of healing and rest at the Mad Manor, the party reorganized and headed back to the dungeon minus Waren. Aside from a brief, uneventful run-in with a mountain lion watching them from the gate house’s battlements, the party returned to the second level of the dungeon without incident and began their plan to investigate the locked door they encountered and to continue to search for a back entrance to the hobgoblin lair. Tick, tock. Tick, tock…
Finding the entrance chamber to the second level empty of hobgoblin sentries, the party retraced their footsteps only to run into six of the creatures lying in ambush in the south corridor. Armed with spears, swords, and arrows, the hobgoblins were arrayed in such a way as to allow all of them to attack the party. These were no stupid, blood-thirsty orcs. The hobgoblins displayed keen military minds, and had it not been for a well-timed sleep spell, the encounter might have turned bad for the party quickly. The party collected some loot and departed the area with alacrity. The mysterious locked door awaited them nearby.
The locked door proved to be a mixed bag. They knocked the door open, but only to discover the room was a dusty and deserted storeroom. A strangely pink salt lick coated one wall and when Anwar tasted the salt, a horrible sensation wracked his body, leaving him feeling as if something grabbed his soul and twisted. He came out of incident unharmed, but perplexed. Two bags were then filled with the substance, totaling nearly 40 lbs. of the pink crystals. Poisoning a water supply was mentioned as a possible strategy, but let’s leave that aside for now.
The party encountered a quartet of giant toads as they departed the salty storeroom and Rondo was nearly devoured by one of the beasts. If they believed in omens, the party might have turned back then…
After dispatching the toads, the party soon found themselves back at the T-intersection they had started the session at and we called it a day. I kid, but it won’t be the first time I’ve had a group of players start and end a session in the exact same place.
The party pressed on north from there and, after a turn in the corridor, came into a large angled room. A herringbone pattern decorated the floor and the vaulted ceiling rose above them to end in pointed arches. From the darkness ahead, arrows began to rain down upon them. Charging into the gloom, they found another half-dozen hobgoblins waiting for them. Once again they faced an organized group and several wounds were received just getting into position where they could fight their orange-skinned opponents. Anwar’s sleep spell was negated by a hobgoblin arrow and the melee broke out in full. The party won the day and began to pick up on some of their opponents’ tactics. Ranks were rearranged and both arrows and spears were added to the party’s armory.
Past the angled room, the party found a strangely balanced pair of rooms at a crossroads. To the east lay a octagonal room whose sole decoration was a 12’ tall obelisk covered in occult sigils. The air in the room was surprisingly fresh and the floor remarkably clean. Speculation was made that this might form part of the dungeon’s ventilation system.
To the west was another octagonal room, but rather than an obelisk, this room held a 6’ tall metal pole tipped with an flag-like iron arrow. Another passage exited the room to the north. As the room seemed to lead away from where the party expected to find the hobgoblin lair’s back door, the room was left alone for the time being, but further exploration of its mysteries is intended.
A bit further down the corridor, a small, somewhat triangular room was discovered. A carving of a three-lobed eye looked down upon a dusty altar that bore a trio of brass scrolls. Malcolm Reynolds leaned into the corridor to shout, “Trap!”, and the party bypassed the shrine.
Just down the hall, the band caught sight of a low fire burning beyond a large archway in the corridor’s eastern wall. Surrounding the fire were a handful of the crazed human descendants of Stonehell’s original prison population. Knowing these base men to be cannibals, the party charged into action…and found three more of the evil men positioned in places they couldn’t see. Battle began to rage.
From the onset it was clear that Rondo and Baragkus, now at the front of the party, were in for the worst of it. Quickly surrounded, Rondo was being assailed on all sides and his blood rained onto floor in rivulets. With Aieglos’ prayers gone for the day, only scrolls remained to heal the wounded dwarf and the tide of battle was not allowing the elf time to move into position and ready the holy writs. Somewhere, perhaps in the Scrolls of Skelos, it is written that “when the magic-user has to draw a weapon and join in the battle and enemies are fought with a hand-held arrow, things have gone bad.”
The melee continued and the initiative dice continued to thwart the party. In fact, I don’t think they won initiative once during the entire session. Although superior to their enemies, the party had to endure a round of berserker attacks before they could return the favor and Rondo was suffering from this. Just before the last of Stonehell’s grim men fell under the party’s weapons, Rondo was slain and slumped to the cold flagstone floor. Silence fell over the party as they looked down on the body of their longtime comrade-in -arms.
We ended the session there.