While Gullhar and Alurax were trying to work out what to make of the new arrival, he had skipped nimbly (but not as nimbly as Alagon now could) across the hazardous floor of the slime room, then bypassed Ferros and Alagon, who were still cleaning themselves up after the attack of the Shambling Mound.
On the far side of the Mound Room was another passage, down which the little thief now strode. The rest of the party followed on; Alurax and Gullhar managed to cross the slime room floor, disturbing more of the loose floor but not suffering any dire consequences. Ferros’ two zombies which had only been created a few minutes earlier were dragged across on a rope, bits of them falling off as this happened, although nothing particularly important.
At the end of the passage, the party found a room with four statues on plinths at each point of a compass rose inlaid in the floor. In each plinth was a slot, about the size of a coin. Gary entered the room, approached the first plinth from behind, reached round and put a coin into the slot. The statue animated and sprayed out a golden dust onto the space in front of it. Gary touched and tasted the gold spray; it tingled when he touched it and didn’t taste of anything. Even as he watched it, the dust vanished like snow on a sunny day.
Ferros entered the room next and with Gary, tried to move one of the statues but it was very firmly fixed and neither of them could budge it.
Alurax’s idea was to get everybody to put a coin in each of the slots whilst one of Ferros’ zombies stood at the centre of the compass rose. This produced the same effect but as the zombie was not standing in front of any of the statues, the showers of gold had no effect.
The experimentation continued; the zombie was stood in front of each statue in turn so that he was showered with dust from each of them but there seemed to be no obvious effects on him.
By now, people were starting to get bored of the statues and their gold dust. They made plans to settle down for the night to regain spells and hit points, whilst Gary set traps at each door of the room to prevent unwanted incursions. Ferros deputed his zombies to stand sentry for a similar purpose.
Nothing disturbed the party during the night. However, in the morning (or so they believed, since they were deep below the surface of the earth), Ferros started to get telepathic messages, through Rufus, from Relic. Elysia, who had last been seen in the entrance to the dungeon, was contacting him to find out where they were.
The magic user had used her new spell, Teleport, to return to the Moat House in order to see if she could recruit additional firepower for the party in the form of Elador. However, she had not realised when doing so that she could only use the spell for one-way trips and so was stuck at the Moat House until she had rested up and relearned the spell. Now, she had teleported back to the last place that she had seen the party and needed to know where they were in order to rejoin them.
Thus guided, the two magic users made their way through the dungeon until they found the party, who were having a discussion about what to do next about the statues. Elysia was most interested in who Gary was, although his comments about searching for great treasure were met with a curt warning not to steal any of the party’s treasure.
Alurax had taken the initiative regarding testing the statues; he tried another gold piece in one of the statues, then decided to test Ferros' hypothesis that the plinth pulverised the coin and sprayed out the remnants. He tried to use a silver piece and the same gold spray came out, disproving that idea.
Finally, with no real idea of what the statues and their gold spray did, Alurax decided to use himself as a guinea-pig and stood in front of the eastern statue, placed a coin in the slot and waited. He was sprayed with the gold dust and somehow knew that he had acquired a particular power – the ability to put himself into a meditative trance and increase the efficacy of any healing magic cast upon him. Delighted by this, he then tried the other three statues and found that he had gained the ability to survive without harm at up to –20 below freezing, the ability to breathe underwater and the ability to summon a sandstorm in any desert and travel up to 30 miles in it.
When the rest of the party realised that far from having ill effects, the statues actually gave out good things, they all decided that they wanted a share as well.
Once they had all been sprayed by all four statues, they pressed on down the further corridor, which led to a small room with a single, iron-bound chest inside. Gary rushed in (no surprise, considering he was being run by Galadeus’ player) to check it out. He tried to break it open but it was so tough that he nearly broke his hammer. He turned his attention to the lock, which seemed very intricate, and got out his thieves’ tool kit. Unfortunately, whilst trying to pick the lock, he triggered a spray of gas against which he was able to save. With only slight irritation, he made a second attempt and this time, he heard the lock click open. He pulled the lid of the chest open and found inside a set of iron keys, each with a piece of coloured cloth attached. The party was baffled by this discovery but they took the keys nevertheless, supposing that they had some significance and would come in handy later on.
|They may be meaningless but the party's paranoia means they'll carry them around till the end of the campaign|
Ferros, Gullhar and Gary gathered round the door and prised it open, finding beyond a room in which lay a dead body, a dagger in one hand. As Gary rushed towards it, another door opened in the far wall and through it came six shadows, heading straight for the hapless gnome. Ferros stepped forward and raised the holy symbol of Foik, which sent the sinister black floating shapes racing back through the doorway and off down the passageway beyond. Alurax arrived and checked to see if Gary was all right; he also took the dagger from the corpse’s hand. The presence of a slash wound on the body’s arm showed that the knife had been used to end its owner’s life; perhaps he had no intention of becoming a shadow.
The party gathered and moved on down the passage, turning a couple of corners till the corridor virtually doubled back on itself. At the end of the passage, a flight of stairs headed upwards. Gary, in the lead, climbed them and at the top, was confronted by a passage running left and right. He took the left-hand one and it led him into a room where he found four clay jars sealed with pitch, in which were written intricate and mysterious hieroglyphs.
|Clay jars - irresistible to gnomes.|
Inside the shattered jar was a bony snake-like creature with a human skull, which rose up and lunged at Gary. It bit him but he was able to resist the sinister power of the creature by dint of his gnomish resistance to all things magical. Alurax and Elysia stepped forward to deal with the creature – the combined effect of his trident and her Magic Missile blasted the thing into a mass of bony smithereens.
|No, I am not undead, despite appearances to the contray, so turn on, cleric, turn on, hahaha!|
That just left the fourth jar, which was broken open to reveal a small figurine of a scorpion. Gary decided that he wanted this and pocketed it; a bad move as no sooner had he done this than it started to grow, bursting out of his pocket and landing on the floor. It continued growing and attacked both Gary and Alurax, who had rushed in to help him. The two huge pincers missed the gnome but the sting caught Alurax, wounding him but failing to overcome him with its poison.
|These guys are mean critters. I must use one on a low-level party one day.|
The party started to clean up, Alurax chopping off the tail of the scorpion and trying to bottle its poison.
On the far side of the room was a solid stone door which Alurax started to investigate but could find no way of opening. Meanwhile, Gary started down another passage into a large chamber, in which was a flight of stairs going down, as well as a dead body surrounded by large purple fungi almost as tall as the gnome himself. The rest of the party recognised them as shriekers and concluded that it was a good idea to send in somebody who couldn’t hear anyway and was therefore immune to the deafening sound they would make. As Gary stepped into the room, a flagstone on the floor shifted under his feet and the stone door which Alurax had been checking out slid open. From the opening came four wraiths which headed for Elador, who was closest to them. Ferros had been thinking about entering the shrieker room but when Gary had volunteered, he had stayed back. It was a lucky thing that he did so because he was perfectly placed to step forward and let the power of Foik and drove the wraiths back into their chamber again.
|Wraiths show off this season's colours|
While the rest of the party remained in the room of the clay jars, Gary pressed on, finding another room on the far side of the shrieker chamber (he didn’t seem to be interested in the descending staircase). This had a passage leading off it and a mysterious trail of slime on the floor that led down the other corridor. In the far corner of the room was an open doorway and beside it, a lever mechanism which had six settings. Gary checked out the lever, pulling it up and down but nothing seemed to happen. He also examined the slime but it appeared to have no obvious effect on him.
The rest of the party now came through the shrieker room and joined Gary; Alurax took a turn at moving the lever up and down but achieved no more success than had the gnome. The party decided that it might be worth setting up camp here and Gary started to get his traps out again. However, just as he was starting to do that, Elysia heard something further down the passageway down which the slime trail led. It was a sinister squelching and slithering and it was getting closer. Alurax fired an arrow but could not see where it had gone or even if it had hit something. He flung an oil bomb up the passage and its sudden blaze illuminated a huge bulk with what looked like antennae pushing its way down the corridor.
It was big, it was horrible and it was heading straight for them.