Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”
We formed up in battle ranks and headed up the stairs to the north door (the only one we’d found at that point).
Beyond, we found a number of storerooms – wrapped furniture (Ezekiel thinks that’s for trading), food, goblin-sized armor, and things that look like manacle-bracelets, except with spikes on the inside. Totally useless.
Where the hallway turned, we encountered something more out of the ordinary. For twenty or thirty feet down the way, the floor, ceiling and walls were all covered with…cupboards. It looked like a grill work – only the shadows were wrong. Someone had cut out “boxes” about an armlength deep and a foot square at the top, leaving dividers between. As if that weren’t tricky enough to walk on, some kind of black goo or fluid coated the entire surface.
Ezekiel tried to figure out what it was, but could only say it didn’t behave like lamp oil. Mikael waved a stick down the hall – and that’s when we got new information: a little blue creature with an oversized head popped out of nowhere, grabbed the stick, and vanished. I didn’t get to see the first one (back of the pack again), but Raven said they weren’t exactly like the blue creatures we found on the towers.
Don’t know if we felt flummoxed, or we’re just easily distracted, but we decided to go have another whack at finding the rumored south door of the torture chamber. This basically meant propping the iron maiden open so Ezekiel could tinker in it without needing to be raised, while Lydia and I tried to keep our rescued prisoner’s mind on other things.
After Raven and Mikael gave him advice, Ez finally started knocking off spikes in the back of the device. After 18 or so, he said he saw a hole behind one of the spikes, with a mechanism of some kind. Raven joined him to investigate, but too much of the opening device had broken off with the spikes, and he couldn’t get it to engage. Finally, Lydia came over with a scroll and opened it up.
The door led to an unfinished tunnel, which led to a cave. While we were examining the ledge of a drop-off, steam shot up from the space below, filling the room and killing visibility.
After arming up to make sure it wasn’t a dragon or some other creature’s breath, we waited for it to dissipate. We waited so long, Raven shared around some of his cheese.
Finally, we could see across the chasm again – and noticed the huge stalagmites growing up from the cave floor. Some of these were sawn off at the level of the platform (where we stood), meaning someone dexterous could jump from pillar to pillar and reach another walkway we could see on the other side.
Mobility and nimbleness? We loaded Raven with crampons and rope, with Ez braced as his belay on our end.
Raven jumped, slipped on the slick surface of the first stalagmite, and fell – but Ezekiel caught him with the rope, so he didn’t slide right off the pillar. After that I guess he got the hang of it, because he hopped across the rest of the pillars, no problem.
He was just anchoring the rope on his end with crampons, when steam billowed up again, cutting him off from our sight. We had to wait nearly an hour before the steam cleared again…but we know by now that 90% of invading dungeons is waiting around.
When the air cleared, we could see Raven again. He called across that he’d done some scouting, and found a cheese-making room. No lie. It had a barrel of cheese curd, and another of green fungi (less appealing), and cheesecloth for straining, and everything.
Heiron went and grabbed some boards he’d noticed in the torture chamber, and we lay them down between the stalagmite pillars (had to wait for another round of steam, though. That’s getting old). With the boards and the rope, we all managed to cross safely – even Lulu, who had me convinced she was going to jump and snap a board, or kick something loose, or something.
I could tell in my bones it was getting late, but Ezekiel wanted to try a door beyond the cheese room. He and Raven heard some kind of humming beyond it.
When Ezekiel opened the door – splot – a bucket of syrup or something dropped on his head…along with about five million bees. Before he ran around screaming for too long, Lydia threw an egg and made all the bees pass out. We didn’t even need one of the magic ropes to get Ezekiel out of the cloud, since he staggered out by himself…and then let us convince him that it was probably time to rest.
Lydia took the rescued prisoner back to Homlette, Ezekiel and Mikael passed around healing, and Mikael worked on making a peg-leg for his lizard out of one of his sticks (hard with only one hand). He must have made a friend of the lizard, since it hasn’t bitten him yet.
Found a few more traps today. We started by lighting torches, because Mikael and Raven said smoke makes bees feel sleepy. The next room, where Ezekiel had his adventure, held a hive made of clay tubes. There was also a second door – with a rope connected to a pulley, tied to a bucket. This bucket also seemed to contain sugar water, as bees swarmed it and streaked back to the hive.
Raven tried to calm the bees, and untied the rope so we could access the door without disturbing them too much (not sure how they closed the doors, whoever used to work here).
We’d almost got through the room safely when Lulu ran over to the hive, threw it to the ground, and started gobbling up honey. The smart ones among us ran, while Raven closed the door to leave her to her fate (she wouldn’t listen to him or to Mikael. I tell you, that ape is a menace).
The room beyond the hive room had goblin-sized clothes made of cheesecloth, and casks of water and brown sugar, for mixing up syrup to feed to the bees. I don’t see how it works economically, but they must figure sugar costs less than honey. Raven and I replenished our supplies.
The passage wound around until it led into a much wider cave. We spread out, feeling a bit uneasy – and then Ezekiel found a curtain drawn across an alcove. The curtain was painted to look exactly like the rock wall, with eye-holes cut in it (too low even for me). A rope and pulley in the alcove led to a giant net in the ceiling, that could have been dicey if we hadn’t already killed everyone interested in working it. (Ezekiel even figured out what it did without dropping it on us in the process, so that was good.)
(Lulu eventually caught up with us, licking her lips and covered with dead bees. Ezekiel washed her off.)
Past the net cavern we found a goblin barracks – low tables and benches, bedrolls, food, bows and arrows. A grated turn-off is probably where they kept their worgs – the ones they were riding when they charged us, and Lydia burned them to ash.
I took the opportunity to restock our arrows, and found a black one with strange runes on it. Ezekiel didn’t think it was evil, so I risked taking it. Hope it doesn’t try to mind-control me or something.
Well, we were running out of options. We even went back to the steamy cave and investigated another ledge in the corner, but couldn’t find any sign of a secret door. Which meant we had to go deal with the weird cupboard-hallway and the blue creature(s).
We returned to that hall. Raven tried lighting the oil or grease-like substance, but it didn’t seem flammable.
Ezekiel borrowed Heiron’s ring of fire resistance, then asked Lydia to light up the hallway. Fire exploded down the pock-marked corridor, and Ez stepped forward cautiously.
Unfortunately, the black slick stuff still didn’t burn…and even worse, the little blue buggers didn’t seem to mind it, either. One of them popped out of the air, nipped Ez’s mace, and disappeared…worst of all, they have a shrill, mocking laugh that cloys at the senses.
Ezekiel slipped and fell with one leg in one of the cubbyholes. A creature popped out and grabbed for his shield, but he used it to slam the creature against the floor – and the enemy vanished with an angry squeal (their wails of pain echo strangely in the corridor).
Lydia said they must be teleporting, which meant it would be hard to find where they were taking Ez’s stuff. About that time, one grabbed his holy sheep symbol. Ezekiel tried to grab the creature, but it slid away, sliming his gloves – and he authorized deadly force.
Heiron and I launched arrows (the beasties are vulnerable to those!) and Mikael threw in his sticks, transforming them to snakes.
The snakes swarmed into the cubbyholes, and Raven shed his loose possessions to join Ezekiel (Lydia turned off the fire, since it wasn’t helping). Heiron and I killed two of the big-headed blue beasties…but there was still no sign of where they had taken our stuff.
Ezekiel picked up his backpack (the last one to die dropped it, the straps bitten through) and went with Raven to scout the far end of the hall.
Apparently they found a door chained to the opposite wall – but no sign of where the blue creatures might have their home.
In the end, Lydia took Mikael as bodyguard and nipped back to Homlette to use the mirror. They returned before too long with Ezekiel’s things; Lydia says there were no doors or other openings she could see in the creatures’ lair – she had to use one of her lit marbles for light. Her mirror is kinda over-powered in some ways, but I am not embarrassed in the least.
Getting across the hall was a bit tricky. Some of us showed off our balance by dancing down the corridor…some of us took the slow but steady route of stepping down into each cubbyhole…Lydia and everyone else grabbed empty crates from the storerooms and slid down the goo-slicked surface. Lucky the corridor slanted the right way.
Once on the other side, Raven and Ezekiel showed us the strange door set-up. A wooden wall stood on one side, with a wooden partition across from it, where the door was. Apparently a chain used to connect the two, until Raven pulled it free of the door. It clearly seemed to be a trap, but we weren’t sure what kind – and none of us could find a secret door in the wooden wall.
One way to find these things out, it seems. Most of us went through the door, and down until the passage turned a corner. Then Ezekiel (walking fortress, as he calls himself) used his gloves of strength to pull the chain, while hiding around the corner where we came from.
We were expecting something of the kind, but it was still dramatic. The wooden wall gave way, and a whole stack of logs tumbled forward and started rolling toward us.
Raven and I ducked around the corner in plenty of time (and unlike a giant stone ball, we didn’t think there’s could turn the corner), but as it turns out we didn’t even need that precaution. Halfway along the passage, the weight of the logs tripped a false floor, and a section of floor fell away. I guess the lead log was the right length to slip into the hole on one side, and once it had fallen crooked, the whole group skidded around and lost momentum and several more of them fell into the pit.
When they stopped moving, Raven and I ventured out for a look. About twenty feet down, we could see water at the bottom of the pit – but not flowing, so if we had slipped in, we probably wouldn’t be washed out of the mountain again. A ledge runs along each side if the pit, so Ezekiel was able to rejoin us – careful to avoid the logs, of course, which are still balanced a bit precariously.
Clearly we were meant to open the door from this side…which means we’re coming in the back way again. I think we’re still missing a couple secret passages, but it feels nice to think we’ve got our groove back.
Now if we could just find that other ghost Ez is supposed to deal with.
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