Maze Rats Season 3 – Isle of Blight – 3

*Season 3 – part 63: Ambush*

Bit by bit the elves explore the tunnel, and the adventurers follow them in a safe distance. Finally the elven expedition reaches an underground dome, directly under the palace. In other words, not very far off, just a long time coming because the elves were moving so slowly.

The elven lanterns show another entrance opposite of the one they used, and it becomes apparent that the two temples on the western flank and the two temples on the eastern flank of the palace alle shared this underground crypt below the seat of power.

“I have never heard of anything like that,” says Harmony. She bites her lower lip. “That can’t be a good sign.”

The elves seem to have found something: a depression or pit. One by one they disappear down below the tunnel level, and so it becomes clear how many they are: they are seven.

Suddenly they cry out! Magic fizzles, and bowstrings twang. Short commands are bellowed. The elves have run into some kind of ambush.

  • Wait it out
  • – Help them

*Season 3 – part 64: Levitating Cloud*

The combat down in that hole sounds pretty worrying. Lightning flashes, something combusts with a whoosh, a mighty beast roars, there is the shrill cry of a horse being gutted, elves cry out. Then, suddenly, A cloud rises out of the pit, carrying a handful of elves. It is the mage Figtree who directs the cloud with his hands. He is bleeding from a claw wound, but he is in pretty good shape compared to the others on the cloud: two of the elves lie rigid, one of them is Wingfeather, the expedition leader. One other is covered in blood and lying exhausted. That’s it: seven went in, four are levitated out.

The mage moves the cloud out of the pit and into the very tunnel where the party is waiting, moving it back the way the elves came from. He is concentrating on the spell and on his comrades, and it is pretty obvious he hasn’t noticed the party yet.

  • – Show yourself
  • – Hide in the alcoves
  • – Attack

*Season 3 – part 65: The Hunt*

“Hide!” says Phoebe, and as quickly as possible the party scatters and everyone tries to find a good hiding spot in one of the alcoves. Mostly two to a niche, they huddle behind the statues of long-fallen, unknown elven people.

The magickal cloud passes between them rather quickly. The mage steering it glances into the niches in passing, *(rolling a WIL save)* but his focus is on controlling the cloud and he completely fails to notice any sword-tips, spears or heads that peek from the shadows.

He is quick too – one moment he speeds towards them, the next he speeds away to reach the room with the knot. The reason for his hurry becomes apparent quickly: From the hole spills a gaggle of abominations that seem to be hell-bent on finishing the job they started.

Two undead horse-cadavers canter up from the hole first; each of them ridden by a horribly transmuted elf: These monsters’ ears are elongated even by elven standards, and their eyes glow with a whitish light. Grey paws with impossibly elongated fingers grab at the cloud. Apparently, the riders are not very smart and have problems with the concept of distance.

Snapping maws full of needle teeth, the horses get their act together and start galopping after the cloud.

Only the length of a deep breath behind the two horses, six cadaverous foot-soldiers climb up. They, too, look like undead caricatures of elves, bearing wounds, some of them have arrows stuck in their chests. They also clutch spears and elven swords in their claws. The monsters stumble after the horses, and their eyes also shine with the weird whitish light.

These things are doubtless wights — cursed gravewardens who’s touch is said to still a heart, or at least suck all strength from a body, if the rumors are to be trusted. Not many of the adventurers who frequent “The Cunning Cock” have actually seen real wights.

In a moment the horses will reach the party’s hiding spot.

  • – Hold breath and wait
  • – Ambush horses
  • – Ambush foot-wights

*Season 3 – part 66: White Eyes*

The adventurers hold still and hide as deeply in the shadows as possible. The wights on horseback speed by. They concentrate on their prey and galopp past.

The shambling foot-soldiers come later, and much slower. As they limp past, one of them snaps his head around and looks straight into the Phoebe’s niche.

He stops and hisses, and his five comrades stop as one to turn around and also look at Phoebe.

“Shit.”

At least the riders don’t notice anything, they quickly reach the room with the ashes and the knot-symbol.

  • – Freeze
  • – Talk
  • – Attack
  • – Run away
  • – Other idea (comment)

*Season 3 – part 67: Cold Touch*

While the wights are still busy ogling their new prey, the adventurers don’t twiddle their thumbs. As soon as they are sure that Phoebe has been spotted, the team explodes from their cover and pelts the wights with missiles.

Harmony’s spear Ince Acsa takes the first wight’s head clean off. One down.

Ursula’s slingshot punches a new hole into the next foe’s already pre-damaged brainpan. He twitches and falls.

Fernsby’s crossbow nails another one in the chest.

Reinhold puts an arrow into an undamaged wight’s sternum. The arrow penetrates, then snaps off, half of it embedded in the fiend’s body. The creature turns to face him.

Constance’s throwing knife flies true and penetrates the nearest foe’s neck.

Oswald and Phoebe go toe to toe with the enemy.

He swings his elven sword at the opponent’s midriff, but to no avail: The creature blocks the strike with a small bronze shield.

Phoebe fares no better: Her swing gets entangled with a spear shaft.

The wights strike back. Phoebe’s opponent grabs at her, but she eludes him. Oswald’s foe stabs with his spear — a dangerous thrust that would get the warrior in the chest, but he shatters his shield to block the hit. Useless firewood drops from his arm.

One wight attacks Fernsby, but the fighter dodges the swing.

The last one follows up on his comrade’s attack on Oswald, but misses.

The adventurers hold on to initiative.

They all go into close combat.

Oswald scores a good hit and hacks his second foe’s swordarm off. The creatures barely holds on to stay in the fight. Reinhold cuts through the bronze shield and wounds the wight’s arm. All other attacks get blocked.

Phoebe barely dodges a grapple from one of the creatures. Ursula parries a spear-stab. Constance gets scratched with a sword tip. The wound is no big deal, but she feels a strange coldness touch her. Before she can even cry out, her joints lock, and she falls on her side. Her sword clatters away.

“Constance!” shouts Reinhold. The loss of his first apprentice, Alma, is still fresh on his mind. He cannot lose Constance, too!

With fresh energy, he hacks at the wight that wounded her. Ecet i lindele, the Singing Sword, cleaves right through the creature’s spine, and it collapses on the spot.

Phoebe bashes in her new opponent’s brainpan, and the wight drops.

Oswald stabs the next one, and Fernsby finishes it off.

Only one remains – the most healthy of the bunch – and Ursula elect to use magic. Fell words tumble from her tongue, and a glittering cloud consumes the last wight. Thousands of crystal shards flail the flesh from its bones, and a clean skeleton tumbles to the ground like a bag spilling dice.

“That was overkill”, remarks Harmony.

“Better him than us,” Ursula shrugs.

Reinhold checks Constance’s pulse.

“I don’t feel anything!”

Harmony touches his shoulder. “She lives. She is only petrified.”

“What can we do?”

“We can wake her with a spell. I know the petrifying whisper. I shall reverse it.”

Harmony kneels to whisper into Constance’s ear. Since Constance has a gruesome burn scar in place of her right ear, she makes do with the left one.

A wave of heat emanates from them. The young adventurer gasps, grasps her chest, and sits up. “What??”

“Keep calm,” says Harmony, but Reinhold doesn’t – he pulls Constance into a big bear hug. “I thought you were gone!”

It soon turns out that she has no memory of the moments she has spent frozen in time.

Oswald takes the wight’s sword and inspects it. “Just some old, dirty metal.” He frowns at the magic users and mumbles to himself: “Damn unholy magick.”

Phoebe and Fernsby stand guard. Of the riders there is no trace. They must have ridden up one of the other tunnels, most likely to the Temple of Kesh.

  • – Follow the horses
  • – Find a better hiding spot
  • – Go on to the wight pit

*Season 3 – part 68: The Pit*

The pit is littered with corpses and parts of corpses.

There are at least 10 or 11 of the wights strewn all over the floor, as well as the remains of two of those sharp-toothed horses. Three dead elves are among them, two of them apparently trampled, and missing body parts. One of these is the one with the jellyfish skin.

“That guy really had all the bad luck,” observes Fernsby.

Harmony smiles wrily. “At least now it’s over.”

The pit is about 20 feet deep and looks almost like an arena, with sandy ground and three tunnel entrances in the sides – north, east, and south. The western wall is taken up with stairs gently curving down to the lower level.

Up on the top level, there are the two huge tunnels leading towards the temples, and in the north wall a double door. Everyone agrees that this has to be an entrance to the palace.

“There is something written in the walls,” Constance points out.

Harmony nods. She can read it easily: “The southern entrance reads ‘BEWARE THE FIENDS’. The northern entrance reads ‘BEHOLD THE BEAUTY’.” Then she laughs out loud. “The eastern entrance reads ‘EXIT’.”

Constance frowns. “Exit? Exit where?”

Phoebe points: “I think the wights attacked the elves from two sides: Some came from ‘Beauty’ and some came from ‘Exit’. But I don’t see any tracks coming in from ‘Fiends’.”

Reinhold agrees. “That’s really odd. And the horses all came from ‘Exit’.”

  • – Check out the double doors
  • Investigate the bodies
  • – Investigate the tracks
  • – Just go into one of the pit exits

*Season 3 – part 69: Fallen*

The party moves down the stairs and inspects the dead. The equipment of the wights is sparse and of lamentable quality, but some small personal items on their bodies suggest that they were once priests who rose again after the calamity.

Harmony is not happy with that discovery.

“There are rules for burials to prevent such a thing.”

Phoebe turns Jellyfish-Elf on his back. “Yes, but who was there to bury them? I’m surprised there are not thousands of them.”

The elves are partially dismembered, but they carry interesting things. Three perfectly fine elven swords, for one. Some arrows to add to their own quivers, but the bows are ruined. 16 gold pieces. Jellyfish’s purse also holds three six-sided dice. “A gambler?”

One of the scouts has a little straw doll that doesn’t seem to do anything, and an amulet that Harmony identifies as an amulet of silence, aiding in stealth checks. Ursula’s eyes light up, so the team gives it to her.

One of the shields is good enough to replace Oswald’s lost one.

That’s when, all of a sudden, the wight horses return and look down on them.

  • – Run north (beauty)
  • – Run east (exit)
  • – Run south (fiends)
  • Prepare for battle

*Season 3 – part 70: Clash of Beasts*

The wight horses puff up in a smoke-like haze and waver down into the arena like two clouds, passing through wall and stairwell like ghosts. A troubling turn of events, but at least they move slow and it gives the team time for preparations.

Touching down on the ground, horses and riders return to the physical world – and are welcomed by a hail of projectiles, all centered on one beast.

The Spear Ince Acsa makes a good dent in the apparition, but it shrugs off all the other arrows, shots, and knifes hurled its way, and flashes its needle teeth. Its rider raises an elven blade and prepares to ride them down, but they have wisely spread out so he can only ever get one per attack.

He picks Oswald, while his compagnon rides towards Constance.

The beast explodes forward and basically mowes Oswald down, but he succeeds in blocking its vicious bite with his newly acquired shield, which gets torn apart. The rider follows with a sideways slash, but he only grazes Oswald’s shoulder for one hit point. Still, a cold tingle spreads through the warrior’s body, and it takes an effort of will to fight back the petrifying touch of the blade.

Constance gets pushed aside by her attacker, and one of the hooves sends her sprawling. The impact feels like breaking some ribs, and she has trouble breathing. She keeps her shield ready, though, because she already sees the other rider swinging his blade.

He misses, though, and she curses her stupidity of leaving herself open to the beast. One more hit like that and she is done for, that she knows.

So she responds with her mightiest weapon: Magick.

Almost of its own accord, the spell tumbles from her lips, and horrifying form appears: A thorn colossus materializes, attacking the beast and shredding animal and rider with supernatural spikes.

This beast is occupied for the time being.

The other adventurers concentrate on fiend no 1.

Phoebe cuts a piece out of the horse’s flank, Harmony slices its whole belly open so it stumbles and falls to its knees with a hideous cry.

Ursula goes after the rider and takes off his sword arm at the elbow, although he doesn not seem too concerned about it.

Oswald misses, probably because he is still shuddering from the cold touch. But Fernsby takes off half of the monster-horse’s face with his elven hacking blade.

Reinhold follows Ursula’s lead and takes on the rider.

His aim is true, and the Singing Sword Ecet i lindele shears diagonally through the wight’s body, ending its threat right then and there.

There remains the horse, struggling to stay upright with its vicious wounds, but still snapping with half a mouthful of needle teeth. It loses initiatve, though, so the adventurers go first.

Long story short, they turn the monster into mincemeat, it loses all cohesion and its bones clatter apart right beside its fallen rider.

Inside three rounds, the magical thorn colossus rips the second foe apart, before it bows and dissolves. Silence falls.

The adventurers look congratulate Oswald for his excellent use of the new shield, which now lies bent and crumpled. The others are all damaged, he cannot replace it here.

Reinhold gets Constance a dose of medicine and chides her for taking too many risks, but he also congratulates her for the awesome thorn colossus, who may have saved the day, who knows, either way it took some heavy lifting off them. “That thing was a BEAST!” he declares proudly.

Three tunnels gape before the group, but Reinhold demands they take shelter at a known and safe place back under the temple of the globe, to let Constance rest and the magic users recharge their spells. “What if we meet more foes like these? Without magic, we will suffer losses.”

Harmony argues that Constance can remain relatively safe in the back, and that drawing back to camp and sleep will only lose them ground. “What if the elves return with more men? What if new wights gather while we rest? We won this place, now we need to use our advantage.”

  • Press on
  • – Rest and heal

*Season 3 – part 71: Three paths*

The team quickly checks out the three tunnels to identify the best way to move forward.

The tunnel to the fiends goes in about ten paces, then there is a portcullis blocking the way. It does not look very strong, almost like a good shove would break its brittle remains apart, but it also looks like it has not been touched in a whole long while, and if there are indeed fiends, they have not bothered to break out.

The tunnel to the exit goes in for fifty paces and turns left. The ground here is full of tracks without any discernable pattern. Without warning, two wights shamble out of a little dark door on the left and attack without further ado.

Oswald has an axe to grind with these annoying enemies and attacks the first one with a wild swing. The wight blocks the sword, but while it is thus distracted, Reinhold and Phoebe take it down from the flanks.

Fernsby clips the second wight in the head with his hacking blade and even breaks a piece out of the skull, but that doesn’t stop it. Ursual hacks off its left claw. Harmony sticks Ince Acsa into it. The foe is still up and grabs at Fernsby. The young adventurer is ready and ducks in time, but the wight’s healthy arm is longer than expected and Fernsby has to bring up his shield to avoid being touched on the chest. The wight rakes it claws through the shield, shattering it.

In the second go, the team makes short work of the near-mindless opponent.

“Damn. I liked that shield,” says Fernsby, shrugging out of it.

“Better it than you.”

“We need more shields,” says Oswald. “These things are dumb like cows, but I really don’t want to feel that touch again.”

The tunnel to the north leads to a portal that stands slightly ajar. The wight tracks are coming out through that crack. Inside it is pitch dark, so no “Beauty to Behold” yet.

  • – Through the fiend-portcullis
  • – Around the exit-corner
  • – Through the small door
  • Through the beauty-portal
  • – Draw back and rest

Picture courtesy of guest artist, “L.”

*Season 3 – part 72: Sleeping Beauty*

Holding two torches into the darkness, Ursula and Harmony are rewarded with the discovery of a treasure chamber with a floor made of fine flagstones. Rows of shelves fill the room, with only one central corridor running along them. The shelves are filled with boxes and valuable as well as not so valuable trinkets: Statuettes that reflect the torchlight with their golden surface, others made of some soft material that did not age well. The forms of various animals, carved from a durable substance and complete with polished gemstones in place of the eyes, candlestick-holders, religious sacrificial daggers with flamed blades, and many more, side by side with seemingly random pieces of wood, clay tablets with handprints on them, and other apparent nonsense.

About five flagstones along the corridor, there is a gap in the floor: Four stones in a row are missing, and a gaping hole yawns between the rows of shelves. Three steps farther, there are four flagstones in a row slightly sunken in, and covered in deep shadows from the torches.

Harmony finds the flagstones quite stylish and also admires that they handily suggest where a pit trap may be and where it is safe to step. Urusla would much prefer softer ground that would help to determine where the wights came from and if there are more.

The corridor terminates before some kind of altar at the far wall in the back, laden with various items.

Curiously, in contrast to the finished floor, the ceiling looks like raw earth and is riddled with small holes and root-tips feeling for fertile ground. The torchlight populates the room with a million of twitching and shifting shadows, but the only sound is very slight and constant buzzing noise from somewhere on the left side.

  • Enter
  • – Draw back

*Season 3 – part 73: What’s the buzz*

Reinhold and Harmony are feeling pretty sure of themselves thanks to their new, awesome weapons, and enter the room. The others quickly follow them. The group eyes the flagstones with distrust and test each step before committing to it.

Since they don’t know if they can open it again, they wedge caltrops under the door to keep it ajar. All the flagstones in the first section hold. And they get a good look at the things that are kept on these shelves – various trinkets and items with holes to loop a chain through, carved stones, dried wood, and textile bands decayed with time.

“Religious symbols,” explains Harmony. On one board, they even find a wide range of leering masks like they found hammered into the skulls of the dead back under the Temple of Kesh at home. An open box contains metal pins, which look almost fresh.

“What is that buzz?”

Harmony frowns. “That must be some magical effect that persists. Maybe forever, or until it is actively dispelled.”

They inspect the ceiling, but apart from the roots there is nothing special to see.
“I wonder what those roots are.” Constance reminds them that they are below basement level inside a blighted city and there cannot be any grass above them. “How do they live?”

“I want to take a look at that altar,” declares Phoebe. “If there’s anything worthwhile in this room, it will be there, behind the traps.”

“Which we must cross anyway,” muses Oswald.

  • – Make your way to the altar
  • Locate the buzz
  • – Investigate the stuff on the shelves
  • – Investigate the pit traps

*Season 3 – part 74: Soul Trade*

Harmony stops them. “Listen, before we check out anything else, we must check out this buzzing. So help me to locate it.”

The team listens intently, and they finally agree that it originates on the left, and closer to the far wall than to the entrance, maybe very close to the wall.

Harmony tries to look over the shelves but can’t discern the source of the buzz. She goes as close to it as she can this side of the shelves. She can feel the magic, and concentrates to identify its properties. (WIL check: success) “I know. It is another pocket of wild magic. But it is stable, with only one kind of effect. We call it ‘revolting ectoplasm’, and it has infected the shelves around it, and the things stored on them.”

“What does that mean in plain Alys?”

“I believe the items around that pocket of magic are imbued with the remnants of souls.”

“Ghosts? Ghosts captured inside religious symbols and small items?”

Harmony thinks about it.

“In essence, yes.”

Reinhold smiles. “A ghost in a small item… that could fetch a very good price, and it is not really magic loot. It would be ours.”

Ursula shakes her head. “Don’t meddle with ghosts. Don’t you know any ghost stories?”

“Sure do. I don’t want to keep one, I want to sell one. Or rather, a bunch of them.”

Fernsby sides with him. “They are small, so easy to carry. If we climb over these shelves, we can reach them easily.”

Phoebe shakes her head. “These are elf souls for sure. The elves in Woodbridge are riled up enough as is, without humans selling and buying their souls.”

Oswald points at the corridor. “Forget this nonsense. Let us get on towards the altar.”

  • – Go get some ghost items
  • Avoid them, inspect pit traps
  • – Avoid them, go through opposite shelves

*Season 3 – part 75: The Trap*

“Let’s avoid this area,” decrees Harmony.

The others nod, remembering the fate of the giant spider and the Jellyfish-Elf. None of them has plans to return home as a freak of nature.
“Let us check out this pit trap.”

Testing stone after stone, the team closes in on the area with the missing flagstones. And it is a good thing they are so careful: the stones right before the pit yield under the pressure. They tilt towards the hole, as if to chuck any who are not careful enough screaming down into the depth. The flagstones in between the shelves look safe enough, only those right at the entrance of the first side corridor give in and tilt.

“I bet those on the other side do that too,” says Fernsby, and it really looks that way. He had entertained the idea of jumping over, but is less sure now. Three steps is a lot farther than one — but it can be done, especially with the help of a rope.

Ursula lies down on the flagstone and draws herself close to the edge to look down. It is dark down there, but she thinks she sees soft glowing white spots somewhere down there.

  • Drop a torch into it
  • — Jump across
  • Go over the shelves on the right

*Season 3 – part 76: Trapped*

The adventurers crawl back from the pit trap and study the corridor. “If the next pit trap also has tilting stones and if there is one more we don’t see, than almost the whole corridor is trapped.”
“Makes you think how the priests got back and forth here without plummeting into the basement all the time.”

They look arond for some kind of disabling mechanism or lever, but see none.

“Fine.” Phoebe claps her hands. “Forget the pits. Let’s climb across the shelves on the right side.”

They move over to the right and prepare to climb across. Harmony volunteers to go first. Phoebe and Constance hoist her up and she crawls over the shelf, but stays low because she doesn’t trust the roots hanging from the ceiling. The shelf groans and crackles under her weight, but holds.

Meanwhile, Ursula looks into the trap again. What are those glowing lights? She drops one of her torches into the pit and sees it strike the floor … among three wights who glare up at her hungrily, but shuffle back from the flames. They must have fallen into the trap – now they are unable to get out without help. Trapped in their own pit. Maybe.

Unsmiling, Ursula pulls out her sling and prepares a shot, when one of the wights decides to trample the firebrand and it dies in a shower of sparks.

The fiends disappear in a shroud of darkness.

  • – Go and follow the others over the shelves
  • – Get them to come here and destroy the wights

*Season 3 – part 77: Dustup*

Ursula struggles with herself. She’d really like to have these wights cleaned up… but then, sacrificing more torches? She convinces herself that it’s not worth it. She says “Bah!” and follows the others.

Constance is next to go over the shelf, and Harmony helps her over. Then follows Reinhold, and again the shelf groans and moans, almost like a living organism.

Just in case, Harmony concentrates and tries to find out if the shelves themselves are somehow magical. She can feel the magic emanating from the far side where the pocket of wild magic is, but nothing here… just dumb old relics.

“It’s clear, just old wood.”

Ursula warns everyone about the wights in the pit, then goes next, followed by Fernsby. Oswald and Phoebe stay behind for the moment to guard against any surprises.

Climbing the next shelf, Reinhold goes first … and the shelf breaks under his bulk with a resounding crash. He takes 2 hit points in damage.

Clouds of splinters fly, a mighty plume of dust rolls all through the room. Ursula and Fernsby get a mouthful of dust and go down coughing and spitting, while trying not to inhale any more of the wreckage. Phoebe and Oswald are distant enough to turn away in time.

The dust whirls all over the room and looks like it will not settle any time soon. Visibility is down to just two or three steps, and the buzzing of the wild magic gets louder as flying splinters frizzle in and out of the pocket.

“What is this?” shouts Reinhold, getting up and burying his face in his collar to filter out the atomized debris. “That’s not natural!”

Ursula answers with angry coughing, shielding her mouth and leaning against the wall, while Fernsby lies flat on his stomach to breathe close to the ground.

“Was this just your weight?” he gasps, “Or are these shelves so brittle?”

Reinhold has no answer to that.

  • Wait and stay close until the dust settles
  • – Quickly climb back towards the entrance
  • Quickly press on and thrash the shelves forward

*Season 3 – part 78: Crash*

Harmony tries to shield Ursula and Fernsby from the worst of the whirling dust and sawdust, and helps them cover their faces until they have retched up all the rubble they have breathed in. The two are stunned and can’t really do anything, so they are thankful for the protection.

Reinhold is of a different mind. “We have to clear the obstacles!” he shouts through a bandana, as he ties it around his face. Constance agrees, and together they make short work of the next shelf. Constance’s maul and crowbar and Reinhold’s hammer and crowbar prove up to the task: Another mighty crash, and wooden boards, carved figurines, paper and stone idols litter the ground. Almost effortlessly they break through the next shelf as well. Only one last row of stuff stands between them and the altar, when the ground gives under the adventurer’s feet and he drops into another pit – right between the shelves!

Constance is lucky. She notices the danger and sidesteps in time. Reinhold fails. He plummets down together with two boxes full of dried leafs and three broken boards of wood, out of the fat cloud of dust and down on the dirty ground, one level lower. He falls prone and takes 3 damage, down to 2 hit points.

Quickly he checks out his new surroundings and finds that he will have to climb out, it is too high to jump. At least he is not in a wight nest… he is alone, the ground has clearly remained undisturbed for a very long time, but there are three fist-sized pipes down at ground level that lead into his pit.

  • Block the pipes with something
  • – Try to climb out
  • – Wait for the dust to settle

*Season 3 – part 79: Tag Team*

Reinhold immediately thinks about swarms of hungry beetles streaming through the pipes into his pit. “No, thank you,” he thinks, and rummages through his belongings.

“Drat!” 

Few of his things seem to be up to the task. Finally he settles on his rope and replacement clothing to cram into the pipes: A pair of trousers, a fine chamise and a bundle of socks.

Then there’s nothing to do but to wait.

**

The haze of dust slowly settles, but Phoebe and Oswald hear a strange noise from the door. Two wights lurch into the room, probably alerted by the noise, and looking around in search of enemies. They still need a moment to adapt to the mix of darkness and dust clouds in the room.

There really is not much of a choice. The two adventurers exchange a glance and come at the fiends swinging. Their elven swords bite deep into muscles and sinews before the foe can react to the onslaught.

The adventurers win initiative and proceed to dismember their slower opponents. Phoebe’s foe stumbles as he loses an arm and receives a deep cut in the thigh. Oswald’s foe gets lucky: The warrior’s blade gets momentarily entangled in some roots from the ceiling, and he only receives a shallow cut.

Phoebe was sure her foe would go down, so she is surprised as the wight grabs for her. At the last moment she brings her shield between them, and his beastly talons rip it asunder, leaving her with useless straps of leather falling from her arm.

Oswald has more luck, he dances aside and his foe misses.

In one fluid motion, Phoebe takes her wight’s head and lets it roll into the far corner of the room. The ghastly white eyes wink out one by one.

Oswalds opponent gets sliced open, but with a superhuman effort of will remains in th fight.

And the adventurers gain initiative again! 

Phoebe cuts off the wight’s head and lets it plummet into the pit to the monster’s colleagues. Oswald pins the headless body through the heart for good measure.

They look outside. Two more wights are stumbling towards them across the open arena, coming from the “exit” tunnel.

  • Close the door
  • – Cut them down

*Season 3 – part 80: Privacy*

Oswald and Phoebe slam the door shut and bar it from the inside.

“Let’s have some privacy here!” she grunts.

The team waits out five minutes until the dust has settled and surveys the destruction. The right side of the room looks like a wasteland of broken timber and heaps of wood, stone, and paper, fenced in by two remaining shelves.

The left side glares with a persistant buzz.

In the center, down in their pit, the wights wait silently.

Phoebe pushes against the wooden barrier. “I guess this first shelf will break sooner or later anyway, right?”

The others agree.

“Break it now?”

The others agree.

Together, they smash the shelf and create a new dust cloud, but this time they are all prepared and protect their faces in time.

Then they pull Reinhold out of his trap.

He leaves his rope in the pipe for now, but professes to come back for it later.

“Smash the next shelf?”

  • – Smash the next shelf?
  • Rest and recuperate first.

Party stats: http://bit.ly/PhoebesMazeRatsLvl3

*Season 3 – part 81: Intermission*

Some of the party are maddened by taking a break so tantalizingly close to the altart that may hold, among other items, their objective, but given that Reinhold and Constance have taken some bumps and the team is practically out of magic spells, cooler heads must prevail, and the hotheads see reason. And with the door safely barred and the three wights contained in the pit trap, they can afford to let their guard down.

They all rest, eat, drink and sleep in a small area cleared of debris. And after two hours, they don’t even hear the constant buzzing of the magic pocket any more.

Reinhold and Constance aid their rest with a dose of medicine each, then sleep. She is hale again, he is still hurting from his fall. (4 of 8 hp)

There is enough wood among the broken shelves so they do not need to deplete their stock of torches to build and feed their fire.

The magic users refresh their magicks: Harmony gains a gruesome spell in the form of “Spawning Rot”. Ursula gains the mighty “Dividing Shard”. And Constance gains the “Paralyzing Cube”. All fine combat spells; the party has lost some time, but profited much from this rest.

When all are ready again, they have to make a decision:

  • Break through the last shelf
  • – Climb over the last shelf
  • – Jump directly to the altar

*Season 3 – part 82: Left, right, and center*

With the aid of several longer boards, the team manipulates the shelf from a safe distance. They press until the top-heavy construct topples onto the other side, away from them, with a crash, and a whitish pseudopod struggles out from under it. There is some kind of life form that must have waited on the far side of it … a fungal growth, by the look of it.

The adventurers have none of that: They strike the pinned creature and slay it as it lies buried helplessly under the shelves.

Now they see something new: There is a door in the far wall, close to the right hand corner. It is closed, but a handful of thin lines of organic matter seems to connect the now dead fungoid with the gap under the door. Maybe the creature was able to communicate the attack that happened here to another or several like it.

In the center of the wall there is the altar: a heavy stone table with a smooth top covered in flimsy, rotten cloth. On top of this table are piles and piles of artifacts, haphazardly crammed together, and in part covered with even more flimsy cloth. Little idols, boxes, cups and cans.

Behind it, in the leftmost corner of the room, there are three rows of books in yet another shelf, mostly rotten and flaky. A touch may be enough to destroy them. One of them seems to be in a perfectly fresh state, as if freshly bound.

  • – Investigate the door
  • – Investigate the altar
  • Investigate the book

*Season 3 – part 83: Anticipation*

Fernsby walks over to the book, taking care not to get too close to the area of the shelf opposite that is tainted by the pocket of wild magic. He gingerly crouches at a semi-safe distance and moves towards the book.

But Ursula notices something: The book moves. It seems to tense, or hold its breath, waiting for the human to select it.

“Stop!” she shouts.

Fernsby stops.

“Something’s not right with the book. I think it lives.”

Harmony squints at the book, and nods. “It shivers a bit. It must be sentient. A true magic book then… worth a real fortune.”

“Doesn’t that mean it would be the Archmage’s?”

Phoebe shakes her head. “Not necessarily. This time, he just wants the Chalice, and pays good money for it. We did not speak about other magical items.”

“Then it is ours,” smiles Reinhold.

“If we can sell it,” warns Oswald.

“Or use it,” suggests Constance.

  • – Grab the book
  • – Investigate the altar
  • – Investigate the door

*Season 3 – part 84: The Chalice and the Dagger*

Fernsby wants to take it, but Harmony stops him. “Let me. I think I can handle it.”

She deftly grabs the book and pulls it out of the shelf. The others flake out and fall apart, taking several more with them, and quite a lot of powdered paper dribbles to the floor.

The book turns on her and tries to take over her mind.

A battle of wills ensues. The book is strong, but Harmony was ready for it and rolls with advantage. Still… the book is stronger! It rustles with glee, when suddenly Harmony’s amulet of Ethereal Protection flares up and turns the tide, growing cold and inert while Harmony’s willpower get the boost it needs to win.

Harmony fends off the mental attack. When the book notices the resistance, it tries to slip away from her. With a successful DEX save Harmony hangs on to the opponent and throws it to the floor before stepping on it.

Reinhold has a large sack, he aids Harmony in stuffing the flailing book into it and bundles it closed. Together, they tie a knot into the sack, and the wayward book is trapped.

“Nice!” she gasps, “That was a wild ride.”

They grin happily.

Fernsby has blanched. “What did it do?”

“It tried to wrestle my mind down and possess me.”

He looks uneasy at the sack. “That could have been me.”

“Enough!” says Phoebe. “Let’s check out the altar.”

Together they rifle through all the items on the altar and find amidst the junk only two things that look worthwhile. One is a brass dagger that emanates a faint light. The other is the Chalice of Insanity. It looks like a metal cup, made from some alloy, and it looks very much like the sketch Phoebe has with her.

“Yes!” she exclaims.

“No drinking from that, right?” laughs Reinhold. “We did it! Haha! We bested the Isle of Blight!”

“Not yet,” mumbles Oswald.

“What about that dagger?” asks Ursula.

  • – Investigate the dagger
  • – Leave the dagger

*Season 3 – part 85: Mystery Blade*

Harmony attunes herself to the dagger, but the mystery of the blade remains opaque to her. “It certainly has a magical aura… and a powerful one. But I cannot fathom it,” she says, giving up after a while.

“Let us try!” Ursula and Constane hold hands and try it together. Supporting each other, they blast through the dagger’s secrets and identify it:

“It is a wrathblade,” proclaims Constance. “Whoever wields it feels a high level of energy coursing through his body (he attacks with advantage). However, it does not like to stop. When the enemy is down, it seeks another one, and needs to be overcome to sheath again.”

“That doesn’t sound too great,” remarks Phoebe, who loves being in control.

“My Singing Sword is good enough… but we could sell it,” says Reinhold. “A magical dagger may fetch a good price.”

“Or keep it,” says Oswald. The dagger pleases him greatly. Only to use in emergencies, of course.

  • – Let it be
  • Take it as loot
  • – Take it as a weapon

*Season 3 – part 86: Leaving*

“A dagger that makes you attack your friends? Bright idea. This is better suited for some crazy collector’s showcases.” They carefully wrap the wrathblade into some cloth and bury it deep in Phoebe’s backpack. Then they do the same with their main prize: The Chalice for “The Peaceful”.

The Chalice of Insanity is won. All that remains is to return it to Captain Carvolo’s ship and get to the rendezvous with “The Peaceful”’s other vessel in the Bay of Stones.

The question now is: How?

There is a tiny door here, and the main portal. But in front of the main entrance there are wights waiting, locked out but untiring. Surely they will be overcome, but it will be risky or take magic spells.
The tiny door is an unknown. Where does it lead? Is it an exit or a dead end?
Of course, there is also the weird, earthen ceiling, the pit traps, and the altar, so they could search for other ways to leave this place.

  • – Take the main portal
  • Take the door in the north wall
  • – Search for other exits

*Season 3 – part 87: Face of Death*

The adventurers listen on the main portal to no effect, then half-heartedly look around for other exits, also retrieving Reinhold’s things from the pit. Then they settle on the door in the north wall. Fernsby tries to peer through the keyhole, but sees only darkness. Finally they slowly and carefully try the door handle. It breaks off, but the door clicks open.

With sword-tips, they lever it open and shine torchlight into it.

The room is not huge, and it must have been some kind of sacristy. There are a bulky wardrobe and an enormous chest on the far wall, and a door right next to the chest in the right wall, towards the east.

In the center of the room, there is a group of dead elves with shriveled, greyed skin, parchment-dry, all fallen halfway on top of each other in a chaotic heap. Knives litter the floor. Six dead elves, and six knives, as a quick count verifies.

They were all clad in vestments of maybe white or light grey colour, but by now they are faded and also, peculiarly, overgrown with wide blooms of hairy mould.

Another peculiarity: While their skin is dried and shrunken, their eyes are entirely missing. For some odd reason, these people were affected by the weird magical energies of the Catastrophe that blighted Told-o Estel, but only in part. Their bodies were mostly preserved, but half consumed by natural degredation.

What’s more, they did not die of the Catastrophe… they may have killed themselves or each other, using these knives.

“The Face of Death”, says Harmony, pointing at the knives. Indeed, the knife handles are formed in a pattern that forms a stylized face contorted in agony.

Phoebe narrows her eyes in suspicion. “Did the knives make them kill each other?”

Harmony shakes her head, staring at the faces.

“No, these knives are meant to collect their souls. These priests should now live on in the blades.”

Reinhold smacks his lips. “Sucks to be them, then.”

  • – Close the door, find other way
  • – Go in to collect the knives
  • – Investigate the bodies
  • Investigate the rest of the room

*Season 3 – part 88: Powder*

Staying well clear of the dead and their weird knives, the adventurers tread carefully close to the wall to get to the far side of the room. Nothing stirs, except the faces in the pommels of the knives seem to move slightly… although that could be a trick of the flickering light.

The wardrobe is actually a bit open, so they take a peek inside. Again, robes. The elves of Told-o Estel seemed to love robes. Most of them dried and brittle, some of them fallen down covering the floor.

On the left side of the wardrobe, there is a section with shelves filled with candles of different colors, very well preserved, a couple of bowls and cups of elven design, probably worth around 40 gold pieces, and boxes full of white powder.

In the huge chest they find even more boxes of that mysterious white powder, and even more robes. Also, though, under the robes, life: There is a colony of little bugs scuttling away towards the dark corners and little cracks in the chest as soon as the torchlight reaches them.

They also find a little sack full of gems. Reinhold and Ursula inspect them and decide they must be worth around 120 gold pieces.

  • – Experiment with the white powder
  • Check out the door in the east wall

*Season 3 – part 89: Tight*

Ursula and Reinhold inspect the door to make sure it is not trapped. Confident that everything is fine, they try to open it and find it locked. No problem for Reinhold: He fiddles with the lock and one, two, three it is open.

Behind the door there is a narrow corridor leading straight east into pitch darkness. Fresh air wafts in, bringing a smell of moisture and leafs.

“Seriously?” asks Fernsby. “That smells really close. With that tunnel we could have gotten here from the real, healthy wood outside the walls and evaded all those bugs and wights?”

“Not likely. It will be hidden,” says Harmony. “This is an emergency tunnel for royalty and high priests.” She spares a glance at the six dead, mouldy elves. “Although some chose not to use it.”

Constance unshutters the lantern and shines a beam of light inside… to find the corridor blocked. Or mainly blocked.

About ten yards in some material has collapsed into the tunnel from above. Only a small gap remains open … a crawlspace. Faces fall in frustration.

“Shit,” says Phoebe. “There can be more loose stuff up there, just waiting to bury us alive.”

Reinhold squints at Ursula: “But I know a certain someone whom I remember being very good in the tight and narrow.”

Ursula rolls her eyes. “I AM very good in tight spaces, but that doesn’t mean I like being buried under the rubble of a palace wall just because you sneeze in the wrong moment. And I’d have to ditch the armor.”

“Come on, where is your sense of adventure? Or do you want to fight an unknown number of wights and then meet that elfmage and tell him we don’t want to share?”

Oswald snorts. “I’ve only really seen two wights out there.”

  • Let Ursula crawl into darkness
  • – Try the wights back in the arena

*Season 3 – part 90: Crawlspace*

Ursula sighs, gets out of armour, grabs the lantern, and crawls up the pile of rubble. Loose dirt and stones give way under her, but she scales the pile quickly and disappears into the crawlspace on top. The others stand back and watch her light bobbing and weaving inside.

Navigating through the small hole is easy. Ursula enters a cavern with crumbling sides, but the ceiling looks dependable: It is made of stone. She is looking at the floor of the palace from below.

Stone means it will not come down easily, but IF it comes down, it will hurt plenty. She can also see nothing to support the ceiling. It depended on lying on an earthen fundament, so there was no need for supporting beams. Likely, if something heavy was to jump up and down in that room above, it would come crashing down with half the building.

Grimacing, she makes her way on to the other side where a similar crawlspace enters the other side of the corridor. Looking through, she sees daylight filtering in, lighting a wider corridor. This must be the “Exit” tunnel from the arena.

Carefully, she slides through.

She has to make a save to get through, but as a contortionist, she has advantage, and makes it easily. “Child’s play!” she thinks.

She may even be able to widen this gap so everyone can fit through, even Reinhold with his wide shoulders.

On the other side she peeks into the wider tunnel. To the right, it is empty and takes a turn towards the right, to the arena. To the left, it goes on for some 50 yards, then opens into a wilderness. From the top, lots of vines and leafs hang down over a length of about five yards, so the opening is not obvious from outside.

  • – Investigate the exit
  • – Investigate the tunnel on the right
  • Return to the gang

*Season 3 – part 91: Outroad*

Ursula decides to rejoin the group, now that she has ascertained that this tunnel actually leads to an exit.

Going back, she carefully widens the gap until she fits through comfortably. Sand shifts, dirt comes loose, but she has it under control. Soon enough she is back in the cave, sneaks through under the slightly sagging flagstones above, and returns to her friends.

“I made you an outroad,” Ursula smirks and winks at Reinhold, mimicking a big lumbering hulk stumbling side to side. “Even you will fit through there.” She smiles, then gets serious: “But BE QUIET. You get me?”

“How is the way?”

“After this first hole is a cavern that is not very stable, where we need to be quiet and careful. Five yards on, there is an exit just like this one. I go first, and I will wait there for you. You go one after another, slow and easy, and all will be well.”

“So we need to sneak? In heavy armor?”

“You can try that, or shed the armor and carry it in your backpacks. But if you move slow and steady you can make it.”

Reinhold is not so happy. He begins to lean more on Oswald’s side all of a sudden.”

“Can’t we just open the portal and you magic users blast any enemies who wait there?”

  • – Do it! Go through
  • – Fight the wights
  • – Other idea (comment)

*Season 3 – part 92: Nimble foots*

Ursula puts her armor into her pack and goes first, carrying it. She passes through the room with the sagging roof and leaves the armor on the other side. Then she returns to fetch some of the luggage they have assembled. “Each of you carries one pack with the most valuable stuff you have. We can go back and fetch the rest later, if the roof holds.”

One by one they all follow her example. Ursula inwardly cringes as it is Reinhold’s turn, but he surprises her by proving especially nimble footed.

No, it is Phoebe who, having brought the magic loot and Chalice of Insanity first, is on her second trip to fetch her armor. Momentarily distracted by the twisting shadows of the flickering torch, she fumbles and drops a shoulderpad as she prepares to dive through the exit. It lands with a sharp clang. Phoebe freezes as dust showers down from the sagging roof. But it holds. After a while without boulders and stones falling down on her, slowly exhales and continues on her way – without further incident.

“Do we have everything?”

They have. Armor, weapons, and loot are with them, and the tunnel before them is still quiet and free of threats.

Elated, they all put their armor back on and strap quivers, spears, swords, and axes onto their bodies.

What now?

  • – Investigate the exit with the plant curtain on the left
  • – Investigate the tunnel to the right

*Season 3 – part 93: Mysterious Holes*

The adventurers go towards the exit, wary of possible threats, dangers or traps. After all, which self-respecting city would have such a backdoor leading right into the palace, and leave it unguarded?

Their vigilance pays, as Reinhold notices a series of holes in the walls on both sides. They are wide enough to allow a hand inside, and unevenly spaced. A number of them run along the wall around head-high, a number chest high, and a number of them at the height of knees or feet.

“What do you think, Ursula?”

She inspects them with a critical eye. “If they shoot something, they are likely long out of service or out of ammunition. If there is something like a spike or spear coming out, they may still work.”

“But either option leaves unexplained why there are no dead bodies here. Is it possible that in all this time nobody has tried, and failed, to pass through here? Not even an animal?”

“Could it be an acid spray?”

“Unlikely,” says Harmony. “The bones should still be here.”

“Maybe these are just holes, and there is no trap?” Fernsby interjects.

“Not likely.”

“Or maybe… maybe there are swarms of animals in there, and they ate everyone who tried?” asks Constance.

The others exchange worried looks.

“There are spaces where there are no holes on either side,” says Ursula. “Maybe we can pass through in that height.”

“But how? We have to know what the holes do or we won’t find a solution.”

Their current magical spells all seem unsuited to the task.

  • – Look into the holes
  • Test with something heavy
  • – Test with one careful step
  • – Forget about this, go to arena
  • – Other idea (comment)

*Season 3 – part 94: Functions & Mechanics*

The team walks back to the side tunnel and lugs over a couple of heavy stones from the collapse. They throw some of the stones onto the floor between the holes – and success: Covering the area where the stones fall, long metal spikes shoot out of the wall and block the whole tunnel. They intersect for about two hand’s widths in the middle – except for down at the floor where the stones are lying. There they strike sparks from the stones and crush them together from both sides. After the length of two breaths, they retract.

“Ingenious!” says Harmony.

Fernsby laughs. “Did you see? Only at that particular place where the stones fell.”

“So?”

“That means if we run at speed, they won’t catch us.”

Ursula squints and shakes her head. “But that means you can’t stop, and who knows what’s on the other end?”

“If there was any other trap, we would see it.”

“Do you see the spikes?”

As they speak, the floor in the middle of the tunnel slowly tilts open over a span of five or six steps in length and two steps in width, with a series of loud clicks like from a chain winch. The stones slide off and fall into the depth, tumbling against rocks and stones repeatedly, until they crash to the floor.

“Oh,” says Oswald. “That’s where the victims are.”

Phoebe clicks her tongue. “We have to disable the spikes – or run.”

“Or walk along the wall while the pit is open,” offers Constance.

They test the theory.

She is half right. The spikes do shoot out while the pit is open, and push rubble right into the opening, but it takes a little while after they retract before the spikes are rearmed. So shortly after the spikes were released there is a time window where they cannot push out again.

“I don’t think that is particularly helpful,” says Reinhold. “We still have no time to stop, even if we do not run. And how do we activate the spikes step by step? We cannot chuck stones onto the path before us while the earlier spikes are still there, and we can’t carry 400 pounds of stones for the whole length anyway.”

“So back to running.”

“Or disabling the spikes.”

“Or not putting weight on the floor.”

They all look at Ursula.

She points to the ceiling. “There are no spikes on top. If we can climb…”

Phoebe shakes her head. “Most of us can’t. Not in armor, and not with loot. But … how did the priests get out through here?”

“Good point.”

“Magic?”

“No, this is all mechanics in here.”

  • – Run fast and hope
  • – Give up, go to arena
  • Take time to look for more clues
  • – Look for access to the mechanism
  • – Something else (comment)

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