The grate of separation
Reminder: Brother Abram Gaunt, ½-Jack the Halfling, Banjo Carrick the Elf, Martel Guerra and Red the Elf are pinned up against a portcullis by a powerful flood of filthy water sluicing down the stairs that lie beyond the portcullis. They are drowning and taking a beating from the pressure (2 points damage in the surprise round last session).
Round 1: [2 points damage all round.] Gaunt strains his muscles and heaves his way out [natural 20] of the tangle of adventurers and pressure of water, up the portcullis to get his head out into air. Carrick – surprisingly as not only has he muscles like bean sprouts but is still wearing his mage robe – breaks the boiling surface next to him. The others don’t. Below, ½-Jack tries to double over and squeeze through one of the small gaps [very high Dex check] but fails.
Round 2: [1 point damage to those submerged.] Gaunt grabs at ½-Jack but fails to get a handgrip in the rogue’s greasy hair. Martel makes it up! Red doesn’t. Carrick spots a lever, masked by mossy growth on the wall until now, and heaves on it: the portcullis begins rising. ½-Jack latches on and rides it up to get clear. The raft sweeps majestically under the portcullis and away down into the gurgling darkness, carrying the tools and spare weapons.
Round 3: [1 point damage to Red.] Gaunt tries to help him up, without success. Martel calls for a light, grabs at Red and also fails. Carrick who does have a light, succeeds and between he and the Halfling the waterlogged ranger is pulled up. Red still has a grip on his spear, which also has a light on it.
Round 4: possibly owing to the weight of the ranger and the difficulty in keeping hold of gear, we are swept away down a stair, taking a pounding from the walls and steps as we go! [13 damage all round]
Pools and paths
We stagger to our feet on a broad silicate terrace, and the heat of this inner, cystic, caldera strikes us. Fumaroles and bubbling pools stretch out below our terrace away into misty opacity. A largish pool of water steams gently immediately below the final foot of the terrace. And in it bob a few palm logs, all that remains of our faithful raft.
Gaunt holds his hands aloft and recites a seldom-used incantation, and healing flows into all of us. It’s like we have a real cleric with us! [12 pts apiece]
“Quick! Before the water can super-heat! Let’s see if our gear can be retrieved!” – Martel
We retrieve our scattered gear with the aid of magic light. As we fish back out the last potion bottle (Carrick’s scroll was already burnt and is now completely gone) a tremor shakes the caldera and we stagger a little.
“I think I saw something, far through the steam!” – Red the seldom-perceptive
Carrick backs Red up (though it may be just Elven solidarity) so Martel (first healing himself and Carrick) leads off along a solid silica path that winds alongside the pool. Our best guess, based on half-glimpses, is that there’s a large grotto opposite.
It takes along time as the pathways around pools are maze-like. At one point the doughty paladin stops [Wis check] and quavers that we ought to go back – but urged on by Gaunt (who can’t reach him) Red smacks the paladin with his spear-butt and that seems to do the trick. We resume. But Carrick is fairly sure that the pools to either side may hold something much more unpleasant than hot water.
Just after ½-Jack has gasped his way through a gas bubble [and made a Will check] Carrick is swiped at by a tentacle: but his magical Shield blocks it. Lacking any effective way to get at the pool we press on.
At last, we do make it to the stepped terraces leading up to the grotto, clamber up the slippery ledges [Dex checks] and take a rest.
Short rest: all characters not at full take at least one HD and recover. Carrick re-ups a couple of spells.
Dancing lights accompany us as we scale the final terrace and see a stalactite-covered throne, in which is enthroned and encased the withered husk of a once-mighty monarch!
Naturally, we chip away the silicates to ransack the corpse, pilfering its ring and short sword.
Each seems quite unique: the ring is engraved with a lightning motif that to Carrick suggests that it may be the work of the magister-artisan Magar Stormfighter; the short sword is a translucent blue crystalline. Carrick calls dibs on the former and ½-Jack takes the latter to replace the one Red has ruined being all ranger-y.
We retreat (as expeditiously as possible) surviving a nasty tentacular attack on Red. ½-Jack’s short sword has pleased him by lopping the tip off the tentacle: but it doesn’t make us want to jump into the pool with the monster, whatever it is. (Gaunt, who cares one way or another, thinks it’s probably the real-size version of the tentacle idol he crushed.) Back at our “home” terrace Gaunt heals Red a little, and we return upstairs to check an arch we got swept past near the portcullis.
Portcullis and Peril
Its arch leads to a well-chamber connecting to another tunnel. The well is a straight chute down to the caldera. The further passage is long, and broad. We set our order afresh and explore, coming at length to an arch leading into a 30’ square chamber with no exit. Around the wall stand statues, mostly finely featured but some hideous to behold. Looking up (we are suspicious if not paranoid) we observe that there is a wooden trapdoor in the ceiling, in poor shape.
As ½-Jack steps in to investigate the dust that has sifted down below the trapdoor, he triggers a portcullis, which seals him off from our help: and one of the hideous statues stalks down off its pedestal!
Surprise Round: ½-Jack tumbles past the creature and stabs his short sword deep into its stony hide [crit, 14]. The gargoyle wheels on him and though its bite misses, its claws tear into him [6 and 4].
Round 1: Carrick throws his full spell power [MML2] at the gargoyle which is dead on its feet as the searing blue bolts strike! ½-Jack misses and disengages, trying to stay near the center of the chamber. As the first gargoyle crumbles, a second one comes to life! Its strike misses. Martel encourages Red to search for a pressure plate or lever, and does so himself. Gaunt calls Tempus’ spirit sword to attack but misses.
Round 2: Carrick blasts the next gargoyle [15 damage] and ½-Jack jabs it hard with dagger and sword [12 damage] then dodges back out again. The thing scrapes after him but misses again. Martel [search 19] finds the pressure plate and the portcullis begins lifting. Gaunt strikes with spirit sword  and throws healing into ½-Jack . Red readies his spear.
Round 3: Carrick misses with Ray of Frost. ½-Jack slams his short-sword deep [crit, 15] and the second gargoyle falls. Martel advances, but there are no more attacks.
We find an amethyst at the feet of one statue, and ½-Jack stows it away in the traditional way for adventurers with no bags or pouches left.
As we are very curious (and paranoid) about what lies above, Gaunt uses his spirit sword to chop the trapdoor away. During this time, Red finds a hidden exit beyond the statues. It leads back out onto the line of cells.
The dungeon’s last gasp
We recover a rope from “upstairs” – up through our hole of entry – and Martel grapnels the edge of the trap. After amusing ourselves watching ½-Jack trying to climb we give Martel a chance to look less like a plonker. He fails in this simple task, but does eventually struggle up, pitons in, and we all clamber up into a fair-size chamber with broad steps leading up to a platform.
Upstairs we find a couple of well-spaced holes and it takes no time at all to work out that they are eye-holes in the great carven face glaring out across the naos. There’s a lever that works a bellows between them, and with a cry of “ah, what harm could it do?” 1/2-Jack reaches up to tippy-toes and pumps it. The resulting blow-back of fire from the fireball created in the naos burns Gaunt, Red and Carrick, but especially Gaunt. Good thing Tempus doesn’t allow his priests to bear grudges!
Searching the chamber downstairs again, we find a secret exit to the mezzanine of the naos.
A draft of wine, pearl and feather
Identifying the items we have is high priority. We enjoy a feast with the gentle villagers of Mantru, and Fano and Loomat bid us farewell. After treatments of palm oil and massage, our waterlogged and decaying skins resume their normal texture and we re-don our armor. We’re all keen to find out exactly what the magical weapons we’ve looted do, and a brief burst of trading with the villagers provides Carrick with two of the ingredients to cast Identify spells. But for now, the actual spells will have to wait, as the third part, wine, is not to be had here.
It’s back to the coast in an uneventful slog, our equipment lighter and our loot heavier. Ryhab picks us up – the crew are still taking on water for resupply in Port Tarfoot – and Carrick concocts his Identify brew.
In the next few days sailing the good ship Rum conducts a brief trade with the villages such as Tanaroa . In between lazing aboard and explaining how marvelous Elves are, Carrick identifies the properties of the weapons. These are now listed by their agreed owners:
- ½-Jack’s Short Sword: Pontus. +1 effect, breathe underwater at any depth, d8 extra damage to aquatics.
- Carrick’s Ring: Coil of Magar. MU attunement: two extra slots that are storm related.
- Br Gaunt’s Longsword: Fimbruk. +1 effect, finds precious ore by screeching, Featherfall effect 3/day.
- Martel’s Mace: Mace of Genuflection. +1 effect, damage of at least 10 forces target to fall prone, no save. Daze once/day.
- Red’s Spear: Bleeding spear. +1 effect, damage causes extra d4 per turn of bleeding damage, cumulative to 3d4/turn, until any healing is made.
Note: at first we intended to sell the mace but ½-Jack pointed out that Martel has a better than 50% chance of scoring at least 10 when using Divine Favor. This changed the dynamic from “cash out your chosen item” to “share one per adventurer” which makes splitting the remaining loot simpler.
There’s one more session in the current season. A tip of the hat to our current GM for carrying the load! We’ve all enjoyed it, and would definitely play DDN again.