DAY 14 – 1st, Midsol 8th
Just like Ander’s hand had disappears into the faux chest, Paul and his escort disappear from sight as they round a corner on their journey back to Cask Away. With no way to contact their friends, Ander, Belarius, and Marven must face this new foe alone. The ensuring eerily quiet battle belies its blistering pace, with all three members of the crew securing solid hits on the entity, before Ander finally wrenches his hand free and cleaves the monstrosity clean in two.
With the mausoleum returning to stillness, the entity slowly dissipates leaving little behind. Upon investigation it appeared to be covering, guarding even, a trap door to the foundations of the building. Given some “persuasion” and a following minor incident, the door is opened and one by one the guys drop down into the darkness. Following the tunnels, they eventually come to an unassuming, apparently purposeless room. Marven, perhaps preoccupied by the thoughts of suddenly being separated from the whole group, absent mildly walks across one of the floor rugs, which quickly gives way underneath him revealing a shaft into darkness below. He uses reflexes earned through years of wilderness living to flip around and catch the lip of the hole, leaving the furnishing fluttering into the abyss. With the help of Ander, he manages to climb back up, the group now acutely aware of the risks before them.
Meanwhile, Leon, Marta, and Haeden bring Paul back to Cask Away, to find it unusually busy. Entering the pub, leaving Paul outside as not to arouse suspicion, Leon and Haeden attempt to make contact with Birin. Somewhat unprepared for this crowd, he appears flustered and is unable to accommodate them immediately, instead appealing for a few minutes to finish up his current tasks.
Back underneath the Faversham cemetery, the expeditionary team find themselves deeper, in a vast subterranean cavern. Dark, humid, and cloying, the expanse has a fast stream running through it, blocking their progress to the far side. Their eyes following the flow, they spot the rug from upstairs caught against iron bars at the streams exit from the cave. Beside it, two of the local amphibious residents are taking a particular interest in this, for the time being.
With ingenuity of that of a spelunker, Marven crosses quickly and quietly using his rope to anchor himself. Ander, never one to shy from the direct approach, dives straight in, leaving Belarius to keep watch on the bank. Luck on their side, all three manage to cross safely without alerting the natives. It isn’t until the rug has been determined safe, that the Giant Frogs look elsewhere, and begin to track the newcomers. Opting for a tactical retreat, the team scrape and scramble up the side of the cavern, desperately trying to reach the exit before being overcome. Fuelled by adrenaline, they barrel through the opening and careen through the tunnel, unsure of what lies ahead.
Upon meeting Birin on the first floor of the Cask Away, Leon and Haeden update him on what happened at the cemetery and with Brother James. Visibly pleased at the eradication of at least a part of this corruption, he is then shocked to hear that they have not only found another cultist, but also bought them to his pub! Not willing to accommodate the cultist in front of the crowds below, he asks the party to come to service entrance late at night, under the cover of darkness. Leon asks for some healing items to help Paul regain consciousness, and at first he finds the idea reprehensible, so it’s not until Leon’s calm explanation that he retrieves a small potion and first aid supplies.
Ander, Belarius, and Marven begin to investigate their surroundings, finding themselves in seemingly the final room; a functional office with a desk, chairs, and a dilapidated cabinet. Sensing items of interest behind the dirtied glass of the cabinet, Belarius and Marven manage to shatter one of the panes, covering the trinkets inside in glass. Before they have a chance to progress, behind them out of a pile of remains a figure is being assembled. As the bones float through the air and combine, it becomes obvious that it is unlike the skeletons from the above. Huge, equine calf and thigh bones snap together upon dense hooves, gauntlets glad around heavy set fists crack as they attach to the spine. One-by-one, ribs float off the ground and make a cage easily big enough for a Hafling. It’s not until the head is manually placed at the top of the spine and the eyes flare bright green, that they realise what they face: an undead Minotaur, its bones magically reanimated to guard this location. Standing over 10 foot tall and wielding a great axe the size of Marta, he is an imposing presence and unwilling to cooperate.
On the far side of town, Leon leaves the medical kit with Paul and explores the local area for access to the service street behind the pub. Finding it within a short walking distance, he returns to the rest of his group and they begin to make their way there. With quick thinking and believable acting, they ensure that Paul appears to be inebriated, rather than on the brink of death, much to the amusement of passers-by. Relocating the business access, the quartet make their way down the dim alley, eager to see what further information they can draw out from their willing hostage.
Underground, the Minotaur charges at Belarius, failing to connect by only a shade, and instead causing the entire room to shake from the impact with the wall. Ander manages to tackle it to the ground, the other two using this opportunity to get plenty of good strikes in. However, the distraction cost Ander his life as he, despite mountainous endurance, succumbs to repeated gores from the horns of the creature, his lifeless body tumbling across the room as it shakes him off. Now free from Ander’s grasp, the enraged creature swings its axe in frustration, gravely wounding Belarius who also falls unconscious. After the brave sacrifices of his comrades, Marven expends his final spell slot in order to rescue Ander from death, before finally felling this monstrosity by caving the skull in with repeated blows from his mace. As the green eyes are extinguished, Belarius groans in agony from across the room, surrounded by his own blood. Leaving Ander to collect his thoughts after his brush with death, Marven dashes over and aptly stems the blood loss, stabilising his companion.
Immediate danger behind them, the two remaining conscious dungeon divers begin to uncover the mysteries of this dwelling.
Author: Danilo (DM)