Friday, February 15, 2013

Westmist Session #33 - Rod of Narissa Part 2

Continued …

Standing over the bloody remains of one gnome, and the snoozing bodies of five more, the question became what to do next. While Kern quietly slipped the temperamental cleric away from the scene, the rest of the party tied up the gnomes, leaving the leader free. This fellow they shook awake, and then Erijay cast a charm spell to try to magically clear up the misunderstanding to get information out of the little men.  Alas, the leader Hulgi was more resistant than expected, and did not fall under the elf’s command. Kern and Darnorth then tried Plan B; a combination of subtle threats and a promise to bring the dead gnome back from the dead if Hulgi would help them find the Rod of Narissa. Or at least not prevent them from searching. With some moaning and complaining, Hulgi agreed. He told them to return to the tunnel entrance in the morning, but to get out before he changed his mind.
As the party withdrew from the tunnels, who should appear but the long lost Turrick with a tale of woe and a desire to get back into the adventuring life.  With Turrick rejoining the party, they retreated to Booh’s tower for the night. The first order of business was to feed the giant so he didn’t come looking for a snack later that night. Next morning, leaving the still recovering giant in his bed, the party returned to the sand tunnel entrance. There they were met by a dozen gnomes, loaded down with axes, crossbows and heavy armor. While Hulgi lead the party, the squad of gnomes frog marched them into the tunnels. Once inside, Riley called on Habuu once more to help him locate the Rod. Getting no sense of the location of the artifact, the party proceeded to explore around several more of the houses the gnomes had uncovered before letting Hulgi lead them deeper into the diggings. Along the way, the party questioned Hulgi as to why the gnomes were no longer digging (carefully avoiding the question of WHY they were tunneling). Hulgi reluctantly informed them that the gnomes had broken into a chamber containing a strange sand creature, which had slain two of their kin and forced the gnomes to backfill the tunnel and bar it with doors and gates. At which point, the party arrived in front of said door, which Hugli unlocked and opened, then opened the portcullis beyond and led the party another 30’ to stand in front of a dead end tunnel. When Kern asked the gnomes for help in digging through, Hulgi had a pair of gnomes go back and fetch shovels, which were handed to the party for their use.  At which point the gnomes left the party on their own, closed and locked the door, leaving instructions that the party knock to be admitted should they return.

After a short time digging, the party broke into a large chamber caved out of the sand, but without the pit props and timber supports seen in the gnomish tunnels. Here Riley finally sensed the Rod toward the east. Keeping to the walls, they part moved towards the eastern exit. Before they made it too far, however, they noted the sandy floor began to ripple towards them. In moments, the floor seemed to rear up in a giant sandy pseduopod and struck. A short but furious fight ensued, which saw Foxy the War Dog do most of the damage and get slammed to near death in the process. With the danger now past, a quick look around reveled nothing more than a dead gnome (looted by Turrick), so the party moved on again to the east. A short tunnel led to a set of stone stairs, closed in by sand walls. At the top of the steps were a set of double stone doors, carved in scenes of bountiful harvest. Riley quickly identified these as motifs of the goddess Saule, albeit of an older style. After Kern checked for taps and locks, Erijay pulled the doors open with a screech. On the other side was a room, partly enclosed by sand, with a dry fountain and stairs leading down. Checking the sand showed in was at least several feet deep, so the party headed downstairs.
 Once down the stairs, they found another set of stairs going up, but which was blocked by sand. One wall was covered in crypts, and three doors exited the room. Choosing the closest set of double doors, Erijay opened them and she found herself standing on the edge of a great black void. Looking left and right, up and down, nothing could be seen. Straight ahead could be seen another door, set in a earthen wall with roots and rocks protruding, and looking for all the world like the two walls of the void had been forcefully ripped apart. Curious, the elf dropped a copper piece down to try gauging the depth. After waiting some minutes, no sound was heard. Kern tried a similar trick, flipping a coin up. It never fell, which immediately confirmed this was no ordinary hole in the ground. No one wanted to find out what happened if a person fell into the darkness, so Turrick deftly threw and hooked a grappling hook onto the opposite doors pull ring. Darnorth, using his boots of levitation, then pulled himself across and set up a three rope bridge for the rest of the party to cross. Once across, he could also now see a tunnel opening in the side of the void, some 30-40’ below the door. Ignoring that for now, the party opened the opposite door. They found themselves in a large, many pillared chamber, with two more sets of stairs heading up.  Before they could investigate further, they were set upon by six skeletons, encased in a swirling flesh of sand. These quickly proved to be no ordinary skeletons, as several starting throwing balls of sand that blinded or slept their targets. After dispatching the last of the fiends (and washing out the blinded Erijay’s eyes with holy water), the party climbed the stairs to find themselves in another part of the surface temple. A statue of Salue stood on a high dais. In her arms, the goddess held a sheaf of grains. When Darnoth levitated up to investigate, he discovered a green malachite gem the size of a fist resting on top of the sheaf.  Choosing to let the expert try his luck, Darnorth passed the boots to Kern, who deftly lifted the prize from the statue with no ill effect.
 With no exits visible, the party headed back downstairs to investigate the tunnel in the void. Again, Darnorth took the lead by levitating down to the entrance. Here he found a round tunnel that looked, much like the void itself, as if someone or something had ripped it from the cold earth. Scouting carefully forward, the dwarf soon found the tunnel branched, and at the intersection found a vile looking creature blocking the way. It was a sickly yellow, man sized hedgehog, with a skull like face. Darnorth choose not to advance further, instead heading back to the party and proceeding to build another rope bridge down the tunnel entrance. That done, the party stated to descend. Stepping foot in the tunnel once more, Darnorth in the lead was now confronted by the same foul creature. It now stood at the tunnels edge and determined to push the dwarf into the black void. Darnorth raised his shield and rushed the beast, successfully pushing it (and himself) back from the edge. The other party members began to arrive and assist him in the fight, including Erijay who caught the beast in a web. Everyone then backed up and slew the struggling creature with arrows before it managed to break free. In death, it seemed to dissolve into a vaguely hedgehog shaped mass of clay (of which a sample was collected for future research).

Carefully exploring further, a series of similar tunnels and rooms were encountered. One large chamber was found to also contain some sort of pit, filled with a whirling mass of sand and soil. Around the pit were set flat stones carved with unrecognizable runes, interspaced with green malachite gems (about a hundred in total). Twitching with greed, Erijay knelt to pry one up. It came easily, but then climbing from the pit there also rose another group of sand skeletons. These were fought back, but not before doing serious damage to the party. Thinking the treasure guardians were now eliminated, the elf and Kern again knelt to pry more gems, only to see more sand skeletons climb out and attack. Another very close fight and the party emerged triumphant in spite of blindness and sleep that knocked out several. Wisely choosing to leave the gems (for now anyway), the party retreated to a dead end chamber to rest, lick their wounds, and prepare for another day …

To be continued …

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