Much later, after gear has been stored, wounds tended, and mounts cared for, the six of you sit again in a private room with only Ostler and his best pot boy waiting on you. While the others sip broth, wine, or (in Eldoran’s case) ale, Bryant, being in the best shape, tells the tale.
“We set out from Hommlet in good spirits and fine weather, as you may remember, although it was different to be traveling as a group without you leading our way. Back at the moat house, we quickly made our way to the main keep and the chamber where we had the great fight with the brigands. Eldoran and I were worried that we may have overlooked something and some other denizen may have laid claims to our spoils. Luckily, such was not the case.
“Although fairly ripe from having rotted so many days, and obviously chewed by carrion-eaters, the brigands still carried their weapons and equipment…some of which we claimed for our own. Near one crumbling wall, Eldoran discovered a loose flagstone beneath which was buried the rogues’ treasure: a small chest filled with swank from their pillaging!
“We carefully re-buried it before setting out down the southern passage. Several empty rooms yielded refuse, bats, and some useful treasure (a broad sword of excellent quality that is now in Kendra’s scabbard)…then we ran into our first real danger: a twelve foot viper with gleaming fangs! It slithered quietly behind us and wounded Geffen sorely before we were aware of it! However, we were able to defeat the beast. In its nest we found the remains of an unwary brigand and his jeweled dagger….
“We rested for a day, before exploring the eastern passage…and it was here we met a danger that nearly had our lives! After finding and marking a stairway leading down to the basement invested with giant rats (they gave us a few nasty bites!), an old pantry, and an unused kitchen, we stumbled into an encounter with a giant lizard. Larger then a man it gave us quite tousle, nearly killing Eldoran, wounding Spugnoir, Geffen, and Kendra before we were able to bring it down. However, within its belly we found a shield Geffen believe is enchanted, being untouched by the acid of the animal’s innards. There was also another small chest in the room containing more coins, and the armor and crossbow of some past guardsman.
“Well, recovering from that green monster that evening (well outside the moat house!), we nearly decided to return to Hommlet…after all we had plenty of money now, and much to tell you. However, despite Geffen’s nausea from the viper’s venom and our relative injuries, we thought we’d try going one step more….
“The next morning, we tried the stairs going downward…hoping perhaps for some hidden pantry or forgotten storeroom where they might be a crate of old blades (or hell…old wine!) we could inventory. What we found is that there is much more to the moat house then the ruined upper level! However, as Kendra led the way down the stairs a patch of green slime fell atop her, tumbling her down the stairs! By the time we got to her it had already eaten through her armor and nearly eaten through her! Would that we had had your keen eyes on the lookout!
“As we shone our torches around the basement, we found a chamber with several doors, all in good order and with shiny new locks! Much to our amazement it appears that the under-complex in inhabited and well-used…and that’s not all! After the second door we tried turned out to be locked, we were nearly surprised by the un-living remains of dead men, animated with malevolent purpose!
“Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, we gathered our fallen and retreated from the underground. We rested for a day before once again digging up the brigand’s treasure trove and then returning to the village. It is apparent to us, that we need your particular skills to proceed farther with our lives, and a healthy Kendra would be good as well!”
Return to the Underground
Several days pass and your party regains its strength. Kendra has replaced her burned armor with a suit of scale mail the party found on its last excursion and your group is once again ready to proceed.
After once again provisioning yourselves from Ostler’s larder, your party sets out. You notice that, with the exception of the wizard Spugnoir, the rest of your party displays an increased aura of confidence and vigor that comes from the experience they’ve gained. You hope to share in that feeling of confidence soon!
Once arriving at the moat house, the others quickly show you to the darkened keep. When you come to the main audience chamber, they gesture to the southern hallway to indicate the lair of the giant viper. It is the eastern hallway that leads to the chamber that housed the giant lizard and the stairway downwards.
You quickly make your way to the old storeroom that contains the stairway; it is both dank and dark. “This is where we encountered a hoard of rats,” says Bryant while the others make ready torches. “It was just at the end, where the stairwell opens into the chamber, that we encountered the slime.”
Taking a torch, you carefully descend, inspecting the stairwell for traps. Your half-elven eyes pick out a gold ring concealed in the dust of the 5th step, and you pocket it quickly. Holding the torch aloft, you see that the tunnel is carved from stone and slick with moisture…and then you see the green glisten of slime! You hold up the party to halt, and you put the slime to the torch, safely burning a path to the chamber below.
The stairway opens into a large stone cellar…perhaps fifty feet wide and forty deep. Stone columns hold the roof above secure. The stairway opens into the center of the room, facing south, and by walking around it you can see the stone foundation of the stairs sloping upwards. Two doors stand closed and locked in the eastern wall. As you circle the perimeter of the room, you find that it is in fact L-shaped, with a twenty foot wide portion vanishing southward from the southwest corner; more columns lie that way as well, and doors lining the eastern wall of this branch.
Turning to call to the party, you see yet another door in the southwestern portion of the main chamber. As you quietly gesture to Bryant and Eldoran, you hear a shuffling noise from behind you and spin around as two rotting zombies shamble towards you! Quickly you back away and yell a warning to your companions.
Eldoran and Bryant respond first with yells of challenge and charge. Kendra, red hair flaming, pulls her broadsword and moves between you and the zombies. Spugnoir seems at a loss, but Geffen hefts his quarterstaff.
The melee begins as you ready your crossbow. Soon, additional targets become available as more zombies begin emerging from the line of doors to the south. The zombies are tough, although easy to strike, and you find yourselves hard pressed. By the time one zombie falls, two more takes its place, and the party begins to fall back towards the stairs as the number of undead rises from two to four to eight and more! The zombies, though unskilled and slow, are strong and your party’s three fighters have soon taken several blows. Bryant moves back with you, and drawing his bow, begins to target shoot by your side.
Soon, you find yourself moving backwards up the stairs, your bolts quickly depleting. The party has slain five zombies, but at least half a dozen are still pushing upwards, intent on rending your bodies to bloody tatters. Behind you on the stair is Spugnoir, while Geffen stands between you and Kendra and Eldoran. Kendra seems most injured of all the party members, and Geffen aids the fiery red-head with a Cure spell. She nods her thanks before going back to work on the monsters in front of her.
There’s only room on the steps for two of you to fight side-by-side, as the zombies press the attack. Why did I drop my torch, you think to yourself…fire would indeed be useful at putting the undead to rest!
You move a few steps up as Spugnoir clears room, so that the others may back away from the undead onslaught, and in the light of the wizard’s torch, you see something you had not noticed on your way down: high on a dusty shelf in the storeroom at the top of the steps, is a large clay jug clearly marked “oil” in the flickering illumination!
Moving quickly you leap up the steps to the flask, hoping that it is not empty. Spugnoir looks askance at you as you pass him on the stairwell, but the others are moving behind you as Eldoran takes another blow from the restless corpses below. You turn back to the shelf and reach for the jug…it is heavy with sloshing liquid, and your hopes leap! Taking your dagger, you stave in the stopper, and smell the sweet viscous substance.
“Clear the stairs! Fire in the hole!” you yell to the others.
The others see what you’re at and quickly out-distance the shambling zombies as they beat feet up the steps to the storeroom. Eldoran helps you stave the top off the jug with her hammer, and the two of you tumble the flask down the steps to the zombies below, who crack the jug to pieces in a fury of destruction. You pull the torch from Spugnoir’s hands and flip the brand end-over-end into the creatures below, lighting them ablaze!
It takes only a few minutes, for the fire to consume itself, and none of the zombies makes it to the top of the stairs before their legs disintegrate to charred ash. The party roundly congratulates you on your quick thinking, and then you file once again down the steps, stomping on the smoldering remains as you do so.
Your party makes a quick search of the doors from whence the zombies emerged. Behind each door is a small, ten foot square cell containing nothing of apparent value, though in the northernmost cell you find a large and lovely peridot gem stone behind a loose flagstone. There are no other zombies.
Placing the ring on your hand produces no noticeable effect and Spugnoir agrees to cast a spell to detect enchantment. After muttering and gesturing over your hand produces no affect the wizard informs you that the ring appears to be only a “petty bauble.” You are disappointed, but it is still a gold ring!
Now that you have explored the southern corridor its total length of fifty or so feet, you see that an opening lies on the west wall of the corridor (across from the cell doors). Shining a torch through the opening you see the light glisten off of some sort of metal apparatuses…apparently this is a torture chamber!
Again taking the forefront of adventuring, you lead the party by torch light into the long abandoned torture chamber. However, exploring the new room carefully leads you to the conclusion that it is not long abandoned, and the skeletons left hanging on the instruments of torture are fairly recent…simply picked clean! This leads to closer scrutiny, and it is Bryant the ranger that discovers a faint but fresh trail of blood that leads from one particular rack to the southern column of the room (the chamber contains two columns; one to the north, one to the south).
Carefully inspecting the suspect pillar, your hand trips a mechanism that opens a secret door in the pillar! A man-sized chute descends into darkness, although shiny metal rungs line the wall of the shaft, providing ready access to the depths.
There appears to be nothing else in this room except instruments of torture, most too large to be easily moved.
Into the Depths
You gesture for silence and listen intently at the opening of the shaft. After several seconds, you are satisfied that nothing is to be heard in the depths below, and you make ready to descend.
The shaft slopes gently downward at an easily accessible angle; the rungs along the side of the shaft provide stability and an easy climb. You push your torch out through the opening at the end of the shaft, and seeing dark flagstones (not some underground cavern) you quickly hop out to inspect the man-made chamber.
You are in a large, dark room that appears to have once been some sort of burial chamber. Lining the walls are niches for coffins, but these have been broken into splintered remains, and the floor is coated in dust. The room is long, extending southwards into darkness. To the north (your left) the wall opens, making the crypt L-shaped. Several dark forms lie against the north wall.
Kendra and Eldoran exit are climbing down behind you as you step farther into the chamber, wary of possible traps. The light of your torch gleams off the cold yellow eyes of several creatures huddled against the north wall and you realize that the forms are moving! Pale, grey and sickly with dirty ragged claws and slavering teeth, four ghouls charge to attack!
You quickly back-pedal to the wall, fumbling for your crossbow, while trying to keep your grip on your torch as well. Kendra and Eldoran draw weapons, step forward and meet the charge of the ravenous undead! They both strike well, before two corpse-colored creatures assault each one of them. The ghouls have difficulty scratching through their armor but one manages to bite Eldoran on the knee, and she lets out a choked scream before stiffening and falling to the ground, paralyzed!
Bryant fires an arrow over your heads, striking a ghoul in the shoulder…in falls to the ground.
You manage to cock your crossbow and fire it point blank at the ghoul Kendra has already struck. The bolt knocks its leg out from under it and Kendra brings down her long sword, silencing its gibbering! Bryant misses with a second arrow, and the two ghouls still standing flank Kendra and rake her with their claws as you back away from the melee. She cries out in pain and agony and stiffens in paralysis! They feast upon her flesh!
You and Bryant each pump missiles into one of the ghouls killing it. The final one turns and bounds towards you, tongue wagging and eyes wide! It strikes you with your claws, but your elvish blood is proof against the filthy contagion of its nails. You drop your crossbow, draw your dagger and strike ineffectively while Bryant carefully places arrows in the creature’s back. It bites your shoulder before falling dead at you feet. The others exit the shaft.