[The story so far]
Session 21 - The tomb of the iron god (i)
It had been an uneventful sail upriver from Corcelle through the fertile farming lands and hunting estates to the North of the city. Despite the strong current, a friendly wind and the skill of the captain saw them make swift progress and, in a mere three days travel, they found themselves unloading their kit at an unexpectedly empty jetty. "They're a superstitious bunch up here," the captain had reassured them, "probably keeping their heads down if their precious temple really has been destroyed. Well, Alathea go with you; that's the direction you want." And he pointed to a waymarker with an ornate letter F above the an arrow pointing Eastwards, away from the river, and the words One Mile. They went!
In little over half an hour at a gentle pace, and with the sun shining warmly on their right sides, they came in sight of the temple. At first it seemed intact, but as they got closer they saw that it was merely the facade that still stood - heavy black columns with streaks of orangey-red surmounted by a low triangular pediment - and the rest, including what must once have been an impressive domed roof, lay in ruins.
"Hello!" called the elf Nausicaa, her boldness causing alarm to those in the party that had hoped to approach unnoticed. Nobody returned her call, but a large pheasant started up from the ruins only to be shot down by an extraordinary reflex shot from Jean.
The bird plunged down into the remnants of the temple, out of sight. While the others congratulated the ex-soldier, Nausicaa had already been distracted by the small craters all around them that had each had a little rock, about the size of a child's fist, in the centre.
She prodded one with her sword; it stuck to the end of her blade e with a soft clang. Spotting this, the dwarf Gwen exclaimed "Lodestone! It loves iron and the North and will always pull towards them." "They're pretty!" decided the elf and, like a child on the seashore picking shells, chose the three she liked best and stored them in her backpack.
Gwen's stomach rumbled, her hunger overcoming caution, so she led the party into the ruins to find the gamebird. Find it she did, very quickly, lying near a broad flight of stairs that dropped steeply underground.
"Wait!" said Dumnorix. "Let me have a moment first." He prayed to Alathea to show him if there were any trace of magic nearby. He felt nothing and told the others but Aurelius was unimpressed. "That doesn't help much. Either there is no magic, which would be great, or Alathea is still cross with you over the whole torture thing and so won't help you." Chastened, Dumnorix was forced to agree.
After a moment or two dithering, the eight-strong party lit a torch and headed down. As they did, Jean noticed an inscription on the arch, "Three signs" which worried Nausicaa in particular. "What signs? Do you know what it means? What if we don't have them?" She was still muttering as they reached the bottom and headed into a fairly large room that was dominated by a large three-headed and cowled statue holding a huge jar at the far end.
And a head lying in the middle of the floor.
As they approached cautiously, one might even say paranoidly [It's almost like they don't trust me! - DM], it hissed at them to flee and that only death awaited robbers of this place. Nausicaa stepped forward and kicked it into the corner where it fell silent. "Goblins!" she spat. "That elf girl is going to get us all killed," muttered Montagne gripping the shaft of his morningstar for reassurance.
A careful search of the walls revealed nothing except a series of marks in a variety of languages, some very ancient, but which Aurelius and Jean decided were probably name and dates that marked the death of those laid to rest with the monks of Ferrus. "Let's go this way," decided Gwen, taking the left-hand door and striding on, bored with looking around. The others smirked over her head - typical impulsive dwarf - and followed.
They ignored the opening they passed on the left [Mainly because it wouldn't fit on their mapping sheet! - DM] and headed on until Gwen flung out an arm to stop then. "Something is wrong with the stonework ahead. The floor looks wrong." Careful investigation showed a large section that was free of the dust that lay all around and a slight draft [Some really good, OSR-style trap detection]. Prodding it and blowing dust to find the edges was taking a long time, so Aurelius decided to jump on it, assuming it would lead to... Actually, even he wasn't sure, but dropping ten feet or so into a pit-trap probably wasn't what he'd expected. At least there weren't any spikes in the base! Nevertheless, he bust his ankle pretty badly and had to be lifted out. He'll be limping for a long while unless they get to a healer.
[I'm resuming after a long, long, pause - in looking for a pit trap picture I discovered the inventive devilry that is Grimtooth's Traps, recently republished by Goodman Games. Now my players really should be paranoid... mwahahahaha - DM]
Slowly heading onwards, they ignored another left turn, Nausicaa sliced an over-inquisitive stirge in two while posing like a model from a shampoo advert, Tybalt the halfling nearly died by rat. Actually, that was funny, so let me expand.
After searching through an abandoned store-room (opened by the strong arm of Montagne after Tybalt had tried to pick the lock using Gwen's precious family heirloom, her mother's beard pin - "When my beard comes through I'll wear it too, so be careful with it." [I love it when players roleplay - DM]), in which they found strong thread, embalming f'uid, and some sort of pine resin powder ("I sniff it" - Nausicaa. That elf...), Tybalt also found some odd surgical tools which he claimed for his own as they'd make good lockpicks. He put them to work straight away on the next door, opening the way into a room with several giant rats that swarmed forward. Nausicaa slammed the door but one was already through and sank it's teeth into the halfling's ankle. Cue lots of shouting and confused 'help' - Jean started shooting at it with his bow, arrows ricocheting off the floor amongst the others; Gwen hurled herself at it, stabbing away with her dagger; Tybalt meanwhile shrieking with pain and trying to kick it of as the blood flowed...
Eventually Tybalt managed to kick it off and it flew into the corner of an abandoned wooden case with a very final crunch.
We leave our party for now, the halfling bandaging his ankle with the shirt sleeve torn off his right arm. Who knows what that shrieking might have attracted?
Until then, I have some trap books to read through...