Maze Rats Season 3 – Isle of Blight – 2

*Season 3 – part 35: Slide*

Phoebe and Oswald advance to check out the next junction and note that the eastern tunnel runs on into the darkness, while the northern one runs into stairs leading up. This must be an underground entrance to the palace – or out of the palace, respectively.

The metal clanking is coming from the west, so Phoebe turns that way, followed by Oswald, then Harmony, Urusla, Fernsby, and Constance. A grumbling Reinhold is left to bring up the rear, which is grating on his nerves, and he would love to complain about the unfairness, but he knows this is not the time and place to whine. Still, Constance and Fernsby can hear him muttering under his breath.

Phoebe reaches another T-junction where the path in front of her terminates in a tumble of dead things … dead giant beetles stacked almost to the ceiling. Their hollow and broken shells form a chaotic barrier that can only make sense if they crawled down here in force and got violently stopped by something, but all of that a long time ago.

The sounds come from the north, so she turns there and reaches an open pit trap right around the corner. The corridor goes on after it to pass a door on the left, a brittle, decayed metal door that would not withstand a lot of force. The corridor itself goes on straight ahead. The sounds are clearer now: It is digging, not fighting.

Phoebe looks down the pit trap and lets Oswald shine the lantern into it. It is deep and curves away to the northeast like a slide.

With the heavy armor, jumping across the pit would be foolish. But possible.

  • – Try the jump
  • Climb across with the ropes
  • – Turn back
  • – Go through the dead bugs

*Season 3 – part 36: Slippery slope*

With the sounds being relatively harmless digging, it is not that important to be quick. The team hands over two ropes and they tie Phoebe to them both. Oswald and Harmony hold on to one, Ursula and Fernsby to the other. So secured, Phoebe uses the platform and the walls to climb across. It is a pretty wide gap with no handholds and the task is annoying, but with four good people holding on to her and imitating the movements of a wild reptile, she makes it across safely.

As soon as Phoebe is on the other side, she takes the grappling hook and finds a solid hold for it in the doorframe. One by one, and secured from behind as well as from the front, all of the adventurers make it safely across.

Reinhold comes last. He gathers up the ropes, holds on tight, and jumps. It was intended to be a cool move, but the other side of the pit is slippery. One foot slips, one taps into emptiness. Reinhold’s eyes go wide with surprise, but Constance and Fernsby are close. They grab his arms and hold on until he finds better footing.

He gulps. “Thanks!”

Fernsby nods, Constance pats his shoulder. “It is a pretty devious trap!” Reinhold’s face burns with shame, but he tries to act nonchalantly.

To the left there is an old metal door, largely decayed. Through holes and cracks they see a dark room full of odd stuff, with light filtering down from above. Judging by relative position, it must lead into the first of the two temples … the wrong one.

Logic dictates that if they move onward towards the north they will find another temple … the right one. Most likely the same spot where the clicking and digging is coming from.

  • – Test the door to the left
  • Go on towards the digging

*Season 3 – part 37: Dark*

The door looks interesting, and a lot of arguments speak for opening it. However, breaking down the door would likely make noise and it would cost more time, so they narrowly decide to leave it be and check out the digging site first.

The corridor goes on for about 40 feet with one already triggered trap in the form of two spears shooting out of the side wall. They did their job long ago and decayed. Another 50 feet on there is one more of those old doors on the left, but this one is broken apart. The part with the top and the handle is lying on the floor. The part with the bottom and one of the hinges is still attached to the doorframe and stands slightly ajar. Someone broke it open, and recently.

Inside it is very dark, a room with another door on the far side, about fifteen feet across. Through this door, which stands slightly ajar, come light and the digging sounds.

The corridor does not end here. It takes a sharp corner to the right, then after two or three steps it takes another sharp corner to the left. The floor along this section is missing, and the team is looking at another pit trap.

  • Go through the dark room
  • Go across the second pit trap
  • Send Ursula to scout the dark room
  • Call out to the diggers

*Season 3 – part 38: Silent*

Ursula shakes off her backpack and glides into the room. The heavy armor is a bother, but she is still the most sneaky person in the party. It is pitch dark in the room, but she quickly gathers that it is some kind of wardrobe with stiff and gilded robes hanging from racks … mostly hanging, but some are crumpled on the floor, too.

After a few breaths she adjusts to the dark and sees that the room is about 15 feet long and 10 feet wide. It is stacked full of robe racks, leaving only a small pathway between the doors to navigate it.

Ursula creeps forward to look through the open door into the brightly lit next room, where at least five, if not more, pickaxes are hard at work.

A moment before she reaches a proper angle to look outside, though, she senses a presence. A shadow rushes out of the robe hangings and glides toward her, quick and silent, but she sees the movement in the corner of her eye. What or whoever is coming at her is about her size and has been sitting in the dark, waiting, until she came in.

  • – Freeze
  • – Parry an attack
  • – Strike first, strike hard
  • Drop to the floor and twist away

*Season 3 – part 39: Acceptance*

Ursula drops like a stone and rolls away.

Her assailant misses with the chain he was going to sling around her neck and curses in Elvish. He gives it another go but she can easily twist away.

The Elf counts his losses and zips out through the door. He raises the alarm and slams the door behind him, hard enough to shake loose an avalanche of dust from the ceiling.

“Elven guard!” Ursula cries.

Harmony comes inside with the lantern.

“He’s gone out to warn the rest.”

Sure enough, the sounds outside have ceased.

“We should retreat,” says Ursula. “They are tough for sure.”

“No, we should talk to them,” says Phoebe.

“Harmony should,” Reinhold interjects. “She’s an elf, she speaks the language.”

“The elves are pretty difficult about humans on their grave sites as well. Remember the quarrels about that old set of armor from the Wight Hills? Seeing a fellow elf may calm them down,” says Fernsby.

“But she’s a prophet from that crazy sect,” warns Oswald, instinctively touching the brand sign on his neck. “They may not like that. Better have Phoebe talk it out.”

Harmony agrees with Oswald, somewhat. “It is not a crazy sect. I had visions. But it is true, we are not well liked with normal believers. If they have a cleric with them, he will probably mind me.”

Constance shrugs: “But these guys are basically grave robbers, digging in a temple’s basement in a dead city. They can’t have much regard for either official religious doctrine or elven heritage. And we don’t know if they are all elves, they may be a mixed group, like us.”

Phoebe rubs her chin. “They are in the temple we want. Either way, we must get in, through here or from another entrance.”

During all this, the next room remains silent. There are, most likely, a dozen pointy things aimed at the door from the other side.

  • – Retreat and find another way
  • Have Harmony talk to them
  • – Have Phoebe talk to them

*Season 3 – part 40: Elder Culture*

They decide to let Harmony risk it. She shrugs: “It will be fine.”

She steps forward and calls out through the door in her musical language. A male voice answers. None of the others can follow the sentences, even with their magical schooling Ursula’s and Constance’s grasp of the Elder Tongue is too basic.

After a short exchange Harmony nods and winks, then opens the door and steps out into the light. She closes the door behind her.

The others can hear several voices talking and disagreeing, then someone shouting, but then talk returns to normal levels.

Soon enough, Harmony opens the door and invites the others to step out of the wardrobe.

One big stairway leads down into the basement of this temple. The floor above is partially broken through, rubble lies everywhere, and there is a portal in the north wall that is absolutely clogged with masonry and rubble, far more than could have fallen from above. This way has been blocked deliberately at some point.

And this is where the six elves, four with axes and swords, two with elegant bows at ready, have set their eight human hirelings to dig.

The humans carry short blades and round shields, and huge hammers, pickaxes and chisels. They have already made a dent in the blockage and piled up rubble along the eastern wall.

“They know who we work for,” says Harmony. “They know that we want something from this temple. (She stresses the “something”, signalling to Phoebe that they have no clue what exactly the party is trying to find) And they say no.”

One of the Elves nods. “She speaks true. We know everything. Turn around and tell your master, the so-called ‘Peaceful’, that his time of wrongfully defiling the Elder Culture is over.”

Another elf points at Harmony’s spear and at Fernsby’s Hacksword: “And while you are at it, leave every piece of elven artifacts you took so far – so everything you found in this city – right here with us.” He nods at Harmony: “Even you, sister.”

The first one affirms that: “We have spoken.”

A third one smiles and shrugs: “Better for you anyway. It is not healthy to be here in Told-o Estel.”

  • – Comply
  • Protest
  • – Attack
  • – Run

*Season 3 – part 41: Standoff*

All of the adventurers grip their new-found elven weapons harder and shake them, muttering angrily and shaking their heads. The elves wave their own weapons and argue back. Everyone is tense and angry, but they all stay on their side. “We won those blades fair and square,” argues Phoebe over the noise. “The owners died long ago. Finders keepers, that is the law of the land.”

One of the elves shakes his head. “The law of the humans, not of the land.”

“The law of the humans then. And this island belongs to Alys too, like the rest of the land.”

“Nonsense! This island is free!”

Harmony grips her spear harder. “Face it, brother, the old Empires are the humans’ land now, and their laws count more than ancient memories.”

“Memories? Traitor!” he spits. “You side with humans over your own blood!”

“Say you, who brings humans here, into this temple!” she responds, indicating the work gang whose members follow the screaming match with great interest. “And even if – I AM an elf, so I will keep this spear either way.”

The elves look at each other. “It is just like mother said. She has no idea.”

They nervously paw their weapons and are combat ready. The bowmen are positioned to use the swordsmen as shields, but they all hesitate to escalate.

“Last warning: Put down the elven weapons and we will let you go.”

  • – Give in, put down elven weapons
  • – Attack
  • – Slowly disengage through the door
  • – Slowly disengage up the stairs
  • – Offer cooperation

*Season 3 – part 42: Truce*

Phoebe cuts through the arguments with a sudden offer for cooperation. “We all know this city is hostile enough. If we work together we may have better chances to succeed.”

The elves think are not happy about that idea. “WE succeed. You take nothing from this city!”

They demand an oath from the adventurers to make sure they will leave whatever they find in Told-o Estel. Phoebe is not prepared to give such an oath, but argues her case: “We can discuss the details later. For now it is better to work together.”

“We do not have enough warriors to babysit a bunch of humans!” lies one of the elves, considering they are already babysitting their human work gang.

“Let’s start with putting the blades away, okay?”

Phoebe starts by sheathing her elfsword, keeping only her axe dangling in one hand.

Harmony and Constance follow her lead. Then one of the elves lowers his bow, and another one puts his sword away.

Bit by bit the tension saps, and finally the two groups are ready to talk like civilized people.

The leader of the group is called Malleor Wingfeather, his second in command calls himself Igal Grasstips. They will not reveal why they are here, but they know a remarkable amount of tidbits about Phoebe’s group. Their source is “mother”, someone Harmony knows: A matriarch of sorts who rules over one of several elven factions in Woodbridge and is a formidable wizard herself. She drummed them up and sent them after the group as soon as a ship was ready, because she wanted to make sure to beat them to the temple. And they are adamant that the party cannot stay here in this basement.

Two of the elves stay with Grasstips to get the work gang going again. The other two lead the group upstairs into the temple proper with Wingfeather.

Up in the temple there are two more elves keeping watch through the windows. They perch on windowsills with bows ready and watch the humans with narrow eyes. The roof does not look very stable, but it holds. The floor is riddled with holes. The colour of the light outside has shifted towards a light purple. “Nighttime is approaching. You humans can make camp up here if you take over the top watch while we keep the watch below. Or you can find another building to camp there if you like that better.”

  • – Make camp in the temple
  • Make camp elsewhere
  • – Demand to stay in the basement

*Season 3 – part 43: Magical Night*

The offer to stay here sounds great, especially being so close to the elves and with holes in the floor – the party would notice everything that would go on in the basement. On the other hand, the elves must realize that too. Why offer this place? Is there something wrong with it? After some brief muttering Phoebe’s team decides to find another spot to sleep. Close by, but not here.

The elves shrug and seem to care not, but some subtle cues indicate they are slightly disappointed. Either way, they do not hinder the team when they leave and insepct the next door house. It is clear and mostly empty, and Phoebe decides on two rooms on the second floor to fortify and sleep in. They drag wardrobes and tables in and block doors and windows as good as possible.

Ursula beds down on her backpack and falls asleep, quick like a cat. The others decide on a rotation of guards and wake through the night in shifts.

Darkness falls swiftly, and the sky turns very dark, as a horrible kind of life stirs in the city. The guards spy a number of giant insects of every conceivable size and shape as they gather on the roofs and in the streets. They crawl or fly, and they look for food. Soon enough, one slams against the table blocking the window, and buzzes off.

Then a dozen bugs converge on the temple and climb inside through windows and cracks. Two of them get hit with arrows and curl up to die, but the others make it inside. Magic fizzles, as the elves on guard fight against the insects. However, the flashes and sounds, the preternatural “smell” of arcane power, seems to draw more of them. The elves have a hard time defending the temple.

  • – Aid them with steel
  • – Aid them with magic
  • – Aid them with steel & magic
  • Stay put and watch

*Season 3 – part 44: Invitation*

The fighting over at the temple slows and stops after a while, and the rest of the night passes more quietly. In the morning, a new spell comes to Ursula: Crystal Swarm. Which sounds pretty nifty to her.

Everyone is well rested, and a peek over to the temple shows the human workers throwing beetle carcasses out the doors into the street.

While the team is eating, the elven sniper they saw in the palace window comes over and knocks politely.

“Humans,” he says, “I am sent to ask you to give up the weapons of elven origin you took here in the city.” He doesn’t sound like he’d expect them to even consider it. “I would also invite you to a more formal meeting with our expedition at the temple. We will have to come to an arrangement if we want to all work in this city.”

He gives a short bow and backs away, saying “Ready when you are.”

Then he’s gone.

Phoebe and Harmony exchange a glance.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be gained from not coming,” says Harmony.

Fernsby doubts that. “If they invite us like that they must be sure we will not see anything of interest in the temple. It could also be a trap. Poison, or an ambush.”

Harmony snorts. “No, they would not break the bond of such an invitiation. Not even with humans only, but surely not with me. And what’s more: We want to investigate that temple anyway.”

“It seems we have to come. But what about the weapons?”

Harmony looks at them. “They said something odd about me not knowing. I’d like to take the time to identify their properties.” She picks up Ince Acsa and twists it between her fingers.

Constance is worried. “Ready when you are — that sounds like they are waiting for us. They will get impatient.”

“Only a magic-user can find out more. Maybe only an elf. You can go, I’ll find out.”

Reinhold laughs: “But they will notice if you don’t come. You are the only elf among us, if you remember.”

“So? Maybe we should all stay. Let them wait.”

Phoebe is torn, but leans toward waiting.

Oswald is more for going. “I don’t want them to get all antagonized again, now that they begin to open up a bit.”

  • – Go meet the elves
  • Let them wait
  • – Let most go while Harmony identifies
  • – Let most go while Ursula and Constance identify

*Season 3 – part 45: Jellyfish*

Harmony sits down to identify spear and sword, with help from Ursula and Constance.
She takes the spear, Ince Acsa, and attunes herself with it. It is from an elder time, so she would be forced to make a will roll. It is from her own culture, which would give her advantage. She has help from the other magic users, so she has advantage twice and succeeds without a roll.

Ince Acsa is a throwing spear with a mind. It strikes its target as long as there is a flight path to it.

She takes Ecet i lindele next. The singing sword is in tune with the song of the world. It ignores any armor that is not unnatural, in other words, magical or blessed.

Reinhold takes the sword back with great reverence. “Thank you, Harmony. It is an honor to bear it.” The others look at him ascance.

“What?” he asks. “Can I not be in awe like anyone else?”

Oswald chuckles. “Apparently you can. It’s just, this is the first time.”

The party is ready and departs to meet with the elves, who are already waiting impatiently.

They have wreaked havoc with the beetles, flies, and centipedes that came to visit them in the night. The critters have been scorched, pierced, and cut in twain. But the elves paid a bloody price for their victory. One of their number has been slain, and of the surviving nine, two are severely wounded and resting. One of the healthy survivors has been struck with a mutation: His skin has been turned to the translucent hull of a jellyfish! It does not seem to hurt, but it looks monstrous, especially when he blinks and his eyes remain visible. He takes it with stoicism… too much stoicism. He looks like someone who is not going to return but who is going to sacrifice himself in combat. Hard to tell his thoughts while looking at his nose cavity.

The humans are resting. They have broken through the rubble and opened up a stairwell that leads down a couple of steps and then around the corner on both sides to steps that lead to another level below the basement.

“Finally!” says Wingfeather, and welcomes the humans and Harmony, showing them where they can sit along a low table. The elves also take their seats and start eating without further ado. They all share the same bowls, so Reinhold shrugs and grabs a bite, too. The others follow his example.

Wingfeather addresses Harmony: “Last night was not a fortunate one. We lost our friend Eathil Cateyes, may his soul become one with the force of life.”

Harmony nods: “May his deeds be never forgotten.”

“I hope you fared better?”

“The gods favored our guards,” she says, remaining a bit vague, while Jellyfish-boy stares at her accusingly. Or maybe he just has no other option but to stare now that his eyelids are see-through.

Wingfeather shrugs. “We would offer you a place at our side this day, and grant you a limited permission to take something of this city back home with you, if you are ready to share with us the object of your quest.”

  • – Tell them about the Chalice of Insanity
  • – Tell them No
  • Tell them you don’t know exact specifics
  • – Lie outright
  • – Tell them something else (comment)

*Season 3 – part 46: An Offer*

“Our information is not yet complete,” Harmony tells him. “We are to look for artifacts here. Phoebe here is our leader. I am with her to help navigate the city, as I obviously know the culture and language.”

He frowns. “Isn’t there a particular item that ‘The Peaceful’ wants from here?”

“He is still deep in research. We know it is something made of metal, and of religious importance.”

The elves murmur among themselves.

“That is a horribly shallow premise to send an expedition into this city.”

“Well, we were not forced to do it, we were made the offer and we accepted freely.”

“Knowing of the catastrophe that destroyed the city?”

“He told us, and I knew before that, of course. Although the exact reason of the fall of Told-o Estel is still a mystery to us.”

“I see. We must consult.”

Wingfeather steps aside with Grasstips and another elf. They discuss the issue in low tones, and none of the adventurers is able to eavesdrop. It does not take long. Grasstips shoots accusing glances at Harmony, Wingfeather looks stern. The third guy, one Almond Figtree, who has a strong magical air to him, stronger than Wingfeather, shrugs and seems to be positively inclined towards the humans. 

After less than a minute they return to the table. Wingfeather clears his throat and speaks in elven: “Under these circumstances we can not allow you to take anything of elven origin from this city. We will allow you to accompany us on our expedition, as long as you behave accordingly, and take note on what you see, though, so you can report back to ‘The Peaceful’ after giving up the elven artifacts and weapons you find upon your departure. If what your patron seeks is found here, he can enter negotiations with our ‘Mother’. Do you accept these terms?”

Harmony translates for the humans.

Reinhold snorts and shakes his head.

Phoebe narrows her eyes. “So in effect we can take nothing from here, just information? But they will take whatever we find back to Woodbridge to this ‘Mother’? And in return we are allowed to come with them down the stairs below the temple.”

Wingfeather smiles a broad smile without showing his teeth. “That is our offer.”

  • – Accept
  • Say No
  • – Negotiate for the things already found 

*Season 3 – part 47: Grudge*

“We must decline,” says Harmony after interpreting Phoebe’s mien. “We are souvereign citizens of the Empire of Alys, and as such, we have every right to be here – just like you.”

Grasstips growls. “Traitor.”

Figtree looks disappointed and uncomfortable.

Wingfeather sighs. “Then our business is concluded. You must leave this temple and cannot return. We give you the span of two songs to depart. After that time, if you enter this place again, you will be treated as enemies. Except if you leave all elven artifacts so far collected here at this table – in that case, you will be suffered as visitors, but cannot come with us.”

Harmony stands up and speaks to the group: “We do not have much time. We have to leave at once, and will be treated as enemies if we return.”

Everyone stands up, the two groups exchange court nods, and the humans leave the temple of Kesh under the watchful gazes of the elves. Ursula and Reinhold take the time to quickly scan all the nooks and hollows in order to see if there might be something somewhere, but the temple seems to be thoroughly plundered, at least up here.

They leave, dejected.

“That ‘No’ didn’t sit well with the elves,” says Harmony. “They will hold a grudge.”

Reinhold snickers: “Let’s see how much of a grudge they can afford when their ship falls apart in the harbor.”

Oswald, otherwise pretty hostile towards Reinhold, has to grin with him. “I’d love to see that.” Others join in the merry imagination, and their mood soon rises.

Harmony and Phoebe confer about their options.

“The basement of the temple is the only logical place to find the Chalice.”

“We cannot enter the temple again, or we will have to fight them. But we can go in after them, when they are gone.”

“They will leave nothing behind, especially nothing made of metal.”

“Then we have to find another way down there and get there first. They are all in the temple now, aren’t they? Nobody left to watch us. We can find our own way.” Phoebe peers around. “The only likely entrances I can think of are the temple right there – the one with the globe – and the palace. Both may have stairs that lead deep enough, and the temples are connected by the tunnels anyway, there may be other connections.”

“And there are the traps in the underground tunnels. They are deep, but they have to end somewhere, don’t they?”

“Good point.”

  • – Investigate the other temple
  • – Investigate the palace
  • Enter the secret tunnels

*Season 3 – part 48: Old Boy, old pit*

They decide to go back belowground from the entrance they found in the beginning. So the group circles back around the plaza and enters the house where they left Hugo with the trap. He is still standing there, of course, just like they left him, holding the hammer.

“Hey, old boy!” says Reinhold cheerily and slaps the golem on the back. “Good to see you.”

The golem does not react. Harmony smiles at him. “We’ll be back for you!”

Then they all move past him and down into the Blight Tunnels.

They follow their earlier path north, then west until they reach the T-junction where the path west is blocked with dead beetles and the path north, towards the temples, is blocked with the pit trap.

  • Cross over the pit trap again
  • – Climb down into the pit trap
  • – Go west through the pile of beetles
  • – Another way entirely

*Season 3 – part 49: Backstage pass*

This time the adventurers already know how to cross the pit, and traverse it with more confidence than the first time. They tie a rope to Phoebe and she jumps the pit, using her momentum to carry her beyond the slight slope. Then the others follow.

They are in the corridor behind the temples again. There is the door that has to lead into the basement of the temple with the globe symbols. There is the open door to the wardrobe and on to the temple of Kesh, where the elves are. And there is the next pit trap in the north right after the bend, which they can climb down … or across, to see where the tunnel is leading next.

  • – Open the door to the globe temple basement
  • – Try the door to the temple of Kesh
  • – Climb down the next pit trap
  • – Cross the next pit trap

*Season 3 – part 50: Globe*

The group peeks through the cracks and holes in the metal door again. Strange shapes and forms are visible. Then they push the door open. It creaks, and they stop. Oswald applies some grease to the hinges, and now the creaking is much lower. The torches reveal a small-ish antechamber not unlike the wardrobe room over in the Temple of Kesh, but this time it is not a wardrobe, it is a place where someone stored loads of strange things. There are metal instruments with measuring units on them, straight as well as curved, and scales and weights of different sizes. There are stuffed elf-sized dolls, largely decayed and with stuffing flaking out through broken seams. There are two huge globes mounted on pedestals. There are colourful costumes with frayed edges. There is a weapon rack with the decayed rest of a selection of wooden swords and spears, and with two withered bows without strings. There are binders with papers, faded and brittle with age. There is an elven board game called “Herdir”. There are tiny shoes and big boots. And in the opposite wall, there is a wooden door with a huge hole in it, leading into total darkness. It seems the huge hole roughly follows the outline of a globe carved into the original door. The light from the torches must be clearly visible to anyone who might be lurking in the darkness beyond.

  • – Cover the hole with stuff, inspect the room in more detail
  • – Open the opposite door
  • – Douse the light and listen

*Season 3 – part 51: Sniffle*

The group quickly douses the torches, and darkness descends. They all wait and listen to determine if anyone, or anything, may react to their presence. They only hear a steady dripping, one drop every two or three breaths, that echoes in a hall that must be pretty spaceous.

Then they hear a sniffle. No movement was audible, but something sniffles close to the hole, on the right, and then again, also close to the hole, but on the left. They keep very still. The sniffle moves away from them, without any sound of movement, be it paws, wings, or scales. They also don’t smell anything, either predatory or otherwise.

The sniffle returns very fast – one moment it sounds like on the far side of the room, the next it is pretty close to the door with the hole, then back on the other side again.

In the lightless dark, they cannot see each other, or anything. But Phoebe touches all she feels in her immediate vicinity and signals with two fingers that she suspects there are two beasts looking for the light.

Reinhold whispers: “Why do they not smell us? We stink like buffaloes.”

“Not I,” Oswald answers in a hushed voice. “But you are right. For creatures of darkness their sense of smell is pretty bad.”

“Listen,” whispers Reinhold. “I have a lantern. I can sneak out into the hallway and light it, then we have a light we can open and close at will. Not as clumsy as the torches. Shine a light on the fuckers and turn it off again.”

“They will…” Phoebe breaks off as the sniffing starts again, very close to the door.

She waits, but it doesn’t really stop, it just gets stronger or weaker, breaks off, starts up again.

  • Let Reinhold light the lantern
  • – Give up and retreat silently
  • – Just wait for a while
  • – Attack the sniffing in the dark

*Season 3 – part 52: Attack*

Reinhold sneaks outside into the corridor and digs out the lantern from his pack. He strikes his flintstone and kindles a flame to light the lantern. As he looks up, he sees a twisted shape slither out of the pit trap, a kind of mix between oversized snake and spider, with four muscular arms ending in huge human-like hands.

“Freaking mother!” he murmurs, thinking about how the party crawled and jumped across that hole, with this thing watching. It doesn’t have any weapons, though, so there’s that.

Reinhold is alone in the corridor, so he can either call out to the others or take on the fiend alone. But he has to consider the sniffing something that may be alerted by calling out, and the elves, also not far off.

He makes a lonely decision to fight it alone, and lets Ecet i lindele, the Singing Sword, slide from its scabbard, also picking up his shield.

The lantern blows up his shadow to huge proportions as he steps in front of it. The Nightcrawler attacks!

It strikes true and grabs Reinhold’s shield with two hands, while the third claws at his face to feel for his neck and strangle him. (1 hp)

Reinhold pushes back with gritted teeth and hacks at the creature’s head. But there is no good angle to get past these arms, and he also has to watch out for the spiderlike legs clicking on the floor. They end in claws, and he does not want to see his feet pierced by any of these appendages.

But now Reinhold has a better idea about the size, weight, and movements of his opponent, and the Singing Sword slides between the arms and pierces deeply into the fiend’s torso with a twinkling sound. (6 hp)

The monster hisses and shrinks back.

Then it comes at Reinhold again, with a vicious snarl, but he is ready and blocks it off with his shield.

The fight makes some noise, so now the others inside come to investigate.

The monster is momentarily distracted by the door opening, and Reinhold uses that opportunity to drive the blade home again, once more accompanied with a musical chord. (4 hp)

The monster turns to flee and strikes out with its tail, but he blocks it easily.

As it darts down into its hole, he launches one last whistling strike and snips off its tailtip (1 hp).

Then it is gone.

Constance watches the ominous hole, throwing knifes ready. Oswald has his sword out, too late, and asks: “By the dead, what was that?”

“Some kind of monster living in that pit,” Reinhold replies coolly.

Dark ooze drips off Ecet i lindele, and he shakes the blade to get rid of it.

  • – Throw a torch down into the hole
  • – Shoot down into the hole
  • Take the lantern and go back to the sniffers

*Season 3 – part 53: Suckers*

Reinhold picks up the lantern and looks at the dark pit trap.

“Meh.” he says, and turns to the door into the temple.

“Hey!” Oswald gestures at the pit: “Don’t you want to see where it went? Kill it?”

Reinhold shrugs: “We have bigger fish to fry.”

Oswald shakes his head in annoyance. Of course! That attitude was why he chose to leave Reinhold’s gang and join up with Phoebe. Arrogant bastard! He frowns and follows inside. Constance doesn’t feel well leaving the wounded monster alone and unguarded here, but on the other hand: Reinhold is right. They really have bigger fish to fry. And now that the lantern is gone it gets damn dark our here. She quickly follows and makes sure the door is tightly closed.

“So, let’s take a look at what’s going on,” Reinhold says, and opens the lantern to take a look into the dark room beyond the door with the hole.

With a shout of surprise, he stumbles back: Right at the hole is a huge white-ish maw staring at them, round, with teeth all around.

The horrible vista sucks at the door hole and feels around with four long, white tongues, making sucking motions.

“Whoah!” says Phoebe, shivering. She has been standing uncomfortably close to that door while it was dark, and that maw seems big enough to suck a head in and bit it clean off.

Then the sucking maw disappears in a flash.

Reinhold lifts his lantern and directs a beam of light through the hole. He catches an animal in his light; something like a huge sheepdog or small bear with six legs. It doesn’t seem to have eyes, but it sucks with its huge round trunk and turns towards them. It may not have eyes, but it notices the light.

Reinhold steps back and closes the lantern as the beast starts coming.

“Light! Light!” cries Phoebe, raising the shield and elven sword, and Reinhold opens the lantern again. 

Nothing to see. Just the dark hole in the door, inky blackness beyond.

Then with a slurp, the maw is there again, sniffing and feeling around with its tongues.

“This is disgusting!” says Ursula, staying well away from the hole and the door.

“And quick!” says Reinhold.

“Are these two or three?” asks Fernsby.

“Or is it just the one?” muses Harmony.

“Nah, two for sure.”

Either way, the creature is or are fully aware of their presence.

  • – Attack with steel
  • – Attack with magic
  • Attack with ranged weapons
  • – Try some trick (comment)

*Season 3 – part 54: Volley*

The door doesn’t look like it could handle serious attempts at ramming, so the team decides quickly. They wait for a moment when the suckers leave the hole open, and chuck out a handful of rations.

At first the beasts don’t quite get the significance and plunge their mouths on the hole again, but soon one of them notices the new food on the floor, and as one slurps up some tasty morsels, the other joins it quickly.

There are indeed two of them, and now that they are vacuuming in foodstuffs, the party has a moment to catch a look at the room as a whole.

It is totally wrecked, and covered in feces and rubble. The beasts have broken and munched everything except huge stones, or so it looks. In the northern wall there is an opening.

“Kill them,” says Phoebe, and they attack the first of the two beasts with a concentrated volley of ranged attacks.

Phoebe uses her crossbow, Harmony her bow, Ursula her slingshot, Oswald shoots with Uko’s trusty crossbow, Fernsby with his own. Reinhold shoots Alma’s bow. Constance holds the lantern to light the target for the others.

The first of the two beasts is a sitting duck… or a sitting sucker.

Ursula’s shot bounces off the fiend’s neck and Reinhold misses by, it seems to him, a mile, although in practice it is more like four inches. The other projectiles hit, and penetrate the white thick hide of the beast.

The hits strike deep, and the sucker-bear-dog squeals in pain, falls to the ground, and rears up. It is heavily wounded, but still alive.

The other one looks up, and barrels at the door in wild fury. One of the wooden boards splinters, but the door holds. The sucking mouth sucks at the hole and offers a very attractive target for the next volley.

The beast seems to feel the moment they want to attack, and quickly ducks away … but not quick enough. The moment it ducks away to take another swing at the door, its face gets pilfered with arrows, quarrels, and shots. The beast falls and bleeds, it struggles to get up again, but it weakens in moments, bleeds out quickly, twitches, and dies.

The wounded sucker from the first volley sees its comrade fall. It turns and runs.

The adventurers are quick to draw new arrows and nock them, but the creature, despite its limp and pain, is quicker. It disappears down the dark opening.

“Well, shit,” says Reinhold. “If I’d hit earlier, it would be dead.”

Oswald raises an eyebrow. He thinks hard if he ever heard Reinhold admit a miss before, and comes up empty.

“Maybe it’ll die anyway,” says Constance. “It is hurt pretty bad.”

“Nay. It’ll live. Except if we find it again.”

“We could hunt it down. It won’t go far.”

  • Hunt it down
  • – Investigate the room
  • – Just walk down the tunnel

*Season 3 – part 55: Hunt*

“Let’s get it!”

The crew takes a moment to re-light the torches and busts open the door to hurry after the fleeing beast, mindful of hazards in the dark, unknown environment.

The tunnel dips downward pretty quickly before meeting a round chamber with three exits. The group comes in from the south, and there are doorways in the north and east, with the eastern one slightly larger than the others.

In the center of the room is a symbol depicting something like a knot connecting four ropes.

The wounded beast is cowering behind the knot-symbol, trying to hide.

The left wall is taken up by shelves full of, or rather, almost devoid of, urns. A handful are still standing, but most of the urns that were standing here have been thrown off the shelves and lie broken on the floor, ashes and bone-fragments spilled all over the place. On the ceiling, there clings a huge spider-like being that was in the process of creeping closer to the wounded beast, but as the adventurers step in, the creature stops and turns toward them to regard the newcomers or their flickering torches carefully with its assortment of short-sighted eye-stems.

The spider-beast looks much more like a real spider than the abomination Reinhold fought earlier. It looks absolutely like an animal predator, yet it doesn’t seem to have a web. It is slightly bigger than the suck-bear, but midnight-black and hairy, and it clings to the ceiling effortlessly.

“For an Isle of Blight,” Reinhold says, “this place is damn crowded.”

  • Retreat
  • — Shoot at the spider
  • — Use magic
  • — Use something else (comment) 

*Season 3 – part 56: Pocket*

Bristling with pointy things all directed at the spider-thing, the group huddles together, mindful of the speed this foe could potentially bring to the table. Step by step they retreat, back into the tunnel, and up the incline. The multi-eyed monster disappears from view first, but they remain vigilant until the knot and the wounded beast, and then the whole room, are out of sight.

Still careful and arms directed at the tunnel exit, they make it back up to the wasted room with the dead sucker-beast.

“Holy maw, did you see those fangs?”

“I don’t think they are actually fangs.”

“Who cares, they were huge.”

“The question is, how do we get past it? This thing looks really fast! I think it can run circles around us.”

“Stop!”

That last cry is from Harmony, who did not participate in the hubbub. She points at an area close by. Now that they focus, they hear a strange hum. And now that they hear the hum, they also see a faint glow… not unlike the glow that sometimes plays around the hands of the magically gifted.

“What is that?”

“I think it is a pocket of wild magic. A place where the winds of magic are so strong, they can create unique effects and bend the laws of the gods that usually govern our world.”

Reinhold pulls his crowbar from his pack and moves it close to the shimmer.

“Careful,” warns Harmony. “Don’t disturb it!”

The crowbar passes through the field without any effect.

Reinhold snorts and waves it around, twirls it deep into the faintly shining column. Nothing at all happens.

“Magic is overrated,” he declares. “What is life, if not magic? And we all do it.”

  • — Stick a hand in
  • — Let someone walk in
  • — Hands way off
  • — Test it with diverse materials, organic and anorganic

*Season 3 – part 57: Clash*

The group takes some time to stick various things into the wild magic pocket. Most of them show no reaction, but the organic material do. That is, food, mostly. One piece of wood looks like it may have aged a lot in a couple of heartbeats, but it is hard to be sure with a piece of wood. The first ration they hold in seems to react and even vibrate or shudder, but nothing changes visibly. The second ration gets covered in a layer of smoke, but seems otherwise unchanged. The smoke drifts off and dissipates. The third ration hardens and explodes into two dozen sharp-edged shards.

“You do realize we cannot eat any of the rations you hold into that, do you?” asks Harmony.

“It may be fun and interesting, but there is no knowing what it really does.”

“She’s right,” says Phoebe. “We should stop.”

“That’s true, says Reinhold, balancing one of the shards on his crowbar and holding it into the magic pocket. It catches fire and burns with a bright, blue flame until nothing is left of it.

He tries it with another shard, and that gets covered with a creamy-looking substance.

“This doesn’t really get us anywhere. These are random effects, and they could be totally different with other materials.”

Then they hear shouts, and the rumbling sound of a combat spell unleashed. The commotion comes from the room with the spider-thing. “The elves!” says Harmony, after the next shout. A shriek echoes through the cave, then there is a sound like fire erupting.

They all watch the tunnel that leads down to the sounds of combat.

Suddenly, the spider thing zips up into their cave. It has lost two of its legs, the short stump of one of them is still visible, but it is still so fast that it almost seems to appear, not run. One moment it is away, the next it is here. It is also missing a couple of eyes. The encounter with the elven party has cost it dearly.

But now it is standing there, down on the floor this time, and apparently looking for refuge. It blinks at the open door – and looks at the party clustered in one area of the cave. Hissing, it turns their way.

  • – Shield Wall
  • – Shoot with arrows
  • – Strike it with magic
  • – Hide behind the pocket of wild magic
  • – Look harmless
  • – Run to the door (30 feet)

*Season 3 – part 58: Hairball*

“Move behind the anomaly!” hisses Harmony, and the team follows her advice. They start slow, but as the spider-monster twitches, they move much quicker to bring the pocket of wild magic between it and them.

Just before everyone is snug and safe behind the anomaly, the beast jumps. It is visibly slowed by the loss of its hind leg, and not as accurate at it was expecting. With a DEX save, it is trying to grab Constance – but in vain. It fails and crashes against the curved stairwell with a fat thud that shakes the adventurers’ teeth.

They get a feel for how much energy such a spider jump transmits. Too much for a human to withstand.

Quickly, they scramble behind the pocket of wild magic again.

The spider is openly angry now. It hisses and clicks its mandibles, then zeroes in on them. Slower, this time, but absolutely heedless of the magical barrier.

“Nonononono….” says Fernsby, locking shields with Ursula because she happens to be standing beside him.

The spider passes right through the barrier and twitches with its fangs, going for the center, where Fernsby and Ursula are hoping for it to take a different course. But the monster doesn’t … it stops completely, as it starts sprouting wild shocks of hair that soon hang off it like weeds, even covering its eyes.

Blinded, the beast feels for its enemies, who nimbly dance aside, splitting up in the process. The spider fails to find any of them, reaching out with all of its six remaining legs, but missing them by yards. Apparently its sense of hearing is impaired as well, because even though more than one of them makes noise while scrambling out of the way, it does not react to the sounds. It is now covered in long tresses of hair and trying to adapt to this new situation.

  • – Attack it while it’s wrongfooted
  • – Flee back through the door
  • – Flee forward through the tunnel
  • – Hide under the stairs

*Season 3 – part 59: Purple Goo*

The spider-monster is expecting an attack, but it can’t guard all its sides. The team has it surrounded, so they attack with advantage.

Harmony gets her chance to try out Ince Acsa, placing it right in the monster’s head.

Oswald and Phoebe score good hits at weak spots, but Ursula’s axe glances off a hard piece of armor, chipping it.

Fernsby capitalizes on the diversion and scores a critical hit, hacking off another of the beast’s legs. Constance scores a second critical hit and burrows her one-and-a-half-hander deep into the fiend’s Cephalothorax. Reinhold blindsides the distraught animal and scores the third critical hit of the round, splitting the hind part. Purple goo seeps out of the wound and begins to boil as it flows into the magic pocket.

After three heavy hits, the monster is stunned and weakened. It begins to curl up, all the fight gone from it, and the team follows up with a second round to hack it to pieces and purple stains.

“Whew. That was easier than expected!” says Reinhold, wiping the Singing Sword on a strand of the spider’s long hair.

Oswald grunts in reluctant agreement.

Harmony inspects the blood and watches it turn to leathery flaps of skin. Disgusted, she turns away. Wild magic! You cannot ever trust it.

“That was so quick we didn’t even make a lot of noise,” says Phoebe. “Still, I’d like to check if anyone comes up after it.”

“Check … or hide and watch?” asks Constance.

  • – Check the tunnel opening
  • – Hide and watch

*Season 3 – part 60: Scouts*

“Hide is good,” says Phoebe. The party huddles in the dark under the stairs and douses the lights. They wait a while, but then some little boulder gets dislocated and something scratches against the tunnel wall, and two elves appear in the tunnel entrance, bearing lanterns.

They shine beams of light back and forth, especially on the roof, apparently looking for the spider. After a while that feels like half an eternity they seem satisfied and turn to go.

Suddenly, one of them shouts something, and they both turn back. Their light finds the fallen suck-beast. They move closer and open their lanterns. One of them inspects it while the other watches the surroundings. Thanks to focusing three quarters of his attention on the ceiling, he obviously misses the wrecked corpse of the spider-monster narrowly outside of the circle of lantern light.

The investigator feels the fletching of the arrows sticking in the corpse.

He says something, and Harmony translates: “The humans. They were here.”

The other elf answers.

Harmony: “You can’t be serious. Where did they go then?”

The other one gestures at the door and back to the tunnel, speaking in low tones, so Harmony doesn’t catch it.

  • Attack them
  • Speak up
  • Wait

*Season 3 – part 61: Light below*

Covering each other’s backs, the two elves check out the doorway and the chamber beyond, then come back. “Let’s go back and report,” one of them says in Elvish, and they pluck out the arrows as evidence, grab their lanterns and leave down the tunnel, never noticing the dead spider.

“Okay,” says Phoebe. “I don’t think they are going to come back here.”

“Agreed,” says Harmony, and they crawl out of their hiding spot, brushing off dust from their armor.

With the elves gone it is almost pitch dark, only the lantern is still going. They open it and re-kindle their torches.

“Seems there is only one viable option,” says Harmony.

“True. We follow the elves.”

With great care they sneak towards the tunnel and peek down to see the shine of some lanterns below. Shadows indicate movement. The elves are down there, and their singsong language is faintly audible.

– Sneak down to look
Wait for the lanterns to move

*Season 3 – part 62: Nooks & crannies*

The team watches, leaving their own lights off to the side. Of the elves, there are shadows and incomprehensible murmurings. One of them briefly appears at the lower end of the tunnel, but he is carrying a lantern, so he himself is well-lit, but he cannot see the faint shimmer of the torches above.

A moment later he is gone again.

Then they start moving – out to the east.

Apparently the elven expedition is done with this room, and they are ready to move on below the palace grounds.

That means that the room with the knot-symbol and the shelves is clear.

The path forward is obvious. The humans climb down the decline and peek around the corner to the east. The elves are partly visible as sharp silhouettes blocking the light from the lanterns, and as dancing shadows on the polished tunnel walls.

Along the tunnel, there are alcoves housing statues. The elves take their time inspecting every niche, so they are not fast.

The humans can watch them and follow at leisure.

The elves have also broken all the urns and piled up the ashes in one place, the pottery shards in another. The sucker-beast is in a horrible state; it must have been attacked by the spider, and it is quickly decomposing.

– Investigate the room
Follow the elves
– Attack the elves

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