The party decided that it was third time lucky for the Gatehouse and decided to attack again. However, as they approached the fortification, they noticed something odd; atop the battlements, the gnolls and the minotaur were pushing a heavy bundle upon onto the edge.
One of the gnolls shouted out a challenge to the approaching party; fortunately, Gullhar could speak the gnoll language and managed to discover that they were threatening to throw their treasure off the ramparts and into the river if the party tried to attack. From the ensuing conversation, Elysia got the distinct impression that the monsters wanted to be left alone and were prepared to sacrifice their treasure to deter the party from another assault. There was clearly room for negotiation and Elysia carried it out with aplomb. She managed to get the gnolls to agree to hand over their loot in return for an alliance with the party and a promise not to attack the gatehouse again. The party’s emblem (a hurried consultation decided on Relic Rampant) was painted onto the gate itself and Elysia used Unseen Servant to ferry the treasure out onto the bridge where they bundled it up and dragged it off to the Room of the Stone Coffins, where it was counted. There was a fair amount of coin, two potions, some armour and weapons which would have to wait for the return to town to be properly identified.
Once their haul had been stashed away, Galadeus set off in the opposite direction to the Gatehouse. He passed the grilled windows through which the wide dungeonway could be seen, and at the t-junction, he turned right, finding a door a few yards up, which he decided to try and kick open. He succeeded and nearly lost his balance on the edge of a flight of stairs.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party was following at a distance and as Gullhar was in front, he was the one who walked straight into an ogre coming round the corner. The two traded blows and the ogre landed a hit on the elf. As the ogre turned and bolted, Alurax came hurtling in and chased it off down the corridor and round a bend. The ogre, having found four friendly orcs, turned to face the pursuing fighter and fought back, hitting Alurax twice before falling to a blow from the trident. Now Alurax was surrounded by orcs, as fresh reinforcements came up from further on down the passage. Elysia stepped in to Sleep the seven orcs who were attacking Alurax, then ransomed their lives for the agreement of their oncoming fellows to withdraw and come no further. The orcs fell back resentfully and warned her that she had not heard the last of this.
Meanwhile, Galadeus had reached the bottom of the stairs and through a door found himself on the dungeonway, a wide passage running off to the left and right. He decided to turn left and followed the passage until he came to an arch through which were some stairs that led down into a large chamber. At the far side was an old ship, rotted and dilapidated. The floor of the chamber was covered in brackish and slimy water that seethed and bubbled, stinking and rancid. Galadeus dipped his toe into the water and pulled it out just in time as a slithering white maggot creature made a lunge for him. He pulled back and communicated his discovery to the rest of the party, who were now approaching his position.
After some rather inconclusive shooting at the white maggots, Elysia decided to use her Fly spell and took Galadeus across to the deck of the ship.
|It was clear that this vessel had seen better days. Several centuries ago, in fact.|
|Rats, say hello to my little squirming friends|
His troubles were not over yet as up through the rotted deck of the ship punched a vicious clawed hand, followed by another and then the head of the terrifying creature, hauling itself to freedom. It clambered out and headed for Galadeus who was only saved by the timely intervention of the flying Elysia, plucking him to safety. Or at least relative safety since, after taking several arrows with no visible effect, the creature clambered over the side of the ship and waded through the slimy water towards the party, attracting no interest whatsoever from the maggots.
The party decided to make a run for it, except Galadeus who stood his ground and attacked with his magic spear as the creature made landfall. Although he managed to do damage, it also caught him with its clawed hands and he shuddered as a cold feeling of horror ran through him. Wisps of glimmering energy flowed from him into the hands of the creature.
|All of your soul is belonging to me|
The combat with the horrible attacker, now revealed to be a wight, continued and now the rest of the party came back down the passageway. Elysia whipped out her Wand of Illumination and a command word later, the corridor was flooded with the light of the sun which blasted the wight back into the churning filth.
Somewhat understandably, the party did not wish to investigate the ship further, despite the possibility of treasure within. Instead, they headed back up the stairs and turned right, heading into one of the blank spaces on the map.
At the end of the passage, they arrived at a room where a large stone statue stood against the far wall. Galadeus, fired up after his encounter with the wight, draining effects notwithstanding, approached the statue warily but it did not move. There were four small holes, just about large enough for a person to enter, along the side walls of the room. Scouting around, the ranger managed to find a faint trail that led into the room and then stopped at the feet of the statue.
Finding the holes in the walls too much of a temptation to resist, Galadeus climbed into one of them and found himself hurtling down a steep shaft to land in a room face to face with a ghoul. It was a tough fight and he managed to avoid its horrible claws and fangs, finishing it off with deft use of his spear. A shout for help brought a slither of rope into the tiny room but while he was down there, he noticed a stone block sticking out of the wall.
On hearing this, Alurax had the truly inspired idea that each room might well contain a block and that they must all be pushed in to activate or move the statue. He decided to investigate another of the rooms to find out if his hypothesis was true and after using his last oil bomb to set fire to whatever it was that was waiting down there, slid down the shaft. At the bottom, he was faced by a similar creature to the one that attacked Galadeus but this one was a lot tougher and before Alurax had the opportunity to finish it off, it raked him with its claws and he felt the cold sensation of powerlessness spread through his body.
Hearing the cry, Galadeus dived down the shaft and saw the creature crouching over the prone form of Alurax, about to start eating. A quick but accurate thrust of his magic spear finished off the ghast. Elysia retrieved the paralysed fighter, whilst Galadeus pushed the stone block, which slid into the wall with a click. The same result applied to the first chamber. It was clear that Alurax had been right in his hypothesis but this meant that there were still six chambers to be cleared before there was any chance of the statue moving (if that was indeed what happened). The party eyed each other with apprehension, wondering if anybody would volunteer or if short straws needed to be drawn.