The characters for this session
Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)
Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)
Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)
Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)
Back they go through the Gnoll leaders’ rooms
It’s been about an hour since the four saw Gnolls abandoning their posts and fleeing the great chamber. With Crompton still knocked about [he’s on 15 of 25 CON] they turn from the unexplored T-junction and Jotunn retraces his path back to the ‘exchange’ – the broad chamber with a portcullis north and east and storage access at two points. The north portcullis is still jammed up.
As a matter of routine Jotunn checks the storage access finding them just as expected. Now to check the great chamber area – they recall a few doors not opened as they fought their way across it! They lever the east portcullis up and jam it up with spars. Then head south up the steps and to less-explored rooms.
Some half hour of cheerful looting turns up a heavy but valuable pelt, a jar with a brain in it (either liquid or brain being magical), and a fancy abacus. Fennec’s pack is now crowded and he has no more room for other stuff.
“Why did I waste so much time carving that Lizardman skin into a poncho, I could have used this tarp,” Cauleigh mutters. The tarp used to wrap the pelt is big enough to cover all four Dwarves.
They spend some minutes prodding the flute-carrying ape statue, but other than triggering a voice:
“Egad, a dead face”
…it proves fruitless.
A second leader’s chamber and the weird room with slits and buttons later, the Dwarves are no richer and head into what used to be the archer-Gnoll barrack room. Here, bales of arrows, crates of food and kegs of drink are eventually pushed aside to reveal four ape-size indentations in the floor matching ape-size concavities in the ceiling. Ancient bloodstains can be detected in each.
Three ranseurs (war-forks) are stacked in a corner and seem to be the most useful thing in the room. They leave them for the nonce.
It’s about this time that Crompton prudently adds 5 CON healing to himself.
Through the great chamber finding a useful map
Then, into the great chamber. They pass down out of the defensive breastwork and walk its pillared length re-familiarising themselves with its corners and wings. On the south-east flank they try an unopened door, finding a chamber where perhaps four Gnolls – judging from worn patches on hide rugs – habitually sit playing at dice outside two small cell-like rooms.
[Cauleigh pops back for a ranseur, spotting apes wandering the tunnels, necessitating a second round trip to get the G-chord whistle]
The main chamber has a large parchment stuck to the wall. Studying it Fennec realizes that it includes notes in archaic Dwarven script and appears to give some guidance to distance from the dungeon to various points around the plateau. He pulls it down, bundles it into a packet and stows it in his now-full pack.
The cells seems to have been occupied until fairly recently by shackled prisoners: the shackles remain. Jotunn finds no scratched memoir or even a hand-print.
This has taken some time, Crompton begins counting down another hour and another healing.
A message a quest and a cool weapon
They head to the western side of the great chamber and check the fouled bloodied room they battled Gnolls through. Another barrack lies north, and off that a modest chamber where the goblin lived. Live hens cluck peacefully in a crude hutch.
“Live rations lads!” exclaims Fennec happily.
They also find, at last, the windlass for the small ‘eastern’ portcullis. They wind it up and jam it with yet another axe-haft.
A moment’s alarm as the spars propping up the portcullis bangs down, and a lizardman-chef pops out to see what the banging was, then they head north to the mysterious illusory mirror-wall.
Sure enough as they half-remembered there is a door beyond. It leads into a mid-size chamber in which an old dead campfire can be seen. A cairn stands against one wall, and Cauleigh spots a small parchment set next to it.
This parchment pleads for the party to abandon the dungeon, but if they do disturb the remains here to return them to the ‘Scions of Kolbrannus’.
Disturbed by the thought of a geas or curse Fennec leaves the room but stands at the door, watching. He can see another door opposite that the others have paid little heed to.
Cauleigh, not without a scare, disinters skeletal remains of a long-dead warrior. Costly rings adorn his fingers and a wondrous two-hander mace of unusual design rests with him. After some debate about who can best wield it Jotunn takes it and lashes it to his back.
[We agree it’s a heroic or great maul type mace of 7d6 base damage]
The remains are packed down for carrying out, and another backpack is now full. Only two sets of iron rations, delver gear and torches are now carried.
Fennec directs them through the untried door, and they find the ape-ear-trumpet statue – and that door seals behind them leaving no trace.
The ape statue suggests no further action to them. Crompton heals himself another 5 CON.
Remains and oddities in a locked room
Next on the ‘we ain’t checked that lot yet’ are the series of doors near the heavy west portcullis and around the ‘fort-up room’ featuring broken bedstead, bones and snakeskin. One door is magically locked [Crompton makes L2 IQ to judge this] and after checking the others – nothing of note there – Fennec powers up a KK [to L4 – his mana is fully restored] that does the job. Inside the chamber –among the usual bed frame – are signs of a fight, a variety of bundles and a rank rotting ape carcass clutching an ivory whistle. Cauleigh takes this latter item, wiping it clean-ish. It sounds a G-chord.
The bundles are adventurer type gear, the food spoiled. Crompton finds a pair of large bootees or moccasins, with a nicely-balanced dagger tucked in them. He tucks that away in his bandolier. Fennec rerolls some parchments sheets, shoves them back inside a tin scroll tube, and ties that onto his pack. Jotunn finishes inspecting female adornments and a mirror and piles them up for Fennec to throw a DetM over. All the other bits they have recently picked up are added.
A plague of insects and Fennec fires up
Finally, assuming they aren’t going to probe deeper into the long chamber where they saw long thin white sac-like or slug-like objects lying, there’s the door with an ape-head outline in relief around it. Cauleigh opens it and as torches are thrust to inspect the room beyond, a buzzing sounds and a weird humanoid shape forms out of a cloud of insects.
Cauleigh leaps back! The others draw back respectfully but as no-one slams the door closed, they find themselves in full combat.
Blamm! Boommm! Two arquebuses fire and the balls pass straight through without doing any perceptible damage.
In the combat, Fennec’s TTYF is useful – so he taps his WIZ out casting it again at L4 – Cauleigh’s shield is useful, edged weapons score half damage, and Jotunn ‘tunes’ his great mace Temerity, delivering an impressive amount of damage for 10 WIZ (it’s a whammied mace, triggered by command word, also doubles CHR).
[This is one of two combats where the lads are beat by exactly 100 in a round. Cauleigh (56 pts) and Jotunn (44 pts) deal with this between themselves.]
As the cloud of insects collapses the Dwarves are all bitten and resist whatever toxin they bore [L3 CON no problem to anyone – but the 11 spite shared round proves very important later!]
A concealed treasure on high
There is one more chamber beyond that one, and Fennec reads over the relief of the inside of a brain, noting the areas of emotion and intellect scribed there in antique characters. More interestingly as they gaze up around the reliefs Cauleigh [who made a point of saying he was inspecting ceilings last session] notices a subtle change in light around a point roughly at the middle. After moving torches back and forth they decide it’s the size of a small crate. An OTIS from Fennec reveals it’s a backpack. Crompton hooks it down with his grapnel and line, and they explore contents. Items reveal themselves as they are unpacked.
The buoyancy came from a lead-wrapped orb. An ornate tobacco pouch is the most valuable find other than that, and some ten unusual and possibly valuable coins. Nothing instantly useful, though a metal flask smelling of liquor could prove to be. Cauleigh transfers a tinder box to his own gear.
Congratulating themselves for finding real treasure, the four trail back to where new trails await.
Apes aside, there’s not a lot else to find
The t-junction features a pedestal, about 4’ tall, at its juncture. Tubes project from around its top, and as apes shuffle about in the background a low warbling note comes from them. Worried that the note will make the apes – of which there still seem to be large numbers – do something dangerous, Cauleigh spends time fetching and stuffing expired rations into the tubes. [Fennec’s idea, after Cauleigh suggested cheese]
The west end of the junction leads to what seems to be an ape-storage facility. ‘Stasis fields’ Fennec pronounces mysteriously but confidently.
The north end of the junction leads through a chamber with ape-waiting-rooms off it, to a grand tunnel, fully 20’ wide, leading north again.
[It’s at this time the front doors open again and the pedestal sounds and the apes start ‘work’ – but I’ve dealt with that at the point I described it]
Ape tombs and a sudden intangible menace
Aside from occasional fears of apes who either inscrutably tend to duties, or head back to storage – depending on whether the Dwarves are using G-chord whistles at them or not – there proves to be a door in the left side of the grant tunnel. This leads to a maze of ape tombs, connecting rooms, and a small chamber with a very large pot or urn. And from it billows a dread creature of smoke which rises to begin choking Jotunn!
The battle is fierce and leaves the warriors bruised more than wounded. Fennec’s unusually sensible choice of combat spell at the outset, a Glue-You, is decisive. Crompton remains back from the action, holding a torch so the warriors can see to fight. [This is the second ‘beaten by exactly 100’ combat]
An urge to pursue ends in darkness
From time to time Cauleigh breaks off from the fight to beg Fennec not to pointlessly throw in a TTYF. Fennec boosts him with a LF which proves highly effective. At one of these moments, Cauleigh feels he glimpses the far door to the chamber closing gently.
The fight finished, Cauleigh sounds the alarm and races in pursuit. He outdistances light sources, and eventually has to give up and retrieve some. By that time he has run through more ape tombs, a sooty chamber with two stone troughs, and back out to the grand tunnel as whoever he was pursuing departs through massive double doors at its north end.
Mystery of snakes born of woman aside, let’s get going!
He rejoins the party to find them studying two corpses, one a long-dead stuffed ape body tumbled off its shelf with some fang marks in it, and the other a dwarf-like, grey-skinned woman who appears to have died in agony as something burst its way out of her womb. Her open-mouthed agonised grimace reveals sharp teeth. Her body too bears fang-marks. Around the chamber lie shed snake-skins ranging in size from 10′ to 4′, some droppings, and little else.
[Cauleigh is still in extended LF so urges them on, on at each stage]
The four gather at those double doors at the north end of the grand tunnel. They are fashioned of a deeply-carven bas-relief of an ape head. Cauleigh hauls one valve open and the party gazes down broad descending steps.
[100 AP bonus for clearing level one. There may still be wandering monsters.]
Ambush! We all have to make sacrifices!
Perhaps five dozen steps down they reach a broad t-junction, the centre of which is marked by an identical stone pedestal with tubes as they saw above. Cauleigh blurs into action: races back up, along to the spoiled rations, grabs the last of them, races back down, and stuffs all of the tubes.
“If we find another one we’re left with the cheese” Fennec warns.
Crompton snuffs the air as Fennec mentions that it seems to be moving slowly left. It smells faintly reptilian. Then he and Fennec see the two warriors struck with missiles and pitch over!
[Level 9 LK SR for both Cauleigh and Jotunn. Cauleigh gets L5 and Jotunn gets L3. Cauleigh has been targeted by the Gnoll archer’s leader and cannot count shield as he is hit – but the LK allows some soak from equipment struck. He missed by only 4 levels so gets 4 back to CON on sacrifice of one ‘precious’ item. Jotunn has been hit by less-aimed hurled axes so there is more leeway. He gets 15 back on sacrifice of 3 precious items. That leaves Cauleigh on 3 CON and Jotunn on 2 CON.]
By freakish chance the well-directed arrow smashes through Cauleigh’s caliver’s matchlock on its way into his back. For his part Jotunn’s coif and arquebus are ruined as hurled axes strike his pack and gear! The floating orb breaks free of its lead wrap and clanks on the distant ceiling.
As Cauleigh and Jotunn scramble up and behind the pedestal, Fennec and Crompton see four powerful Gnolls racing to close with axes ready, a slighter ‘archer’ Gnoll readying another throw-axe and – to Crompton’s horror – a powerful grey-muzzled Gnoll readying another arrow to an enormous longbow far back behind that one! [IQ and LK respectively]
Fennec, who has missed that last element, hurls a GY at the throwing Gnoll while Crompton uses his tempus fugit to unlimber his monopod, aim and fire! As the leader is standing with a bow it’s a slightly easier shot than such a long, in-the-dark short would normally be and it finds its mark – enough to put the Leader’s bowshot off and let Crompton live, sore-wounded!
[It seems fair to allow the damage from the bullet to offset damage from the bow. Crompton takes 35 on armour and drops to 1 CON.]
Cauleigh uses his mace of stunting to trip two Gnolls [L6 SPD SR] but Jotunn fails to disable either of the others. [Disarming one of a flail doesn’t stop it from fighting in any way] The two close and barely manage to survive – luckily Fennec and Crompton also help defend them! [Fighting is now general as neither wizard nor rogue declared a retreat and the Gnolls have overrun the warrior position. It’s also a way of keeping the warriors alive since Fennec can take spite damage!]
The previously-tripped pair of Gnolls leap back up; Fennec spots the leader and sends a huge TTYF in – burning his 3rd-last charge – as it shoots at Cauleigh as he is kicked clear [loses STR contest by 4 levels] by a Gnoll; the shot strikes stone instead of Dwarf as the leader disintegrates; Crompton flings a zapped dagger to wound the axe-thrower; Jotunn tangles a Gnoll ankle and has his bladed chain kicked away [rolls a fail on STR contest]; Jotunn and Crompton (and Fennec) win a very tough round against three Gnolls! [Again Fennec bears the brunt of spite damage.]
Using his still-enhanced speed Crompton sweeps up his arquebus, levels it along a knee and shoots the axe-thrower, dropping it. Cauleigh, coughing blood [Cauleigh trades in a just-acquired boon as he fails a L1 CON check] races back and smashes a Gnoll behind its knee, felling it. Two remaining Gnolls get around the pedestal, Jotunn and Crompton use axes to win that round, and Fennec shrewdly strikes with his staff to really gain advantage. One Gnoll remains and the warriors close in and finish it. [Fennec takes 3 more spite]
And as Crompton uses his last couple of mana to heal himself to 2 CON and they discuss falling back hastily behind a distant portcullis, the session ends.
I was thinking ‘in hindsight Crompton’s suggestion of resting in Perrol and spending AP was a good one’ but you can’t fault the Dwarves for wanting to be heroic and rescue young women.
Players hate losing gear so exchanging damage for precious items seemed a good idea. I didn’t make specific targeted rolls for the Gnolls – I just portioned off damage from the ambush to give myself an idea of how much might be evaded.
Some surprisingly poor tactical choices in the ambush. I don’t think anyone is in doubt of the Gnolls being tough opponents. Cauleigh’s player tells me he was just trying to change things up with the spot-dive at the legs; Jotunn’s player didn’t offer a reason for the disarm roll. I won’t fault Fennec for using a GY on the axe-thrower because he’d just seen two warriors dropped. Tough fight.