Wilds players keep out, there are spoilers!
Group One - Maro, Durego, Grendor, Ohwatoo, Rawon and Strom
"I'm done waiting." Maro's impatience is reflected in his voice, but he says nothing else. He just heads for the door to Pillar Hall.
The others follow the elf's lead, displaying varying degrees of hesitation. Rawon says, "Let me take a quick peek up the stairs before we head in. I'd be nice to know we're not cut off before we start down."
Grendor, Durego and Strom join Maro at the door to the Crypts, while Ohwatoo hesitates at the Crevice Room door, recalling, perhaps, Mordikarr's dejected look when the group told him they were leaving. "Good luck, friends," he whispers, before he joins the others.
Rawon takes five minutes or so to scout the surface and reports rain, but little else, when he returns. With that, Strom shrugs, reopens the Crypt door, and steps through, eyes peeled. The area is a bit damper than last time, but little else has changed: the broken coffins and tombs, defaced statues, and unknown altar are still there. The door leading to the flooded area is closed, as is the door leading downstairs. The party opens this door and starts down, pausing at the corner to let Rawon check out the hall first. It's empty, the floor covered with thick dust and muddy tracks. They vary in size, small to large, but they're too messy to make out any detail.
Before waving the others forward, Rawon creeps to the south door and listens, but hears nothing. He does the same at the north door. Finally, he gives the all clear, and the others move into the hall. "Let's check the north room first. If there's a secret tunnel to the area below the crevice, we can surprise the others," suggests Grendor.
"Just be sure you announce yourself so you don't get skewered," mutters Durego.
The entire group moves into the room north of the stairs, and keeps watch while the elvish types check the walls for secret entrances. As before, none are found. "Next!" says Strom, leading the way south to the Summoning Room. When everyone is in position, the dwarf pulls open the door. The stench of rot that rolls out of the open door is amazing. "Ack! 'Ware!" calls Strom, peering into the room for any sign of what might cause the smell.
"Urgh. Wasn't there a corpse spiked to the wall in here, one of Tesso's companions?" says Durego.
"Yes," answers Maro. "I guess he's still here." He gestures toward the door and then Strom. "Let's go."
The room beyond looks much the same, and the corpse, head disconnected and askew on its own spike, still hangs from the west wall. The crude summoning circle is there, but it looks a bit worn now. The markings on the pillars, symbols that resemble Deleric, still make no sense, but Ohwatoo notices that one looks similar to an archaic verb form of 'to speak'. "I wish we could spend some time studying this," he mutters, but a glance at the others reveals their impatience. Strom heads for the west door, studies it for a moment and, when the others are ready, shoves it open.
The resulting explosion fills the room and throws people around like leaves in the wind. Fortunately, no one ends up in the summoning circle, but everyone is half-deafened and stunned by the force of the blast.
Group Two - Ingvild, Mordikarr, Raúguey, Saurabh and Dagmarten
With Ingvild in the lead, most of the diminished group of treasure hunters moves cautiously down the hall. Saurabh keeps watch at the opening to the altar room. The corridor extends about 40', widens into a small chamber, and then turns west for another 25', ending in closed double doors made of stone. The southern west-running hall has pillars that match those in the north hall. A large statue in the southeast corner depicts a hawk-faced young man in armor with an arrogant expression. The air in here is dusty and dry, the floor covered with a thick layer of dust that, until now, has been undisturbed for a long time.
There are five coffins in the hall and chamber, all framed in plain gray stone with inset panels of lighter stone carved with simple repeating designs. One, a bit more ornate than the others, rests on a small stepped dais of pink granite. Three of the coffins are askew in the hall, but all are closed, the lids held in place with simple latches.
Ingvild examines each coffin, the statue and the double doors, looking for traps. He finds none. Back in the altar room, Saurabh starts checking over the scattered stone pews, but all he finds is a dessicated rat corpse and a few cobwebs.
Dagmarten estimates it's been about 15 minutes since the others departed. Raúguey says, "If there are no traps, we should check out these boxes. Which one do you want to start with?"
After some discussion...
A grumbling Raúguey follows Ingvild and Dagmarten west along the pillared hall to the double doors. They look very much like the other stone doors the group has found on this level, complete with locking mechanism. There's no sign of traps, so Ingvild attempts to pick the lock. This time, the mechanism defeats his skills, and he backs away, shaking his head. "Sorry fellas, I can't get this one open. I guess..."
Raúguey strides up to the double doors, grabs the right ring, plants a foot against the left door, and yanks as hard as he can! There's a sharp *crack* as some part of the locking mechanism snaps, and the door swings wide! Raúguey catches his balance pulls the sword of bees as he steps into the room.
Ingvild looks at Dagmarent, who just shakes his head and says, "He's worse than you!"
"It's empty!" calls the fighter. "Come on!"
The room beyond is 15x25', and there's another door in the southwest corner, no doubt leading back to the narrow hall around the Hot Pit. The room is finished in the same gray stone as the other chambers, and Suren sneezes repeatedly at the thick dust that swirls in the air as the party moves around. There are several small square openings, 4"x4" and about 2" deep, in the floor. "Maybe there were fixed tables or something in here?" says Saurabh.
"Maybe. These look like they're spaced about right for legs for a good-sized table," answers Dagmarten. "Maybe this was where they prepared the coffins?"
Ingvild checks this door for traps while the other's examine the rest of the area. The door is locked, like the others, but it doesn't appear to be trapped. He can't hear anything either.
"I think there's something funny about the wall here," says Dagmarten, pointing to the center of the north wall. "Feel along here," he says when Ingvild joins him. "There's a seam, I think."
Ingvild nods. "Who needs elves to find secret doors, eh?"
The secret door is well-hidden, but not particularly complex to open. There's a simple latch hidden by a stone built into the wall near the opening. When it's depressed, the foot-thick stone panel sinks into the wall and then swings inward, revealing a narrow and dusty stone passage that leads straight north about 35'. There is a mail-clad skeleton slumped against the north wall, and a few low humps on the floor beside it hint at several smaller objects buried in the accumulated filth.
As Ingvild and Raúguey move to check out the skeletal remains, Mordikarr and Dagmarten, accompanied by a still-sneezing Suren, start to check the side walls for secret openings or passages.
The skeleton is old, held together by leathery bits of flesh and connective tissue. The armor it wears and the pack on its back have been damaged beyond repair by passing time. Using the tip of his sword, Ingvild pokes and prods at the various mounds on the floor. One proves to be a chipped and rusted sword wtih a broken tip, one is a pile of leather scraps that may have once ben a waterskin, and the third is a leather pouch that falls apart when poked, revealing a mix of gleaming gold, tarnished silver and greenish copper coins.
Raúguey looks over the sword blade and says. "This weapon has been abused. These marks aren't from hitting armor and bone."
Ingvild points to the north wall. "Look here. There are marks on the wall. Could he have been..."
Mordikarr interrupts. "You hear something?" he asks.
The others shake their heads. "What did you hear?"
"Sound like rumble or something big falling." he looks around as he speaks, trying to find the source of whatever he heard. "Very..." his eyes widen. "The door!" he shouts as he dives for the panel that is swinging closed! Too late. The secret panel closes with a sharp *snick*.
"I heard that," mutters Dagmarten.
"At least Saurabh is outside," says Ingvild. "I'm sure he can open it again. Do you think that was what you heard? Some mechanism shifting the door or the door moving?"
Mordikarr shakes his head as he examines the now-closed door. "No. It was far away. Faint." He hammers on the panel. "SAURABH!" he shouts, then presses an ear to the door.
"No can hear anything," he mutters.
As people stagger to their feet and shake off the effects of the explosive blast, Durego says, "That'll draw any nearby enemies! We need to get out of here before they show up!" He makes a beeline for the stairs. Maro looks around, sees everyone is more or less up and around, and then follows the priest.
Rawon shakes his head, blinks dust from his eyes, pulls out a flask and takes a drink. Then his eyes widen, and he cries out, "Ah carp!"
"That wasn't whiskey! It was water from the fountain! I forgot!"
Ohwatoo says, "Let me see that." He takes the flask and studies it carefully, then looks over the elf. "Well, you're not turning green or purple, and I sense no magic in this flask. As I suspected, any magical effect produced by the fountain fades quickly once the water is removed from its vicinity. At least we have access to a good source of water in here." He puts an arm around Rawon. "Come on, my friend, let's get moving."
The group retreats to the stairs, where Durego casts a few healing spells. [Durego, Maro, Rawon 7 each, Durego -1 from earring]. He also uses a dose of the kettle dividing it among the remaining wounded [Durego 3, Grendor 1, Ohwatoo 2, Strom 4].
So far, there is no sign of pursuit below, but most of the group is ready to put distance between the party and the explosion. They head upstairs, through the crypts and pillar hall to the crevice room. The ladder is still in place, and there is no sign of the others. "Now what?" asks Maro.
"We wait," answers Durego.
Grendor snorts at this, "Why wait? They wanted to be on their own. If we're going, we should go now, though I still think we should have waited to see if anything showed up after the explosion."
"We're not in the best shape for a fight, and we're out of supplies anyhow. We'll have to head back to camp soon anyhow," says Maro.
"Quiet!" says Rawon. "Listen!"
The group falls silent, save for the occasional creak of armor. Everyone exchanges puzzled looks until they hear it: tunk, thunk, tap... thunk, thunk, tunk tap. The irregular sounds are too faint to determine what they are, Strom and Ohwatoo can barely hear them at all, but Rawon points at the crevice and says, "It's coming from down there."
The party keeps an uneasy watch over the hole and the hall, waiting for something, anything to happen. The sounds continue, occasionally stopping for a few minutes, then resuming. Finally, Grendor rises. "Right. We've waited long enough. If we're not going to do anything, there's no point sticking around. Let's go." Strom and Rawon both join the half-elf and move cautiously into pillar hall. The others reluctantly follow, up the stairs and out into the rain.
As Ingvild starts to check the south wall for signs of the secret door, Mordikarr keeps an ear pressed to the stone, trying to hear Saurabh. Dagmarten continues to check the side walls, and Raúguey starts counting the coins and reexamining the corpse and other remains.
"Saurabh say something," says Mordikarr. "It sound like 'It's stuck.' Is he talking about button?"
Ingvild shrugs. "I can feel the seam around the door here, but there doesn't seem to be any button or control on this side. I'll keep looking." He works his way around the entire hall, counter-clockwise, while the others continue with what they're doing. "About 250 gold here," says Raúguey. "Want me to start busting the door with this hammer?" he asks, hefting the small sledge he carries.
"Not yet. It's a foot thick and it will make a hell of a racket. I'd rather see if we can find another way..." He pauses as his fingers trace the outlines of another door on the north wall, "So, two doors, but no way to open them. And from what Mordikarr says, Saurabh can't open that one. This is a fine mess."
"Guess we know what happened to our friend here," says Dagmarten.
"Worse case, the others will come back when we don't show up. Right?" Ingvild looks at the others.
Mordikarr gives one of his patented shrugs, but Dagmarten says, "Maybe. Or they might assume we'll head back to camp when we head up. He stares at the north end of the hall and the clean lines where Ingvild's fingers have outlined the door. "Who builds a passage that can't be opened?" he wonders aloud.
"And why can't Saurabh open the door like we did. He's pretty sharp," adds Raúguey.
The party discusses options for a while, but in the end...
Raúguey starts working on the south door with his sledge, creating a deafening racket in the narrow hall. At first, it looks like this plan won't work; the door shows no damage from the heavy blows. After everyone's ears are ringing, a small crack appears, then another. A small chunk of rock crashes to the floor, and Raúguey pauses, panting, to examine the damage done. "This is going to take a while," he says.
Dagmarten looks at the damage. "I wonder if the doors are enchanted, or just really strong stone." He takes the hammer. "I'll spell you for a bit."
|Beneath the Sphincter|
He spends a few minutes trying to lever the door open, but it's no use. Whatever is holding the door shut is too strong. The hammering continues.
"Finally!" says Raúguey, as a large chunk of rock breaks free of the door. He stows the hammer, grabs the stone and yanks. The stone crashes to the floor, raising another cloud of rock dust. Coughing and blinking the trapped party members scramble out of the hole.
"Well, we're free," croaks Dagmarten. He turns to Saurabh and slaps him on the shoulder, raising another cloud of dust. "Thanks for sticking around," he says and coughs again.
[Saurabh tried to find the north door but had no success.]
"Well, we're out, and nothing's come to eat us, what now?" asks Ingvild.
"I still think we should open the coffins," says Raúguey.
Dagmarten frowns. "I wonder how the others are faring."
As you make your way back through the crypts, closing doors behind you, it's clear there's no way to cover the signs that someone's been here. The thick dust clearly shows your footprints. Ingvild fills his now-empty skin with water from the fountain, but it just smells like fresh water, nothing special. A quick peek into the halls around the hot pit shows no signs of movement, but you can still hear the random shufflings from below. Apparently the creatures did not react to the hammering.
The ladder is still hanging from the crevice, so you scramble up into the crevice room, pull up the ladder and stow it away. The place is empty and the floor is covered in muddy tracks leading back and forth and around the crevice and into pillar hall beyond. The others are not in sight, nor can you hear anything in the immediate area.
From the looks of the tracks, it looks like some of the group checked out the stairs up, and that they all went into the crypts, around the outside, possibly more than once, then down the stairs. All the doors are closed: crypts, stairs, halls. The tracks get harder to follow as you descend. By the time you get to the lower level, there's nothing left but scuffs of mud and stirred up dust. The lower hall shows lots of signs of passage in all directions, the dust is disturbed and spotted with dried mud. The doors leading away both north and south are closed, as is the secret door in the west wall.
Ingvild listens at each of the doors leading out of the hallway but hears nothing. He and Mordikarr open the secret passage and head into the dusty, musty hall beyond (apparently undisturbed). The north hall is quiet, but the west opening is a different matter. Flickering torchlight shows to the south, and both Ingvild and Mordikarr can hear harsh voices and the occasional creak and clank of armor echoing off stone walls. Ingvild peeks around the corner and sees the doors to the statue room are open, but no one is in sight. The light is coming from the east, perhaps from the hall between the statue and summoning rooms.
Ingvild can make out at least two voices, possibly three. He doesn't understand the language, but one voice has a hissing note while the others are guttural and deep.
Mordikarr whispers, "They talk about following someone, and a trap. Some want to go, others not."
Ingvild and Mordikarr close the door and retreat without raising the alarm. With one or two closed doors between them and the threat, they quickly convey what they heard. Dagmarten and Saurabh agree that it's time to get out, but Rags is, as usual, up for a fight. With no clear idea what might be lurking beyond the doors, Saurabh convinces his former master that retreat is the prudent course. The group departs, up the stairs, through the crypts and pillar hall, and then up again. It's still raining when they reach the surface, and the thick mud slows the group's retreat, but eventually they get clear of the ruins and into the scant shelter offered by some scraggly trees. A short while later, Mageta bounds into view and pounces on Mordikarr. The beastmaster settles his companions and then listens as Mageta conveys some message in a sing-song growl.
"Others already out!" exclaims Mordikarr. "They leave some time ago. Maybe one hour, heading for camp."
"Leaving us to our fate, I guess," grumbles Saurabh.
Dagmarten shrugs. "We could have gone with them. I can't blame them for the choices I made. Let's get going. I want a meal and a good night's rest, and the camp is still pretty far away."
There are no signs of life in the outer ruins, and the party sets a course straight south to get out of the swamp as quickly as possible. They're about 100 yards from the ruins when Maro notices Mageta crouched beneath a fallen tree. He tries to get the lynx to follow, but she remains where she is. Reluctantly he leaves her behind. "I guess the others are still inside somewhere."
It takes the party the remainder of the day to reach the camp, and by the time they do, everyone is famished. The guards are fine, albeit a bit nervous. "Nothing's happened here," says Skorri.
"Except rain," muters Frakki.
"Where are the others," asks Saxet.
Maro fills in the guards while the others prepare a meal.
It's almost full night in camp, and the group is arguing about watches when Mageta bounds into view among the trees, making a beeline for camp. Rawon raises his bow when he spots more movement in the trees, then lowers it. "They're back!" he calls, as Mordikarr, Ingvild, Dagmarten, Saurabh and Raúguey clear the trees.
Together at Last
The two groups eye each other for a moment, then Ohwatoo moves forward and slaps Dagmarten on the shoulder. His hand comes away covered with gray mud. "You made it! I'm glad. What happened down there?"
Saurabh looks over the party and notes everyone's clothes are blackened by fire. "It looks like we weren't the only ones who ran into some trouble."