The Moathouse – Part Five (8th January 2014)
Bow – Ranger
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Ulf - Fighter
Vox – Magic User
Shelter from the Rain - Godsday 20th Quattrober (Day 25) – mid-day
Ulf stopped his steady plod through the mud-blighted fenland path, blinked the rain from his eyes and re-adjusted the hood of his sodden cloak to cover his long blonde hair. He had been travelling for days and was cold, tired and hungry. He was sure that the village of Staneford was but a few hours walk hence, but he really wanted to get out of the deluge to dry out a little before continuing on and booking a room at the renowned Plough and Stars Inn. He could then look for adventure after a hot bath and a warm meal inside him.
Recovering from his reverie, he espied in the distance, through the trees, the grey, looming walls of an abandoned fortification. As he approached the walls he noticed that it had been severely damaged in the past and was most likely abandoned. That was until he spotted a shadowy figure that climbed up the scattered masonry and disappeared within the confines of one of the towers.
He held is spear tighter to his chest in readiness for ambush and looked for a way into the fortress. He only had to walk a few dozen yards before he spotted the fallen gate that covered the original drawbridge. The entrance appeared to be unguarded and the shelter the building offered enticed him to look closer.
The last remaining bandit was made comfortable and then questioned by Bow, the ranger. After his interrogation he was carried to the room that the party had made safe last time they were there in the moat house. He was administered some aid (his leg was set and bound, and then he was tied up securely) and then the door was close on him. The rest of the party readied themselves for the descent into the dungeon below when they heard sounds of movement from the courtyard outside. Hallan, Johan and Vox crept silently to the doors of the main hall and took a peek.
Ulf was seen to be muttering quietly to himself whilst trying to figure out what the pile of burnt and blackened bodies were doing just lying there in the courtyard. A slight movement caught his eye and he glanced up, spotting the three adventurers observing his movements. He lowered his spear and shield and announced he meant no harm; he was looking for somewhere to shelter from the rain before he made his way to Staneford and the adventures that could be had from there. The party saw that he presented them with no threat, so invited him in to share their meagre rations and brought him up to date with what they were up to. They mentioned that another sword would be most welcome in their quest below, and Ulf agreed to accompany them for a share of any treasure found.
The companions quickly readied their arms and after a quick discussion decided that they would return to the underground part of the lair via the secret door in the bandits’ black marble chamber. Now that the other bandit had been moved out of the room, no-one would know of this secret entrance other than the party.
Image Copyright TSR/WotC
Paulix flipped the catch and the secret door swung silently inwards. The party lit their lanterns and torches and proceeded down the steep stairwell in single file to the bottom. Bow listened at the next secret door and could hear a rough, guttural muttering from beyond. He motioned for the party to be silent and let Paulix pop the catch. As soon as the catch was triggered the guttural uttering stopped and the sound of movement within ceased. Bow shoved the door open and sprang into the chamber beyond. He was faced with two very large, hairy creatures clothed in scrappy leathers and wielding a morning star apiece. The monsters flew at Bow in a rage as soon as he burst into the room.
A heavy combat soon ensued, but the weight of numbers on the side of the party began to tell quite quickly as their multiple attacks soon reduced the two bugbears to one. The badly wounded second bugbear lowered his weapon and tried to beg for mercy but a new hatred formed deep within the ranger’s belly and he cut the beast down before it could react.
A quick search of the bodies revealed that they both owned a pouch of valuable coins. The pouches did not match the leathers that the beasts wore, and Bow deduced that these were some sort of payment for services rendered; how they would spend the coin was anyone’s guess.
A quick look into each of the adjoining rooms revealed that nothing had changed since their last visit. They opened the final door that they had spiked on their last visit and emerged back into the large chamber that they fought the horde of zombies in. The mouldering pile of half-burnt cadavers was still where they left it. The party split up to investigate the rest of the area. Vox stood on guard with his poled lantern and used the time to learn a spell. After searching through the cells that held the zombies and finding an impressive gemstone in a pouch hidden behind a loose stone Johan joined him.
Bow, Hallan and Ulf investigated the large pile of debris in the northernmost part of the chamber and were able to discover that the pile hid two doors. It took them quite a while to pull enough of the debris aside to reveal the two doors beyond. Hallan booted the top half of each of the doors asunder and Bow dropped into each room in turn, after lowering a lantern through the hole to see what they contained. Hallan and Ulf continued to pull the debris away from the doors whilst Bow inventoried the rooms. He discovered that they were well stocked store-rooms containing a multitude of well-made weaponry, freshly made leather armour and several barrels of food- and drink-stuffs; all still in excellent condition. They also found dozens of black capes with the golden eye of Zuggtmoy embroidered upon them. The three fighters proceeded to roll each of the barrels out of the rooms and also to stack the other items for ease of extraction when they brought back a mule and cart later on. Each party member grabbed two capes for future use, but only Bow put one on.
Paulix meanwhile, explored the torture chamber. Again he saw the implements of torture; racks, iron maidens, mangles and such-like. This time though he saw that some of the blood on the floor was fresher than it should have been. The cadavers and body parts still on the torture devices were dusty and obviously several years old, but the blood trail was fresher. He took his time looking for secret entrances but was stumped as he could find none. The blood spots made their way to a column in the middle of the room and just stopped.
Paulix called for his companions’ attention, and luckily it was at this time that the rest of the party were finishing up their respective tasks. He told them what he had found but all scratched their heads because no egress could be found from the room and therefore no further parts of the dungeon (that they assumed was larger from the clues they had gathered) could be explored. Ulf wondered if the blood trail could actually lead within the column, so he struck it with a large, heavy piece of wood. It boomed as though hollow. This encouraged Paulix to look closer and he noticed that the heavy strike had dislodged some dust; just enough to show him here the catch for the secret release mechanism was. Just as he popped the button, the party heard more guttural voices from the head of the main staircase that led down to the dungeon from the kitchen area.
Each warrior grabbed his weapons and rushed to the stone staircase. The cleric and mage moved up to support their companions whilst Paulix kept up his investigation of the secret way within the column.
As there was not much room at the bottom of the stairs, the battle raged fiercely, but only against one opponent at a time. The numbers of the party soon told again and the two patrolling bugbears were soon defeated, but not without a few scratches being dished out to a few of the party. Johan learned that his Command spell would not work on the bugbears as they did not speak Vannin!
A quick search of their pouches revealed another small sum of money, but nothing else worth salvaging. The party re-joined Paulix at the entrance to the column and he told them what he had discovered. The very narrow shaft descended about twenty feet and then the path headed eastwards along a very narrow corridor for a short distance. It then turned south for a further thirty to forty feet before ending at a blank wall. It was silent down there and very dark.
Both of the scouts decided that there must be another secret door at the end, so Paulix quickly descended the iron rungs to the bottom. The rest of the party followed in single file, Hallan took quite a while to get down as he only just had enough room to manoeuvre himself down the narrow confines of the shaft, and Bow brought up the rear. The catch on the shaft side of the secret door was marked with chalk (as were all other secret doors they had encountered so far) and then the door was closed behind them.
Ghouls in the Dark - late afternoon
Paulix made it to the end of the southward leading corridor first and searched for the catch to open the suspected secret door. He found it in no time, checked it for traps, marked it with chalk and popped the door open. The door only swung open about two feet before being stopped by obstacle on the other side. He reduced the hood on his lantern to a smaller size and squeezed himself through the gap after it. He stood upon a stone sarcophagus that was positioned within a small niche carved into a wall. He shone his lantern away from the back of the niche and followed the light into the main body of the chamber beyond, closely accompanied by Ulf, Johan and Hallan.
Just as Paulix jumped down from the sarcophagus, a great hissing sound erupted from close by and the pattering of bare feet on stone resounded around the large chamber. The charnel stench of foetid breath hit the companions like a wave of nausea and they were assailed by four creatures from their worst nightmares. Paulix and Ulf formed a small defensive wall to fight the creatures off, but just one strike paralysed Paulix where he stood. Johan, recognising the ghouls for what they were from the grimoire he had read back in High Beeches, called upon the power of Balder to aid him in his hour of need. Three of the creatures were driven back from the light given out by his holy symbol, but the fourth, obviously more cunning and evil than the rest was able to strike Ulf and paralyse him too.
Whilst Johan was concentrating on keeping the three ghouls at bay he was vulnerable to attack from the last one. However, Hallan was there to get in the way, albeit only temporarily before he too was stopped in his tracks by the vile paralysis that affected his two companions. Luckily he gave Bow and Vox just enough time to arrive on the scene and grab from Paulix’s pouch the Potion of Undead control. Vox swallowed it quickly and commanded the carrion eaters to kneel. The ghouls fell to their knees and Bow was able to dispatch the undead beasts with ease.
It was a few minutes before Paulix, Ulf and Hallan regained control of their limbs; the last few minutes of the combat were extremely scary as they could see what was going on but could do nothing about it. They rubbed life back into their arms and legs as the rest of the party explored the darkness of the noisome crypt. The burial chamber was huge and contained many dozens of niches, but not all contained a sarcophagus. The main room itself led off eastwards and then a corridor at the far end of the chamber seemed to head south again. One of the two southern niches in the main chamber did not contain a sarcophagus either but at the far end of it was a rough-hewn passageway that led off into the darkness beyond.