TI4.62: Spelunk this you fiend! – the Sarnas descent, part two

Characters for this session:

Fennec, level 3 wizard

Cauleigh, level 4 warrior

Jotunn, level 6 warrior

ably assisted by:

Crompton, level 3 rogue, NPC again this session

Mizva, level 4 human warrior

Whitey, level 4 half-elf rogue

NPC-wrangling: With one NPC per character, the situation is far from ideal. I apologise in advance, because here and there the action is going to pause while I roll to see if a given NPC will want to use one of their resources. Remember, the reward is fixed at 5,000gp each, and some of their resources are worth a high proportion of that reward.


Rescuing Crompton

Despite the bright light Mizva’s shield throws down onto Crompton’s ledge, the air around Crompton, Cauleigh and Whitey dims as pseudopod-tentacles, each with a gibbering mouth on its tip, surround the trio. The tendrils are so dark all light disappears into them. They gibber half-nonsense, making it hard for the trio to communicate any battle-tactics.

Above and back in the shaft, Fennec readies a spell and pulls back to get a run-up to get down to Mizva and Jotunn. Jotunn prepares his axe, ready to jump across the abyss, but just as ready to defend against other monsters drawn by the noise.

Inside the fuligin dementia, Crompton calls tempus fugit and he draws [I take a show of hands] his Anti-magic Runebearer axe. Whitey is already whicking off pseudopods with a magical sabre: his movements are very graceful. Cauleigh draws Redgar and immediately notices that while he can “hear” Redgar’s voice, he has lost the mana-connection that empowers the ice magic.

[All characters inside the gibberer field make L2 LK SR which I do not explain, and a SPD SR based at L2 but adjusted up for more spite hits. Cauleigh and Whitey clear L3, Crompton clears L2]

The thing falls apart. The light, spilling over the ledge, shows the vile substance dissolving. Cauleigh checks the abyss – still no trace of any floor – another ledge angled off this one below – then probes the crevice the mouther seemed to swell from. He can get a dagger into a crack, but there’s nothing to explore.


Back to the first shaft – what’s down that stairwell?

Meanwhile, Whitey and Fennec have a discussion: Whitey has blown all his mana and is keen to either rest up or get to another enemy before the spell wears off.

The decision is to go back to the worked-stone shaft and see what that circular stair leads down to. It’s a roundabout process and involves reattaching the rope. By the time they all settle, with Crompton back up where he can guard baggage, and Jotunn beginning to probe the landing below the stair, it has been about 20 minutes.

The stair leads round, and round, to a very short stone shaft. A short way ahead, a low stone coffer-dam – no more than 18″ high – prevents a pool of water flooding the steps.

Once lights are available, the explorers can also see that the shaft roof declines, down into the water.

Fennec generously volunteers for someone else to use their Dust of Desiccation. Jotunn, who actually owns it (cost 400gp) steps into the inches-deep stagnant water and probes forward. As he expects, the floor also declines parallel with the roof, making a slick steep ramp. There’s no way of knowing if what lies beyond is extensive – or even connects to the River somehow – so he declines to use his Dust.


A second attack on the rearguard!

Mizva [gains a boon] and Cauleigh catch the sound of glum meeping and mewling! Cauleigh peers out of the shaft to see at least half a dozen small near-faceless humanoids creeping inchoately up the vertical abyss wall and to attack! He drops back behind Mizva’s shield and readies Regdar. And the mole-like creatures swarm in!

Though Cauleigh is able to defend himself – barring a few scratches – the volume of these creatures seems to increase. Mizva can’t easily help, since he’s shining his shield forward. Cauleigh rallies him back [CHR SR]:

“Step back Mizva! Bring more blades in!”

Far down the stairwell Whitey blazes up and – doubled over to miss any stalactites – along past Mizva. He joins Cauleigh, who can now fight properly [using SPD stunting] and leaves Whitey barely a thing to do! Whitey’s sword is no longer active as they check the abyss, and exchange loud whispers with Crompton.

The agreed “danger” call from Crompton is a very loud stage whisper: “dagger dagger dagger.”


Friendly frost

“This looks awfully risky, it slopes down, it’s going to be slippery, we don’t know what’s down there, do we want to try a different way?” Jotunn asks. Fennec reminds him less politely about the Dust. Mizva tastes the water, and pronounces it bad – stagnant, which is what their noses have suggested.

Based on height, the Dwarves suggest one of their taller comrades try the water, secured by a rope. [I roll a positive response from Whitey.] There is but one rope. And it’s out where Crompton is. After some time of rearranging the party, Crompton hands the rope over to Jotunn and Cauleigh. They exchange “good luck” and Jotunn and Cauleigh file back to the stairwell.

Then more pseudopods, enormously elongated, reach from another smaller crevice, along the shaft, and around them!

“Dagger dagger dagger!”

Fennec hears the alarm, or at least the noise of Jotunn and Cauleigh falling back, and heads up with the torch, LF spell ready.

Jotunn holds his massive shield up so that Cauleigh, behind him, can lop tendrils off as they slip past it. As he draws Regdar Cauleigh feels a massive surge of power through the sword:

“By the bones of my ancestors – let us smite this foe!”

“Freeze Please!”

A colossal blast of ice catches Jotunn [fails a CON check, makes LK] cracks all of his metal armour into muck-metal rubbish save for his left vambrace and helm, and severely injures him. The pseudopods fare quite badly too, frozen or trapped by the ice.

Fennec arrives, finds the state he’s in, and trickles PB into Jotunn. Cauleigh continues lopping tendrils. Where Crompton has previously remained in reserve, above with the baggage, he hurls a zapped dagger, ending the pseudopods. [He regains it after another ten minutes search]

Generously, Crompton hands over his original elven breastplate with a “don’t get this one ruined” so that Jotunn has some defence.

Whitey takes the plunge

Mizva has experimented with holding his shield into the water, which will provide some light.

There’s a discussion about healing donuts and meringues and Mizva mentions he ain’t got a meringue but he does have a thing what lets him float. They all look at him curiously. Out of politeness, they do not pursue this topic, though Whitey does ask “are you sure you still have that?”

Whitey, having doffed various bits and pieces of gear that would not fare well wet, eases into the murk and disappears. The rope-play stops after a short distance, pauses for a short time, then Whitey begins hauling himself back. Those with free hands help and he is soon catching his breath up with them, and shivering.

He reports a blank wall, and asks Fennec if he’d care to use an OTIS. Fennec, leaning over the water and extending his staff, casts. A thin outline, door-shaped, can be glimpsed through the murky water.


An alarming disappearance

Given the possibilities, it seems best to leave that secret, secure door, and zig-zag up and back to the second, less-accessible shaft. It runs off at perhaps 120 degrees to the one they have explored, but the back-to-ledge, over-to-shaft approach is much safer than climbing round.

They rest on the ledge, Jotunn and Crompton fully recover, and forty minutes in (or 100 minutes since the first fight) another barrage of enveloping, gibbering pseudopods reaches around them…

“Everyone back off a bit,” Cauleigh calls, feeling Regdar again surge with power. They give him plenty of room! The ice crystallizes most of the pseudopods, but as the others battle their share, Mizva… blinks out!

Cauleigh desperately reaches to where the warrior last stood, but he is gone. Fennec casts Glue-You on the things. He too feels a huge power surge.

As the last pseudopods collapse to slimy mess, they see no sign of Mizva.

“Try O There It Is,” Cauleigh suggests. The radius picks up nothing of the spell.

“Mizva!” Cauleigh yells…

…the echoes rattle down then up… then there is a returning cry!

Peering over the edge, Jotunn sees a far-distant speck of light. It’s a glimmer, meaning Mizva is not standing directly below.


Aerial rescue squad: away!

“Here’s a thought… how many meringues have we got?” Fennec asks.

Two rescue proposals are tabled:

  1. One person takes one meringue, and flies a spare down to Mizva. They fly back up.
  2. Everyone ropes down, except for the last person, who unties the rope and flies down.

Plan two is voted for. The rope is re-fastened to the lowest point on the bronze chain above their ledge, and Crompton stands ready to untie it. Cauleigh levers himself over, swings apelike around onto the next bronze chain, slides down using chain and rope to a point overlooking “Crompton’s ledge” then around the next lip, to reach down and maneuver onto a huge bronze chain that descends past what looks like a ledge of churned up soil, and on down, down to a broad natural floor. The limited light grows as Mizva’s light glimmers stronger, from a shaft below, that angles up to this floor. And Mizva walks up to join him under his own steam!

“Stinks down there!” 


The view from the staging cavern

Aside from the angled shaft down, which, Mizva reports, has steps cut in it and elbows past a stinking cavern, there are two other exits. One seems natural, perhaps an extension of this broad and high cavern. Water, perhaps a pool, glints there. The other offers steps up into a cut-rock shaft.

Jotunn calls for Crompton to hold off for now – they may not need him to fly down.

Cauleigh looks closely at Mizva, trying to decide if the warrior has been ensorceled. Then his journey to becoming a scrying mage is interrupted as Crompton screams far above them!

“Meringue time!”

[The first-time fliers all try for L3 IQ, Fennec manages the flight easily while Jotunn and Mizva are somewhat to the rear.]


Crompton takes the plunge

As the gibbering pseudopods envelop him [makes his L2 LK SR] Crompton decides not to hurl himself off and eat a meringue! [We all agree this is a possible tactic but I roll a hesitate] He regrets loaning his breastplate… lays about him with his ancestor-axe… and feels the death-like grasp of pseupopod madness! [77 damage] He attempts to swallow a meringue and hurls himself into the abyss, trusting to luck like any good rogue. He loses consciousness…

“We need to use that poison dust… it’s like a root-like thing that poison might kill,” Cauleigh yells as he flies up after Fennec.

“It just so happens Crompton has that,” Fennec yells back, prepping a spell.

Crompton hurtles past him. Mizva and Jotunn make the catch.

“Let’s retreat!”

They fly back to the nearest ledge, the one across from and below the two shafts. The pseudopods continue their down-grasping attack!

“I still say, poison it!” Cauleigh insists.

As Jotunn swings Crompton down and his shield around, gibbering mouths grip the shield, haul it out of his grasp, and away down the abyss. Fennec begins looking for the poison: calls to Whitey:

“You said you had some way of administering dust safely, get it ready!”

Whitey looks back uncertainly but carries on laying about him with sabre. Those fighting concentrate on the defensive. They have enough light, and avoid poison spittle spraying from the gibbering mouths, while whicking them off.

Fennec – almost too late – realises Crompton is not just lazing about, and trickles healing into him, stabilising him. [LK SR for Crompton, DAROs to 19, L7, moves to zero CON]

The fighting team deal handly with the pseudopods, [damage output 584] and once again they collapse into slime. No-one else is teleported away and no-one notices any weird magical field.

Fennec brings Crompton up to consciousness, and hands him a donut:

“You do the rest.”


Respite and meeping raiders

In the half hour that follows Fennec ignores his last instruction and restores virtually all of Crompton’s health. Mizva’s lantern shield goes out.

Three mole-men, meeping pitifully, clamber over the ledge: to be kicked briskly back off into space.

“Sorry, sorry,” Cauleigh mutters. They were too easy.

“Where to next?”

“Look, we have a patch of soil and a source of water… let’s get an acorn planted,” Fennec advises.

Whitey and Crompton discuss the Dust of Widows, since Fennec wants Whitey to throw it. The half-elf is very dubious about the idea.

Jotunn scrambles back up from the next ledge down, with his Zolman tower shield. It’s time to choose one way or the other. They vote for the second shaft, since it is no more than 15′ away and involves a fairly simple climbing operation.


The second shaft, and demon-spiders

The team (barring Crompton) moves across to the shaft (leaving the fate of the baggage and Crompton’s axe unknown). Cauleigh, who has done the initial ascent, re-dons his cuirass.

As Fennec’s first glimpse showed, this shaft is more filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Cuirasses and shields are a problem. It seems to continue as a natural shaft…

Crompton screams with terror and launches himself across, [L5 LK, Mizva and Whitey grab him and haul him in] and huge demonic spider-like creatures, fangs dripping venom, make the last rush to the shaft mouth.

Whitey nips back to leave Mizva room, Crompton decides to fight.

Cauleigh reaches out his whistle of befriending demon-kind, and moves back towards the shaft mouth. He receives a LF from Fennec. Jotunn begins maneuvering his tower shield into a plug-the-shaft position.

Honours of the first round are with the demon spiders, and Mizva and Crompton find themselves forced back. Mizva bellows with agony as hellish poison enters his veins. Cauleigh uses the whistle [LK DAROs to 45, L13 – the whistle is intended for a positive NPC reaction with intelligent demonkind so this decides what it does for these creatures] and all three demon-spiders stop. Mizva, presented with a “free shot” smashes one dead. Crompton squirms back past Jotunn’s tower shield as the other two resume the fight.

Jotunn is finding his tower shield more of a hindrance than help so eases it to one side, allowing trick shots… or TTYF. Fennec squirms past the other two [LF DEX SR, DAROs to 25, gets L6] and slams a low-level TTYF in. Between Jotunn Mizva and the spell, both demon-spiders die, but again both warriors are poisoned.


A vertical chimney… let’s try pulling back!

With Crompton and Fennec in the middle, Mizva rearguard, and Cauleigh now wielding kukri and spike-shield, they explore the second shaft. It ends in a vertical chimney, the shaft upward slanting a little and the shaft down being uncomfortably narrow. It looks natural but Cauleigh prefers the story that it is an escape route.

“This has been a scout. Let’s pull back,” he calls back.

“Can we at least, before we cut and run, plant that bloody acorn,” Fennec advises for the third time.


The incident of the churned soil

Jotunn’s plan: lower me boys! I’ll plant the acorn, you raise me.

They all – fairly blase now – leap out of the shaft, swing around the chain, and down onto the next ledge.

There’s a further interruption as a pair of demon-spiders attempt to hurl them out. Cauleigh uses the whistle again, and it stops them long enough for a kill-team to assemble and get rid of them.

From here, they can mount a powerful haul crew to lower Jotunn. For his part, he strips down to an efficient load and re-tethers the rope. The party agree on tactics if the gibbering mouth-pods attack: haul Jotunn back, throw poison. Whitey hands the poison dust back.

“Who can actually throw this safely?” Fennec asks.

“I’m not called Crompton the archer for nothing!” Crompton asserts, taking his poison back.

“You’re not called Crompton the archer… at all” at least two of his comrades chorus.

The ledge of dark churned soil lies broad, extending quite some way around the abyss shaft – rather kidney shaped in plan view. Jotunn easily swings past the huge bronze chain, and hurls the acorn accurately. Now he needs to water it. He swings and lands gracefully. The jet of water from his waterskin splashes over the acorn, and uncovers a shard of white… then half a dozen zombies thrust themselves up and clamber to the attack!

Fennec hurls a L3 TTYF... and being dead flesh, nothing happens. Jotunn launches himself out, the haul-team barely manage to react, Jotunn slowly moves past the ledge again [misses the L7 LK he needs to clear all of them] a zombie weapon catches his bracer, he spins and the rope wraps around the bronze chain!

The zombies form the traditional zombie-climb-pyramid and begin catching up. Jotunn cuts himself free and hurtles the remaining appx 30′ down to the stage floor, in complete darkness.

As the lead zombies become visible Cauleigh wields Regdar: the FP effect cracks the zombie’s bones and crumbles it. Fennec strains to get a similar angle and BPs the next two zombies, with relatively little effect. But the rope is quite charred, and those above looking for Jotunn are blinded by the fire, so that’s something.

Cauleigh again attempts to do something with the massive chain, and Mizva passes his mace forward:

“Conk them on the head mate… wait for it…”

Fennec uses another BP, the lead zombie, already burning, cooks apart. The next zombie clambers up and has its head bashed in. One more clambers up and is dealt with the same way.

Peering down, they can pick out a faint blue glimmer that marks Jotunn’s final resting place…


Another gibbering interruption and some token loot

“I’m fine, I bounced a bit, then had a couple of zombies climbing down at me… lucky this bracer has a nice little glow to it,” Jotunn assures him once Cauleigh has climbed down the chain.

Then a familiar gibbering is heard! They clamber up as fast as they can, making the zombie ledge with less than a second to spare!

“Hold your breath!” Fennec yells as Crompton readies the powder above them. [L5 DEX to deliver it]

Jotunn and Cauleigh battle the pseudopods off, avoiding spittle and neither finding themselves teleported. The dust filters down, they hold their breath [L2 CON since they had warning] and the pseudopods withdraw.

Assuring themselves that the acorn is planted, the pair unearth some old adventuring gear. Grubbing around, they find a decayed backpack with unusual large chitinous scales, and in odd finds elswhere, 50gp. Insisting that after all, a rest need be taken, Cauleigh happily spends 20 minutes finding these.

“All I need to do is do that another hundred times,” he explains. “I’m really in a hole with my armourer.”

The mirror’s fatal lure

The Cauleigh idea is now to pull back, his comrades agreeing with him. The aim now is to make it all the way back to the glittering cavern.

Forty minutes of ascent later, the six turn to the stair leading up opposite the mirror ledge. Crompton recovers his ancestor axe at this stage.

“I am so sorry we cannot be friends” whispers a voice in their heads and Crompton, Whitey and Mizva hurl themselves at the other three!

“Dis-Spell Level 5!! Fennec screams, drawing the wand and burning off four charges.

It works! Their three comrades stop mid-swing, shaking their heads to clear the cobwebs.

[Lvl 5 was the exact right choice, Fennec picks up 50ap]

Passing by the mirror, they hurl the anti-magic axe at it, and Cauleigh scarifies its steel surface with his Yellow essence (cost 300gp). Nonetheless, shapes and shadows still shift around its surface.


No way out… at least not today

With the 70′ of remaining rope regained (via meringue power) and coiled and the tower shield held over the sinkhole, they check the glittering cavern and fall down to rest.

“You know, a bed in the Porters Arms would be even better…” Cauleigh sighs and heads up the tunnel to where Daisy Brightwater wielded her awesome control of Wall magic for them. The wall is there, and is not a door.

“We could… knock?”

But that does not produce an answering knock, and without toxic-mannered pixie Triliton there is no way to directly speak to Daisy.

Cauleigh makes a sweep of the wall, tapping here and there, to see if he can locate where his self-designated “escape route” comes out. He has no success.

Jotunn sits on the tower shield over the sinkhole, two others stand watch, and three sleep. Then they swap after three hours. Those down on health recover [Jotunn takes 36 healing from Fennec!] and Fennec and Whitey are both happy with their mana levels.

They are now ready for the pseudopods attempting to creep past the shield. But as they finish them off, Crompton is teleported away!

The stage floor! Options a-plenty…

All five adventurers stage down after Crompton. Hurling the Anti-magic axe at the mirror, and picking it back up and hurrying past, works just as they imagined it would.

They listen.

“Guys?! I’m next to a chain!”

Using a new spell (for him) Crompton activates Will-o-Wisp and moves it round, until they can see him. He’s far down on the staging floor.

“We may as well go after him and join him?”

They hasten after him and en-route, Cauleigh and Whitey fall! But they are both agile and there is no serious injury. In fact Cauleigh makes a very agile recovery, and slides down the massive bronze chain with merely bruising damage.

Once again there are three exits to choose from. An angled descent, with cut steps, leads away down. Then there are two other options: a natural-looking sub-cavern with water, and a stair up.

…And a whispered promise

They elect to take the stair. The steps are well-cut and the passage beyond fairly broad. It leads to a circular stair down, but broader and deeper than the castle-scale previous stairwell. Jotunn and Cauleigh end up leading, Fennec and Crompton second, Mizva and Whitey rearguard.

The first landing leads off to a regular, fairly level shaft. The next round of stair appears to lead to another landing.

above the stage floor, a circular stair to four choices

“Let’s try the first one then,” Cauleigh decides.

He and Jotunn turn out onto what proves a well-cut antechamber, before a dark, silver-runed door. The floor seems clear of dust, though this may be the effect of silicates trapping dust. Fennec, immediately behind them, detects a magical aura on the door.

“This door’s secure. Let’s leave it for now,” urges Jotunn.

The next landing does indeed lead to a shaft, this more natural looking. The stairwell continues down.

Jotunn and Cauleigh pace along this second shaft, Fennec still ight-bearing behind them. The natural aspect continues for perhaps 30′, then abruptly changes. The shaft becomes fully cylindrical, and brick, like a well-built sewer. Here and there, bricks jut out. They don’t fit the idea of just ordinary wear and tear…

“There’s another shaft down here!” Crompton calls back up, from where the rearguard has gotten bored and explored a little.

“You’re nearly there” whispers a voice in their heads, and the session ends.

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