The Price of Immortality

Past frogs and bats only to be delayed by a walking statue

In the room before the closed portcullis, Preen checks out the water in the basin, but finds nothing of interest. Jonathan sticks his arm through the bars of the portcullis, towards the bats. They flap around, but do not seem to notice the arm especially.
Being stuck here, they decide to go back to the area near the main entrance, with the pool with the keys, as there was still a door that had not been investigated. On their way back, Lini crashes into the pillar with inscriptions, and reads again: To the east lies the wheel to open the gate… They abandon their initial plan to investigate this clue, and they go back to the area that has been submerged in water, to the door behind which they had heard some frog croaking before. Lini lets the men go forward, as the water is quite deep for her. Jonathan and Preen push open the rotten door, which disintegrates upon their touch. Behind the door is a room, flooded with water and with a number of sarcophagi. A giant frog sits on one of them. At the far end of the room another door is visible. Preen enters the room and casts his color spray spell, but this seems to have no effect. Jonathan shoots rapidly two arrows in the frog, but does not kill him. Then suddenly two more frogs emerge from the water. Jonathan calls out to Lini: “There are now three frogs!”
The frogs attack the men, but do not harm them. Lini comes forward, wading through the for her chest-deep water. She casts a spell hold animal on one of the frogs, which freezes, unable to move. Preen sticks his rapier in the frozen frog, but does not yet kill him. Jonathan shoots another arrow in the already wounded frog, finally killing it. Then he shoots at the third frog, but misses him. The frog attacks with his tongue, but misses. Preen attacks his target again, and after a critical hit, the frog is completely destroyed. Jonathan shoots two arrows in the remaining frog, wounding him, and then Preen jumps over the sarcophagus to reach the frog and in one smooth move he kills him with his rapier. The others ignore his somewhat smug face.

In the corner of the room there is a frog nest of some sort. Jonathan and Lini go check this out. A rotten, partially eaten body lies in the nest, with on its hand a golden ring with an aquamarine gem. Also a pouch is found with 24 gold pieces, of a similar sort as were found earlier. Lini casts a ‘detect magic’ spell on the ring, and finds that this is a ring of swimming. She puts it on.
Preen in the meantime is checking out the door in the corner of the room, which is also quite rotten. He hears a soft electric humming sound. The door is opened and behind it is a long corridor. They follow the corridor, Lini swimming with the aid of the ring, and they reach a big room, which is partially under water. At the end of the room, above the water, there is a big wheel. Throughout the room there are carvings on the walls.
Preen enters the room, locally the water is very deep. Suddenly six skeletons appear, and they attack Preen. He is hit lightly, but retaliates quickly by hitting one of the skeletons, giving it a bit of damage. Then Lini enters the fray, and channels her energy with great success: all the skeletons drop down and disintegrate.

Wow, I really get the hang of this channel energy business! I’ll just take it in stride, no need to show too much pride, we do not need a second Preen in the group…

Preen goes on towards the wheel, and turns it as far as he can manage. Jonathan comes over to help him and turns it a bit further. Together they manage to turn it a third round, and then they hear a soft click, the wheel is now locked.
Jonathan swims toward the deep areas in the room, to search, but finds nothing of interest.

Then they go back to the room with the basin and portcullis, which is now open. Preen enters the room in his stealth mode. There are two swarms of bats. Preen casts a color spray spell, and all bats are stunned for the moment. In the room there are some catacombs. They all enter the room, quickly do a check of walls and catacombs, but don’t find anything. While the bats are still stunned, they cross the room and enter a short corridor, at which end there is a door. Preen and Jonathan are quite a ways ahead of Lini, they open the door and enter the room behind it, which is quite damaged, has a deep chasm in the middle of the room with a bridge across it. Across the bridge there is a pair of statues in front of a brass double door. Preen crosses the room and hears a ‘click’ when he is partially across the bridge. Suddenly the statues come to life and charge towards him, pushing him off the bridge, where Preen drops 40 feet down towards the bottom of the chasm. He uses his acrobatics skill to dampen his fall, but he still is hurt quite badly. After their charge, the statues have returned to their positions next to the brass door, and resumed their immobility.
Lini then enters the room, and closes the door behind her. Preen has clambered up the wall of the chasm and is back on the same level with Jonathan and Lini. Seeing his condition, Lini casts a cure moderate wounds spell, and heals him almost completely again.
Preen then disables the trap on the bridge, and walks past the statues towards the brass double door.

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More skeletons and zombies

After a night rest and some healing, the party is recovered fully. They enter the crypt again and go to the room where they had encountered the blood skeletons. The room is quiet, some remains of the skeletons lie on the floor, but not moving. Preen sneaks inside, and suddenly he encounters a skeleton, which stands behind a pillar. The skeleton has not seen him yet, and he prepares a sneak attack with his light mace. He misses the skeleton completely, and the mace flies out of his hand, and lands in front of one of the statues. Then a second skeleton approaches from across the room, and they both attack Preen. The attack is not successful. Lini channels energy and it appears that the skeletons are slightly affected by this. Jonathan moves toward the skeletons to assist Preen, who has recovered his light mace, but misses the skeleton again. The skeletons attack Preen again, and his arm is grazed by one of them, causing a light injury. Jonathan tries to hit the skeleton nearest to him, but he also misses completely. Fed up with it all, Lini channels energy again and the two skeletons fall down in a pile of dust and bones.

They look at the room in more detail. The two statues are both of Kassen, the four pillars hold up the roof of the room. At the head of the stairs downward, Preen checks for traps, and finds none. He hears water dripping and a soft moaning sound. Lini cast a guidance spell on all of the party members, then they go down the stairs. The reach a small round room with a pedestal with the following inscription:
To the south you might take your ease, to rest and reflect on Kassen’s deeds.
To the east lies the wheel, to open the gate.
To the west is the resting place of Kassen, hero of the Fangwood.

They decide to go west, a strong scent of rot is coming from that direction. The reach a room with catacombes, a lot of dust is on the floor, and some pieces of rotting clothes lie scattered around. When everyone is inside the room, four zombies appear from different corners. Jonathan shoots an arrow in one of the zombies, causing an amount of pus and gore to pour from the creature. As soon as a zombie is within reach, Preen stabs it. The fluids emanating from the zombie have an enormous stench. Jonathan is then hit seriously by a zombie, Lini comes to his aid, but misses as the zombie is just around the corner of one of the catacombes. Jonathan takes a swing at the offending zombie and hits him, but he remains standing. Preen makes a critical hit on the zombie next to him, and he is splattered completely with the remains of the zombie. The other zombie which was behind the first hits Preen, causing a significant wound. Lini kills the weakened zombie in front of Jonathan, and they both are covered in zombie gore. Jonathan hits the zombie behind the one that was just killed, but this one is still standing. Preen steps back to lure the zombie in a narrow area of the room. The zombie misses Preen. Jonathan is hit hard. As Preen called to Lini that a zombie is coming, she goes over to him and hits the zombie, but it is still moving. Preen finishes him off with another critical hit, and another splash of pus and undefined liquids falls on Preen. Then the last remaining zombie hits Jonathan that one time to many, and Jonathan goes down. Lini quickly goes over to him, and stabs the offending zombie in the belly, killing him.
She then quickly casts cure light wounds and Jonathan is able to get up again.
As all are covered in muck and gore, and Jonathan and Preen are quite hurt, they decide not to explore the crypt further, but to go back to the entrance, where they can wash themselves in the basin with the keys at the bottom.

They spend another night outside in their camping site, Lini helping the others with healing and she also creates a pint of blessed water. The next morning they go back to the crypt, to the small circular room with the pedestal and inscription. They now go to the east, where the humidity level increases markedly, until they find the corridor flooded with water. The corridor slopes downward a bit, and the water level rises in consequence as they proceed. They reach a room in which four dead bodies float, together with a large dead frog. The bodies all have long bloody scratches. Fungus covers the walls, pillars and ceiling of the room, with long tendrils of fungus drooping down. They go back in the corridor, Preen goes further to the north, where he finds a door, completely swollen by the water around it. He hears a deep rumbling of a croaking frog from behind the door. They quickly decide against a longer scouting of this wet area, and go back to the dry room with the pedestal and take the corridor to the south. A short distance later they enter a quiet room with a fountain, a sort of resting chamber. Lini casts detect poison on the fountain water, and sees that it is safe. Preen dips his finger in the water for a taste, which is fresh. He takes out his water bottle, and takes a swig. He feels completely refreshed, no longer tired. He hands the water bottle to Lini, who takes a sip, but feels nothing special. Jonathan takes a drink directly from the fountain, and he also feels completely refreshed. They all fill their water bottles, and when Lini takes a swallow from her own bottle, she also feels refreshed. Then they go back to the room where they had found the zombies, to listen at the door in that room. They hear nothing. A small niche next to the door holds a yellowed piece of paper, a flyer of some sort, a bag with 13 gold pieces and a potion labeled “cure moderate wounds”. The note reads: “If you are in need of work, come to the Rangers Lament” This does not ring a bell with anyone. Lini checks if the potion is poisonous – it is not – with her spell. They divide the gold as equally as possible, with Lini 5 gold and the others 4. Then Preen opens the door from a distance.

Behind the door they see a completely destroyed room, with a long pool in the middle and a portcullis at the end of the room. Preen sneaks inside, looks into the murky water of the pool, blanches completely, and with a startled oath and scream he turns and runs out of the room, bumping Lini and Jonathan aside who were standing in the doorway. He keeps on running for quite some time, in the dark, as he has no light on him. Jonathan turns and follows him as quickly as he can. Lini, being her curious self, also looks into the water of the pool, sees her reflection, and is also scared out of her wits, wanting only to get away from the pool. She runs after Jonathan and Preen, albeit in a somewhat slower pace. When Preen gets back to his senses, he finds himself in a completely dark corridor. He strikes a brief light with his flint and steel, and recognizes the corridor as the one that leads to the domed room with the stone pillar with the arrows. The door cannot be opened from this side though. Figuring that his companions will likely follow him, he bangs on the closed door, hoping he would be heard. Jonathan, on his way to follow Preen, hears a shrill scream from behind him, and running footsteps coming toward him. Then he enters the domed room and hears banging on the door to his right. He opens it to let Preen in. Preen asks where Lini is, and they find her in the corridor leading toward the domed room, also having regained her senses. Jonathan asks what was so scary in the pool, and both Lini and Preen do not actually know, they only saw their own reflections, but what was so scary? They decide to go back to find out.
When they reach the pool again, first Preen looks into the pool, being prepared for the worst, but he only sees his own reflection, nothing scary. “It is not so bad the second time, it seems!” he says. Lini also looks into the pool, and is greeted by her own face. Jonathan, a bit hesitant, also walks over to the pool and looks into the water, but he sees nothing strange of untoward. Lini casts detect poison on the water of the pool, but it is not poison. Then they go to the portcullis, this is strongly made. Jonathan and Preen try to lift the portcullis, but to no avail. Behind the portcullis they see and hear a large number of small bats, which do not come through the bars of the portcullis.
They decide to let this area of the crypt be, and go back to the room with the basin with the keys at the bottom, there was another door there, which they had not yet checked out.

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The search continues

Shadows in the Smoke

While the remains of the giant beetle are smouldering in the corner in the room, Lini channels some energy to restore the health of the party. Preen goes to the door at the other end of the room, and checks it for traps. Finding none, he opens the door and sees a corridor behind it, which has a turn to the left. When he enters the corridor, he smells as if something is burning in the room ahead, or if something has burned. Further down the corridor the smoke is so bad, it tears his eyes and his breathing is impaired. He wets a cloth and binds it across his face. The others follow this example. The corridor ends in a room where an almost extinguished fire is giving off a lot of smoke. Behind the smoke Preen sees a shadow move, without anything to cast said shadow.

When he goes back to report this to the others, Lini understands that this is a Shadow: an undead creature that is made when people die from their greatest fear. They go back into the room where they found the beetle, to make their plans. Lini casts her spell Magic Weapon on the rapier of Preen. Then they all go back to the smoky room with the shadow. Preen sneaks around the fire in an attempt to get behind the shadow, but he is seen.

How did that shadow see me? I know I was as sneaky as anything there, and still he spotted me right away. Freak!

When he is attacked, suffering minor damage, the others then also see the Shadow. Preens counterattack missed. Lini channels energy to damage the Shadow, but this is not very effective. Jonathan shoots an arrow at the creature, but misses. A second channel energy of Lini is more effective, but the Shadow still stands. Preen hits him with the rapier that Lini enhanced, and inflicts some damage. Then Jonathan shoots an arrow, that is aimed straight between where his eyes would be, but the arrow passes straight through the Shadow without seeming to cause any damage whatsoever and shatters on the wall behind it.

Lini switches to her trident attack, but misses. Preen uses his acrobatics to jump past the Shadow and attack him from the back, but he too misses! Jonathan, having found that his arrows are not having any effect, walks forward while drawing his mace. He hits the Shadow, but his mace goes right through it. Also Lini’s attack – while striking true with her trident – leaves no mark. Having enough of it all, Preen stabs his rapier in the midsection of the Shadow (critical hit) and then it is suddenly gone without a trace. Preen makes quite a show of having removed this threat, but he does thank Lini for blessing his weapon.

They proceed to quickly search the room, as the smoke begins to seriously affect them. Preen finds a key near the fire pit, and he picks it up. Lini sees a well made dagger lying almost in the fire. Suspecting it will be hot, she pulls it out using her trident. With a little water she cools the dagger and picks it up. They then leave the room to get to a space with fresher air. Preen asks to look at the dagger Lini has found. It is of very good quality, and a detect magic check shows it is a magic dagger with a +1 on attacks. As it will be of most use to Preen in the current situation, the dagger is given into his care. They return to the second room with pillars and find a corridor towards another door, which is trapped, and has no visible way of opening it. A brief attempt by Preen to open the door from a distance fails, and they then leave the door be.

Another Route

They return to the main entrance hall of the crypt, and open the door on the right side of the crypt. A humid atmosphere welcomes them. When they enter, they see a rectangular basin of clear water with a statue of Kassen behind it. As they enter, a booming voice sounds: “Magic is the key” Lini walks towards the basin, and casts detect magic. The bottom of the basin is littered with hundreds of keys, they all look alike. One key has a magic aura.
Toward the south of the room there are two doors, both are locked and have keyholes. Preen listens at the door but hears nothing.

Lini, wanting to get the magic key from the bottom of the 40 feet basin, sheds most of her gear, and ties a rope around her waist. She instructs Jonathan to pull her up when she signals this trough the rope. She lets her self sink into the basin, with a light emitting dagger to guide her way, but halfway she is out of breath and signals Jonathan to pull her up. Taking some time to get her breath back, she then goes for a second attempt, with renewed vigor. This time it is successful, and this time she comes up with the magic key in her hand. Dripping wet, she stows the rope back in her pack and puts her gear back on. She then uses the magic key in the lock of the door to the left, but it does not fit. The key Preen has found does fit both doors, and the door to the left opens to a small room with a low stone bench and an ancient mural on the wall, which depicts the battle of Kassen and his enemy.

Why did I take the trouble to get the magic key if it does not fit on either door? Good thing Preen has found the correct key. Hopefully the magic key comes in handy later, or Preen will start to think he has done all the hard work…

On the floor they see numerous recent footprints. The room ends in a small corridor, which has again a door at the end. Preen opens the door and sees a white domed area with a pillar in the centre. From the pillar numerous arrowheads point out. The walls of the circular room are chipped from what he determines to be arrow impacts. As Preen describes the room to his companions behind him, the pillar starts to turn. Preen quickly steps back and closes the door. Through the door they hear the pillar rotating faster and faster until they hear the thudding and clattering of countless arrows hitting the walls and door for what seems to be forever. It however is only about a one minute before the impacts cease, followed somewhat later by the sound of the pillar grinding to a halt.

Preen opens the door again, and the pillar is now devoid of any arrows, and the room is littered with broken arrows. There is a door straight across the room, and a door towards the south of the room. Preen goes to this door, Jonathan inspects the door across, while Lini holds the door through which they came open, as it wants to close of its own accord. Jonathan opens the door, and recognizes the corridor behind the door as the corridor they have been before. So they have a way out of this room, and Lini lets go of the door – which cannot be opened again from this side. An inspection of the pillar shows that this trap will require quite a laborious manual resetting, and will not go off again on its own. Preen has opened his door finally, proudly putting away his lockpicking tools.

Good thing they didn’t notice the door wasn’t even locked, or I’d have looked a right fool!

The Blood Skeletons

Behind the door is a big room with pillars again, and two statues at the end with a staircase between them. On the walls sculptures of rows upon rows of mourning people. Preen sneaks into the room to explore. Behind one pillar he sees a skeleton on the floor. Lini follows him from a distance to guide him with her light, when suddenly four skeletons jump up around her, including the one near Preen. The skeletons are drenched with blood, which has turned their bones red.

Preen quickly does a sneak attack with his magic dagger, and one skeleton is no more. Then the three other skeletons attack Lini, but only one of them hits her with minor damage. Preen attacks another, but is not effective. Lini channels positive energy to harm the skeleteons, and causes a little bit of damage to all of them. Enraged by this attack, the three skeletons attack Lini with a vengeance, and she is hurt very badly, she is now at the brink of collapse (0 HP) .

Preen stabs another skeleton, and this one also goes down. Lini takes some time to drink a healing potion, which barely keeps her in the fight. Jonathan tries to push the skeletons out of Lini’s way by body checking them, but bounces off without success. He is then attacked by one of the skeletons and suffers some damage. Preen positions himself behind one of the remaining skeletons but his subsequent attack misses completely. Lini moves out of the reach of the skeletons and casts her final channel energy of the day, but the skeletons remain standing. Jonathan swings his mace at one skeleton and this one falls down in a pile of bones. The last skeleton does a vicious attack towards Preen, hurting him badly, but then Preen finally finishes this one off as well.

Shocked, wounded and tired, the three adventurers decide not to stay in the crypt, but to go back outside to their previous camping spot, to lick their wounds and recuperate for the next day, while they contemplate their best course of action.

And I thought regular skeletons were bad. Never mind ones that drop blood! I’d swear I saw them mend after we struck them….

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Searching the Crypt

The Night After The Fight

After the fight with the skeletons, the three adventurers decide to leave the crypt and come back the next day. They do not know what is waiting for them, and especially Lini could use some healing. When they go outside, the pelting rain has subsided to a drizzle. After a brief discussion whether it makes sense or not to bury the dead horses under a pile of rocks – Jonathan convincing Preen that it is better to leave the bodies to the carrion birds. And if larger predators are near, it is better the predators eat the easy horse meat than their little band.

As they look for a good spot to camp, Jonathan points out a nice high spot towards the west. After they made camp, Lini uses her last channel energy spell of the day to heal everyone for 5 HP. She is then the only one still seriously wounded, and she casts the cure light wounds spell on herself, healing another 5 HP.

Well, this sure is a better spot than the one I had seen towards the east. Guess our dour-faced ranger is good for something afterall. Now if only I could get him to crack a smile, once a day, maybe?

With the experience of the day that fighting skeletons with rapier or dagger has no effect, Preen is looking for something that can be used as a mace or a club. Lini offers him her morning star, the gnome sized weapon more of a light weapon to the half-elf. Lini herself will use her magic when fighting skeletons. Then she retreats a bit to make her daily prayers to Gozreh. The night is spent in similar fashion as the night before, Jonathan takes first watch, Lini second and Preen has the last watch. Nothing untowards happens during the night.

A New Day, Another Attempt

Having last watch, Preen takes the time to meditate before waking up the others. Lini in turn says her morning prayers and prepares spells that she feels will come in handy: detect undead, hide from undead and magic weapon. After breakfast the trio sets off for the crypt again, to see if the soft moaning sound is still present and if so, find its source. Lini and Jonathan light hooded lanterns, and then they all go inside the crypt. They stay close to the wall, avoiding the pile of skeleton bones, until they reach the door from behind which still soft moaning sounds are to be heard.

Using a trick he claims to have learned in the tavern, and uttering some arcane sounding words, Preen uses open the door without touching it, and peers into the quiet darkness beyond. Nothing comes forth to challenge them from the large room with pillars. They see three saddle bags and a few brooms next to one pillar. Entering slowly and cautiously, they make their way past and between the pillars, darkness obscuring everything outside the lantern’s light.

Traps and Pillows

Then, when Lini steps towards Preen, going the long way around a pillar, the floor opens under her, causing her to fall about 10 feet into the pit below. Her fall is broken by a pillow, but she feels the spikes that are present underneath. Apart from a few bruises and a fright, she is OK (4 non-lethal damage). Preen takes a thin, silk, rope out of his bag and uses this to help Lini out of the pit. From where they are standing, they see a lever in the wall.

Suspecting more traps than just the one, Preen puts his skills to use as he searches for other traps. Taking his time, he slowly makes his way through the room, using a piece of chalk to mark the suspect and safe tiles – a big cross marking the suspect ones. On his way around he spies another two levers like the one they had already discovered. Returns to the others, who have been waiting in front of a locked door towards another part of the crypt, Preen crosses a presumed safe flagstone, and falls also in a pit, also landing on a pillow, and takes some superficial damage (4 non-lethal damage).

Laughing at his own failure, Preen decides to make up for it by a demonstration of his acrobatics, leaping deftly out of the pit. At least, that was the intent. Unfortunately, his footing was poor, and instead of gracefully leaping, he slips and in the process destroys the pillow and slips further down, between the spikes. Seeing this, Jonathan moves forward and helps the rather abashed looking half-elf out of the pit.

I’m not sure what to think of this Preen. He seems so sure, but how did he miss that trap? Maybe he is more talk than action. I’ll keep an eye on him….

Preen’s spirits do not suffer for long, though, confidence returning when he walks to the door to search for ways to open it. The door is locked and no key hole is visible. Several attempts to pick the mechanism fail, and then they recall the different levers they have seen in the room – maybe one of them will open the door? Preen walks towards the first and nearest lever, pulls it down, and Lini then tries to open the door. While they hear a lot of sounds coming both from the door as well as the lever, the door remains locked. This is repeated with the other two levers, the last of which is at the other side of the room. Neither opens the door. “What if we push the levers down two or three at a time?” Lini asks. The others quickly agree, having the same thought. They all go to a lever, and at a signal from Preen they push their levers down. There is a loud ‘click’ coming from the door. As each lever slowly goes back up after it is pushed, Preen and Jonathan, who were at the levers furthest away, rush back to the door. LIni was quite near to the door, and manages to open the door well before the others are there. In his haste to reach the door, Preen miscalculates or does not remember exactly which flagstones were trapped and which not, and much to his chagrin he again ends up at the bottom of a pit, without injury this time. Scrambling to his feet, he feels something under the pillow and finds a small bag that sounds like it holds coin as well as something else. Stowing the pouch he gracefully jumps out of the pit, and rejoins the others at the now opened door.

I wish they hadn’t seen that. If I keep falling into pits like that I’ll make a right idiot of myself.

A Lone Survivor

Lini still holds the door, which appears to close on its own accord. Not wanting to be trapped in the other room, she initially wants to keep the door open while the others move forward, but a quick inspection of the door on the other side shows a handle, which probably can be used to open the door from that side. This room again has a number of pillars, and from a door in the far corner the moaning can be heard, more clearly now. To be on the safe side, Lini casts her spell detect undead, and determines that there are no undead creatures within a 60 ft radius.

Then the moaning sound suddenly stops, and Preen and Lini’s ears pick up the muffled sound of a crossbow being cocked, coming from behind the door. Lini calls out that they are good people, and will do no harm. “Who is behind the door?” The response is a silence…

Preen whispers to the rest: “I will open the door, then we can all rush inside and surprise the person in there” Jonathan is nearest to the door, and he pushes the door open. Due to something blocking the door from the other side, the door opens only a slight amount. But enough for the crossbowman to risk a shot – the bolt ends up in one of the barrels he is hiding behind. Preen then puhes the door slightly farther open, just enough for Lini to go through, which she does. Crouched behind some barrels she sees a man, who has a wild look about him and mutters: “Angry bones…. angry bones!!” Lini tries to reassure the man, telling him the skeletons are defeated and he has nothing to fear. The man softens a bit, but then reverts and wails “It’s a trap!! Angry bones!!” as he aims his crossbow at the door and behind it, Jonathan. When he pulls the trigger, the shot flies wild, missing the ranger by a mile. Jonathan tries to open the door all the way, but it will not budge.

Then Preen calls out to the others: “Close your eyes!” which Lini and Jonathan do. There is a flash of light, and when they open their eyes again, they find the man dazed and blinded. Lini hurries forward and takes the crossbow from the stunned man. With joint effort, Preen and Jonathan finally open the door so they can enter the room. Preen recognizes the man to be Roldare, a man from Kassen. The others also know him from sight. Lini talks again to him, calling him by name. He calms noticeably, but remains unhinged.

Suddenly recalling his find, Preen takes out the pouch and the parchment inside to reads what is written; some hintthat it takes the cooperation of three to open the door. He crumbles the parchment and throws it away – the information being a bit moot by now. A quick search of the room yields some bedrolls, lanterns and oil, two healing potions and 5 rations. Preen gives one of the healing potions to Jonathan and stows the other himself – you never know when they may be needed.

Roldare comes out of his daze, and Lini wants to ask him some questions, least of all: what happened? Roldare seems to lose his focus, his eyes staring at a point just above Jonathan, but then the whole story spills out of him, in a staccato way. Six of them have arrived here in the crypt, planning a surprise for the youngsters set to get the Eternal Flame. They were disabling the traps by putting pillows on the spikes, but then suddenly they were attacked by skeletons. All are dead now, only his sister and himself still survive. His sister was taken away by the leader of the skeletons. When asked where he saw his sister last, a somewhat incoherent reply follows, possibly she is taken ‘down’ somewhere. He then clearly states that the others should find his sister, but he will stay here, where it is safe. “You will need keys, a shield and swim wear!”

A Face Full of Acid

As nothing more is to be learned from the man, and he is very persistent about staying where he is, Preen, Jonathan and Lini leave him be, and intend to go look for the missing sister. In the corridor room, Preen had seen another door, and he goes to find out what’s behind it. Cracking it open he sees a small room where a giant beetle is feeding on the brains of a dead person, and a door at the far end of the room. “Ooops…”, he mutters.

Preen enters the room, and the beetle starts to move in a menacing way. Jonathan says: “Get back Preen, then we can close the door!!” and he moves back to make space in the corridor. Preen however shakes his head as he has other plans “We fight!” and casts his spell color spray, with another flash of light and colours stunning the beetle. After a moment of indecision, Lini hurries forward and stabs the beetle with her trident, hurting it and causing it to hiss in protest. Sighing, Jonathan joins in the fray, only to have his sword bounce off the beetle’s armour. Leaping deftly over the beetle to strike it, Preen also finds his rapier glancing off the beetle’s carapace.

Coming to his senses – at least partially – the beetle swivels his head towards the source of the pain and spits a spray of acid at Lini, hurting her badly (10 HP damage). Attacking the beetle from one flank, Jonathan finds an opening and stabs his sword into the beetle. On the other side, Preen lunges in a sneaky attack with his rapier and finds a weak spot – the beetle instantly collapsing onto the floor. They all leap aside when the remains of the beetle crash to the floor the carapace cracking open ans spilling countless small eggs at their feet.

Not sure what Jonathan was thinking there. If we turn back every time we see danger, we’ll never find the lost girl. Bet Lini’s mad though, taking the brunt of that beetle’s rage…

Maybe we should discuss our options before we barge into doors. This confusion may become fatal. And why is it always me that gets hurt badly in the process? I’ll have a long talk with Gozreh tonight, for guidance.

Lini takes some time to heal herself (cure light wounds – 4HP recovered) Not sure what to do with the eggs, and simply grossed out to boot, they decide to burn the remains and the eggs; first brushing everything together in a corner. With the aid of some lamp oil, a merry fire is soon burning, crackling with regular popping sounds.

Turning back to the the body of the villager for a closer look, they cannot put a name to him, not helped by his head having been eaten by the beetle.

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The Crypt of Kassen
Or how to ignore things you know

Camp, and a Hungry Wolf

While Preen, Jonathan and Lini are sitting around their campfire, enjoying their evening meal, a wolf appears at the edge of the clearing. It is clear to see he is very skinny, and Jonathan deduces with his nature skill that it is scouting. Preen jumps up, his rapier in hand, expecting the wild animal to attack. Knowing that wolves hunt in packs, he turns to face any other wolves in the darkness. Lini casts speak with animals and learns by means of a brief conversation that the wolf is very hungry. Lini tells him that they are not prey for him, and that he should look for his meal somewhere else. If he or his pack attacks, they may well pay with their lives for that folly. The wolf backs away, staring at the gnome cleric. He understands what she says. Then he turns around and runs off into the forest.

Sitting back down around the fire to finish their meal, the adventurers continue their conversation about the wolf and their mission. When they decide to go to sleep, Jonathan volunteers to take first watch. Preen is surprised, he had not counted on having to stay awake for a watch, but then again, this is the forest, and not the village. Lini will take second watch and Preen surrenders and says: “I guess I’ll have third watch then…” Nothing untoward happens during the night, and when dawn breaks, Lini and Jonathan wake, partially from habit, partially from the light. After breakfast they continue their trek. Unseen to the others, Preen leaves some meat at the campsite for the hungry wolf.

That wolf sure looked hungry. Not even dangerous, really. Just down on his luck and then some. With all the food we’ve been given and brought, I’m pretty sure we won’t miss some of this jerky, and that wolf needs it a lot more. If he’s even around still….

The Serpent of the Lake

On their way to the crypt they pass a broad stretch of the river, almost a lake. At the shore of the lake-like section of the river they see a dark shape. Upon closer inspection this appears to be a humanoid creature, human sized, clearly dead. Jonathan sees that his torso has multiple bite marks, in the shape of a big circle – approximately 70 cm in diameter. He figures out quickly what has been the cause of this demise, and says to the others: “Stay away from the water, it is dangerous!” He then explains to the others that the man was killed by a giant snake, that lives in the water. When they cautiously walk a bit closer, the bite marks become also visible to Preen and Lini. The man appears to have been dead for months already. Despite the apprehension of the danger in the water, they all fill their waterskins and continue in a brisk walk (at least Lini is walking very fast). After about three hours walking, they reach a gorge. It starts to rain.

The Serpent’s Gorge

They have reached the Serpent Gorge, and they know that the crypt is at the bottom of this gorge. They are looking for an easy way down, but failing to find anything other than a rather steep and slippery path, they are still considering the route down when Preen grins broadly and calls out “Last one down buys drinks when we get back!” and sets off down the slippery slope – accepting that he will slip, he nimbly skis down the slope without a tumble or a fall.

We’re going to have to make our way all the way down there anyway. May as well have some fun and do it in style!

Lini follows, but with less secure footing she slips and crashes headfirst into a tree (4 non-lethal damage). After recovering from this impact, she continues more cautiously and has more success this way. Jonathan goes last, and while this initially goes well, he also loses his footing and meets a tree on his way down (4 non-lethal damage). Annoyed by this blunder, he gets back on his feet, grabs a piece of loose wood, uses that as a board and whooshes down the remainder of the path, passing Lini, and impressing Preen, who silently wonders why he had not thought about that method, and gives the performance a big applause. The rain is pelting down right now, and they quickly set on their way toward the crypt, expecting it to be at least dry inside.

When they make the final bend and reach the entrance of the crypt, they see a horrible scene in front of them. Two horses and three ponies lie dead in a pool of blood. They appear to have been killed by crude blades and claws, and appear to have been dead for about two days. The door of the crypt is slightly ajar. Underneath one of the horses lies the remains of a human – a skeleton with no meat remaining. When they come closer, they see that the horses still have their saddle bags. Preen looks into the bags, and sees that a lot is missing, but still finds rations for two days, two big pillows, a quiver with 10 blunt arrows and two pints of lamp oil. Lini casts a spell, detect undead, and finds the presence of undead creatures. After some time she feels a faint aura of six undead creatures coming from behind the crypt doors (about 60 feet distance). She ends the spell and informs the others of the presence of the undead creatures. They mentally prepare themselves for fighting undead creatures, likely skeletons, judging the skeleton under the horse.

Into the Crypt

Preen opens the crypt door, and Lini lights a torch. By the light of the torch they see that in the room behind the doors there has been some fighting. Two dead bodies lie on the floor, surrounded by a number of inanimate skeletons. Preen sneaks inside and circles the room. Lini and Jonathan follow, but initially stay close to the entrance. Preen reaches a door to the side, from behind which a soft moaning can be heard.

Then Lini and Jonathan also move forward towards the two bodies. Reaching the bodies, they have just passed some of the inanimate skeletons when they hear a groaning, rattling sound and the skeletons start to rise all around them. Even knowing to expect six undead creatures in the crypt, they have let themselves be surprised and surrounded – surely an awkward position for a fight. Because a fight is what follows.

Preen however appears out of nowhere behind one of the skeletons to stab it in the back with both rapier and dagger. Neither attack however makes an impression. The skeletons appear to have been blessed by some unholy might, as they keep striking true with Lini in particular taking a lot of damage. She has to channel the might of Gozreh multiple times to heal herself and her friends before the skeletons seem to have lost their accuracy and Lini has some breath to spare to turn the same energy against the skeletons, harming them. But again the skeletons seem oddly protected, as not even two attempts end the skeletons existance.

Jonathan meanwhile had more effects with his mace and has put two skeletons down. Preen, shouting out his frustration at the lack of effect of his rapier and dagger, throws down his weapons and leaps at the two skeletons still facing him and Lini. Suddenly – seen only by Lini – his hands have spawned claws as he lashes out, unfortunately to no more effect than his earlier attacks. The skeletons however strike Preen, knocking him unconscious and leaving him on the ground bleeding. In a final effort, Lini calls on Gozreh again and manages to channel her deities energy to the effect she had been hoping for, robbing the skeletons of the foulness animating them and leaving them as a pile of bones on the floor. Lini and Jonathen then rush over to Preen, who awakens after Lini’s healing spell restores him (+9 HP) .

With a little bit more forethought, they would have been able to deal with those skeletons a lot easier. Of course my unending string of 20’s did not help much.

After taking stock of the situation, Preen goes towards the two bodies, and recognizes them as Garrel and Varg, two men from Kassen and friends of the Mayor. In the bags next to them he finds again a big pillow, two quivers of blunt arrows, rations and some smoke sticks. “Looks to me like they came here intending to pull a prank on us – and found more than they bargained for…”, he states, finally realizing that they have good reason to be cautious on this journey after all.

“Did that really happen? Did I really just… grow claws like that? What’s going on with me? After the things I discovered I could do, now this? Oh… Did Lini notice? I don’t think Jonathan could’ve seen, but Lini?”

From behind a closed door they again hear the soft moaning sounds. Their emotions tell them to rush forward to rescue whoever it is that they hear moaning. But with the damage already sustained and their powers nearly exhausted, that would seem foolhardy. Thus, they contemplate leaving the crypt for the night and coming back in the morrow.

“Should I ask Preen? About those claws? Or should I keep an eye on him instead? What’s going on with him??”

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A Rite of Passage
Or to fetch the Eternal Flame

A New Dawn

The town of Kassen was founded 174 years ago. Each year, at the 4th of Neth it is celebrated that Kassen defeated his enemy. To lead the town through the winter, a delegation is traditionally sent to the crypt of Kassen to obtain fire from the Eternal Flame.

The subjects of our interest, three youngsters, are in for an interesting time. They differ in many things, but all have grown up in the small provincial town of Kassen that is starting to feel too small. Jonathan, the human ranger, spends most of his time out in the woods outside Kassen already. Lini, the gnome cleric, is usually found in the temple of Erastil, and aches for new experiences to break the daily pattern of the temple. Preen, a half-elf rogue, meanwhile lingers at the Seven Silvers tavern where his mother works as a waitress – hoping that the new day brings more interesting guests, and failing that interesting trouble to get into.

History may be about to deal them an interesting hand for a change. As Preen and Lini know, Johark Uptal, mayor of Kassen, intends to send a number of young people to the crypt this year, as a rite of passage. It doesn’t hurt that this may serve to boost his popularity in the upcoming elections. Preen, Jonathan and Lini have been personally asked by the mayor to take part in this mission. It normally is a journey of two days to the crypt and then back, to their knowledge the yearly delegation is always back within a week. The three youngsters are asked to assemble with travel gear at noon of the 4th of Neth in the town square.

That morning, Preen is packing his gear, preparing for the trip. Also Lini has packed her stuff and is taking her time for a prayer to Gozreh. When she takes her leave of the priest, he seems to be downcast and says farewell with a heavy heart. When Lini asks what is the matter, he says there is a dangerous journey ahead.

A dangerous journey? We’ll be back in a week time! But I would be glad to get some adventure, to test my skills.

Jonathan and Preen take their leave from somber parents. When Preen leaves the inn, his halfling friend, Jimes “Short Change”, gives him a quick grin, before he too solemnly says farewell. Preen wonders, and asks if Jimes knows why his mother is so glum, earning only a quick wink in response from the halfling.

More or less at the same time, all three arrive on the completely deserted town square, each from a different side. Although they have not witnessed this ceremony before, as it is for adults only, they were led to believe the square would be full with people to send them on their way, and not so unusually quiet. They look a bit at each other, and join together in the middle of the square, discussing the strangeness of this all.

At noon the bells in the temple ring out, and suddenly the town square fills with people clad in black. The mayor leads a pony with a cart, loaded with some gear. He gives a speech, and a circle opens up around him. Preen, Jonathan and Lini go toward the mayor. He holds a lantern, and looks somberly at them. He thrusts the lantern towards Lini, and says that this lantern is to be used to fetch a light from the Eternal Flame. Also three bags have been prepared with provisions for their travel. The three youngsters each take a bag from the pony cart.

Off Into the Unknown

In a totally downcast atmosphere, as if they were led to their graves, the townsfolk set them on their way south, towards the crypt.

“I’m impressed, they’re putting a real effort into it. But I’m sure all the doom and gloom is just a charade for our benefit. Lini and Jonathan seem te be falling for it, though…..

When they are well outside the town and out of sight of the watch tower, they open the three bags, to see what is in them. One lumpy bag holds 50ft of rope, a grappling hook and three torches. As both Lini and Preen have 50ft of silk rope already, they only take the torches. The second bag, which feels soft, contains three winter blankets and a small shelter. Also two small bottles of brandy and a potion bottle to cure light wounds. They take the shelter, but leave the blankets, as they already have their own blankets. The last bag contains rations for three persons for five days, a full waterskin and a box with tinder and tinderwick. This they will take all. They distribute the new loads and hide the surplus gear behind a tree. The last bag also contained a piece of parchment, which shows the road to the crypt.

The forest around them is lively. Jonathan goes in front to scout the road, while Preen and Lini follow at a slower pace. Just when Jonathan has waited for the others to catch up, and they set out again, they reach a blockade on the road, and three humanoids ( orcs) jump forward, armed and with ill intent.

Preen quickly jumps into a tree and shoots one of the orcs with his bow, straight through the eye and killing him instantly. Lini dashes forward all on her own and sets off a lightning arc, injuring one orc but failing to slay the foul creature.

“What’s the gnome doing?! Has she gone insane??? She’ll be cut down for sure!” “Wow, look at that lightning!”

Then the two orcs rush the lone gnome cleric, covering the distance much faster than Lini anticipated and with two mighty blows strike her down. Dropping to the floor, lini is left unconscious and bleeding. (-11 HP)

Jonathan kills the wounded orc with a well aimed arrow shot in his throat, and hits the second orc with another arrow. Preen takes another shot at the remaining orc, but misses him. Then the orc charges Jonathan, and wounds him. Jonathan hits the orc with his sword, only slightly injuring him.

Rushing up behind the orc, Preen thrusts his rapier through the orc, mortally injuring his foe and almost hitting Jonathan in the process. Only then does Preen realize he felt no resistance when his blade slid into the orc.

With the last orc fallen, all three orcs vanish and it is af they have never been there. There is no blood on Preens sword, Jonathan has no wound, and Lini gets up off the ground, completely unhurt and with undamaged armour albeit a bit dazed as she really felt she had died. When they look around, Lini notices a faint air of pipe smoke and sees a bird in the sky. No signs of magic are felt, but they all realize the town’s wizard is known to smoke a pipe.

“I almost fell for it. Even when I knew they were making a big show of it, I almost thought the orcs were real. Don’t want to spoil it for the others though, and let them think we’re on a real mission of sorts. Lini in particular seems to think it’s a big deal and all.”

After they each expressed their amazement at this adventure, they continue on their way. Even though they realize it was all an illusion of sorts, the close run affair has given them food for thought and discussion on how to better cooperate in case they run across a real foe next time. Preen meanwhile is on the lookout for any further staged surprises, but does not spy any.

The evening falls after they have walked for some time without any disturbances. They find a place to set up their camp, put up their shelters and light a fire. When finished, Preen takes out his flute and starts to play a tune. Jonathan strongly discourages him to continue playing, as you never know what may be drawn towards them by this sound. Grudgingly Preen puts the flute away again. In the distance some wolves are howling.

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