The running away from the large skeleton does not stop until we are out of the building, down the ramp and outside in the courtyard of the castle, where we decide to rest our weary heads for the night in the large stable. This is the only place large enough to hold all the weaponry and armour that normal parties would leave behind, but with us being so poor and so heavily taxed, we have to resort to any means necessary to fill the party coffers, hence the wagon full of scrap metal that I am asleep under, SpiderMonkey across my lap.
During the night, Idjit, who is on guard turns to see Melekin, the Royal scout moving up next to him, saying he thinks he heard something. As he points to indicate an area in the gloom outside out of a partial opened window, he stabs Idjit under the armpit, and again for good measure. A stupefied look of surprise crosses the clawed Fighter face as he slips quietly to the floor, blood quickly pooling in the straw he now lies face down in.**
Shadow at the other end of the stable doesn’t even hear Melekin approach, and falls into a saddle rank with his feet caught in stirrups as Melekin’s blade enters his back. His work done, Melekin slips out through the stable and into the night.
Morning comes and we awake to find two very pale looking night watchmen, the Rogue Shadow still barely alive despite heavy blood loss, and is quickly healed by Stumpy, while Idjit is also healed of his wounds. Keeping to our plan, we saddle up the horses and hitch up the wagon full of gear and start to make our way out of the castle, all the while looking for a certain bandit in the bushes.
Once out of sight of the castle, myself and Trixie show our Indian riding skills as we dodge and evade imaginary Cowboys that we are sure will attack us by shifting to one side of the horse using it as cover. Sadly, no cowboy attacks are forthcoming on the journey back as night passes. With the morning dawn a gentle rain arrives and stays with us until we hit the town once more, so the ride back is mostly in silence.
At the town entrance, we eventually find cowboys in the shape of the Royal Guard who promptly tax us another 10%, and grudgingly handing over items, we take the rest of our wagon load of goods to the market to sell. Before we leave, the guards warn us of suspect guards, and seeing as we told them that they are about in the first place, and that we can’t tell them from each other, we are a tad disadvantaged to say the least.
Once the goods are sold, we head back to Lady Shontessa and relay our story, obviously lessening the effect the Scout had on us – "...merely scratched me, your ladyship.." Idjit says when asked of his health, and Trixie finishes our tale of hardship by adding "...and generally, we need more gold."
The next day is spent identifying some of the magical items found, and is a sad day for me, as I leave the town with SpiderMonkey in tow to release him from his duties. Memories of Man and Wolf fighting and playing together are marred by a burnt and bleeding image of SpiderMonkey lying in the dusty ruins, and I weep openly as I hug him tight.
Releasing him, I point to the distant tree-line and thanking him for being the best Wolf companion a Druid could wish for, release him from his bond of friendship. This sad departure of one man and his Wolf however is slightly ruined by Trixie running up and chasing SpiderMonkey into the woods for nigh on two miles before she collapses exhausted.
Finding Trixie collapsed in a bush, we head off to find the others on their slow walk to the castle. Once we have caught up with them, we travel a few miles before we stop to set up camp on our way back to the ruins, and when the night passes uneventfully, we arrive at the ruins of the castle at roughly midday. Heading into the castle we notice some stairs that were missed by us all before, ones that lead down into the water. Whether this is by design as some part of dock we don’t know, but we do know that the water looks deep, murky and scary, so we pretend we have not seen it and head back inside looking for the Skeleton room once more.
Forgetting that perhaps the reason why we are returning to this room is because something is in there waiting for us, Stumpy bowls in first and receives a massive beat to the tallywacker for his troubles. Idjit is soon targeted for a large animal thigh bone to the head as well, and the epic caster duo of Trixie and myself cast one rubbish spell after another to help not at all.
Shadow tumbles in very effectively, but does nothing to follow this up, while my Burning Sphere finally warms past room temperature to do something useful, and with my Shillelagh, I smash the large Skeleton in the back. When Stumpy’s turning attempt fails, he rummages for his Hammer Sphere to attack the undead giant, who thinking it’s me, turns to club me mightily.
Another decent hit from the magical Irish club and the Hammer Sphere finally drop the beast, and all is quiet. Shadow finds a chest and then shows us some rare skills – disarming a trap and opening it without everyone needing to hide behind 10 feet of lead. We do this anyway, but we didn’t need to is my point. Gold is scooped into communal coffers and off we go, where we find stairs and another secret door which leads to a room of broken tapestries, dirty furniture and yet another secret door.
This leads to a metal runged ladder leading upwards, which Idjit and Shadow climb up to investigate. They open a trap door above them and once they clamber inside appear to be in the minaret of the tower. Idjit’s torch gleams and reflects off a large web, and when he calls that it appears all clear, we all climb the ladder to investigate.
We find that the inside of this tower section has a slope that leads upwards and we start to move along it when a large dirty smelling gloop of liquid lands on my head and begins to melt my armour! Idjit sidesteps one that appears to be aimed at him and as we frantically look about to see who our attackers are, a spider moves into sight and shoots his load at Stumpy, catching him a direct hit.
Moving quickly, Trixie Magic Missiles the naughty Incy Wincy Spider, while myself and Stumpy find ourselves wrapped up in spider goo and unable to move. While Trixie keeps one at bay with more missiles, Idjit throws berries at another large web to try and draw attention to himself, which unsurprisingly, is not very effective.
Stumpy manages to break free as I weakly struggle, and Shadow manages a few choice dagger throws to strike true. Idjit is struck by goo, Stumpy is hit again, and a spider falls from the ceiling as Trixie’s next barrage kills it dead.
Idjit and I are still trapped in webbing and struggling to break free, and the only people doing anything are Trixie, now armed with a wand, and Shadow, who seems to hold more knives than a Peckham hoodie.
The spiders have enough of this knife wielding lunatic and goo him until he is stuck fast, Stumpy breaks free once more, and Trixie blasts another spider dead. Encouraging words from Trixie inspire me with Karate Kid like confidence until I finally break free of my bonds, but Idjit is still stuck.
When my charm Animal fails I help Idjit, but only help him by getting stuck once more as the cruel spiders keep spotting me as I move around trying to help people. The wand for Trixie booms again, and shouting "Maximisation, for the nation! You know who you’ve met, you’ve been Trixied!" as the last spider drops and rolls down the slope into a web.
Idjit finally breaks free some minutes after combat has finished, and I have started to burn the web away with my torch as we move up the slope. This ends in another trap door, which opens to another empty room with a sloped ramp, this time with no cobwebs and a few barrels for storage that are unused.
The next trapdoor opens into the spire itself and this room has definitely been used recently, neat and tidy, with bedding and clothing, and containing a Raven in a cage. I befriend the Raven, whom I name Ricky, and we think about setting a trap for the person when they return as we have discovered a rope out of a window, obviously to bypass the spiders below.
Night passes with no sign of a black clad gentleman bearing chocolate, much to Trixie’s dismay, and we release Ricky with Animal friendship compelled instructions not to return as we know from items found that he carried messages to someone somewhere. We destroy everything else in the room and head back down the ladders and back to the staircase we found that lead deeper into the castle below.
The stairs are trapped as Trixie finds out first hand, a tripwire forcing her to tumble down stairs firstly into a wall and secondly dropping her into a few feet of water at their base. As we move into this water, Shadow needs to sit astride Idjit shoulders as the water passes the Halfling’s neck, and striding out, we are quickly shot to pieces by crossbows as our light reveals a barricade ahead topped with Orcs.
Trixie retaliates with Sleep on them, causing two to disappear from sight, but after a short commotion, two more appear to take their place. Stepping forward to get a better angle, she suddenly disappears from view as she drops deep into the water. She surfaces briefly splashing in the water as I comment "...it’s like shooting fish in a barrel," shortly before she is peppered with crossbow fire.
I fly up with a light to allow others to get better shots at the Orcs, striking one with my Irish club, and Idjit is struck badly by bolts dropping Shadow and himself into the water. Magic Missile from Trixie and a Hammer Sphere from Stumpy start to distract the Orcs, and as we are in such a bad way and out in the open, I drop an Obscuring mist to hide us all. I fly back to help the little fishes, and soon we are drying off on the stairs round the corner out of sight.
** Idjit loses his life chance here.