Having decided that the flip-top floor and furniture of this strange room looked suspicious, the band headed back to the massive portal they discovered in the room they believe led down to the fourth level of Stonehell Dungeon. Lighting fresh torches, the party passed through the cube and pool room (“The Lobby”), before reaching the high-ceiling chamber whose upper reaches were festooned with webbing. As they crossed the room, Hoover’s half-elven ears caught the sound of small humanoid footsteps approaching and the party hugged the walls in preparation for an ambush.
Their torches unfortunately ruined any chance of them successfully ambushing the approaching creatures and the sound of footsteps halted before their owners came into view. “Who’s dere?” came the call from the darkness beyond the party’s torch light.
“We are the Society of Plane Walkers, noble adventurers in search of glory and riches!”
“Oh,” came the reply, clearly unimpressed.
The two groups cautiously approached one another until the speaker was revealed: one of a half-score of kobolds holding spears and bulging canvas sacks. The scaly dog-man who spoke the Common tongue introduced himself as Sibik, explaining that he and his comrades were on their way from the lower levels en route to the Kobold Market with a bounty of goobachuk. This was revealed to be a dried fungus that many of the residents of the dungeon found edible (although the kobolds themselves disliked the stuff).
Thus began a pleasant conversation between the two diverse groups. The party learned much about the denizens of the third level, which seemed strangely small according to their map. The chambers they had explored were the main thoroughfare between the 2nd and 4th levels of the dungeon, inhabited only by “The Lady” and her “two big sons.” Some monsters occasionally prowled the halls, but it was mostly a traffic corridor for Stonehell’s residents. On the level below them were “caves, da big bridge over da fog with no bottom, and the Gentlemen dat cook dinners.”
After acquiring this intelligence, attempts were made to gauge the kobolds’ relationship with their potentate, Trustee Sniv. The party has vowed to get their vengeance on the fez-sporting, fur coat-wearing kobold boss ever since he shook them down for 100 gold marks and banned them from the community of Barkruf-Yip-Yip. Sibik explained that he had no feelings toward Sniv one way or the other—he was an independent goobachuk merchant who profited on the kobold market’s general neutrality.
Speaking of that oddly named fungus, the party purchased a bag of the stuff from Sibik, forking over 30 gold marks for the honor. After slipping the kobold a few more gold coins for his time and information, the party and the kobolds went their separate ways.
Continuing west, the party returned to the massive portal in the northern wall of the stairs room. Efforts to pry the doors open were magically rebuffed as a field of invisible force prevented them from gaining purchase with their crowbars. Believing a magical lock upon the valves, the party made plans to return with Anwar and his knock spell.
A corridor exited the stairs room to the west, but it was discovered that this corridor was blocked by an unknown amount of fallen stone, evidence of a cave-in. Another set of doors stood in the southern wall of the corridor, but these too displayed signs of being magically sealed. What to do now?
After some discussion and a little dissention, it was decided that a brief sojourn down to the fourth level of the dungeon was in order. “Just one room,” Mars Markus begged, his parchment and ink held ready to map the unexplored depths. With a sigh of acquiescence, the party descended the stairs, passing not one, not two, but three separate landings as they went—a distance never before encountered in between levels. Were they actually headed to the fourth level or someplace deeper?
The stairs terminated in a large chamber with a sandy floor. Several stone pillars carved in the shapes of tree trunks vanished into the gloom above and a low stone wall formed a barrier near the center of the room. The party edged their way into the chamber, stopping suddenly when Hoover’s ears detected the sound of skittering feet on the sand.
From out of the darkness advanced a single, dun-colored scorpion of gigantic size. More clicking in the gloom indicated that the beast was not alone. It charged at the party, moving much faster than they expected a creature of that size to advance, and lashed out at poor Mock with its claws and stinging barb. The half-orc dodged the blows, but when another two giant scorpions skittered into view and attacked from the sides, a general call for retreat back up the stairs was announced.
As the party fled, barely avoiding grasping claws and stinging tails as they dodged around pillars and sacrificed shields to save their lives, they discovered that there was no way they could out-run the insectile menaces. Their only hope was to battle on the stairs so that they could face a single creature at a time. Hoover and Mock formed a shield wall across the flight of steps, as Lyrax fired arrows from behind them. Mars and Waren stood at ready to heal those injured in battle. Krunk fled for his life, leaving his comrades to perish alone on the stairs.
The fight was pitched as the party battled for their lives. A single misstep could kill them, as the scorpions’ poison cared not how resilient one was in battle. Hoover take a nasty wound from one of the beast’s gripping claws, collapsing into unconsciousness from his wounds. Mars dragged the fallen ranger to safety as Waren strode forth to seal the breach. Mock and Lyrax downed one of the creatures with sword and arrow, but another took its place.
With the fighting desperately continuing before them, Mars called upon the power of Mog to heal Hoover’s injuries, restoring just enough health to awaken the ranger and allow him to unlimber his bow and begin launching arrows at the remaining creatures.
The second scorpion fell, and with two of its slain brethren blocking the stairs, the last great arachnid was slowed in its advance, allowing the party to launch another volley at the beast, weakening it as it came. Krunk, deciding that the reduction in screaming from below indicated the party was winning, decided to return to the battle just as the rest of party, blooded and blistered from the creatures’ venom, overcame the last of the scorpion threats.
It was decided that the exploration of the fourth level of Stonehell could wait for another date far, far in the future.
The party, suffering from its wounds, decided to make their way back to the first level of the dungeon in order to either return to town or explore the crypts to the east. They achieved the stair room on the first level without incident, but decided to pause there to bind their wounds and quaff some wine. Why, I really couldn’t say…
As they kept an eye out for wandering creatures, a voice spoke out of the darkness to the south. “What have we here?” it inquired. “Bold adventurers, perhaps?” The party stared into the darkness but no form was visible. “Who are you? Show yourself!” Lyrax challenged.
The voice came closer, but its owner remained hidden. “You look like you’ve had some trouble. Is there anything I could do for you?”
Thus began the party’s first meeting with Ichabod, an imp who made his home in the dungeon depths. The minor devil was very forthcoming with his purpose: He was more than willing to help out the adventurers if they needed some assistance, asking nothing but an oath that they had sought his aid by their own free will. The imp, who revealed himself to be a 2’ tall, blue-skinned and bat-winged humanoid, explained that he was working his way up the ranks of Hell and providing assistance to the brave and goodly-hearted benefited his standing amongst devils. So, if there was anything the party needed (“The location of a large treasure hoard? The resting place of a magical blade, perhaps? Maybe even the location of the backdoor to the kobold king’s chambers?”), he’d be willing to do his best to make it happen.
Despite Ichabod’s best efforts to convince them otherwise, the party refused to ask his assistance. The imp shrugged and predicted they’d regret it at some point, but should they ever change their minds, they should shout out his name and he might—just might—hear them and come see them. With a snap of his talons, the imp vanished. The party largely agreed to keep the imp and his offer a secret from Anwar.
The party, now rested if not recouped, headed back towards the H Room. As they reached a crossroad they regularly bypassed, Mars proposed that they try the adjacent corridors to see where they led. The Pit of Constant Annoyance and a method to avoid it had been on the party’s collective mind since they first encountered the hazard, and Mars was most vocal in mapping a route around it. Feeling a little bolder now that they were closer to the surface, the party agreed and headed to the east. Not far down that corridor, they discovered a chamber bearing two 8’ tall stone statues pointing at one another accusingly, an exit on the far wall between them. Their distrust of this set-up was well founded, as poking the floor with their pole caused a blast of electricity to flash in between the statues. More prodding revealed that this hazard seemed to be endless in power.
Their explorations, however, attracted the attention of another group of Stonehell’s residents. From out of the darkness across the room, a trio of humanoid creatures edged cautiously. Chalk-white ,with eyes as large as saucers, poor clothing, and stringy hair, the men-like beings told the party to go away and leave them in peace. The party offered assistance to the strange creatures, asking if they could use anything from the surface world, as they passed this way quite regularly. After a shared wineskin demonstrated their good intentions, the Society learned that these strange, nameless creatures were escaped slaves. They had fled their masters, a race they called “the Vrilya,” who dwelled deep in the dungeon in order to seek sanctuary on the upper levels. Now they simply wished to be left alone, but wouldn’t mind wine and weapons of iron and steel. Other than learning that these creatures preferred a wine made from “fishy eggs” found deep underground, these being remained an enigma to the party, but they agreed to maybe stop in with trade goods from time to time. Leaving the pallid creatures to their own devices, the party headed back the way they came and explored the western passage.
They encountered no danger down that corridor, but did find a cistern, a set of stairs leading down, an odd idol, and a pair of unopened doors. They also learned that the passage eventually connected with the room bearing the poisonous fountain and therefore the H Room. A passage that avoided the Pit had at last been found! Huzzah!
To celebrate this navigation victory, a spin of the Wheel of Fortune was in order. Waren benefited well, finding that his strength was increased permanently. Mock suffered a slowness of action, resulting in him acting last in any combat for a short time. Krunk was unable to spin the Wheel at all, leaving the party to believe there might be a daily limit on the Wheel’s function. And so the party went home.
With but a single day remaining before their river trip, the party decided to make one last excursion into the dungeon in order to explore the crypts. Leaving Hoover, Krunk, Mock, and Waren back in town to train, a new party comprised of Baragkus, Grumble, Korlack, Lyrax, Mars, and Raijek descended into the dungeon to face its challenges.
They swiftly reached the crypts without incident, breaching the danse macabre-decorated doors and entering the antechamber where they had battled fire beetles and zombies once before. Grumble, recalling his demise in that battle, shuddered. The plan was to find the route that Korlack had taken through the crypts when he and his former companions had been attacked here weeks ago. This route led to the back door to Barkruf-Yip-Yip. I sense a reckoning is on the horizon.
Passing through the antechamber, the party soon found a south-bound passage that lay roughly in the direction of Korlack’s flight. This corridor passed through an archway into the first of a series of 20’ square crypts that formed a hive-like maze. The crypt was bare aside from several piles of skulls. When these proved to cover no treasure, the party moved south to one of two doors exiting the crypt.
As Baragkus and Raijek attempted to open the door, a vaguely humanoid thing composed of ragged pieces of shroud, yellowing bones, shadows, and dust emerged from the door behind the party, ready to strike at the living that disturbed its rest. Mars brought up his arachnid symbol and sent the thing fleeing under the baleful power of Mog. But, as the party’s attentions were turned in that direction, the door they had been struggling to open suddenly swung aside to reveal a band of six zombies that shuffled forth to surprise the front ranks. Mog sent two of the creatures fleeing, and the rest fell after a short melee.
Breathing a sigh of relief (and looting a silver brooch off of one of the slain zombies), the party glimpsed another door leading out of the room to the south. Beyond this lay a short corridor, one they suspected to be trapped, but proved safe. A door beckoned at the end of the hall, revealing another 20’ square mausoleum beyond it.
This crypt was different. A noticeable chill hung in the air and great piles of yellowed bones filled the space. A thin slime clung to some of the bones, but the room seemed unoccupied. With another door in the south wall calling them, the party crossed the chamber.
With a loud cracking sound and the cacophony of a dead man’s bed collapsing, the party witnessed a horrible, asymmetrical humanoid shape assemble itself from the discarded bones. With three fists of splintering bones as it weapons, this undead thing began assaulting the party. Mars was able to repel the beast, forcing it into the corner of the chamber. Sensing this thing would continue to pose a threat to the party, Raijek, Grumble, and Baragkus charged at the creature, breaking the cleric’s command over it. The three earned splintering bones to the face for their efforts.
Despite the fearsome aspect of the thing, the combined efforts of the party’s fighters were sufficient to tumble the creature back into its composite parts, leaving a heap of slime-drenched bones on the crypt floor. As the last of the bones fell inert, the band glimpsed the gleam of precious metals mixed amongst the remains. Shuffling the bones aside, the party found a small fortune in copper burial trinkets, several thousand silver guilders, and three pieces of golden jewelry. Loading up their sacks and thanking Chance for her blessings, the party turned back the way they came and returned to Blackpool to prepare for their morning voyage…