The Moathouse Dungeon – Part Three (29th January 2014)
Bow – Ranger
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Ulf – Fighter (NPC’d)
Vox – Magic User
An Offer of Employment - Moonday 22nd Quattrober (Day 27) – morning
The following morning the companions awoke to the incessant drumming of raindrops against the shutters of their rooms. A few of them suffered from a bad head or churning stomach following the revelries of the night before but, nevertheless, still managed to eat a hearty breakfast.
They packed their adventuring gear and donned their weapons and armour in readiness for the final push to the moat house. As they stepped out of the Plough and Stars they encountered the makings of a heavily laden wagon train, loaded with soldiers, weapons, timber and supplies. As the party were about to head out of the village they were approached by a man-at-arms who said that the lords Rufus and Burne requested their presence at the tower.
After a little groaning about whether they should do or not, they trudged up to the tower and sought the audience with their lordships. A brief discussion ensued, with it culminating in an offer; if the party were to head out now and clear out the lower level of the dungeon, the wagons would be leaving in two to three hours’ time to meet them and begin repairing the moat house for future occupation and thus prevent it from being used by the enemy again. The offer of 1000 silver coins sweetened the request and the party agreed.
The Moat House dungeon - Copyright TSR/WotC
Return to the Moat House
The trip to the moat house was uneventful and took the usual couple of hours. The companions had previously discussed where they might find another main entrance as they were well aware that the bugbears that they had encountered in the lower reaches most certainly could not fit down the secret tunnel that Hallan had problems squeezing down. They surmised that there must be another main entrance or a secret door that they had missed. They plumped for searching for a second, non-secretive, way in.
The search went on for about an hour and a half before Bow got fed up and decided to explore the upper level of the moat house to ferret out any critters or bandits that may have taken up residence again in any of the rooms that they had previously emptied. He climbed in via the ruined tower that led to the black flagged room where the bandits laired. He found no sign of any changes that may have indicated that someone had passed through. His search routine took him into every room that they had previously been into and he was happy to think that the upper level of the fortress was devoid of life.
Bow made his way to the front gates and signalled to his companions with his lantern that the coast was clear.
The rest of the party had still not found the other entrance where they thought it might have been, so gave up their search and made their way to the moat house to continue their adventure in the dungeon below.
After notifying his companions, Bow made his way to the secret door in the black room and popped the catch. He made his way down to listen at the secret door to the chamber that had previously housed the ogre Lubash and two bugbears. After a few moments he heard a scratching noise from above and so climbed up the ladder in the shaft to listen.
The rest of the party had made their way into the moat house by now, and they too heard the noise at the same time as Bow. Paulix quickly scrambled up a rock fall and gazed across the ruined rooftops. He was just in time to see something scamper down through one of the holes in the roof. He could tell it was nothing humanoid, so assumed it was either more giant rats, a giant tick or something similar to the creatures they had previously encountered.
The party proceed to where Bow was holding vigil in the secret shaft and nodded their greetings before the ranger zoomed off ahead to investigate the upper floor of the moat house. All of the rooms appeared to have been left undisturbed except for the main columned room that they had previously fought the zombies and later the bugbears in. The bodies had been cleared away (most likely reanimated to attack the village the previous day) and about three quarters of the burned supplies had been salvaged and removed.
A Ghoulish Treasure
They made their way to the torture chamber, lit a couple of their lanterns and descended down to the first level and into the crypt. Bow and Paulix led the way, scouting and listening as they went. The silence was only broken by the party’s own noises; the rattle of armour, the nervously indrawn breaths of the companions, and the scrape of their leather soles against the stone flags.
The bodies of the four ghouls still lay where they were slain, but the party made sure of the corpses by stabbing them again. Hallan and Ulf were then ushered forward and removed the sarcophagus lids that were piled against the entrance to the ghouls’ lair. The two scouts made their way into the small tunnel and advanced to the pile of old clothes and bones. They swirled and poked their sword blades into the mess and as a result revealed a small stash of coins, a scroll in a tube, a piece of vellum with some cryptic writing on it, and more than a dozen small vials containing liquids of various sorts.
Paulix advanced down the tunnel leading off westwards from the ghouls’ lair and discovered that the small pile of coins they had shot at previously was part of a small trail of dropped treasure that extended another few dozen yards into the tunnel before it ran out. He gathered up all the coins that he could and realised from observation that the many side-passages and winding nature of the tunnel system would mean someone would get very lost in a short amount of time, and due to the size of the individual passages, could not be utilised as a sound or reliable entrance to the complex.
The two scouts returned to the rest of the party and handed over what they had found. Vox took the scroll case and parchment and gave them a quick glance over. He was aware that the scroll contained a spell that could be useful later on when he had time to study it but it was the loose leaf of vellum that pricked his attention. A quick read through the cryptic script led him to the belief that it was an inventory of the vials and what they contained. He was able to make out that seven of the vials contained Holy Water, one vial contained a potion that could control undead, and the last six vials seemed to be useful for making body or mind enhancements. The script said that one may be taken freely but more than one would negate the effect of the first and render the imbiber worse off.
He handed them around the rest of the party, some of whom drank theirs immediately gaining some new vitality in either their limbs or mind, but Hallan and Vox chose to save theirs for later use.
The explorers cautiously made their way back to the main T-junction and decided to investigate the room that seemed to contain water. Paulix and Bow scouted ahead in the dark, aided only by the thin beam of light emitted by their hooded lanterns. The corridor turned right at the end and opened into a fairly large chamber with a deep pool that took up most of it. Bow shone his lantern around the chamber before he spotted what appeared to be a small pile on the far side of the pool with a few choice items within it.
He advanced towards the small hoard when suddenly the water erupted before him and a glistening carapace burst from the pool. He was startled when the pincers of the giant crayfish nipped him and drew blood. He shouted for help and then struck back. The rest of the party, except Vox who stood watch back up the tunnel, rapidly entered the room and joined the fray. Paulix and Johan fired missiles at the armoured crustacean whilst the fighters got up close and fought it with their melee weapons.
After a few minutes of intense combat, Paulix noticed that the beast’s attention was on Hallan, Bow and Ulf, so he decided he would move in closer to both the crayfish and the treasure beside the water. The crayfish, its exoskeleton penetrated in a couple of places rapidly turned towards the thief, taking it out of harm’s way from the fighters and onto what it hoped was easier prey. It managed one strike on the thief from its powerful claws before it was set upon again by overwhelming numbers. It decided that these fleshy creatures were a lot tougher than what it was used to and it plunged into the depths of the pool to escape their blows.
Whilst the fighters checked their wounds, Paulix sifted through the small pile. He found a nice long sword and a small pouch with a hefty weight of coins in various denominations. Just as he was about to return with these items to the party he spotted a small ledge under the water, a few feet down, that seemed to have a pile of bones and a skull on it. However, one of the bones did not look right. He stepped into the pool, after making sure that the crayfish was no longer lurking about, and thrust his hand out to grab the unusual bone. Unfortunately, the lack of light and the refraction from the water surface meant that his hand slipped and he knocked what was on the shelf into the depths. However, his lightning reflexes meant that he was able to dive down quickly and grab the scroll tube before it was lost to sight. On his way out of the pool he also spotted a small pin with a large precious stone set within it. He grabbed it and put it quickly into his pocket before presenting the tube to Vox.
The adventurers decided to take a short break whilst Vox attempted to decipher the writing on the vellum held within the water-tight container. He managed to work out that there were three magical spells; two could aid him right now with his present levels of power but one was beyond his capabilities. He made a mental note to hire a wizard within Castleford to help him copy the spells into his spell book.
An Empty Dungeon
The intrepid companions continued their search of the underground lair and headed down the angled corridor to the door at its end. Bow listened at and then kicked it open with a resounding crash. The rest of the party winced at his impetuousness but the sound of the door crashing against the wall did not seem to attract any attention. Beyond the doorway was a long, dark corridor stretching off directly eastwards. To their left was another wooden door. Bow used his tried and trusted method for opening the door and the party advanced up the dark corridor beyond.
They searched the area as they went and found that this section of the dungeon must recently have housed the chief cleric and his human followers. Within the small maze of rooms they found traces of inhabitation; bedding, old food caches, a place for a few horses to be stabled, and a room separate from the rest that still contained some old furniture that was too big or just not valuable enough to be moved out.
Whilst the party investigated the bandits’ lair, Paulix advanced up the corridor. He had made about two hundred yards before it then started to slope gently upwards. He saw no sign of an end but guessed that this must be the main entrance they had been looking for.
After the disappointment of not being able to face the chief within his lair, the party headed back towards the gnoll lair. They passed through the battered down door and into the main chamber. They investigated the niched doors one by one. The first door seemed to stick about three or four inches after being pushed open. A few seconds later they heard a distant clanking of something metallic. Hallan kicked the door off its hinges to discover that there was some kind of pressure plate system behind it. The party assumed it was a warning system for the bugbears and carried on with their search. The second door led into a small storage chamber with several old sacks and barrels of mouldy foodstuffs. They found nothing in the rest of the gnolls’ complex except for some old bedding and some half-eaten food.
They next advanced to where the bugbears had emerged from. They followed the corridor around a few zig-zags before coming to a three-way junction. To the left they spotted a heavy iron grate that was blocking off the corridor that way. They assumed that this was most likely the metal clanging sound that they had heard earlier, so they decided to come back and investigate later. They then advanced down the other corridor towards a room of the same size and configuration as the other chamber where they fought the gnolls.
Again, they opened each of the three doors to reveal two further mouldy old store rooms and a release mechanism door like the one in the gnolls’ chamber. The only other area not explored was a corridor off of this room that led to a large hexagonal room that must have been the bugbears’ lair if the detritus on the floor was anything to go by.
The party returned to the grille blocking the last corridor that they had not explored and attempted to lift it. Even with all three of the strongest members of the party heaving at the same time, they could not lift it. They decided instead to look for a release mechanism or winch. The party searched the area for secret doors and Johan and Paulix were rewarded for their patience and attention to detail by detecting the faint outline of an entranceway. The thief popped open the door and they advanced along the corridor beyond. After about twenty feet the corridor turned sharply westwards and there was the winch that they were looking for.
Hallan got to work winding the grille back up and stopped at the point he noticed an obvious mark on the chain. Paulix spiked the winch at that place and the party headed back to the corridor. They noticed that the portcullis had indeed been raised and they could continue along the passageway.
Vox now realised that his step counting and map making had a use. As they rounded a shallow bend in the corridor he realised that the steps ahead of them should lead up to the small secret chamber outside the ogre and bugbear liar on the first level of the dungeon.
Bow and Paulix scouted ahead and opened the secret door at the end of the corridor. They were indeed back in the chamber Vox suggested!
Waiting for Rufus and Burne – early afternoon
Their lordships Rufus and Burne had still not arrived at the moat house when the party returned to the surface, but it had been only four or five hours since the party had set off. Knowing that they were not going to set off for two to three hours after the party had left Staneford, and that the journey time was two hours ordinarily, they had to take into account that the heavily laden wagons may take that little bit longer. They worked out that the soldiery would not be getting there for about another half-an-hour or so at the earliest.
The party ate a quick lunch and then decided to head back into the dungeon to see where that long corridor eventually came out. It only took a few minutes to retrace their steps and then they strolled along the length of the underground tunnel. As noticed by Paulix, it ran straight eastwards for about two hundred yards before it slowly began to rise and then end with a kink about a further hundred yards on. The kink at the end of the corridor would have kept the interior dark as no direct rays from the sun could penetrate, and it would also have stopped the horses they found traces of from bolting the length of the corridor as soon as they spotted light at the end.
The kink in the passage finally ended in a small cavern with an entrance to the outside world. When they stepped into the fenlands beyond they realised that the entrance was very well concealed from all but the most trained eye.
The adventurers headed back to the moat house keep to await the arrival of the troop from Staneford.