Our session began with some debate as to where the party wanted to go next. Whilst they were thinking about it, the results came in from the search of the town archives – the archivist had managed to find, in a hundred-year old book of fairy tales and myths a story about a peddler finding a secret cave, releasing a dragon, a battle between a band of knights and the dragon and the intervention of a bold princess whose skills managed to overcome the dragon and save the life of the handsome knight who she married and with whom she lived happily ever after. In one of the illustrations, the princess was depicted wearing an emblem that matched very closely the seven-pointed star that the team had found in the tomb.
All very nice and pleasant reading, but the party soon realised that if this was only a century old and the tombs themselves were at least six to seven hundred years old, there should be older versions of the story and asked the archivist to see if he could track down any more iterations of the tale. I have those two earlier versions written up and of course, if and when they find these, I shall share them with you.
Whilst she was digesting this information, the jeweller from the previous session came back to Elysia with some more details on the ivory and silver headpiece that she had brought to him for valuation. He said that he had seen something very like it in an illustration in a house to which he had gone many years ago for some bespoke jewellery orders. He said that he would try to find it again and take the party there.
Their trail led them to a quiet side street where they found the house boarded up and overgrown with weeds and ivy. Nobody had lived there for quite some time. Rumours in the neighbourhood said that the man who lived there had disappeared one day, never to be seen again and people who had gone in to try and find him never returned either. The Council had ordered the building sealed to prevent anybody else losing their life. Not letting a little thing like that deter them, the team prised off the boards from the front door and managed to get it open.
They stepped into a large reception hall, its tiles cracked and stained, a flight of stairs ahead of them, and two passageways either side. Two doors opened off the hall.
The party tried the left-hand door first and found a dilapidated dining room, the pewter plates and cutlery tarnished and dusty, the table itself covered with cobwebs and mould. The room was also dark since the windows were boarded up.
The next room they tried, down the left-hand passageway turned out to be the remains of an office. There was a desk and several shelves’ worth of ledgers, stained and mouldering. Cafaror examined one of the ledgers and found that the last entry was from seven years earlier.
Ferros suddenly called for quiet and when everybody was still, he listened to some faint bumpings and thumpings from upstairs. The party clustered that little bit closer together as they tried the final door on the passageway, which was the kitchen of the house. Again, there was no clue as to what had happened to the inhabitants. The back door of the house, a heavy oak one with wrought iron fittings opened onto a cobbled back yard surrounded by a wall topped with iron spikes.
The party headed back into the house and tried the first door on the right hand side of the reception hall. This had old sofas, comfortable chairs and couches in; they were soiled and mouldy beyond repair. Hanging on the walls were several pictures of members of the same family, with a man and woman present in nearly all of them. Their fashions were elegant but slightly outdated.
As the party moved down the right-hand passageway, nobody noticed that Alurax had climbed the central staircase and was now on the landing. Elysia sent her newly-acquired pseudo-dragon familiar Relic to have a scout around but by the time he reached the landing, Alurax was already searching one of the rooms and did not get noticed by the little creature. Elysia also scurried up the stairs but saw nobody; three doors faced her and there was a door at either end of the landing. She returned to the party, mystified as to the whereabouts of Alurax but decided to concentrate on the majority of the party.
Keen-eyed readers may wonder at the sudden appearance of Relic. Mummy Grognard had seen this figure
on the net and bought it to use as her mini. It had a tiny dragon (she's always been fond of them) and I let her know that there was such a thing as a pseudo-dragon and that you could get one by casting Find Familiar. A bit of handwaving by the DM later and voila, Relic is part of the party.
The right hand passage had two doors on the right-hand side and one on the left, which the party suspected must lead onto an under-stairs area. They checked the first right-hand door and found themselves in what appeared to be a study. It had a desk, larger than the one they had already found, shelves of books and, most crucially, several faded areas on the wall where pictures had once hung. If the picture for which they were searching was going to be anywhere, it would be here but had somebody beaten them to it?
The final room seemed to be a spare one, with chairs pushed up against the walls, leaving the majority of the room free. Nothing of consequence could be seen and the party came back out into the passageway. They were just about to try the final door when….
Something crashed into the reception hall from the landing above. It was a naked, hairy human figure with long claws and the head of a savage dog-like creature. It had been hewn by sword and battle-axe.
Alurax was fighting another of these creatures on the landing, having already sent one to its doom. The party surged out into the reception hall and up the stairs, lending a hand to assist Alurax in killing the second of these creatures. It was soon slain by a combination of arrow, sword and magic missile and Ferros and Adthar moved through the left-hand door and found themselves in a long and grand bedroom. A door stood closed at the far end.
Meanwhile, Alurax and Cafaror were surprised by the appearance of another of the hairy menaces from the right-hand door. They leapt into the fray and slowly beat it down until it was on its last legs. At this point, it fled, running the length of the upper floor and finally squeezing through the gap where a board had been removed from one of the windows. Alurax and Cafaror fired an arrow each but failed to hit it.
Meanwhile, Ferros and Adthar reached the closed door and opened it, stepping in to find themselves confronted by a human in plate mail, closing in to attack them. They leapt into action, Ferros on one side, Adthar on the other with his two-handed sword. There was clearly something magical about the armour as both party members had a great deal of trouble landing effective blows.
Eventually, Cafaror and Alurax arrived in the room and along with Elysia managed to put their tough opponent down. Their reward was a pile of bags and boxes full of coins in one corner of the room. And of course the magical armour. Alurax correctly surmised that they had been facing a band of werewolves; fortunately nobody had been sufficiently badly injured that they ran the risk of contracting lycanthropy.
The party gathered themselves together and returned downstairs to check on the door to whatever lay under the stairs. They were confronted by another staircase, going down in the basement. Adthar led the way and when he got to the bottom of the steps, felt a section of floor move under his foot. From holes in the wall, clouds of gas poured out but although he felt groggy and dizzy-headed, he did not collapse. As he stepped forward, he noticed that of all the shadows that his flickering torch cast, one was not moving as it should. In fact, it was coming towards him, reaching out. He felt a chill coming off it. Ferros was indecisive for a moment – should he cast Protection from Evil or try to turn it, even though he didn’t know what it was. He chose the latter and raised his holy symbol; the sinister patch of darkness fled across the room and down the passage on the far side.
The party followed it, armed and ready. Unfortunately, Adthar managed to fall into a pit trap and found himself at the bottom of a ten-foot hole just as two more shadowy forms came at them from a second chamber. Ferros tried to turn them but they were more determined than their fellow and continued their advance.
One swooped down into the pit and attacked Adthar while the second tried to attack the rest of the party. Alurax hurtled over the pit and took on the one that Ferros had turned. Ferros joined the brave fighter but soon discovered what the shadowy forms could do if they managed to touch their victims. A chill of weakness spread over Alurax, Ferros and Adthar whilst Elysia and Cafaror managed to put paid to the third attacker.
Galzor entered the chamber to cast healing magic on Ferros, who was getting very close to unconsciousness. Once partly revived, the cleric weighed back into the fray and between them, Ferros and Alurax managed to destroy their opponent (despite Ferros coming very close to becoming one of the dark entities himself!) and Adthar put paid to his attacker. Elysia helped Adthar out of the pit and they began to search the basement. They found piles of coins hidden in old wooden chests, a potion, a scroll case and a long weapon with a three-pointed head. It radiated magic but nobody knew what it was.
As well as these items, Elysia found, stuffed away behind the chests, a frame in which there was a picture of a wall carving, a figure that wore the same head-dress as the one that she had taken to the jeweller. As she picked up the frame, the picture shifted within it and she prised it open to find that behind it was a piece of parchment on which was a map. But to what, and where?
The mystery had deepened still further!
For an adventure that I had only thought up the day previously and sketched out on scrap paper while Mummy Grognard was reading the gang the most recent blog post for catch-up, this didn't go too badly. A lot of creeping around empty rooms, wondering what was going to jump out and when. I wanted something reasonably scary but not too overwhelming. 3+3 and 4+3 HD monsters gave the party a good run for their money and (except in the case of Ferros, who came within 4hp of becoming a shadow himself) didn't threaten a TPK.
The treasure rolls for the monsters gave some interesting results - all courtesy of those idionsyncratic dice. The scrolls turned out to be 5th and 6th level spells - good when Elysia gets to those levels (one was Cloudkill - yay!) but just filling in pages until then. The werewolves ended up with a set of +2 plate mail which it seemed perfectly fitting to allow one of them to wear as he was turning back into his human form. There was also a Trident of Warning in the shadows' hoard - first time I've ever come across one of those. The gold, kills and magic items tipped three characters over the level-up barrier (in fact four if we count Galzor, whose player wasn't here today and so profited from the gold but not the kills).
I'd not realised that Ferros had come within one damage roll of becoming a shadow; that might have been very tricky to resolve. I'd have either had to research the process of rescuing somebody from the status of undead or shrugged and handed his player the 3d6. Being in mortal peril, even if you don't realise it at the time, is what makes the game all the more fun - victory is only made meaningful by the realisation of how close defeat walks in its footsteps.
More clues for the team's investigation into leads that had started with the Poor Knight's Tomb adventure - what they do with them and where they go is another matter. Next time might be very interesting as both Cafaror's and Adthar's players have suggested a Giant Hunt (i.e. a hunt for giants, rather than a very big hunt). I'm not sure that it'll be quite as easy as they think and they might end up on the wrong end of a boulder but one thing's for sure - it'll be a whole heap of fun!
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