Maze Rats Season 3 – Isle of Blight – 1

Play by Poll – Choose Your Own Adventure!

Season 3 of Phoebe’s Maze Rats starts now. Season 1 and 2 were held on Google Plus. The new platforms for the game are Discord and MeWe: 

The Rules System for Maze Rats can be found here: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/197158/Maze-Rats?term=maze+rats&test_epoch=0 

Anyone can join in or drop out at any time.

*Season 3 – part 1: Preparations*

Returning to their usual hangouts and missing Uko and Basil, Phoebe’s team have to tell the other adventurers *something* about their mission. So they leave out “The Peaceful” and just speak about their search for ancient loot, kobold attacks, the witches, the almost-run-in with the mad cackling sorcerer, and the attacks by three murderers: Merrick, Webster, and Cadwaladr. And their new golem, whom they call “Hugo” and give a sledgehammer.

When the noob parties who have witnessed everything come home, they color in some of the hazier parts, but the words “Kesh” or “Peaceful” don’t come up.

Still, the elves, riled up because of their new-found pride in heritage and old glory, soon hear about the adventure and demand the loot or all the gold the adventurers have made off it, and the names of their buyers. They have no luck: Count Hasimir has it with the long-ears’ antics, and Woodbridge law is very simple and very clear on old artifacts: They belong to whoever finds them. If the elves want their old stuff, they have better dig it up themselves.

Harmony, already an outsider in the community for her heretic past as a non-sanctioned prophetess, faces outright hostility from other elves. Phoebe makes sure everyone buys armor – even Ursula, who has no love for polished mail.

Reinhold remains an independent freelancer, but armors up as well. He also sells his legendary scimitar and buys a fine hand-and-a-half sword instead. And he finds himself a new apprentice: A young spellcaster and former chimney sweep named Constance. He likes her protective attitude and her lithe sneaky moves, and he wants to prove to himself that he can successfully teach adventuring despite Alma’s untimely end.

Phoebe’s team is stalked by young hopefuls who want to join. One guy stands out: Fernsby Wood, a former blackmailer and sneaky shadowjack with a crossbow, a pale noob face and a burning desire to prove himself.

“You will never regret it, I swear on my dead ma’s grave!”

Phoebe sees his potential, but she wants the opinions of her gang.

— Let Fernsby join.
— Send him home.

*Season 3 – part 2: Elfland*

“Welcome aboard.”

Fernsby is overjoyed to be accepted in the group, and several other adventurers shoot him envious looks.

The next day at the armorers workshop, Phoebe happens to meet Reinhold and his new apprentice. Constance greets Phoebe with a big smile: “Phoebe! I am very pleased to meet you.”
As she turns her head to look at Reinhold, Phoebe notices that she is missing one ear and carries a branding scar in its place. 

“You have got any plans for that new set of armor of yours?” asks Reinhold.

Phoebe knows what he’s hinting at: They have a secret door waiting back in that ancient elven banquet hall. Hardly a good time for that, though … again. This time it is the elves themselves who are in the way. One of them is always following her. Reinhold has a shadow too. The two elves now stand in front of the workshop and glare through the windows.

“You’ve got to wonder what they think they are doing,” remarks Reinhold, noticing Phoebe’s glance at the sullen-looking watchers. “This is not Elfland any more. Their time is over. When are they going to accept that?”

The armorer speaks up: “Excuse me, Ms. Hicks? I have this message for you here.”

Phoebe recognizes the seal of “The Peaceful”. She breaks it and finds an invitiation to visit as soon as she is able.

Reinhold muses: “Using magick inside the city may get us in trouble. But how else do we lose those elves?” “I could summon a Thorn Colossus,” Constance explains.
“Or we could split up: We are three, they are only two.”
“But they are sure to follow Phoebe sooner than you,” Reinhold warns. “The two of us could start a scuffle with them while she makes a run for it.”
“I have a back exit,” the armorer chimes in.
“Sneaking out feels like being criminals. But actually, THEY are the stalkers.”

– Go High Road: Ignore the elves.
Go apart: Split up
– Go low: Start fisticuffs
Go undercover: Slip out back
– Something else (comment)

*Season 3 – part 3: Offer*

“Don’t forget us when you get that job! We want in,” Reinhold reminds her.

Then the armorer lets Phoebe out into a narrow back alley, while Reinhold and Constance make a show of moving around and inspecting pieces of armor so the elves get the impression that all is still well. When they finally notice that there is one person missing, it is far too late.

Phoebe knows her way and circles around to The Hill, a section of Woodbridge where the high and mighty live. She doesn’t waste time, she just walks up to “The Peaceful”’s house and knocks.

Archwizard Fairie Mundy is in a particularly good mood. The small man beams at Phoebe as he flounces into the room: “Wonderful to meet you again so soon, Ms Hicks. I will not keep you long: You will have guessed it: I have discovered the location of another artifact that I desire. Once more I will provide the means of transportation, but this time I shall not burden you with associates – you will be the sole master of this operation.”

He waves a map in Phoebe’s face. “This map will aid you, but it is, once more, old. Do not take its complete reliability for granted. You will leave by ship. You will have a crew to steer it. Again, you may keep all the mundane loot you find. What magical items you find you hand over to an agent of mine, together with the artifact. In addition to the loot, you and each of your crew will receive 5 gold pieces per day on sea and 20 gold pieces per day on land.”

“Avoid the elves, excepting your friend Ms. Silverbirch, naturally. They will not approve. I expect a sea journey of four days in either direction, plus two days on land, maybe three,…” he raises his eyebrows and a finger and adds: “…if necessary four. But that must suffice.”

“As a bonus for successful completion of your mission, you shall receive a one-time payment of 500 gold pieces for you and 100 gold pieces for each of your retainers, who are six, if I am informed correctly.”

Without missing a beat, he rattles of more sums: “That means at a minimum 200 gold pieces for each of your personnel, and 600 for yourself. Plus loot. Acceptable?”

Phoebe can count quickly – a necessary skill in many professions. He just offered roundabout 2.000 gold pieces plus whatever the ship and its crew cost, plus rations for the journey. All in all he is prepared to pay the price of a town house for this mysterious artifact. She also knows some basic geography of the waters beyond the Bay of Stones. There is no harbor within six days with good winds, and only one within 10. So he must be planning on sending them to one of the islands that dot the local waters.

  • – Accept
  • – Demand more money
  • Demand more info
  • – Demand more people
  • – Decline

*Season 3 – part 4: The Isle of Blight*

“I need to know more,” says Phoebe.

“The Peaceful” chuckles. “I knew you’d say that. Always you want to know more. That is what I like about you. Well, that, and that you get things done.”

He unrolls the map … with a classic X drawn onto a spot in the city center.

“This is a lost port of elvenkind. It was once a formidable city, called Told-o Estel, until a magical catastrophe blighted half the island, broke the buildings, and killed all the inhabitants. It is considered cursed, but it is safe enough, judging by the animals that populate the woodland there. Nothing will grow in the rubble of the city, though.”
“So why send us?”
“An excellent question! The reason is, firstly, I trust you. You returned the Idol to me when you had no way of knowing if I had ordered the treachery of Mr. Oblington and Mr. Webster.”

Phoebe nods, although that is wrong: Merrick spoke about his employer, called him an old, tottering fool, and made it very clear he was not going to bring the Idol to the archwizard.

“Secondly,” the Peaceful continues, “the Island is dangerous, not only because of wild animals but also because of pockets of wild magical spell effects and possible traps. Your team is the perfect fit for the mission, because you have Ms. Silverbirch, an elf who is untouched by the current elven delusion of grandeur, yet as a native she reads Elven fluently. She also happens to know about the ancient lore and is a capable magic-user. Your Ms. Moon is the right person to navigate difficult areas, as a destroyed elven city, by necessity, must be.”

He smiles and regards Phoebe with thoughtful eyes. “Now, Ms. Hicks, you know we speak of the Isle of Blight. It is notorious for ships rotting and stranding their crews, although this one will not, because the ship will remain safely offshore out of range of the magical aura at all times.”

She has seen the X.
“No” is no option any more at this point.

  • – Accept
  • – Demand more money
  • Demand magical protection

*Season 3 – part 5: Moving Out*

“Magical protection…” The archwizard thinks about it. “It is a worthwhile investment, I think, despite the many variables. But we do want you return safely.” He provides Phoebe with a set of six amulets.

“These amulets will protect you against a range of effects. Three against physical effects, three against ethereal effects. Wear the amulets in a situation where magic threatens, and test its power against the effect. These things are quite valuable, so don’t brandish them. If at all possible, please return them.”
Phoebe promises this, and “The Peaceful” explains the object of the quest: He needs the Chalice of Insanity, an artifact that is also, like the Idol, beholden to Kesh.

“Insanity?” asks Phoebe.
“A disturbing name, but fitting, I believe. It is said that whoever drinks from it is lost.” He smiles. “So don’t.”

“Is it wise to bring it to Woodbridge?”
“The Peaceful” laughs quietly. “Never worry. I know how to contain it. I do not want it loose in the world, and falling into the wrong hands. Neither in Woodbridge nor anywhere else.”

Armed with the amulets, a sketch that should help identify the Chalice, and the name of the vessel that awaits them in the harbour, “Adrianna”, Phoebe leaves the archwizard’s house, passes the Judges Oak and the Wood Gate to the southbound road, and returns to the “Cunning Cock”, the famous adventurers’ Inn south of the city, where she meets the team and Reinhold… and a group of angrily glaring elves who watch her group like hawks.

The others are more than ready to go – the farther and the sooner the better, because the elf spies and their sullen looks start to become really bothersome.

“We can start tomorrow,” says Phoebe. She spreads the amulets among the team. She also lends one to Constance. Reinhold has the hare’s paw of resistance he stole from the witches… which should protect him to a certain extent against spell effects targeted at his person. Finally Phoebe pays for the tavern keeper to tend the horses for the next ten days.

Early the next morning they set out to the city, armored, loaded with full backpacks, and bristling with arms and shields. The golem wanders after Harmony, carrying his sledgehammer. Sneaking away doesn’t work: No less than five elves follow them on their heels, while a sixth sprints off to the city to inform the priests that something’s going on.

  • Just board the ship
  • – Try to shake off the elves first

*Season 3 – part 6: Trust*

Heavily armed and with a golem in tow, the team stands out. They quickly draw attention from folk on the streets. With a growing crowd following them, they don’t waste time, they just seek out the “Adrianna” and call up to the captain.

An athletic-looking guy in a ceremonial uniform steps up to the gangway. His face is partly disfigured with acid scars.
“Who calls?” he asks with a deep, booming voice.
“I’m Phoebe Hicks, and I got a crew to ship out.”
“Welcome aboard, Ms Hicks! We have been expecting you!”

The team boards the vessel and the captain smiles: “Ready to go? Tide and wind are favorable right now.”
“Ready to go.”

The sailors loose the ropes and the Adrianna drifts away from the docks to be picked up by a small pilot vessel that tows her out of the harbour.

Harmony watches the elves. While most onlookers are waving and calling encouragement, the elven watchers are busy. They harry other ships’ crews, apparently prepared to book an immediate passage.

“They are really overdoing it,” she says.

Ursula stands at her side. “They have money. They will find someone. I only wonder how quickly, and how well-prepared they will be.”

“Oh, they will.”

Cruising north, away from the continent, the captain seeks out the adventurers.

“I have only been told to pick you up and get you to that blasted island, and then to rendezvous with another ship on the way back. But did you know that ships that anchor too close get damaged and take water? What exactly are you trying to do there?”

– Fill him in

Be vague

– Shrug, remind him of secrecy

– Tell him to mind own business

*Season 3 – part 7: Storm*

The captain introduces himself as Blaxton Carvolo, a trader, now working steady for “The Peaceful”. Since he is to risk his ship for this mission, he’d like to know specifics.

Phoebe shrugs it off: “Nothing much. We just go on land, seek out some piece of equipment, and bring it back.”

The captain absent-mindedly rubs his acid scars.

“Fine. In that case it will be best I’ll drop anchor a ways outside and set you on land with a dinghy. We’ll stay on the lookout, and when you are ready we’ll pick you up the same way.”

“Sounds good.”

They shake hands, and the Adrianna continues north until the last of the mainland cliffs disappears in greyish mist, then they alter course and go East-northeast, roughly along the coast, but out of sight.

The first night they sleep well on the rolling waves. As the second night falls, the adventurers go to sleep, but the wind soon picks up and howls through the rigging like an unhinged banshee. Phoebe and Reinhold climb onto the deck and find the captain with the helmsman.

The waves grow higher and higher, and foam and spray drench them all in moments.

“What can we do!?”

The captain points south. “There’s a bay somewhere close. We can ride it out in the open or try to find shelter there.”

“What kind of bay?”

“It is deep goblin country! But as long as we stay away from the shore we should be fine!”

“And out here?”

“Depends on the wind! If it stays like this we are safe. But if it gets much stronger, that’s trouble.”

  • Seek out shelter in the bay
  • Ride it out in the open sea

*Season 3 – part 8: Goblin Bay*

The crew of the Adrianna works like a well-honed machine: They take the sails mostly out of the wind and ride the storm’s edge towards the coast, only to drop the sail at the last instant and drift through a narrow passage in the cliffside, keeping an equal distance to both rockfaces.

Immediately, the wind subsides, and the Adrianna glides into an enclosed body of water to drop anchor. Rough waves shake the ship, but they are only a distant reminder of the rolling waters outside.

Getting thrown up and down doesn’t make for a healthy sleep. Come morning the storm loses a good deal of power, but the captain still deems it too early to use the passage. The adventurers must wait for the weather to get better. In the meantime they scan the coastline, a tangled woodland wilderness that reaches right up to the waterline, with dark, sprawling plant life confronting the seawater directly, while the usual kinds of trees begin only a couple of yards above the waterline. Several small creeks flow into this bay and, through the cut in the cliff, eventually into the ocean.

But not all parts of the bay are uniform wildland. There is one point that looks as if it had been a campsite in the past. Another spot is definitely a humanoid-made clearing with an elaborately carved, tall and slender idol in its center. Most likely it has some religious connotation.

– Explore the campsite

– Explore the idol

Stay on the ship

*Season 3 – part 9: The Hills Have Eyes*

After nigh on two days on a ship some of the adventuring crew is already itching to get solid ground under their soles. Reinhold especially wants to explore the campsite. But the majority, and the captain’s advice, keep them all on board. “These hills have eyes,” captain Carvolo warns. And indeed, a couple of hours later three goblins come out of the woodwork, and one of them shoots at the human ship with a bow. The arrow arcs wide across the sky and misses the Adrianna by a couple of yards. The archer retreats into the underbrush. His friends glower at the ship, then follow.

“They will get some more bows and try again,” one of the sailors predicts.

Before that happens, the wind abates, and the Adrianna is ready to set sail again. The ship cuts through the bay towards the open sea.

Once more, they pass through the cliffside and encounter open water, and a steady wind that guides them eastwards.

Soon the lookout spies another sail in front of them, going in the same direction.

“One mast!” he cries. “Low in the water.”

Carvolo rubs the acid scars on his cheek. “How odd… I was not aware that someone else was going to sail northeast. Not a trader I know.”

— Keep going. It’s a free ocean

— Catch up with the other ship

Fall back and keep distance

*Season 3 – part 10: Cursed Coast*

The Adrianna lowers its front sail and goes slower, leaving the strange forerunner plenty of room to be on its way. They stay far behind until nightfall and refrain from lighting position lamps at night.

The next morning, the other vessel seems to be gone, but they soon catch up with it again. It seems to go more or less the same direction they plotted.

“They don’t look like pirates,” captain Carvolo muses. “They look as if they are searching for something. But Woodbridge is the farthest outpost of the Kingdom, so it is hard to fathom what they want here.”

The Adrianna veers off farther north, away from the coast, to stay clear of the strangers, and swings back to a straight easterly route. That way the captain hopes to overtake the other vessel unobserved. The idea seems to work and the Adrianna finally reaches their destination, the Isle of Blight, coming at it from the northwest.

The group and crew look over at lush and green vegetation that covers the hills of the island.

“Hard to believe that this should be such a lifeless island!” exclaims Reinhold. “It looks so fertile.”

Captain Carvolo agrees. “It is far from lifeless. The northern part here is pure wilderness full of wildlife. It could be possible to build a new port here, in theory. But the presence of the dead city is daunting, and most people distrust magic in general.”

Harmony nods. “With good reason. It is a fickle force.”

Phoebe reminds everyone of the reason they are here: “Let’s see that city.”

The Adrianna circles the island along the northern and eastern shore and reaches the south, where the port is shielded from their view by a long, curved wall that reaches several hundreds of feet out into the sea. Two towers guard it, one far out to the south, one close to the shore. Everything is covered in yellowish dust and eerily quiet. Not a single soul lives there. No sign of vine, ivy or moss blemishes the pale wall.

Harmony stares wide-eyed. “It is said that Told-o Estel was the jewel of the East. But this… this is like a desert.”

Directly east of the blighted city walls there is some kind of lesser city, an area with crumbling houses outside of the wall – the old serf town.

“Do you want to land in the harbour or outside the walls?”

— Go around the wall

Land outside of the wall

*Season 3 – part 11: Calamity*

Phoebe looks at the dead walls of Told-o Estel, and back to the crumbling shacks outside.

“Better to set up camp outside of the walls first.”

The others agree.

“Still, we will stay clear,” captain Carvolo says. “Four of my men will set you ashore in two boats. If you need transport, just set something on fire. We will come.”

The adventurers ready their equipment and rations and climb into two tiny little rowboats. The dark waves look especially deadly now they wear heavy armour, and even more so close to the golem who really weighs his dhinghy down. Young Fernsby Wood is green around the gills and hugs his crossbow with white knuckles.

“Just look at the shore!” one of the sailors advises with a smile, and that really helps to calm queasy stomachs.

The walls turn out to be much higher than they looked, and as the boats scrunch on the beach it is obvious that Told-o Estel had really impressive bulwarks to hide behind. Too bad that death came from inside. There is a rotten gate in the wall some hundred yards away from the beach.

So close to the dead city it is the sailors’ turn to get queasy, and they make warding signs while they help the adventurers to unload.

“Just look at the Adrianna,” Reinhold advises with a laugh, and the sailors waste no time to do just that: climb in their tiny cockleshells and pulling hard to get back to the safety of their vessel.

Phoebe looks them over: Reinhold and his apprentice Constance, her old friend Harmony, the elf, Ursula and Oswald, erstwhile companions of Reinhold’s who have elected to follow her instead. The rookie Fernsby Wood. And Harmony’s impassive golem “Hugo”.

Feels good to lead such a serious force.

She shoulders her axe. “Let’s move.”

The houses of the lesser city are not impressive – living quarters for serfs and maids who used to work for the elves of the city proper. Like the city itself they are now blighted, yellowish, and dry. They huddle together in the middle, and get sparser closer to the wall as well as farther away from it. The “curse” of the island has not stopped at the wall, but permanently scorched a good half mile around it. The border of the effect is easy to discern: Right beyond that zone of death a veritable jungle springs up, mighty trees and thick underbrush.

Only a handful of dead roots and decaying branches dare to struggle closer.

“Remind me again, what did this?” asks Reinhold.

Phoebe picks up some of the yellow dust. “A magical calamity. Of unknown origin.”

“Like what Harmony did back in that dungeon? When she cast eternal darkness on the feating hall?”

Harmony chuckles. “Something like that, yes.”

Investigate some houses

— Check out the jungle

— Inspect the wall

— Head for the city gate

*Season 3 – part 12: The Dead*

Phoebe pushes against one of the doors with her axe, and the dusty wood crumbles under the pressure. She doesn’t even need a lantern inside. The windows and the roof, even parts of the wall, are full of holes. The others follow her into spacious rooms full of dust dunes … the former furniture. The stairs leading into the first floor have collapsed, but there are stone stairs leading down into the basement.

Fernsby shines a light down and tries a couple of steps.  Halfway down he stops and squints along the beams of light. “Dead people!” he announces.

Oswald follows him down the stairs, but no danger presents itself: Fernsby and Oswald find eight dried corpses that disintegrate when Fernsby prods them with his throwing axe.

But Oswald discovers an altar with a tiny Idol … of Kesh.

Harmony and Ursula check it out and find it without power.

Oswald shrugs and puts it in his backpack.

The second house is very similar: decayed furniture, dead people in the basement, nothing of value.

One house seems different: It looks like a small, stout, and bulky temple with withered and dried trees on the former front lawn, now front sandfield. And it appears to have only one level. It is remarkably well preserved. The adventurers peek through the tiny windows. Many dead people lie or cower on the floor inside. When the catastrophe hit, believers must have fled to the temple for a protection it could not deliver.

— Investigate the temple

— Continue to the city proper

*Season 3 – part 13: Shade*

Phoebe and Fernsby shove open the door and let light into the temple. Reinhold and Oswald pass them and shine lanterns into the disaster: dead men, women, and children, practically mummified over time. Harmony follows and takes a good look around, Ursula and Constance behind her. Phoebe is proud that the team plays together so seemlessly. The dead huddle together, but their death seems to have come at one sudden moment. None of them seems to have tried to run, or to have reacted to the death of the others. It must have been one wave that killed them all … although they all fled to the basements or to the temple, so something must have alarmed them before the blast.

All except four… there are four armed men who don’t fit. They are dried and preserved like the others, but they wear leather armor and arms. Adventurers. They came later and explored, and they died here, one close to the entrance, one close to the altar, two somewhere among the corpses. Their blades lie beside them, brittle as if they were thousands of years old.

“Something is not….” says Reinhold, but then he stops as three slightly humanoid looking shadows detach themselves from the walls and grow more substantial. They wield shadow blades: protectors of the temple.

“Shades!” Harmony shouts.

Run like hell

— Defensive formation

— Use magic

*Season 3 – part 14: The Wall*

“They can’t abide the sun. Run!”

The shades pick up speed, but the adventurers don’t hesitate. They spin around and run as fast as they can, as if from the hounds of hell… which is not too far off reality.

The team does not stop until they have reached the next building and taken cover behind it.

While the others sit down and catch their breath, Harmony risks a glance back around the corner to see the golem lumber after them with his hammer – but nothing else. The shades have given up pursuit. The doors of the temple are open, but the monsters do not dare to brave direct sunlight. They are safe… at least until sundown.

“They can only be hurt with magic weapons, can they?” asks Reinhold.

“Only magic weapons can really bite them. But I think other weapons can hurt them, if only to some extent.”

Fernsby scowls. “We could have taken them! A spell, and massed attack…”

“Sure, maybe, but what for?”
“Well, what are they doing here? They must guard something.”

“Most likely they guard the temple against unbelievers, or at least against strangers.”

As the golem reaches them and stops, Phoebe inspects the troop. “Everyone alright? No equipment lost? Fine. Then let’s go all in.”

The group steps close to the huge wall. It is dry and porous, but even though it looks less substantial than it should it is still an overwhelming sight.

Harmony deciphers the inscriptions. “This tower here at the waterfront is the Water Tower. This one here, with the gate, is the Earth Tower.”

The gate is broken and has crumbled away. The jagged teeth of a portcullis look brittle, but not rusty. Behind it there is a tunnel through the Earth tower, with murderholes and iron sally doors. A broken and decaying wooden cart is halfway in, dipping sideways, blocking the road except for an open footpath on the left side. The tunnel is dead quiet, and everything looks like it should really be moldy and stinking, but it is dry and sterile instead.

— Pass by the broken cart

Pull the cart out

— Try the sally doors

*Season 3 – part 15: Swarm*

The adventurers discuss their options and decide to pull the cart back out of the tunnel. Reinhold pulls on the cart to test its weight, and promptly breaks off a piece of brittle wood the size of his forearm. It will take a bit of finesse. But they came prepared: they use their ropes to get a good handle on the thing and pull, while the spellcasters and the golem stand guard. 

On the way out, the cart loses a wheel, several pieces of debris, and a whole railing. An angry buzzing starts, and a swarm of brownish-yellowish beetles rises from the sacks in the back.

As the swarm attacks, Hugo the golem steps up to protect the group. It is the first time ever that he really does anything else than lumber after his humans. The mindless beetles swarm him and do their utmost to bite his skin, but to little avail, as he does not feel pain and his eyes are basically just holes. He dances a merry jig as he swats down the swarm, tramples the fallen, and finally rolls back and forth to crush all of them on the ground.

The swarm destroyed, he stands up, brushes off their dust, and returns to his guard stance.

Reinhold pats Harmony’s shoulder: “Nice. Really nice.”

She nods. “And now we know that not everything is dead here. Just all the mammals.”
“And the humans and elves!” he reminds her.

She squints at him, trying to decide if it is worth it to try and convince him… nah.

The threat removed, the adventurers get rid of the cart and set foot into the city.

To the left they see the wharf and the curved wall reaching out into the sea. To the right a road leads along the inside of the wall towards the north. In front of them there are buildings, mostly broken and damaged, especially the top floors and the roofs are turned to rubble and dust. Right in front of them is an old bath house.

In the harbour, there lies a ship moored to a landing place on one of the three moles. Nobody moves on deck or on the wharf, but the ship looks out of place, with wood of a fresh and healthy colour and a bright blue line painted along the side. Visitors like the adventurers themselves.

Inspect the ship

— Check out the bath house

— Walk the streets

— Follow along the wall

*Season 3 – part 16: Seagull*

The adventurers move towards the ship, a beautiful vessel tied to a mole called the Dragon’s Dock. In flowing script someone has painted “Seagull” on its side. Nobody is around it at first, but as the party comes closer, there is a shout and a handful of sailors storm up on deck. They grab weapons and hide behind the railing to pick off anyone who tries to come aboard. At least three of them have crossbows. They don’t look like crack fighters, but there is about nine or ten of them.

The adventurers exchange glances. They are still far enough off to be not acutely worried about shots, but that also means a bit too far for reasonable communication. Custom would indicate that there would be talk before hostilities, although these people seem nervous, so there are no guarantees.

— Slowly come closer

— Leave the harbour

— Send Phoebe to talk

— Send Reinhold to talk

— Attack the ship

*Season 3 – part 17: Enemy*

“Wait here.” 

While the rest of the team remains, Phoebe walks boldly towards the ship. Three, no, four crossbowmen keep her in their sights. As soon as she is close to the ramp, one of the sailors stands up and calls to her: “Stop! That is far enough!”

Phoebe stops. She does a quick head-count, and yes, there is ten of them. They are all human, and they look at her as if she was not.

She lifts her chin. “Who are you, and where do you come from?”

“This vessel is the seagull, we came here from Woodbridge,” the boss says. “Just like you.”

“So you know me… and still you aim those quarrels at me?”

“Well, you are the enemy, aren’t you?”

Phoebe is nonplussed.

“Enemy of whom?”

“Of our masters… but I have said too much already. Begone! Or we shall shoot you down where you stand.”

The man is serious. Mad, but serious.

And his crew is emboldened by the threat, so they stand up and show off their expert handling of the crossbow. Those without crossbows brandish their various blades.

Phoebe backs away, keeping her shield up until she rejoins her companions.

“I think they have something in their water. They called us enemies of their masters and threatened to shoot.”

“Better leave them to their doom, then,” says Ursula.

“What doom?”

“Well, our sailors said no ship survives this harbour. They sink.”

“Should we warn them?” Constance wonders.

“Maybe,” says Fernsby. “But will they believe us?”

Phoebe looks back at the seagull and frowns. They still aim at her with their crossbows.

She thinks about it, but Reinhold laughs. “Too late anyway. They already are in the harbour.”

“I think we can take them,” says Harmony, uncharacteristically grim. “We have magic and a golem.”

“But we may yet need both of them against real enemies, not them. Let the curse take them,” says Reinhold.

— Attempt to warn them

— Send magic and golem

— Leave and enter the city

*Season 3 – part 18: Told-o Estel*

The team turns away from the mole and the sailors cheer and hurl taunts after them. They almost succeed in making Reinhold want to turn back, but cool heads prevail and Phoebe’s Maze Rats leave the harbour without trouble. There is a street that leads right from the mole and straight into the dead city.

The gang follows that eerily quiet street.

After the first couple of houses on the right hand side there is an open square, a market place with the stalls empty and decayed, but all still at their place. No trace remains of the traders and customers. On the far side behind it, a building with high stone arcs and a single tower draws attention. It has weathered the destruction better than others.

Harmony gasps: “That is the Sword School. A famous place. It is said that some of the finest swordsmasters of Elvenkind were taught here and taught others in turn.”

Fernsby is interested at once: “An elven sword school? Maybe there are fine blades to be found.”

Phoebe checks her map. “Our designated goal is pretty much straight ahead along this street, right beside the palace. We should not waste resources on dubious sidequests. Remember the shades in the temple.”

Oswald points to the ground: “Here are tracks. The masters of those crazy sailors must have gone along this road.”

He is correct… there are fresh bootprints in the dust, several of them. 

“I don’t think we should catch up with them unprepared. A quick hop over to this sword school can’t hurt,” Oswald suggests.

Constance is worried: “If we tarry too long, these masters will find our price first.”

“If they really look for the same price!” says Reinhold. “Either way, if we look for the same thing we will probably meet anyway. It may be useful not to waltz up the main street like an army. A ‘dubious sidequest’ may takes us off the route they expect us.”

Harmony is also drawn to the Sword School. “Nobody has been there since the catastrophe.”

Ursula sides with Phoebe: “Better to find out about these other explorers before we do anything rash. I say we scout ahead and follow these ‘masters’. But maybe in a side street.”

— Follow the main street

Check out Sword School

— Sneak on parallel to main street

*Season 3 – part 19: Back to School*

Crossing the market is easy, because it is clean and empty, except for the yellow dust. The walls of the Sword School are a bit decayed and crumble under Fernsby’s probing thumb, but they are so thick they hold up fine.

The front gate is huge and wooden, and it has stood the test of time less stoutly than the walls. With just a slight push, Reinhold breaks two boards and a small door in the left portal wing falls open.

Shrugging, Fernsby, Oswald and Reinhold enter a corridor shrouded in shadow. A couple of steps farther in it opens up into a wider patio, sunlit from a square of sky high above it.

Harmony follows the swordsmen, but she is much more awestruck. She looks up and takes in the marvels of old Elven architecture, while the others inspect the doors and the patio. The people of this town were not her tribe, but she appreciates the skill and creative vision that went into building this spaceous school of blades. A melody chimes in keeping with the wind, produced no doubt by some sort of pipe system somewhere up at roof level.

A wide stairwell leads up to the levels above, an open portal leads into a corridor towards a dark hall, and a smaller staircase down into the basement.

Up to the stairs

— On into the hall

— Down to the basement

*Season 3 – part 20: Elevated*

The Sword School has been built to last. All the way up it shows: a crumbling outer layer, but a sturdy core beneath it. Fernsby even breaks off a bit from a banister, but even there the core holds.

Still, every level of the building is deserted. A lone explorer would surely go mad in so much emptiness, but they are a sizeable party of eight, they don’t want for company.

Soon they reach the roof, which is more decayed than the interior, but still a mighty bulwark of stone. Only the tower looks a bit frayed, so they decide to stay clear of it. And they don’t need any tower for a great view of the whole city: The roof is elevated high enough to lay out the street grid conveniently below them.

To the south, there still is the ship of the mad sailors at the Dragon mole. Hidden from them behind the harbour wall reaching out into the sea, there is Captain Carvolo’s ship anchored far out, a grey lump in the distance.

To the west are decayed shipyards with broken remains of several huge naval vessels. As an island power, Told-o Estel had been heavily relying on a navy. A navy that is now dust.

The city wall with its five fortified towers is a tad too high to see the woodland around it, but inside the city it becomes apparent that there is a “ground zero” of the destruction, a building where the original blast must have come from. It is to the northwest of the Sword School, a huge rectangle of rubble with broken pieces strewn all around it.

Phoebe checks her map. “That is the university.”

Harmony nods. “Makes sense.”

The buildings adjacent to the old university are almost obliterated, then more and more undamaged the farther they are away from it. Behind it 

High up north there is a huge square in front of an almost undamaged palace.

The palace is flanked by four temples.

“Which one is our destination?” asks Harmony, studying their designs.

“The second one on the left.”

“That is a temple of Kesh.”

Fernsby nervously shifts his weight from one foot to the other and back. “I am ready to bet you that the guys from that ship are already there.”

“You’d win that bet,” says Constance. “Look to the palace, southwestern edge.”

They stare hard and finally make out a person. Someone is standing guard there, half-hidden behind a pile of rubble.

“He’s watching the street and the square.”

“That person is making sure nobody sneaks up on the others while they are occupied in the temple.”

Ursula glares. “What are the odds. They are looking for the same price we are searching.”

Phoebe rubs her chin. “They don’t know about us yet. We could let them do the work for us and waylay them. Except we don’t know how long they will take.”

Sneak up on the Palace

— Prepare Ambush along the way

Explore Sword School basement

— Explore university rubble

— Explore something else (comment)

*Season 3 – part 21: Armory*

“That guard looks like he means business,” observes Phoebe.

Oswald nods. “Maybe we should look to lift some fabled elven swords from here somewhere.”

“Not a bad idea. But you have seen the empty rooms. If anything remains, it must be in the basement.”

They decide to split up: Phoebe is scouting ahead to learn more about this rival group. The others are searching the basement for hardware.

And it is true: The higher levels and ground floor are devoid of any useful items, or dead bodies, or anything really, aside from the yellow dust. It is impossible to tell how everything could decay so much. Not even the signs at the walls are there, just the holes and slight discolorations that hint at something that must have been there a long time ago.

Finally they descend into the basement and find actual remains. There are decayed shelves with rotten things on them – mostly textile fiber. And there is a sign that Harmony translates: “Armory”.

“Nice!” cheers Fernsby.

They push open a double door and find a hall directly under the dark hall on the ground floor. Two spiral staircases, one left and one right, and curving in opposite directions, lead up to the hall above, but their top exits are both blocked with something.

In each of the four corners there is a stone statue, depicting two elven swordsmen, an elven female with a glaive, and a hound, rampant, on hind legs, with a long stone tongue lolling out. In the center of the room there is a single dominant pedestal with one slightly curved, elegant sword in a peculiar shade of soft, almost organic colours that seem to change with the play of the light. The blade is devoid of inscriptions, blessings or other individual marks.

Along the walls there is an assortment of weaponry, although all the wooden parts of the arms are rotten and splintered, and the majority of swords, and all maces, knives and almost all speartips are brittle and rough, rendered useless by the time of neglect that has passed since the Catastrophe. Only two sets of throwing knives, three curved elven swords, one heavy chopping blade, as well as one all-metal axe and a slender full metal spear remain as witnesses of ancient elven blademastery.

Harmony reads the name of the spear: “Ince Acsa – the Path of the Bird.” The axe looks like it should have a name, but none is apparent. Yet Harmony identfies the sword on the pedestal: “Ecet i lindele – The Singing Sword”.

“The Singing Sword? What does it do?” asks Constance.

“Most likely a magical weapon.” declares Reinhold. “I call dibs on it.”

— Take the Singing Sword

— Take only the other blades

— Take nothing and leave

Inspect that statues

— Inspect the walls

*Season 3 – part 22: Silent Guardians*

The team doesn’t trust the statues and investigates them closely. They are hewn from a rough, sharp-edged kind of rock, a bit simplistic, too, solid craftsmanship and a good likeness to generic elves and a hound. They have remained sheltered down here in the armory, so they survived the Catastrophe and persevered where wood and common metal decayed under the onslaught of time.

The statues are mighty and would, if they stood, tower two heads over the adventurers. Now they are sitting on identical pedestals in the four corners of the room, but they are not fixed to them. The statues are made from another kind of stone than the pedestals, and they are only standing there.

Ursula shakes her head. “Silent guardians. This sure looks like a trap.”

Reinhold shrugs. “So what do we do? Leave the sword here? Or are we going to risk it?”

“Well, I know a spell… at least if we can get them together I can bind them in a Tar Prison.”

Harmony approves of the idea, in general. Yet still… “They are in the four corners of a room. We would need to transport them all to the same general area.”

Ursula points to the golem.

“An option…” Harmony admits. “But is the sword worth a spell?”

“Spells are for casting,” says Constance.

Harmony laughs. “Spells are for casting, all right, but a good spell is worth keeping for the right moment. Is this sword worth it?”

“What are our alternatives?”

“Like Reinhold said: Leaving the sword. Or risking it and making a run for it.”

“Or try and smash them,” adds Fernsby with a grin.

– Leave the sword

– Risk it and run

– Let the golem work and do magic

– Try and smash them

*Season 3 – part 23: A lone Watcher*

Harmony has Hugo open his mouth and replaces his old scroll about protecting her and her friends with a new one. His orders cannot be too complicated, so she just orders him to get the four stone statues into one corner of the room, then await further orders.

Hugo processes his new orders and takes a look around the room. Then he goes on to topple the first stone giant. With a resounding crash the swordsman falls, and Hugo uses his sledgehammer as a lever to transport the object along the wall. It is hard work and takes a while, but Hugo is getting there.

As soon as he is done, he stops and opens his mouth, so Harmony switches his orders back again.

Then Ursula closes her eyes, breathes deeply, and utters the odd phrase that unleashes the magic spell at her command: The Tar Prison.

Magical energies crackle, and the statues are coated with a black, sticky substance dripping out of thin air in large quantities.

“Grab them!” she shouts, and the team gathers up all the useable weapons in the room.

****

While the rest of the group watches the golem rearrange the armory, Phoebe is seeking intelligence about the “masters” of the ship that is sitting in the harbor waiting for, if Captain Carvolo is right, its doom. She really does not want to alert his guard, so she plays it safe and takes the second parallel street up to the palace. No living soul presents itself, and she gets close to the palace of Told-o Estel without any hassle. She then forces her way into one of the buildings adjacent to the palace square and scales the stairwell up to a roof for a good overview. Everything works out swimmingly. The roof has some low banister for cover, and the guard is still there, watching the main road and keeping an eye on the square on the side.

Up this close it becomes apparent that he is an elf. He has found a good spot that is not immediately visible to someone on ground level. And he has made himself comfortable, and he carries a strong composite bow and arrows, as well as a longsword and throwing knives. He has the air of someone who is rather competent in the use of weapons, not like the tools who were following them back in Woodbridge.

An elf. That is a problem. “The Peaceful” made it very clear – if it was not apparent from their clamoring in the streets – that the elves are very strictly opposed to any non-elf messing with their cultural heritage. And the object of their quest, the Chalice of Insanity, is undoubtedly an uncontested part of that heritage. He also really doesn’t look like he is prepared to talk things over. He seems like the shoot first type.

Phoebe is used to go toe to toe with an opponent, but she does have a crossbow with her as well, just in case there is need for a ranged attack. She can either wait here and keep an eye on the elf, or retreat to rejoin the group. She can also attack, of course. He has obviously no clue he has been seen, and he is stationary, so she can aim at leisure and would shoot with advantage. She would score a critical hit if successful. Another option: knowing his position and field of vision, she can avoid him to go all around the palace and approach the Temple of Kesh from the north.

— Circle around the palace

— Snipe him

Retreat and report

— Wait for the others to catch up

*Season 3 – part 24: Click, click*

Slowly, carefully, Phoebe pulls back and climbs down from her roof. The elf is focused on the streets and remains clueless. Phoebe dusts off her trousers and returns back toward the others to report and decide together what to do next.

***

As Reinhold grabs the “Singing Sword” from its rack, a magical impulse can be felt running up his arm and outward. All four of the guardian statues come to life with a rumble and begin to struggle to get up, but they are hopelessly caught in their tar prison. The stone hound rolls its eyes and growls like the rumbling of a rock avalanche. Reinhold smiles as he takes a moment to salute the dog and perform a mock bow before he zips out of the room after the others.

The team closes the doors and makes for the exit as speedily as possible.

“Let’s get some distance between them and us so they can calm down,” says Harmony. “I sure hope they don’t hold a connection to the sword.”

“How long will the tar prison hold?”

“I don’t really know.”

Right around the corner they meet Phoebe on her way back. She is already worried about not meeting the team the whole way until now. Harmony hands her one of the curved elven blades. “Look, Phi, here – an original elfblade for you!”

On the way north Phoebe tells the others about the lone guard with the bow.

“With our numbers, we can capture him,” says Fernsby.

Oswald shakes his head. “It’s an elf warrior. Depending on his personal ethics, it may be that he will not surrender even if he’s hopelessly outnumbered.”

Suddenly they all stop in their tracks, as a hard clicking sound can be heard.

A beetle the size of a dog is sitting on a nearby roof and folds and unfolds its hard backplates to flex its transparent wings.

“Oh no… more of those.”

“But bigger.”

“At least it’s not a swarm,” says Fernsby.

Two more of the beasts join it, and frantic clicking ensues. Then one more crawls through a window. Another one looks out of the window to see what’s going on. They are protected by a pretty hard-looking shell, and their feet end in sharp claws… sharp enough to grab hold of crumbling buildings and most likely also to carve deep wounds.

Fernsby nods: “Still, five is not —”

Ursula hisses: “Will you shut up, jinx-boy?”

Constance feels for her new throwing knives. Harmony weighs the spear. Ursula touches the elven axe.

Run and hide

— Let them come

— Use magic Thorn Colossus

— Use magic Vine Circle

Character matrix: http://bit.ly/PhoebesMazeRatsLvl3

*Season 3 – part 25: Trespassers*

“Run!” Phoebe shouts.

Some more quickly, some more reluctantly, all of the team turn around to fall back, even before the critters make their move. The party speeds around the next corner and piles through an old and weak door – which crumbles to yellow dust around them – into the semi-darkness of a random house. They find a long corridor with doors on the left side and a long staircase leading to the next floor on the right side.

Light filters in through the broken and decaying doors on the left, and streams in through the third door, which has fallen out. Phoebe can see that there is another stairwell below the first. This one leads down into a basement. It is an obvious apartment building. The doors must open into old living quarters.

— Stay quietly in this corridor

— Go up

— Go down

— Go through a random door

Go through the open third door

*Season 3 – part 26: Cocoon*

Standing around cluttering up the doorway is clearly not an option, should the bugs decide to pursue. Phoebe leads her gang along the corridor until she reaches the open door. She checks quickly and sees no sign of life or traps inside, although a chunk of masonry is missing at the side of the door, almost like it was knocked out with a sledgehammer. She moves in, the others follow right behind her.

They group finds itself in an apartment with the general air of being a small family home. No dead bodies, no bones, and no personal effects are visible, yet the furniture is more or less intact, if porous and disintegrating. From the main room there are two doors leading off to the sides, and two windows overlooking a withered courtyard that must have been an impressive sight in the past. A wealth of plant life lies here, or what’s left of it, dry husks turned to yellow dust to bake in an unforgiving sun.

The windows are openings without glass or any other panels that would be blocking sight, sound, or weather.

Reinhold and Constance have entered the right-hand room and the small, abandoned storage room behind it. Nothing interesting to see. “Clear!” Reinhold calls.

Fernsby checks the left-hand door and finds deep scratches in the floor and on one side. He looks inside and finds something. “Hey!”

Oswald and Ursula appear at his shoulders with raised shields, ready to defend. They freeze in their tracks as they notice a huge organic-looking construction hanging from a corner of the room. It is mostly whiteish, brownish, or grey. It appears to be a cocoon of some sort, but big enough to hold three grown men and their luggage.

“This is gigantic.”

“Is it empty?”

“Hard to tell. It looks empty. But I don’t see an opening.”

“I see one,” says Phoebe as she looks around the corner behind them.

The window to the courtyard is pretty heavily damaged. Something came through it – big enough to leave deep grooves on both sides of the windowframe, and knock out a chunk of stone from the bottom. Bits and pieces of masonry are spread around the floor. Deep scratches cut into the floor, the walls around the construct, and the ceiling.

— Retreat and stay in main room

— Retreat back into the corridor

Inspect the thing

— Attack the thing

— Unleash magic Thorn Colossus

*Season 3 – part 27: Gestation*

Fernsby steps forward to inspect the cocoon. He touches it with his shield rim and notices that it is soft and flexible. And sticky! A bit of it sticks to his shield and he draws long, gooey threads off it.

Then he is startled by something moving inside the big sack.

An odd kind of insect, approximately as big as a human head, presses against the skin of the cocoon from the inside, stretching and probing. It is not alone either. Two more of the critters shift and move their legs behind the first one.

“Back!” orders Phoebe, and Fernsby locks shields with Ursula and Oswald again.

The insects are still probing and feeling for something.

Then the foremost one manages to slice through its gestation sack with a sharp fore-claw, and drops through the opening. With a wet splat it drops to the floor in a milky puddle, where it starts to orient itself. The others inside lose their footing now that their brother is gone. They tumble over and sink to a lower pocket, and three more of the strange bugs slide down from above, filling the void. The form of the sack shifts repeatedly as, bit by bit, others sink to fill the spaces vacated by those below them.

– Kill the nosy one

– Kill them all

– Retreat out of the room

– Wait and observe

– Other idea (comment)

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  • Comment on MeWe: “Burn them with Fire”.
  • Majority Decision: 

*Season 3 – part 28: Happy Slapping*

Let’s leave it.” says Phoebe.

Retreating from the room, the party closes the door just as the critter starts jumping around all over the place, slapping against the wall and trilling in sharp bursts. It even knocks its tiny head against the sack and sticks to it for a heartbeat, then falls off again, pulling a long string of sticky slime with it. Then the door swings shut.

Phoebe motions for Fernsby to bring his hacking sword and, as he hands it over, bars the door with it.

“Hey!”

“You can take it again when we leave.”

Two slaps rattle the door and indicate that the critter either randomly jumps against obstacles or tests the barriere. Then it is trilling and slapping again, and it is joined by more trilling and more slapping, as it somehow manages to get some of his peers out of the sack.

“Let’s call him Jimmy”, says Reinhold. “Jimmy the Jumper.”

Fernsby is cross about his sword being used as a door bar.

“Let’s call him Ash! I say we go in and burn the lot!”

Reinhold pulls two of his caltrops out of the backpack. He frees Fernsby’s sword, pins the caltrops as stoppers under the door, and hands the blade back to the young warrior. “There… that’s better.”

Constance has kept an eye out for pursuit from the earlier bugs and signals all fine and well: Nothing followed them into this house and nothing flutters around in the street.

— Go in and burn the lot

— Explore the house

— Explore the basement

Go outside and move on north

*Season 3 – part 29: Palace*

Leaving the door barred, the party moves out to make sure the streets are clear again.

“You know, for a cursed and blighted place, they have a lot of life here.”

The street is quiet, as is the building the beetles were crawling out of earlier.

Phoebe smiles. “Fine. Then let’s get a move on before these elves go ahead and take OUR chalice.”

“You know,” says Harmony, “I can’t shake the feeling that they are here for that exact thing.”

This time they get back to the palace without incident. Phoebe signals for quiet and sneaks forward to take a look around the corner.

The elf is gone.

She frowns. This could mean any number of things. They could have pulled him back to help in the temple. Or they could be already on their way towards the harbor with their loot. He could have found a better hiding spot somewhere. Or he could have heard them and ran to fetch reinforcements. Or he could have just gone to take a leak and come back any moment.

Go up on the roof to scan for him

– Search the area on foot

– Use opportunity to go into the palace

– Use opportunity to move in on the temple

– Something else (Comment)

*Season 3 – part 30: Sniper*

Phoebe, Harmony, and Ursula leave the rest of the gang downstairs to wait while they crawl up onto the roof to look for the sentry. They crawl forward to where Phoebe was looking earlier and carefully look over the balustrade.

And there he is: Ursula spots him. He has traded for a position higher up to see more of the area. He is sitting behind a window of the palace tower, and what’s more, he has seen them.

He has nocked an arrow… there was the movement of his elbow that caught Ursula’s attention.

But he’s waiting.

“He’s got us in his sights,” says Ursula. “Second window from the left, in the tower.”

Phoebe grunts. “Damn. He has pretty good cover.”

“I don’t think he knows we’ve seen him yet.”

“Do you think he’ll shoot?”

“What else can he do from up there?”

Harmony thinks about it. “He has a good position. But we always have magic.”

“And we are three, he’s one. We could pin him down.”

“Or we could act like we hadn’t seen him to lure him out.”

“He wouldn’t just shoot us like fish in a barrel, would he?” asks Ursula.

“That would be quite mean. We’ve done nothing to earn that.” says Phoebe. “He is an elf… despite all the quarrels back in Woodbridge, he should still be one of the good guys. We could just signal to him.”

Harmony raises an eyebrow at her: “Signal to a sniper?”

“Well, he hasn’t shot at us yet.”

“But he would have, had we just crossed that plaza.”

Act as if he wasn’t there

– Duck and hide

– Smile and wave

– Unleash magic vine circle

– Shoot

– Other idea?

*Season 3 – part 31: Sniper? What sniper?*

“I don’t think so,” says Phoebe. “We are a whole bunch. And he is alone and has not made up his mind. He will not start a fight with us if we don’t act dangerous. Not on his own, and not without a clear call.”

Harmony has serious doubts. “You have an awful lot of trust in our kind. We should, I don’t know, cut him off from behind. Send Reinhold and Constance…”

Phoebe shakes her head. “How would we do that? No.”

She takes a deep breath, then stands up in full view of the plaza and dusts off her armor.

She makes for a very easy target, but to Harmony’s and Ursula’s amazement, the sniper doesn’t fire… instead, he shrinks farther back into the shadows and watches.

Phoebe walks back and forth and looks across the rooftops.

“I think we lost those monsters!” she calls to the others, loud enough to be picked up by the elf.

Ursula follows her example and stands up. “It was a good idea to get up here,” she answers.

“Okay, time to check out the neighbourhood.”

They stroll back to the ladder and start climbing down. Harmony shakes her head and follows them.

The whole way towards the ladder her back itches in anticipation of a deadly arrow. It turns out to be the longest five steps in her life… but nothing happens.

They alle make it safely down to the ground floor.

In the meantime, the men have rifled through all the cupboards and shelves. 

“Look!” proclaims Reinhold: “We found 40 elven gold coins!” They were hidden inside this finely made cup here! I’d wager this is worth at least 30 gold all by itself.”

Harmony looks it over. “I’d say more like 40 as well. This is a housecarl cup. The owner of this house was a personal retainer of the king.”

While Phoebe explains about the sniper, Harmony takes a look around and finds a pressure plate that opens a hidden trapdoor to a basement. Stairs lead down to a door.

– Investigate the basement

– Move out towards the temple

– Move out towards the palace

*Season 3 – part 32: Hammerhead*

They are all agreed: This is too interesting to pass by. Fernsby quickly slides down the stairs and checks out the floor. Then he follows the three steps of corridor to reach the door on the far end. He listens at its cold metal surface, hears nothing, and is ready to try the handle.

“Stop.” Ursula has followed him down the stairs. She is a veteran of many roof-runnings and knows all the little tricks. “Look up.”

Fernsby looks above his head and sees a curious thing. There is some kind of gearbox in the ceiling, gears connecting with a metal bar. And a trigger, connected to the door.

The adventureres inspect the contraption. It is a mechanical trap. Opening the door sets the blocked gears free and makes a whole section of the ceiling drop down. It would swing down in an arc towards the door. It looks like a hammer – a hammer that is wide enough to cover the whole width of the corridor drops from above and smashes anyone who would stand in the way against the strong metal door.

“I don’t think that is survivable.”

What now?
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*Season 3 – part 33: Network*

Reinhold and Ursula inspect the mechanism. They discover that the hammer will swing down when a blocking element welded to the door is removed. They insert a metal file from Oswald’s pack as a backup, then Harmony replaces Hugo’s orders with a new order to stand right below the hammer and hold it up. An object that is not in motion is easier to block, she figures. He sets his hammer aside and takes position with raised arms – and without muscles to ache or grow tired.

Lastly, they carefully pull down the handle and tie it to a rope to pull from a safe distance.

The door is stuck pretty heavily, but with a mighty pull they wrench it open.

The splinter is ripped out of the mechanism, the metal file bends, but Hugo holds fast. He narrows his eyes, then, plants his feet wider and holds the hammer in the ceiling. Pieces of debris flake down. Apparently if the hammer comes down, so does other building material.

“Good work, Hugo!” Harmony says approvingly, although encouragement doesn’t mean anything to the golem. He stands and holds.

Reinhold and Fernsby go forward and shine a light into the new room.

It is a safe.

They find several racks with parchments, although their script is faded beyond recognition. Probably important documents from old Told-o Estel. They also, more durable, find three boxes neatly stacked with gold coins. All in all, these are 900 gold pieces, and they are Elven, so they may be worth double to the right buyer. Or nothing, if the Elves get their way before the Count’s Council and they make a law about heritage rights.

There are also five wands, which Harmony inspects.

“They are decayed and lost almost all of their power. But they are almost identical. Each should still be good for one spell of “Piercing Beam”. This is like a rack of heavy crossbows.

“Five crossbows? Fine by me,” says Reinhold.

While the others load up the loot, Ursula has found a hidden trap door that leads one more level down. It opens into a T-intersection of a network that allows only single file movement. One narrow corridor leads north, one west, and one east.

“We can’t go in there,” says Harmony. “Or we are going to have to leave Hugo.”

“We will come back for him,” says Fernsby, who is eager to explore these tunnels.

– Go back topside

Go down into the tunnels

*Season 3 – part 34: Blight Tunnels*

Fernsby and Reinhold are the first to jump down into the tunnels and secure the sides with their shields up, Phoebe follows to watch north. Then the others get down into the tunnel junction one by one and bring lantern light.

Harmony comes last, after a farewell to the silent golem, who has grown dear to her.

The tunnels have not escaped the Blight. One would expect all kinds of crawling insects, spiders and bugs, but these tunnels are yellowed and dry and lifeless. And they are really narrow. Only at the intersection is it possible to switch positions in a cumbersome and awkward manner.

They listen to each side. 

Fernsby can see another T-junction in the east with a tunnel leading off to the south. He can hear the faint sounds of running water from somewhere in either of these directions.

The west, where Reinhold is straining his ears, has a similar T-junction, but all remains quiet.

To the north, Phoebe can see a cross-junction at the edge of her vision, and she can hear the sounds of steel – either fighting or digging – from somewhere.

– Inspect the water sound

Inspect the steel sounds with care

– Run to aid in the fighting, if any

– Check out the quiet area

– Split up

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