[The story so far]
Session 22 - The tomb of the iron god (ii)
Taking stock of their surroundings in the underground complex beneath the temple of Ferus, the party pondered their next move. Aurelius and Tybalt had wounded ankles so their pace would be lower, and now the dwarf's stomach was rumbling. Time for lunch!
Not for this band the mundanity of pack rations, oh no - roast pheasant had greater appeal! While Gwen plucked and prepped the bird that Jean had brought down over the ruins when they'd first arrived, the others made a fire using the broken cases and barrels strewn around the small chamber they'd taken their rest in. It was delicious, and they were soon gorging themselves happily on the succulent meat.
Perhaps it was the smoke, perhaps the aroma of the roasting fowl, perhaps some other as yet unknown reason, perhaps simple bad luck, but the meal ended suddenly with a yelp of surprise and distress from Jean - something had bitten him!
He could feel a fiery pulse spreading out from where the thing had bitten him; nearly a pace long and with a red chitinous body as thick as a dwarf's forearm, this was a centipede larger than any of them had ever seen before... and it wasn't alone. Two more scuttled in, one straight at Tybalt, the other darting its head this way and that as though following a scent.
Aurelius thought quickly and dragged Jean away, using a spare string from his broken lute to bind a tight but rough tourniquet around the fighter's leg as he gasped about venom. Meanwhile, Tybalt sliced the back end off his insect but wasn't able to stop it sinking its pincers through his right boot and into his foot - the boot rapidly filled with blood. Nausicaa used her shield to flip the one that had bitten Jean before slicing it with her sword. Montagne effortlessly splatted the third with his mace and, while Nausicaa fretted about the bug goo that had sprayed over her boots (she wiped it off on her sleeve before wiping that on the unsuspecting Jean), Gwen stepped forward and stamped down hard with her iron shod boot onto Tybalt's to splat the centipede still attached. And further crush the halfling's tiny toes. It took a moderately successful prayer to Nikitas from his cleric, Oiseau, to sort that out. Poor Tybalt, he's been healed from death's door so many times that these spells seem to have less and less effect. Or maybe he's just unlucky.
Deciding that staying still would neither help them complete their quest to reconsecrate the temple, nor keep them safe, they pressed on. Montagne shoulder-barged a door to kindling (lots of noise!) allowing them to head onwards and Northwards. "When will someone teach that muscle-slab to try the handle first?" muttered the halfling to general agreement.
They found themselves in a narrow corridor that ran East-West, if they hadn't lost their bearings, and East won. Their cautious advance was stopped once more by Gwen flinging an arm out at an unfortunate height to halt Montagne (cursing!) in his tracks. "Another trapdoor, or my mother's a beardless kehmett," declared the dwarf. Aurelius pushed his way forward ["No, wait!" "Don't step on it" "Aurelius!"] and prodded the edge with his staff, triggering a wide section to swing away from them revealing another pit like the one the wizard had fallen into earlier - except this one contained the small skeletal remains of a cloaked figure who had been carrying a backpack.
"Ah man, that thing's totally going to jump up and attack if we go down there?" "I wonder what's in the pack?" "Hey it's a halfling like me! I hope it wasn't a relative..." "I'll go, undead are a cleric thing"
So down went Dumnorix, his descent lit by the guttering remains of the torch thrown down by fellow cleric Oiseau. That rope ladder was proving its worth! A few tentative prods at the body led to no response so Oiseau picked up the pack and opened it [he didn't check it first, just dived straight in - lucky it wasn't trapped, eh] and rummaged through to find a few gems of varying colour and clarity, some coin, and a heavy object about ten inches long. Unwrapped, it proved to be a small iron copy of the statue in the entrance hall, with tiny diamonds (?) for eyes. Nori stowed these away in his pack along with the lockpicks that had been beside one outstretched hand, climbed back up, and they carried on. Tybalt claimed the picks.
Ahead, the passage opened up into a small room that proved to be a dead end. One end was separated off by heavy bars that formed a small prison cell containing another skeleton, dressed richly in ceremonial robes. In the centre of the room was another iron statue. This one also appeared to be iron (confirmed later by careful use of one of Nausicaa's lodestone lumps), but was clearly that of an incredibly lifelike human monk, his face contorted in an expression of terror so absolute that it unsettled the onlookers. Then they noticed the expression seemed to shift! Incredibly slowly, so slowly that staring at it nothing happened, but look away and look back and the change was noticeable. Just! It was mainly the eyes, the terror remained.
Was the statue a magical thing? A detect magic spell suggested that magic had been used, but only an aftertaste or echo remained. The victim of some kind of medusa? A fallen monk punished by Ferrus, the iron god, for some misdeeds linked to the destruction of the temple? A monk cursed to watch as his colleague in the cell died and decayed? That might explain the key that formed part of the sculpt and sat in the statues hand. What to do?
Nausicaa felt sorry for it and tried to revive it with a hug. Nothing.
So Tybalt used his new lock picks which, despite knowing he'd slipped during using them, opened the cell with extraordinary ease. Nausicaa went first, keen to find something that might help the statue. She used the tip of her sword to lift the chain of office (iron links, alternating with silver, with a large clear jewel in an iron mount as a medallion) from around the skeleton's neck. She placed it around the statue's neck. Nothing. It went in her pack.
The strongest of the men tried to lift the statue to lock it in the cell, just in case, but they were unable to budge it even a tiny fraction of an inch. Disappointed, and slightly nervous, they felt they had no choice but to retrace their steps past the trap pit and the door which had led into this corridor in the first place.
A door on their left grabbed their attention. Stopping Montagne before he could use his inimitable technique, Jean used the handle to open the unlocked door and stepped inside. It had obviously been righly decorated, but now it was trashed - the furniture smashed, the wall hangings torn. In the centre, another statue of an iron monk stood. It, too, was impossibly lifelike but this one was sculpted with finer clothing and its face was twisted not only with fear, but also fury. Jean edged closer and was taken aback as the statue suddenly launched a vicious swinging punch at him, knocking him brutally backwards. He scampered away, shielding himself from the flailing fists as the party pushed and shoved to get out of the room and out of reach.
Slowed by Aurelius' busted ankle and Jean's poison-induced limp, they were unable to outrun the statue which came on relentlessly, raining down blow after blow on them as they made a fighting withdrawal. Each strike they landed on the statue rang like a blacksmith's hammer sending echoes through the corridors but otherwise the statue pressed home it's attack without a noise.
Shuffling away as quickly as they could back towards the open pit with the halfling skeleton (following Gwen's hastily formulated plan), the heavy blows of the statue began to tell. Jean was hit hard and, as Dumnorix stepped to take his place a nasty punch cracked into his shoulder leaving his shield arm hanging limp and useless at his side. A well-placed dart from Aurelius stuck briefly in the statue but to no apparent effect. Tiring now in the face of this implacable onslaught, with most of them injured in some way by this... thing, Gwen called out that they were nearly there. Nausicaa left herself open as an easy target and when the statue swung for her she skipped back out of the way with feline grace and the others cheered in relief as the statue overbalanced and fell into the pit where it lay in the bottom, still flailing, and looking for all the world like a tantruming toddler.
They had survived! Would the noise draw other foes, however?