The party has 3 days of rest and recovery during which their requested purchases arrive and they get the chance to practice with their new equipment.
During this time our villains encounter another group of four who Cardinal Thorn appears to be grooming for another part of his plan. Led by the witch Elise Zadaria these adventurers style themselves “the White Ravens” after her albino familiar. They have been smuggled in by boat rather than breaking out of prison, but have also signed a similar pact.
Sam has a conversation with Grumblejack, with a view to persuading him to join forces with our villainous quartet. Grumblejack strongly dislikes the knights of The Alerion, who had hunted him down and put a stop to his enjoyable occupation as a Highwayogre. Sam points out there's not much out there for Grumblejack as a hunted fugitive but the group have a plan and a patron, and “a plan to get rid of all these knights”. Grumblejack asks if there will be treasure and is assured there will be. Also Sam offers to buy him some armour. “Think bigger Grumblejack, you could be king of your tribe!”
He is very much convinced for the time being at least, and Sam chips in some of her funds and the party's to obtain a very large suit of splint mail and a solid greatclub sized for ogres.
On the evening of the third day Thorn summons them to his study.
“Have you enjoyed your gifts? The iron circlets allow
you to move amongst your enemies as one of them. The
silver amulets will remind you of your true loyalties. And
the other items – well, you need them now.
“You have done well to escape from Branderscar and
to accept my oﬀer. However, you are still not ready for
my service. Tiadora will lead you to the basement of this
domicile. There you will find nine chambers each more
dangerous than the last. Somewhere hidden within these
chambers is a pendant of silver and sapphire. Recover the
pendant and bring it to me. Let nothing and no one stand
in your way.”
He stands up and looks out of the manor house window
across the grey moor. “It’s almost dusk. You have until
dusk tomorrow to bring me my prize. Do not fail me.
Escorted to the top of some stairs by Tiadora, who is completely unforthcoming about what they can expect, our villains enter the dungeon.
The first chamber has an inscription over the door: “Deception is a tool. Self-deception is death. Deceive always thy enemy but never thyself.”
The room is bare, save for a door on the far side. Fitch and Creel search the room for traps and assure the party there are none. The party then discover a pit trap through the cunning expedient of having Adelea and Grumblejack fall into it. Grumblejack takes consderable damage from the fall and the spikes and regains some from Creel's scroll of cure light wounds. Adelea takes damage from falling but her armour and agility allows her to avoid the spikes. Carved upon the wall inside the pit near the bottom is the phrase: “Thou wert deceived. Pain is thy reward.”
There is some grumbling about the rogue's inability to find the trap but Fitch points out that they all have eyes and can look for themselves.
Finding the door opens onto a blank wall the party are stymied. They spend a frustrating couple of hours searching for hidden doors before hitting on the idea of having Grumblejack bash the walls with his club and listening for a change in sound. This allows them to find two hidden doors. One leads to a small alcove with a pedestal, on which is a blue jewel, cold to the touch. After racking their appraise skills to the utmost and making use of detect magic, the party conclude that this is… a blue jewel, cold to the touch. The other door leads to… a corridor to another room! At long, long last they are making progress.
This one has the inscription “Following the herd is for fools. Fear not their icy derision. Instead, fear only thy Infernal Lord.”
Our villains are quick to work out that they should not follow the tracks in the dust leading to the South or East doors. However the other door is blocked by a violet mold, and none of them have the dungeoneering experience to know this is a creature that sucks heat from its environment and is vulnerable to cold damage.
Adelea tries approaching the door with the gem in her hand thinking it is perhaps a key, but the mold sucks the heat right out of her, and she quickly retreats with 12 non lethal damage. The party consider using fire against it before deciding this is probably a bad idea – if it sucked the heat out of Adelea, maybe it would enjoy the fire?
Eventually it occurs to them to throw the gem at the mold, whereupon it shatters and reveals itself to contain alchemists' ice, a much, much colder version of alchemists' fire. The mold shrivels, blackens, and falls dead from the doorway revealing the inscription “Thou hast made thy own path.”
Room 3: “Know your enemy. Shatter all that blinds you and then burn thy adversary to ashes.”
This room is shrouded in impenetrable darkness. Adelea steps in and confirms that it's dark on the inside too, but that whatever is blocking the light allows sounds to pass unhindered. Luckily for her, although she is unaware of this at the time, she quickly steps back out again.
Sam uses detect magic to find that whatever is causing the darkness seems to be in the middle of the room, between about waist and head height. She asks Fitch to throw a rope inside, casts “animate rope” from a scroll and commands it to wrap itself around whatever is there, and hands the end to Grumblejack.
“What are you wanting me to do with that pedestal then?” he asks. At this point it dawns on the party that ogres have darkvision. He has been unaware they couldn't see anything, and increasingly puzzled by their antics.
He tells them there is a dark jewel on the pedestal, so Sam wraps the rope around it and asks him to pull it towards them. “Sure, but I don't think that mist thing is going to like it” he says.
A mighty yank on the rope plunges the party into stygian darkness as the source of the spell is pulled to where they are standing.
“SMASH THE JEWEL!” they cry. Grumblejack cheerfully smashes the jewel into three pieces with his club, switching off the darkness instantly. In the newly revealed chamber the party see a pinkish misty form pass out of their field of vision to the left.
Fitch is standing in the doorway, and the vampiric mist is quickly upon him. A touch with a claw opens a bleeding wound, and he sees some of his blood be sucked up into the creature. Newly energised with stolen vitality it swiftly sinks through one of a series of small holes in the floor and out of sight.
The party, paranoid, stand with prepared spells and attacks at the ready, waiting for the creature to make a move, and Creel quickly stanches Fitch's wound. The creature is happy where is is, waiting for the bloodsacks to make their own moves.
This goes on for some time. Then it occurs to Sam to pour lamp oil into one of the holes and light it. A small orange glow comes through the hole. Adelea and Fitch have oil of their own and the party moves into the room, expanding the “underfloor heating” and attempting to smoke out the mist. It flows out of one of the holes and attacks Adelea, but misses. The party do enough damage to it that it flees back under the floor to cower, but the party pitilessly corner it with fire and finish it off. Vulnerable to fire damage it has little chance against an approaching line of burning lamp oil and a priest who can cast fire orisons through the holes in the floor.
Room 4: “Cruelty is a tool not a pastime. Be ruthless to thy enemy but reward those who serve thee well.”
The room is empty, save for a torture rack which stands ready for use. Our villains are shocked when Fitch successfully finds a secret door! Inside is the terrifed squire, Timeon of Balentyne. Young, gullible, alone, and terrified he is easily persuaded by Samra'el that our villains are a rescue party. Sam is darkly pleased to learn his master is none other than the witch hunter who consigned her to Branderscar, Sir Balin. “He's mine. This is going to be fun. But not for him”.
Sam's soft skills far outmatch Timeon's soft mind. He tells the party all he knows about the dungeon (It is clear that Thorn has allowed him to “escape” and overhear him while “searching” for Timeon, feeding him information so that the party could torture it out of him.) However Sam's a fan of lesson 1: deception is a tool, and has no need for torture. Timeon sings like a bird. The party contemplate how amusing it would be to say “present for you” and throw Timeon's head at Sir Balin, but Sam decides she'd rather use her iron circlet to pretend to be Timeon and get the drop on him. She persuades the terrified squire to hide again in his little cupboard, regretfully telling him that as a quick moving rescue party they are carrying no spare weapons, food, or water. This part is even true (except several members of the party have food, they all have water, and Fitch at least has spare daggers).
The party learn the following from the young dupe:
• there are vicious metal cobras in a
• a secret door across from the stairs
hides the way out
• a shrieker screams when there is light
or movement nearby
• that four drowned men rise when the
As the party head back down the corridor Sam's appearance warps and shifts until she looks like a somewhat oddly dressed double of the young squire.
Room 5. “The chosen are revealed by their might. The weak deserve no sympathy.”
The two mithral cobras in this room are small and fast and therefore hard to hit, and resistant to damage due to being made of metal. However they also have some trouble getting their fangs past the armour of the party's fighters, and, when they do get a solid chomp in, the party members' constitutions are proof against their poison.
Fitch's acrobatic skills allow him to move past one of the cobras to flank it without giving the ophodian automaton a chance to strike him, but his attacks do little damage due to the construct's damage resistance.
Eventually, after a hard fight, Grumblejack's club smashes one into scrap and Adelea's flashing blade, in a swift, yet powerful move, cuts the other into four unequal pieces. The head piece sparks briefly and the metal snake stops moving forever.
It occurs to Sam that mithral is valuable, and a quick appraise suggests the party now has about 1000GP worth of pricey scrap metal, which they load onto their ogre.
What awaits our party in the next room? Is it a secret door across from some stairs? Find out next week!