The Idol of Kesh – Part 35 – Noob camp
The temptation to investigate is great, but given that the lamp boy has vanished so thoroughly and the doubtful attraction of another night in these woods the group decides, with a heavy heart, to make as much way as possible.
They set out and cut through the underbrush again, albeit with a bit more care for the environment. The day passes with backbending work, but not surprises. Ruins and stones litter the land, as the south shore was, in days of yore, a sprawl of living quarters.
Uko takes the rear and watches from time to time, but he just hears the rustle of small wildlife, not the tread of big trees.
“How did this city fall? Was it the tree-men?” asks Alma.
Harmony shakes her head. “The Iron Empire fell to the wild goblins,” she says, hacking away a thornbush. “Of the elves, nothing remained. Our people returned only after you humans beat their tribes.”
Long after noon, as the sun already sinks, they find an overgrown watchtower. They follow the tower and a crumbling wall northwards until they find a breach. Reinhold looks through, and his shoulders sag. “More wood,” he sighs.
“Only a little,” says Phoebe. “I’ve been here.”
Ursula and Merrick sneak ahead to scout.
They soon find fallen trees and spy a group of adventurers with shovels and tents busy preparing their nightmeal over a fresh fire.
Merrick purses his lips and unrolls the map, while Ursula discovers another crew farther north at the lakeshore, fishing.
“Our building is that one.” He points. “But here’s too much folk. We need to get rid of them.”
Ursula chuckles. “A nice old treant would come in handy, then.”
He smirks. “I like how you think.” Then his smirk drops. “But we have to find another way.”
He counts heads.
“The cooking party are five. The fishers are four. We are ten. We can take them easy.”
She looks at him incredulously. “Listen, man, I was joking. They don’t get into each other’s way. They won’t get in our’s either. Let’s just go in and look for our spot.”
“They will get in our way when we find something and they don’t. Better to settle this now.”
Ursula frowns. “Live and let live! We have enough dangers out there without fighting other humans. Let’s decide with the group.”
They return and describe what they found, and Ursula explains Merrick’s idea.
“There are bound to be more groups than those two,” says Phoebe. “And these are just novice adventurers who try their first dungeons.”
“Even better,” says Merrick darkly. “We can drive them off easy.”
Webster shrugs his massive shoulders: “A problem solved today is no problem tomorrow.”
Uko snorts: “No need for hostility. I am sure they are harmless. But we can watch them in the night and see how many there really are, and how they act.”
“O-or j… just j… j… join. M… ma… make ff..f…friends,” Basil struggles.
Alma looks to Reinhold for guidance. He asks: “What kind of weapons do they have?”
“Not much different than our own,” says Ursula.
“Why not just go out and make a camp in OUR ruin?” Reinhold asks.
Merrick and Webster smile at each other, but wait for the group to decide.
- Attack the tomb raider noobs
- Speak with the tomb raider noobs
- Stay in the wood and watch
- Just go out and stake a claim
- Something else (comment)
The Idol of Kesh – Part 36 – Fellow humans
“Enough with the whining,” says Phoebe. “We’ve been here in the past, they are here now, and one day, others will come here to learn how to cook a soup and build a tent. We go out.”
She mounts her horse and rides it out of the thinning woods to appear in the field of ruins.
Things have changed since she was here last. For one thing, there is less wood. For another, there is more refuse and discarded gear, and abandoned shacks.
Harmony reins in her horse beside her and sniffs the air.
“Ugh… in fifty years, this will be another human settlement,” she predicts.
Phoebe nods. “Woodbridge is also built on elven foundations.”
“The goblins will burn the first five towns here down.”
Phoebe laughs: “As they did the first five Woodbridges.”
One by one the others follow to look around. While the elven ruins – overgrown as they are – behind them still look awe-inspiring and carry the whiff of history, the remains here have lost all character – they are basically just a lot of stones and rubble.
The newbies from the camps come closer.
“Hey, aren’t you Phoebe Hicks?” asks one.
“Sure is!” cries another. “And that here is Harmony the sorceress!”
Harmony arcs an eyebrow. “Harmony the what now?” she asks, half taken aback, half flattered.
Reinhold canters forward and lets his horse rear up.
But nobody recognizes him – a bitter fate.
“What are you all doing here?” they ask, and “where did you come from? What are you looking for?” They ask about their horses, about their goals, and also about their last quest, and about the captured goblin on the mule, but Phoebe asks them to be polite: “We tried a different way, and it was tough going with the animals. This goblin is just a rebel, we are going to set him free when we return to the Cunning Cock. Please let us rest now.”
The young adventurers understand and give them room, but continue to stare and whisper.
They set up camp right where the temple of Kesh used to be, just as night falls.
“See?” Phoebe says to Merrick. “No need to worry. These are our kind of people.”
“If you say so,” he replies, eyes darting between the two neighboring camps. Then another fire springs up farther to the northeast. Merrick curses. From his belt he draws a slingshot and fingers it, while he mumbles dark predictions under his breath.
“Keep calm, Mr. Oblington,” Phoebe orders. “We are among friends.”
Muttering, Merrick sits down and studies the map and the notes he brought.
“A-ha! There is a secret trapdoor somewhere about here …”
Harmony joins him and they quickly identify the most likely place – a nondescript spot covered with old dirt and a bushel of grass.
The altar that must have stood a bit east of the spot is long gone and forgotten, the walls torn down for building materials, anything of value taken by the goblins long ago.
Easterly, outside the temple, is what’s left of an unused old well.
- Try to open the trap door
- Investigate the well
- Investigate the other fire
- Rest the night
The Idol of Kesh – Part 37 – Fall
The adventurers are torn between giving it a night’s rest or trying to uncover the trap door right away. In the end they settle on inspecting the well.
“This would be a ceremonial well, not a drinking well” says Harmony. It is right in the center between the three temples.
They go closer, and several look down into the depth.
_(1d10 = 9 – that’s Mr. Oblington)_
Merrick lifts a torch to shine a light into the shaft.
The whole section he’s standing on breaks off, and together with a small avalanche of dirt and stones the small wizard’s apprentice with the big nose is swallowed by the well.
_(Dex Save with Disadvantage 3d6 = 2,2,1)_
Before anyone can even give a shout of surprise, Merrick splashes into the water and his torch is doused.
“Merrick!!” shouts Webster, and steps closer, but stumbles back as he feels more of the ground slipping under his considerable weight.
“Rope!” Phoebe orders, and Basil runs to get it.
Uko and Reinhold raise their torches to light the scene, and the damage to the well.
“Waaah! Get me out of here!” they hear Merrick calling.
Then he cries out. “There is something in here!”
He frantically tries to climb out, but the stones crumble under his clawing fingers and he falls back into the water.
- wait for Basil’s rope
- lie down and crawl closer
- form a human chain, reach down
- something else (comment)
The Idol of Kesh – Part 38 – Brine Aura
The group doesn’t wait for the rope – They form a human chain, with the strongest – Webster, Oswald, and Reinhold – holding in the last row, Phoebe and Uko in the next tier holding Harmony and Alma, who lower Ursula down into the well. Harmony and Alma hold her legs and must dip into the hole after her. They break off crumbling stones, several handfuls of dirt, and a small avalanche of little pebbles, but Ursula isn’t a contortionist for nothing. She gets ahold of Merrick’s flailing arms and orders the others to pull.
On the way up, Merrick’s feet struggle to find purchase on the wall, destroying more of it, and even pushing in some stones – they fall into a pitch-dark cavity hidden behind the wall. Merrick is much too distraught to notice, but Ursula, her arms intertwined with his, gets a good look at the damage done only a foot and a half above the waterline.
Quite quickly they all reach ground level and inspect Merrick’s legs. There are worms wriggling inside his trousers and boots: rubbery, eyeless bloodleeches – with super-strength!
Their bodies coil around his legs to milk him of his blood, and already two Health points are lost.
As he sees them, he immediately casts his spell: Brine Aura.
He turns a shade of beige, his body even starts to feel salty, and the leeches drop off him like one, wriggling on the floor – disgusting and disgusted at once.
Hysterically, Merrick tramples their bodies and hacks at them with his knife, but to little avail – their bodies are capable to withstand most attacks. A couple of them drop back into the water on their own, the others are thrown after them as the party uses weapons and other objects to send them over the edge.
When the danger is overcome and the brine burns in his wounds, Merrick ends the spell.
“Lucky! Lucky! And I thought this spell useless!” he exclaims.
Then he finds out that he has lost something down in the well: His hacksaw, and his grappling hook.
“At least I’ve got my powder, still. My powder is most important. Good to have it. But it is wet now. Have to dry it.”
Rambling to himself, he repairs to his tent to lay out his things to dry.
As the hubbub dies down, and after they are able to explain to their camp neighbours what has happened, Ursula tells the group about the cavity – possibly a tunnel – behind the wall of the well.
- Rappell down to investigate cavity
- Dig for the trapdoor
- Sleep until morning
The Idol of Kesh – Part 39 – Tunnel Rat
Ursula slides down the rope one hand at a time. She eyes the water critically. Those leeches were easy to shake off for Merrick, but only thanks to the right spell – should one of them get her, it may well be a life and death struggle, given the surprising strength of the black aquatic beasts.
But rope-work is Ursula’s second nature, and she has a team she can rely on. As soon as she reaches the right height, she calls out and stops.
The ragged hole in the wall is uneven and yet too narrow to admit her, so she gives the stones a couple of deft kicks, and soon most of them fall into the cavity. Only two larger rocks and a handful of smaller pieces drop into the water and sink.
“Lantern!” Ursula calls, and Oswald lowers it down to her. She directs the beam into the cavity and finds a damp, stale corridor with a mucky floor. Some mold grows between the stones, but she can discern no animal life.
Ursula swings close and puts the lantern into the corridor.
“I’m going in,” she calls, then steps into the low construction – she has to crouch to fit.
The corridor is only five steps long. Her feet sink about two inches into the muck.
On the western side, the corridor terminates in some kind of metal plate, three quarters of it covered in mold.
On the eastern side, there is a disintegrating thing that must, long ago, have been a wooden door.
Clearly nobody has been here for ages.
- Go west to the plate
- Go east to the rotten wood
- Call down Harmony, Uko, and Reinhold
The Idol of Kesh – Part 40 – Quiet & Cocksure
“I’m in a corridor,” Ursula hisses up the well. “West to east. Come down here.”
She doesn’t wait for them, though, and sneaks west to inspect the metal plate.
It is silver! And as she scratches the mold away and keeps scratching, she finds that it is not just silvered – it is solid silver.
Already, she has found more treasure than the last twenty expeditions combined!
Behind her, Harmony descends first. She slides down the rope and tests the stones before climbing in. She watches Ursula as she looks at the plate, but does not say anything. She waits for Uko instead, and helps him get inside safely, worried about the muscle-leeches.
Reinhold goes to the well last, and with an easy smile. Oswald’s eyes narrow. The two men were partners once, but have fallen out.
“Don’t drop me into that pond, will you, Oswald?”
Oswald merely grunts. Must the annoying bastard really always lay the painfully obvious so painfully open?
“Here it comes,” says Reinhold, and slides down the rope so abruptly that Oswald actually has to dig in to hold him securely. He is so sure of himself – he doesn’t even spare a glance at the man who literally holds his life in his hands. So annoying!
Of course, Oswald is a man of honor and would never drop Reinhold – but why must he be so cocksure about that?
While Oswald fumes silently, Reinhold reaches the corridor and Harmony and Uko help him inside.
“By the dead, this is tight!” Reinhold exclaims, and his voice echoes back and forth in the narrow space, and up the well. “Like that night in —”
Ursula hisses like a snake. “Quiet, you ass!”
“What if someone hears us?” asks Harmony, but her voice carries, too.
Ursula frowns. In her second-story-business, shouting and arguing on the job never turn out well. And no-one will convince her that piece of wisdom does not also hold true for adventuring.
She has found a broken lever that must have controlled this doorway once, and she also finds that she can roll the silver plate aside if she pushes with both hands.
“Stop fiddling with that! We can go through that one whenever we want,” calls Reinhold. “But these fine timbers here look like they cannot wait. They rot away as we look!”
- Push open the silver door
- Inspect the rotten boards
The Idol of Kesh – Part 41 – Traps & Treasure
Ursula leans against the silver door and shrugs. “Go ahead, big man.”
Reinhold beams at Uko and nods towards the door. “Come on, my man. Let’s check this junkpile for traps & treasure!”
The human pulls his hammer from his belt and prods the boards with it. The wood disintegrates and drops to the floor like wet tissue. It unsettles the precarious balance of the other boards, and the whole barrier practically implodes, leaving only the rusted iron bands to fall and shatter as they impact against each other.
The two fingersmiths exchange a look of awe. “That door just ached to be pried wide open!” chuckles Reinhold, making a dubious gesture.
Then he brings the lantern forward – and shrinks back, startled. The room beyond the door is high enough to stand in. And directly left of the entrance there is an elf with a staff, standing motionless.
“Hot damn!” exclaims Reinhold. “For a moment there I thought this was a guard.”
It is not, though – it is a statue made from shining metal, gone blind with age, staring straight ahead against the southern wall and a faded mural of elves with raised arms.
Beyond it there is a small casket mounted on a single, narrow base, and behind that there is a sturdy old wardrobe.
Otherwise, the room is empty. Only in the upper far corner in the right, opposite of the wardrobe, hangs some brittle whitish sack-like structure, something like a wasp nest, at a wall with a fungoid growth pattern that hints at a rectangular form – and the floor is covered in dunes of dust.
Reinhold grins: “And just like that our heroes discover a treasure chamber – almost in the open, right below the street. How legions of fools shambled past it is anyone’s guess.”
Harmony coughs. “Actually, we are right between three temples, beside a well. There should be not room here.”
“And yet – there it is. And we found it.”
“I found it!” interjects Ursula.
“I opened it!” says Reinhold.
Uko blows away the dust and taps the floor with a steel chisel.
“Solid,” he judges.
- Open the silver door
- Something else (comment)
The Idol of Kesh – Part 42 – Stone
Uko and Reinhold take their sweet time to look the room over.
“What’s up?” asks Harmony, loud enough to startle them.
“On second thought,” says Reinhold, “this room won’t go away either. We can explore that later. Let’s take a look behind that shiny plate of Ursula’s.”
They back away from the entrance and take their lantern with them, shrouding the room in darkness.
“Fine then,” says Ursula, and pushes against the silver door. It slowly gives way and rolls aside in a stone groove. It opens into a narrow room full of flying dust motes. Harmony and Ursula find themselves at window level with a drop of about two or three feet to the ground. They shield their faces with their arms to avoid breathing the dust in.
There are light sources in this room – tiny shimmering flecks moving about. Reinhold hands the lantern forward and the harsher light reveals a chamber that was once bedecked with fine drapings. Rotten remains cover parts of the floor. The shimmering is due to a moderate population of bugs who seem to be grazing in the mold, keeping its growth at bay. They react to the bright light, fleeing it and seeking refuge in darker corners.
At the walls there are stone tablets fixed at eye level for a standing person. One on the left, one on the right, and two on the opposite wall. There is something else on the opposite wall: a visibly different square of stone.
Ursula and Harmony exchange a glance and speak in unison: “A secret door.”
Directly to the right of them there is a workbench with a selection of carving tools and raw stone tablets.
- Enter stone tablet workshop (west)
- Enter wardrobe room (east)
- Retreat and climb up
The Idol of Kesh – Part 43 – Spellwork
Ursula checks the ground, then drops onto the dusty floor. Harmony follows. A quick sweep of the room discovers no threats – the shimmer-bugs are the only life forms here, and they flee the light, burrowing into tiny cracks in the mortar. The working table offers no more than the tools and a faded script that disintegrates as Ursula touches it.
Harmony checks the stone tablets – they are spells in an archaic elven dialect, carefully etched into a durable material. Most likely they withstand a casting and can be used multiple times, which makes them worthwhile treasure – although casting from a written resource is much riskier than casting from inspiration, as Harmony knows very well. They demand a test of will. Last time she critically failed at the task she plunged a room into eternal twilight. Either way, Merrick and Webster will most likely claim them for “The Peaceful”.
The spells Harmony can identify are
- Paralyzing Call
- Distortion Repelling
- Attract Warding
- Tar Cone.
Two more spells were in the process of being carved when the task was abandoned. One of them was a protective spell summoning a helpful swarm. Harmony looks at the bugs, wondering.
While the women are occupied with the tablets, Uko and Reinhold inspect the secret passage.
“The mechanism is broken,” they find. “Rotten away. Now it the door rests on bare stone. We will have to use brute force.”
- Take the loot, bring it to camp
- Force open the secret door
- Go back to the opposite room
Frodde Zweidreivier (Chicken234) +2
The loot is not save inside of the camp outside. Lets build a 2nd camp here to store stuff
The Idol of Kesh – Part 44 – Graveyard
Ursula and Harmony take down the tablets and prepare them for transport.
“Wait,” says Harmony. “They are not save in the camp outside. Let’s build a second camp here to store stuff.”
The others agree, and while the women stack the magical treasure on the workbench, Uko and Reinhold start breaking off parts of the wall and leveraging the stone out of the secret passage. “It would be easier with your spell,” Uko jokes. But even with mundane means, they are successful eventually. With a loud scratching and a low thud, the stone comes out and amid much whirling of dust, stale and musty air streams in through the passage.
The adventurers light two torches in addition to the lantern, and move forward into the next room.
It is a graveyard – or rather, a grave chamber. There are more of the shimmering bugs, and also a lot of mold. The air smacks of water. Simple, uniform stone sarcophagi are aligned in neat rows, and a door in the opposite wall leads into another room that appears to hold even more sarcophagi.
Tiny markings in old elven script adorn the otherwise nondescript coffins.
Reinhold and Uko look at Harmony. “We should take a look inside…”
“Go ahead,” she laughs. “They are dead. And their cult died with them.”
She inspects the ceiling and finds a rectangular shape.
“This is where the trapdoor would lead, if it was not covered with dirt and grass.”
- Open sarcophagi
- Open the trapdoor
- Inspect the next room
The Idol of Kesh – Part 45 – Iron Masks
The adventurers get to work on the sarcophagi and find the lids heavy, but not fixed. They push them aside, revealing skeletons with narrow, elven jaws, and covered in the brittle remains of sheets. The sarcophagi are the broodplaces of the bugs, so they find scuttling crawlers and larvae in the corners, where dampness allows mold to grow. The skeletons are long picked clean and free of mold. However, all of the dead wear odd iron masks depicting laughing, leering, or grinning faces, sometimes with a tongue lolling out. They all look a bit crazy.
Harmony has no idea why the Cult of Kesh would do that. They did believe that in death, they all became one with Kesh. That’s why they did not strictly need grave goods, although several of the dead here wear rings, and they find three rusted swords with rotten handles buried with their owners.
Uko tramples several of the bugs and his boots start to shimmer faintly.
“Haha! If we grind them all to a paste we can use them as a torch.”
Harmony does not laugh. “I don’t trust these bugs.”
They bring the three old blades and three-and-twenty rings of varying quality back to the workroom to stack them in a corner.
Oswald is calling down and Ursula tells him about the graves. He tells her that Merrick, Webster, and Alma went to sleep. Phoebe and Basil keep the other adventurers at a distance, because they are quite interested in this nighttime expedition.
Harmony inspects the iron masks. “They are not magical, as far as I can tell. But they are cold iron – the kind that would hurt many creatures.”
Uko nods. “I figured. That’s why I didn’t touch them.”
A quick glance through the door reveals that the next room is pretty moist with lots of mold, but strangely not as many bugs. There are more sarcophagi and two – mold-covered – statues at the far wall.
- Take off the iron masks
- Leave masks be, Check next room
The Idol of Kesh – Part 46 – That’s gotta hurt
The four explorers are torn between going on to the next sarcophagi and removing the masks. In the end they decide on removing the masks first.
Harmony doesn’t participate – it feels too personal to her. Uko doesn’t either. Cold, raw iron will not kill him, but his kind reacts badly to it.
Reinhold grabs one of the masks and tries to lift it away, but it doesn’t get free easily – he can only pull it straight up. Surprised, he turns it around, and discovers a long, thick, iron spike jutting from the center of the thing. The skull behind it is broken through – the spike has penetrated the face of the elf just at the base of the nose.
“What in the hells?”
Reinhold and Ursula lift off more masks, and find that all of them were similarly stuck right into the faces of the dead.
“Did they kill them with these masks? Or did they break the faces of their dead?”
Harmony has gone pale. She has no idea.
Many of the dead had the iron thorns driven right through the nose but some have it driven through an eye socket, some through the cheekbone. Several times the looters utter an empathic hiss and hope that the masks were really applied to corpses. Apparently, the cultists didn’t much care where it stuck, the important thing was that it held. And they were not concerned with looks in the afterlife.
“They didn’t believe in an afterlife,” Harmony reminds them.
Either way, 21 iron deathmasks with vicious spikes go in a metal pile right beside the rest of the loot. They will find their buyers for sure.
Finally the four enter the next room. They find nine sarcophagi in an orderly fashion, then two more perpendicular to the others, and two old statues standing at the far wall, like guards, in the free area between the two coffins that don’t fit with the rest. Between the statues there would be space enough for one or two more coffins, but none are there. The adventurers smell water.
- Plunder the 11 sarcophagi
- Inspect the statues
The Idol of Kesh – Part 47 – Crash
The harsh treatment of the dead smacks of necromancy. Maybe the iron masks keep the corpses down? So the group decides to put the masks back in place for the time being, just in case.
Then they enter the next room and find the moldy statues.
Carefully, they fan out and move closer.
The statues carry metal rods and stand guard over a rectangular hole in the ground. Everything is covered in moss and mold. Two steps of a stairwell are visible, the rest is submerged under water.
As the adventurers come closer, the statues suddenly jerk to a semblance of life.
One of them moves a foot forward and raises the staff into a defender’s stance.
The other one tries to do the same but slips on the moss-covered ground and crashes into the stairwell, hitting its head on the edge of the ground. One arm breaks off on impact, then the whole guardian sinks into the dark water.
The crash and ruckus almost drowns out the hollow-sounding question from the other statue – it speaks old elven, and Harmony understands the question “Who ventures there, unbidden?”
The defending statue seems completely oblivious to the fate of its comrade.
- Answer in elven
- Attack it
The Idol of Kesh – Part 48 – Authority
“Who ventures there, unbidden,” the statue asks.
Harmony knows the general direction of this – she has been a prophet before she chose to join Phoebe and go adventuring. She steps up and calls: “We do!” with finality.
The statue turns to her and bows, staff still at the ready.
“In whose name do you step forward?”
This is tricky – who erected this thing? The Cult of Kesh or the Iron Empire?
Harmony expects they came from the Cult, based on the statue’s bearing.
“In the name of Kesh!” she hazards, and that seems to be correct, as the statue nods.
But it has one final question:
“On who’s authority do you enter?”
Harmony knows too little of the Cult to know the correct answer for sure.
It could be the authority of the god himself, or of a particular priest. A priest would be the most common answer. But she does not know the names of the priests, and the Cult of Kesh was not common. It could also be by the authority of the faith as a whole – or of her own personal authority. Only one of these answers can be correct, and a wrong answer will likely result in an immediate attack.
This is a risk.
The water is disturbed, and the fallen statue lumbers back up from the depth, minus one arm, and navigating the slippery stairs step by step with extra care.
Harmony prepares her shield and says:
- “By the will of Kesh!”
- “By the will of the High Priest.”
- “By the will of [random elven name]”
- “By way of the One True Faith!”
- “On my own!”
The Idol of Kesh – Part 49 – Silver vs. Steel
“By the Will of Kesh!”
The answer is wrong. Long odds, of course. Just bad luck, nobody’s fault.
The guardian stabs his staff at her face.
She was ready.
She takes it on the shield, but the force of the blow is strong enough to jar her arm. She takes 1 hit.
The others were not able to follow the conversation – they are surprised by the sudden strike. But Harmony can hit back. Her shortsword strikes sparks from the statue’s staff and hits the hand, cutting deep into two fingers.
In the next round, the statue wins initiative, while its companion is awkwardly climbing out of the water. It goes after Harmony again. The elf narrowly dances aside, stabbing at the statue’s head. But the staff is there, turning the blade aside. Again, malleable, aged silver takes damage on contact with fresh steel.
With a howl, Reinhold attacks the climbing statue. His sword strikes true, and the back of the neck is dented, but the statue feels no pain – it just mindlessly goes on heaving itself out of the water on its single arm.
Ursula and Uko go for Harmony’s opponent. Ursula hacks at it and chips off a piece of the left leg. Uko shoots it in the face. His quarrel glances off the smooth face, leaving just a long scratch on the forehead.
The statue staggers because of the damaged leg. Lifetime after lifetime of standing there did not exactly strengthen the guardian, and the attacks have taken a toll. But moral is no issue for the artificial fighter, and it will only have to hold on for one more round on its own before its partner has found its footing and can join the fray.
- Press the attack
- Use magic
- Something else (comment)
comment: push statue into hole
The Idol of Kesh – Part 50 – Splitting heads
The adventurers win initiative and force the statue back.
Harmony stabs it in the neck, taking a slice out of it. Ursula hacks its leg, cutting deep. Uko’s next quarrel breaks through the hull.
Again, the statue hits at Harmony, but the elf deflects the blow with her shield.
As the other statue rises up, Reinhold kicks it against the knee.
The one-armed statue fails it’s save – it staggers and slips once again,falling prone at the edge of the pool. Reinhold uses the sarcophagus as leverage and pushes the enemy into the water again. Quietly, the statue sinks into the darkness below.
Again the adventurers win initiative.
Ursula’s blow gets parried, and Uko fails to reload in time, but Harmony lands a decisive blow: Her short sword parts the statue’s hull and almost seperates head from neck. The silver guardian sinks to it’s damaged knee …. and stops moving.
As quickly as possible, Ursula and Harmony saw off the head and drop it to the floor. The statue is hollow, just like the head.
As the other statue lumbers back up again, the team is ready for it.
A rain of blows from all sides awaits the animated form. That proves too much for it, and it goes down a third time – this time for good, with a split and dented head.
Harmony sits down on a sarcophagus to rest.
“Your old friends here were a creepy number,” jests Reinhold, but nobody rises to the bait.
Uko inspects the metal and declares it low-grade silver.
“We can melt it down and sell it good.”
Opening the coffins reveals eleven more dead elves with iron masks – and then there’s the stairwell down into the water.
Reinhold probes the depth with his scimitar and pushes in his whole arm. He scratches along the walls until he feels the blade push into open space.
“I think it goes down just that one flight of stairs, and then it opens up into a room.”
“Under water,” Uko reminds him.
He nods and chuckles. “Anyone know a spell to breathe under water?”
“Maybe Merrick, come morning.”
- Return to camp and report
- Try to dive into the flooded room
- Explore the room opposite (with statue)
- Something else (comment)
The Idol of Kesh – Part 51 – The Statue, the Sack, and the Wardrobe
The prospect of diving into the water, while interesting, has to be postponed for now. The adventurers decide on a whim to add the statue’s severed head to the loot. The iron masks, for the moment, remain fixed to the dead skulls.
Ursula pries the silver shield loose from its place and adds it to the pile. “Dibs on that!” she says.
“We can’t call dibs,” chides Harmony. “It is good and proper etiquette that the loot is divided evenly among the party.”
“Not in our group,” says Reinhold. “We recorded who brought what.”
“Well, and see how your group fared. Fallen apart. No. We divide. But…” she bows to Ursula “… this shield shall be recorded as Ursula’s. We already have two broken silver statues, and now a third await – there will be silver enough for all.”
They crawl through the passage and take a moment to call for Oswald, but it is Basil who answers. “Os… os… oswal… wald is as… asl… “
“I get it, I get it!” Reinhold interrupts. “Oswald has gone to get his beauty sleep. Thanks for watching, old man!”
He doesn’t wait for Basil’s reply. Instead, he puts out the lantern into the room again.
Everything is as before: The statue to the left. A small box on a base in the center. A wardrobe on the right. On the opposite side, a sack-like structure, akin to a wasp nest, and faded murals showing elves with raised arms.
- Strut in with confidence
- Sneak in silently
- Stab at the statue
- Shoot at the sack
- Something else
The Idol of Kesh – Part 52 – Slow and steady
Ursula takes the lead. The former contortionist and second-storey-woman extraordinaire moves with glacial slowness. Inch by inch she passes in front of the silent guardian, watching it carefully.
Her DEX-Check comes up a spectacular 14 out of 12.
The statue stands still like a dead piece of metal.
“Are we quite sure this thing is also an animated one?” asks Reinhold.
He makes as if he’s going to wave a hand inside the room, but Uko grabs his arm. “Not now.”
It takes an age, but then Ursula is past the statue and stands up.
She weighs her options.
- Inspect the sack
- Inspect the wardrobe
- Turn the statue to the wall
- Put something across its eyes
The Idol of Kesh – Part 53 – Tender touch
Ursula goes down on her knees and slowly, slowly, creeps closer and closer to the statue.
The others watch, hardly daring to breathe.
Ursula doesn’t dare to touch the statue, but slides out her hatchet and lodges the handle against the feet of the silver guardian. Then she exerts pressure.
The guardian turns half an inch, but does not wake up.
Ursula keeps working, seeks a spot to press, places the hatchet, and pushes, again and again.
It takes her an hour!
But in the end she has succeeded in turning the statue so that it faces right into the corner. It stares right at the wall, unmoving, the same way it has stared against the opposite wall before that.
Slowly, Ursula exhales.
She wipes the sweat from her brow and waves the others in.
“Stay quiet,” she hisses. “I need a minute.”
She crawls out of the room and lies down for a spell. That was taxing.
Uko, Reinhold, and Harmony enter the room.
Uko takes a very close look at the sack hanging in the corner, then grimaces.
“That is a nest of tunnel wasps,” he declares. “Small, so there can’t be many, but they are still dangerous.”
Tunnel wasps are poisonous. They attack as a swarm when they feel threatened, and they aggressively defend their larvae.
- Avoid the nest
- Burn the nest
- Use glue on it
- Put it in a sack
- Something else (comment)
The Idol of Kesh – Part 54 – Striking Gold
Uko moves closer to the nest. It is high up – too high.
He sidles back to Reinhold. “Listen, big man. Lift me up on your broad back, and I will take out those wasps.”
Reinhold agrees: “Since it’s you, old pal, I’ll go ahead. But don’t put that in the songs.”
Uko grins sheepishly, and Reinhold takes a knee to let the goblin mount his shoulders, glue-flask ready.
Reinhold raises Uko until the goblin’s head is directly under the ceiling. Up here is the main opening of the nest. Uko pulls the stopper from the flask and deftly pours a good amount of glue into the nest. As quickly as possible he continues to plug every opening he can find with squirts of the sticky gelee. It does not take long until an angry buzz makes the nest vibrate, but Uko knows what he’s doing. He breaks the nest off from the wall, filling every cavity that appears with more glue. Soon the flask is empty, but the whole nest is a sticky ball with every opening plugged, and a good number of wasps stuck in the hardening ooze.
“That’s it for now,” says Uko. “But the survivors will burrow a new exit. We have to get rid of the thing.”
“Water,” says Reinhold.
They cut a bit from the end of the rope and glue that to the nest to form a kind of handle. Then they carry the nest out and chuck it into the well, where it drifts for a moment, before the water soaks in and it sinks into the depth to keep the super-leeches company.
Harmony uses the time to open the wardrobe and the mounted box.
She watches the statue like a hawk, but the guardian seems to be totally preoccupied with watching the wall. He ignores everything that’s going on behind his back – almost like a real statue.
The wardrobe is full of decayed, well, robes. On touch, they disintegrate and spill to the floor in thick dunes of dust and fiber. Otherwise the wardrobe is empty.
The odd little box is a small cupboard with two levels. In the upper one there is a ceremonial cup and a tiny beaker, both apparently made of gold. In the lower one there is a slender scepter and another small cup, again, both made of gold.
Harmony inspect them and finds them all mundane. She struggles to stay calm.
“These are for us,” she whispers to Ursula and the boys, as they return from murdering the wasps. “And they are gold! Gold, gold, gold. Not magical. We are in luck. We’ve struck it big. These alone are worth a house! All told, we could buy the cunning cock, and all the beer in it!”
Grinning happily, the adventurers carefully lay the gold with their mound of lesser loot. They are happy: This expedition will make them legends in the adventuring community.
A list of loot is now in a new tab on the character matrix here http://bit.ly/Idol-chars
Now they have to decide if they want to add the unmoving guardian to their loot, or look further into the room. Or neither.
- Inspect the box more closely
- Inspect the wardrobe more closely
- Touch the silver statue
- Attack the silver statue
- Return to the camp
The Idol of Kesh – Part 55 – The Visit
The adventurers dismantle the box and find the base hollow – and empty. The construction is made of wood and painted in a color that must have been gold, back in the day.
The hinges of the doors to the box are in surprisingly good condition – actually, in excellent condition. They seem to be made of a special alloy that repels filth and does not rust.
Harmony decides to keep them.
Meanwhile, back upstairs, Basil is still on watch, waiting for dawn, when he notices horses closing in from the north. He barely has time to give Phoebe’s sleeping form a shove before the riders reach the camp.
They are goblins, eight of them, and they circle the tents and the tethered horses of the group.
They carry bows and crude swords, classic goblin weaponry, but the swords are sheathed and the bows slung across their bodies. They do not look like they plan on fighting.
“Hey, you!” one of them shouts.
Talk. Basil hates talk.
He step forward and tries to draw the attention away from the well. The well with the rope.
“What are you doing here, hooman?”
“I… I… I…”
Basil curses his stutter.
“I am look… look….”
The goblins break out in bleating laughter and ape his stutter.
“I.. I.. I… I am a dumb hooman!”
Again they laugh with gleeful abandon, waking the other sleeping humans in the area.
Phoebe, armored, and Webster, half-ready, crawl out of their tents, and the goblins stop laughing as they take in the muscular build of the hulking mage with the sporadic assortment of teeth. This is a man they respect, and several of the riders feel for the reassuring arrows in their quivers, but none of them are exactly combat-ready.
“Whoa, who are you?” they ask the big man, assuming he must be the leader.
Phoebe can see that Alma is watching the situation from her tent, longbow close at hand.
- Let Webster handle them
- Ask them what they want
- Start a fight
- Let Alma pick off the leader
The Idol of Kesh – Part 56 – Gold and Goblin
Phoebe hangs back and lets Webster take center stage. The huge mage confronts the goblin and demands to be left in peace. “Why don’t you harry the other guys?”
The goblin flashes his tusks: “We’ll get to them, don’t you worry. But this land here belongs to Ma Ten Copper, and if you seek treasure here, you owe her mining rights.”
“Is that so?” Webster is sceptical.
The goblins count the party’s horses and draw their conclusions.
“You are clearly well off, carrying so much good equipment. You were lucky that you didn’t run into the evil rebels who plague these woods with foul sorcery! But don’t worry: Ma Ten Copper has yer backs. Just pony up ten gold for each nose in your team and ye can dig happily for a w … for two days.”
“Ten gold for all… six of us?” asks Webster shrewdly.
“Six? How do six of ye need like… “ he counts and fails “… so many ponies?”
“To change them, lest they get tired!”
The goblin considers this.
“Let me check how many ye are.”
“Be my guest.”
The goblins dismount and look into the tents.
Alma steps outside, Oswald and Merrick scramble for their stuff.
The goblins try to pilfer an item here and there, but the humans keep close watch and protest, and their leader tells them something in goblin and they behave.
Until they find the bound goblin.
The swords come out in an instant, on both sides.
“Eeek! What’s that? Rebel scum! Are ye allies of the mad warlock!?”
Webster calmly weighs his glaive. “The goblin is bound, is he not? How friendly can we be with them?”
The goblins are troubled and wonder what manner of men these are, but the leader takes charge.
“Okay! Ye give us sixty gold, the rebel, and a horse, and we’ll leave ye well alone for two days. For every twenty gold ye can give us a horse instead.”
“Not a horse!”
The two of them begin to haggle.
A new spell comes to Merrick: “Summon Portal”.
He advises Webster to agree and to pay 20 and let the others pay the other 40.
“We don’t need that gobbo anyway!” he argues, alienating the goblins in earshot.
Phoebe’s gang can easily see that the rebel goblin is quite afraid of being taken by those eight from Ma Ten Copper.
- Let them have the goblin
- Speak up for the goblin
- Attack the eight
The Idol of Kesh – Part 57 – Arguing with a brick wall
Phoebe looks towards the other camps to see if there’s help to be had. The adventurers there have clearly noticed what’s going on, but are playing deaf. They seem to hope that they will be overlooked if they play it quiet. Disgusting.
She doesn’t want to keep Rasck around either. No need to have a witness when they find that Idol for “The Peaceful”. But that’s no reason to see him murdered on her watch.
“Now hold on for a moment!” she interrupts the haggling. “What do you plan to do with that prisoner? He seems to believe you want to kill him, but I am sure you are much too smart for that.”
The goblin leader is taken aback.
“He’s a traitor and an enemy! You weakling humans have nursed him long enough! It is time he gets proper steel justice!”
Phoebe snorts. “Ma Ten Copper will take your ears if you waste him like that!”
Merrick lets Phoebe talk, and Webster takes his cues from the little man.
The goblin is confused. “Why are you letting this wooman talk over us? What is she rambling about?”
“I am rambling about intelligence, soldier!” Phoebe steps between Webster and the goblin, forcing them both to make room for her. “This prisoner knows things about the mad wizard. He is valuable. It may be best if you let him talk with Ma Ten Copper. Where is she?”
The goblin mulls this over.
“That is a military secret. But…”
“See? Ma Ten Copper has military secrets. So has the mad wizard. This goblin, alive and unharmed, is worth a week of protection here. Bring him to Ma Ten Copper and be happy for the chance! She will likely reward you well.”
In truth, Phoebe has no clue what Ma Ten Copper will or won’t do, but at least this will give Rasck an chance to weasel his way into that faction’s good graces.
Good arguments, but Phoebe fails to impress the goblin.
Mental shutters go down in his gaze. “No! Be quiet, wooman! The goblin dies! And you pay gold!”
Merrick and Webster congratulate themselves. Now he wants just some gold, no horses. They are ready to seal the deal, pay and have done. The goblins see the big man relax and drop their guard as well.
Basil, Oswald, and Alma are in position and wait for a signal from Phoebe.
It would be a tough and ugly fight against eight goblins, but they would have the first round, and Merrick and Webster would surely join them in the second, maybe even use their magical abilities? One can hope.
The Idol of Kesh – Part 58 – Money makes the world go round
It is a hard decision – a very hard one. But in the end, Phoebe reminds herself of the mission. They are here to bring the Idol to the Wizard, and pocket everything else of value they may find. Starting a war with goblin tribes is not on the menu.
Money changes hands: The goblins get Rasck and bundle him across one of their horses, in an uncomfortable position across the saddle horn. They also get 20 gold pieces from Big Man and Big Nose. Phoebe has to pony up 40, which she divides liberally among her eight.
Instinctively, she had been waxed by the mages paying only 20, but with a cooler head she sees that they are actually being nice – they pay their whole load and allow her to profit from the smaller headcount.
The goblins trot off to visit the other two camps in turn, collecting “rent” and leaving in a northeasterly direction.
“Ma Ten Copper, hm?” says Merrick. “This Rasck character told us about her. The one who wants to unite the clans and rule the land.”
“Yes, he did.”
He laughs and slaps her back. “As long as she starts her campaign when we are safe and sound behind city walls, I’m all for it. But judging by her debt collectors I’d say she has a ways to go still.” He wanders off, snickering.
“We could have taken them,” says Alma.
“Yeah, could be. But then maybe Ma Ten Copper would have come looking for her boys, and we have an Idol to deliver.”
Belowground, the tomb raiders discuss their options.
There is a flooded staircase in the west, or this room here, with the wardrobe. And the well to climb up and rest.
- Go for a dive
- Go for the wardrobe
- Go to sleep
The Idol of Kesh – Part 59 – Wetting the blade
Uko and Reinhold take the wardrobe apart. They blow out the dust of the rotten robes and pull on the boards until they come loose, or, more often, fall apart. While the box with the gold was pretty well preserved, the wardrobe decayed and offers no resistance.
Consequently it doesn’t take long for them to find that under the floorboard there is a square hole in the stone floor, just wide enough for one slender person to descend – however, about one and a half arms lengths down there is water.
Reinhold draws his blade and sticks it in – only to encounter a hard stop about one more arm’s lenght in. The water is not deep.
“What the hell?”
Reinhold uses the blade to feel along the sides, but there appears to be no side passage under the surface.
At least the blade comes out clean. Reinhold dries it off while the others discuss their – few – options.
- Climb down into the hole
- Dive down the staircase
The Idol of Kesh – Part 60 – Happiness & Anguish
Reinhold’s shoulders are too wide. He could climb in if needed, but not move around in the hole. Uko is smaller. The goblin probes the water again, using an old board, but fails to stir up anything nasty. The hole is wet, but clean. Content with that result, he lowers himself down and gets soaked up to the belly, before investigating the walls.
It takes him only a handful of heartbeats to find the seams of a secret door – which is also where the water seeps in.
It takes him several more heartbeats to find the opening mechanism, which is below the waterline.
A small section of the southern wall swings open into a wider room with a water level at the same height as the hole under the wardrobe. There is only a tiny portion of it above the waterline. The air smells of rot and decay, but not as stale as expected. There must be some connection to the outside.
“Lantern!” he says, and Reinhold hands him the light.
The lantern beam reveals the roof of a slanting corridor, maybe a stairwell, going down under water towards the west and up towards the east.
“Can you fit in? Does the lantern go through the open space?” asks Reinhold.
Uko can tip the lantern to get it through, but he will have to extinguish and relight it.
He decides that there is no other way.
He blows out the light and puts the lantern through the dry section of the opening. He probes under the water and finds stairs. Uko steps outside into the darkness and holds up a hand into the rabbit hole.
“Fire!” he demands.
Reinhold lights a wick and hands it to Uko, who re-light the lantern.
He finds himself at the top end of a stairwell in front of a rotten, wooden door with gaps between the boards. A draft comes in through the cracks. The door handles depict elven visages, one a happy, if slightly crazy grin, one a grimace of anguish. Both faces remind Uko a lot of the death masks that were bored into the heads of the corpses in the crypt.
Opening the door is the only option.
Uko explains the situation to those upstairs. The passage is too narrow for Reinhold, but Ursula and Harmony can fit through.
They climb down to Uko to support him, while Reinhold guards the torch and listens. Harmony has no idea what the two door handles mean. They do not seem magical.
- Happy handle
- Anguish handle
- Both at once
- Hack through the wood
The Idol of Kesh – Part 61 – The Idol of Kesh
Uko lifts the light, Ursula readies her hatchet and shield – then Harmony grabs both faces and turns them apart to open the door. They part easily and reveal a chamber waist-deep in water. In it’s center is a pedestal that bears a golden artefact – a strange, twisted form, vaguely humanoid, with wings.
“The Idol of Kesh!” says Harmony.
The idol is quite the junk. It is as big as Uko. It is also flanked by two golden staffs standing upright. Artifact and staffs all are untarnished by the years. Even though the room is filled with water, there is little in the way of mold.
The room is otherwise bare, except for an irregular hole in the opposite wall – a narrow tunnel boring into the darkness beyond.
Uko shines his light into the hole. It snakes wildly, so the beam doesn’t get far. “Odd.”
Harmony inspects the staffs and finds them to be magical, just like the Idol itself.
“We’ve done it! We have found the Idol of Kesh!”
“And all in a night’s work!” Ursula adds.
- Fetch Merrick and Webster
- Inspect the tunnel
- Block the tunnel
- Move the Treasure
- Analyze magical properties
The Idol of Kesh – Part 62 – Sacrifices
Harmony takes some time to attune herself to the items and identify their properties. The staffs are easy: They are staffs of blessing, both of them, and can speed up healing or lend power to someone. The idol is tricky. Harmony understands that it must be activated by rituals in order to achieve any direct function, but she cannot sense any link to a deity. It may be the Idol of Kesh, but it is not bound to any “Kesh”, if such a being even exists.
She is surprised to notice that she is disappointed. Part of her had always hoped to get in touch with the fabled, and mostly forgotten, god of a time when Elves still ruled the world and everything in it.
Or everything in these parts at least.
Meanwhile, Uko sniffs at the hole. He knows that smell! He sniffs again, then turns to Ursula, who is looking into the opening as well to while away the boring task that is guarding a meditating Harmony.
“Kobolds!” he hisses.
Ursula makes a question-face: “Why would they bore into this room and leave everything?”
Uko looks under his feet and finds that he is standing in an area of muck – muck made of spoiled foodstuffs that have been thrown into the water.
“Maybe they worship that thing.”
Ursual looks at the pile of organic matter spoiling the water and shakes her head: “Sacrifices?”
Uko listens into the hole.
There is only quiet.
“They could have moved away, and abandoned the place,” Ursula says with half a question mark. Now it is Uko’s turn to shake his head: “Some of these sacrifices are not that old. This is still a regular…”
He breaks off as he sees something or someone move inside the tunnel.
It is clear that the basement raiders have been heard – by someone.
- Crawl in to grab the creature
- Crawl in to kill
- Hush and hide
- Speak with them
- Destroy the tunnel
The Idol of Kesh – Part 63 – Tunnel Race
Uko doesn’t miss a beat. He crawls into the narrow opening and pushes forward, lamp raised ahead. The light reflects in a pair of yellow eyes. The figure in front of him turns around with a shriek and tries to escape. The tunnel branches out, one line going off slightly to the right, the other one sharply up for two feet and then slowly farther up. The figure – the miniscule humanoid form of a kobold, dressed in dirty-whitish rags and a brown belt – takes the way up, using two footholes in the wall to ascend smoothly. Uko knows he will lose the little guy if he pauses, so he races ahead and uses his longer reach to his advantage.
Standing up in the bend he painfully bangs his head on the low roof and misses his grab, but the kobold also slips and falls on its face. As it struggles on, Uko sees his chance still good, so he continues.
He gains slowly – too slowly.
The kobold suddenly veers off to the left.
Uko reaches the branch only a moment later – and finds himself looking into a room built with bricks. In the wall opposite there is another kobold tunnels and a half-open stone door. In the wall to the right is another one. In the wall to the left, there is a bricked-up doorway, human-sized.
On the floor there is a human skeleton clad in moldy and decayed leather armor. The ground is littered with stolen leftover items. A rusty dagger, two lengths of old rope, two helmets, a broken shield, a quiver with white-fletched arrows. Also a backpack that sprouts ugly white fungus.
- Kobold tunnel opposite
- Kobold tunnel to the right
- Stone door
- Turn back
- Investigate the room
The Idol of Kesh – Part 64 – Darts
Uko thinks about the implications of that adventurer in the room being a skeleton, and decides to turn back while he’s still holding the aces. The tunnel is too tight to turn, so he enters the room, turns around and crawls right back the way he came.
Uko quickly reaches the drop back to the lower tunnel that leads to the Idol’s room.
At that moment, a shrill wailing echoes after him from behind. The kobold is back – and he is most likely not alone any more.
Uko drops down – and just in time, because three darts bore into the tunnel wall right above him.
Angry yelling follows.
The goblin loses the lantern in his haste to get back to Harmony and Ursula. It sputters out behind him as the oil spills and the flame dips.
There is torchlight!
And there is Ursula.
“Kobolds! Kobolds!” he shouts and throws himself out of the tunnel and into the water.
Two more darts speed out. One misses him and strikes the roof of the stairwell to clatter into the water. The second one glances off his boot and strikes him in the left butt cheek.
Uko howls in pain and thrashes in the water.
Harmony is by his side in a moment and investigates the wound.
“Fantastic!” sighs Ursula, and blocks the tunnel with her shield. “Just what we need.”
Another dart slams into her shield.
Uko wails: “There will be more. We must stop them!”
“I know a spell to destroy the tunnel!” offers Harmony.
“I have that bloody bone knife from the witch!” offers Ursula.
- Lure kobolds into melee range
- Destroy tunnel with blades
- Destroy tunnel with spell
- Throw caltrops
- Offer witch knife
The Idol of Kesh – Part 65 – Rumble
Ursula reacts quickly. She throws in a good handful of caltrops to buy some time, then removes the torch from the entrance to cast her traps in shadows. But Harmony fears this will not be enough. She summons the arcane energies and speaks the words of her spell: “Thunder touch”. With one hand she reaches in and feels the rough texture of the wall.
A thunderclap rolls down the tunnels, and shakes the foundations of the network. Ursula and Uko fall to their knees, dizzy, with ringing ears. The kobolds stumble back and roll on the floor in agony, then are hidden from sight as the tunnel collapses.
After a couple of moments the adventurers shake off their shock and look around. Their chamber still stands, but the tunnel is destroyed. They have no idea if the kobolds still live. But their prize is still here.
“What in the nine hells is going on down there?” they hear Reinhold shouting.
Ursula and Uko exchange a relieved glance – they can still hear!
Ursula explains what happened and maneuvers one of the staffs through the opening. It fits, and Reinhold can take it up into his room.
Harmony uses the other staff to ensorcel Uko’s wound.
“It should be hale in two hours,” she promises.
Then she hands the staff to Ursula who gets it up through the shaft.
“What about the idol?” she asks.
Doubtful, they look at the wings of the thing.
“It will never fit through that opening.”
They look at the flooded stairs.
- Find a way under water
- Start digging
- Send Reinhold to ask the others
- Leave Idol here and ask the others