The party passed through the entrance of the dungeon for the first time in months; soon, the daylight was just a memory and their torches flickered, painting shifting shadow shapes on the cold stone walls. For Alagon and Galadeus, this was their first visit and all was new; for the others, their memories would have to serve them as guides.
That all was not as it had been soon became apparent. Barely had they crossed the first chamber than Alagon and Galadeus spotted shifting movement at the end of a passage. Gullhar used his infravision to detect two heat signatures and the party moved forward to see two kobolds making rude gestures and mooning the party. Galadeus fired an arrow at one, aiming to hit it where it hurt; at that, its companion dropped its torch and fled. With a whoomph of heat, a wall of fire came racing up the corridor towards them. All three dived to one side, getting singed as the fire boiled away into the darkness. Gullhar’s infravision was temporarily knocked out and he could not see if the kobolds were still there.
The party headed on down the passage, noticing that a channel had been dug in the floor and filled with oil, then covered with holed stones. It was this that the kobolds had triggered before fleeing. The party poured into the next room and spread out, not bothering to check for traps; they thought they had seen it all before but unfortunately, this was not the case as Alagon, Gullhar and Ferros found that they had trodden on loose flagstones and three of the four statues that stood in the corners of the room animated and moved in to attack. The three defended themselves but Alagon was seized by the statue that faced him; its solid arms wrapped around the paladin and carried him off down one of the side passages. Ferros followed, trying to strike the statue without harming Alagon. Meanwhile, the others had recovered their wits and were trying to strike down the statues before more of them could be seized. Gullhar got a nasty shock as his sword shattered into six shards when it delivered the finishing blow against one of the statues. The final statue was broken into fragments by concentrated magic missile fire from Elysia.
Meanwhile, the statue that had grabbed Alagon had come to the edge of a dark shaft, down which it now began to climb, keeping the struggling paladin firmly clamped under one arm. Ferros called to the rest of the party; Galadeus, hot-headed as ever, was about to try and jump in when Elysia cast Fly and gave the ranger some assistance to descend to the next level; they arrived in a long corridor down which the statue was now walking. They followed it and found that it arrived at a room in which were a number of iron-barred cells; the doors to these were twisted and wrenched out of their frames. The statue placed Alagon into one of the cells and then turned to return the way it had come. Elysia and Galadeus launched an attack on it that managed to shatter it before it reached the entrance to the shaft.
The party was now split across two levels; Elysia, Galadeus and Alagon on one, Ferros (and his zombies), Alurax and Gullhar on another. Alagon and Galadeus began to explore their level, finding an entrance that had once been closed by a heavy stone door. Finding the light insufficient to see properly, they asked Elysia to use her Wand of Illumination to provide them with more; this she did and Galadeus moved through the doorway. As he did so, two attacks came hurtling out of the darkness – a pair of ogres that had been alerted by the beam of light tried to crush and impale the doughty ranger but he was too nimble for them and dived to one side. Alagon hurtled in to assist and one of the ogres turned to face him. Elysia cast Web and the paladin and both ogres were swiftly tangled in the sticky strands.
Galadeus swiftly despatched both ogres and he and Elysia cut Alagon free. Exploring the room further they found on the far side, an arch and through it, a flight of stone steps leading downwards. Galadeus trotted down them and found himself on a shingle beach overlooking an underground lake; in the middle of the lake was a tiny island and on it, an even smaller hut.
(regular readers of Team Adventure’s exploits will probably remember this from the early sessions but it was all new to Galadeus and Alagon)
Meanwhile, on the level above, the rest of the party was getting restive; Ferros was using his zombies to explore, limiting the danger to himself. Alurax decided to follow the passage ahead of them, obviously not remembering what lay beyond. As he raced down a flight of stairs and through the room beyond, he managed to trigger another flagstone trap and the statue that had once held the skull-topped mace began to animate, getting down off its plinth and following the impetuous fighter.
Elysia, Alagon and Galadeus were surprised by the sudden arrival of Alurax but all the more so by the appearance of the heavy stone figure. Alurax pushed past them and bounded down the steps to the shingle shore, splashing into the water and starting to swim for the island. The statue meanwhile, frustrated in its pursuit turned its attention to Alagon who was directly in its way. Elysia sent Relic to summon the rest of the party before turning her attention, and her magic to the stony menace. Magic missiles, well-aimed blows and a few lucky moments when it seemed that weapons would break ensued before the statue finally crumbled under the attacks of the party. Another sword shattered in the final blow and as the dust settled (literally, in this case), the party made its way down to the shore to see where Alurax had got to. He had made it to the island and pretty soon, everybody else was following him. Elysia flew across but the zombies waded into the water and walked across the bed of the lake, clambering out on the island itself with water pouring from various holes in their decaying anatomy.
Despite a thorough search of the island, there was nothing to be found. They did, however, find the loosely-covered trapdoor that led down a shaft to a tunnel. Galadeus volunteered to explore it and found that it was empty apart from a few rat bones, which he collected, to make – as he claimed – glue.
The party found that by following the tunnel, they had more or less come round in a circle. They clambered out of the pit trap which was at the end of the tunnel and pressed on, discovering ahead of them a room with a circle of stone coffins, now empty (again, regular readers may recall the team’s early encounter with a clutch of zombies rather hostile than the ones that now accompany them). In the centre of the circle of coffins was a stone staircase leading down into the dark. Having taken minor damage from various encounters thus far, Alagon proposed that they rest up, using the coffins for beds (!) whilst Ferros’ mouldy band stood guard.
About six hours later, Ferros’ rest was disturbed when one of his zombies (it was getting harder to distinguish between them as bits were dropping off regularly now-) alerted him to noise from the bottom of the staircase. The party swiftly readied for action, forming a circle around the edge of the room. Galadeus, whose fiery temperament was matched by his love of oil bombs, readied one now and the party listened to hear the sound of marching feet and some voices that nobody could understand. Then footsteps came slowly up the steps until a hyena-like head appeared. At this point, Galadeus made to light and throw his oil bomb but unfortunately, it slipped through his fingers and smashed onto the floor at his feet, covering his legs in burning oil. Another oil bomb hit the inquisitive gnoll and its fur started to crackle as it scampered back down the stairs. Alurax hurtled down after it and in a fierce but short fight, managed to kill three of the four gnolls he found there. The survivor bolted and Alurax pursued it into the darkness. The party formed up and followed the impetuous fighter down the steps, Galadeus (once he had stopped smouldering) finding the trail which led off to (the party’s) left.
As they hurried along the passageway, an arrow came whistling out of the darkness, hitting Ferros. Realising that there were more nasties up ahead and that Alurax might be in the thick of it, they pressed on and came out into a large, columned hall in which Alurax was dodging and stabbing at three gnolls, one of whom had been firing at the party as it approached but now, seeing his comrades in peril, had decided to pitch in and join the fight. The party’s overwhelming numbers, particularly when combined with the six zombies, soon told and the gnolls were brought down and dispatched.
Beyond this hall, there was a flight of stairs down, then a long passage which, about thirty feet or so beyond the stairs, became a bridge across a wide, fast-flowing underground river. On the far side of the bridge was a huge stone bastion built into the rock, and a heavy wooden and iron gate that refused to yield to the blows of Alurax, who had raced across the bridge, despite a hail of arrows from the battlements. Galadeus fumbled in his backpack and produced a potion of climbing. The party was readying for action against whoever held the Gatehouse against them.
Clankers & Darwinists, Illustrated - I first mentioned the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfield a while back. I just stumbled across a companion to the series *The Manual of Aeronautics* that...
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