[The story so far]
Session 25 - The tomb of the iron god (v)
Ghouls defeated (slain or driven off), the party decided they'd head North, away from the direction the surviving corpse-eater had fled in. Several of them are in a bit of a bad way; Nausicaa the elf was partcularly keen to get some rest and the clerics and magician neede time to read or meditate before they'd be able to draw on the powers at their command.
After a mere dozen paces or so the passage opened into a more considerable chamber to the North and West. A passage opened in the west wall, and in the north there was a twisting stairwell that led back upwards. Along each wall there were more of the corpse-niches, this time filled with skeletons. There was the occasional gnawing mark on a leg- or arm-bone from a human-sized mouth ["Damnable ghouls have no respect" - Dumnorix], but otherwise there was nothing except bones carefully arranged. Until, that is, Nausicaa found a skeleton that seemed to be at least partially iron... with a nest of cockroaches within the rib cage that poured out at her disturbance of the bones and scuttled away over the floor into darker corners.
The elf squealed and jumped into the arms of Gwen to get off the floor and away from the insects. Elves!
After the floor cleared, the elf took to her feet again and brushed herself down, glaring at the others and daring them to comment. None did.
It was during the awkward silence that followed that Tybalt's sharp ears heard a weird sucking sound, similar to that of a boot being lifted out of thick mud. Instantly on guard, the party grabbed their weapons and formed up where they could see all entrances, Oiseau's torch held high.
|The party don't look this badass. Well, not quite.|
The light from Oiseau's torch glinted off a few points of metal that seemed suspended in mid air down that western corridor. Suspended, and moving closer. There was a dagger, too, and a handful of gems. Was that a buckle, too? The gems and metal seemed to be enveloped in a slightly greenish mist that filled the whole width and height of the passage. Still getting closer, slowly, inexorably, until it oozed out into the chamber they were in, retaining that cuboid shape and resembling for all the world a giant blancmange or calve's foot jelly.
Jean was first to snap - an arrow whistled across the chamber to embed itself in the gelatinous thing. The wooden shaft dissolved as it did so, leaving the arrowhead suspended within the thing just like the coins and gems were. It did not slow or deviate in its path.
"Quick, get your oil, light more torches!" cried Oiseau, reasoning that if it was like jelly, heat would melt it away. He threw a flask of oil at the thing but it fell just in front and shattered on the chamber floor. "Light it! Light the oil!" went up the cry and so, pausing only to light Gwen's torch, he darted forward to ignite the pool, some of which had run under the thing. It caught, and the flames licked fiercely around the thing, charring it and releasing a horrible smell - a cross between a tannery on a hot day and burning hair.
This encouraged the others who darted forward and hurled oil at the advancing cube before darting back to safety again. Nausicaa threw her lodestone at it, hoping that it would pull the dagger and arrowhead towards it and damage the thing from within. No such luck, it just sank in as well to no effect. More arrows followed from Jean at a rate that would have shamed many longbowman in considerably less stressful circumstances. These generally seemed to have little effect, but one arrow that hummed with great force as it flicked across the chamber left a hole about an inch or two across that didn't heal up and penetrated to the centre of the thing.
Oiseau didn't hesitate but threw himself forward with his last flask of oil and sprayed it to go into the opening. Most splashed across the front of the cube, but some did run down inside it along the arrow-formed channel. He'd got too close, however, and the jelly bumped into him as he concentrated on his pouring. It scorched his face and hands that were uncovered, stumbling away in pain he suddenly went completely rigid and fell, paalysed, to the floor in front of the cube. Montagne went to the fallen cleric's aid, flailing at the jelly only to have his morningstar sucked from his grasp and pulled inside the cube. Abandoning it he grabbed Oiseau and dragged him clear.
"Quick, now that they're clear, light it!" "Use a torch!" "But we're almost out of torches!" "Um, no we're not, I've got loads." Even in the midst of their danger, six pairs of eyes turned on the cleric of Alathea. "WHAT?! And just when were you going to tell us?" "I don't know, you all seemed to have plenty."
With no time to spare, several torches arced their way towards the cube. The oil lit spectacularly as several pints roared into flame, blistering and charring the jelly. Through the smoke, the party could see that flame had even taken hold up the sides, licking its way to the pool of oil that stretched inside the cube which bubbled and split allowing air inside and the flame to spread. Within moments the cube began to collapse into charred and smouldering lumps that littered the floor of the chamber.
Pausing only to check that Oiseau was still breathing although paralysed (he was), they began to cautiously use the tips of swords and spears to retrieve the coins and gems that had been within the cube. A tidy haul - a large gem apiece, and 62 gold pieces that they shared out, reserving a share for the temple of Alathea back in Corcelle which Nori got to carry.
Loot safely gathered, the party decided the wisest move was to head back above ground and camp for the night. Food, rest, and revived spellcasters would boost their chances of success... and survival!
Montagne hauled the still paralysed Oiseau onto his back and they retraced their steps, using their map to take the quickest route back to the entrance. They had barely passed the point where they'd faced the ghouls (whose bodies still lay where they'd fallen) when something could be heard skittering in the darkness beyond the torchlight. Eight points of yellow light, close together and at about halfling head-height glowed malevolently. "Quick, run!" called Gwen and led the way, map in hand, but seeing that Aurelius and the laden Montagne would be left behind, Jean shot at the lights. One went out and the rest retreated for long enough that Dumnorix was able to come back and stand alongside Jean to cover Aurelius and Montagne's escape.
Lucky that he did as the source of the yellow lights burst out of the darkness and hurled itself at Jean - a dog-sized, pitch-black spider that fastened itself around his torso, darting its fangs at him.
Dumnorix responded in the way he knew best - he smashed it with his pollhammer. The force of the blow took the hammer-head straight through the spider, killing it instantly, and into the chest of the soldier, winding him badly and practically lifting him off his feet. Rubbing what he feared was a cracked rib, Jean just about to say a sincere thanks to Dumnorix and the two hurried after their friends.
When they caught them up on the far side of the concealed doorway that had been their entrance to this part of the catacombs, they found that Oiseau's paralysis had passed enough for him to be able to stagger along with support. They firmly shut the door behind them and returned to the surface without further incident.
Once there they used the remaining hour or two of daylight to set up camp between two buttresses of a surviving section of wall and fortify around it with fallen masonry. They chose their watch order, the increased party size allowing at least two per watch, and settled down for the night after a hearty, if dull, meal of trail rations.
Well, random encounters can be brutal. If I'd had more wits and less cold in my head I'd have run the cube as per the book and it could have been a more lethal encounter. So it goes.
This is also the last session we'll run using Swords & Wizardry Core. Not because I don't like it, I do, and it has served us well through about forty hours of gameplay, multiple player deaths, nearly the end of the world, and seen the number of players increase from five to eight. However, after the generous arrival of so much BFRPG material, including a print copy of the rules for each player (which they're already "inking" after inspiration from Dyson Logos), we're going to switch to them. I don't imagine that will make much, if any, difference, but I thought I'd mention it. I've got two weeks to get over this headcold and get the key points of BFRPG straight in my mind as it's now half term.