Stumpy and Chunk awake to find the campfire had gone out, and the morning well into its third hour. Neither of them felt at ease tramping through the wilderness last night, with strange howls seemingly following them in the distance, but with nothing bothering them all day they made good distance.
They had arrived late into town, and while Stumpy the Dwarven Cleric asked questions, Chunk, the half-Orc barbarian, merely loomed threateningly at people until they were finally directed towards the Slumbering Drake Inn. From there it was easy going until they found themselves back outside the safety of the castle walls, and once more fending for themselves in the woodlands. Chunk had initially led them the wrong way, but Stumpy was none the wiser, preferring the stone coldness of the Underdark then the bright outdoors.
Soon they had found sign of recent passage, and a trail of bodies that although well hidden could only mean the others had passed this way. They studied the area some more and soon found the deep trail tracks of a wagon. Following this in the fading light they finally came across the wagon hidden in the trees, and so they rested the night under its wooden belly.
The trail had gone cold come morning, but with an obvious landmark in the shape of a huge rock, the pair followed their noses and soon arrived at the large black monolith. Chunk had already spotted the opened door within its side, and pointed, waiting for Stumpy to follow. With a motion, Stumpy points for Chunk to lead, and the pair descend into the darkness, weapons drawn as they move down the slick stairs.
The pair soon come across the rubble strewn first room, and quickly see the same red gleaming gem that the others had left untouched an hour or so earlier. Stumpy has none of these reservations however, and seeing that it glows with a magical radiance due to the Detect magic spell he casts upon it, reaches into the rubble and picks up the skull.
No sooner as he does this when 5 rotting skeletons drop from the ceiling, collapsing to the floor and springing up in one quick movement, lurching into to attack with the surprise gained from the failing masonry and confusion from the dust in the air. Chunk reacts far slower than the Dwarf, and merely eyes his opponent as it launches an attack against him, causing a small wound to his side.
Stumpy reacts quicker, but fumbling for his Holy Symbol at his side, he mispronounces a key word in his prayer, and a sword slams from his shield into the wall by his head. The pair quickly move to a more defensive back to back position to try and limit the amount of attacks coming at them, and when Chunk finally swings his huge sword, it merely crashes into the rubble at the foot of a skeleton who nimbly steps aside to let it pass.
A second swipe from Chunk also misses, and another skeleton scores a hit to the half-Orc, wounding him further. Just as Chunk thinks this could be an undignified start to his exploration, assuming he knew undignified meant, the Dwarf next to him bellows words of prayer with sincerity and religious furore that simply causes all the skeletons around them to explode into tiny fragments. Even Stumpy pauses to look at the symbol clutched in his shaking hand, before brushing himself down, quickly wrapping his symbol in its velvet cloth, and dragging the stunned Half-Orc out of the room.
The clattering noise becomes louder as the creature looms into view at the top of the stairs. Trixie sees it first, and shouting out “..bear with feathers!” begins to cast a spell. The Enchantress calls out the familiar words of a sleep spell, and the lumbering charge towards us is stopped as the Owlbear slumps forward, slides down the wall and comes to rest on the stairs above us, snoring loudly. As we run in to tackle the beast, a smaller shape can be seen in the background, grabbing the larger creature’s feathers and looking to wake it up. Our small group clash with the sleeping beast and manage to get a good few jabs in, wounds appearing on its slumbering form, but with each attack the Owlbear shifts, and we know soon it will retaliate with claw and beak.
Soon, the Owlbear roars, and stands up with a lurching motion, lashing out and catching Idjit badly. Blood pours from his leg and chest, but still he wrecks havoc with the beast, lashing not once but twice with his claws and both strike deep. Trixie and I continue to slingshot the Owlbear from the rear rank, with Trixie having considerably more effect than I, before my limbs begin to stiffen. Mumbling “..not now…” the poison from the underwater spike flows through my bloodstream, and I drop silently to the floor mid swing in total paralysis, and can only watch from a floor level position as Trixie manages to get a stone into the Owlbear’s eye, angering it enough to nearly tear Idjit’s arm off.
Spidermonkey had moved into stand beside Idjit, but had only managed to get one small bite in so far, and when Idjit collapses next to him, the wolf stands alone. With a determined growl, he bites once more, but is then smashed into the wall as claw and beak strike deep wounds on the wolf.
The Owlbear advances on Trixie, blood matted into its fur from many wounds, and it staggers as it limps forwards to the step below. A stone whizzes past its head, and it moves closer to the small figure swinging rocks at it. The Owlbear steps past the prone figures of Spidermonkey and Idjit, and a claw swipes out for Trixie, narrowly missing her. Another stone flies into the beast’s side, but still it advances.
Spidermonkey, barely conscious can see its master lying on the floor, and his small friend standing alone to the might of the Owlbear, and with one last use of his strength, tries to bite the passing form. His jaws clamp together missing the main body and manage only to grasp a small feather before the wolf collapses dying.
Trixie now does stand alone. The wolf is not moving, Idjit is in a large pool of blood, and Tenpast is looking up at the ceiling, glassy eyed and immobile. Calling out “..you will not take my lady!” Trixie flings one of her last bodice based daggers directly into the eye of the beast. It lifts a claw to strike but stumbles and lolls past Trixie, crashing to the floor before sliding to a stop.
Quickly moving and unleashing a potion, Trixie stands over Idjit and holds him tenderly, pausing a second to wipe blood from the Humans face. Then parting his swollen but still inviting lips, she pours the nectar into his mouth. The tender moment is witnessed only by the Owlbear’s child, and Trixie knew that would tell no-one shortly. Idjit coughs and groans beneath her, and with a reflected moment on what could not be, she moves away and redirects her rage at the furry child, slamming a stone in its beak.
Spidermonkey is also revived by Trixie, and soon the small Owlbear is under attack, and quickly overwhelmed, finally killed by Trixie, calling out “…do you know, where you’re going to…..” as a Dagger imbeds itself into the furry chest of the cub.
Chunk moves down the corridor ahead of Stumpy, and expertly finds the trap that put us here in the first place with his feet, crashing forwards clattering as only a 200lb 6 and a half foot tall creature loaded with weapons and armour can do whilst falling through a trap door. He rattles off the sides of the hole before the ground swallows him up and closes behind him, with Stumpy looking at the floor where the Half-Orc was but moments ago.
Chunk slams into the water and drops to the bottom, spying the spiked ball as he descends. He also sees a skeleton and a pointy stick, but ignores these as he swims for the surface. There is another crash of water as something heavy falls into the body of water, and with a quick glance behind him, Chuck spots the Dwarven Cleric crashing to the bottom. The spiked ball fires a few times at them both, and with Idjit’s help, they are both soon out of the water, the Cleric clutching the pointy stick from the skeleton seen earlier.
Pleasantries exchanged, we take a few minutes to get our breath back and fill the two newcomers in on the situation. With these two added back into our ranks, we are now only a few short of the 10 or so ‘new boys’ that formed that fighting rank mere weeks ago, and based on the trials and tribulations so far, its hard to tell which of the situations was worse.
We continue up the stairs, and come to another room that has a spiral staircase that descends in one corner. Moving down the staircase, we come to a larger room that is completely overgrown with vines and vegetation, with a large door embossed with plant symbols ahead of us, while a small corridor leads away below the staircase.
As we move into the room, I spot something is not quite right, and quickly identify one of the plants within the room is an Assassin Creeper, a predator of unsuspecting victims, much like us. I am slapped viciously for my troubles as a vine covered in spikes and rough leaves strikes me about the head, and decide to let the others press forward while I retreat to the safety of the stairs.
Idjit runs into attack while Chunk surprisingly retreats, and so I send Spider Monkey in to help the Ranger while calling “There is evil afoot when the very leaves attack us!” as I hide behind the stairs. Chunk regains his resolve after watching Idjit flail away and rushes into it with a meaty whack from his large sword, and between him and Spider Monkey, the tentacles don’t lash out in the back of the room anymore, concentrating on the attackers in front of it.
Finally Idjit manages to strike the plant monster with a blow that would have brought a mortal man to his knees, but against the giant thorny bush, is a mere scratch. Idjit concentrates harder to find any weakness, but is put off when Trixie begins to call out “..you cant crit a cabbage!”
Soon the beast lies dead, and despite it being early, all of us lie wounded and exhausted from fights with Skeletons, Owlbear’s and dangerous shrubbery, so we tread back up the stairs and lay down on the floor exhausted, catching up on old times. Spells are cast on the items we have found, and the Wand can cast Magic Missile, while the large Ruby grants the owner Darkvision, it appears that you just have to remove one of your own eyes to make it work. I’ll pass thanks…
We get to the strangely carved door that was hidden behind the bush and find that it has an interesting lock to it, one that was favoured by Gnomes and Dwarves long ago, something called a puzzle lock. You have to put your hands into the two holes, and within you find cogs and wheels that you manipulate to try and open the door.
Stumpy tries first, and within a few moments there is a noise that sounds nothing like a lock opening, more a whooshing grinding noise as though something heavy is falling. Stumpy quickly moves his hands as the device in side attempts to crush them, and we wait for a few minutes until the holes open back up again.
Idjit is next, and he also fails, but doesn’t move his hands away in time. Everyone winces as the crack of bones is heard as his hands are crushed, and he hangs, stuck in the wall for painful minutes until the lock releases him.
The ham fisted Chunk tries next, and I look around wondering who will takes his place afterwards, but with only myself and Spider Monkey left to take turns, I start to flex my fingers while moving behind my Wolf in the line wishing he had opposable thumbs.
Thankfully the next noise amongst the held breath is most defiantly a lock opening correctly, and Chunk removes his hands with the lack of speed one can afford when your fingers are not going to be smashed like an eggshell at breakfast time.
Two doors open at the same time – one in the wall by the stairs, and the doors before us open wide to reveal many skeletons lining the walls. We pull the double doors closed once more, and move over to the smaller door to investigate. The room beyond is more like a T-Junction, and in the walls are 2 recesses, both containing a coffer.
Chuck walks in and stands before a coffer, and suddenly the walls start closing in – a trap has been sprung! As soon as he takes another step, a massive portcullis drops down right in front of my nose, and we both try to lift the gate before Chunk is renamed Splat. With nothing else to lose, and the walls ever so close, Chunk wedges his Greatsword in the gap and closes his eyes. The Sword quivers and twangs, arching with the walls force, but does not break, and after a few moments of agonising and breath holding, the walls shudder and retreat to their normal position.
The weapon clangs to the floor, slightly bent, but Chunk stands still alive. A few minutes later, the portcullis rises back up and Chunk is out of the room as quickly as possible. Not wanting to leave potential goodies behind, Trixie peers into the room and looks at the coffers in the recesses and ponders for a moment. She is careful not to tread anywhere, and steps back into the larger room to think. A short while later, she starts to rummage into her pack, and produces a large silk rope.
I move over to watch as she knots the rope in a loop, and she then strides into the room. Hurling it around over her head, she whips the rope forward and the loop settles over the first coffer. She steps back and tugs on the rope to drop the coffer to the floor, while she quickly dashes out of the room as the walls close in. The walls take the coffer along the floor, and soon through the now closed portcullis, the walls close on the small chest before then backing off a minute or so later.
The portcullis then opens and we pull the rope and coffer to our eagerly waiting arms, before repeating the task for the next coffer. Then comes the normal shuffling and pushing as people are eager to look inside, but not to open the thing in the first place. Chunk shrugs his massive shoulders and opens the first as the rest of us scatter, and soon both are open revealing their bounty of gems and coin.
Checking the rest of the room, we find that the other corridor opens to a large dark cavern 40’ across. There is another opening in the wall across from where we are, but it is 10’ lower than where we peer into the darkness. We leave this for the moment, and go back to the Gnome locked door.
It’s my turn to try the lock, and the first time I try, nothing happens, and so I try again, but end up being more forceful than I should, and with a ‘clunk’ the door closes around my knuckles in an entirely unpleasant way.
Pushed out of the way, after a suitable period of mocking obviously, Chunk steps up and with a flick of his ham sized fists, causes the doors to open once more. We see the skeletons once more, but with torch light can see there are far more than 6, they line the walls as far as we can see. The fight ensues, and Stumpy turns a heap of them, but they keep coming. The fight continues, bones flying, smashed to the floor or blasted to dust. Everyone has taken a punishing beating, but thanks to Stumpy, there are just a few left, but even when they are trying to escape they prove to be resilient as we still can’t smash them up effectively.
Idjit, Chunk and Spider Monkey are very relieved when the last skeletons drop as they look very shamefaced at the amount of time it took to drop any of the undead while they looked the other way trying to flee.
We rest for the night, and during the wee small hours, wee small folk come along and throw lots of spears all at Chunk, causing him to wake one of us up by collapsing dying and bleeding on one of the party. The camp erupts as we find small 3’ tall humanoid creatures armed with wicked looking weapons and throwing spears. With bulging eyes and webbed hands and really bad skin, they seem to be everywhere. I move to help Chunk as the caring Cleric Stumpy draws his weapon and attacks, and as I recover Chunk to a more stable condition, take a strike intended for Chunk and drop to the floor myself.
Spider Monkey leaps across and bites my attacker, but another webbed handled spear is thrust into his side. Stumpy kills the stricken wolf’s attacker, and another one that strays near, and then packs some herbs into Spider Monkey’s wound as he lies across me on the floor. All the attackers start to fall to various attacks, either Chunk’s massive strikes, Idjits terrible claws, or the surprises held within Trixie’s bra.
It takes the rest of the night and the whole of the following day to recover from the night’s ordeal, and head towards the door at the end of the room. Inside is a large room with no apparent exits, and lit with a soft blue light and many animal and strange symbols carved into the walls, which we soon find are related to Gnome Gods.
Other than the symbols on the walls, the room is dominated by 6 or so large crystals spaced around the room, which have various ghostly images of landscapes within them, mostly of mountain ranges.
Suddenly, the room begins to drop, and the images twist from mountains to descend through mountain passes to grass ranges to stop at a village which then is attacked by Orcs and Dragons, and a wind of an evil nature fills the room, causing Idjet and Chunk to fill their breeches.
The room stops moving, and it appears as though it has slid down the crystals, as they now rise up into the ceiling. Double doors are now visible on a side that never had them before, and after much deliberation, we realise that this is one massive chamber with a smaller room within it, that somehow travels up and down the crystal shafts.
We open the doors and move out into a large room, and then are ambushed by more of the wee small folk. Ten of them leap up and attack, but thankfully do not harm the party as much in its initial attack as they did in the previous night. I bring another Dog into help SpiderMonkey, and the fray begins! Everyone takes a few strikes from the battle, but I keep casting new Summons, and soon my increasing menagerie means we are outnumbering our attackers, and slowly we wear them down to become victorious!