Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Village of Homlette”
After a rest, we decided the day was still young, and we had a fair amount of the fortress to still explore.
We started with the passages at the south end of the great hall. There’s a staircase to the upper floors, but it’s so coated with dust and crushed stone I doubt anyone’s been up there for a long time – even if they could. Ezekiel made it to a landing partway up, but he said it was so full of debris and rubble there was no going further.
We investigated several rooms along the corridor there – Raven checking the doors for traps as we went. The first room had arrow slits facing the entrance-courtyard and lots of broken furniture.
Ezekiel was determined to find something, and dug behind a cabinet against the wall until he found a broadsword of good manufacture. It’s not really my speed, so we wrapped it in some of the cloth lying around and stuck it in the bag of holding.
While we were busy with that, Raven was checking the next door. He clutched his hand and announced he’d been stuck by some kind of poison trap, but he couldn’t seem to disable it. Finally, Mikael came up and did his “poke of the wind” and just opened the door.
Doesn’t look like Raven’s suffering any ill effects, so I guess that’s all right.
Looks like that room used to be a bedroom, but there’s nothing but kindling there now.
That’s when we noticed something coming up the passage! To be exact, a Giant Adder – at least 12 feet long – coiling through the dust.
Before we could go after it, Raven started talking to it (because, of course, y’know, he can do that) and said we just wanted to investigate the “lair” at the end of the passage.
Well, apparently they came to an agreement – it wouldn’t eat us, and we wouldn’t kill it – and Raven went ahead to scout around while we stayed out of its “lair.”
Raven came back and said he hadn’t found anything except the remains of a bandit, and the snake didn’t have any ideas for reaching the upper floor (or, at least no ideas for how humans could reach the upper floor).
So we backed away from the adder’s territory and investigated the last room on the corridor.
It must have belonged to someone important once…but now it’s the home of bats. They swarmed Ezekiel briefly before scattering.
There’s nothing worthwhile there anymore…dirty scraps of velvet, the bits and pieces of hardwood furniture.
Ezekiel seemed determined to find something, and dug in the remains of a table – but anything valuable or important has long been taken by others. We finally convinced him to stop digging through bat guano and lead us downstairs…into the basement.
Which is where things got…interesting!
Ezekiel had me take the lead with him, so we each held out our shields of perpetual light and headed for the stairs. (These are the stairs we discovered while exploring with Kobort, and I double-checked the shelves in the passage at the top, but didn’t find anything interesting.)
As Ezekiel and I reached the bottom of the stairs, something wet licked us or dropped onto us. It burned (kind of like a sunburn) and Ezekiel barked for everybody to back up!
He said it was a slime – like that nightmarish thing that almost got Raven – so Lydia stepped forward with that fire on the end of her finger and –
Well, that burned way worse than a sunburn, but then Ezekiel examined my shoulders and said there was no more slime turning me into green sludge, and I completely approve of not turning into slime!
Examining the doorway at the bottom of the stairs, we discovered a stone arch – with two ugly green blobs placed right above the peak. As though on purpose, eh?!
Ezekiel ordered me to light a torch and get on Raven’s shoulders so we could burn the things without getting dripped on. So Lydia lit the torch, and I held it, and Raven held me so I could reach.
Lydia said a previous party she was in had someone turned to slime within minutes. It certainly sounds like a horrifying fate, and I will be grateful we have someone along to burn it! (And someone whose brain doesn’t freeze under pressure!)
Well, with that excitement over, we spread out to explore the room. (I kept an eye on the ceiling, because apparently you can’t trust anything.)
As we spread out, Ezekiel said, “Spell-casters, stick with a fighter.”
I’m not sure why he says that, because every time he does, Lydia grabs onto my arm, and everybody else stands next to me. It’s a little…hard to focus.
If the slime-trap wasn’t obvious enough (they were placed so people “in the know” could slide along the side of the doorway and avoid the danger!), Raven found two doors with traps on them (he thinks they’re poison gas traps).
There was lots of rubble in the main room – sacks, broken containers, etc. – but there’s no question this part of the Moat-House has seen more “attention” than any other part…even than the bunkhouse where the petty bandits were staying upstairs.
For one thing, when Ezekiel started down the southern passage off the main room, he found some zombies lying in wait behind the support pillars.
After he waved his
sheep toy holy symbol dramatically and ordered them into dust (then ordered the next pair to dust, and the next three), he led the way into a new room that turned out to be a torture chamber.
I’m not sure if it’s been used recently…but the zombies alone are evidence of an Evil Cleric acting here in the not-too-distant past (“not-too-distant” meaning after the last group of adventurers cleared this place out).
As for the torture equipment…Ezekiel nosed around it and discovered fresh blood – not on the rack, but on the floor near one of the support pillars. He followed it and found a secret door of some kind in the support pillar!
And if we hadn’t figured it out before, that’s when we knew…this is not the normal perils of the world. This is not a giant snake – or random bandit troop – moving into an abandoned building…this –
Is – Suspicious. You might even say…
As much as Ezekiel was salivating to get into it, he agreed we should try to clear this floor first.
Raven found one door that he didn’t think was trapped, so Ezekiel came up and opened it…and noticed how it didn’t squeak or groan or any of the things it naturally should unless it had been greased recently for example!
So he forged ahead, and found a small empty room with a second door. While Raven was checking that one, Lydia cast Protection from Evil on Ezekiel (which naturally made him talk about how much he missed Lancell).
The others gathered behind Ezekiel and he kicked in the second door while I waited in the outer room. (Frankly, it looked a little too much like a trap, and I didn’t want our whole party caught in the little room when the doors slammed shut and stuff. Well, turns out I was wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful, does it?)
Sounds of battle started, and I heard Ezekiel shouting something about an ogre.
Well…that’s like My Realm.
So (seeing that no gates had dropped or alarms gone off) I followed them into the room to see a big, ugly ogre lit up with faery fire with Nori hanging fangs-first from one shoulder.
Ezekiel landed a blow (and I saw one of Raven’s daggers sticking from the creature’s hide) and then I found an opening between my companions and struck.
Y’know, ogres have pressure points and exposed arteries and weak joints the same as anyone else…heh heh heh!
They also stink to high heaven, and when Ezekiel started threatening to search its loincloth I tapped out. Even I don’t want to know that much about ogres, thank you!
Well, we talked him out of that, and got him to search the pile of clothes and rags that obviously used to be the ogre’s bed. Good thing, because Ezekiel found a cloak that’s obviously elven made…and he told me to carry it in the bag of holding, too. (Apparently he’s not worried what the bag is going to smell like after this.)
We also found a chest full of random shiny things like glass beads, brass candlesticks, and a whole pile of coins. I dug through them and found the few gold ones while Raven checked yet another door on the south side of the ogre’s room.
The door was barred on the near side, so Ezekiel removed the bar and opened the door.
Beyond we found a small room, with two humans and a gnome. All three had obviously been mistreated, but the gnome looked worst – like he could barely stand.
Mikael jumped in to cast Cure Light Wounds, while Ezekiel talked with the other two.
They say their names are Zorbin and Anthrax, and they’re each from Divrs. They were each captured by gnolls – and human bandits – who all wore burning eyes embroidered on their clothes. One of them had other members of his merchant caravan, but they were killed – and they saw the ogre was planning on eating the gnome next.
(There’s a reason ogres need to die!)
When Mikael finished his spell, the gnome was able to sit up and give his name – Prettypebbles (although apparently no relation to Neeblebluer Prettypebbles). He says he was caught by the gnolls while spying on them…and he gave Ezekiel an iron ring as thanks for rescuing him.
They aren’t quite rescued yet, though – Mr. Prettypebbles is still pretty wobbly on his feet, and the two men are certainly worse for wear.
We talked about what to do, and Raven pointed out there might be more prisoners further on (given the secret door, etc.). We certainly didn’t want to put off finding them, so we escorted the prisoners upstairs to the bandits’ bunkhouse where they could bar the door until we joined them again. There are plenty of weapons on the bodies of the bandits, and we left Nori to guard the crack in the wall.
That done, we headed back to the basement.
Raven tried to remove the trap from one of the doors, and he must have succeeded because he picked the lock and opened it without trouble. He also checked the floor just inside the door, but decided it was safe.
Inside is obviously an armory. There are spears, glaives, battle axes, arrows and cross-bow bolts…the whole thing. You could outfit a company with this stuff…and maybe that’s the idea?!
There’s also a supply of black cloaks with the embroidery of a burning yellow eye – Ezekiel took one and told me to carry that in the bag of holding (along with the gold and silver coins from the ogre’s chest and everything else. He thinks this thing can’t fill up!).
Well, after Ezekiel and Raven checked out a row of cells alongside the torture chamber (they think some of the zombies were hanging out in them, but there wasn’t anything else in there), there was nothing left except the trapped door…and the secret door.
Ezekiel opened the secret door to reveal a ladder of rungs set directly into the wall…and they didn’t look the least bit dusty and decrepit.
He told me to follow right after him and headed down. It was thirty feet down…I counted.
After crawling down the inside of the support pillar, we reached another narrow corridor. We made our way down it in single file – with me watching the ceiling and floor just in case there was a hideous death trap waiting to slice-and-dice us.
Ezekiel did some fiddling on the end wall – while the air around us got chillier – and opened a door into yet another creepy underground tunnel…
This one with a ghoul approaching us!
Which lasted about five seconds.
So then we stepped over its crumbling remains and made our way into something that looked – and smelled – like a burial crypt.
Ezekiel followed the trail of blood that he’d noticed upstairs, and it led to a burial alcove with a splintered coffin (the kind of thing that had been broken out of?!). Apparently the ghoul who “tried” to attack us was in the middle of something…although I couldn’t figure out what (or who) it was in the middle of. There wasn’t anyone to rescue, at any rate.
Ezekiel marched further into the crypt, his sheep held high as he cried, “Come out, abominations!”
Some pale figures shifted into light from our shields, grumbling, and one by one sank into dusty remains.
I tell you, he has his uses.
When it looked like the spookiest of the enemies had been drawn out, I investigated an alcove at the southern end of the crypt, and it looks like it’s been dug out at the far end. From the marks, it was probably made with ghoul claws.
Ezekiel promptly bustled forward and crawled into the tunnel, although it was very low (even I would need to bend over to get inside).
I could see skulls, bones, and other refuse from the doorway – and then Ezekiel called me to join him.
Does he not have a working nose or something?
Well, I had Lydia light a torch so Raven and the others would have light, and followed Ezekiel into the pit. There’s a widened out space, and as he dug around he turned up several silver coins and a vial.
Lydia crawled in to help us, and we turned up eight vials (probably potions of some kind), a scroll, and even a few gold coins (all of which Ezekiel made me shove in the bag of holding…I think he didn’t realize how much I was lugging around in there before).
He was a little afraid that the tunnel further on might be a trap, so he had us all crawl out to where the others were and he chucked a rock down the passage…but nothing happened beyond spraying dirt around.
Well, as a party we decided that if there were more prisoners down here, we would have found them already…and we needed to get the people we’d already rescued to safety. Plus our spell-casters needed to recharge their abilities, and I doubted I could shove even a copper coin into the bag of holding.
So we headed back to the ladder and climbed up – Ezekiel first.
When he reached the top, though, he paused and whispered that he needed me to come up next…there were some Giant Rats to deal with.
And indeed, there were ten giant rats…and I’m not sure why he wanted my help, since I missed my first three attacks (rats are surprisingly nimble, you know!).
And after all, Ezekiel splatted one with his mace – while wiping blood out of his eyes from a bite.
Raven heard the sounds of battle and charged up the ladder…only to snap his spear against the floor while trying to stab a rat. Mikael “poke of the wind”ed one.
Even Lydia got in on the action and tried to knife one with a little silver dagger I had no idea she was carrying (but she missed).
Raven stomped two of their little heads in while I was throwing myself off balance and falling down.
But when it was all over everybody else told me not to feel so bad because I killed like half of them all by myself.
I guess when you’re faster with a weapon than anybody else, it’s easy to count misses more than hits.
Raven grabbed a new spear from the armory and re-locked that door, and then as we were all heading up the stairs I shot at the second trapped door with one of my regular arrows. The theory was that we might trigger the trap that way (and thus dispel it safely) but the arrow just stuck in the wood and didn’t accomplish anything useful.
Well, we’ll get some food into our rescued prisoners so that hopefully they’ll make it back to Homlette.
I’m not sure yet if we’re taking them to Rufus the Warrior, the constable, the village elder, or what…but Ezekiel can figure that out on our way.
Gotta say, it feels good to finally have ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING. At last, AT LAST we’re not just fighting random monsters and bandits, but it feels like we’ve found SOMEthing that might warrant hiking all the way across the continent (and might explain all the powerhouses playing Secret Agent in the area).
Somebody…hiding in the Moat-House…raising zombies…and feeding captives to an ogre.
It is Evil.
It is secret.
We are going to get to the bottom of it.
Aaand…we haven’t changed our M.O. “Kill things until we find undead where there shouldn’t be, then pursue a nefarious plot.” That’s us.
Find the previous entry here.
Read the next entry here.
Find the start of the Homlette adventure here.
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